Spring Cleaning

pexels-photo-413707.jpegSpring has sprung in Colorado. I know this because our daily weather forecasts contain nearly equal measure of rain forecasts as snow, and on any given day there is a significant likelihood of seeing Dorothy and Toto fly by carried by one of our 80mph wind gusts.

When I was a kid, Spring always meant cleaning – tackling all those chores that nobody ever really wanted to do like cleaning the windows, the garage, the baseboards, and, my least favorite job, finding some way to eliminate the cobwebs that had taken up residence in every nook and cranny when nobody was looking.

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Though I’ve only lived in my new apartment a few weeks, I found myself attending to this very task a few days ago. But this time, it wasn’t true physical cobwebs I was attending to, mental cobwebs to creep into my mind and spirit over the past few months allowing their presence to significantly alter the way I’ve been able to perceive God and both his presence in my life and His blessings around me.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t see that God has sent many blessings over the past few months and I have certainly been able to rejoice in them. For example, a mere 9 months ago, I was less than a paycheck away from being homeless despite having moved to a home shared by several other people. God heard my cries and sent a fantastic career opportunity my way and my financial situation changed literally overnight. I met some terrific people in a wonderful, creative new environment, and I even met someone who I thought might be a lovely addition to my life for the future.

But in the deepest, darkest corners of my mind, silky, sticky strands of cobwebs had already begun accumulating. Each thread contained feelings of doubt and self-loathing and as the shininess of the new job and relationship began to dull I began feeling familiar feelings of insecurity – what if I oversold myself on this job and I can’t do what they want? What if I’m not good enough, insightful or intelligent enough to be an asset and they end my contract? The cobwebs grew faster and faster and started growing in more corners of my life. I felt less and less like an asset and more like an inconvenience in other people’s lives. The “relationship” started to falter as this person echoed my first husbands feelings of me, telling me that while he enjoyed spending time with me in the solitude of his home, being seen in public together was unacceptable; I was unacceptable.

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Each one of these thoughts created thicker and thicker webs that covered any sense of how much I am loved and cherished by God. As life happened around me and things got a little harder, the webs encompassed every inch of my heart and mind. By the time I lost my beloved dog to cancer, I was completely incapable of seeing good in my life. While I was still completely capable of seeing the good elsewhere – seeing the blessings in other people’s lives and see God in even the darkest world events, when it came to me – my house – the opaque threads completely covered the windows of my heart. For me, getting up and putting one foot in front of the other was truly all I could do. I was making it, but just barely. The cobwebs of negativity had thoroughly skewed my world.

And yet…

And yet God’s light continued to shine, reaching out to penetrate those deep, dark corners of my mind and finally His light shone on one of those webs, reflecting back to me and opening the eyes of my heart to see the damage they had done in my heart and mind. Because of his persistent love for me, I was finally able to see that it was time to do a little work in my spirit.

So, for me, Spring cleaning has begun. I have started wiping each silky, sticky thread from their temporary residence letting each swipe carry away the confusion and obscurity they have created over the past few months. As I clean them away, I can feel the peace of the Holy Sprit come through the newly cleared areas, blowing away that which doesn’t belong in my heart and leaving behind clean, fresh, open places in my heart for God to fill. I cannot say this is an easy task for me. You know how it is when you clean cobwebs – they stick to everything, desperately trying to stay where they want to be. Their tenacity is sometimes stronger than mine and they are able to either stay where they were or cling in another place making the next “cleaning session” harder that its predecessor. Harder not only because I have to return again to places that I thought had been cleaned before but are still covered with web, but also because those webs have attached themselves to my heart and, wrong as it may be, extracting the negativity they represent means looking more closely at those in my life that have helped to create their presence and perhaps extracting those people from my life as well. Like with any deep cleaning project, I have awakened the next day feeling battered and sore, but better for the effort because I know that in the end, God is faithful and because of His faithfulness, I am able to continue with the task of becoming “cobweb free”.

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Perhaps you, like me, are in the process of cleaning out the cobwebs of your life. Or maybe you have not yet begun but know this is a task that must be tackled. If this resonates with you, I pray for the strength to either begin or continue the journey and for the knowledge that God is there, shining His light on the places that need attention so we can make way for a fresh indwelling of His presence in our heart. For those of you who have already completed this hard work, please pray for those who are in the process. This journey is a challenging one, but with the prayerful support of our community, each and every one of us can complete it.

 

 

 

 

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The Blessings of Storms

colorado springAh, Spring-time in the Rockies. While it can be beautiful, the best way to really describe it can often be more like a glimpse of Mother Nature as a schizophrenic as opposed to the picture postcard you see on the travel channel. Just this past few weeks, we have had 80 degree days followed immediately by rain, enormous (baseball-sized) hail and inches of snow. But blink your eyes and it’s as if that none of it ever actually happened.

