Thursday, June 26, 2014

When can dry crust be good?

When I awoke this morning at 4:45 I couldn’t get back to sleep. The first thing my brain immediately went to thinking on was also the last thing it thought on before I fell asleep last night. I was urged to get up, reach for my Bible & pray for something I felt slipping from me....peace...It was my ‘word’ last year. I thought I had moved on better than this but perhaps I just needed a refresher.  I knew I would not be disappointed as I opened my old friend and two scriptures immediately jumped out at me! Proverbs 14:30 and 17:1
  In my NLT the first one read “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body, jealousy is like cancer in the bones” and the second from NIV, “Better a dry crust with peace & quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”
  I was excited to see what would be revealed to me next as I opened up my handy-dandy parallel Bible ! I read through the four translations studying the concepts & ‘feel’ of the different wordage. I was struck by what the Message Bible conveyed...14:30 “A sound mind makes for a robust body but runaway emotions corrodes the bones” and 17:1 A meal of bread & water in contented peace is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels.
  This flooded my brain with images...ours is a country of all-you-can-eat salad bars. But is that really to our benefit & to our best health? What do we usually do when enticed by them?  We want it all NOW then we overeat trying to fill that empty spot as quickly as we can. I don’t know about you but often times that leaves me feeling yucky inside (yes that is the technical term for the feelings that come from pigging out til you want to puke!)  I vow to never do THAT again & remind myself that in the future I should be content with a smaller meal.
  Hmmm it made me wonder... Do I often times do this in life? Do I try to grab the gusto to such an extent that I am defeating the purpose? Take for example studying God’s word. While Bible study is crucial and critical, if I devour it, gobble it to such a degree that my emotions are running amuck and out of control as the scripture says, will it make for a healthy mind and body?
  Or would it be more beneficial to eat smaller portions quietly, savor the flavor & let it digest soas not to have that yucky feeling of overwhelmedness (is that a word?) 
  I was recently reminded of the scripture in 1 Cor 14:33...I must say that it was only the first part of this scripture that I was recalling so when I looked it up to read the whole thing, I was struck by the rest of it...For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace!  Wow! 
 The Messages’ version states it this way, “When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony!”
  Do you think God is trying to tell us to just 'be still’?  “Be still, and know that I am God” Ps. 46:10....Be still and let Me handle it, seems implied, don’t you think?. You don’t have to toil; you don’t have to try so hard; you don’t have to struggle so much; be patient, just let ME handle it for you.
   I think I need to 'chew’ on this a little more. How’s about you? 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't ever lose H.O.P.E.!

My spiritual journey from the past couple years has continued even though my writing has been quiet for a few months. To be quite honest what spare time I have had has been used to speak directly to God rather than put into print. It seemed like the better choice.
  As I write this, today is Easter...My pastor asked me if I’d be willing to share a part of my testimony (you can read it here) during the service. Unlike being in a play where I relish playing a ‘part’ pretending to be someone else,  I find that sharing my heart, a piece of me, in front of people is not what I would choose to do. It is quite nerve wracking actually. But it seemed the thing to do. “It was time”, he told me. (at the time this statement gave me a questioning pause that I know he saw on my face)
  The topic of course was how God has changed my life. I used the example of being set free from the bondages of church imposed rules. Ones that you do not find in scripture yet sometimes they take precedent over God’s word.  How I found out that faith was not to be complicated by man-made rules...the Bible is clear about what is required for salvation...Accept Jesus as your Savior & repent of your sins. Period....it is man that complicates things.  What better time than Resurrection Sunday, to bury the past & be ‘raised up’? Reborn, if you will.
  I had no idea what my year of ‘HOPE with a side of Serenity’ would mean for me.  But within a short time of the word being chosen for me I was given a glimpse of it.
  I first saw it on facebook of all places....it seemed quite random, however you & I both know that God uses many different means to speak to us.  It was a simple statement....Hang On Pain Ends. ~ H.O.P.E.  Needless to say that hit me like a ton of bricks & immediately gave me the additional encouragement I so desperately needed. After more than a year in constant pain which I will admit has worn me down at times, hope was right there like a balloon string I only needed to grab on to! And like a balloon I felt just a little lighter too with this new thought to focus on....be patient it’s going to work out in time...this is temporary...the pain will end.


