Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Simple Christmas

I have longed for a Simple Christmas, centered in the love of God. What I am learning, through the unexpected, through circumstances beyond my control, is that God is found in the places where my plans come to an end. Where my wants are frustrated, God desires to meet my needs. His ways are truly not my ways, and so the choice comes: let go of what I would wish for, and embrace the plans and purposes he has for me.

 Often, this requires a change in what I tell myself. Tuning into truth, speaking words of choice and decision rather than settling into helplessness. I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I respond. I can replace grumbling with gratitude. I can nestle into him and let him fill the void within me, and I can seek his direction in bringing wellness into my interactions with others.

"Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where where people despair," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from the depths of a Nazi prison.

There are times when our ways, our wants and wishes become a prison, keeping us from the glory of God, keeping us from relationship with him, keeping us from knowing the wonders of his love. "The wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly...God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly,the excluded, the weak and the broken."

The liberating king came into the lowly harshness of a stable cave-  to fill the cavern within our hearts. What separates us from the love of God? Only our own choice to keep him out.

Amidst the pain or busyness of a season, a voice cries out,  Prepare the way of the Eternal One, a straight way in the wandering desert, a highway for our God. I wonder as I wander, is my heart prepared?

A man named John came before Immanuel, God With us, declaring the way:  admitting I am deeply flawed, in need of help, and identifying with purification, initiated by agonizing sacrifice on a man-made cross. Sometimes we create our own crosses- and God would urge us to lay down our ways and turn to a lifestyle of seeking intimacy with Him.

I ponder, struck by the miracle of the limitless Divine dwelling within me, despite my many imperfections. The person of God, alive within me. Miraculous, yes. It is necessary to stop my flurrying and recognize the presence within me, making way for immersion in the presence of the Eternal.

John offered an outward symbol to represent hearts changed within, recognizing the forgiveness of God. The One who loves us best knows the needs of our hearts, sees the struggle, understands we need a way beyond our selves. The mystery of God is that the Lord of Glory became lowly, taking on human flesh. He did not wait for us to come to him, but rather loved us first, becoming like us, so we could become like him. The secret hidden wisdom is God himself, and his presence in our lives.

The world celebrates a babe born in a manger with songs and services, displays, and elaborate events. God created a way for us to connect instead with blessed simplicity, to linger in quieter moments, celebrating the love of God within a heart.

To be still and know. To ponder... To look with awe on the wonder of an infinite God dwelling within the confines of tender human flesh.

And then, as I am still before the Anointed One, my savior, then I will have my I have my Simple Christmas, awash in the Spirit of God.

~Just Me

Sunday, December 22, 2013

More Love

I don't like drama. I was raised to avoid it, and so often, I grit my teeth and shake my head and stay silent for far too long. Frustration festers, and I preach a bit on social media, angry at the way words trample human frailty and religious right becomes a cause to be championed, rather than a safe place for the poor and needy.

My greatest fear is not relativism. It's not the corruption of the world, or persecution of the church, or attempts to silence that which offends a vocal society. What I most fear is that God's people will unknowingly turn away souls in need of rescue. I fear that those who preach their truth in anger, rather than love, will exacerbate the cycle of opposing voices vying to silence each other. All feeling attacked, each offended, and every one of us in need of healing.

I believe there are many in the church, and outside it's walls, who have met a loving God, but not come to the place of living Grace day by day. I believe there are many who still need healing in the inner places, church leaders and congregation members who are yet very broken. And I speak the truth, without shame, that I still need daily grace. I, too, need my Healer's work to go deeper still.

So my heart hurts when hostilities volley across a chasm with shouts and angry words, and I see only a widening of the man made divide. I recognize that my sins are no better than the ones listed in I Corinthians 6- in fact, I often need cleansing from 21st century idolatry  (though 'perfectionism' sounds less offensive) and I battle greed too. After all isn't it the American way- build a dream of mortar and stones and punctuate with Pinterest and gourmet crafting? Addiction sounds evil when it's drugs or sex, but what about when it's shopping? These are my sins, and they are real, and impartially destructive.

It is man who rates sin, not God. Jesus lived hard truths, likening anger to murder, and granting audacious forgiveness- even socializing with those society shunned. Did he judge the woman who'd had multiple husbands and was living with her lover? No. But he did question those who placed religious practices above relationship with God. He stunned those who considered themselves defenders of God's ways by calling them white washed walls. Let us never forget that we are each wretched without the Lover of our souls.

I'd love to see Christians who live like the historical Christ. Not the Americanized, anglicized version of him. I'd like to see followers of Jesus who are more concerned with inner wellness than making a pretty picture for the world to see. I'd love to see more authenticity, and a lot more grace. It is possible only through connectedness to the One whose very nature is infinite love.

My own journey through the healing process began when I learned to forgive. And then, there was the moment, when Love reached down into the depths of my despair and cradled me. There was no accusation or pressure, no remarks as to what sins should be stamped out of my life. There was no condemnation, only unabashed grace. 

This encounter transformed my understanding of God. I knew him, not as judge, but pure, holy, all encompassing love, and I thirst for more of him. I know that if God's people could simply reflect his heart for a hurting world lives would be rescued and hearts would be healed.

So church, Christians, seekers of God, I ask only one thing: suspend the judging of mortal flesh, and nestle in to Jesus. Seek more of Him, his indwelling, his character to shine through, especially in the way you treat those who disagree with you. Remember that "the opposition" is made up of tender hearts, real people who are flesh and blood, and the battle is not won when we wound. The battle will only, and always, be won with lavish love. Love is the only power that can bridge the aching abyss to redeem a life.

This week, Ann Voskamp wrote, "Grace is air- without it, we all die."  If grace is air, then Love is the power to transform lives, and our God would revolutionize a single soul any day. 

~Just Me 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Sound Mind

"You are making me crazy!" The words fling out in moments of intense frustration. There is a striving, a seeking to exert control over another life that leaves me exasperated and all bunched up inside. In these moments my imperfections, especially my sense of powerlessness, seem to spread like gangrene.

Again I learn the lesson that I can control only myself.

I read a letter that begins with wise counsel encouraging the recipient to own grace, mercy, and peace. One  word above all leaps off the page... Peace. Indicating cessation of struggling; leaving conflict behind and embracing harmony. Peace is the very essence of freedom. 

When my world roars chaos, and I feel cramped, powerless, how do I get to that wide open place?

The letter continues, prayer- yes, day and night- in the moment of chaos, in the moment when my heart would faint, to nestle into a strength beyond what I alone can muster. Prayer is the surrender of my own weak strength in favor of the power of God.

Bringing prayer into every moment invites peace to dwell within.  A natural and sincere faith, abiding deep. Knowing that comforting assurance that God is truthful and trustworthy, all powerful and the embodiment of love. Allowing my faith in the One who does not control, only loves, to tunnel deep, bundling my worries, and yes, even me. All I am, and all I am not, covered by his all consuming love. I read on. The author writes as a reminder to "stir up the gift of God"- not to stir up worries and a frail mind, but to embrace a powerful, loving and disciplined spirit.

Oh, how easily my mind can be stirred up by sights and sounds, by fears and frailties. Still, I have a choice: to live in the oppression of fear and discontent, or to dwell in freedom gained through self discipline. In the military, troops are trained for warfare. Undaunted discipline is imperative, for in the midst of war and chaos, self discipline can be the difference between life and death. So too in the battlefield of the mind. Do I allow fearfulness, lack of self control to reverberate within, or do I breathe deep of the Spirit of self discipline and wage war on the enemy's attempt to mire me in my own fears?

In this historic letter, "a spirit of self discipline" is sometimes translated as 'a sound mind'. A sound mind rather than a "crazy" one. A mind that is healthy, infused with wellness, at peace. A sound mind and a self disciplined mind both indicate unity and wellness. A self disciplined mind is a sound mind if God's truth is the foundation of the thought process. 

A sound mind is a mind that focuses not on the noise of this life, but on the heart of God. 

A sound mind has been set free- not from the consequences of life choices, but from the condemnation brought on by our decisions.

A sound mind is set free from the enemy's accusations through the power of God's unparalleled mercy, and the blood of Jesus that covers and cleanses.

