Tag Archives: faith

A Sheer Gift

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I sat feeling slightly defeated this morning as I stared at the Thankful Turkey my favorite and I made two Thanksgivings ago. My how (I thought) things were different back then…

Thanksgiving 2015: I was getting ready to celebrate married year number 9; 13 years total together with the one who had my heart. Oh how I loved him so – the good, the bad, the ugly. I was thankful for the life we had. I counted my blessings constantly and felt such peace. It certainly wasn’t always sunny in our lives, but I had learned to even treasure the rain. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my sweet little family of three (and all of our beloved hounds and those ladies of the roost) ❤ Little did I know the next Thanksgiving would feel gravely different.

I’ve had some anxiety recently and I cannot figure out what has triggered it. My heart just pounds. And pounds. And pounds. Much like it did at the beginning of this dark journey. Over time, my heart pounding has normalized, but something has it going again. Perhaps it is the time of year. More than likely it is the unfinished business. Or just maybe it is simply uncertainty when it comes to life. Truthfully, I am not really sure. It is probably all of it.

Back to this morning. In my Choose Joy devotional that my partner in crime gave to me after my life altered, I read ‘Our True Colors’ devotion. The passage associated with it is James 1:2 “Consider it a sheer gift, friend, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Verses 3 and 4 go on to say, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” Hmm…my life is beyond crazy gifted then, friends. I’m not sure I’d like anymore ‘gifts’ from life.

After my devotion, I stared defeatedly at this Thankful Turkey for quite some time while I sipped my morning tea. Uncertain. And then I remembered.

I have learned something, I believe to be detrimental in this life that I will share with you. And as I read the whole first chapter of James (recommend), verse 19 summed ‘er up nicely, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” If there is anything I learned from what I perceived as my time of peace it is ‘slow and steady’. Rushing or reacting do not tend to work in our favor. I learned to sit and mull over. Over time, it develops an inner understanding that will become an outward flow. It takes stopping and feeling and giving yourself time to understand. If there is anything my perceived time of peace afforded me, it was this understanding: decisions shouldn’t be rushed, emotions shouldn’t always dictate our words, and never feel forced into anything. Taking time is okay.

I take this knowledge as a gift today. It keeps me grounded when my everyday life seems to change with the wind. I have no idea why my life has taken the altering twists and turns it has, but I am in awe of what I have learned. If there is one thing I am certain of, I am learning more. Everyday. I am becoming stronger. Everyday. I am becoming wiser. Everyday. I have more grace. Everyday. That is what is happening. I am learning such intricate details about what God, love and life is really all about. There is no other way to learn these things than through joys and sorrows. For it is in the joys and sorrows where the deep-rooted life appreciation grows.

It is amazing what can happen with the God perspective…I had such a creative day today. I think I enjoyed my solitude today more than I have in a very long time ❤ Trials are a gift. God will use them for good. I choose to live in my defiant joy ❤

 

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Derailed

How does it happen to you? You wake up and you’re just drifting, trying to stay afloat. It’s September 2017. I am a few months shy of being separated for a year and a half from the one who had my heart. I signed up for an online study reading, She’s Still There, by Chrystal Evans Hurst. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

I just finished reading chapters 4 and 5. The discussion is about drifting. Drifting off course. Drifting through life. I found myself writing in the margins of the book “WOW” beside many paragraphs in these two chapters. To say my life has drifted is an understatement. My life derailed. And in SO many ways. From feeling sucker punched in 2016 to people I called family and friends for many years shocking me with their actions. Words sounded nice, but behavior spoke differently. I didn’t make snap decisions based on emotions. Decisions to unfriend, leave and move on were made over time when I realized behaviors weren’t going to change no matter what they ‘said’. These losses come with the territory no matter how differently or evolved we want a situation to be…right?? It still hurts. Like I said – DERAILED.

Chapters 4 and 5 of the book got me thinking…is this how marriages wind up with legal fees and divorce attorneys? All because of drifting? There are so many powerful statements in these chapters regarding drifting: “blinded by the excitement of something different and new”, “drifts happen when we get distracted”, “preoccupied by something that isn’t good for us”, “distractions seem more exciting than the rhythm of the everyday, the boredom of the expected, the ongoing discipline to accomplish something worthwhile”, “distractions will attempt to avert your eyes”, “deception occurs when we’ve grown accustomed to the distraction”. I mean WOW. Lots of thought provoking words here. And all they make me think is – weak.