  Of course the pain I have hasn’t just disappeared but I did see a HUGE improvement as more people were also praying for me. In the meantime, I continued to share my hope & what was being revealed to me in my own life. I couldn’t help but to tell people about this journey I’ve been on because not only was I excited about it & just couldn’t contain it but I saw so many of their circumstances needing to be reminded of it too!
  On one of my harder weeks it came to me that somehow I needed to show on my outside that I was not going to let my insides steal my joy, peace and hope. (hmmm, I see a pattern here. Just click on each word to read about them. Scrolling to the bottom right of each post shows you that whole year)...Now rest assured I have had many conversations with God about my pain but this particular week my end of the conversations became rather heated....I became really angry. I can’t exactly say I was angry at God but rather angry at myself for not being able to figure out this whole pain thing. I did ask that He help me understand what I was supposed to learn from all of this because sometimes I can be dense & really need it spelled out for me! It also occurred to me that just like with Job in the Bible (it’s an awesome story you should check out if you’re not familiar) perhaps there was something else going on here. So I declared to Satan, my God is bigger than you & if I am to have this pain forever then so be it, but I will not lose my hope because I know He is with me & will see me through! ....Oh yes, this was out loud, actually very out loud to the point that our 4 cats went running from the room!
  That next week I went a step further and I got my nails done! Yep, I wanted to have a visual that my pain was NOT going to be my focus but my hope was!  When I look at my hands now I see my pretty hands & am reminded that in time the pain will end and they will feel as nice as they look!!!


  I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me and said “you know, every time I hear or see your yearly word of hope, I think of you which gets me to further focus on hope & I feel blessed!!”....They are blessed by my word!!! How cool is that?!    Please don’t misunderstand me here, I KNOW it has nothing to do with me but rather how God can use anyone or any thing to accomplish His purposes.
  Just as I am writing this something else occurred to me...in my testimony I gave the example that when my hands were free from carrying burdens I wasn’t meant to carry in the first place, they were then open & free to embrace my faith in a bigger way...Maybe it really WAS time like my pastor said, to say it out loud? Is it just me or do you also see the similarities?

My testimony on Easter Sunday

I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 20 years old and soon thereafter got baptized...I was filled with enthusiasm for my new faith but quickly got sidetracked. The church I was in helped to direct that enthusiasm not into developing a closer relationship with God but rather in ‘stuff’....The focus became rules of ‘do this, don’t do that..here’s a list, check it off as you go’ kind of stuff.  Alot of it wasn’t bad, per se, but over time that focus seemed to overshadow the power of what the scriptures said. And a lot of the time it even took a place of real importance ABOVE God’s word.
   I can’t stress enough what a really big deal this was..It was in every aspect of my life from what you wore to who your friends should be,  to the point that common sense didn’t even have a say in things at times. And to question anything or to express your opinion was NOT an option..... It was a very heavy mantle of rules & things to do that I was carrying. And yet, I was under this bondage but at the time I didn’t even realize it.....But God kept putting the right people in my path that got me to thinking more for myself instead of relying on someone else to tell me what I should be thinking....and there came a point when it was just like in the scriptures when the scales fell off the man’s eyes, I was able to see things as they really were. And when that happened, I read the scriptures with my new eyes & my prayers totally changed as well....they went from being of a superficial nature to “I surrender, change me Lord, I want to know YOU more, please use me in YOUR will”....and from that point on, things were no longer complicated for me in my faith. I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 11:30 that says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"...
  Not only did He free me from the bondages of 'check lists’ & rules that were imposed upon me, But through His love & grace he has also released me from the baggage of bitterness, hurt, anger and everything else from that past as well. And when my hands weren’t so full from carrying that baggage, I was free and released to do what I wanted to do all along which was to follow Jesus and His example. He never meant for it to be complicated.

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 it...joy 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."


REALLY?

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 wanted.....you 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 think...it 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’...it 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 Moore...in 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 calming....so 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.