A sound mind is created through surrender and self discipline

Jesus came as the annointed Liberating King. A sound mind is the embodiment of the liberty he empowers us to know- without a shadow of a doubt.

A sound mind sets me free.

And just in case you were wondering, how does the author, suffering in chains, get through? By giving thanks. Really! At the beginning of the letter, no less.


In light of those who have struggled and learned before, let us partner together, encouraging one another to let peace reign in our hearts. Let us not camp on the hills of pacification, but rather, create the habit of dwelling in the Prince of Peace.  In him alone we discover how to live fully in that wide open place the disciplined mind affords, how to defend the sound mind when the enemy comes against us, how to speak truth into our day to day lives and to grasp gratitude in every moment.


(Reference: 2 Timothy 1:1-13, The Voice Transaltion)

~Just Me

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hope in the Hard places


Those who know my story of loss wonder how we got from there to here. How I moved from weeping brokenness spilling across the floor to this place, where I can look life in the face again- even on the hard days. It has been a journey, and I am still learning. What has been key has been connecting to the One who has become my everything.

The question that slices deepest is how to live Hope in the hard places. I think back to the days of darkest oppression and I remember telling myself over and over that there was Such Hope to be found; training my mind to grip tight to that hope helped me put one foot in front of the other. But what changed me was not the power of positive thinking. The moment that changed everything was when God met me with unconditional acceptance and gave me freedom to grieve.

I don't know what your heartache looks like- though I know there is much to grieve in this life. All I know is how my story was changed when I fell into the arms of the One who still is my comfort on the difficult days.

Some ask, "Where is God in the midst of suffering?" Some believe he's a capricious God, showing up only when it suits his fancy. Yet the one who walked the road of agony willingly, even with thanks, is not fickle or flighty. He is faithful. The closeness we have in every season has much more to do with me.

How deep will I let his love go? What, and Who do I choose to cling to? How open is my heart to intimacy? In this life, sometimes closeness sears. Man's love can leave me wounded, gaping, and sometimes I translate that into my relations with God.

 He is not frivolous with my love, but I fear the pain that comes in confronting my wounds. There are jagged edges still in my life. Places where fear would like to rupture the tender membrane that protects my fragile places. Pain is a teacher, but what lessons will I walk out? What wisdom will I practice? Will my shrewdness keep God at arm's length, resigned live with tolerable pain, or will I make the choice to let Him open the infected wound so as to cleanse and heal? I fear the pain, yes, but I fear being trapped by my brokenness more.

So I choose to open up, to let Him have his way with my heart, my soul. For his way leads to life and healing. I know the process looks different for each wound, each indiviudal life, but my prayer is that I will not turn away from wellness,  that I would consistently embrace deeper wholeness- in spirit, soul, and body.

~Just Me




 





Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Relentless Gratitude

Hello, my name is Rebekah, and I'm in Anxiety Recovery. You see, I've been addicted to perfectionism and control, and I need to be set free. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. I know the truth that control is an illusion. I've lived the anxiety of trying to control circumstances, people, even cats (I so get the herding cats metaphor). I like to make plans, and while my special needs family offers many opportunities to learn flexibility, sometimes I still freak out when my plans are ransacked by the ups and down in life- or sidetracked by something I missed.

Like yesterday when I learned that, despite my attempt to be thorough, I had missed a detail that could possibly alter my holiday travel plans - depending on the weather...Texas weather (where it can be 82* one day and 32* the next.) Despite having ruminated often on the point of Christmas, on God's plans and purposes to draw mankind into an intimate peace with Him here on this earth, the news shattered my sense of calm.  I rode fragmented emotions down a trail of anxiety and control as Fear sought to rob me, not just of peace, but my wellness of mind in those moments.

Grace given in the comment feed woke me into self awareness, and I had another A-Ha moment. Again, I came to a stop and remembered Who to breathe in. Where to find peace, and How to pick up the pieces and move forward to a place of wholeness, for it is God alone who completes me.  Awash in gratefulness, I nestled into Immanuel's embrace.

Immanuel, meaning God with us. The Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, all radiating a grace so relentless He was born into a cavernous place of need and want, into a humble family that had no place to stay, and only lowly means of living. The King of Kings became a man- and not just any man, a poor one.

When I take my eyes off self sufficiency and let my heart be drawn to Him, I am in awe, for He is miraculous- and not just because He was born as a babe to die for my sins. I am so grateful He chose to show us how to live on this earth, too. Jesus was financially poor, yet rich in spirit, for He continuously sought time alone with God the father. He knew when to pour out, and when to connect with the Life Source.

What would Jesus do? What DID he do?  He resonated a lifestyle of connectivity to God and gratitude. He Gave Thanks. In all things- even the hard places. Especially the hard places. Check out Matthew 26:27- 28, where Jesus tells his disciples He is about the be crucified, and then he Gives Thanks for the shedding of his own blood.   

 Ann Voskamp has said, "Thanksgiving precedes the miracle". I would add: Thanksgiving IS the miracle. For in the giving of thanks I take my eyes off of want and find all I need is already fulfilled in Jesus; in His presence is found the only lasting Joy.

A full life, a life that has truly been saved reflects gratitude. Ann says, "Jesus counts thanksgiving as integral in a faith that saves." 

A hushed awe transcends my soul, as I absorb this truth; a life transformed by His touch will be known by genuine gratitude, for as I dwell on how much He has given, my perspective changes. There is no room for want when I connect with Love.

To move from gaping want to overflowing abundance:
 "Count your Many Blessings, name them One by One."

I have known the abundance He gives- beyond all I can ask or imagine, in heart and soul. And I know from the depths of my heart that gratitude sets me free. Gratitude rescues me from discontent, from wallowing in my own insufficiency. Gratitude connects me to the heart of God in a simple, but powerful act of worship.  

 My chains are gone, I've been set free....And like a flood,His mercy reigns, unending love, Amazing Grace.

You can know this grace in Every Moment. Wherever you are, whatever your struggles. His arms are open; let go of your burdens. Release the cares of this world and Come home.

Thank you Jesus, for ransoming me. Thank you for reaching out through time and space to provide a way for me to KNOW you in the midst of every trial, to be Held by you in every storm. To be calmed by you in the face of fear, and to be healed from every disease in my heart and soul. I ask you now to transform me and I now give thanks for the many ways you've poured out your bountiful love for me:__________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________.


Grace relieves every fear. Love fills every need. Gratitude secures enduring joy.


~Just Me

Saturday, November 30, 2013

True Meaning In This Season

 This is the time of year when focus inevitably shifts to wishes and wants. Shiny displays and seasonal songs, clever ads and pitches on how to have a perfect holiday seem to be everywhere we turn. Yet truly, things can't make us happy. Sure, we may bask in the glow of something new for a few days, weeks, or (rare) months. Yet we were made for more than this world can offer.

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor for what does not satisfy. Listen. listen to me... And your soul will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:2)

A conversation today reminded me that many of God's own people are stuck in "poverty of spirit" (and I am not referring to humility). Those who once met God may now have empty tanks, spiritually, due to lack of time spent with Him. Let me be clear: I am not referring to time spent in church, for sometimes church activities compete with time for God himself.  And I don't mean that more prayer is required (though prayer is always a good place to start). I pray a lot. Daily, sometimes moment by moment- especially during stressful times. But when I feel distant, or empty, it's a cue to re-evaluate how much time I spend seeking God, himself- His presence. Am I Being Still? Listening for his voice? I know I will never be fulfilled if I am not being filled with Him.

Material items, flurries of activity, and perfectionism seem to be inescapable this time of year . It's easy to fall prey to the idea that the holidays (or life, itself) MUST be a certain way, or we can't be happy. We can get sucked into the "tyranny of the shoulds"... and side tracked by people pleasing.

Financially, emotionally, and spiritually, this time of year it's easy to get in way over our heads for a few moments of fleeting happiness, and at the end of it all we may be faced with discontent, rather than all that is Merry and Bright.

Why? Because we were made for SO much more. We were made for intimacy with Living Love. We have been given many gifts, yes. But using them does not complete us. Only God can make us whole... that's the point of Christmas.