My favorite line between these two chapters and all of those scary words is, “The antidote for distraction is focus – the choice to pay attention and live aware.” Now this feels strong. Living with intention. Loving with intention. Living well and loving hard is a daily choice. It is not easy to love (and live with) one person, by choice, for all the days you’ve promised them. Life isn’t easy. Listen to me, no really, do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?! Easy Street does NOT exist. Life. Takes. Work.

Each chapter in the book has verses listed at the end. It’s been nice spending time with each verse and marinating in what its meaning is saying to me. One from chapter 5 that caught my attention was in 1 Peter chapter 3 when verse 11 ends with, “Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” I already know Peaceful Way is a place I want to reside for all eternity. I’ve felt peace flit around in my life and I’d like for it to come and stay. It’s a feeling like no other. So how do you make that happen when your life has derailed?

There are questions for each chapter too. When asked about drifting, I could check them all off. I’m definitely in a current ‘drift’. Caught in the minutiae. A feeling of mundane. And I’m so ready for it to end. I’m ready to move on. But this drift is starting to feel like a whirl pool. If it’s not divorce, it’s health. If it’s not health, it’s finances. I mean, hello peace? I’m available!

There have been a lot of encouraging verses all throughout the first part of this book. Right now, all I can do is take a step. Focus on right now. I don’t have all of the answers, but I am aware of my drift. Even just doing this study has felt good for the soul. It’s a step in the right direction. My soul needed it.

As Pinterest says, “At some point you have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening.” “I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit it up myself.” although there was a cursive word after lit and in place of it – that rhymes with witch (in case you were wondering). 😉 This definitely is not the life I thought I would be living at 34 years old, but good grief it will become a life I love again – somehow. “Honey I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.” Thanks, Tay Tay. 😉

 

Christmas in July

It’s been a while. It’s been a time. It’s been a season. I have found myself many times simply at a loss for words. More moments of the day than not, my heart beats faster than I ever knew it could. Sometimes it scares me just how quickly it beats. But I’ve come to the conclusion it means: I’m still kicking.

This morning started early. Most of the time, I feel like I’m constantly racing from one second to the next. I don’t want to let anyone down and am not really in a place to ‘slow’ any part of my life down right now. I feel like I’m constantly in a state of inhale (not even sure the last time I actually exhaled). When I do exhale, it’s intentional. I’ve had to remind myself, breathe out.

With the season of life I’m in, I talk to God a lot. Recently, I’ve caught myself talking to Him even more. There’s a lot going on. And this morning on my drive to work, wasn’t any different. As I finish my little chat, I continue playing the Eagles Greatest Hits CD.

Somehow, I find myself thinking about fall and how it’s my favorite season and that I can’t wait for the last 3 months of the year. The feel of that time of year: crisp, colors, comfort, warmth, snuggles, joy, love, bright; always creates an excitement within and I am like a ‘kid at Christmas’.

Just as I’m finishing my ‘I can’t wait for’ thoughts, I hear the keys of the beginning of a very distinct Eagles Christmas tune and then, “Bells will be ringing…” a smile immediately forms. The irony isn’t lost on me. He wanted to spread a little cheer this morning. I graciously accepted.

And I couldn’t resist sharing. So here’s a little holiday cheer for anyone else that may need a little Christmas in July today.

Eagles – Please Come Home For Christmas (youtube link to song)

 

Secondary Grace

As I wrap up this season of giving & receiving, I find myself contemplating my favorite little ‘P’ word, Perspective. It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that word never passed my lips without my infamous eye roll (I was told quite recently ago, I’d perfected the eye roll. I snidely responded it was good to know your strengths, finishing with a smirk and my roll; I’m sure leaving a lasting impression). Perspective…’a particular attitude’…I remember in college learning that perception is reality, though reality is rarely perception. That’s a scary thought. Does anyone have a grasp on what’s real then?

I know what’s real to me and you know what’s real to you. How can two people experience the exact same thing having two completely different perspectives. Therefore creating two different realities. What, in all of that, is actually real? I’ve experienced this firsthand: living same life experiences with someone and having two completely different realities. Our perspectives were devastatingly opposite. Not an easy feat, and we lost.

