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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God’s Time

g2oriziIt could be my age, but it seems like time is flying more and more quickly these days. It seems like just a moment ago, it was Memorial Day and now the kids are back to school, Labor Day weekend is just a few days away, and the days are getting shorter and cooler. I saw an image on Facebook the other day that said Christmas is only 125 days away. CHRISTMAS, people! Oh, my goodness!!

It’s not just the seasons that are passing by so quickly. Just a year ago, I was struggling with financial challenges and the physical and mental stress that was caused from both my unemployment and the decompression that occurred after working under such tremendous stress for months on end. Thanks to diligent prayer warriors who spoke loudly and clearly to God, I was led to a wonderful job and shortly thereafter, housing that was more affordable and have now been recruited for an opportunity that is, at least on paper, better than anything I could have imagined for myself.

It’s funny how God works, isn’t it? His plan and timing are always perfect and sometimes I have been lucky enough to actually see how the plan has come together.4f723e1f1ce79500f8d579157a2db489-god-is-good-the-good

And then there are the other times.

The times I have prayed for God’s direction and really believed that I have acted in response to that direction only to see the pieces of my life crumbling before me. I have cried out to God in these times, aching for relief from the pain that plagued me only to hear God say to stay the course, or worse, say nothing at all. Did I follow the wrong plan? Does God not really love me after all?

Though I cannot claim to know for certain, I have come to believe that it is at times like that that true faith comes into play. Not during the good times, when His gracious hand is easy to see, but in the times of disaster when everything I had was destroyed and I am left vacant and alone. It is at these times when I hearken back to Rick Warren’s opening sentence to The Purpose Driven Lifeit’s not about [me].

That seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I have spent my entire Christian walk learning to think of Jesus as our Brother, striving for that personal connection with God that only comes with prayer and time with His Word and being told over and over that God loves me and wants only the very best for me – but how can it be that the very best for me isn’t really about me? I mean, honestly, isn’t my being happy or at least at content about me? Isn’t my ability to make ends meet and live the life I believe God has been directing me to lead about me?

Oddly, the answer is no.

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Kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Well, sure, it can seem that way, and yet, as soon as I can take myself and my selfish desires out of the equation, it suddenly becomes so much easier to see God’s work and rejoice in the glory that is God.

For me, being faithful and trusting in God and His will for me requires that I stop trying to see His plan in a linear format. God’s plan is not linear – it doesn’t move from moment to moment, day to day as my life and perspective does. He is beyond time and space, so big that all things are both already done and being done continually. He created everything as He knew it should be and still placed me in a world where I can make choices about my own life each and every day while His mighty hand moves to still the ripples I create in His plan by my actions. It is both enormously complex and elegantly simple and I am blessed to be a part of it.

But it certainly doesn’t always feel that way.

On those days when I’ve had to watch a loved one die despite fervent prayer, sit back and watch as someone I love makes a choice that will be painful and challenging for them, or when a marriage I worked so hard to save disintegrates despite my efforts to be a good Christian wife, I am left feeling empty and confused, questioning whether I didn’t pray hard enough or if what I truly believed to have been God’s plan for me wasn’t. I question my faith, my ability to discern His voice in my life, and His love for me.

And then I remember. Much as I want my life to be about me, it isn’t. God’s voice and direction in my life serve a greater purpose and I may not ever truly know what that purpose is. My job in this relationship is to simply trust and walk the path He creates. It’s not easy and even when I have made choices I knew were the ones God wanted me to make, I certainly wasn’t saved from suffering as a result. But then, how can I expect not to suffer for God’s direction when Noah, Moses, the disciples and Jesus all suffered to do His will?  It is both humbling and a little embarrassing to even consider that I have asked God to let me forego suffering given what has been done so I can even have this life but I guess that’s the arrogance of a human, right?

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So, what’s the point? Overall, I really want to encourage each and every one of you that despite how we perceive the goodness and love of God, His will is always perfect and His love for us is always genuine. In those dark times when this just doesn’t seem to be the case, remember that you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses that God placed in your life to walk though challenging times with you. Of course, I know that sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is anyone out there – and perhaps you are in a time where there truly isn’t anyone. If this is the case and/or you are lacking the words to pray for discernment and wisdom, I offer these words of prayer. May they be a blessing to you now and in the future.

Heavenly Father, I admit that in times of struggle and challenge, I too often I desire my will above yours. Lord, forgive me for my selfishness and unbelief as I react to this unclear season of life. Jesus, as you yourself desired not your own will but the Father’s will, so let me seek your will for me in boldness and humility. Regardless of direction you have chosen for my life, equip me to truly believe that you are good, you are sovereign, and are a Father who desires only the best blessings for me. Open my eyes to see that what you see as a blessing may not be mirrored in how I perceive it. Lord, by praying “your will be done,” I surrender in trust and obedience.

 

 

Chasing A Mirage

b207783bd5de238eab1919afb1e12321Have you ever felt like the road you were on suddenly fell off the map? Like Google Maps suddenly updated and now the route you thought was going to lead you where you needed and wanted to go no longer exists?

I have to admit I have felt that way a lot over the last several years.