If we could have achieved peace through spending our energies and our resources, God would have sent some Thing to help us do so. Instead, God sent Some One to be Love personified.

If the empty places are ever to be filled, we must  dispense with pleading for things, and turn our hearts toward what He gives, recognizing how much He has already given. When we are at the end of a very frayed rope, No Thing can save us. No Thing can undo the mistakes we've made, No Thing can rescue us from a pit of our own making. But our God lives to heal (literally). He lives to embrace us as we grieve mistakes and show us a way out. He lives to teach us to retrain our minds to make better choices today than we did yesterday. To guide us into a life of meaning.

Now let me be clear- God is not a magic Genie who removes the consequences of poor choices (I've learned this lesson the hard way). What God offers is courage to face reality and move forward in His embrace. This requires a willingness to cease repetitive pleas to the heavens and Let Him In. Daily. Moment by Moment.


When I cry for help, I have to be willing to receive it. To shift my focus and seek His face, letting God guide the ship. Regrets tossed overboard, for they don't really change me. I must be transformed by the Living God. And I must be in day by day, two-way communication with him if I am to know how to move forward.

Looking for answers? Relational alignment is the first step. God will lead us out of darkness into His glorious light, if we simply let Him into every moment. Purpose is found as we re-train our minds to find meaning in relationship instead of striving to fulfill random wants (ours and those of others).

Possible, yes. This journey begins at the altar, requiring only that we let go of want and embrace the Alpha and Omega, who IS all we need, from beginning to end.


Prayer: 

Father God, I confess that there is much to engage the eyes of my heart this time of year. Yet I know that in the inmost places of my being, I need You- and You alone. I give you free access to every area of my life you want to change. I surrender every want, every disappointment, every dream, every hope, and every single plan I've clung to, and I ask instead for your plans and purposes- plans to heal and transform, plans to complete and set me free. God, give me a heart like yours, eyes to see truth and ears to hear your voice, as well as a mouth that speaks love, gratitude and kindness. BE the change in me.  Heal me in spirit, soul and body, and most of all, set me free. 

 In the strong and Holy name of Jesus I pray, Amen

~Just Me 











Saturday, November 23, 2013

And Today I Remembered to Take Care of Me


Self care. It's a concept I spent years learning, and teaching to other caregivers of wounded veterans- and I am still "in process". After a few months of increased stress and my fall from the well balanced wagon, I have made progress, but this week was full of medical mayhem. Nothing earth shattering, just the usual issues plus the extra work within the medical system to get needs updated and doctor visits approved and one medical organization to effectively communicate with another.

Again the reminder came to stop. To rest, to Breathe. To do more than whisper prayers from the void, but rather nestle in and be filled. So after criss-crossing the metroplex to meet many needs, today was the first in a while with No. Appointments. None. And it dawned on me that the swelling of my eye lids needs to be addressed. Ohhhhhh.

All week I'd had swelling and peeling lids. But I was pushing through, pressing in, pouring out stress through working out and addressing this issue did not even cross my mind. Until today, when I stopped, and looked at the day before me. There was plenty to do, but part of my learning has been to seek God's purpose in each moment. So I stopped and asked God to order my steps. The answer? Take care of you. See to your own wellness. 

whoosh of of cleansing air, the realization almost knocked the wind out of me. I've made peace with the truth that I care better for those I love when I take care of me, but in the whirlwind I simply forgot. I did not need permission for my needs to be met, but I did need a reminder to do so. 

There was no room for self deprecation, no time to wallow in my insufficiency. The call was to get moving. Nourish my body, and search out wise counsel. 

I am so thankful today that I have a God who gives unconditional  grace, relentless mercy, as well as needed nudges to focus my attention on my own needs. 

I am so thankful for a savior who frees me from condemnation and gives me hope and healing. 

Most of all I am thankful for the Lover of My Soul, who sees me, accepts me, and fills my every need as I submit to His tender, Loving care. 

What are you thankful for today? 

~Just Me

Friday, November 15, 2013

Restored

It's been that sort of month. The sort of month where I fall off the metaphorical wagon, and instead of climbing back on, I decided to sit in the dirt and wallow. The kind of month where I am too tired to get up and chase down that wagon once I realize I've been left in the dust-- and in my own inadequacies. The kind of month when my mistakes loom, and the new kitty pees on our couch that's not paid off yet, and I brought home hamburgers for dinner even though once child (and possibly a husband) is allergic to the buns (the gluten free guy ate fries), and another gets sick from them (reflux) and they sure did not help my pocketbook or my "all natural" diet... not to mention, the damage done to the goal of trying to fit into my winter clothes again.

I've felt routed from that lifestyle of balance I had worked so hard to maintain, and frankly, I am just worn out by my own emotional baggage. I got caught up in the un-important stuff, and finding focus and direction again seems daunting. I had to make a conscious effort to stop and listen for the still small voice that gently whispers truth (and frankly, told me not to bring the cat home in the first place)... among other whispers I ignored.

So today I escaped from the chaos, and got outside and walked for half an hour, before heading inside to do the Super Challenge (thanks to Leslie Sansone the new, larger, winter pants I bought might still fit tomorrow). And as always, the trees and grasses were healing to my soul, and the climb up and down those hills brought perspective and release- and the realization that I don't have to be perfect, because Jesus already is.

 If God expected me to get everything right and never fail and never get confused or misdirected, he never would have positioned himself in a lowly manger or lived as Love on foot, nor would he have been compelled to the cross to die as the atonement for everything I can't seem to get right.

So today, at lunch time when I was paying penance for the hamburger and fries by having a banana flaxseed pancake with almond butter and molasses  (so yummy it almost felt like unholy contrition), I decided I needed to read something REAL. I don't follow a lot of authors, but a few are honest enough to draw my attention.

Like Anita Renfro who urges me to be more than Clean, or Ann Voskamp whose blog about mental illness and Holiness bleeds hard won authenticity or Jen Hatmaker, who tells it like it is beyond the highlight reel. And after I sought out the voice of others who are brave enough to be honest about imperfections I understood my own experience differently.

I may have flaws, but am not defined by them. My past mistakes do not have to control my current choices. I have the freedom to admit where I've been wrong and where I've been wounded, and move forward with never ending, all encompassing Grace. I have the power to choose a fresh start, to stop and listen and Be Still when rest is needed, and to get up and walk when movement is the gate to healing and positive direction.

In this moment, when muscles are stretched and sore, I want to soak up more than epsom salt and nutrition. I long for freedom in the inmost places. As David cried out for cleansing after he fell so far from the heart of God, I too raise my voice and say-

Despite all this- all I did, all I didn't do, You, Oh, God,


 You long to enthrone truth throughout my being;
    in unseen places deep within me, You show me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean.
    If You wash me, I will be whiter than snow.
Help me hear joy and happiness.... {and I} will dance in delight instead. 

Thank you for Cover{ing} Your face so You will not see my sins,
Thank you for {erasing} my guilt from the record.

  10 Create in me a clean heart, O God;
    restore within me a sense of being brand new.

Because of Jesus, you
11 Do not throw me away from Your presence,
    and {You} do not remove Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Give back to me the deep delight of being saved by You;
    let Your willing Spirit sustain me.

Psalm 51:6-12 (The Voice Translation) 

Words in italics are added because the Psalm was written before the Lamb of God took away all our sins. Because Jesus lives, we can know abundant life in the here and now. So today, this moment, I am turning away from condemnation and towards His beautiful, cleansing light. I know I won't be perfect in this lifetime, but, Praise Jesus, I will always be restored.


~Just Me 



Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking Past the Labels

There it was, on the counter, green gunk left over from dinnertime, dried on and stuck in grooves, dribbled sticky-ness on a napkin, hardened splatters on the counter. It was icky nasty-ness. I could have walked on by. After all, it wasn't my mess. It was someone else's spill, someone else's gunk, and I was tired and I had a headache, and  it was almost time to help my youngest brown eyed boy settle in bed.

But... I couldn't just let it sit there. Not all night. If I did not at least bring a little liquid to soften the hard edges, I might forget- and the mess would be harder to clean in the morning, once the kids were in school. So I stopped, and I poured on a little water, and began to wipe and scrub- just for a moment, to get the worst of the stains out. It put me in mind of a story... the story of a man with living water, who met a woman at a well.

