Tuesday, January 25, 2011

who am i Job?!!

Last week it was the hair dryer, this week it is the flat iron, a few months before it was everything read that post here. 

I mean c’moooon! Who am I Job?! (in my best whiny voice)

Not to mention I have an oil change and haircut to fit into to that, God there just isn’t enough money this week.

 I know I could probably put off the haircut, but have You seen me?  I am looking a little like shaggy the dog.

And the oil change well, I have putting that off for the last two weeks now, it can’t wait any longer.

And I know I won’t die without a flat iron, but have You seen me without the flat iron?  It ain’t pretty!  

I had a lot more to say on the subject, when God tapped me on the shoulder and interrupted my whiny self with this e-mail:

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day ("who really ought to get a job") is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day That of all the gifts you give us Lord, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those that are close to us, but to all humanity.
Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

Working for God on earth doesn't pay much......but His retirement plan is out of this world.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

stacking the crosses

It was a warm summer afternoon and I was taking a bike ride with my nephew along the river. Being the boy that he is, something caught his attention and he wanted to go explore, "stay close where I can see you", I called out as he made his way down the ravine to the water. I stayed up on the bridge, leaning up against the side of the rail and letting the sun warm my face when I heard the voice, as if Jesus Himself were standing before me. 

“Will you follow me”? 

“Yes”, I replied “yes".

I thought my moment was coming, He was going to break open the skies and send me to where no man has gone before, then came nothing, at least that is what it felt like.  As a good friend once said, there are things growing right in front of us that we can’t see, either because God is not ready to let us see it yet or we are too close to the situation.  I was still carrying the crosses of wounds from the past, wounds that had not healed properly.  One by one He opened those ill healed wounds exposing the decay that was bubbling and breeding beneath the surface.  He poked and prodded, scooping out the decay that was suffocating my spirit.  Those wounds will always be a part of me, but I wasn't meant to carry the cross of them.

The cross of a learning disability
Isaiah 43:7 
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory whom I formed and made.

Psalm 139:13
for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb.

The cross of a dysfunctional and abusive childhood
Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do; Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.

1 Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

The cross of depression
2 Corinthians 4:16
For God, who said, "let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine on our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

John 16:22
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

The cross of rejection
Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 118:8
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

Philippians 4:13
I can do anything through him who gives me strength.

The cross of fear, anxiety, worry and discouragement.
Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life, whom shall I be afraid?

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.

I don’t know what is up ahead.  But I know that I know, that God saw it important enough to interrupt regular programming, plop me on the turntable of waiting while He removed the nails of the crosses that were driven so deeply into my flesh and soul, then stacked those crosses as far as the east is from the west. 

We often think we are more ready than what we are, but we only see tiny threads of the full tapestry of God’s plan, He is the only One who knows what is up ahead, He knows the work that has to be done in us so the work He has planned can be done through us. 

Every so often someone will ask me what I do all day, what have I been doing with my time off? Nothing much I would reply, because really in the physical world, besides working on outgrowing my jeans (I am working on fixing that little problem) I have been doing not a lot.  But in hindsight, as I look back, I am not the same person I was a year ago, or even six months ago, there has been a lot going on, I just wasn’t able to see it yet.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

the destination is the journey

As I sit and ponder how I am going finish telling my story my thoughts are scattered, I wish I had a had a warm and fuzzy Cinderella like ending but I don’t, my story ends with me waiting.  I am currently in the season of waiting, when I realize that my story while I am living on this side of heaven, the story of my journey will never end, my destination is my journey, and until the day comes that I meet Jesus I will always be on that journey. Starting with my post on January 8, I started sharing parts of my journal that I started writing in January of last year, I think I am going finish it here.  Continuing on….

It was the start of a new year, January 4, the first official day back to normalcy, holiday breaks were over, people were back at work, change was in the air, the month of June was on heart, and I was coming off a three year stint of a season of preparation, it was a time of faith building, prayer, trust and obedience. It was during that time that I buried myself in every book I could find on Christianity, I read my way through the entire Christian section at the public library, I would haunt book stores in search of anything I could find that I had not yet read. When I exhausted every piece of literature on Christianity I could find, I signed up for a bible study class armed with the meager pew bible that I snagged from the church across the street, the bible that was on the receiving end of my wrath when I was angry at God, the bible that had seen better days.  