As odd as it sounds, that is one of the reasons I truly love living here and seeing how quickly this state can move through being sun-washed to white-washed and back again. After watching the weather here for the past few days I can honestly say that any sense of instability I may have felt about my life or the lives of those around me was suddenly put into stark contrast with the instability that Mother Nature is able to create and I feel remarkably peaceful as a result.

It’s funny. Had I have guessed, I would have fully expected the crazy weather would make me feel more disrupted; more anxious about the significant changes I’ve had to make to my life in the last few weeks and I guess at some level that was the case, but what was more pervasive was the sense of peace that came with the knowledge that even the biggest storms will pass and soon any damage that may have resulted will be erased either with repairs or new growth. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but think that this was precisely why God created the seasons and weather for us – to provide us with tangible reminders that all things – good and bad – have a beginning and an end and we are called to rely on God to carry us through all of it.

Way back at the beginning of our time here on this earth (at least as far as the human presence is concerned), the Garden of Eden was a place without storms. There was no rain, no wind, no disruption from the peace and tranquility I think we all imagine when we think of paradise. But despite how wonderful that sounds, God knew this peace had to change in order for us to be able to develop loving relationships with Him; to be able to understand who He is and to grow in our love for Him because of this understanding.

So God planted the tree of knowledge knowing full well that Adam and Eve would eat from it and that their actions would set into motion significant changes in the world as it had existed. The land now needed to be watered with rain, the soil, worked harder to produce the same fruits, and the ability for women to bring forth life from their wombs became painful and challenging.

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Being the self-centered types we all tend to be, this all sounds and feels really cruel. Why are we being punished for something we had nothing to do with in the first place? How can I, in one breath, say my God is truly loving and in the next say my God calls me to lose in order to gain? I know it may sound crazy, but that the fact that we do lose is what allows us the greater opportunity to gain beyond our wildest imaginations.

I know I’ve said similar things many times in this blog but I was reminded of this as I spent the last couple of months coming to terms with having to uproot the cozy little life that I had created for myself. Though Mother Nature was relatively calm at the time (at least until the day I was supposed to move), I felt the shifting of the seasons; the change that had to be made even though I didn’t feel ready or willing. I had to lose the sense of security I had put into place for myself with my apartment and all and step out of the boat, so to speak, to see what God had in mind for me instead.

I tried to stop the storm.

Believe me I did.

I whined, I moped, I cried out in despair. You probably remember this from my recent posts. Yet try as I might to change God’s plan, He didn’t stop the storm nor did he make it easier. Instead, He carried me through the storm so I could see Him to move in ways that otherwise would not have been possible.

Now, just a few short weeks after what seemed like a tremendous upheaval, I can see the storm in the distance and you know what?

It’s beautiful!

From where I stand now, the clouds are a glorious pink and white that reminds me of a newborn babe. The threat I had felt is gone, and in its place I have blessings I had been praying for – aching for – rising up and surrounding me with joy.

And, of course, the joy is coming from the most unexpected places.

Like returning to the neighborhood where I grew up.

When I first found the place I have moved into, the idea of returning here terrified me. How could I go back to the area where some of my worst nightmares occurred? What could God possibly want me to do there?

The answer is heal and grow.

God has used this return to bring to mind good memories, helping me to remember that not all my time there was frightening or difficult. I walk the canal that runs behind my old home and remember seeing my dog chase the sprinkler there and the laughter that came from watching that not only for me, but also for those who were walking the canal way back then. I see homes of friends who lived there way back when and remember the friendships and good times we had.

And for those memories that are more difficult, God has been using this time to provide a healing balm to the wounds which are still there, slightly less raw and painful, but still very much a part of my personal landscape of memories. God has helped me to feel His peace and comfort opened my eyes and heart to see that even the worst storms of our lives can be healed with His presence and the gift of time.

Equally important – or perhaps more so – God has brought new people into my life that despite their relatively short tenure in my life, are proving to be significant and powerful additions to my community. I truly feel these people are the gifts at the end of my rainbow and I am overwhelmed by the beautiful addition they are making to my life.bryant-mcgill-storms-life-stronger-3s7g

So here I am, akin to a 3rd-rate meteorologist who just a few weeks ago had predicted the “storm of the century” around the impending changes to my life and now, looking out my window I see only a small little rain shower (If I had been that bad meteorologist, people would have stocked up on bread and milk for NOTHING!).

Mother Nature may still be proving herself to be more than a tad schizophrenic (I say with little sarcasm as I watch the snow fly outside my window on May 19th), but I know that even her craziness will not derail the goodness that God is able to bring through the storms in my life. I only hope that the next time they come, I remember that these are the pathways to His blessings.