New Year Goals Revisited: When Blank Slate Meets Full Plate

Oh, how I love a fresh new calendar!

It’s full of promise and lots of space for all the wonderful ideas I jot down when sitting in my chair fantasizing about how much time, energy and strength I’ll have in the coming weeks.

And then comes reality.

So even though THIS year I only publicly shared self care goals for 2020, I’m here to tell you-it ain’t lookin’ good.

I admit that many kind readers pointed out that twenty goals for anything (self care or not!) was a little ambitious.

They were right.

I got about a week into the new year when three commitments for February were added to the list. One is a scripture study conference which I will absolutely love and doesn’t require anything but my presence. One is a speaking engagement at a local church’s women ministry event (I’m working on the notes now) and another is a three day retreat for bereaved moms in Mississippi.

While that might not seem like much, in addition to daily writing, feeding critters, work in and outside our house plus administration of a closed Facebook group for bereaved parents, it adds up.

So some of those lofty goals are being laid aside or modified.

I promised accountability so here’s an update.

I’ve been much better at reading Scripture every day. Not as much as I had hoped, but more than I had toward the end of last year.

I’m walking every single day that the weather allows. I’m up to 1.4 miles in about 30 minutes and my hips have gone from screaming to only whispering their objections. I hope to make it to 2 miles most days at a pace of 15 minutes per mile. (We’ll see how that goes!)

I am limiting the number of times I automatically say “yes” to every request for my attention. I’ve even (gasp!)let the phone go to voicemail when it’s someone I know but it’s simply not convenient to talk right now. I call back later when it works better for me.

I’m decluttering and establishing a daily rhythm that supports some of my goals and learning to let go of others that apparently just aren’t going to happen right now.

I’m reading more.

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I’ve watched many sunsets and even caught January’s full moon!

I’m making lists of “Things to Do on Rainy Days” and “Things to Do on Sunny Days” and work from whichever is most appropriate on a given day. Slowly, slowly I’m whittling down my outdoor work. I’ll never be finished but I’ve stopped accusing myself as I walk the property and enjoy the fresh air.

I don’t know what, exactly, I expected from middle age and an empty nest, but I think I thought it might be a little less hectic than those years of raising and educating a household of kids.

It is, in many respects, less hectic. Most of the demands placed on me are not time sensitive to the minute or hour.

But there is just as much to do.

And perhaps that’s how it should be.

I’ve always said that, like Amy Carmichael, “I want to burn out, not rust out”.

I’ve got a new grandbaby who is going to be one in March!

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I might not accomplish all the goals I set for myself earlier this year but I hope to accomplish every single thing God has for me to do as long as I have breath.

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The Opposite of Faith Isn't Doubt

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.

Anne Lamott

Somewhere in the pursuit of truth and light, the Protestant reformation embraced at least one of the very practices it sought to discard.

I absolutely believe that by the time Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door the church needed reforming.

Men’s traditions and human “wisdom” had adulterated the pure truth and freedom of Christ’s Good News. No longer a source of liberation, it had been transformed by those in power into a form of bondage.

But humans are a stubborn and prideful lot and it wasn’t long before the liberators became slave drivers.

“Sola Scriptura” didn’t allow for any deviation from the accepted interpretation of those Scriptures. And the interpretation often went past the text and included making absolute assertions about how God works in the world.

Men began to once again place God in a box.

My intentions are not always yours,

        and I do not go about things as you do.

    My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,

        just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 VOICE

So much of the “faith” handed down today through Sunday School lessons and sermons is one that simply doesn’t leave room for mystery or for doubt or, honestly, for many of the actual Bible stories if you read them straight from the Book and not get them second hand from a loose retelling .

Jesus Himself-the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)-didn’t greet skeptics with absolute proof. He pointed to the work He was doing, the truth He was telling and the miracles He performed but He left it to the audience to decide if that qualified Him as the Christ.

Yet we treat those who bring questions to the table of grace at best as immature and at worst as apostates or faithless wannabes.

How far we have fallen from Paul’s declaration: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Worse, we often condemn those who want desperately to come trembling to their church to seek other people and spaces outside the community of faith where their questions will be tolerated.

I love how Philip Yancey spoke of this in a recent blog titled, “A Time To Doubt”:

Jesus had the opportunity to subdue doubts for all time. He could have appeared with a choir of angels on Pilate’s porch the Monday after his resurrection and triumphantly declared, “I’m back!” Or, he could have staged a spectacular display before thousands in the Roman Forum. Instead, he limited his appearances to small groups of people who had already demonstrated some faith in him—which tells me something about the kind of uncoerced faith that God values.

In one of those small gatherings, the apostle who would earn the nickname “doubting Thomas” confronted Jesus. I love that scene, for two reasons. First, it shows the gentle way Jesus treated a doubter, when he had a perfect chance to scold him or pile on the guilt. Listen to Jesus’ approach: “What proof do you need, Thomas? Want to touch my wounds? Shall I eat something for you?”

