Aspen Trees

aspen_trees6I am a Colorado girl and as such, I love my Aspen trees. The delicate rustle of their leaves in the breeze somehow speaks to my very soul and this time of year, I anxiously await their beautiful gold colors as they cover the mountainside in prelude to snow.

One of the interesting things about Aspen is that each colony – regardless of its size – is a “clonal” colony. In other words, all of the trees in a given colony are identical in their characteristics and share the same root system. It’s a community that survives because of the nourishment of the whole.

I thought about this the other day when a friend and I were talking about the fact that there are 10 dreams that nearly all of us have at one time or another: dreams like falling, being chased, being unprepared for a test or exam of some sort and appearing naked in an inappropriate place. Somehow, though we are all raised differently, live in different parts of the world, and are raised to believe sometimes entirely different things, we are interconnected in our dreams.

So why is it that when it comes to faith, we ignore our interconnection and start putting up barriers?quote-all-human-beings-are-interconnected-one-with-all-other-elements-in-creation-henry-reed-152084

As communities of faith, we are supposed to survive by creating a “colony” – a group of people who support one another, nourish one another, and grow together for generations. On the face of it, this the exactly what we have done, but the divisions that we have created both within the Christian community and outside of it are not.

For those of us that attend church on a somewhat regular basis, we tend to migrate to a place where our ideologies and philosophies aren’t really tested or stretched. Sure, every now and then a little wrench will get thrown into the works, but for the most part, I have noticed that our churches become little “clonal colony” of their own; each of us comfortable with the teaching and beliefs of those around us and disconnecting ourselves from those who think and act differently. The Episcopalian church may sit next to the Methodist Church and they may even get along, but throw in a Unitarian Church? OMG – let the theological warfare begin!

I know. It’s human nature for us to seek like-minded people and congregate with them. I get it, but I don’t think it’s either right or God’s desire for us.

As a Christian, I am horrified by the way we have allowed our perception of what God wants to create this air of superiority that has helped to build the anti-Christian and atheist movements growing around us.What would happen if we all reached outside of our little colony and connected with that colony next to us that thinks things just slightly – or even significantly –  differently? What if we really stretched and connected our root system to the synagogue around the corner or the Buddhist temple down the street?

Eee-gads! Not that!

How could we possibly integrate with “those” people that don’t think anything like we do?

quote-in-this-interconnected-universe-every-improvement-we-make-in-our-private-world-improves-david-r-hawkins-103-36-89
Well, maybe I’m crazy here, but didn’t God create each of them as well?  And if we believe that God is good and that all of God’s creation is good, then it only follows that those who believe differently than we do are just as loved and just as good as we are just like oak trees, pine trees and maple trees are just as wonderful as the aspen trees that paint my horizon.

The thing is, I do believe that Jesus is my Savior, but to me, that is MY path – the path God created for me at this time in this life. That doesn’t mean that it is the only path; the right path for all of His creation.

My God is a big God that can – and has – created a huge universe and an earth that is covered with more varieties of living things than we could ever hope to glimpse in our short time here. I think it’s silly to think that God’s creativity ended when it came to faith and how to find Him.

We are not aspen trees. God has created us to be unique but has also interconnected us in ways known and unknown. As humans, it is our gift to be able to reach across our “colonies” and share our uniqueness; to plant next to one another and grow beside one another creating communities that are unique, beautiful, and supportive of one another.

aspen-roots-1

Advertisements

Stuck

I want to thank BEGINTOBELIEVE for sparking this post for me. It resonated so clearly in me that I found the desire to speak to this same topic myself. Please check out the original post for additional information!

 

welly-boots-stuck-in-the-mudIf you read my last post, you know that my incessant whining about this current situation spurred my dear cousin to send me the book, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero, is certainly not your typical Christian self-help book. The concepts the author speaks of provide a very different world view than my less world-view Episcopal theology teaches, but for those who, like me, have struggled with low self-esteem, it speaks to my soul and has provided many wonderful nuggets of wisdom for takeaway.

One of these key nuggets for me was the reminder that God created me to be me. This doesn’t mean that I was created to be someone that I am not right now but could be if I hold my tongue right and say just the right prayer at just the right time. It doesn’t mean that I was created by God to be one thing and I screwed it up by making the wrong decisions and now I’m being punished.

God created me to be who I am knowing the circumstances I would encounter and the choices I would make. Sure, I have certainly made bad decisions and have had to suffer the consequences of those decisions. I also certainly have things I need to learn, experiences I need to go through, and changes that will need to be made in my life, but these are all opportunities to continue becoming the person God created me to be.