I thought Christmas might be hard this year, considering the loss. Surprisingly, I’ve had a good season. Quite the opposite of hard actually, I’ve been told (a couple of times) I have a glow about me. I was also asked “How did you get so strong?” the other day. Crazy, it’s all a matter of perspective. Truth is, my life is an utter mess right now. And don’t you dare ask about my future plans. You’re likely to get an eye roll (I have no damn idea). Future = murky, so don’t ask. But in all this ugly mess, I realized the other day what it is I feel, joy. Yes, in all that chaos you just read, while living the epitome of ‘I don’t have a damn clue what’s happening in my life’ and in the midst of experiencing a huge life disappointment, I feel joy.

In all of this, there is gratefulness in my heart. Each day I notice things, usually little things. It’s those little things that make me smile. They keep me grateful. And I’ve found as long as I keep grateful in my heart, it’s hard not to feel joy. Even in dark, difficult, nasty moments (and I have plenty of those too) because I keep grateful & joy close by, dark, difficult & nasty find it hard to stay around for very long. Perspective. It’s the light switch in life. There are really only two choices with perspective. On or off.

One of my favorite gifts this year is a mantra bracelet given to me by the one who is the right to my left. This woman brings sincerity and sarcasm to my tribe. And I adore every ounce of her compassionate soul. After all life has decided to throw my way over the last 6 years, she nailed it. My perspective: She believed she could, so she did1225161835_hdr222

And I do. Everyday. It’s a choice. And Dark still visits. I welcome him. Invite him in for a spell, sit with him, embrace him, but then I tell him when he’s overstayed his welcome. There is no easy in any of this. It’s all very, very tough.

After finishing Christmas with my most favorite human to ever exist, I went and saw Collateral Beauty. Let me tell you now, if you haven’t seen it yet (believe it only opened a week ago so not sure why you haven’t seen it yet), but you absolutely MUST see it as soon as you can get your rear end in a movie theater seat. There are so many layers to the story. And without ruining much, three of the most important characters play roles in our everyday lives: Love, Time & Death. Life is the most exquisite tragedy of all time. We will all experience joys and sorrows along the way. The ultimate definition of bittersweet. And how you feel it, experience it, and live it is all a matter of your perspective.

So…are you on or are you off? It usually doesn’t happen in a grand, defining moment. It’s after-the-fact, like a slow awakening. It’s in the little things. The collateral beauty, many times the less obvious, a secondary grace. The things that are undoubtedly harder to see in the tragic moments, but they’re also undeniably difficult to un-see once you begin to realize them…

Grace was given for us and to us. Secondary grace is what we choose to give ourselves. And you’re worth it. Know it. Believe it. Do it. And ‘Keep Pounding’ doesn’t hurt either 😉

A Snowy Job

I happened across chapter 6 in the book of Job today. From the beginning, I relate to the words. From misery outweighing all the sands of the sea to not having the strength to endure – believe I’ve said I need a strength that is not my own a time or two recently – to feeling deceived by those closest to you. “…when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.” I stop dead in my tracks or snow tracks, perhaps.

I feel the need to sit and gather my thoughts. I pop open my computer and as I begin to let my thoughts trickle out, the lyric of a song playing in the background catches my ear, “to hear sleigh bells in the snow”. My skin prickles. I go back to finish Job chapter 6. He continues to speak to me: “But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.” and the travelers become disappointed and their hopes are ‘dashed’ because they were counting on the water. Job talks about his ‘friends’ criticisms being more than just hard to hear honest words. Does that make them ‘right’ and him ‘wrong’?  He’s not sinless, but he has the right values and actions – he turns to God.

“Kindness is like snow, beautifying everything it covers.” One of my favorite verses my 6 year old and I quote is Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and loving to each other…”. It’s typically the daily reminder he receives as he hops out of the car for school each morning. Compassion and empathy towards others and especially those hurting does so much for the human soul – both the giver and receiver.

I’ve talked about my tribe so much recently. I absolutely adore them. They have kind hearts, fierce minds and brave spirits. They, well, this:tribe

All. Day. ❤

So today marks 6 years. Six years since the best man I’ve ever known left this earth early. I got up this morning, surprisingly in good spirits. I selected my outfit and was off to start my day. It was during my car ride I did some reflecting. My dad had a larger than life personality so when that is gone suddenly from your life one day, never to return again – well it makes for a tough life adjustment.