She was world weary, passed from one man to the next, baggage from each torn relationship left in the crevices of her spirit and soul. Hardened edges built around a messy heart, walls erected to survive splatters left behind. One man, though, saw through the facade, through the gunk and the labels-and he saw a heart in need of living water. He saw her- not what she'd done, or what had been done to her. He saw a woman in need of healing. He was weary from traveling; dusty and thirsty and hungry- for he was fully human, having every physical need created in our kind. Yet he made a conscious effort to fill a need for nourishment that transcended body and touched a soul. Despite the social barriers, the liberating King looked beyond appearances and into a heart. He lingered, and lives were transformed.

There was another woman who was bleeding out, spotted and stained in body and spirit. Emaciated, humiliated, defined as unclean by her culture.  All her resources spent seeking healing, to no avail. Hiding,  but desperate enough to slip in from behind and touch the hem of a holy man's robe. One touch... one touch at the edges of holiness and she was healed. Made well. Whole, pure, restored.


So, then, what of a life in the here and now that's been used up by another? I am stunned, shocked at the degradation one human being can force upon another. Slavery alive and well even here, in this free nation.There are those who feel beyond all hope. Labeled unclean, stripped of purity, despised even by those who lay claim to hope in their hearts. What of the marginalized, the victims of violence that today are relegated to simply survive darkness?

Know this: healing power still flows out today.  No matter what you've done, or what's been done to you; there is nothing beyond the touch of Grace.

There is no soul too scarred, no heart too broken, no person too far gone. The message today to those who think they are beyond saving is this: the ransom has already been paid. Rescue is at hand. Turn away from the voices that say your life is too dirty, too wretched. There are none beyond the reach of relentless grace.

It is true that Freedom isn't free. Though freedom- yours and mine- has been bought at a precious price,we have to do more than long for it; we have to fight for it.  Fight against the lies and the condemnation, train our ears to hear the Voice of Love beckoning, enter his healing embrace, and submit our hearts to the setting free- remembering always that we are each flawed and still "in process"- but Praise Jesus, there is One sees and loves and accepts us how we are- even in the murkiest places. He will work healing even into the most forgotten of hearts.

So those of us who know the light, who've experienced the healing touch of Radiant Love, we are called not just to revel in our own healing, but to be continually filled to overflowing that we may pour out.  A life miraculously set free can stand in the gap for those who thirst and hunger for freedom in the inmost places. Let us not look in judgement on those who've yet to meet the Healer. Let us be light and salt and Hope, that lives may be rescued through our willingness to be humble and merciful, like the Lover of our souls.  

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am called to watch and seek what I can do to be a part of setting the prisoners free. To look beyond my own walls and go where God is even now working. He is patient and merciful, not willing that any should be lost.

It takes courage to not turn away from the gunk and the hardened places; it takes readiness to take a page from our Healer's book, to let our schedules and plans be interrupted. It takes willingness to stop; to look and listen, to linger that those ravaged by darkness can catch a glimpse of this amazing, all consuming, miraculous light- if only we will let Him shine through.

~Just Me





Friday, October 4, 2013

The 5 Love Languages




It's good to have a reminder of what I already know. Lessons learned in previous seasons can fade; as time goes on and life gets busy, I forget to dwell on that which once impacted me deeply. So I was thrilled when The 5 Love Languages, Military Edition arrived in the mail. I am always excited when I get to be a part of inspirational author (and friend) Jocelyn Green's work- and although I did contribute a short anecdote to this particular project (in the Combat Redeployment section) reading this book was most exciting because it jogged my memory about lessons learned years back, before multiple deployments and diagnoses; before PTSD and trauma and the stress of living with the complications of war come home.

I first read The 5 Love Languages when my husband Roger, then an army chaplain, decided to lead his soldiers through this book. I remember how much the original version helped strengthen our marriage. We learned that, like many couples, we show love in very different ways. There were times when Roger was attempting to show love to me, but I was not understanding his intentions- and vice versa. In seasons when a marriage feels strained or cold, it can be because we are missing each other's attempts to show love, or as Gary Chapman puts it, we are "speaking different Love Languages". In times like these, conscious attempts to show love in the way your spouse understands love best can go a long way.

 The latest book in the Love Languages series provided me with a much needed refresher course in the five ways of showing and understanding love which Chapman identifies, reminding me of times when I made an effort to be sure I was speaking the love language Roger understands rather than relying on my own.

The military edition of The 5 Love Languages addresses life challenges for military families that can cause communication break downs, and while my family's "Combat Redeployment" (the adjustment period that follows when a spouse comes home from war) has long since passed,we still battle against the habits made in the seasons when Roger was a world away.

For the greater part of five years (half of our younger son's life) Roger was either deployed, or recovering from  being in a war zone. Even when he was home, I felt separated from him. He was trying to protect me and the boys from the horrors he'd witnessed, and so he withdrew into himself. Though God has done a work of restoration in our marriage that I never thought possible, there are still times when I feel isolated- most especially on anniversaries of traumatic events.

The emotional withdrawal I wrote about regarding that season still has to be addressed today. Simply put, I got into the habit of being independent when he was deployed, and sometimes I fall back into those old habits of functioning as a single unit, rather than part of  a committed relationship. It's easier to do my own thing, but it is so much more rewarding to invest in creating and maintaining a love relationship that frankly, I was designed to need.

Sometimes I am afraid to open up, or I make excuses like "old habits die hard" because I don't want to do the work. My husband is no longer volatile and unpredictable, so I do not have to hide my emotions behind walls of protection. Sometimes he feels angry, but than again, so do I... usually because anger is a mask for hurt feelings, and most of the time feelings get hurt because one of us is not understanding  what the other is communicating.

As I read through the challenges to keeping love strong, I understood that though I do not always feel loved, Roger has been expressing love through 'words of affirmation'- telling me how pretty I look, telling me how delicious the meals are, telling me he loves me. He's speaking his love language- and now that he is further into recovery, he speaks this affirmation often. I, on the other hand, understand love differently. I bring him little things I know he likes. I make his favorite foods. I work hard to take care of the house and kids so he can focus on recovery. Yet he does not always understand the languages I am speaking. Simply put, we sometimes miss each other's efforts.The one saving grace is that we both show love through affection or "physical touch". Still, busyness or opposite schedules can interfere with that expression of love as well. I've learned before that it takes work to make time for each other, in every season. 

So I am ready to make a new commitment. First, to remember his "love language", which helps me to understand what he is communicating- to see the efforts he is making,even he's not "speaking my native love language" (the one I understand  best).

Second, I commit to make a point to show him love in the ways he understands, and especially, to make time to connect.

Finally, I commit to "safe sharing". A counselor who works with families recovering from PTSD taught me 'positive communication strategies' to convey what I need. If I choose carefully the timing, tone of voice, and word selection, I can communicate my needs in a loving and non-threatening way (which is imperative when dealing with PTSD). When I communicate safely,  I find that Roger really does  love me and he wants to meet my needs. Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes he needs LOVING reminders, but as he heals, he is better able to show love.

PTSD may bring challenges to having a healthy marriage- but PTSD, when treated with care and understanding, does NOT render a marriage helpless. Creating new habits takes work, and willingness to make changes, even if they are not easy- but I reap many benefits from the work done.

Whether in marriage or in the inner recesses of my own life, healing is always worth the work.


 Prayer:

Heavenly Healer,

I know that you specialize in creating something from nothing. You move mountains, you make rivers on dry land, you never fail to give beauty for ashes. I realize it's time to surrender my marriage into your healing hands. I lay each hurt, each challenge before you now:  ______________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________.
I ask you to direct the healing process. Show me where I need counsel from someone trained to help me work through areas of woundedness. Guide me to the right individuals to aid me in my own unique journey.

 I confess the truth that you can and will bring healing into every area I choose to surrender. I accept that it will take willingness and work on my part. I claim the truth that Healing IS worth the work. Please direct my steps, bringing order from chaos, reminding me to lay down each struggle in the moment of stress.