At nearly 50, I have often struggled to find my place – my place in the workplace, my place in my personal life, my place with my gifts and talents.

Don’t get me wrong – I have had some very exciting and fulfilling times in my life, but at the moment I feel a little like I’m wandering in the desert.

I don’t know about you, but I just thought  at some point it would get easier. After all, I have already made it through a significant number of challenges.

Putting aside my childhood and the struggles there, I have been through 2 divorces, the suicide of a stepson, years of being sick and having surgery after surgery, and loss – or perhaps a complete lack – of financial stability.

About 4 years ago, I had finally landed a decent paying job that allowed me to use my creativity and skills, had found some success in local theater groups, and felt ready to return home to Colorado to spend quality time with family and reestablish my community there.

god-laughs-at-your-plansI’m pretty sure I have heard God laughing at my plan many, many times over the last few years.

First, the job I moved with fell apart…as have 2 successive positions….

…and several of the family members i had  moved back to reconnect with – 0r, in some cases, begin a relationship with –  moved out-of-state…

…and some promising acting work disappeared like ashes in the wind.

Now, here I am almost 50 years old with not a lot to hold up to the world around me to say this is what I have accomplished with my life – isn’t it great?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that it isn’t the amount of stuff one has, the size of the bank account or the plaques on the wall that determine a successful life. I have had many successes thus far. I have traveled, acted, sung, and met some amazing people who have made an indelible mark on my life. I have had good jobs, grown in my faith, and become a more secure individual…

..and yet, here I sit, feeling as though I am standing in the middle of a desert chasing mirages of what my life is supposed to be only to find I am chasing after shifting sands, never to reach the destination I thought was in front of me.

What makes this even more challenging is that as a Christian, both the Christian and non-Christian communities often look at my life and others like it and express thoughts that I am not “doing” Christianity right. If I were a more faithful Christian woman, would I not have a good man beside  me? Would I not feel more settled and satisfied? Would I not be harvesting the “fruit” of my well-lived Christian life?

To those people, I have to kindly say absolutely not.0_0_0_0_322_654_csupload_57205222

The Bible is filled with passages about the struggles we as humans will face. There is not any “ifs” about it. Life will be hard regardless of your faith.

Ok – well what about those passages that tell me I should be rejoicing in my struggles? That I should be perfectly content in its imperfection. Aren’t we as Christians called to trust in the Lord always and not be anxious about anything?

Yes. We are. But the truth of the matter is that I – like all of you – am human and while these are great goals to reach for, they are not always attainable on a consistent basis.

I, for one, am anxious!

I am anxious about where my next paycheck is going to come from, whether or not I will have the money I need to make rent, and what the next few months of my life are going to look like. I am anxious about the thought of living the rest of my life alone and knowing that the struggle is likely only going to continue or get worse, not better. And I am anxious about the thought that maybe I missed a turn I was supposed to take; a route that was marked for me that I missed or was too fearful or arrogant to take and now it is lost to me.

And I do not count all of this joy. While there are joyful aspects of where my life is now, I am tired of the struggle.

I ache to be using the gifts and talents I have to be making my way through this life; getting paid to do what I love and have a talent for rather than having to make do with a “day job” and not truly live.

I yearn to be writing for a living, able to use my words to tell stories people long to read and receive intellectual and emotional nourishment from and receiving some monetary accommodation for this.

I long to be able to act and sing and not actually have to sacrifice acting and singing opportunities because the 9 to 5 grind that I endure in order to pay the bills and make ends meet makes it nearly impossible to allow these things to be a part of life.

I crave a connection to another human being that is not superficial but rather emotionally, spiritually and physically fulfilling; to have another person in my life that can walk with me in the ebbs and flows of life and come out the other side still willing to walk some more.

But here’s the thing.

Even with all the feelings of sadness and the chasm of uncertainty I currently feel, I know that I am blessed.

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I am blessed because I know that my God is big enough to hear my pain and to help me carry it. He is not angry with me because I am not cheerful about my struggles nor is he going to smite me because I fail to uphold this image of what a “true Christian” is.

Life is hard. There are struggles – some big and some small – that we all must face during our time here on this earth. I know that the struggles I am having today are not nearly as challenging as some you may be facing. They are certainly not the hardest struggles I’ve had in my life, but they are significant enough for me to want it to end – like, now would be great.

Much as I wish God would shoot me a text telling me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to happen. I, like all of you, have to wait. I have to continue to work at finding a new job so I know I can pay my rent and wait for a time when those horrendous “thanks, but no thanks” emails are replaced by a “we want YOU” email.

cc78da55504da0d9a7026fe699f13b7eI have to wait to hear the answers to my prayers that are spoken with my heart and my mouth on a daily (or hourly) basis and  I have to remember to keep my spirit ready for the answers God sends because they are not often the answers I hope they would be.

And I have to keep chasing that dream that is in front of me which may or may not end up being a mirage because to stop following it is to give up – and I refuse to give up.

After all, God doesn’t give up on me. What right do I have to give up on myself?

So here I am, chasing mirages. If you are here in the desert with me, send up a white flag
and maybe we can walk a little bit of this together.