Posted in Experiences, Gifts, Grace, Growth, Healing, Hope, Lessons Learned, life happens..., Loss, My Journey, Prayers, Questions to Ponder, Quiet Pleasures, Seasons, Struggles, The Journey, Uncategorized

Seasons…Part of Living

today, tomorrow & every day  – THOUGHTS ON LIVING A BRAVE AND REAL AND GORGEOUS LIFE.        Written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jill Labieniec.

Here are my continued thoughts on this amazing book I received as a gift.

“Things really changed,” she said, “when I started to be more generous to myself.”

“I began to try to live like a tree,” she said…

“Who understand that life is filled with seasons and each one has its worth.                                                                        I stopped fearing the leaves falling away, the bare branches.                                                                                                         I understood that spring would come, that summer would come, that it was all a part of my living.”

Seasons.  I love the four seasons where I live! When the seasons change, so does life around us. We do things differently.  Some seasons are more enjoyable than others.  For me, winter is my least favorite.  The sun does not shine as much and it’s cold. It takes more work to be outside.  Occasionally I’m fearful of driving in winter weather.  The lack of sunshine can cause some seasonal affective issues.  We muddle through it and wait for spring.

Seasons of life are much the same.  We experience things that change as time goes on.

Some seasons are wonderful! When relationships are thriving…life is good.  When our job is going well… .life is good.  When our health is strong… life is good.

At times we go through seasons that are not so wonderful.  Troubled relationships… job stress or unemployment… health issues.

When in a season of struggle, I used to pray for it to be over or not happen at all.  Over time I’ve learned to lean into the struggle and ride the wave…waiting for the Lord to show His presence.  He never told us life would be easy, but He did tell us that He would be alongside us or holding us tight.  It took some really difficult seasons for me to learn this.  I’ve learned to praise Him in the storm.

Be still and know that I am God… my favorite Psalm.  It’s being still in winter and finding the joy of the season I like the least. When things are tough, I’ve experienced great peace while life is crumbling around me.  Pressing in to the Lord helps get us through the difficult time and ushers us into the next season.

I’ll be honest.  I’ve never had a difficult season that has lasted for great lengths of time.  I’ve known people that permanently live in struggle… at least in my perception.  They’ve learned to stop fearing the struggle and find the joys. In a sense, they move in and out of joy and struggles in one day.

Seasons come and seasons go… that is all part of our lives.  I want to be like that tree that stands tall and still as the seasons move around me. I want to be strong, even when I feel weak. I want to be full of life, even when I might be empty. I want to be more generous with myself… even when it’s difficult.

Posted in Circle of Friends, Circle of Life, Experiences, Generations, Gifts, Grace, Growth, Healing, Hope, Lessons Learned, life happens..., Loss, Miracles, My Journey, Prayer, Prayers, Quiet Pleasures, Seasons, Standing in the Gap, Struggles, The Journey, Uncategorized

Resiliency and Growth Over Time…

today, tomorrow & every day  – THOUGHTS ON LIVING A BRAVE AND REAL AND GORGEOUS LIFE.  Written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jill Labieniec.

Here are my continued thoughts on this amazing book I received as a gift.

She hadn’t always been this way.                                                                                                                         She hadn’t always been as strong and resilient and brave and joyful.

Like any garden or work of art, it had taken her a long time to make things the way there were.   To learn.                                                                                                                                                                                  To arrange.                                                                                                                                                                    To rearrange.

Sometimes, she grew as such in one year as others do in five.                                                                                      It showed in her spirit.                                                                                                                                                                 In her laugh.                                                                                                                                                                          It looked and it sounded like wisdom.                                                                                                                         And she liked it that way.

 53 years.  I’ve come along way. The change really started noticeably happening when I turned 50.  But seeds were planted long before that.  Life events that required me to be strong and resilient and brave… and joyful…regardless.

At times I stayed the same for many years.  Other times I grew more quickly.  I can look back now and see those moments in time.