Thank you that I can pour out all my hurt, fear, and anger into Your hands for You are Big Enough to take it. Remind me to continually release my emotions to you rather than dumping my emotional stress on my loved ones.  Guard my tongue, that I would not use words as weapons, but rather speak love and life, even as I share my own needs. Grant wisdom as to timing, and emotional climate, and safety. Bring healing to my spirit, soul and body, as I submit to the mending process.

~Just Me 


**Post Note: I have found healing from Secondary PTSD (which affects most caregivers of individuals with PTSD) through a therapy technique called EFT- Emotional Freedom Technique.

Also Roger and I both went through extensive counseling for several years, and we still have "check ins" with a therapist to check on how we are both doing. Healing is for the wounded, and their family members, too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Comfort

There are seasons when we are intimately acquainted with suffering. Times when trials immobilize and sear. Moments when we find ourselves prostrate or reeling, saturated with grief and questions.

My story involves sifting through layers of events and areas of wounding. Though our family's journey through PTSD is somewhat known, there are few who know what I clutched beneath the cloak of sadness.

I had only just begun to work through the trauma of having a son with a life threatening medical disorder when Roger returned from Iraq changed. After years of living in fear that 'today could be the day my little boy would die', God provided release from daily terror as I placed my precious son on the altar, surrendering the illusion of control, asking instead for sustenance. I assumed the arc through the recovery process would continue, and I hoped my husband and I would bond as we moved towards healing from that life altering diagnosis.

Yet what followed the joyful reunion was only isolation and more grief. It became clearer that our re-adjustment phase was not resolving as my husband became volatile and emotionally unsafe. I went from healing to survival mode in a matter of weeks- and as the months drew on, barriers were erected in order to protect myself from chaos.

When Roger self admitted to a VA facility I felt I could breathe again. While he was gone I had space, safety. Still, I was far away from family and friends and only a precious few perceived what was happening in our marriage. Fewer still knew what was happening within my own heart.

Roger began to bring home pottery he'd made as a part of his therapy, confronting me with the severity of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. That harsh reality plunged me into despair. My hopes and dreams for a stable family life shattered. The fragments of my life seemed not merely broken, but ground into dust... it seemed there was nothing left to piece back together.

The moment I came to the end of myself is still so vivid. After months of simply trying survive, I found myself crumpled on the floor, overwhelmed by sorrow. The prayer that escaped in the midst of utter brokenness was one name: "Jesus". I cried out in sheer agony, "Help me!" and found myself engulfed; covered in light, in soothing warmth and complete and total acceptance. It was as if God was encouraging me to nestle in, to be cradled by his love. There were no words, yet somehow I knew my healer was urging me to let loose the flood I'd dammed before. I released what I'd held onto for so long, and wept into his covering as Love held me. I was granted liberty from self-reproach and judgement, set free to pour out every hidden fear and embrace the grief I'd resisted before.

In the midst of life's tempests- and even because of them,  know this- God does not condemn your grief. Rather, the Healer urges you to embrace the grieving process, understanding that he offers complete and total acceptance in the midst of every moment as you release the churning within. God does not despise you for weeping, or anger, or questions. He welcomes you as you are- no matter what emotions spring forth.

The One who accepts you completely- all you are, and all you are not- our Refuge invites you to pour out everything, even what you fear to dish out. The one who created every emotion is mighty enough to withstand all of them. You cannot shock him, and you cannot shake the hound of heaven- not even with your own unworthiness. Whether you are running, or crumpled in the corner reeling from violence, or simply struggling through each and every moment of the day, know that there is One who is safe. No matter what man (or woman) has done to you. There is no secret too shameful, no shadow too dark, no place too broken for our Healer.

I know this truth. When I was face down in my bedroom carpet weeping until I was spent... and then somehow weeping again, Adonai allowed me to empty the pain. And in those moments I knew all encompassing love, unconditional acceptance and all consuming comfort.

Adonai- the very name is soothing to my soul. Speaking of relationship, of holding close as I cease resisting and let go of all that separates me from intimate comfort. Adonai is complete, so I don't have to be. In fact, when I enter his welcoming embrace, Adonai completes me

There is One who is light and love and peace, One who will hold you through every distress, every trauma, and every place of grieving; Adonai, who is the gift in your suffering. 


~Just Me

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My 'Positive'

I wasn't going to blog today. I really wasn't. Does the world wide web really need one more post reminiscing about watching the same footage over, and over... and over? And then... there was this homework assignment from my youngest; to interview a family member about 9/11. He asked me to share my memories from 9/11- including not just the negatives, "but also the positives". And despite the sadness that lingers even tonight as I remember the images from that terrible day, it warmed my heart to be able to share with my now 11 year old son that he is my positive.

 As soon as the images began to flash across the TV screen, my husband knew he would be 'called up'. He was a chaplain in the National Guard, and we both knew it was only a matter of time... What we did not know was when, where, or how long. I felt ill watching the news coverage, praying for the many families in New York and Washington D.C. even as I fought back waves of nausea. But I had been feeling sick to my stomach for almost two weeks, and it was that day- and the fact of inevitable, impending deployment that motivated me to take a pregnancy test just a little bit too early... hoping I would know before sending my husband off to war.

So, 9/11 has a bittersweet connotation for me. The day when my family's life changed forever- not just because events were set in motion that led to much sacrifice, but also the day that led to the precious knowledge that I would be a mother again.

I still grapple with the knowledge that other families deal with loss on a grand scale because of that day. Part of my process of coming to terms with this is recorded in Stories of Faith and Courage From the Home Front  by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green (the October 24 reading), but let me say here that 9/11 is a reminder for me to pray for the children very close to my son's age who won't meet their fathers in this lifetime. It is a way I remember to pray for all of those who lost someone that day (some of whom have also shared stories in the above mentioned book).

So tonight, as I tuck in both of my boys, I will breathe another prayer for those who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks- for a special outpouring of comfort and support on this day. For these families to be met not only with media recognition, but the little acts of kindness, that in truth are not so little. I pray these families will be treated not just as another news story, but as individuals who still wake to moments of sadness, even on days that are not anniversaries of loss.

We will never forget... and may we offer up earnest prayers and candid kindness as we remember.

~Just Me









Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Manna

There comes a time of waiting, after I've passed through the place of doing. Appointments are made, meetings scheduled, points of contact lined up. Everything I can do, has been done, and now, it is time to wait, not on God, but in him.

Along this way there has been clear guidance. Little provisions, that in the scheme of things, are not so little. The counselor who to thought pull records so diagnoses and treatments could be accessed exactly when needed. The diagnostician who just 'happened' to walk into the office when I was filling out paperwork. The Occupational Therapist's office who called to let me know that insurance had (finally) approved a visit, records had been reviewed and they are ready to schedule an appointment (a couple months out). The call that came today, moving the appointment a week closer because the doctor had a conflict. (I'd call it a divine intervention.) Early on God told me that there would be a time of waiting- and to not be discouraged.

In fact, Joshua 1:9 has been before me for months now:
 This is my command, be strong and courageous. Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God, the Eternal One, and I will remain with you wherever you go.

God has said clearly that he will meet every need, and that he gives direction when I have the heart to hear. Sometimes I am to move, and other times, to wait. Even though it feels a bit like wandering around in the desert, there is much to be learned in wilderness waiting.

Whether the wilderness place comes after a great rescue, or seemingly out of nowhere, steps can be ordered if a heart is willing to keep watch for the One who guides. While it's true that wilderness times can be  brought on by our own choices- or the decisions of those around us, it is also true that there is a time to  feel the weight of grieving, or of waiting.

Regardless of the season, I can be prepared, for the One who leads also sustains-with spiritual Manna. I am learning to not step forward until the timing is complete. For in His time, God removes every obstacle. Nothing can separate me from the will of God- except my own impatience.

So now, in this time when I am guided to stand firm, it's about waiting in the preparation place. Waiting can be passive, or active. Do I grumble and complain about how slowly the time is moving, or do I watch and pray, recognizing His provision with gratitude?

