reflection

We’re Better Than Alright

It’s been raining for the last few days. I love the rain. I want to dance in the rain, call down the thunder and revel in the electric charges that slither across my skin. I used to. Not call down the thunder. But I used to dance and spin, my face to the sky and just breath in God.

I wonder why I don’t do that anymore.

I’ve been asking God for a sign. For something just for me. Something that tells me He loves me. That Her kindness is a mantle covering me. I had a sign last summer when I saw orcas breaching the ocean’s surface in a stunning display of strength and beauty. I love orcas. If I believed in spirit animals, they would be mine, these amazing wolves of the sea. Something stills and settles when I see them in nature. Something roars with pain when I see them in captivity.

But I live far away from the ocean so orcas can’t be my only sign. I need something else I can carry with me.

During one of my rain-soaked errand runs I turned on the radio and this song started playing. It’s about love and loyalty but I felt this zing through my soul. This might have been penned as a haunting love song, but it took on a deeper more personal meaning as the words flowed over, around, and through me. Between the Raindrops by Lifehouse. I have some of their music on my iPod, and sure enough this song was lurking there. I don’t remember downloading it. The only album I remember gettings is No Name Face. Regardless, there it was. I’ve been playing it on repeat. That zing is still there.

Sometimes we need a reminder that we aren’t alone. We need to know that God smiles on us. That He’s there with a smile and a promise. Those obstacles, He’s not going to let us figure them out on our own. He’s right there, walking between the raindrops with us.

I needed this promise in a visceral way I can’t explain. The chorus undid me, still does.

Walking between the raindrops
Riding the aftershock beside you
Off into the sunset
Living like there’s nothing left to lose
Chasing after gold mines
Crossing the fine lines we knew
Hold on and take a breath
I’ll be here every step
Walking between the raindrops with you

And then there’s the second verse that holds this acknowledgement. The world is f’ed up sometimes, but God promises to stay. I don’t think this is what the writers of the song had in mind. but I see God saying these words to me. Together, you bet we’re better than alright.

The world’s such a crazy place
When the walls come down
You’ll know I’m here to stay
There’s nothing I would change
Knowing that together everything that’s in our way
We’re better than alright

Sometimes we need a sign. Something we can hold on to. I’m holding on to this with both hands.

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Of Plants and Personalities

I have am the caretaker of four plants: three orchids and one geranium. It surprises me that the orchids in my care have survived this long, especially the one that I’ve had for almost four years. They have thrived when other plants have given up the ghost and they continue to delight me with gifts of new growth and periodically, of those wonderful flowers orchids are known for. All they require of me is water, some humidity, a little food once a month, and that I pay attention to the amount of direct sunlight they get per day. Orchids, I have learned, far prefer indirect sunlight.

The geranium, she is another story. This particular plant was purchased on a whim when the neighbor boy down the street came door to door selling plants to earn money for his band trip. The plant arrived in full bloom, healthy and happy in an outdoor hanging basket. She was hung on our deck where she would receive the right amount of light and, when it rained, a lovely soaking of water. I deadheaded her over the summer months, watered her when the rain was stingy, and enjoyed the riot of pink and white flowers she offered me for my trouble.

When summer came to a close and Jack Frost started drawing on the roof tops and windows and icing the trees with hoarfrost it was time to make a decision about the geranium. I could let her die, as I have for so many other annuals in the past. Or, I could bring her inside and nurture her through the winter. My husband convinced me to take door number two and I have been caring for this finicky plant ever since.

People are as diverse as plants. Perhaps even more so. In these last few months as I’ve had time to reflect and ponder (not always a good thing, let me tell you), I’ve learned a thing or two. Or perhaps it’s not that I’ve learned them, it’s that I’ve remembered them.

I have a dear friend who I love like a sister. I admire the hell out of her, I really do. She is tenacious and stubborn and sensitive and insightful and compassionate and seeks to understand. She is a warrior when it comes to her children and her marriage. She is not only willing to walk the hard road if it is the better path in the long run, she walks that path with her head high and thinks nothing of reminding God of what He has promised her.  She is beautiful inside and out and one of the strongest women I know.

It is her tenacity I have been observing in the last few months, her unwillingness to succumb to melancholy or self pity. Her drive to resolve and/or fix and issue. She is always pushing forward, always creating momentum. In this way, she is much like my husband. He’s a fixer. There is an issue, he has this internal drive to fix it. He’s not as gentle about it as my friend is, especially when the issue that has been observed is something I need to seriously address.