  • Moving away from everyone and everything I knew and loved, to teach in California at the ripe old age of 23!
  • Moving back home to WA to pursue a job near family and not having success… back to CA I went!
  • Living alone in a strange house during a large earthquake.
  • Getting married at the age of 34… step-parenting with an ex that hated me!
  • Moving to a new city in CA and getting a new job… starting over.
  • Caring for my step daughter as she recovered from a horrific accident and a traumatic brain injury. (This one made me brave and strong and resilient and selfless)
  • Divorce… everything I ever believed about myself was challenged and questioned.
  • Sold my condo and moved back to WA.
  • New job… again.
  • Bought a house on my own.
  • Married the love of my life… step parent to three young children.
  • Lost both parents and one of my sisters.
  • Turned 50 and said, “The hell with it! I’m done trying to please everyone!”

Now I continue on this journey to live a brave and real and gorgeous life!  I’ve got a lot of scars and old wounds to heal, as well as many wonderful memories to hold on to! I’ve listened to many people who have shared wisdom and counsel with me. I’ve shared my experiences with many… passing along the same. I’ve also talked less and listened more. I was recently told by someone very special to me that talking to me brought her peace. That must be what wisdom looks and sounds like. Jesus in skin.

How have you changed over time? What has happened your life to make you strong and resilient?

Posted in Gifts, Grace, Growth, Humor, Intentional Self, Lessons Learned, life happens..., My Journey, Prayers, Questions to Ponder, Random Saturday, Seasons, Struggles, The Journey

Entering the Throne Room…

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”    -Psalm 5:3

It’s so easy… yet so hard. I’m up early before leaving for work. I can’t just get up and go.  I need time to prepare for the day. I need coffee and quiet time. I’ve got all of the tools necessary. Quiet and comfortable location (several options), coffee, journal and favorite pen, bible (several) and time.

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GO!

Good morning, Lord…

Suddenly a million distractions come my way.

Oh wait! I need to find a good worship song (on my iPad!).

Now that scripture would be great to put on a photograph… and then I can put it on Instagram!

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Hmmm, I wonder if anyone has commented on the one I put on yesterday?  I’ll just check real quick…

Oh ya, my bible plan… back to business. 

Lord, thank you for this new day. Please give me strength to get through this day and…

Wait! What time is it?  Shoot, I need to be in the shower in 5 minutes! 

I wonder if anyone commented on the photo album I put on FB last night?  I’ll just do a quick check before jumping in the shower!

And that it how it plays out more mornings than I care to admit.  To quote a great movie, “Squirrel!” 

Some mornings are much better and my time is spent indulging in the sacredness of my Heavenly Papa.

While I’m confessing my innate ability to botch my morning quiet time with Jesus, some mornings don’t have any quiet time at all, although that is rare. I’ve tried to exercise first thing and that has been a disaster! I’ll save that for later in the day… if I get to it!  Oh my, that is another blog for another day!

The other evening I was reading Abba’s Child  by Brennan Manning. In the summer of 1992 he spent time alone in a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without TV, radio or any reading material. After reading about his experience I began to ponder what that would be like.  Time alone with God with nothing else. No distractions but our own demons that keep us from that sweet time with the Lord. How long would it take before I could truly “be still and know”? (Psalm 46:10)

I wonder what I’m missing by letting the things of the world get in my way? What sacred indulgence does God have for me that I’ve missed because I’m too busy getting my sanctuary ready to be with Him?

What am I afraid of? Why is it difficult to go to the throne room without my coffee and journal and bible (AKA my iPad full of distractions)…?

Lord,   Show me how to simply come before You and be in Your presence… uninterrupted so that I may partake of Your sacred indulgences awaiting me.   In Jesus’ name… let it be done, let it be so…

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Posted in Grace, Healing, Prayers, Struggles, The Journey

#lovewins

This morning I’m irritated.  I’m irritated because it’s way too hot for the end of June and I didn’t sleep worth a darn last night.  I’m irritated because it’s only 9:15 and almost too hot to be on my patio.

