How did I get here?

Ever thought, felt or said that?  Well that has been the cry of my heart the past week.

I was caught unawares by situations and questions without answers.  I felt totally inadequate to respond.  My heart has felt so torn with the pain that I’ve witnessed and experienced. The specifics don’t matter for your tribulation will look different from mine. What matters is the truth the Holy Spirit revealed to me this morning “there is nothing holding you back”.  I was like a kid on Christmas morning as that truth sank in, literally giddy after feeling overwhelmed.

Since my last post life has felt like rapid-fire quicksand.  Not two words you usually use together?   Think of a fist of quicksand that first hits you then sucks you down with the hit.  

Sandman Punch

Sand Man from Spider Man 3 (2007)

One thing after another until it seemed I must be slipping away from God because what I was seeing and experiencing was so opposite to who He is.  I felt overwhelmed. I needed direction and knew it required change on my part but had no clue what that change looked like.  That was a torment in and of itself.  

I’m one who tends to withdraw and do my best to draw closer to God at times like these rather than reach out for help.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is possible to miss the very help you are seeking.  Multiple people were able to see my pain, even though I wasn’t asking for help.  They did not let me push them away with whatever version of “I’m OK” I was fronting to them.

As I reflect, I count 7 people that created space for me to just be overwhelmed without judging me.  Imagine that …. 7 people … God’s perfect number.

First they listened as I poured out my heart. When they responded basically they all told me the same thing even though they do not know one another.  Hmmm … might this be my Heavenly Father speaking?

So like Moses I made the choice to turn aside and look at this phenomenon.  It’s amazing what you find when you take the time to look for and to listen to the specific facet of God that each person holds.  By choosing to turn my focus, I found wisdom, strength and love right there in front of me “in the midst” of being overwhelmed.

Yet, the heaviness persisted.  Enter Jesus armed with truth.

As I worshipped Jesus and my Heavenly Father with dance and song this morning I heard the words “There is nothing holding you back.  It’s a ruse.  I’m no farther away from you than I have ever been or ever am.”  In that moment I experienced the truth of John 1:5 “A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottomsIt cannot and will not be quenched.No wonder I felt as giddy as a child on Christmas morning.  Joy and laughter bubbled up from within me.  

What had changed? Me.  Where I had been captive to the enemies lies that somehow my circumstances were putting distance between my Heavenly Father and me, I’d been set free. Truth does that regardless of circumstances created by our choices or the choices of others.

You’ve probably noticed that each of us has free will. :)  Because of that fact I have changed my thinking from God is in control to God is in charge.  He does not control our thoughts and choices e.g., Adam & Eve.  Our choices impact us and everyone around us. The ripple continues as we are impacted by the choices of others. Sometimes it’s hard to watch or experience other people’s choices.  Jesus demonstrated He understood how difficult that is when he spoke with the rich young ruler.  Jesus offered him eternal life but the young ruler chose riches.  Jesus did not interfere with his free will.  Tell me that didn’t hurt!  (Mark 10:17-27).

The good news is the hand of the One in charge is not shortened that it cannot save (Isaiah 59:1); nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17) and because He is the only One that makes the impossible, possible (Mark 10:27)  He can take what the enemy has purposed for evil and turn it to His good purpose (Genesis 50:20).

How am I so sure?  Our Heavenly Father solved the problems of sin, death and eternal separation from God created by Eve’s choice with Jesus.  I think He can solve whatever other problem we may encounter.

Whenever or wherever in your life you ask yourself the question of “How did I get here?”  I offer you 2 things.

  • The truth that there is nothing that can hold you back from God’s love for you.  Any distance you feel is a ruse. ( Romans 8:38-39 )
  • The wisdom my sweet husband offered to me.  He is a wise man. Let go but don’t give up.  The two are opposite ends of the spectrum of hope.  Letting go put’s the matter in God’s hands; giving up declares the situation is bigger than God.

Use your free will to choose wisely.

In the midst

That’s the best way I can describe the past 2 weeks.  I have been “in the midst” of loss, migraine pain and many demands/deadlines at work.