It is mine to choose where to focus. And as I move with him, in him, God gives enough for today; teaching me to not be greedy, to take time to listen to his whispers, which come as I am still before him. Time to enjoy the breeze on my face, time to recognize his caress in my heart and soul. I must Be Still to know the wind as His whispers. To be ever aware to his provision, to allow songs of gratitude to spring forth. It's time to remember the  many ways he has provided along the journey, and look for the ways He still provides manna today.

I lift my eyes up, at the landscape rolling out before me. And it is here, in the wilderness, that I remember: my help comes not from the hills, but from their maker.  

~Just Me



Friday, August 23, 2013

Ready or Not

I'm not ready for school to start. The back packs have been assembled, the school supplies bought, the organization has been done. The pantry has been scoured for sensory friendly scissors and pencil grips that are "nice and squishy". I even found the elusive composition notebooks we need every year (though folders with brads AND pockets have been hard to come by.) I have glue and spirals to excess, but not the desire to send my kids into the care of new personnel, well trained in their needs or not.

Oh, there have been days, when I am worn thin, longing for routine, for the set schedule that comes with the school year.  Days when One. More. Moment. of screaming daycare kids running amok at Lego Land has set me on edge. Moments when the lines at Hawaiian Falls or the crush in the lazy river threatens to send me back to a nice shady cabana (we had a 'Summer of Staycations'). But mostly, I've enjoyed the unrushed, go-where-we-please summer moments. Yes, there has been the inevitable (annoying) "I'm bored"- five minutes after returning home from a day of fun.  And yes the kids have probably had too much Minecraft and FaceTime. But I am, surprisingly, not ready to let them go.

Maybe it's because the last couple weeks of summer are filled with doctor visits and appointments with school personnel to train and acquaint key staff with each of my boys' individual needs. Or maybe it's because High School is a whole new ball game (especially with diabetes) and I am not sure anyone else can really meet the sensory needs of my 11 year old. Maybe, despite my brave appearance, I am not quite ready to release these young men into the world of big people. After all, as it's been pointed out, "we're not little kids any more." (Sigh... Sniffle...)

Despite the fact that most years I (secretly) rejoice when it's time to go back to school, this year I am left with a sadness which, I suspect, is not unique to special needs families. I wonder, will anybody really take care of them as well as me?

It's not that I doubt the ability of trained staff to meet their needs. In fact, after meeting the school nurse at the high school, I have to say she seems to live up to the word on the street (that she is amazing). I found her to be flexible and understanding, bringing into balance awareness that a High Schooler needs to be empowered to succeed in self care, coupled with a heart to watch over those in her care, ready to step in as needed. A mama could not ask for more. Yet still I wonder, will anybody really love them like me?

They'll always be my babies. At they end of the day both my boys will always, always, always be a responsibility that I cherish. And maybe, just maybe, despite weeks of planning and meetings, despite the need for routine--even beyond the fatigue of summer fun, I am not quite ready to let go, even a little.

 I want to hold them close, cherish the moments (taking breaks when needed for the sake of my mental health)- but never let them go. So I guess it's time to 'put on the big girl panties'. Time to let my boys grow up,  to add to the lessons of self-care that gift of learning to advocate for their own needs. Time to step back, knowing the way is prepared, to release both my children to One who loves them even more than I do.

So I move forward into the great unknown, determined to trust God with every need- medical and otherwise. Secure in the knowledge that he has a plan and a purpose for these times of transition. Armed with focused prayer- and a box of Kleenex.

~Just Me







Friday, June 28, 2013

The Courage to Grieve Well

Grieving. It is a part of this broken life. Whether it is the death of a loved one, or the death of a dream, a goal, a cherished ambition, loss radiates deep within. Sometimes multiple losses strike at once: the loss of a job, a new diagnosis, something unexpected that barrelled down and caught you unaware. Or, it can come in the form of walking daily under the oppression of multiple medical needs, any of which are prone to spiral out of control at any moment. Care-giving drains the body, soul, and even spirit, cramming in much more than we were built to contain.

Any time there is continual stress it is important to find release. Taking time to grieve is key in finding wellness, and the One who is our healing has already provided. Look at the beautiful, biological design of the human tear ducts; a conduit of release to help us be cared for in times of trauma- and a wonderful gift when stresses surround.

When we were made, our Creator knew we would need a way to pour out the toxins that build up, so we are designed to have a natural, healthy way to detoxify. No spa needed. Simply time alone with the Healer to pour out what clogs us up, and then, to be filled by life giving comfort and unconditional love. There is a relief that comes only through the salty effusion of tears. We need to cry. We were made to cry.


This week I've needed a good washing within, and I've found that music unlocks emotions I hold on to a little too tightly. As I sought out songs to bring on the pouring out, I ran across three really good ones:

Blessings, by Laura Story
My favorite lines: "You love us way to much to give us lesser things" and "What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears."  Yes. Our healing does come through tears. Literally. If we hold in the tears, we are withholding healing from ourselves. This songs resonates with the many ways my view of God has changed since beginning the journey through multiple life altering diagnoses.



I Will Praise You in This Storm by Aaron Wright, Sung by Casting Crowns

Except I have to say, that I'm coming to believe that God does not "take away"- at least not in the sense that I understood earlier in my life. I believe that much of our suffering is a product of living in a fallen world. We must be careful to not blame God for that which the choices of man set in motion (death, disease, etc.) God  can- and does- transform what the enemy intended for evil into something beautiful, but let's be sure that in our pain, we do not submit to the truth twisting of the enemy. God is good, whether life is what we want, or not. And so I believe the choice the author makes to praise God despite loss and disappointment is worth a second look.

Held By Christa Wells, Sung by Natalie Grant

Again, this song examines what we believe in times of loss. When confronted with all that is appalling in this world we sometimes give in to the "entitlement gospel" too easily. We think that because we love God, bad things won't happen to us. But the truth is that the followers of  The Way, early in the history of Christianity, were by and large tortured, imprisoned, even killed. So what are we promised? We are promised that in the midst of the worst that could happen, we have the choice to be held.

Suffering will come in this life. That is a guarantee. Every person that treads this earth will know sadness, loss, betrayal, or bitterness at some point in life. It is a given in this sin sick world. People let us down, and the wounded hurt others. So we can choose to blame God for the painful things that cross our path, or we can understand that His purpose, His plan, is to heal our hearts. To bring wholeness and make us well. And while we may not like what happens, we can choose how we respond. We can keep the One who is our comfort at a distance, or run into his outstretched arms.When we nestle into the embrace of the One who is love, we will find that he is the gift in our suffering.

~Just Me

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Failure? Or Freedom?

Failure.  We are all confronted with it. Whether we face our own expectations or those of others, we all fall short sometimes. And there are the times when life- and even God- seems to have failed us. Times when no matter how hard we try, no matter what buttons we push or what loads we carry, all we find in our path is disappointment. 


Daily, I work to manage various life altering and even, at times, life threatening diagnoses. And sometimes, no matter how hard I strive, at the end of the day (or month, or year), I stumble through that feeling of failure.

When I am at the end of all I want, for myself and those I love, it's time for an altar walk. I go outside and pour out my concerns (usually aloud) to the One who hears- and listens.  Movement is a conduit for release. These walks keep me sane, grounded, when life is crowded with struggles and disappointments. Green rolls out before me, punctuated with pinks and yellows and blues, and I breathe in the beauty of creation.
 
My attention is drawn outside myself and my wants, to a place where I am open to re- direction. I become willing to let go of my expectations, my wishes and wants. I am free to walk in God's plans and purposes for me- and my family.  There is peace- even joy- in release.


Here I find that the diagnoses, the special issues that seem like limitations are actually marking out the path set before me. Helping me connect with those who will support and encourage me along the way, and connecting me with those God will pour into through me, as well. The course is not always clear, and the unknowns at times seem daunting. But the beauty of this way is that I have a loving Guide. One who knows every need in me- and those I love.
The One who is dedicated to healing souls and hearts walks with me, offering to draw close and sustain in every season. Letting go of my way, my wants allows me to embrace that symbiotic relationship where I am held, cradled through the entire journey. 