And this is where I differ from both of them. Yes, I want to resolve things as well, but I don’t have that strong internal drive to be tenacious. Or if I do, it’s on vacation and has been so for some time. I admire that drive while at the same time feel exhausted thinking about the energy and focus needed to stay the course. Next to my dear friend (and my husband) I feel like a sloth. I don’t attack issues. I come up to them as though they are a skittish horse, slowly and almost as though I’m not paying attention to it. I know it’s there, oh I’m constantly aware it’s there, but I tend to wind my way toward the issue, stepping toward it, acknowledging it, then stepping away to ponder what I learned in that encounter. I don’t have that singular focus, and have wondered for years if I have some form of ADD. It’s not that I’m distractible, though I am. It’s more that I need to give my subconscious time to work out parts of the issue without my conscious self getting in the way.

It seems to take forever for there to be progress when I look at myself and compare that to my friend’s journey. Sigh. I said it. Compare. I so admire my friend and her approach to life that when I look at my own I feel like something is wanting. I cry tears of frustration when I ask God why it seems to take so long for me to get to a new level of relationship with Him, why insights that appear to come to others so quickly take me forever to obtain. Why I hear Him tell me to rest when what I really want is to stop going around and around the same issue time and time again.

What has this to do with my orchids and my geranium? In addition to plants be so varied and different, with different needs and different optimal growing conditions, plants also accept what they are. My geranium doesn’t appear to want to be an orchid. My orchids seem genuinely pleased to be what they are and as long as I provide them with the right amounts of light, water, humidity and plant food, they flourish. I had to learn new ways to care for my geranium. I’m still learning it’s idiosyncrasies and needs. And am learning to not despair when leaves yellow and die. For every leaf and ever stem I need to cut back, a proliferation of new leaves appear to grow to recover the space. I’m awed with the tenacity of my geranium. It wants to thrive despite my often inadequate care.

I am not my friend. Or my husband. They have their strengths and their journeys. I can admire them. I can learn from them. But I should not try to be them. Maybe that’s why God tells me to rest, so I can give myself a break from, well, me and my desire to be someone I’m not. What I can take away from my friend’s journey is that her relationship with God is authentic and a living thing. Maybe I’m never going to have her level of tenacity or her ability to create forward momentum. Maybe what I can learn from her is to be real with God and to expect and anticipate Him being real with me. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions when I ask God why or why not. Maybe instead I should ask what now. What does He want to give me now. Who does He want to be for me so I can grow, so I can overcome. So I can be more the person He created me to be. Maybe, instead of striving to embody what I admire in my friend, I should find those things God has placed within me so I can admire His handiwork. Just like I admire the nuances and complexities He created within the plants in my care.

It’s Enough To Drive You Crazy If You Let It

I woke up this morning to the sound of my dog panting in my ear, urging me to get up and start my day. Which I did. If he’s not bothering the husband and resorting to me, that means he must go outside. NOW!

I sluggishly got out of bed, threw on a robe, and escorted the wee beastie to the door, where he promptly went outside and did his business. I let him back in and returned to the bedroom, ready to fall back into bed -and hopefully more blissful slumber – when I glanced at the clock. Holy Crap, it was 9:00am. I was so late for work! Why didn’t my husband wake me before he left for his job? Why didn’t my alarm go off? Where the gods conspiring against me?

I rushed to the shower, leaving a trail of pyjamas as I went, turned the water on full heat and let the inferno burn the cobwebs from my brain. Just as I was shampooing my hair it hit me.

I am no longer employed. All this rushing around was due to a habit honed through years of holding down a job. And as of last Friday, I no longer had a job. 

This is not a bad thing. I was not fired or downsized. I tendered my resignation because I was burned out and my health was now at risk. I needed to step away from the stress and the deadlines and the stress of other people in order to let my body reset. I am not Wonder Woman, and yet for the last year, I had been ignoring the signs and pushing myself to meet expectations and deadlines at work. And it finally caught up with me. 

So I’m on a self-funded sabbatical, if you will. For the next three to six months instead of focusing on my ‘career’ and working outside the home, I will be venturing forth on a journey of healing. Whole person healing. 

What does that mean? My husband asked that question. He understands that I need time and patience and perhaps medical therapies to wrangle my health issues under some semblance of control. And I’m laughing at the word control because believing I had everything under control is part of what got me into this situation in the first place. So not control, then. My body and I need to come to an understanding and in order to accomplish this I need the time and space to allow for healing to take place. I will have good days. I will have bad days. I will continue to push my body’s boundaries and my body will continue to push back. We’ve become strangers, my body and I, and this time is necessary for us to get to know each other anew. 

That’s only part of what I envision. I also want to spend time connecting with God in a deeper, more relational way. I want to work on some toxic thinking through the use of methodologies such as DBT and the 21 Day Brain Detox. I want to clean and declutter my living space so both my husband and myself can enjoy our home in a new way. I want to eat a healthier diet and find ways to move my body that I enjoy. I want to spend time in nature. I want to reconnect with my creative side and write start writing fiction again – only this time without fear and self-judgement. 