Did you catch that?999439e0ee372652827e62c47341512c

I am now exactly who God knew I would be at this point in time. My job at this point is to continue to allow God to show me His will for me and to continue to trust His will is perfect for my life.

This is not an easy prospect. At this point in time, I am scared. I worry about making my rent, paying my bills and what I will do if those things cannot be accomplished. I think about the day that I was blessed enough to volunteer at Metro Caring and wonder if the next person to make an appointment for food and assistance there will need to be me. I cry out to God wondering what it is that I need to be doing differently and wishing this part of journey would be easier.

I know that my current burden is not the worst thing that anyone could imagine. There are so many of you who are probably struggling with things much more life and death I nature and I’m sure you can agree that the easy thing would be to return to that place of being “stuck”; to curl up on my couch and just quit trying. As a Christian, it is my job and joy (and yours) to remember that there are steps I can take to move forward and not get lost on my journey toward becoming more of who God wants me to be. But sometimes that very prospect is enough to cause the stuck feeling to start all over again. Where is the stinking “Start” button!?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have found a few nuggets both in the above mentioned book and through other studies that might be helpful that I’d like to share:

  • STOP: Realize that despite where we are now, what’s done is done. It doesn’t do any of us any good to spend our time playing the “if only” or “what if” game. Yes, it’s only human to wonder how things could have been but the sooner we can move past that and accept things as they are the better!
  • MAKE ROOM: Get all of those emotions out of your heart and head and grieve the situation. Whatever the pain or struggle may be, cry, scream, rant and rave about it. Let it all out and make room for the good stuff to move in.
  • MAKE CONNECTIONS: Spend time with people who encourage, love and support you. Much as we like to think we are self-sufficient and can do this all on our own, we need one another and the sooner we can remember that, the sooner we can get moving again.
  • MAKE THE EFFORT: Make intentional efforts to get better. For me, I have reached out to people I know that can help me with the job hunt and can also just commiserate with me when the going is tough. Whatever it is you need – emotional support, training, spiritual direction or more practical assistance, take steps to help yourself.
  • MAKE TIME TO LISTEN: Whether it’s to our peers who can give us direction about what may have gotten us here in the first place, the doctors or care staff that can provide direction in getting healthy, or that still small voice that we hear but sometimes ignore, listen and remember. God sends His message to us in many forms. Be diligent in listening and then prayerfully consider each message to make sure you have discerned what God intends for you.
  • KNOW GOD IS WITH YOU: We are not alone in our struggles. Despite how it may feel, God does not abandon us in our times of struggle. He is with us and will give us the strength we need to walk the road we are on.

295eb217f04113075fbd1f4f74451fccGetting and staying stuck steals our joy, robs us of your potential and deceives us into thinking that life won’t ever be any different than it is at this moment. But God didn’t create us to be stuck. He provides the way for us through all of our struggles and strife and provides His word for us as a reminder that He is there to help. This doesn’t mean that the struggle is going to end as soon as you read this or read these scriptures or tomorrow when you wake up. What is does mean is that God knows the pain each and every one of us would suffer, he weeps and aches with us, and most importantly, He provided a way through. Reach up and grab that life ring!

Philippians 1:6, 2, Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:28-30, Psalm 138:8, 1 Peter 5:10.

Low Hanging Fruit

lamentations-dribhave been “adulting” this week!

Yes, I know that “adulting” is not a word nor a verb, but I feel very “adult” this week.

I finally got a call to do some temp work at a firm in the downtown area and have not only gotten myself up, showered, dressed and out the door, but managed the public transportation system and spend time in an office with real people all day!

It’s funny the things you forget about when you haven’t worked in an office for a while.

I forgot that “getting to” wear jeans on Friday is something people look forward to all week.

I forgot that there are a vast number of people who have absolutely no idea there are others on the sidewalk with them at any given moment and that, even if they did remember this, they don’t really care.

And I forgot that the snippets of conversation you hear walking through an office or sitting on the train can provide huge insights and reminders into our lives as a whole.

For example, I was reminded that we human beings are seemingly hardwired to want something other than that which is immediately in front of us; something other that “low hanging fruit” that God has graciously place in our line of sight.

Think about it. You look in the fridge for something to eat and you typically want something – ANYTHING – other than what is readily available. Or for people like me who love coffee, somehow the office coffee is simply never good enough even though it would probably taste just fine if it were presented to us at a restaurant. For some reason, the fact that things are “free” are often seen as lesser; something unworthy or undesirable.

