Thursday, January 1, 2015

Do you BELIEVE it?

Before I was even beginning to think about getting a new yearly word for 2015, the word BELIEVE started to stick out to me for some reason. For a few months in advance, even if the actual word wasn’t used the feeling I got inside or that little voice in my head whispered, ‘just believe’. An example of that was while reading the simple parable of the lilies of the field & how they are made to bend in the wind rather than breaking. I got to thinking how they are also anchored securely in the ground and I thought to myself, I too need to remind myself where I am rooted!! (Matt. 6:25-34) It’s not just having head knowledge but having heart knowledge of where my strength comes!

 Ok, so I digress.... 'Believe what?', you may ask. You already know I am a person of faith & if you know me even better you are aware that for the past 3 years I have been on a different, special kind of spiritual journey. Keeping focus. It started with joy, then peace, then hope. And each year I think that nothing can top the year before. Not to mention, I never know when this exercise will have run its course. So I must say I was rather relieved when it seemed I would be given another this year. It’s like unwrapping a present over and over again all the while having the same 'ahhhhhhh’ moment when doing so.
  For the person that has ever questioned whether God can speak to you, you might wonder what in the world does this look like? Are you hearing thundering voices? haha  Probably not..
  In my experience this is how it goes...and I felt inclined to journal it because well, it was just so cool! These are merely the highlights. There were many, many other times BELIEVE has crossed my path over the past few months. (I'd also like to add that if I go 'trying' & 'looking' I never come across anything! It is always when I least expect it!!)

  Dec.2 ~I prayed that if this was something God wanted for me again to help me grow then to be please be clear about it.  I had this inkling about BELIEVE but with the upcoming holiday season I wanted it to be clear that it was from Him and not just my own impatience.  I also was concerned that in my own 'wanting something to happen’ I might think this was it because I was seeing it so much in relation to Christmas and Santa.  Well, the very next day through one of my daily devotions I got this post having ALL my yearly words in it AND 'believing’.  As I read it I gasped & covered my mouth in astonishment..I have no recollection of ever hearing this quite like this before.   

Not only that but right after I’d sent it to show my friend, as we chatted I scrolled down facebook to see a random ad about making a special kind of bread with the word BELIEVE capitalized in the description so big that it could not be overlooked!!!

My friend told me that if I saw a billboard with BELIEVE on it, I would definitely know for sure! lol I told her I hoped I wasn’t driving at the time or I might run off the road!!!  The next day, there were no billboards (although I was on the lookout for them!) but as I walked through the movie isle in the store what caught my eye but one called BELIEVE!!

 Dec 5~Walked into the one of the rooms at the medical center today with my mom and what is straight in front me...a big sign with a snowman and only one word....BELIEVE!

Dec 12~ I walked into J.C. Penney today and what greets me just inside the door but a display of bath towels that have Believe on them!!! Bath towels? Really?  Not holiday-ish either!!  I just stood there and stared at them. lol Then later at JoAnns was a plain BELIEVE sign that also was not holiday-ish.

After a couple years of talking myself out of it, I felt compelled to finally buy the Eat-N-Park mug with their Christmas tree commercial depicted on it...but as I was looking at it I just kept thinking how sometimes things are hard & we might struggle but if we hang in there our light (and ultimately God’s light) would shine in us...we just had to believe in what we know.

Dec 13~ I was awakened quite early and couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to just get up. I love doing my bible reading while it's still dark and so quiet. AND when I picked up my Bible and opened it there was one of my HOPE bookmarks on that page! The thing is for some reason I turned it over and you know what it said on the other side of that bookmark? .....BELIEVE! I just sat here and looked at it and chuckled...I had never really noticed it before.

Dec 19~ Got a catalog in the mail with CLEARANCE ITEMS boldly printed on the front. That in itself got my attention because I’m a bargain shopper....when there was a little birdie figurine sitting on a rock saying Believe I thought it was neat. But then as my eyes moved a bit I was really taken aback when I saw this necklace....

Who puts these 2 words together? Last year’s word HOPE along with BELIEVE....hmmmmm

As I turned the page this also stuck out like a sore thumb!!! How can you miss that blue book on a page of browns?

Dec. 20~  This article came across my desk....pretty self explanatory I think.  It's called If 2014 Tried You or Tested You, Do this (you can click on it to read it)....It was not only the story but the words used...I don't usually even read many articles online but for some reason I did this one.

