Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 A year of Hope with a side of Serenity

  I started to wonder at the beginning of December if I even dared to hope to have another 'yearly word' for my focus. Up until that day Dec 7, it had not even crossed my mind...I certainly have learned alot about myself from the past two (Joy & Peace)  it has enriched my spiritual journey beyond measure.  I didn't want to be greedy expecting that I'd get three in a row though.  

   So I did what has become such an integral part of my life, I prayed...not a faux prayer, like you might do when you're looking for a parking space close to the front of the store, "dear Lord, help me find a close spot' but a real heart to heart with my heavenly Father & friend. I asked if He thought I should have one; if it would benefit me for staying the course, that He would reveal it to me. I have learned through the years that IF you are willing to listen for the answers, more times that not, you will hear something.
  Well, the very next day, totally out of the blue, my dear husband turns to me and says, "I think your word for next year should be Serenity."  I just stared at him a second with my mouth open until I could speak.  Mind you I had not mentioned to him my prayer the previous day for fear he'd think ...I don't know...something unflattering. lol We had not had any conversation at all about a 'word'.
     I asked him WHY he said that because honestly I have always wondered if he'd paid attention enough to know I even HAD a yearly word!  His answer?  "I don't know why, it just popped into my head. We could use a year of serenity don't ya think?".

Hmmm, Serenity you say? I know what that means but let me look it up to be sure...Wiktionary says: The state of being serene; calmness; peacefulness.  A lack of agitation or disturbance. That sounds lovely!! And for it to come up the way it did gave me pause, for sure...

It certainly does seem to be the natural progression doesn't begets peace and to actually incorporate those things into your life the results would be serenity.  I liked the idea of it and we sure could use a focus on it...but there was still time before the end of the month...So I prayed again, if it be your will then I'll know for sure...I just want to know for sure that it's from You...In the years past, there was no mistake of 'the word' because it kept popping up everywhere.  So I put it all on the back burner, not thinking on it at all actually.....until a couple days prior to the end of the month.

I kept hearing 'hope'....on the radio, in a blog, on a sign, it was everywhere..and it really stood out to me like never before!  Then on New Year's eve day my friend posts on facebook this scripture and commentary...

  "Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. (NLT) ( Lamentations 3:21-22 )
Have you stopped daring to hope? At times, our hope in our dreams and plans on this earth to do great things diminish when we don't see a sliver of success. But don't let that stop you from believing in yourself. Remember, even though we may not see God, our hope in His love and grace is always there. Keep hoping no matter what."

It really did seem like the culmination of things...cause those comments were very similar to the meaning my husband had about serenity....getting back to encouraging, uplifting peace in our lives...Looking at the positives, and eeking out time for us & the things that gave us joy instead of always working.
I told my friend, "I was just thinking of 'hope' yesterday and today!! If my daily scripture also talks about hope this morning, I will definitely feel that this is to be my word for the year! however I have also had strong feelings for serenity as well...but I think that through hope we also find serenity..."

I immediately went to my email inbox to check my daily scripture..Instead of my scripture from my devotional site I had this...are you ready?....

" Dear Kathy,
What an exceptional year 2013 has been. We have seen God take us through a shift into vic
tory, favor, and blessings. And with your prayers and support, our ministry has brought hope to people all over the world. As you invest into the ministry, know you are also investing in the lives of millions that may be unreachable without your help. Together, we can continue to share the HOPE of Christ all around the world."


The capital letters in HOPE was theirs, not mine, by the way.... 

How could I possibly question it now?  So I went to my trusty stack of blank journals (ya, we won't go there as to why I seem to collect these empty books just waiting to be filled.)...I was excited & anxious to get ready for the new year of HOPE....I eyed the stack and grabbed the one that seemed to be the right size for what I will never guess what I pulled out...