This morning I’m also disappointed.  I’m disappointed in myself and in people in general.  Why?

Yesterday, June 26, 2015, our US Supreme Court ruled that all states must honor gay marriage.  For the past 24 hours I have remained quiet on the issue, only checking a few “like” buttons on people’s FB posts.  I’ve only checked those on which I know only a few people will see that I agreed with what they said…those whom share the same belief.

Thus enters my disappointment in myself.  I’ve not felt strong enough to publicly expose my views on the topic of gay marriage.  What will those who believe differently than I think of me?  Will they publicly call me out on FB and possibly unfriend me?  Will life-long friendships be lost because we disagree on an issue that I believe is tearing our nation apart?

Even as I type this I can feel a sense of anxiety coming over me.

Several years ago, an older gentleman came to my door asking if I was a registered voter.  I told him I was.  What transpired next shocked me on many levels.  He was delighted to hear I was and instructed me to sign his petition.  I calmly asked what the petition was about and then proceeded to tell him that I will absolutely NOT sign because I did not agree with it.  He proceeded to tell me that was a shame and walked away from my  doorstep.  And that was that.  I closed the door and realized that I had a very  strong opinion on the issue. That was the beginning of me realizing that I don’t have to support what everyone thinks I should or says I should.  I am free to believe in whatever I choose to support.

I am a Christ-follower and have been for 29 years. I’m not a deep theologian or master of the Bible.  I’ve often joked during deep theological discussions with my brother that he is more “Charles Wesley” and I am more “Max Lucado!” ( No offense Max!  Your  writing is straightforward and easy for me to understand!)  I would not say I’m very deep in my theological thinking but I love Jesus with everything in my being.  I need things spelled out pretty plain and simple.

As a Christ-follower, I’ve always been pretty swayed by what I’m involved with.  If the masses are believing it then I must as well.  I’ve never really allowed myself to disagree with what everyone else is agreeing with.  I’m a peace-maker and don’t want to rock the boat.

FB has become a place for people to share political and religious opinions.  I totally stay away from politics.  I might share a “religious” thought but have never told another person that what they believe is right or wrong.  I just share my heart  hoping to encourage one who needs it and leave it at that.  I’m not scripturally strong, but love The Word.  Can I quote it?  Not much.  Can I pull out a verse on the fly to make a point?  Not really.  but I’m okay with that.

Yesterday, FB blew up!  Rainbows and #lovewins were and still are everywhere.  Along with those are many scripture references and downright words of hate and malice.  Thus my disappointment in people.

As I grapple with making my heart known publicly, I have resolved to NOT apologize for my beliefs, nor do I need to justify one way or another what I think and feel.

Am I risking friendships?  Possibly.

Does that make my heart sad? Yes.

One apology that I will make is to my dear friends from many years ago in CA, Gabe and Michael.  They had a marriage ceremony that I did not attend.  I was opposed to what they were doing and I could not justify being there in support.  (At that time I also only watched G movies as well…) I hear I missed a fabulous party!  Today they are two amazing men sharing a life together with two amazing sons!  To you, my friends, I’m sorry that my narrow-mindedness kept me from celebrating with you.

I am blessed with many friends.  Black, white, native, fat, thin, young, old, single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, happy, unhappy, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist…the list goes on.  Regardless of the label or labels that each one may hold, they – no WE, are all people who love and desire to be loved.

I had a very dear friend come to me in tears years ago out at camp.  She was dreading telling me something very important to her because I was a Christian and she was sure I would disapprove and no longer like her.  She shared that she was a lesbian.  I was so sad that she thought I would not still love her after hearing that.  That was the beginning of my eyes opening up.

My world is full of people – gay and straight.  I love them all!  God has called me to LOVE with abandonment, no matter what.  Love God and love people.  I’ve watched my Christian brother and sister, along with their spouses grapple with the reality of a gay/lesbian child.  When a belief system is rocked to the core, it’s difficult.  All of them chose love.  They chose to “stay in the room” with their children; loving and supporting all the way.  That’s how it should be… in my humble opinion.

