Repost: God in a Box

Every idea of [God] we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed…’ I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, ‘It reminds me of straw.’

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)

It’s possible that you haven’t thought of it this way, but if you are a believer in Christ and have yet to walk through faith-shattering trials, you may have placed God in a box.

I know I had.

Read the rest here:  God in a Box

 

 

 

 

What To Do With All These Feelings???

Feelings, feelings and more feelings!

I’m overwhelmed with them. All. The. Time.

brene-brown-on-empathy-image

Sadness.  Longing.  Regret.  Hopelessness.

But also happiness, excitement and joy.

They bounce around in my head and heart doing battle like caged animals.

What to do? How do I keep my life in some sort of forward motion when if I give in to each and every feeling I’d be going in circles and heading nowhere?

One thing I can’t do is ignore them.

I’ve tried.

Stuffing pain down deep where I think it’ll never escape doesn’t work.

hungry

It just sneaks through whatever crack I haven’t managed to seal tight and shows up at the most inopportune moments.  And the release is often explosive-hurting me and those around me.

Journaling is the best method I’ve found to let my feelings out in a more controlled fashion.

I can say whatever I want to on paper without worrying it will harm another’s heart.  I can write things I would never be brave enough to speak aloud.  I can mark my page with anything I want to-it’s for my eyes only.

I find that letting go of the feelings I’ve been holding in for so long often results in great freedom and release even when my circumstances haven’t changed at all.

This pouring thoughts out on paper has relieved me. I feel better and full of confidence and resolution.

~Diet Eman, Things We Couldn’t Say

And writing them down, I am often better able to discern the reason behind the feelings, better able to think of what I might do to help myselfeven if no one else can help me. Seeing it in black and white I can find patterns and pinpoint unhealthy habits that are leading me down deadend alleys.

Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession

~Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

I might start a journal entry with a thought bouncing around in  my mind, or a quote or a Scripture verse.  I may ask a question-of myself or of God-write a memory or whisper a fear.

However it begins the page soon fills with things I wasn’t even aware were inside me.  And almost always ends in a better place than where it started.  

Not one outward circumstance altered.

Not one problem “solved”.

Not a single aspect of life “fixed”.

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. ~Christina Baldwin

But my ability to understand my own heart and to respond to the unchanging circumstances around me has been enlarged and strengthened.

My journal is the safest space to explore the nooks and crannies of how grief is changing me from the inside out.

Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.

~ Pat Conroy, My Reading Life

i-write-because-i-dont-know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Wasted

My grandmother used to make beautiful quilts out of cast off scraps friends would bring her by the bagful.

She never shopped in a quilting store with color-coordinated bolts of fabric lined up like watercolors against the wall.  She didn’t purchase a kit with pre-cut squares or fancy appliques.

quilt-fabric-wall

She took whatever she had and made it work. Even the ugly scraps were made beautiful when placed “just so’.  Bits that others found too small to be useful were melded together by her skillful hand into lovely gifts that continue to bless me and others.

She never wasted anything.  

God doesn’t waste anything either.  

When I consider the stories of Moses, Joseph and David I can see how all the events in their early lives shaped them in preparation for the work He had for them later on. Hardship, blessings, training and waiting were molded together by His skillful hands into precisely the vessel needed to carry the Good News to that generation.

quilt-stepping-round-the-mountain

As a young mother, I dreamed of many things God might do in and through me and my family.  I thought I could envision the quilt He was making-the arrangement and the colors.  I never imagined so many dark patches would be part of the pattern.  

I don’t like this chapter of my life in many ways. But it is a chapter God is writing and will use to mold me into what He wants me to be.

I don’t expect that I will know this side of heaven what He is making from the bits and pieces, but He has promised it will be a masterpiece.

So I want to be pliable-even though it is painful.

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

 

 

Rearview Mirror

I talk about Dominic “running ahead” but it feels like Im leaving him behind.

I know he’s the first to Heaven and I know I’ll join him, but my daily experience is that I am the one moving forward and he is the one stuck somewhere, unable to catch up.

I absolutely HATE that his footprint on my life grows smaller with each passing day, each new memory made without him, each event at which his smiling face makes no entrance.

I can’t stop the accumulation of bits and pieces that make it harder to spot his unique contribution to the collage of my life.

I am in no danger of forgetting him.

That’s not what I fear.

But bringing what he still is to me into a conversation, into view for others to see and appreciate is getting more difficult.

When I mention him, people don’t know whether to be sad or happy, question my sanity or rush past hoping I’ll change the subject.

There’s just no natural seque between the living and the dead.

And it hurts my heart to watch the gap grow wider.

closure-door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Love

It’s nice to get flowers or chocolate or balloons or cards that say, “I love you”.

But true love can’t be bought.

True love is marked by sacrifice, ongoing support, genuine compassion and willingness to do whatever it takes to “be there” for another person.

It means standing with someone even when walking beside them includes bearing the unbearable. 

So I have a radical suggestion for this Valentine’s Day-instead of lining the pockets of America’s merchandising gurus-take a moment to write a note to someone who has truly loved you.

Tell them how their love has changed your life.

How their patience gives you space to grow.

How their kindness sings hope to your heart.

How their refusal to envy, boast or brag allows you to rejoice in their blessings without feeling left out or less than.

How their humility and gentleness invites you to share the deepest things, certain your secrets are safe.