As I was recalling his life and his death, I understand I may not fully get the ‘whys’ of him leaving so early, but the life lessons he’s taught me even in death have been priceless. It was then I realized what I was wearing…collagemaker_20161128_133101_resized

Another snowy moment. Another snowy message. Another snowy lesson. “When snow falls, nature listens.” And I do too. It’s hard to stop imagining life the way we think it should be and let God do work. Job goes through trials and comes out triumphant. Much to learn about faith and perseverance from ole Job – hear those sleigh bells in the snow, if you will.

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” Time to slay – or ‘sleigh’ 😉

IBD Alone

I hate winter. It’s dead. It’s cold. It’s hard. My emotions always seem to follow suit. Especially after the holidays, which seem to have a comfort & joy sensation. This January has been a tougher one. Not only do I just hate winter, but I’ve been dealing with my IBD and I feel alone. Utterly alone.

When you have an IBD, you often feel misunderstood. On the outside, I look ‘normal’. I ‘look’ healthy. On the inside, I hurt. I am scared. And I’m tired of fighting. Many times I have felt judged, and sometimes by those who have felt like they should be closest to me. I don’t ‘look’ like I should feel fatigued, they think I’m lazy. I don’t ‘look’ like I’m ‘sick’, I shouldn’t have backed out of that commitment. This IBD, especially when it is active as mine is, is no joke. You feel like things are out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it. You feel as though you’re constantly letting someone down. People do end up backing away. They no longer reach out to you about getting together or even seeing how you are. They don’t understand. This is a daily, lifelong, chronic battle. Each day could bear something different than the last. I pray for the day I could possibly go into remission and this 5+ year battle comes to a close, even if just for a while. Maybe then the feeling of isolation will somewhat dissipate. I can actually be everyone’s standard of ‘normal’ again…

Through this battle, I have done some life and self examination. The feeling ‘alone’ always pops up. Quietly, inwardly alone (and that’s hard on the soul). Especially, when I have felt overly exposed by Him. I’m sure it would surprise many that I battle this ‘alone’ insecurity (I can come off fairly social), but the insecurity is almost always there. Sometimes it’s covered up pretty well and even I overlook it, but it’s usually not gone for long before it’s there again.

It’s my exposed ugly place that He’s had me working on. It’s been my focus for quite some time now. I’ve made strides and feel somewhat more content, but when there are setbacks it’s hard not to focus on that and keep moving forward. One setback does not define you. I pray this Psalm (a lot) 16:8 when I feel ‘alone’ creeping back in, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to learn how to see the ‘blessings in disguise’ – those life lessons from this journey I’m on. One of the biggest blessings is I cherish the good days all that much more. My smile is brighter. My laugh is heartier. My energy soars. I know the good days are truly something special and worth every ounce to fully live in them. I don’t take them for granted. Another thing I’ve learned is I love a little harder. My love is fierce for those who stay closest to me. We are not promised tomorrow. Through this challenge I pray daily that God continues to reveal moments of wisdom. I need them.

So winter stinks. But there is one thing that winter is not – it is not ugly. Oddly, I find such beauty in the nature of winter. It’s flat out stunning sometimes. It can do things no other season can. It can sparkle with ice. It can bring a crispness to lungs when inhaled. It can drop white beauty from the sky. And when the sun shines on a cold winter day it seems to shine so much brighter. I try to remember this when it feels like ‘winter’ sneaks into my life no matter what the actual season may be. Beauty is there, in the broken-ness. I am not alone. One day, whether in this life or the next, I will make peace with this and all its ‘blessings’ will be revealed. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that I will continue to pray with steadfast hope that it will happen while I’m still here on this side of heaven 😉

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Okay, so now what?

Earlier this week, I voiced out loud a prayer that’s been brewing in my heart. Something that had started troubling my peace. In a group devotion the question posed for discussion was “Do you feel a tug at your heart to live completely with God, but are still uncertain about pursuing it? Explain.”