I had a sharp tongue and quick temper that He had to get under control. Practice makes perfect and my season of preparation was rife with practice, sometimes making sharp u-turns to take me back to the beginning, with a loving correction “that was good, but I know you can do better, lets try it again” and other times harsh discipline when I went completely off the rails, by the end I was a champ at holding my tongue. I am not saying we should sit back and let people walk all over us but we need to choose our words carefully and thoughtfully, and there are times, when as hard as it is, no words at all, and if you knew me back then, I did not choose my words carefully or thoughtfully, and in my world silence was not golden.  My ultimate challenge would come in the form of a woman that found no redeeming quality in me and did nothing to hide her disdain for me, never in all my years of living have I met someone who disliked me as much as she did. With every snarky remark and roll of the eyes I never said a word escaping into quiet solitude to pray, God please get me through this, God help me control my behavior and on particularly bad days I would pray to God that He keep her away from me for five minutes, and then I started to pray for her.  I prayed that she have a life of happiness and I prayed for God help me in my relationship with her.  Don’t ever doubt the power of prayer because I can’t explain what happened next.  It had been about a week since I started praying that this woman, who looked like the same person, but she wasn’t, she was nice, it was as if the aliens came in and abducted her sometime during the night. Not entirely convinced I proceeded with careful optimism thinking the aliens are going to bring her back eventually.  I wouldn't say we became friends, but by the end of our run together we had a pretty decent relationship. 

I don’t think I ever questioned why God put me in that position, I knew it was from Him, I knew there was a reason and I knew that He was with me, He gave me a lot of peace during that time,  and even though I felt like I was being dragged over a bed of hot coals, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, it was a time that a very good Christian friend called “the people test”, how to deal with difficult people.  I like to think I passed that test.

I didn’t like where I was and would never choose it for myself but  in general I still found a lot of peace and joy in the everydayness, there wasn’t the overwhelming sense of hopelessness I once had in my former life, I spent a lot of time there, I know it all to well.  There is a big difference between not liking where you are and being sad about it, and feeling hopeless.  Hopelessness is from satan, it breaks your spirit and deceives you into believing that there is no way out.

What could have been a simple straight forward journey to my destination turned into an epic trail of back roads and side streets, “ummm…… God, you do realize I am going to be late if I keep taking this road, Hellooo God are you there?  I am going to be late”, His only answer was “turn here” taking me further off course from where I should have been, I eventually arrived at my appointed destination, late.  I stopped questioning after that, I wasn’t going to get an explanation I may as well just do what I am told and save myself the migraine of trying to figure it out, thus began my journey of doing things that made absolutely no sense to me, save yourself and don’t ask there are just too many to count.
As easy as it would have been, I never lost faith that God was at work, I trusted that He knew what He was doing and it became ever so clear to me that this season of testing is what the last three years had been all about. Teaching me to trust Him and have faith, to learn to hear His voice and to keep the joy even when my circumstances said otherwise, He was teaching me obedience, to do what He told me even when it didn’t make sense. 

I Suddenly I found myself failing at things I once excelled at, God was saying no to things that He once said yes too, new dreams had been placed in my heart, and the month of June was a constant nudging on my heart. 

 I knew there was something more for me, there had to be, I did not believe that I was put on this earth to do what I was doing.  Day in and day out I would anxiously await my break through, expecting it to come in some sort of grandiose revival, instead it came by way of being summoned to HR and informed that as of that moment I was unemployed, the day was June 15th, (read here for the devotional that delivered just hours before)  I would be lying if I said I was surprised, I wasn’t, I had been expecting it for months.  I was granted my one request to say goodbye to my friend, a fellow Christian that had been a consistent source of strength.  She pulled me into a bear hug and held me there as she prayed and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.  This was God’s hand releasing me to live out the next chapter of my life and I could not think of a better person to do it than Pat. I virtually skipped my way onto the elevator and  rode it down the 19 floors to the ground level, offering myself up to like a turkey on the Thanksgiving table, “here I am God what do you have for me?”  What I got next was a monster headache that left me bedridden for the rest of the day and night.

As morning came, the sun was peaking through the clouds that had left the sky dark and gray for days, the gentle breeze blowing through the open window above the desk where I sat felt like kisses on my cheek, the leaves on the trees were rustling, the birds chirping and I could not think of a better way to start this new journey,  it had only happened the day before but my job seemed like a million years ago.  It is a little scary, I am my only source of income and it is now gone, but I am not afraid. 

I wish I could say something great has happened in the last seven months, but it hasn’t, I am in a season of waiting, at times I find myself mumbling under my breath “God, there had better be something really earth shattering on the other side for putting me through all of this”.  I don’t know what is waiting for me up ahead, I am just putting one foot in front of the other and stepping out in faith as I continue on this journey.