Dec 22~ I stopped at the local flower shop to pick up a balloon for a friend. There it was in the middle of the room on a display sitting on an easel:  BELIEVE: Live like you mean it!  YES! That’s it! That's what I've been feeling!! 

On swagbucks, my search engine, they give you a code to type in for extra points..Usually it's something like Switch to Progressive Insurance but this day it was BELIEVE in yourself!!!! NEVER HAD ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE!!

 Dec 30~ I didn’t quite realize the extent of what all I’d seen & read in the Dec. 20th reading until today when I realized upon seeing this picture that there is a website called I BELIEVE (look in the corner of the picture!)  

Ok, I will be the first to admit what this all might sound like to someone else...Call it crazy, delusional, a little 'off' maybe even strange. LOL  I'm sure I've been called much worse. And IF it is just my overactive, childlike imagination I am no worse off than I was before. In fact, I feel like I'm better for it. My approach to the day & the stresses of life have so improved.  What IF, maybe, just maybe God IS talking to me?  I choose to BELIEVE He is.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year long facebook experiment

I’ve waited with anticipation for opening my little bowed jar. I was writing down anything good that happened through the year as per a recommendation on a facebook post. Not only the obvious ones like surprise gifts, compliments or accomplished goals, but ones not so obvious like the beauty of nature, LOL moments, things that give you warm fuzzy or perhaps a moment that makes you go, 'awwwww’.
   I haven’t allowed myself to peek in or to count how many paper slips I had in there because I wanted it to be a surprise for me as I waited for the New Year’s ball to drop.
  Then it was time. I read each one remembering & reliving each moment which also spurred me to recall ones that I hadn’t written down. They brought a smile to my face for a second time which was pretty cool. 
  While there were little surprise gifts, encouragements & compliments sprinkled throughout the paper snippets I was kind of surprised that there was an equal number of what might be considered the ‘lesser’ things.
  It made me chuckle when I felt inclined to write that Zoey, the big white dog, made it through another vet visit without having to be muzzled (she'd been so scared once they had to) or that I was able to lift a 40 lb bag of dog food (something my hand issues have prevented me from doing for over a year). Getting to make a fairy garden. Valentines hidden throughout the house. A thinking of you card. Seeing fireworks. Getting a new word of focus for 2015.
  There were talks & visits with friends, getting to go to a city wide yard sale also with a friend, traveling to be with our daughter & grandgirls, lunches with my mother-in-law & breakfast dates with my dad, getting to spend a lot of extra time with a brother. Noticing my husband smiling more.
   All in all there were 57 total! So I had a reason to smile at least once a week for an entire year! And something else that occurred to me was that when you make the conscience effort to ‘keep track’ you are more mindful & appreciative of those moments too...I also realized that, for the most part, everything I wrote included someone wasn’t the actual stuff that gave me those wonderful moments, it was the people and all the 'stuff’ that money can’t buy!!
   While doing this little facebook experiment probably is not as exciting as opening Al Capone’s vault, it was a lot more productive!! haha
  What a blessing!! That might just be on my first paper nubbin for 2015!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A colony of poisonous spiders?

So I have to wonder if I'm the only one that has had things in their past that effects you in the here & now all these many years later? Ya, I didn't think so. 

It's been part of your life for so long that in some ways, although the memories are very painful at least they are yours and they're familiar? It's a crazy feeling to have. Who would willingly hold onto a colony of poisonous spiders, bare-handed? It serves no purpose but to hurt you!! Yet that is what we often do. Those things have helped mold 'who you are' yet they will in the long run also be holding you back.

The scriptures tell us to 'take every thought captive to obey Christ" 2 Cor. 10:5  I am reminded of a saying that goes something like, "emotions are like waves, we just have to decide which ones to surf." Hmmm.

Revisiting the past, or more pointedly, letting IT be a large part of your present (which can manifest in our emotions), is a choice we have. 

Past hurts & abuse from decades ago can ever so subtly eat away at your insides. So slyly that you don't even realize it's happening much less have a choice in the matter. For myself the mere mention of a person's name can put that knot in my stomach & a tightness in my chest. For 35 years I have had the same nightmare that has left me gasping for air & crying that ugly cry.

But it doesn't even have to be something as drastic as all that...there have been times that the anxiety & stresses of life have given me those same kind of feelings. The feelings that any minute now the bottom may fall out of my life & in those times, I try to do my best to prepare mentally for it.  But upon closer inspection, that doesn't really help me and quite honestly it just steals my joy and keeps me from living & appreciating the present!!