I laughed out loud at seeing this!
So here's to a year of HOPE and side of SERENITY! Yep, two words!!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Growing Pains

I was very surprised when I looked & found that I had not written since April! But I assure you that isn’t because there wasn’t anything going on. I’ve had what everyone has within a year..losses of friends & loved ones, disappointments and joys.  Little did I have any idea that my ‘peace’ lesson was really only getting started then.

At that time I was falsely under the impression that my hands would be 'fixed’ in no time at all. While in fact, here it is Dec 31, and it’s still there, albeit diminished greatly. While the naturopath helped a great deal it was still only a small portion of the puzzle. It wouldn’t be until mid-August  that I received an even bigger piece, by way of a name to what I have (thoracic outlet syndrome) which then led to a better understanding of all the causes of it. From that point I was able to work further at figuring out my particular personal irritants (stresses of life, poor computer posture) that had created some very bad habits (holding my jaw tense) which in turn had exacerbated my symptoms.  Whew!!  As it turns out theraputic massage has been the biggest proponent for me getting back to my old relatively pain-free self.   This whole process would still take months and I’m not completely finished yet.  And through the process it crossed my mind numerous times that maybe THIS is my new normal (enter a physical shudder at the thought)...however I held onto my faith...which leads to my bigger healing & progress.

During the 24/7 extreme hand pain that I’ve had; through the thoughts of ‘is this my new normal?’ I found my thinking begin to change as well. My thoughts shifted from the pain and 'woe is me’ to ‘what do you want me to learn from this God? Please tell me how this is a positive thing’.

As this mind shift started to take place, I felt a peace, a calm that it was going to be ok...I started to have the clarity I needed to figure out what I needed to do to also help myself....and then I started to get a physical relief, very subtle at first but it’s gaining momentum. The bigger lesson to it all? My relationship with God is so much nearer & dearer to my heart, because my prayer life has been taken to a whole new level! I have had to lean upon Him so.  And He has answered me.  Through this experience, I have been made aware to take the time & to have more empathy for people. Plato is quoted as saying "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  I have always tried to be a thoughtful, sincerely caring person however those words have really taken on a deeper meaning for me...If you looked at me from the outside you would have no idea of the debilitating pain I was in with every move of my hands but inside of course I was hurting & just trying to live & work through it.  That’s how everyone is, I might look to us that they have it all but inside they could be carrying a deep ‘hurt’ beit emotionally or physically.

I am greatly encouraged by all these lessons. I feel empowered & hopeful, if you will, that I am better equipped to perhaps help inspire others through their own pain, to have peace & keep the faith. The outpouring of love, support and prayers from my friends confirms to me that they can also appreciate my ‘growing pains’.  How many times they signed their emails ‘hugs’...what better way....H.U.G.S.~ Helping Us Grow Spiritually

Monday, April 29, 2013

Things revisited....

