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