That’s a lot to ask of 3-6 months. I look at it this way – this time where I am not employed will give me the space and time to start and to gain momentum in these areas. Momentum I hope to carry with me when/if the time comes where I need to step back into the corporate world. This time will also give me space to explore possibilities. I’ve been closed off and blind to possibilities for so long, it’s strange to think that I have permission to explore them. 

This entire venture is strange to me, which is likely why at 9:00 am this morning, day three of my sabbatical, I had a freak out and starting furiously rushing around. It hasn’t completely settled within me that the expectations and pursuit of career are on hold for a time and my focus can be on, well, me. 

 

Only Me, On My Knees…

How many roads did I travel
Before I walked down one that led me to You?
How many dreams did unravel
Before I believed in a hope that was true?
How long? How far?
What was meant to fulfill only emptied me still
And all You ever wanted…

There are turning points in our lives, points in time where there is a quickening spirit and doors are opened if only for a season. Do we walk through those doors? Do we rise to the tasks set before us and grasp ahold of that quickening with both hands and let it fling us forward? Or do we shake our heads and find ourselves focusing too much on the muck and the mire, or the comfort that surrounds us? Focus on the past or seek the future?

When these opportunities have come my way, I’ve been slow to take them. I haven’t seen them for what they were. Or was too engulfed in pain and fear and shame to see the love and desire in God’s eyes. I couldn’t see the kindness motivating the opportunities. I could only see my lack. Or my hubris. So I chose the known over the unknown and my own abilities over God’s and sometimes I missed out. Sometimes God was gracious and showered me with His gifts despite my hesitation, showing me His great kindness even when I couldn’t see it for what it was. Those acts of kindness helped me to trust that God was different.

Isn’t that just like, God, though? He chips away at our reservations and shines the truth on our fears until we start to see God for who He is, not who others say He should be?

How many deaths did I die
Before I was awakened to new life again?
How many half-truths did I bear witness to
‘Til the proof was disproved in the end?
How long? How far?
What was meant to illuminate shadowed me still
And all You ever wanted…

And what does God as in return? To spend time with Him. To engage in relationship with Him. To get to know who He really is. And to accept the gifts He wants to lavish on us.

A year ago, five years ago, I would have said I was there in that place where God and I were encountering each other. But after this last year? I realize what I’ve had and experienced is merely a taste of who God wants to be for me. I’ve made God too small and I’ve believed His love for me wasn’t deep and abiding. I haven’t truly believed that my worth is not based on works or contribution or accomplishment. My faith walk has been burdened with works and lies and living in shadows.

For me to experience more requires some work on my part. Not work so God will find me worthy. More ridding the garden of the weeds that want to grow up and choke out the fruit God has started to grow in my life. In this season of my life I’m weeding and pruning and healing the soil. Only this time, I’m not doing it alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with me, digging in the dirt with a trowel and sometimes with His bare hands. He’s pointing out which plants are the tender shoots that will bear fruit with a little care, and which plants, no matter how pretty, will choke out that young life if left to grow. He’s ruthless but tempers that with a sense of humor. And compassion.

Some of the roots are deep and require strong hands to yank them loose from the soil. These hurt initially. There’s a visceral rending within my soul and a moment of shocked silence as together we yank the weeds free. This is where the compassion comes in. While it may take time for the wound left by the evicted weeds, God is currently quick to reveal what can grow in its place. This isn’t to say He heals everything quickly. I’m still smarting from some fairly invasive species of cursed weeds we identified and removed a few weeks ago. But I can see how the lack of this wicked flora has opened up space for blessing. And renewal.

I think this is part of the process of sanctification. I used to know all these huge concepts around sanctification. Theologies by great men who studied the Bible and proposed doctrines on what it all means. I am in no way dissing these minds, nor I am putting myself up there with them. I’m not a great thinker. Not in that way. What I am is a woman on a journey to know God and to know who I am in Christ. To really know. Deep down in my bones, branded in my mind and heart knowing.

If sanctification is the process of being made holy, of embracing that image of God that has been part of our DNA since Adam and Eve, then isn’t partnering with God to remove the weeds, the roadblocks, the generational curses, the agreements we have wittingly or unwittingly made that pull us away from a relationship with the Trinity part of that process? And isn’t the journey of sanctification being able to see God for who God truly is and wanting to sit at His feet and commune with Him, worship Him, rest in Him?

There are turning points and seasons in which we are offered the path of God’s quickening spirit. If we choose to trust the hand God is holding out and walk into that choice, things will move quickly. Those weeds, God will be very quick to point them out. Never with shame. Never to make us feel guilty. Always to say ‘Do you see that there? If we plucked that out, if we ripped it away and mended the soil, this fruit, this gift will have room to grow. What do you say? Should we do that? Should we get our hands dirty and play in the soil? When this season is over, think of the glorious garden there will be.’