At the end of the struggle I always come back to the One who has wholeness at heart.  I am set free to experience more- not bound by the limitations of my wishes, but protected by such great love for me- the love that offers what is in my own best interest. It's not just for the lives I will connect with as I walk. It's for my own journey towards wellness. 
So in times when the path set before me is not what I would choose, I've learned to let go of that illusion of control. Then I find that the choice to walk where I am held  liberates me. The choice is clear- release and trust, embracing my own unique stages of grief, or cling to vapors. Even when it hurts, I can trust that God can redeem this, too. He never fails to give beauty for ashes.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cradled

Fear. It does not always come in the darkness of night. Sometimes it arrives in the early morning, when I wake to the weak voice of my son, who has type one diabetes, whispering in my ear, "Mom, I feel sick."  He bolts to my bathroom and I run, too, to try to comfort, hoping my presence is enough, while I wrestle with helplessness- and fear.

Once he is back in bed, miserable, aching, I can't get still. The jolt from sleeping to wild wakefulness leaves my heart racing. Flip flops pound across tile, hands sweep through the medicine cabinet for something, anything to help him. Within the hour, blood glucose has been checked, fresh insulin given, a new "set" for the insulin pump has been attached to his body.  The on call doctor has advised, and nausea medicine has been administrated. Everything medically necessary has been done. But another hour wait until the next blood glucose check leaves me gaping. If I sit with him, I will only keep him awake. So I train a watchful eye on the hallway, and wait for the next round.

He is up again soon, wretching. I run to him, again. I wish I could do more. I wish I could take this burden from him. So I stand close and rub his back, and wrestle. This is why I keep a change of clothes in the car for my son and myself. I try to be prepared. We have a bag packed with medical supplies that goes with us everywhere. I keep what is not practical for "the diabetes bag" (like pajamas and clean underwear in case of a sudden trip to the hospital) in the minivan. But try as I might, I can not anticipate everything. It's wise to be prepared, but sometimes the back up plan is a good start- yet not near enough.

 Tweaking, analyzing, and re-planning are good, even necessary- but can not guarantee there won't be rough patches. Sometimes, I do the best in can in the moment, and process later. It's in moments like these when I am reminded not to underestimate grace. For others, yes. But for myself too. Even now, when I do my best, but my son still suffers, grace is for me, too.

Grace is that loving Voice assuring, "You did the best you could, now give the rest to me."

So I close the cabinets, and place my hands on the counter top, to steady. I breathe, and pray. In... out... In, and out again. Prayer breaths in- "Jesus", I speak the name, and breathe out, saying aloud: "Lord", my assurance. In: "God", out: "healer", In: "Spirit", out: "Comforter." In: "rest", out: " release." Hands out, I find the altar, and place my son, and my own heart, in the place where we are safe. For I know this truth: sometimes God holds us in his hands, but always, he holds us in his heart. So here, now, in this moment, I nestle in, and find myself- and my precious boy- cradled in the arms of the One who loves us best.

~Just Me


 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pause

There is a weariness not of body, but of heart and soul. It's been one of those weeks. When I wake, bleary eyed to one child sick in the night, and another shaking with sugars skyrocketing, and later, plummeting.

It's been a week of frantic moments. Conversations with on-call doctors, diabetes educators, (long) calls with pharmacists, and yes, I have resorted to begging. Help me!  Help my son. Help me help my son! I am at the end of myself, simply making do with what's leftover.

And it strikes me. Perhaps I am looking for help in all the wrong places. Like the country song I knew growing up... looking in too many faces. Trying (desperately) to find what I'm dreaming of. When I push through the fear and the drowsiness, it is possible the answer is found in taking pause?

 If I stop I fear I'll fall to pieces. Maybe I need to fall to pieces. Perhaps the key to being strong is found beyond my own weak strength. Maybe being strong is coming to the end of all I am and crying out "Help Me!" to the One who is my strength, my very present help in trouble (if I will let Him in.)

A much needed reminder that came even today: I am not alone. Words of comfort flow in and fill the places where I feel hammered. I am grateful for hearts, here before me, hands ready to come along side and lift me up- when I am too spent to raise myself. And, above all the provisions of friends of the heart, there is One, who stands ready to hold, to shelter, to restore. I desperately need to stop holding my breath and running through chaos. As I was reminded today, I can choose to participate in the chaos, or I can let it go. Rest is a verb. It means to stop. To relieve weariness by cessation of exertion or labor. To be quiet and still.

It seems a long time since I was broken, spilled out. Yet there is strength in the spilling out. There is release, and a wholeness born of restoration. I lean in to the arms that hold and cover, allowing peace to unfold. My comforter smooths the layers of fear, lifts eyes laden with burdens to see his heart. As I pause, and linger, I am reminded that it is so good to 'Be still'.  In the stillness, He can draw near and calm my heart, and in his presence I find rest for my soul. 


~Just Me 





Thursday, April 25, 2013

Be still


Oh, day of rest, 
How beautiful, how fair! 

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today I long for green- cucumbers and spinach leaves to feed the body, and  slender blades of grass to feed my soul. Oh, to lay in a clover green meadow and breathe in the breeze, the sky, the voice quietly whispering my name. 

What is stopping me? The urge is strong, yet I work, still. I push through to gain a prize whose name I do not know. The whisper beckons me out into mid- morning. Persistently. I stop working and take off shoes and socks, stepping onto  the grassy slope behind our home. 

The ground is cool, as I knew it would be; verdant, and pliable, warming to my touch. I lean back, relaxing, supported by soft spikes. I feel the breeze and hear a gentle song lilt from the shadow of wings. Pages flap and I wonder:  Why is it so hard to be still?

I stay, cloaked in green, while my eyes adjust to the light. In the distance, cars hum, people rushing through busy lives- and still I wonder. When did I forget to let in that which feeds my soul? 
I've been separated from the peace of this place by the whirl of life. While trying to catch my breath, I forgot what it is to breathe deep. 

Sleepless nights and sick kids may deplete the body, but it is this busy-ness that steals true rest. Now, the habit of getting out into creation takes determination and self discipline. So I sit, and I breathe, and I rest.

 A lady bug glides across wildflowers that sprung up in my absence. Clouds silently swirl across a pure blue expanse. They know how to be silent, to keep pace with time peacefully, without hurry. 

When I've been rubbed raw by life's sanding, I realize I am still learning to rest in the One who sustains and holds, comforting me through rough patches. It is equally important to draw apart when days are filled with activity and the good work of life. To make a habit of being filled with living water before I am run dry with thirst.

I now recognize soul-thirst, and so I stay, drinking in the wildness that has swept down this hill. Luxuriating in birdsong and inviting the breeze to dance on my cheeks, twirling my hair, drawing me into radiant goodness. Dandelions sway, fuzzy tops nodding in agreement to be silent before the Creative One.  I drink deep of  beauty and peace until I am satiated with healing wind and soothing grasses.

Grace floods my soul, simply because I obeyed that still quiet voice that beckoned me to the place of wellness.  I am refreshed, washed in gratitude. In awe of the One who crafted greens and blues and softness and joy which restores my soul. This is healing in it's simplest form.
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Overcoming Anxiety

My son has test anxiety, and it can be pretty intense. With all the stress and struggle and extra homework surrounding the STAAR testing here in Texas, we've been dealing with a lot of apprehension and dread. Our weekend devotions focused on giving God all our fears, and learning to hear his voice calming our hearts. We read Jeremiah 29:11-12. Verse eleven is well known, but I really love the perspective verses twelve and thirteen bring.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that. 12 At that time, you will call out for Me, and I will hear. You will pray, and I will listen. 13 You will look for Me intently, and you will find Me when you seek me with all your heart.

I shared with the boys that when I am worried, I close my eyes and remember that he is there to help me. Then I picture placing my concerns in God's big hands, one by one. We prayed this morning before school, again asking God to calm our hearts, to help us to remain focused and at rest in Him.

There are some days when the battle for peace of mind is fought moment by moment, over and over. I tend to wage the war through prayer, so as I exercised this morning, I prayed scripture over Tyler and Blaine, and our friends and family who I know are also distressed over the testing- each by name. I also asked God to help me in my own battle with anxiety.

First, Psalm 121- "I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?" My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."