Not all that long ago the thought crossed my mind that although I had been stock piling ‘peace’ quotes in my journal, that I wasn’t feeling the purpose, if you will, for my yearly word that I felt God had led me to.  Although there have been many helpmates, one friend in particular has really supported me, supplying little tidbits for our home, filling it with mementos/signs of ‘peace’ surrounds me yet I’ve wondered if the bigger picture of things was still eluding me.
  I do believe though that looking at my life under a magnifying glass the past bit, that image is becoming more clear to me.
  Three weeks ago I began a study with our Ladies LifeGroup called “A Beautiful Mind” by Beth it were life lessons very deeply rooted in scripture...first week’s topic was dealing with fear and reminding us that we were not raised with the spirit of fear. Fear is an emotional surge of unbelief! Well, who wants to admit that to anyone? Who wants to look weak and foolish and like we don’t have it all together? No brainer there...
  Second week was overcoming insecurity because of rejection, betrayal, etc. Third week was based on 2 Timothy 1:3-7 but specifically we delved into the part of ‘a sound mind’ which involved so much more than the obvious.
  There were SOOOO many things that I could relate to in my own life. Things that I have dealt with in my spiritual walk with God. Things that I *thought had been laid to rest because I had *conquered them. Plus there were numerous things as I jotted down my notes that I wanted to share with some friends in hopes of putting some things in perspective for them & easing their burdens & pain.
  Keeping all this in mind you must know that for at least 4 months I’ve been battling a health issue that has made me stop my normal day to day activities. You see it involved my hands and a great deal of pain, rendering them nearly useless. I have to tell you that there’s not much you can do during the day without using your hands! And for those that know me, they will attest that I rarely sit down, AND, as an artist, I am always working on a project that uses my hands alot...but during this time that I have had to ‘be still’ I have used it to spend more time in my Bible studies... In my quiet time with God I have asked him to show me what I am to learn in this season of my life where I am made to ‘be still’.
  So two days ago I finally went to my naturopath to be tested for the hand issues...Prior to this the medical dr had found nothing & wrote me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that did very little & although my chiropractor helped immensely this was bigger than he could heal. Without boring you with the details of the physical part causing my pain (which can be corrected given time) what was shocking was the emotional part that showed up on my testing. All I had mentioned to him was a recurring nightmare that I have a few times a year (the same nightmare  I’ve had for the past 27 years) & how in my conscious mind it made no sense whatsoever....but my testing showed that somewhere deep inside I had unresolved issues from a traumatic experience that was also affecting my health! Yikes!
 I was immediately reminded of some things from my weekly bible study.  Beth Moore said that sometimes we can convince ourselves to just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and ‘move on’...and well meaning people will tell us ‘it’s in the past so it shouldn’t bother you now’...but we will always fail when we try to go it alone & fix things ourselves. We aren’t letting Jesus heal us.  Fears (that may even camouflage itself to look like something else) make us feel powerless and that is Satan trying to keep us down. He controls us when we are stifled by any kind of insecurity, fear etc.... We have to quit believing him and remember that we have the power to overcome! 2 Peter 1:3 says ‘we’ve been given everything we need’...
  So since having my testing I’ve been mulling over things, trying to analyze my past. I have re-read my notes from the Bible study and then I felt led to also review the notes (including everything from things printed from somewhere or jotted down from what I heard on the radio) in my Peace journal that I’ve taken since the beginning of the year. (but had not looked at in some time)
  What do you think were some of the first words that met my eye in my Peace journal? One thing in bold print was, ‘Things that effect your health’ and also FEAR!  What?! Wait! this is my PEACE journal. What is that doing in there? 
  “Fear not for I am with you;I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties and will help you. I will hold you and give you peace”  Isaiah 41:10 (this may be a big problem but my God is bigger)
  And under the title Do This For Your Health- A heart at peace gives life to the body” Proverbs 14:30

Somehow within those two things it struck me, coming full circle back to my not understanding the reason for peace as my yearly word...I have been being prepared...My heart was being prepared for an awakening & some major healing.
  For some reason it took this succession of things for it to hit me like a baseball bat...I was always viewing Peace and Fear (which also encompasses SO much more than the obvious) as two separate unrelated entities...In my pursuit of inner peace I was not seeing there was some form of fear I needed to release to receive the peace...I still needed to let the love of God heal ALL my fears of inadequacy as a wife & mother, the rejections in my life, the betrayal I have felt...I still need to have some of these things healed before I can have true Peace.. but I can tell you that I’m a lot closer to it today than I was yesterday..
  We’ve all said we have 'scars’ from this happening or that happening...but if you press on a physical scar it no longer hurts...but a wound that has never healed properly does hurt.
  Maybe this makes no sense at all but I feel lighter than I did. I still don’t have all the answers and I still have things to work through. But through everything the past few months He’s been working on my heart and preparing me to understand, learn and grow. I feel that recognizing as much as I have is a great first step and I’m so very excited to see God continue to help me grow in my relationship with Him.
  My goal is to not be afraid...not from things in the past,  present or future. He is always with me...and I have a soft place to go...”He will cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4  I will learn to walk, not in perfection, but in victory!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Another 'peace' of my life's puzzle?