How non-coincidental that my dream last night consisted of being in the midst of dust-bowl-type farm land with at first small mini-tornado dust clouds popping up around me. Increasingly they came closer until I was in the midst of a tornado-type dust storm.  Did I seek cover or refuge in the dream?  No.  I just kept trying to drive through until I felt suffocated by the dust getting into the car and blinded by what was swirling around me.

Hmmmm …. might that be a picture of how my heart is feeling after a co-worker whom I greatly respected, admired and enjoyed died suddenly last week?  Tuesday he was at work with us, Wednesday he was not.  Add to that emotional pain, the physical pain of more days with migraine than without recently; and, multiple major deadlines at work that didn’t allow time for either of the first two things to be transpiring in my life.

To be transparent with you, I need to confess that I turned to my organization skills to try to put some distance between me and the pain, i.e., the storm around me.  Organize, check it off the list, and repeat. That allowed me “to do” my life rather than having “to live” in the midst .  It wasn’t a conscious choice, but nevertheless it was a choice.  But just as in the dream, the storm was catching up to me and I was feeling suffocated.

While at my acupuncturist Friday he made the comment “you are bumping up against the edge of your capacity.  You need to find a way to rest.”   Let’s just say I did not receive that advice very well.  It did not match up with organize, organize, organize to keep everything in its place and manageable.

That’s was my mindset while walking Saturday morning.   My conversation with Jesus went like this:

“Jesus, I feel like it’s the end of the 4th quarter, 4th down
and the goal line seems a long ways away – what do I do?
I heard you say “rest”.
It actually made me angry.
I actually guffawed at it – like Sara did about having a son so late in life.
Hmmmm … why did I respond like that?   What does rest mean to me?
How do I be me and rest, because to me rest is you just stop;
just take up space; you add no value when you are resting.
OR – maybe it’s more like
I have no value when I am resting because I just take up space.
I think my problem might be my definition of rest. :)
I need to look up the word rest in the original Greek.
Before I could do that, I heard Jesus say,
“let me create the space in you for rest”.
 

 Jesus, if You want to create space in me for rest, that tells me You intended rest to be part of who I am, rather than rest being what I do or don’t do. How do I be restful, so that I am at rest?  It’s got to be in there somewhere in Matthew 11:28.  “I will cause you to rest, I will ease, relieve and refresh your souls.”  Yes Jesus!  Create that space in me to ease, relieve and refresh my soul.  That definitely has value!!

Look what I found in studying the Greek for Matthew 11:28.

The answer is – “REST” is not a noun, it’s a verb in the Greek in this verse.  It is the actions Jesus (in the first person “I”) will take in me (first person) when I come unto (“come to the advantage of being near” is the literal translation) Him.  The actions contained in this Greek verb “rest” that Jesus will take are:

  • to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength
  • to give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest
  • to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation

By Jesus taking these actions, it creates space  within me in the midst of being in the presence of my enemies to sit at the table He provides for me that includes His presence, provision, protection and guidance (Psalm 23) upon which to feast.  It is God’s way not man’s way of thinking to rest and take advantage of being near Him in the midst of loss, trials and demanding circumstances rather than employing our own resources of fight or flight.  I am able to take rest for myself.  It is my choice to operate from a place of strife or rest.  How is that possible?  Because Jesus also takes the action to provide/create quiet in my soul of calm and patient expectation … also commonly referred to and known as “hope”.  I don’t  think I have ever realized before, that in order to be able to rest, I/we must have hope.  

It is out of this space within us, filled with His presence, provision, protection, guidance and hope we are to act and live rather than from the familiar place we so often inhabit of being weary and heavy ladened when we are “in the midst”.  Operating from the latter only depletes us more.

How blessed are we that we are of such great value to Jesus these are His intentions for us and that He acts in this way towards us.  

So my prayer for you is may Jesus bring revelation to you of whatsoever you have turned to other than Him to help you “do” life rather than “live” life in the midst.  May you make the choice to turn from the whatsoever and come take advantage of being near to Him so that He may create the space for rest in your life!

Wishing you this much space and MORE for rest

Wishing you space for rest in your life “in the midst”.

How big is God’s strength?

Question for you – how big is God’s strength?