In Matthew 6:25-34 it tells us about God caring for the lilies of the field. He takes care of their every need even though they do nothing & their lives are short....they don't even 'labor & spin.' Some translations say 'to toil' which means to weary oneself.  It all kind of reminds me of watching a dog chase it's tail. Putting out a lot of energy but never catching it. When he gets exhausted, he quits no better off than when he started.

Is this what we do? Chasing our tails? Riding on our sit-n-spins, going nowhere? Trying to figure it all out on our own?  Do we forget that God loves us so much more than all of those disposable lilies of the field? He has counted every hair on our heads, you know. (Matt. 10:30) Not only do we not have to do things alone we can give it all over to the one that knows what's best to begin with!!

What's the underlying truth, the bottom line if you will, when it comes to the negative feelings we let over take us?  Trust. Trust is the obvious indication that we truly believe God and his promises...I didn't realize when I would let my anxious thoughts overtake & overwhelm me that ultimately I was saying, God I don't trust you to see me through whatever this day brings. I find it very offensive that that kind of thinking, lumped me into a group of unbelievers that is described in Matt.6:32.

 I have this scripture taped above my kitchen sink so I can remind myself of it daily...Philippians 4:5-9 Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understand, will GUARD your hearts & minds...think about these things. What you have learned & received and heard and seen in me-practice these things and the God of peace will be with you. (see, God knows me so well, that he says 'practice' because he knows I still won't always get it right. He will give me the do-over I need!)

So what does this all mean in my year of H.O.P.E.(Hang On Pain Ends) with a side of Serenity?  I have realized that just like with the lilies of the field, when the winds of hurt, pain. anxiety or stress come blowing through, He has made me to bend not break. I have also learned that my roots go deep to keep me anchored securely. And I know in whom I am rooted!!

It doesn't matter that I will never know if the one responsible for so much pain ever felt regret or maybe even wanted to say sorry but ran out of time.  And in my world (and I would venture to guess yours too) there is bound to be things that will try sneak in to cause me anxiety. My circumstances haven't changed but God has changed me in how I will handle it. I will take my thoughts captive!

 So for the first time in 35 years instead of a nightmare it's been replaced by good dreams as if in confirmation that I finally got it right!..And in the midst of total chaos and family dramas we also found 'a side of serenity' that was in front of us all the time. We just had to surrender it to God & acknowledge the freedom we received from doing so.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Fast forward a couple months

     My word for the year is ‘hope’ and lest we forget, ‘with a side of serenity’.   I should not be, however I am always a little surprised in some ways how God has been able to stretch & grow me into someone better than I was before through the words He’s chosen for me. (oh yes, if this is the first you are hearing about God choosing a word for me this was my 3rd year & I am already equipped with next years which will be revealed soon!)
    Early on in the year hope became something bigger than I even imagined.  It took on a whole new meaning.It was no longer the dictionary version meaning to desire with expectation of fulfilment or to wish but a motto of sorts for my year. HOPE=Hang On Pain Ends.
    This is my second full year of excruciating, debilitating pain in my thumbs/hands so even the thought of this was encouraging! I have had a renewed positive outlook on the whole deal even though without having a crystal ball I still didn’t know what that might mean for me.
    The same week I got my nails done the end of April in an attempt to take those positive thoughts by the proverbial horns, a sequence of events also led me to have an epiphany.  Even though I had consulted with our chiropractor, a theraputic massage therapist & our naturopath they were all out of ideas & approaches.  And the one time I went to the medical dr, he gave me no help besides the condescending & ignorant comment of ‘you are of an age when these things happen’...That made it sound like I was destined to accept this as the status quo and that was unacceptable to me! Deep down I just knew better!
   Longer story just a little shorter, it does seem likely that it was because of the night guard that had been prescribed to me that was causing my issues!!  I had been faithfully wearing it for nearly 2 months prior (Oct 2012) to the hand problems starting and every month thereafter! (til April 2014) And it wasn’t the guard being the culprit exactly but rather the wonky way I was unconsciously holding my jaw when I wore it!! 
    As of this day of writing I am still not totally pain free (it’s taking time to reverse the damage done over the course of 18 months) but for some reason I remain hopeful that with still another week left in this year, maybe I’ll get to start fresh!!!
  You know what’s really something? My “Hang on Pain Ends” motto carried with it more than in referance to my obvious physical pain...Little did I know I had yet to see what else God had in store for me.....healings that I’d never dreamed were possible! stay tuned!! That’ll be coming up very soon!!!!

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. 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 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 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 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’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.