Sin is sin.  We ALL struggle with it every day.  Yes, God hates sin, but He DOES NOT HATE THE SINNER.  If you are going to disapprove of someone because they want to legally be with the one they love, then disapprove of me… for I’m sure I’ve done something sinful that you disapprove of as well.  Sin is sin… but love is what God calls us to do.  In the words of a very wise young girl back when she was ten (she is now 13), ‘Why does it matter who you marry as long as you love each other?”
We will all have to stand before our Creator one day and account for all we’ve done.  No one is exempt.  I believe in my heart and mind, simple as it may be, that we have God in a box.  Today I chose to love… no matter what lifestyle a person chooses.  I’m elated for my family and friends who finally get to legally share a life with the one they love.  I’m thinking out of the box and doing what God is calling me to do… Love regardless.

Posted in Grace, Healing, Hope, Prayers

It IS Well With Our Souls…

Uncertainty… fear… worry… pending crisis… facing the unknown.

We all struggle with these.  Some seasons feel more intense than others.  Where do you go when we are living in these uncertain times?  Whom do you call?  Do you face them alone?

This morning I awoke with some uncertain fears and worries on my mind.  I immediately found myself on the patio with a warm blanket and coffee… ready to spend some time praying and processing those things weighing heavy on my heart.  As I opened my ipad to head to Jesus Calling, a message popped up from a very dear friend.  She was on her knees crying out to Jesus with her own pending crisis… facing the unknown.  She was crying out to Jesus and asking me to join her in prayer.

Suddenly, my struggles were not my focus and I began to encourage her and intercede in prayer on her behalf.  The weight of my struggles lessened as did the weight of hers.

Why?

Because we both brought our needs to the Father and in that moment we shared the load.  We cut the burden in half – each taking a part.  It might be a silly analogy, but it works.  If your load is heavy and you give someone half… your load becomes lighter.

I went to the throne room on behalf of my friend and was able to leave some of my stuff there with hers!  My early morning quiet time was interrupted by what seemed a greater need.  Now, I’m not saying one need is greater than the other… what’s ours is ours.  We can’t compare.  But I was able to re-adjust my focus and get to the place of surrender without letting it overwhelm me or letting the enemy in. When we reach up and out, we push satan away and he has no room in our lives.  He has lost.

We think that when we go to God with our “stuff” that we are trying to win the battle.  Truth be told, the battle has already been won.  When there is a battle, the king sits on the throne, they don’t pace or run around fighting.  It’s the same for our King.  The battle has already been won and now Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father.  He has won the battle for us by dying on the cross.  Now we can know that peace… even amidst our battles.

By the end of our time together (via the ipad) this morning, my friend and I both felt more peaceful about our situations.  We joined together and brought them to the Father, and He, from His throne of grace, came down and comforted us both.  What a gift!

It is difficult, at times, to reach out when you are hurting.  My encouragement to you is just do it.  My friend and I have learned that we are always there and willing to share the burden of the other.  God always meets us and walks us through our valleys and gives us courage to endure what the rest of the day brings.  We come away knowing that no matter what… It IS well with our souls.

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Posted in Grace, Healing, Prayers, Seasons, Struggles, The Journey

Count Your Blessings… Literally!

count your blessingsYesterday I spent the afternoon saying goodbye to a very special man.  He spent 91 years on earth before graduating from this life.  The church was packed with young and old.  His quiver was full.  In the first few rows sat his wife of 64 years, his four children with their spouses, 13 grand children with their spouses and 7 great grandchildren.

It was a day to celebrate his life.  A day to remember all the ways he touched so many.  A day to say goodbye and shed some tears while at the same time laughing at the stories told.  A day that was special and touching and I was left with some treasures to add to my life… even after he’d gone.

Three of his grandchildren spoke beautifully on his behalf.  The first shared a profound message that he had imparted to her in the recent weeks before his passing.