Second, I note the poignant fact that the other disciples, who had already encountered the risen Jesus, included Thomas in their midst. To them, Thomas was a heretic: he defiantly refused to believe in the Resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Even so, they welcomed him to join them behind closed doors. Had they not, Thomas may never have met the resurrected Jesus.

Perhaps that gives a model for how the church should handle doubters now. Can we provide a safe, welcoming place for those who need more light?

Philip Yancey, “A Time to Doubt”
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I know so, so many people who suffer greatly-often through no fault of their own and sometimes due to the fault and sin of others-who struggle to square their experience with all the declarations they’ve heard about “how God works”.

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I know others who have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” on the long list of “what good Christians do and God rewards” and are living a life of desperation and sadness because life hasn’t turned out anything like what they thought they were promised.

Is it any wonder they are trying to figure things out?

Doubt is not denial.

If someone is asking questions, they are still seeking.

John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” (quoted by Philip Yancey, A Time to Doubt)

Jesus invited honest questions.

He only chastised the religious leaders who thought they knew it all.

Perhaps we could do the same and make space for those who are walking through a desert place to refresh themselves, renew their hope and restore their faith.

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**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**

Repost: Shadows and Sunlight

The sun streams just so

and turns my head

I’ve learned not to look too long at that wall

But today

Well today I am face to face with HIS face

I didn’t mean to linger

but I did

No remedy but to let the grief wash over me

allow the tears to fall and the hurt to run its course

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/01/15/shadows-and-sunlight/

A Reason Can't Wipe Away Tears: A Modern Lament

If it’s random or providence neither are a comfort to me

Are You cruel if You planned it or weak if You allowed it to be?

Half of me is still believin’, the other half is angry and confused

Oh, but all of me is desperate and longing to be held by You

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I have lots and lots of questions.

And I don’t think ignoring them or shoving them in a chest and sitting on the lid is helpful.

But I’m far enough along in this journey to admit that if I let my heart and mind focus on the questions I’ll drown in sorrow and despair.

Because whatever reason I might come up with or answer I might get from God will never feel like it’s enough to wipe away the tears and satisfy my mama heart.

So I’m learning to live with mystery.

None of my pain has ever caught You by surprise

Still it’s hard to trust You when I’m lost in the wondering why

But I’ll trade every question just to lay down and rest in Your heart

And I’ll reach for Your hand, though You led me here into the dark

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I love this new song by Jason Gray.

“Remind Me You’re Here” is a beautiful and honest lament before the Lord.

And like all good laments, it ends with asserting the truth about our faithful Father, His everlasting love, and the promise that I am never, ever alone.

So I won’t ask You for reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me You’re here

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

February 2020 Retreat For Bereaved Moms

Retreats are not for everyone.

In fact, I’ve never been the retreat kind of gal myself.

But I’ve changed my mind about one very different type of retreat that has both encouraged my heart and led to deep and lasting friendships with other women who know the pain of child loss.

Since February, 2018 I’ve had the privilege to be part of two unique, intimate and life-giving retreats for bereaved moms.

This February (21-23) will be the third.

This time we are focusing on God’s promises to redeem our pain, to restore our hearts and to weave the broken threads of our lives into a beautiful tapestry that testifies to hope, grace and the faithful love of our faithful Father.

He binds their wounds, heals the sorrows of their hearts.

Psalm 147:2 VOICE

Hope Lee, a fellow mom-in-loss, provides the wonderful facility (a cozy but spacious camp house in the Mississippi countryside) and I facilitate interactive sessions filled with Bible study, sharing and encouragement.

There is plenty of time to just visit, lots of great food and we usually do a fun craft or other slightly zany activity.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other moms whose experience may help you in your journey.  It will definitely be a safe space to let your hair down and take your mask off. 

I have left each weekend with renewed energy, hope and courage for this often tiresome and lonely road.

Depending where you are in this journey the thought of a weekend away with other bereaved moms may be either terrifying or exciting.

But may I encourage you-whether terrified or excited-to listen to the Spirit?  If He is pushing you to step out in faith, do it.

I promise you won’t regret it!  

Spaces are limited so call or text Hope at 662-574-8445 today and reserve your spot.

"Is God Punishing Me?"

I’ve heard it from more than one bereaved parent.  

I’ve thought it myself.  

“Is God punishing me?”  

Have I done something so terrible that it falls outside the grace and mercy of the God Who sent His Son and so I must pay for it with my own child?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/

Do You Wonder If Will It Ever Get Better?

I know that when I first stumbled onto a bereaved parent group, it was one of the things I was looking for: evidence that the overwhelming pain of child loss would not last forever.  

Some days I was encouraged as those who had traveled farther down this path posted comments affirming that they could feel something other than sorrow.

Some days I was devastated to read comments from parents who buried a child decades ago asserting that “it never gets better”.

Who is right?  

What’s the difference?

Do I have any control over whether or not this burden gets lighter?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/12/will-it-ever-get-better/