How their refusal to keep a tally of the ways you’ve disappointed them grants freedom to try again.

How their trust and hope shine light in your life and give your heart something to hold onto.

How their enduring love gives you a glimpse of heaven.

Let the ones who love you well know that what they do makes a difference.  

Every. Single. Day.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

 

Repost: HALTing a Grief Spiral

I have to remind myself often of these tips.  So in case you do too, here’s the original post:  

If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALT  before you speak.

It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.

I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatly by other things  (some of which we can control).

Read the rest here:  HALTing a Grief Spiral

Good News

Reading through the Sermon on the Mount, it’s easy to feel defeated.  

Jesus ripped off the Pharisees’ masks. He gave people a peek behind the curtain-unveiling the sin that hid beneath a facade of outward obedience and seeming righteousness.

Jesus also strips away any pretense that I can follow the “rules”.  

Sure I may not murder anyone, but hate and malice-how am I supposed to get through this life without calling someone “fool”?

Line after line of impossible standards-righteousness that goes way beyond the Ten Commandments!

I am hopeless and helpless.  

Jesus makes just that point-on my own, in my own strength, dependent on my own efforts, I’m lost.

That’s what makes the Gospel the Good News!  

john-3-16

God in His mercy and grace has offered the only true hopethe righteousness of Christ, the Perfect Sacrifice and atonement for sin.  

When I walk into church and pretend I “have it altogether”, when I refuse to display my brokenness and my need for forgiveness, I obscure the beauty, value and truth of the Gospel. 

I raise a barrier between those who need rescue and the very means by which they may be saved.

brokenness-is-the-gospel

We are all broken.

We are all lost.  

Our only hope is Jesus.

May we be bold enough to be honest.  

 

 

 

Lost and Found

Yesterday I had to find a lost goat.  

I had shepherded the rest into their pen, each one safely home but noticed one was missing.

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I left the rest secure and went out searching for Carmelita.

She’s old, half blind and has a hard time following the herd.  I knew she would never find her way back if left to herself.  

So I retraced the steps they usually make when foraging in the afternoons. Down by the hayshed, up by the woods behind the donkey pen.  Made sure she hadn’t followed the lane to the road (like she did one day ending up a half mile away).

I called and called and called.  

Her fellow goats bellowed loud and long, the hounds joined in and every now and then the horses and donkeys added their voices.

img_3416Nothing.

I walked to the back of the house, called again and heard a faint, plaintive answer.

She was deeper in the woods and more lost than I could have imagined. Way past where the goats go to eat and blocked by a thicket of privet and tangle of vines from getting home.

She was desperate-I could hear it in her pitiful “BAAAAA”.

Blind and lost and tired and frightened-but she knew if she headed toward my voice, she would be safe.

She trusted me.

Because I had proven faithful.

So I made my way in her direction and she made her way toward mine.

I clapped and called and encouraged until I could see her.  She stumbled along until she was right next to a fallen log that blocked her way.  We were close enough to touch, but she was forced to walk down and around before she felt my reassuring hand on her horn, guiding her the rest of the way to the security of the pen.

Immediately she was calm.  Her shepherd was with her.  No fear now.

In this life it is so very easy for me to get lost.  

It’s easy for me to get separated from the security of fellowship with other believers. My vision is limited-obscured by grief and dimmed by tears.  I can find myself deep in the woods and tangled in vines before I know it, with absolutely no idea how to make it back to open ground.

Sometimes I don’t even have the strength to cry out in hopes of being found.

shepherd 2

But Jesus calls out to me.  He doesn’t let me stay lost and afraid.  

He finds me.  

And He patiently leads me back to the fold.

No rebuke.  No chastisement.  Only love and grace.  

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep in His care.

I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand. My Father has given the flock to Me, and He is superior to all beings and things. No one is powerful enough to snatch the flock from My Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

John 10:11,28-30 VOICE

 

 

Repost: Sparrows DO Fall

I have never subscribed to the theory that the Christian life is free of pain and suffering.

But there are some who do.

Christian bookstores are filled with titles touting the path to joy and happiness, the way to wealth and material success.

Read the rest here:  Sparrows DO Fall

Deflated

Backing up my rear tire hit the edge of a little stump and the sidewall blew out with a loud “whoosh”.

No fixing that.  No way to plug it or patch it or make it work for just a little longer.

That tire was toast.

I bought a new one.

But imagine if that wasn’t an option.  Imagine if I had to take the ripped apart shreds of what was left of that tire and cobble it together to make do.  Imagine if it barely held air, had to be pumped up each morning and needed attention every mile or so just to keep going.

That would be exhausting and enough to make you wonder if traveling anywhere was worth it.

That’s how my heart feels these past days.

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven it was like my heart exploded into a thousand tiny bits.  So many fragments with no way to put them back together.

fragile

But getting a new heart isn’t an option-I’m stuck with this broken one.

And I have to keep on going.  Even when it takes every ounce of energy to hold it together, even when I can barely make two steps without feeling like it’s going to fall apart again, even when I want to give up.

So today, and maybe tomorrow too, I’m going to just sit here.

I’m going to give myself permission to acknowledge that my heart is broken, I feel deflated and defeated and pushing through is not something I have to do if I don’t feel like I can.

ok to just breathe

I’m pretty sure the feeling will pass.

I’ll gather strength and manage to glue the bits back together in a day or two, add air and travel on.

I always do.