Reading an article in Today’s Christian Woman magazine I was also reminded that this same phenomenon applies to age in general and the aging process as a whole.

Remember being little and every time someone would ask you how old you are, you would age up? If you were 5, you would say you were “almost 6” or “5 and a half”. Pre-teen years brought longing for driver’s licenses and then once we had the ability to drive, we couldn’t wait to get to 21 – to be able to drink (legally) and be considered an actual adult.

When we’re young, the physical changes that come with getting older are welcomed. We relished growing taller, looking older, being seen as “mature”.

But somewhere that all changed. Being young suddenly became what we were striving for and spending more and more time and money on achieving.

So what is it that makes us so dissatisfied with the things around us? Why do we always want something other than what God has so graciously given us?

Some would say its “the devil”- that whole “the devil made me do it” thing. In other words, its our sinful nature that makes us unhappy with what we have. After all, the devil -via the snake – convinced Adam and Eve there was more to be had than all the wonders that God had provided in the entire Garden. Surely without the Devil’s taunting, Adam and Eve would have lived in blissful ignorance to the “dark side”, right?

I don’t think so.

God placed that tree (as far as we know) smack dab in the middle of the garden  so Adam and Eve saw it every day. They walked by it, God told them about it, and at some point, their curiosity got the better of them and they allowed the words from the Devil to influence them and their actions.

But – at least the way I view it – this was not a surprise in any way to God. He created Adam and Eve as well as each of us with curious minds and the ability to learn and grow emotionally and spiritually so we could see all of the wonders of the world He created, but to then be able to learn that all of it is useless without Him.

God created us with bodies and minds that change. I don’t believe, as some suggest, that this was done as a punishment for sin, but to keep us always learning and growing in understanding of the world around us.

As we gain wisdom and insight into things through age and experience, our world  becomes bigger. God allows us to grow older physically and mentally so that the ability to experience something new or different never goes away – we always have the ability to see things as new each day. To me, this is part of the mercies that the writer of Lamentations speaks of.  It’s not just that we get another day to try to do things well or better than yesterday, but that we get to see things in light of understanding that we have gained through experience.

But here is the challenging thing – at least for me. Growing older also means looking older – and in our society, this is definitely frowned upon. Women, in particular, are pressured to continue to be fit and maintain a hair color that is something other than the silver that time otherwise presents us with. I, for one, spend a good deal of time and energy working to keep my outward appearance as close to my younger self as possible. While parts of that are good (keeping my body a strong and healthy honors God and His creation of me), there is a point at which it becomes more about vanity and less about health.

The same is true in regards to that low hanging fruit I mentioned earlier. God places those things where we can easily get to them not just to make it easy for us, but to remind us that He will provide every single day. Some days the things that He has provided are indeed hard to get to. We have to reach higher, fight harder to get them. God, in His wisdom, knows that we tire of the fight – that we can only make that hard push for so long before we collapse –  so He provides us with the opportunity to enjoy gifts that are easy to find and reach.

So where is the line? How do we know which of the low hanging fruits we should take and which of the more difficult ones I should reach for?

This is where the gifts of the Spirit come in – wisdom and discernment. The Spirit will lead us in the direction we need to go if we ask and then obey. For example, I may really prefer to go to Starbucks for coffee on my way to my temporary job, but that soft little voice in my heart reminds me that there is coffee at my disposal where I am going. I don’t need to spend that $6 for the super special coffee when the free coffee will feed me equally well.

And while I may want desperately to give into the desire to rid myself of the fine lines and wrinkles I see or go get that boob job so my breasts will stay where God put them in the first place, dang it, I can listen to that still soft voice and know that those lines and wrinkles represent the lessons I fought hard to learn and the wisdom I gained as a result; I can know that the force of gravity that pulls my breasts in directions I wish they wouldn’t go is molding me and changing me to be physically more of  who God envisions me to be.

I cannot lie and say his means I am suddenly going to let my hair go gray or slow down my exercise routine. For better or worse, these are vanities I am unable and unwilling to relinquish for now. But what it does mean is that I am going to work harder to acknowledge and rejoice in the mercies God provides every day; to see the low hanging fruits for the blessings they are and not dismiss them for something I think I want or believe are better than what I see immediately in front of me.

See? I am becoming an adult after all!

 

 

 

 

New Directions

As you all may have sensed, I was having a bit of a pity party last week with the whole joblessness and other things.