I felt this tug a few years ago. I dragged my feet for a bit and felt much like the child trying to yank the hand I was holding in another direction until one day, I took the plunge. I believed in God, but have struggled centering ‘my’ life around His plans instead of my own. This plunge was scary. It had no safety net. At times I was sure I felt the air being sucked right out of my lungs.

To fully live with God means letting go of a lot. I had to let go of my life expectations, my life plans, my feelings, and at the same time be willing to examine who I am as a person and let him expose some ugly things. I’m still not perfect, but I am more me than I have been in a really long time (if ever). I have more of a simple peace in life than I thought possible. As a human, I don’t fully ‘like’ the circumstances I went through to get where I am, but I cannot deny I am much happier here.

All of that is great. Okay, so now what? I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve followed God’s direction and some pretty amazing things have happened, but what now? Where do I go from here? I took the leap (off the cliff), landed on my feet, planted my feet, but am unsure where or how to grow from here. It’s kind of dark and quiet in this place. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an abyss and I can hear my echo, “Heeellloooooooo???”

I think of my favorite four-letter word <insert eye roll>, wait. So, I voiced my prayer out loud to my friends. It pretty much went, “Now what?” I think I needed some reassurance that I’m supposed to be waiting. I got the physical votes of assurance from my girlfriends, but the real reassurance came over the next couple of days.

I was wrapping up my daily task for the devotion homework the next day and there was that question <insert snarky-ness> again about ‘a tug of the heart’ for us to answer by ourselves in our quiet time. Heaving a sigh, I wrote that I currently felt in limbo, unsure what comes next. I shut my study and moved on.

I had decided to embark on a personal bible verse-a-day for December. It is definitely geared for the season, but the first line of the verse hit me like a ton of bricks considering what I had written two seconds earlier for my ‘tug’ answer, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign.” Isaiah 7:14. I could almost feel the Lord’s snarky-ness as I re-read the verse “All right then”. I continued reading and the last verse felt reassuring too, “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything…” Isaiah 7:17.

I closed my eyes and listened. My heart said, ‘Patience, child.’ My eyes bolted open. He hasn’t left me alone in this dark, albeit peaceful, place. It’s just time to be quiet right now. Put one foot in front of the other, if you will. He simply wants me to honor the space between no longer and not yet. I shed some tears of thanks for the reassurance my heart needed. And in response, the very next verse I spied as I dove back into the world, was on social media, Isaiah 55:11 “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Amen. I hear you, Lord. Thank you for clarifying any last little shred of doubt, it was you telling me to be patient.

The next day’s verse-a-day proved further conviction. I typically read around (before and after) to get a bigger picture of the verses I’m given to read. Isaiah 9:2 affirmed my answer from the day before, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine.” And the first portion of verse 4, “For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.” He’s not going to leave me here in the still darkness forever. I will know what’s next when it’s time to know.

As I’m letting all of this resonate and thinking about the clarity I’m feeling about patience, the song in the background on the ‘Sounds of the Season’ channel catches my attention. It’s by Dan Wilson and the song is titled, “What a Year for a New Year”. A beautiful summation of the answer to my prayer. The next thing will come. The next new year. Patience.

Don’t get me wrong, life is pretty happy- peaceful. Not much ruffles the feathers. It’s pleasant. But internally I have felt this question stirring, “What should I do now?” I do not believe we’re meant to live a stagnant life. It would stink. I believe we’re meant to grow and evolve. However, I’m also realizing that sometimes God calls us, but then puts us in these quiet, still places. It can be a time for reflection. I find I work on my flaws more when I’m still. You can heal some broken places. It’s like the cocoon- the transition between the caterpillar and the butterfly. Or the season of winter- the transition between a completed purpose (fall) and new life (spring). It’s in the quiet, dark places that some of the greatest work is done.

Today there is no further ‘answer’. No further conviction to have patience. He’s made His point. I believe, He knows it’s been received. And I don’t find “What now?” as the center of my unsettled prayer anymore. I feel at peace with that…So, what now? Well, I wait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1PxqT6IUEo (link to song)

Lyrics to What a Year for a New Year by Dan Wilson

What a year for a new year
We need it like we needed life I guess
Last one left us lying in a mess
What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

What a day for new day
And our star shines like a miracle
And our world is almost beautiful again
What a day for a new day
New day

What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

Soon we’ll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we’ll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
Oh! What a year for a new year!