It has been a long road, a road filled with tears and heart break but also with a lot joy and hope and love.  I still have a long road to travel, but it is what I will find in that journey that will be my destination.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the beginning of the end

I started a series sharing my story from my journal that I started writing in January 2010, if you are here for the first time and want to read my story from the beginning it starts with the post on January 8, I apologize I know it is a little long, anyway continuing on….

I had started over many times in the ten years since I had left Wisconsin, when the Army recruiter came knocking on my door to deliver me to basic training.  Being in the military you move often, having to acclimate to a new town, new people and a new job, so by the time I got to Minneapolis, with just a duffel bag in tow, I was a champ at starting again, so I thought Wisconsin was going to be breeze, it was home, familiar territory, the place where I grew up and spent the first twenty years of my life, but home is where I struggled the most.

I got a job almost immediately, and as fast as I got that job, I learned even faster it was not going to last, I felt lonely and isolated and they didn’t like me much more than I like them, that job lasted a very long two months. Things didn’t get any better after that, they only got worse, changing jobs faster than I changed my socks each one worse than the one before, and paying little more than minimum wage, I was a grown woman living with my mother and I couldn’t find a home, and I was struggling to make friends.  I became sullen and introverted and growing increasingly unhappy, slowly and almost unnoticeably I was sinking into a deep  and debilitating depression.  I thought if this is what my life is going to be what is the point of living?  I stood in the aisle of the drugstore fingering the bottle of sleep aids thinking how easy it would be to end it all.

Depression is a funny thing, it sneaks up on you, it slowly envelopes every pore of your being, you don’t even know it is happening, it becomes a way of life, after a while you think it is normal to just exist in comfortable misery, to bide your time until death comes.  Not that I wanted to die, it was just the opposite I wanted to live.  I wanted my life back.

I was tired, lonely and at the end of myself when he came along, the man who would take me away from my miserable existence and fill the empty void I felt inside, and he did for about a minute, but looking back all it did was put a band-aid on the real problem.  I had so much turmoil and anger raging inside me that it consumed me without mercy and there isn’t a band-aid that exists that could contain it, that could stop it from seeping through the cracks, unknowingly the beginning of the end was near, rolling into my life like a tidal wave leaving nothing in its wake. As fast as that relationship blew into my life it blew out even faster, leaving me to pick up pieces of an already shattered and broken life, I was a mere shell of a person, I was dying on the inside and I saw no light at the end of my tunnel, I had enough and seemingly out of no where I fell to my knees before God, not entirely sure why.  What I did know is that I was done, done with it all, done with the constant daily struggle, I was tired of being lonely and depressed, as hard as I prayed satan attacked even harder, he wasn’t letting me go without a fight and I gave into the lies he was telling me.  I was worthless, no one would ever want me, I will never amount to anything this your  life is so get used to, nothing good will ever happen to you.  And I thought he was right, my boyfriend didn’t want me, I couldn't find a place to live every home I put an offer on was either rejected or already had an accepted offer,  my employment situation was less than desirable and I had not a friend to speak of.  

Unknowingly God had other plans, as hard as he tries satan can never outdo God, He was after me with a vengeance and He was not going to let go until He got me.  The home I ended up buying….was across the street from a church.  It wasn’t exactly my dream house, but the price was right and I could manage it financially, money was very tight but I was surviving.  At the time I did not give that church a second thought, as a matter of fact every Sunday morning it was the bane of my existence. Cars would line the street end to end making it virtually impossible to get out of my driveway.  In the middle of all that my uncle, my mother’s brother passed away, and my cousin, at just 30 years old was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

My journey back from hell wasn’t easy it was a long and painful road I had a battle of good and evil playing tug-of-war with my insides. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to eat, it hurt to wake up and it hurt to go to sleep, my skin hurt, but I kept praying.  That is when I found solace in the church across the street, the church that was once the bane of my existence was now my saving grace.  I had such turmoil raging through my head that the only place I could go to find quiet was in that church and I would sit in that empty chapel sometimes for hours because that was the only place I could go to quiet my spirit.  That church is where I could feel God wrap His arms around me, telling me it was going to be ok.  

Please don’t misunderstand me, things did not change overnight, as a matter of fact it would be years before I would feel like a whole human being again. My heart still hurt, I screamed, I cried, I blamed God for everything wrong in my life, I became angry and at times irate with Him, I dug the pew Bible I snagged from the church across the street out of more than a few snow banks and it got dropped kicked around my house more times than I will ever admit.
I know I am ending this a little abruply, but I will continue on with my journey next time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

in the beginning

In January of last year I started writing, it was a fire on the inside that consumed me. I spent every spare moment I had writing and having no idea what God intended to do with it. Some of it has been copied and pasted into blog posts and other parts have stayed safely tucked away on my computer.  My story dates back fourteen years and this is the beginning.