I really didn't plan on this. As a matter of fact, I had just been thinking that I was kind of disappointed that I wouldn't be experiencing something similar to last year's 'journey of joy"..but how could I possibly since my word 'came to me' so clearly last year?
  These past holidays were challenging for us because we were surrounded by illness. We had to wear masks to visit my mom in the nursing home although for the most part they were asking for no visitors at all because of the flu...There were stresses on us from the staff telling us what we 'needed to do' not only for mom but for dad who was also coming down with this creeping crud. Since our family philosophies on healthcare differ than theirs we had to weigh each little decision & pray we were making the right choices. I felt ill equipped & helpless since I only know what I know & I'm not a dr. nor a psychic.
  One night after my dear hubby went to bed the house was loudly quiet. I could just feel my inner self upset and out of control (I'm sure this was due in part to being exhausted & also fighting this bug that was going around) I knew that I needed to find something I got myself some camomile tea and picked up my Bible. I needed to find something to quell my inner turmoil so that I could get some much needed rest.  I was praying for inner-peace & calm.  I looked up everything I could find regarding peace, comfort, rest....
  The next day I saw a video from author Debbie Macomber who inspired me last year through one of her books to have a word of focus, to begin with. In it she stated that although well meaning friends try to give her a good word, she waits til God gives her a word. I know from first hand experience, that it will be obvious when He gives you one. :)
  Then a short time later that day someone posted this on a facebook group I belong to..."As this year draws to a close, receive My Peace. This is still your deepest need & I, your Prince of Peace. long to pour Myself into your neediness. My abundance & your emptiness are a perfect match, I designed you to have no sufficiency of you own.  I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use. I want you to be filled with My very being, permeated through & through with Peace. Thank Me for My Peaceful presence, regardless of your feelings. Whisper My Name in loving tenderness. My Peace, which lives continually in your spirit, will gradually work its way through your entire being"~ Isaiah 9:6, 2 Cor. 4:7, John 14:26,27
   This all sounded so very similar to my prayer the night before! Someone must've been eavesdropping!!
   AND the next kicker was, it was announced that the groups word for the year was also going to be PEACE!  REALLY?  I'm sure I chuckled out loud!
  Today our ladies LifeGroup, (bible study, if you will) convened after missing a few weeks during the holidays.  I told them my little story and I believe they too were moved by it....and what was SO striking & did not go unnoticed by them, nearly every scripture that was part of the lesson (the leader had NO idea of my story prior to this) talked about having God's peace!  I was not surprised but it certainly WAS my confirmation that this was going to be My word. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My perfectly imperfect Christmas