Then, Psalm 94:19 "When anxiety overtakes me and worries are many,your comfort lightens my soul." (The Voice Translation)

And Finally Psalm 18, which holds a wealth of truth to calm an anxious mother's heart:

 I love you, O Lord, my strength. My God is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, in whom I take refuge,my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. (Verses 1-3)

Our enemy seeks to consume us with worry- to keep us shackled to fear, overwhelmed, so we forget to reach for the one who sets us free. When the battle is of the mind, God's promises are like the horn which sounds the call to battle- and the alert that support is at hand. He is our protector, the one who saves us from the snares of the enemy

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. In my distress I called to the Lord;I cried to my God for help, and from his temple he heard my voice. (Psalm 18: 4- 6)

Worry and fear can be like cords of death, yet if we can remember to call for God's help, he hears and teaches us how to really let go and rely on him. I find that focusing on truth helps, as does the mental image of envisioning whatever I am holding on to, and placing every fear in his hands.

He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them...He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of the raging waters.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18: 14,16, 19)

 He delights in me!  His heart is to walk in close communion with me, soothing me, holding me through the difficult places. No matter what happens, He is with me- and my children. All we have to do is invite him into every moment. I can worry over what I cannot control, or I can release even the worst case scenario to God, trusting that his plans and purposes are what's best for me, and for the ones I love- for He loves them SO much more than I can imagine!

My experience is that God can take what seems terrible, and even tragic, and transform it into something beautiful. Do I really believe that his purposes are for peace, and wholeness and wellness? Do I trust in his plans and purposes for my kids, even when that means they have to face difficulties? 

Hard questions. I'd really like to protect them from every struggle. But truly, life in this imperfect world has its challenges- and its losses. As hard as it is, I have to let them learn in their own way. I have to release them, allow them to find God in ways that are meaningful to them. My prayer is that my children will learn how to lean into him, and I am realizing that these places of frustration and struggle will help them deal with adversity in life later on. The good news is that just as God relentlessly pursues my heart, he also speaks to my children. I know that even now, in the midst of a difficult day, he is whispering love and comfort to them. Inviting them to draw near, to lean into him and find that He longs to be their refuge and strength, to know that He is their very present help troubling times. (Psalm 46:1)    

So as I seek to release those I hold most dear, I choose, again, to make trust an hourly choice. To release the illusion of control, to lay down every fear- even the "worst that could happen". I make the words of Psalm 18 personal:

With God's help, I can conquer an army,
with my God I can leap over walls, 
His ways are perfect; the promise of the Eternal rings true; He stands as a shield for all who take refuge in Him!


For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God? 
 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
(Psalm 18: 29-32)


And He is who we truly need, in every season.

~Just Me

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I once was Lost, but now am Found

"What is a week end?"  the (Downton Abbey) Dowager Countess quipped. Ah, the weekend!  What would I do without the much needed time to rest, renew, and have some recreation?

Let's face it, the week is full of rush and hurry, and at my house, that means anxiety. There is the scramble to get to school, the busy-ness of managing medical issues day to day, the struggle of making dinner while helping with homework, the stretch to have (more) homework completed before bed time. We are, after all, gearing up for the STAAR test, so that means more stress and more work, and therefore less rest for our kiddos.

So this weekend, I determined, would be a time to rest and unwind. To set aside Think Through Math and I station, and all the other testing preparation assignments, and just have a day of fun. Saturday morning we moved purposely slow, and then about noon I dug out the swim gear, packed up snacks and towels (and medical supplies) and loaded the car with two very excited boys. We stopped to pick up a friend, and some good old fashioned silliness bounced around as I drove the mini-van to our local Natatorium (indoor swimming pool). The best deal in town, I have to say. Two bucks a head for hours of fun.

While the boys took turns at the diving board, I swam too. For the first time in a couple years I got in and really practiced my rusty backstroke. This wasn't a one eye on the kids kind of move (like I usually do). The lifeguard had eyes trained on the boys, and I felt like I could, for a few moments, really release and let someone else do the watching. So, I leaned back into the water and stretched out, for the first time in ages. It felt good. Really good.  Next I tried a side stroke (peeking at the boys from time to time) and finally, what my childhood swimming teacher called 'The Frog'. (This was rather fun, as I giggled at myself, and how it must look.) It was an altogether refreshing release.

When the kids were ready for a snack, we chatted and simply enjoyed each other's company. No rushing, no struggling with facts and figures. Just time together, laughing, connecting. We were getting 'all wrinkly', so we decided it would be fun to get cleaned up and go to a movie.  I was time conscious, but I did some emotional work in order to set the tone of not being rushed or stressed. I breathed in, and out, and did what needed to be done calmly. Everyone worked together and took turns, and we left five minutes early. The movie was great! I splurged on treats (again something we don't do often) and enjoyed cinematic goodness and great visual effects.

And then.

Though it was time to start winding down, a certain son of mine was not ready to let the fun end. I worked to stay calm and just talk through it with him (and breathe... and stay calm). Thankfully the other two were ensconced in the back seat, enjoying more silliness. I headed to drop off our friend, and discovered my wallet was missing.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach?t It began to grow and grow, as I thought through where my wallet could be. Your whole life is in that wallet, a voice inside murmured. The dread was no longer confined to the pit of my stomach. I was engulfed in sheer panic.

 The other mom prayed and reassured me (as she always does), giving me a hug before I rushed off, back to the theater, dialing the front desk with shaking fingers. They could not find it. I called my husband, beside myself. "I don't know what to do! Should I go look myself? I should, shouldn't I? I'm at the light by the theater, I should just go in and look." He agreed.

  After a few questions, the boys had became very quiet.They were worried, too. The drama of the lost wallet had silenced the previous fun (and the grumbling, too) and all three of us were reaching, yearning, trying to grasp hope where there seemed to be none.

Then, the agonizing dash into the theatre, the frantic charge up the stairs, the apologetic looking under seats, to see only empty floor. But wait. Way down in the corner, between the wall plate and the panel with the chair screws, was that...? Could it be...? Something small... and flowery... and white?

It was! It really was! I hugged it to me, and the boys and I rejoiced! Praise Jesus! "Thank you Dear Lord!" I said out loud. The gracious family who let me rummage by where they were sitting were all smiles as they wished me a good evening. It would be. It totally would be!
 "I prayed, Mommy," my previously sullen son said. "I asked God to help you find your wallet and to let everything be OK." And God, in his relentless mercy, helped me to find what I had been desperately looking for.

 When I feared 'all was lost', it was not just about the wallet. I knew that the cards and driver's licence could be reacquired- but the money and the little keepsakes I carry with me, these would be lost forever. And there was the sensation that something precious had been taken. Something irreplaceable; my sense of security, of safety. That's what I feared, really. Losing what cannot be replaced. What a relief when I saw that glimpse of white, that glimmer of hope! Oh, the joy of finding something that had been lost!

Gratitude washed over me, and I breathed deeply of God's provision. It struck me that this was a picture of God's joy when a soul separated from him is rescued.

There are those who live their whole lives in the state I was plunged into when I feared my security was gone. Those whose lives are devastated by war, or famine, or natural disasters. And there are many who have a roof over their head, but no hope in their heart. Those who have been wounded by brokenness or abuse or religion, or even, God's own people. Those for whom every breath is marked by despair and oppression. They feel damaged beyond repair, and so very lost. 

For years I was unable to look past my own brokenness and see their plight. But I am waking up to their existence, and asking what I am called to do. One life can seem so little in the face of world wide suffering. Yet I am realizing that if I carry the Light in me to the places he calls me to, God will take care of the rest. 

My calling is, no doubt, different than yours. Yet we share this truth; we are each gifted, each created uniquely so that a beautiful diversity will touch those who need hope like water and bread. My prayer is that we will acquire the urgency I felt this weekend to help hurting people- for how much more is a soul worth than a wallet?

May our hearts be opened to the desperation, the imminent needs, may we ask what we can do to effect change. I pray that we will be moved, to go- to run, as I did- to reach out with hands and hearts overflowing with love and grace. That we will clasp these souls to His heart, crying out, Thank you Dear Lord, that you came to seek and save that which was lost. And then we will know what it really means to rejoice, for every life has worth in His eyes, and every soul was meant to be rescued.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.


~Just Me