Until I saw this:

c9dea202326c07af6b43e711c88400e992

Sometimes that’s just how it feels, isn’t it? You know that nothing lasts forever, but in those moments you are sitting in the deepest part of the pit(-y party), it sure feels like it will, right?

Thankfully, I have had several things come to me in various forms to remind me that there is a plan that is greater than what I currently see and that for right now, my job as a person of faith is to rest in this knowledge, find peace in this time of quietness, joy in the realization that I have had a summer off for the first time since grade school, and be secure in the knowledge that the things that await me are far better than what I have left behind.

Let me tell you, the last several days I have felt oh so much like one of the Israelites traveling through the desert. Here I am, having recently released myself from a situation that was intolerable and am traveling to a land of “milk and honey”. I should be rejoicing, but am I?

Nooooo!

I, like the Israelites, am whining about the fact that 63836958the road is longer than I want it to be; that I can’t see the end of the trial yet, that I can’t have all that I want when I want it.

Woe is me!

Pitiful, right? I must be having a melodrama hangover from my recent Shakespeare production. All I can say is I am eternally grateful that God has not turned me into a pillar of salt due to the number of times I have looked back and whined.

So what is it that has caused me to finally throw away the party horns for my pity party and change my perspective?

I am so glad you asked!!

51onerkgdtl-_sx315_bo1204203200_The  first thing was the sudden appearance of the book pictured  here which was sent by my amazing cousin. It seems she has been reading my recent posts and has grown weary of the sullen tone which has permeated my writings so send me this to prod me in the right direction. Regardless of the reason for its appearance, the messages I have read thus far have resonated so loudly in my heart and mind that it feels as if it was written just for me!

As if to solidify the messages here, I was then presented with a video of the 12 laws of Karma.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I’m Christian. What in the heck am I doing reading and relating to the laws of KARMA and Buddhism?

Well there’s the thing.

These concepts are all based on the way we interact with the one another and the world around us and regardless of how they are framed and the 12 laws as represented in the video I saw depict a very similar life to the one that Christians believe God is calling us to live. Not being a student of Buddhism, I cannot speak to the video’s theological accuracy, but messages like sowing what we reap certainly rings true with Christian theology.

Pretty sure I read that in the Christian Bible somewhere.

While all of the 12 messages spoke to me,the message that struck me most was the law of growth which states that whatever one focuses on, that is what will grow. In other words, if I focus on positive things those things will come about but if I focus on negative things, that is what I see. The book above by Jen Sincero echoes this thought (not quite so gently): quote-you-are-a-badass-jen-sincero

Yep, definitely being sent a message here.

And then by coincidence (or not), I opened the notebook in which I take sermon notes and came across the following message:

Don’t look at your past life and romanticize it; don’t let others talk you out of the dreams God places in your heart. We come here to church with our hands outstretched, waiting for His gifts but turn away from the gifts He places in our hands because the step forward is scarier than we expect.

The message spoke to me clearly when I heard it the first time, but it felt like a 2×4 slamming against my head the 2nd time.

Okay! I get it!

This time of transition – however long or short it may be – has a purpose. To rush it will only mean that I will end up here again needing to try to learn these lessons all over again. Since I really don’t want that to be the case, I am choosing to make the following changes:

  1. I am choosing to be grateful! Grateful both for the time that I had to refresh and renew myself, but also for the time that I have to redefine who I want to be; to be grateful for the time I have to gain wisdom and discernment for my new path.
  2. I am choosing to learn! Rather than be saddened when I look at my resume and don’t see a “career” or “profession”, I am choosing to see what lessons I have learned from the jobs I have held to see more clearly how to achieve the dreams that God as placed in my heart.
  3. I am choosing to stop putting time limits on God! I know I’m not the only one that does this but I am going to actively try not to do this in the future! I know that there is a plan and I am choosing to wait patiently for the plan to play out rather than whining when it doesn’t come to fruition in the time frame that I have randomly chosen.

Maybe this all sounds too easy or maybe I’ve been making this all too hard. Only time will tell, but I do know this. The moment I made these connections and started to think differently, I received a call to do a temporary assignment. Is that a huge thing? No, but it’s definitely a change in the right direction and I’ll take it!

So now I have a request for you, my kind readers.

Now that I’ve made these decisions public, I would like you all to hold me accountable.

butterfly
picture credit:lorislassworks.blogspot.com

 

Remind me of my choices if you hear that same negativity creeping in; reflect back to me the blessings of my life when I forget them. I would gladly do the same for you, if you would like. I am not saying this is a quick, easy fix, but it is a new direction. Come walk it with me, won’t you?

