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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.

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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?

Circle of Life · Gifts · Grace · Growth · Healing · Hope · Intentional Self · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Loss · My Journey · Prayer · Questions to Ponder · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey · Uncategorized

today, tomorrow & every day…

I recently received a very beautiful book from a friend.

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

Aside from the powerful content of the writing, the book itself is beautiful, filled with illustrations and photographs.  It is put together in the most amazing way visually.  I read the words on the pages and was brought to tears.  This book is speaking to the very place I am in my life and the direction I am heading.

I decided to share it with you… a little bit at a time accompanied by my personal reflections.  You will get to experience the words, but will have to envision the pictures as your heart and mind see them.

It starts like this…

One day she stepped back and took a look at her life.                                                                                        A long, close look. As though it were a city she loved and she was flying high above it,                         so high that she could see the whole thing. 

And she realized something:                                                                                                                                   She liked what she saw.                                                                                                                                           She liked where she had been.                                                                                                                                     She liked where she was going. 

When I read these first two pages, I paused and didn’t really want to turn the page.  These words were rich and powerful. I closed my eyes and imagined looking at my life.  I was overwhelmed. My mind went to more negative thoughts at first, but I was able to change my perspective. I “flew higher” and looked at the whole big picture. I was not completely sold on “liking” what I saw… thus the negative perspective. I realized that I have some work to do! I want to like what I see.  I want to like where I’ve been. And I really want to like where I’m going.

And so the journey began!  I didn’t realize until I opened the pages of this book that I am right here on this journey… at age 53, longing to live a brave and real and gorgeous life… today, tomorrow and every day.  I don’t want to wish away days until something better comes along or changes. I want to be real and courageous today!  I want to live out this life well.

As I unravel years and look closely at my life, I hope by the end I WILL like what I see, where I’ve been and where I’m going. This journey won’t be possible without Jesus, my family and amazing friends.  I have all of those and I’m blessed.

Come along on this journey with me and begin today by stepping back and taking a look at your life.  What do you see?  Do you like it?

Circle of Friends · Grace · Hope · Prayer · Seasons · Standing in the Gap · Struggles · Uncategorized

Standing in the Gap…

I love to pray.  I love when people reach out for prayer and I can intercede on their behalf. I don’t take prayer lightly.  When I say I will pray for someone, I pray.  I stand in the gap for them.

A friend recently asked me what I meant by “stand in the gap.” She had her idea of what it meant, but she wanted to know what I meant by it.

I once heard “standing in the gap” used and I liked it.  It was a different way to say I’m praying for you. It originates from the Bible verse in Ezekiel 22:30.

I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land.  I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.  (NLT)

The wall in this verse refers to people united in there efforts to resist evil. It was unsuccessful because it was built on religious rituals and messages not founded on God’s will. The people were crying out for spiritual reconstruction. (Taken from NIV Life Application Bible Commentary)

When someone is hurting and in need of prayer, I like to stand before God in that space where the enemy resides as he tries to intervene and destroy.  Cries for prayer send the enemy into action. He slips into that gap between the person and God.  I like to stand in that gap and keep the enemy out, calling on God on their behalf.

When I’m reaching out for prayer, I’m not always at my strongest spiritually.  I love knowing that I can reach out to others to stand in that gap and keeping that space holy and sacred… keeping the enemy out.

Standing in the gap…

When we pray for someone we are doing just that. It’s not a fancy version of praying or better than praying.  It IS praying.  We all do it when we reach out and pray for another soul. This brings me great comfort.

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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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Sacred Indulgence…

This past week I went on a trip to visit my sister. Away from home. Away from all of the responsibilities of my daily life.

While on my little getaway, we snuck away for a few days to a spa on the bay.  On our way up we detoured and visited the tulip fields – a bucket list item for me. We took a sonic drive off the beaten path and the scenery was spectacular. Once to our destination the sun began to peak out. Our room was beautiful and the view spectacular. We ate out, walked along the water, shopped, and strolled around the little town.  We also just relaxed and did a little bit of nothing.

While this was amazing, I found myself thinking about all of the things I should have been attending to at home during spring break.

Many people I know take these little trips all the time. It’s their normal. Not mine. This isn’t even a once a year even for me. It was truly a treat!

My ability to let down and relax is difficult. After all, I should be home taking care of my responsibilities. Now was the time to test a new way of thinking and acting!

On our last evening, we scheduled massages at the spa. Wow! The experience from start to finish was wild.  Like nothing I’ve ever done. It was all about me the entire time. Life is rarely all about me. I’m all about everyone else from my job to my home. I spend most every day taking care of others.

I found parts of the spa experience easy to partake of, while others were difficult. The hardest part was not talking for an entire hour! And for that one hour I did absolutely nothing! I was completely still except for the actual massage happening. That doesn’t even happen when I sleep, as I toss and turn all night!

The massage was just part of a week of indulgences.  An indulgence is the attitude of allowing yourself or someone else to have something enjoyable. It was a wonderful time! I had to step out of myself and let people “indulge” me. I had to…no, I GOT to… receive rather than give. That is a tough one for me.  It is difficult for me to let others do for me. I am much more comfortable giving than receiving.

As I’ve contemplated the week, I’ve been drawn to think about my relationship with the Lord. I’m good at giving to Him. I give Him my “prayers” or lists of things I’d like Him to help me with.  I give Him time most days, but honestly I’m usually pretty busy during that time. The hard part for me is what I’m going to call a “sacred indulgence.” It’s that time where I get to let Jesus love on me and I do absolutely nothing but receive from him. It’s that time when I am being still and know that He is God… He is in control, not me. Quieting myself to receive all that He has for me. Indulging in His grace and love. It’s free and I don’t have to travel far from home. It costs nothing but my intentional, uninterrupted time and willingness to let go and let Him love on me…a sacred indulgence. 

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#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.