What’s the first word, image, sound or feeling of which you became aware when I asked you that question?

For me it was the horizon.

Second question.  When you ask God for strength, how do you receive it?  Do you try to carry it or do you lean into it?

I discovered this morning I’ve been trying to carry it, and it’s not working for me.  Why?  Because of the answer to question 1.

This morning I went forward for prayer at church as our pastor said anyone that is struggling with health issues come forward.  Struggling is a very good word to describe the last month for me.

I had my eyes closed, my hands open to receive and someone touches my hand and starts to pray for me.  I felt this infusion of something very powerful but at the same time I felt my knees buckle, like this is too big for me.  For a minute or two I tried to stand there, but I knew to fully receive what my Heavenly Father was doing I just had to totally let go and do exactly that … receive.

I stepped over to a wall just a few feet in front of me, slid down it and sat there leaning up against it.  It was so cool, so strong, immovable …  hmmmmmm … just like Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit – my rock.  I just had to lean in more, the strength of it felt sooooo good. The more I leaned, the more I relaxed, the more I received.

Revelation.  This is it.  This is Psalm 29:11 come to life for me.

The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to His people;
the Lord will bless His people with peace.

I have been meditating on this verse ever since Holy Spirit highlighted it to me almost two month’s ago in my post “Manufacturer’s Instructions”.   This is part 2 of my new paradigm about strength.  My perspective of God’s strength has been something additional I had to pile on to all I was already carrying and then be able to wield it skillfully, so there was no way it could be refreshing or empowering – rather just the opposite.   That’s why my knees buckled this morning, my body reacted before I could “brace myself”.  Jehovah “sneaky” caught me unawares to set me free to receive the gift of totally leaning into His strength.

Now I know why I was so drawn to these cliffs during our trip to California last year … as big as they are, the strength God has for me to lean on is bigger.

Psalm 62 8.001

He has more than enough strength for every one of us.  Care to lean in with me?

My Enemy or My Child

My enemy …

Eowyn from "Return of the King"

Eowyn from “Return of the King” and how I saw my needs

or my child …

Me on my 2nd birthday

Me on my 2nd birthday

That was the proposition put to me recently by my acupuncturist.

A trip to the dentist had triggered a week’s worth of Fibromyalgia Migraines.  As I lay on his table, the conversation went like this:

Me:  I feel like I have been fighting this battle for 20 years and I want to quit.

Acupuncturist:  Quit as in let go or quit as in give-up completely?

Me: Silence.  Too embarassed to say out loud that the latter was my choice.  After all, I am the one who writes about unconditional hope.  Just being transparent here.

Acupuncturist:  What if you were to embrace each ache and pain as a child that needs to be nurtured, rather than your enemy to be fought?

Me: That seems too horrible to me to think about embracing chronic pain, fatigue and weakness.

Acupuncturist:  How would you respond to a child that was in pain?  Would you fight it or embrace it?

Me:  Well … I would embrace it.

Acupuncturist:  I just keep seeing your all your aches, pains and needs as a child that needs nurture.

I left his office completely bamboozled.  But my Heavenly Father has used him so many times to speak into my life, I knew to immediately ask my Heavenly Father – what do I need to see/know about all this?

Revelation came as I opened Biblegateway 3 days later.  The daily verse was:

But those who wait for the Lord
[who expect, look for, and hope in Him]
shall change and renew their strength and power;
they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God]
as eagles [mount up to the sun];
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint or become tired.
Isaiah 40:31 AMP

The verses immediately before talk about all the frailties of mankind contrasted to our Heavenly Father – the One who never wearies or grows faint.  This verse does not tell me I have failed because I am weary or faint; rather it tells me my Heavenly Father has already made provision for me out of His love for me.  My example is to love myself “as is” because of God’s love for me “as is”.  

It was like an alarm went off  …. oh my, is this nurture?  Caring for the crying child rather than fighting or chastising it?   This verse says nothing about pushing yourself harder and condemning yourself for weaknesses (the verse before speaks even of “the young men” experiencing such things), but rather to hope and open ourselves (lift up our wings) to receive and be lifted up by our Heavenly Father’s strength.  YES YES YES!  This is why and how I can embrace my every need and find/receive “nurture and comfort” for it. 