My favorite part of the holiday season is our Christmas eve service at church. It always encompasses (of course) the true meaning of Christmas & for me gives me confirmation that I'm on the right path. This year's perspective was a 'White Christmas' which brings to mind Bing Crosby's rendition of the old Irving Berlin song. But it was so much more than just a song.  A video was played prior to the service that put it so here to see it....I assure you, it's worth the 3 minutes of your time. I know I will never feel the same again when I hear it.
  The day prior to leaving for church was not in my usual joyful anticipation for the evening. We were to get bad weather that night & I had great misgivings about my elderly father being on the road in it. (just 3 days prior he'd already had an encounter with a guard rail up close and personal on bad roads)  And we were waiting for test results regarding a potentially severe health issue with my mom..They told me I'd probably have the message waiting for me when I got home.
  With a heavy heart I went to church although I no longer really felt like going. I knew it was the best place for me and I wasn't disappointed. I only shared my worries with a select few because I knew they'd sense something was wrong. My pastor prayed with me & a true sense of calm came over me. I felt God embracing me as I tried to compose myself.
  As I write this, at this very moment, something else has hit me....I have been on a journey of JOY this year....choosing JOY (the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.) even in the moments that are the least 'joyful'. And as this year is coming to close perhaps Satan felt he needed to try one more time to make me choose something different. Maybe he thought the night of celebrating Jesus' birth would be the perfect time to bring me down and a big 'coup' for him. 
  Upon our return, there were no messages except that my dad had gotten home ok..much to my relief....but no news about my I would have another night of wondering. My poor hubby had to go straight to bed, because he still had to go to work the next day.
  Hoping for something more to ease my heart, I opened the couple little gifts from our daughter, son-in-law & granddaughters...the first was a recordable book of a Charlie Brown Christmas (one of my favs)...just hearing the girls' voices made the tears come. As I picked up the next gift I could hear little jingles that told me the content was in pieces & it shouldn't be. Inside was a little tealight holder that one granddaughter had bought because "Oma needs this! " (we have a family tradition of eating by candlelight when we're together)...seeing this in broken pieces made me cry harder.....the last gift wasn't all that big. As I looked at it closer though it was obvious that one of the little girls had wrapped it...And as I looked at it, I wondered to myself what about this has me so mesmirized? It was small, it wasn't perfectly wrapped with all the tape and the bow on top...well it was a little loose & kind of smooshed. But I thought about the little hands that had done it all with love & it was perfect. Ok, so that made me cry too! ... I couldn't even bring myself to rip the paper off. I just opened one end of it & let the peppermint foot lotion fall out. Call me a fool but it helps me to have these visual I put that wrapping in my Smash journal!
  I spent the next couple hours listening to the classic It's a Wonderful Life on tv, as I sat piecing together & gluing the 14 pieces of what was to be my tealight. 
  During that time it was further impressed upon me that there are gifts that come to us, which by the naked eye look less than perfect, or small or broken and yet when touched by a child's hand makes it the most perfect & cherished gift of all.
 Isn't that what Jesus did too?  He didn't come in a fancy or showy way but he came in love.  He's the only one that can wash away our imperfectness til we are as clean as the first snow....and he can put us back together just like a broken tealight so that our cracks hardly show. 
  As challenging as it sometimes can be, I want to choose JOY even when I'm not sure how it's wrapped. :) What about you?   

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Special Father's day

Life is a succession of seasons. Some are long and some are short.
  My latest season has been going on for a little more than a year now. Our world was turned upside down the day my mom suffered not only a heart attack but at least 3 mini-strokes. Unfortunately, our lives would never be quite the same.
  Prior to that when I’d make my daily phone calls to check on the folks it was my mom that I spoke to the most. Not that I didn’t want to talk to my dad but he always seemed to have better things to do. I guess that’s how it was alot as I was growing up too.  After he put in his long hours at work, we spoke at supper then he’d read the paper. Before you knew it was time for him to go to bed by 9 so he could get up long before dawn to do it all again.
   It was mostly me and mom that did things together. Girl things like shopping, painting bedrooms, cooking & watching the Miss USA pageants all the while talking about whatever.
  Try as I might I could rarely seem to find something my dad & I had in common. He didn’t like my music. I didn’t like his war movies and he definitely didn’t like MY movies.  Our one common bond was being at our camp where we hunted through dumps finding treasures that someone had discarded or going to fill up our empty milk jugs with the cold spring water nearby. He was my dad...the family bread winner, the disciplinarian, the head of the household & someone you didn’t want to make angry. Someone I looked to when I needed wisdom & guidance.
   Just as our life changed that day last May, my perspective and priorities have changed as well.  I have had to rely on my faith in ways I never thought possible.  And it has been stretched and strengthened in ways that I never realized was lacking. Add to that my specific & deliberate journey of ‘joy’ since the beginning of the year and wow, what a time it’s been....I still perhaps have not reached the full impact of it all but it’s true that it’s not the destination but the journey that is important.
  Which brings me back to my dad. It occurred to me the week of Father’s Day. I felt something special when I bought his card this year. I can’t explain it exactly. Although I have always loved my dad of course, there was just something different, a higher meaning, if you will as I read the words on the card.  Then it occurred to me, I have been given a wonderful gift in the midst of these trials. And I was again reminded of James 1:2 “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy”.  And as you know I have been doing my best to make joy my #1 choice in all things. (Joy, the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.)
   Maybe I was finally getting ‘it’ because it was like a light bulb being turned on. As much as it has pained me to see my mom’s health & mental capabilities declining, I have been given more time with my dad! Not just quantity but quality! It wasn’t just the status quo.
     Each morning when I call at 9 am to ‘check in’ he is eager to talk! lol  We now also have regular breakfast dates at the local diner, go to yard sales together, and we compare notes on techniques & supplies when we’re doing our individual handiworks. (even if he’s never done it before he can fix anything!!!.. broken figurines, old-time toys, weaving rocker seats etc)    He has trusted & looked to me to take care of everything from his banking to overseeing my mother’s care. Our roles in many ways have reversed. Ultimately though, he has become my friend! 
   Who knew that by ‘Choosing Joy’, I would be granted such a priceless gift!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Finding joy in the strangest places