Bill had been experiencing severe back pain which made it difficult to sleep or play golf.  One evening lying in bed, the pain had become almost unbearable.  He decided to put into practice what he had encouraged his family to do for many years… count his blessings.

Bill laid in his bed and began to count his blessings and think deeply about each one of them.  He started with his beautiful wife and thought about all of the glorious moments they had together.  That was one.  The pain seemed to diminish a bit, but was still there.  He continued to remember (and count!) each of his four children… then moving on to each of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Gradually as he remembered and counted, his pain continued to lessen.  When he had counted 68 blessings (yes, he counted and kept track of each one of them) his pain was completely gone.  He was able to sleep.  The wisdom that he shared with his family over the years really does work.  For Bill, it took 68 blessings to take away back pain!

Shortly after that he was diagnosed with bone cancer… the cause of the extreme pain.  God knew the excruciating battle that this husband, father and grandfather would fight, and graciously chose to take him home shortly there after.  What he left behind is a legacy that goes deep and has forever changed the lives of his family and those of us that have had the privilege of being a part of that.

Life throws us curve balls.  Our best laid plans don’t come to fruition.  We are told to be thankful amidst the difficulties… praise Him in the storm.  That is just what Bill did.  Lying in his quiet bed one evening near the end of his life, he counted his blessings – one after the other.  That simple act allowed him to focus on what was most important… not the pain that seemed daunting and overwhelming.  God pulled him above his suffering and allowed him to experience the joy of being thankful… and the power of counting his blessings.

 

 

Posted in Healing, Prayers, Seasons, Struggles, The Journey

Heavenly Royalty…

Saturday morning.  It’s early and my emotions are high.  I’m not really sure why.  I’m at the end of my 28 day commitment to better health.   Now I have to decide if I am worth continuing or will I go back to my old ways.  Yes, you read that correctly – “if I am worth continuing.”

For whatever reason and circumstances of my life, I’ve grown up to be one that thinks of you long before I think of me.  In that way of thinking I’ve missed the piece about me being so worth it that I should take care of myself.  No matter what I’ve done over the years, after a time, I sabotage my efforts.  Something in me just gives up and that’s that.

For the past year and a half I’ve been making more efforts to battle that and change.  It’s not easy when it’s been your MO for 50+ years.  I’m learning that I am worth it and I do deserve to be healthy and happy.

I began my morning worrying about all of the “stuff” that I need to be doing.  It was one of those early morning awakenings that came long before the sun was up.  I relented, got up and took care of one of them.  Whew!  One down… 500 more to go!  It’s a start!

Upon completion of my pre-dawn task, I sat down with a cup of coffee and my iPad.  My devotional is around Lent.  As soon as I began reading I was deeply moved.  It was comparing the Queen of England to Jesus.  She has had 62 years of pomp and circumstance.  Jesus did not have that.  He rode on a donkey with a soldiers cloak thrown over him and his crown… his crown was thorns.  The blood that ran down his face was that of a man… and of God.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Luke 19:38)

His parade route ended at the Mount of Olives.  There was not a huge celebration with cameras and cheery on-lookers.  This is where He ascended into heaven.  His humility was replaced with glory.  Ten thousand times ten thousand angels were now at His side.  His Spirit filled the universe.  He was (and is) the ruler of all things.

Because of his death and resurrection, we became royalty.  I am royalty… heavenly royalty.

So, as I wept this morning over all of the things I have not accomplished… the things I continue to struggle with… the dreams that were left to die… the piece of my self-worth that I somehow missed… I was encouraged.  I am royalty… His royalty.  I AM worth it.  His death on the cross… those horrific six hours one Friday… they were for ME… and YOU…

Now as I venture into my day, I have a little more courage to face the battles that are ahead.  I know that there will be struggles and celebrations.  I know that I will doubt my worth again.  Temptations will knock.  Tears will fall.  I need to keep my eyes on what is important and His love and strength will continue to find me…flowing down from His thrown of grace.

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies!  The whole earth is filled with his glory!
(Isaiah 6:3  NLT)

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