I was 26 years old when I rolled in Minneapolis, recently discharged from the Army with nothing more than a duffel bag stuffed with my belongings in tow and no idea what I was doing.  My childhood friend that I grew up with back home in Wisconsin had moved there years before with her family, and since I had no real desire go back Wisconsin, Minneapolis seemed as good a place as any to start my new life. 

It wasn’t long before I got a job and went from sleeping on a mattress on my friend’s floor to a small downtown studio apartment, later that same year I enrolled in college and  bought my first house. Since I wasn't making much money at the time I bought what I could afford and although it wasn't a bad neighborhood it was in a lower income part of town and the previous owners were selling the house and moving because of the increasing crime in the neighborhood.  Fast forward a few years, the city started  a revitalization project in my neighborhood and brand new high end homes were being built just a few blocks from where I lived in my tiny cape cod, and just two semesters shy of graduating I landed a job in my field of study and I was largely ignoring God, after all what did I need Him for, my life was going just the way I wanted it to.  I didn’t exactly leave God out but I didn’t include Him either, I treated Him a little like the Wizard of Oz.  On the one hand He was the phantom in the sky that was angry at me for no other reason than I believed He was an angry God lying wait to punish me the moment I stepped out of line, yet He was my best friend when I needed a little wave of His magic wand to make whatever was going wrong in my life right again, stuffing Him back in His little genie bottle until I needed another miracle. My prayers, which were few and far between, were a laundry list of requests, a wish list of sorts that I wanted God to fulfill, He was the grantor of miracles and the maker of dreams and when I didn’t get what I wanted I thought I was being punished for some sin that I committed 10 years ago and He was now getting revenge on me.  Even though I largely ignored God He was not ignoring me, in fact he was fiercely pursuing me, I just didn’t know it yet.

It was September of 2001 and my sixth year of living in Minneapolis when life as I knew came to a screeching and abrupt halt with just a simple phone call on an otherwise rather uneventful Saturday evening.  It was my sister calling to tell me dad had a heart attack and was in the hospital, she didn’t know anything more than that, but someone would call me later.  It was one of the few moments in my life where I felt nothing there wasn’t even a thought in my head, just paralyzing numbness, barely able to move I felt as though I were in a pit of quick sand frantically trying to claw my way out and going nowhere, I probably could have been hit by tractor trailer and not felt it.  I didn’t even open my little genie bottle where I kept God safely tucked away, I didn’t see the point, I knew my father wasn’t going to live and no amount of prayer was going to change that.  I can only describe what happened next as feeling as if I were punched in the chest with such force that it almost knocked me over leaving me struggling to breath when the phone rang, still trying to recover from being pummeled by the invisible boxing champ that was taking his best shots at me I don’t even know if I said hello I just heard two words, dad’s gone. 

I can’t tell you what happened after that, I only remember standing alone in the chapel of the funeral home, looking into my father’s casket saying my final goodbye.  I placed my hand on his chest and disturbingly I felt nothing, no heartbeat no breath of life just the eerie stillness of the body that once housed my father, in a way he was almost unrecognizable to me, and that is when life as I knew it was over, it was time to go home.  My dad was the fourth family member to be buried that year and unknowingly there were two more to come.

With winter right around the corner and Minnesota winters are brutally harsh and unforgiving I decided to wait it out and put my house up for sale in spring, God had other plans.  That summer had been unbearably hot and humid the air was so thick outside that it was hard to catch a breath and it forced many people indoors for most of the summer including me, so I went on a frenzy of home improvements.  Every room got a fresh coat of paint, I refinished the oak floors on the main level, remodeled a badly in need of it bathroom, cleaned and purged closets, and not really knowing why I started packing up my house. When winter finally rolled around it was unseasonably warm, I am talking spring like temperatures in February unheard of in Minnesota, even lifelong Minnesotans said they had never seen a winter like that, there was no reason to wait any longer and many months before expected a for sale sign went up in my front yard and thus began the daunting task of selling my beloved home and mentally preparing myself for life back in Wisconsin, never imagining that I would ever be living there again and the revitalization project that was started years earlier spiked my property value. What I once wrote off as luck and really good timing, was actually God's plan and perfect timing, He took really good care of me and threw in a few extras on top of it.

  As I stared down the for sale sign that had taken up residence in my front yard, it was joyful sorrow, I was sad to be leaving Minneapolis, life had been good to me there but I was happy to be going home, I was looking forward to being closer to my family and watching my nephew grow up, I would be starting over in the place where it all began. 