Even though I haven’t written since February my ‘joy journey’ has continued. As a matter of fact it has been being tested with fire, refining it, if you will.
  From my own research & sometimes stubbornness I’ve been trying to seek out and hold onto the joy even in the most unlikely settings. You just have know where to look....the other day I was going through a closet and found something I hadn’t seen in awhile, a gnome figurine with JOY written on it. Nearly 20 yrs ago I had won it in a drawing. The circumstances surrounding my winning gave me great pause, even then. It was just down right eery. So much so that at the time, I even mentioned it to those with me.  Now I have to wonder if this was hint of my journey to come.
    We lost another two beloved family members in those months since not to mention some very trying times with mom as she’s battled infections that have confined her to her room.  I remember saying to a friend that as I sit here with my mom & she’s saying things that are not like my ‘old’ mom, in my head I am saying, “I will choose joy even when things are like this, there must be something I am to learn from all this, Lord and I'm trying to be open to learn whatever I'm suppose to get from this”. I cannot tell you how many times this has occurred that in my defiance against how much it sometimes hurts my heart & the assuredness of my faith, I have felt a peace come over me that helps me cope with the situation.
  Something my friend said to me days later resonates on a daily basis in my mind. Joy is a choice! It’s not a fleeting happy event that just comes to you, it is a choice. Wow! Really? Someone else has found this to be true? I am not alone?  I have heard, “pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy”....hmmm, ponder that one a minute.
  My approach to problems has usually been that we must be doing something right that Satan is doing his best to discourage us and break us...While that may very well be true it may also be that God will use these hard times to help us to stretch & grow.  And just like the growing pains you have as a child, sometimes it hurts.
  James 1:2 says, “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy”.  Seriously? When trouble comes my way, my first thoughts are usually fear & panic. Then I take a deep breath & calm myself so I can think..  But it is true that an untested faith is an unreliable faith. It’s not rocket science to know that it’s easier to have faith when everything’s going your way.
  My journey of joy has been further confirmed by something I found quite randomly while doing a search on a totally different topic. From my experience, self help books tend to talk down to my intelligence and leaving me wonder what I could have better spent my money on. But this one, well I couldn’t deny that it seemed like it was meant for me....CHOOSE JOY because Happiness Isn’t Enough by Kay Warren. As I read it she was able to put into words what I was struggling to figure out on my own. It gave me that added boost that I was on the right track. It was exactly what I was trying to accomplish.
  Her definition of joy summed it up perfectly, “JOY is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”  
   One of my favorite songs (much to the chagrin of my family) is Bobby McFarrin’s, Don’t Worry Be catchy as that little ditty is, it makes it almost seem like you should smile when bad things happen. That’s not it at all. Bad things that rip you to your core will happen in this life to make us cry & be dreadfully sad and rightfully so or we wouldn’t be human!...but it’s how we choose to pick ourselves back up that makes the difference. You never know who might be watching. Shouldn’t our faith also be reflected in how we react to these situations? 
  So why did I just come upon that little statue from so many years ago at this particular time? Maybe it was to be a reminder that I had joy all along, hidden away...I just had to look for it and then set it on the shelf for all to see...