I’m so glad God is patient. I’m glad He has offered me the gift of this season in so many different ways, always prodding just a little deeper until I was able to say yes. And I’m glad He redeems the time. For this, for that patience and those gifts and that steadfast love, I’m truly grateful. What has God wanted? Me. Only me.

Only me on my knees
Singing holy, holy
And somehow
All that matters now is
You are holy, holy

(Nichole Nordeman. Holy. Sparrow, 2002. CD.)

Genie in a Bottle

Earlier this week I posted a very personal word from God. Someone asked me why I would put anything so personal out into the world for all to see. The answer is simple. Everyone needs to know that regardless of what any of us has done or not done; regardless of whether we are living in relationship with God or not, we are divinely and uniquely made and we are all incredibly beloved by God. While there are personal layers and meanings specific to me in that word, the essence is for everyone. God. Loves. Us.

I have spent most of my life longing for and running from God’s love. Sometimes at the same time. If you had asked me about this at any point in time, I wouldn’t have seen my actions for what they were. I would have told you how I felt my relationship with God was based on how well I thought I was performing at the time. Or how steeped in religiosity I was. Or how beaten down and alone I felt. My response would have been based on emotion or performance, not on relationship at all.

As a young child, Jesus was my imaginary friend. We spoke all the time and often it was just Jesus and me because there was no one else.

In my teens there were times I treated God like a genie and times I treated Him like a welcomed confidante. All those hours spent in my room with the door closed were spent trying to figure out the hormonal angst that had become my life, however much of the relationship was one way. I was spilling my guts to God, but I wasn’t actively listening to Him.

In college I ran. I mean I really fled from God. Which is a little ironic as I was attending a faith-based college at the time. It was during this time that all my issues seemed to coalesce and I was confused enough to fall into pitfall after pitfall. There was a point in time when I felt like nothing was going right and God was allowing disaster to befall me in Job-like proportions. If God was going to punish me, I was going to walk away from God. At the very least, I was going to keep Him at arm’s length.

I look back now and I can hear the Holy Spirit snicker, “Yeah, good luck with that.” There’s no escaping God. Elijah learned that as he tried to hide from God after having battled the priests of Baal. Just thinking that there is a way to hide from God is a human attempt to make Him smaller than He really is. We are very accomplished at making God small.

And that’s what I have done most of my life. I have stuffed God in a box and put the box on a shelf and told Him to stay there until I decide I need Him. Then He’s allowed to step out in all His glory and set my world to rights.

This faulty thinking reminds me of Disney’s animated movie adaptation of Aladdin. When Aladdin was trying to wrap his head around just who and what the genie was, the genie explained that he was a being of phenomenal cosmic power trapped in an ity bity living space.

 

The genie was an enslaved magical being and not God, but I think this is often how we see our Heavenly Father. He’s majestic and mighty and the creator of our very universe, yet we treat him like His hands are tied. Just like Aladdin’s genie’s hands were tied.

If we view God as being too small or as less than all-powerful, can we really believe that God has this amazing and unfettered love for us? Can we trust that when God looks at us through the filter of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, He sees us as redeemed? Can we even begin to grasp what it means to be a much-loved child of God, let alone the ridiculously cherished bride of Christ?

It doesn’t take a gifting in the prophetic to see where this path leads. It leads to rules and religion and believing those insidious little lies about the nature of God that ties our own hands behind our backs and makes us less effective in the Kingdom than we could be. By making God smaller, we are diminishing ourselves, our ministries, our relationships, our experiences. God is bigger and yes, He can do great things despite our lack of belief or understanding. He can choose to give us amazing experiences and put incredible people in our path. At the end of the day, it’s our own values and belief systems that diminish what God wants to provide for us.

I’m learning this quickly. As God was giving me that incredible word, He also saw fit to shed light on some areas of my life where there is bondage and on the forces that have been working in opposition to God for years.

This is what I find truly amazing. God knows what He wants in my life. He has always known. He knew that for me to reach this next phase in growth that I would need support, that I would need desire, and that I would need to hear just how He sees me over and over and over again before the walls of steel and stone I erected around my heart could start to crack beneath the weight of His truth. Timing, it seems, is everything. I may have been offered similar windows of opportunity in the past, but for one reason or another I didn’t see them for what they were. I didn’t recognize them as gifts of great love.

This time is different. That box I stuffed God into, it’s starting to disintegrate. No more am I treating my Almighty father as a genie in a lamp or just a sounding board. This time I have a trusted friend and mentor in Claire. This time something has shifted enough in my belief system that I desire this growth and no longer want to walk this half-life I have been living. I want to take this time to break those bonds and to start to experience God’s goodness in all it’s fullness.