As people shuffled their way in and out of my house, looking in closets and cabinets, scrutinizing every inch, unsolicited and almost unmerited comments during open houses didn’t quiet the underlying fear that no one would want my house, but it was only a matter of weeks before I had three offers and I met my realtor for lunch to discuss them.  I sold my house that day, the little fixer upper that I spent enormous amounts of time lovingly taking care of was essentially not mine anymore, closing was in one month.  When I got back to the office my boss confronted me and asked me if was I  planning to move to Wisconsin.  I was dumbfounded, I had no idea how he found out since I had not told anyone the only person who knew about it was me.  Before the day was done I was called to HR handed my last paycheck that included unused vacation time and a two month severance package with full benefits, since I was leaving in thirty days money was one thing I wasn't going to have to worry about.  Looking back it is not hard to see God's fingerprints all over that, the sweltering summer that forced me indoors to get my house ready to sell that at the time I didn't even know I was going to be selling, an unseasonably spring like winter that allowed me to put my house up for sale months before my planned date, loosing my job the same day I sold my house, not having to work so I could get my affairs in order for my impending move and having my needs more than sufficiently met during that time.  Moving turned into a full-time job and I would have lost my mind if I would have had to go to work in addition to it all.

I spent the next 30 days arranging for movers, boxing up my belongings, sleeping in and saying goodbye, it was strangely happy and sorrowful all at the same, I would wander around my half empty house remembering a life gone by.  The next month slowly flew by and before I knew it I was sitting in the my realtor’s office closing on my house and 3 hours later I was making the bittersweet 6 hour journey home to Wisconsin, and the beginning of a 5 year downward spiral that would land me square in the pits of hell.

until next time, same bat time same bat channel.....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

get out of boat and walk on water

Fear, it can paralyze us and stop us dead in our tracks. If we let it, it can turn us into a modern day Israelite, we weren’t exactly wild about where it is we came from but we think it is better than roaming this hot dusty desert with only manna to eat, but that is where many people get stuck, going back is not option but going forward is just too hard and scary. The what if’s invade our mind, what if I fail, what if I can’t do it, what if it isn't God’s will for me, to be honest I don’t think God would ever be disappointed in someone for stepping out and trying but I can't help but think that it is a little grievous to Him as He stands at the ready waiting to bless His children but they think sitting on the couch channeling surfing is a much better option.  Getting out of boat is frightening, it takes us out of our comfort zone and thrusts us into the unknown.  Think about Peter walking on water, it was like the craziest thing ever and it wasn’t Jesus idea, it was Peter’s! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on water and whenever he let himself get distracted with the storm that was whipping around him and he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink, think about that for a moment, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he could walk on water.

Here is the dealio my friends, we can be so afraid to fail that we live so cautiously that we stay in the boat where it is safe and dry with no risk involved.  We let the gifts that God has given us sit dormant in our hearts, festering and nagging at our insides until the fire starts to burn so hot it's either going consume us or we are going consume it, we are going to make up our minds that this life is not dress rehearsal we only have one shot at it so are we going to live it or let it live us?  This does not mean that we run out ahead of God and make things happen on our own, if we do that one of two things is going to happen, failure or frustration, we are to wait on Him until He gives the word to go ahead, it is time for you to walk on water.

At forty years old I am starting over, not really what I thought I would be doing at this age and it is not something that happened over night, I spent many days living out Psalm 37:7, be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.  I spent many hours many days many months looking around me and seeing nothing happening wondering where God was in all of my mess, why wasn’t He doing anything?  God was doing something He was preparing me for what was to come next.  Seriously, six months ago when I entered this season if God would have swooped in right away and told me, now this is what I want you do, I so wouldn’t have done it and furthermore I had no interest in doing it and He knew that, but slowly over time He started hemming me in if you will, removing all other options until this was the only one left, and I did not go quietly at first.  Trust me He employed a small army to keep planting that seed until it finally dawned on me, I think that is what I am supposed to be doing.

As I get ready to start this new journey fear pierces my heart and doubts plague my mind, I am still not entirely sure if this is where God wants me but I am going to get out of the boat and give it a shot and have faith that if this is where I am supposed to be He will get me through it and if it isn't He will scoot me back on track.  I try to keep my mind on the bigger picture like Jesus did, not looking at how much work I have in front of me or how long it is going take, because it is going to take a really long time, but the better person I will be at the end for having done it than if I didn’t, and what I will be able to accomplish as result of it.   In ten years I will be fifty years old and I ask myself the question, when that time comes am I going to be an Israelite going around the same mountain or am I going to be walking on water?