I made the choice to come out of agreement with the lie that I have to “battle myself” and came into agreement with the truth that my needs do not disappoint my Heavenly Father, but rather He has already made way for my needs/weaknesses to be a way for me to receive more of Him.  Just like Joseph declared “God has taken what the enemy purposed for evil and turned it to His good purpose!”  (Genesis 50:20).  Hallelujah!!

Are your wheels spinning?  Well, my certainly were so just to be sure I “got the message” below is the verse waiting for me when I opened BibleGateway today to reiterate why I should and how I can nourish myself.    Jesus’ example to me was “do as the Father is doing” (John 5:19).  What’s the Father doing?

The Eternal One will never leave you;
    He will lead you in the way that you should go.
When you feel dried up and worthless,
    God will nourish you and give you strength.
And you will grow like a garden lovingly tended;
    you will be like a spring whose water never runs out.
Isaiah 58:11 (The Voice)

 I definitely have some nurturing to do.  How about you?

 

Wrong thing … right reasons

I’m pretty sure you have heard the expression “doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons”.  Well I’ve recently discovered the flip-side of this in my life “doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons”.

Happy.  Seems like a nice word, but it has shaken my world to it’s core recently.

Maybe I’m just slow to catch on, but I have been driven to “make people happy” for as long as I can remember.  Not just the people close to me, but whomever I encounter.

What I’ve discovered is it’s a trap.  Yup, a trap.  Because somewhere along the line, this lovely ideal of wanting to make the people around you happy becomes a responsibility that I/we were never meant to carry.  Just like happiness is a personal choice (glass half-full, glass half-empty) it is also a choice for those we are trying “to make happy”.  It’s their choice, not ours.  It gets into this twisted circle of “if you would just be happy, then I could be happy – but if you’re not happy, I’ve failed”.   Ugly trap indeed.  Do you think that belief might weigh a person down and get heavier and heavier as time passes?  Three guesses and the first two don’t count :) .

What has amazed me most as I have dissected my beliefs recently about this quandary is the most generous thing I can do for those around me is take the time to figure out and then participate in what makes ME happy. Why?  Because happiness is contagious.  Being happy is so much more powerful than trying to make others happy.  Duh!  I’ve been so busy trying to make others happy – I’ve lost sight of what makes me happy.

There are multiple ingredients that have come together in my life to “cook up” this mess, but I can see where a large portion is because I live with the chronic illness, Fibromyalgia.  I so don’t want to be a burden to those around me.  My measuring stick has been if they are unhappy, it’s somehow my fault.  What I mean by that is in some way I’m not managing my life well enough to not impact them [family, friends, co-workers] in a negative way.  I’m just being transparent here, I’m not saying I’ve come to wise conclusions.  But if you are recognizing yourself in any of this, THERE IS HOPE.

I searched the word happy in my bible and found Psalm 32:1 in the amplified version:

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied)
is he who has forgiveness of his transgression continually exercised upon him,
whose sin is covered.”

Why, that would be me!  All the mistakes I’ve made doing the wrong thing (trying to MAKE others happy) for the right reasons (because I want their lives to be better).  I’m covered.  I’m forgiven.  I get a fresh start.  So do you.  Our Heavenly Father has the biggest “reset” button around!

What makes you happy?  Do you know?  If you don’t, take the time to find out and be happy!  Be happy for your own sake … it’s one of the most generous things you can do for all the lives around you!

I hope the happiness I experienced visiting Pigeon Point, CA last year is contagious and you catch it as you watch …

The Mortar of What-Ifs

Life Is Change.001

It takes courage to walk into your freedom.

Courage does not depend on who we are.  Joshua tells us to be strong and of good courage.  How?  Because what God has done before to protect and provide for you He will do again (Joshua 10:25).  Courage finds its source, its strength and its power in God being who He says He is … Merciful, Gracious, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Loving Kindness and Truth (Exodus 34:6) and how He, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is present with us every moment of every day as our Comforter Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby (John 14:16)

My question to you is how much do you want to be free from whatever it is in your life that is hindering you?

