Saturday, February 6, 2016

The instruction book said what?

 They say it takes a month to start a new habit or to break an old one. So for a month as soon as I woke in the morning rather than going to my default activity, (getting on the computer~specifically facebook) I went to our sun room for some quiet God time. What better time for me to be still & ready to listen then before it got light out! Before even the birds started chirping let alone the rest of the world. And it felt good, accomplished if you will, that I still had some control over something and that was how to spend my time.  I really wanted to be open to the new ways of resolving or living through my grief.
  As I got into week three of my personal prayer study things really started to take shape. Every day I felt encouraged & I anticipated what would be revealed to me.
 Scriptures that I long knew took on deeper meanings for me. For instance Hebrews 14:15 “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of the lips that acknowledge his name”
   Continually lends itself to consider the all encompassing of words like everything & anything that were in the scripture the day before (Philippians 4:5-7)  And sacrifice tells me it may not always be easy to give that praise yet that’s what we are told to do.
  It occurs to me, in the simplest of terms, that we are commanded to always be watchful for the positive! Some silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud on which to be able to praise God! I’m thinking we sure don’t do this enough in our day to day!
  While reading Psalm 62 it hit me. Another command, “Trust in him at all times, pour out your heart. God is a refuge for us”. Then things snowballed from there...A sermon at church talking about trust while reading 1 John...A memorial service specifically pointing out anxiety/worry & the need to fight it with trust!
 At one point I didn’t see the difference between my word of focus in last year’s BELIEVE (and I always added 'live like you mean it') and trust. I actually have a stamp that I’ve been using with the words Hope, Believe & Trust. I remember thinking to myself that these words were synonymous & redundant. But now I am seeing & understanding that TRUST refines my is richer & deeper & more clarifying of what I believe!    

  As I read Psalm 37:7,8 “Be still before the Lord & wait patiently for him”,  I wrote in my journal that I was struck that is so closely duplicated Proverbs 3:5,6...BUT I realized in rereading that I really meant Psalm 46:10 that says, ‘Be still & know that I am God” for that is what I have felt for months. I just needed to be still, be patient, surrender it all and just listen to God.
  When I realized my mistake I had to chuckle as I recited the right words from Proverbs. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him and he will make your paths straight’
   I was telling my dad all that I was learning as we went on our morning walk. How, from so many different sources were these common threads.   The need to rest, to surrender our struggles & anxieties, to hold onto the Serenity prayer : (which by the way was a favorite of my mom)

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change
the things I can,
And wisdom
to know the difference,

 and the need to recognize the value of silence. The physical value of meditative silence-lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart, even facilitating some kinds of healing.  To not be afraid to be still and trust. To savor the refreshment of silence.
  I mentioned that trust, just like prayer, be still, listen, surrender were action verbs NOT just a word of focus as in years past. I even made the comment that I won’t have to worry about finding reminder momentos with trust on it because that would just be too weird. Why would there be any such thing, it would be an odd word I thought for anyone to display.  

  Then we walked into the local pharmacy.  While dad got his prescription filled I perused a very sparcely filled display of charms...After most of the other more popular charms of Hope, Peace, Joy were taken what was the one charm that was left?  You guessed it!!!!

When I got home after buying the trust charm, in my yard were two small downy feathers that have come to represent something very special to our family. (that I have yet to write about but will in time) I had not found a feather since Thanksgiving.   A real feeling of peace came over me and it just felt like some how, some way my mom was telling me ‘yes, this truly is a can trust all God’s promises you know in your heart because they are indeed true. And trust that it’s ok to rest (mentally, physically, emotionally & spiritually) after the draining and tumultuous four years that we’ve had.’

As I was working on this writing, my ears perked up when I heard the words to a song by Casting Crowns, called Just Be Held.

And when you’re tired of fighting
chained by your control
There’s a freedom in surrender
Lay it down & let it go
Come to me, find your rest
In the arms of the God
who won’t let go.

After hearing that I just needed to take a break from my writing and let the words of the song soak in....I picked up the book I’ve been reading and chuckled when I got to the last line of the first page.

 Shortly thereafter I picked up my stack of junk mail and opened a catalog.
  OK, I might be a slow learner, but I’m getting it!!! 

I have never seen anything like this~have you? Notice the scripture as well. Proverbs 3:5,6

Friday, February 5, 2016

My 'new year' like no other

  Since my mom’s passing in July 2015, I have found myself on unfamiliar ground.  In many ways I have never felt so out of control in my life. As hard as I tried to do the best I could for her and her care, in the end she still died. There was a moment when I said to my husband that when I saw her again someday, I wanted to find out what it was that finally took her.  My husband responded with something that has stuck with me; “she was 84 & people just die”. I realized then that it doesn’t matter ‘what’ caused it, it just happens. And I think I realized then that ultimately I was holding on too tight to a burden that wasn’t mine to carry in the first place..
  Something new has developed & taken shape these past months as well. I have found that even the smallest things like the dog throwing up from eating too much bird seed fills me with anxiety & worry. (what if she doesn’t stop, how do you do the heimlich on a dog, it’s a Friday and the vet is closed...What bad thing is going to happen next!!?) I know, crazy right? And REALLY annoying, I might add!!!  I think it’s because of the past 4 years of late night phone calls from the nursing home, meetings with doctors over medications & care, and other very stressful situations too numerous to detail,  I am constantly trying to prepare myself for something ‘more to come’.  It’s my inner fight or flight mechanism run amuck!  I would like to think perhaps this is just a by-product of my grief & those feelings of out-of-controlness?
  Well, it should come as no surprise that God has been so very faithful in helping me brave this storm I’m in. Shortly after mom passed, I decided to make an appointment with Him each morning to go over his life manual. I’ve been trying to make sense of things, understanding that I needed to give myself some time to figure out my new normal of daily life. I am learning that the same patience, grace & mercy I aspire to give to other people, I need to give that to myself too!
  Not knowing what else to do but knowing I needed to fill a void inside me I decided to take advantage of a lesson I found online about the Names of God. I wasn’t sure if it would help but it certainly couldn’t hurt. I soon found out that during times of storms it is good to be mindful of Who God is and how much he loves us.  As I studied the meaning of His many names I was surprised at the impact it had on me. Yes and the impact it had on my anxiety/worry. Even the words alone give you insights; Provider, The Lord is my Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, God with us, Yahweh saves, just to name a few. You are not expected to brave these things alone!

  In that study it stated, How we act reveals what we think about God.....Think about that a minute.

Strong words? Maybe.

But listen, when you and I continue down the road of anxiousness, we communicate to our hearts and to the world that our God isn’t big enough, trustworthy enough, or wise enough to provide for us in His way and in His time. Alternatively, when we rest in the Lord and turn to Him in thanksgiving and prayer, we preach to ourselves - and to every around us- that our trust is rightly secured in the grace, sovereignty, and goodness of a God who sees and provides.

And how do we accomplish this?   Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If this all sounds easier said than done, then believe me I’m right there with ya!! If I could just flip a switch and never have another anxious or worrisome thought, I’d do it.  If you notice though this is a command to not be anxious-pray about everything!! In the fine print it doesn’t have a disclaimer of 'except if you think it’s too small or unless you don’t need ME because you can handle it on your own”   But we are never left to our own devices having to figure things out all alone.  He gives us the tools all we have to do is pick them up & learn how to use them!  We are human though so we won’t always get it right and sometimes we will forget these lessons.

For me reminders & encouragements have come in the form of ‘words of focus’ which are chronicled in previous years.  Since I’m working at figuring out this new normal it comes as little surprise to me that the 'words' would take on a bit of a different form this year as well....hmmm...until next time...