Thy Will

img_8378It’s been 65 days.

65 days since the last day I had a job.

On May 27th I walked away from a job that I had with a company I had been with for 7 years (not counting the time I was laid off) in order to gain regain my physical and psychological health.

This is not something I did lightly or frivolously, but rather, after weeks of sitting at my desk in tears and pain due to the stress of a position I was not well suited for, I had to make a change.

I prayed. A lot.

I had others pray for me. A lot.

And I trusted that the unchanging voice that I heard in my head and my heart to move on was the Lord’s direction for me.

So why am I here 65 days later tearfully wondering what my next move needs to be? Did I make a mistake? Did I misunderstand what I heard the Lord saying to me? Or maybe I understood but the Lord wants me to struggle and doesn’t care how painful and difficult this is.

938bd21d42817829849196637694e8a4Believe me, thoughts like these and many other not so Christian thoughts have managed to permeate what I like to pretend is my impermeable faith. Day after day when the telephone doesn’t ring, application after application is rejected or interviews lead to nothing my spirit weakens a bit. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy grow stronger and there are days when it takes all I have to get out of bed and try to find some purpose to the day.

Despite my trust that God is good, this doesn’t feel good. It feels like I’ve been forgotten.

It is hard to count this all joy when I am the only person that pays my bills and they don’t simply stop coming because things aren’t going well.

It is hard to trust when all I can see is the burdens of my life piling up with no end in sight.

And yes, I know that these burdens I have had in my life are often things I created; the result of acting out of fear or frustration rather than waiting for God. Am I being punished for my actions? Did I fall victim to the desire for worldly fulfillment and convince myself that God was telling me to move on when it was just my own selfish desire?

My heart says no.

As much as I’ve prayed about this and thought about whether I made a mistake leaving my job, I have never once felt regret. I have never once felt as though I should have stuck it out for a while longer; waited for the right opportunity to come out of the woods.

For me, this can only mean one thing.

I am right where I am supposed to be.d156e099580c5c191a34f7bad0e7f925

Ugh

That sucks.

That means that this struggle is part of His ultimate plan and His plan, being a God of love and compassion, is always good.

Sure doesn’t feel that way.

What it feels like is what Hillary Scott sings about in her song Thy WillAs a matter of fact, the first time I heard that song it felt like the words had been ripped out of my heart.

In her song, Ms. Scott cries out to God for the feelings of loss and pain she feels. She reflects to God that she feels she may never understand the plan He has in store for her or that her pain is part of the plan God has put in place for her.

I know this feeling so well! As I sit here completing my endless string of applications, I realize I may never understand why I have to go through yet another struggle like this; yet another time when I feel helpless, out of control and on the edge of losing everything. It feels like God is either rejoicing in my pain or simply oblivious to it.

Ms Scott’s song reminds me two very important things that I am very definitely grasping onto like buoys to get me through this storm.

First, God’s love is pure and His plan for me is and always will be good. My job is this time of struggle is to hold fast to that knowledge and prayerfully wait. That’s it. As hard as it is to want to try find a way to fix this, I have to wait…

…and hope I don’t miss the 5 vessels God has sent to save me.

Second, and most importantly, I have to remember God is God, not me. I know that may sound silly, but what I mean is that only He sees the bigger picture. He knows what’s around that blind corner that I can’t see and He knows what blessings await me.

It 51vazbc0yxlmeans that sometimes trying to sense God’s presence in my personal situations  is, as Chris Rice wrote, like trying to Smell the Color 9.

Sometimes I am not really supposed to understand what’s going on, I’m simply supposed to trust that His ways are perfect. I’m supposed to what Hillary Scott says and fall on my knees with the innocence of a child in prayer and say “thy will, Lord.”

That’s it.

It doesn’t have to be more eloquent than that nor more lengthy. In my time of pain and struggle, all I need to do is hand it over to God and say “thy will be done” and know that His will is perfect.

Does this mean that I will like the plan He has for me?

Nope.

But as I’ve said many times  before (but have a hard time remembering in times like this) It’s not about me.

It’s about God.

God never promised – or even suggested – that this life would be easy or joyful. That “count it65e7c27159cdd02251d005cddf556284 all joy” thing isn’t actually about me being happy, but rather about me taking the time to consider all of the opportunities and challenges that I am faced with to be a joy because they are being used for God’s purposes.

So as I head into day 66 of being jobless, I will choose to hand this all back to God and remember THY will, not MY will.

Wonder if I can get through the next hour remembering that? Here’s to hoping!