Your experience, your current circumstances and the unknown tell you that either nothing can/will change or you could be destroyed.  How do they tell you that … by two simple words “what if”.

I’ve posted previously on grieving over what-ifs, but a recent dream brought revelation of the trap caused by the illusion of safety from the walls of what-ifs we erect around ourselves block by block mortared together by fear.

In my dream there was 4 women in a room.  I was one of the women; the second woman was a dear friend of mine however she was in a wheel-chair as her legs did not work but her upper body and arms were very strong. I did not really notice the 2 other women.  We were away on a trip somewhere but we just kept staying in this one room that was pretty sparsely finished.  The hosts seemed very nice.  I remember checking the locks on the doors as we were talking about going out.  When I looked at the locks they were very simple door handles that could easily be opened by sticking in a paperclip. From the scratches I could tell many people had done exactly that.  As I was trying to push the button on the lock one of the owners (a woman) showed up at the door trying to get in.  We laughed.  I told the owner we needed something like TP and we were going to leave to get it.  She said not to worry she would take care of it.  It felt like OK, now we are stuck here again with nowhere to go.  Scene changes and I say/ask “what about going swimming”? My friend in the wheel chair lights up.  The other women are quiet.  Scene changes and I see my friend lifting herself by her arms out of the wheel chair to support herself against the car to pack for the pool.  My alarm goes off and I wake up.

Over several days I have had continued revelation about this dream and I think the easiest way to share it with you is bullet points to translate the imagery:

  • The 4 women are all different parts of me.
  • Me in the dream is my consciousness, my intellect.
  • My dear friend who in real life is a very loving, giving, strong woman – represents my heart handicapped by past trauma
  • The 2 women I hardly noticed are:
    1.  my will which cannot make a choice and be heard because it is paralyzed by
    “what ifs” mortared with fear of living out a new paradigm I’m experiencing
    2.  some part of me that I have not yet even given a voice.  A part yet to be
    discovered that is as yet silent because of “what if”
  • The walls of the room are all the “what ifs” that keep the four of us in that sparsely furnished place rather than out enjoying all that is available to us on our trip/journey.
  • Going swimming is diving deeper with my heart and my intellect into the new paradigm I’m experiencing, but my will is silent in the dream, not sure about this choice because of being trapped by “what ifs” which keeps me stuck where I am
  • The owner is the Holy Spirit who is trying to get in to meet our every need!

The only thing I knew to do with all this revelation is pray “Jesus help me”.  Small prayer.  Big answer!

What I saw immediately was all the walls blow out and there was so much light everywhere.  It was like Jesus was there  but I couldn’t see Jesus because all I could see was light.  Hmmmm …. I guess I was seeing Him though since he is called the Light of the World (John 1:4).   What I could hear was “Just one step at a time; one step. One step at a time”.  I could see myself take this tiny little step.  I look up at Jesus like a kid would do and ask “Is this OK”?   I feel Jesus nod, feel His assurance and the warmth of His love.  So I bring the other foot up to meet the first.  Then I hear again, “one step at a time”.

But one step at time from where to where?  Any guesses?  

Here’s the revelation:  the locks in the dream – I thought they could keep me safe.  I thought I was safe staying in that sparse place behind those walls and with those locks but I wasn’t safe at all.  It was an illusion.  Anyone could get in and out.  I could see the evidence on the locks themselves.  That has been my experience in life as well, that all my what-if-ing over the years that has stemmed from fear has not been able to keep me safe.  If anything it has caused me more anguish.  The anguish of grieving before something even happens that I wrote about previously, plus what-ifs mortared together with fear are as useless as the locks in the dream to protect me me in any way, shape or form.  All they do is trap me, isolate me, paralyze me and steal yet to be discovered opportunities on my journey.

Like I said … small prayer …. big answer.

Remembering the many expressions of my Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and provision to me and combining that with drawing on the courage the Holy Spirit provides I’m taking one baby step at a time into freedom.  Freedom that is built on what-ifs mortared with the light of hope rather than fear (Ephesians 1:18).   I am curious and excited about what I will discover.  Care to join me?

Penny Chenery Run at Life.001