Harvey and Beyond

Images…So many images. So many people. So many men and women and children depicted in the worst nightmares they never dreamed but have been forced to live. And then there are the images seared in my heart of so many brave and compassionate men and women who risked their lives and worked many hours with no relief to save lives at the risk of their own. And there are others who kept working behind the scenes but not unnoticed in all manner of service industries helping to keep people safe and the lines of communication open.
The rains stop. The water begins to recede. This brings more images of lives forcibly hurled great distances away from what was known. So much overwhelming devastation. Ripped out carpet and flooring and furniture and appliances and sheetrock and everything imaginable and unimaginable in the front yards all up and down streets everywhere in our corner of the world. Ripped out hearts. Shredded pieces of lives littering the lawns. Among the debris are little meaningful things lost that make big holes of emptiness when they are on top of a mountain of fear and uncertainty and new unfamiliar terrain. Also, there are big meaningful things, tangible and intangible, that have forever altered individual lives that were once filled with a predictable level of comfort and certainty.

I have learned…I have learned that I began living from a new perspective a couple of weeks ago. I have learned that how I feel has a name. It’s called “Survivor’s Guilt”. I have found that this is a common thread with many I have expressed my heart to in the wake of this tragedy. I’m thankful. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for not experiencing at any level what I see all around me. Why did God choose to completely spare me, yet choose not to spare so many others? I surely don’t deserve it.
I have learned that there are so many caring people who are choosing to put forth monumental effort to help others make a completely impossible cleanup situation not only possible, but efficient and quickly progressive with the highest level of safety. I have learned that there are so many who freely share their knowledge and expertise to help others navigate scenarios they have no GPS for. I have learned that there are wonderful people stepping up to coordinate huge volunteer efforts to match people in need with what they need.
I have learned that I can contribute a little and work at new and different goals for others a little and the impact is felt and appreciated at a level far beyond what I give. My feeble efforts are seen so differently than what I feel they are. To me that means God takes my little and multiplies it. For that I am so grateful.
I have learned that the incredible scenes playing out in our communities are a far cry from what many are still experiencing in other areas. And the devastation continues with new storms and other threats to safety and security. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m learning…I’m learning that I have a choice. I’m shaken even though I’m not facing what so many are. But I’m learning to stand while shaken even as I choose to see beyond the local devastation from just one incredible storm. I’m learning to look up to the God of the universe and acknowledge the state of our nation. We choose violence and entitlement and greed and evil over God. I choose to look up in humility and confession and beseech Him to hear from heaven and see a nation who repents. These catastrophic events and accompanying tremendous fallout can be a catalyst for true and lasting change.

 

Advertisements

And…Again.

Regroup, redirect, refocus, re-visualize.

Reframe.

This thing. It happens.

That means the journey is headed this way. I frame the horizon and take my brush and paint the rest of the path beyond the reaches of my vision. This is how it is, this is what will be.

But then, that thing. It happens.

It totally obliterates my sadly lacking artistic expression. My frame is reduced to pitiful pieces. My painting is completely unrecognizable.

So, what do I do? I regroup, redirect, refocus, and re-visualize.

Reframe. Different direction, different frame, different paint color. And I paint the rest of the path again. Ah, here we go. This is how it is, and this is what will be.

But you guessed it… everything changes again. And my frame is in pieces again. And my childish painting is unrecognizable again, even to me.

I keep thinking that this, or that, or that other thing is the new reality, the way things are, the new route, the updated way. Over the years “the way” has been hope filled and colorful, dark and hopeless, or somewhere in between. Each unforeseen change in direction is the forging of a new path. But if I put all the paths together, it’s a mind-blowing zigzagging new definition of crazy. Ribbons of a journey all tangled up together. The ribbons of a journey that is not mine, yet I still find myself intertwined amid the chaos. And I wonder why I’m breathless and exhausted. Relentlessly chasing down every path that isn’t for my footsteps.

The hard truth? This process could repeat to infinity… if.

If I allow it to. If I choose to follow what I see, which is limited greatly. Limited because though I try so hard, it is not possible to get into another’s mind and see what they see. Yet, I try anyway. I keep trying to make something work that is irrevocably flawed.

In the cacophony of confusion and frustration, in the longing to be free, in the heart wrenching gap between what I should do and what I end up doing, I know I can choose to stop and listen.  When I do that, I hear the undeniable silent voice that speaks to the deepest part of my soul, and I work to follow the sound and allow it to lead me.

Look – over here. See this? Master artistry at work, color and light and love and hope and compassion. See the beauty? This is My plan. And over here – hidden by the brilliant light? These are the intricately connected paths that you don’t see because they are Mine.
You, my dear one, are continually chasing what you want to know so that you can rest in the knowledge. But this kind of knowledge is a moving target, ever changing. Choose instead to know Me more and rest in Me. I’ll take care of everything else. I love You.

Progress is painstakingly slow, but my God knows every facet of the mess that is me and loves me anyway.  He continually encourages, and He shows me the way, again and again.  I am a willing student, and I will continue to allow Him to complete His work in me.

I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Ps 16:8, 11

 

It’s About Time

Time. It invokes many different images for people from all walks of life. So many facets of time shape us. Fond memories of special heartwarming events, both simple and elaborate. Painful memories that we wish we could erase. Life changing moments, both good and bad. Then there is the day-in-day-out time dance. Always forward movement, never stopping. Time truly does march on. Running late. Being too early and in awkward limbo waiting for what you came for to start. Frantic. Rushing. Striving. Resting. Longing. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and then striving to accept unfulfilled dreams. Looking to the future with joy and expectancy. Looking to the future with fear and dread. Hoping and experiencing. Despairing, then hoping again. We each see an individualized entire spectrum uniquely created for us within the divine plan of God.

Time is fixed. Yet time is also variable. A paradox. We each have equal units assigned to a variety of time periods in our current Gregorian calendar. We all have the same number of: hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in specific months, months in every year. But how many of these time periods we participate in from the beginning of our existence in this world until the end is different. Yet I know that I tend to live without this truth in mind. And the choices we make in each time period have a significant bearing on our quality of life. We have flexibility and discretion on how to use each unit of time we participate in.

Can you tell? I’m a bit OCD about time. OK, a lot. I’ve been like this for forever. Probably a little chapter in the whole book on controlling everything that I tend to live by but try not to.

I am always conscious of the passage of time. I can’t fathom how people can become so engrossed in their work or play that they are shocked when they realize how much time has passed. My life is one of order as much as I can make it that way. And when it’s not, I am scrambling to put everything back like it should be. This includes doing my best to order how I spend my time. This began in childhood.

When I was a little girl, I scheduled playtime with my little girl friends when they came over to my house. I would announce which imaginary scenario we would participate in when. Scenarios like Barbie Dolls, playing “school”, and a variety of other children’s role-playing games. I suppose I was a bossy child when my friends were in my domain. I thought this was normal to schedule something that should have been flexible and childish and free. Now looking back, it seems really weird. I was definitely a “unique” child. 😊

Now I utilize my to do list. I prioritize everything and try to work through my list in specific order. Now in the real world, my plan falls apart frequently. Reality means that deviations from plans are a vital part of life. But at least occasionally this deviation is a source of frustration for me.

I take to heart the saying: “Time is of the essence”. And while in many ways this is true, I tend take it to a level that is not only self-serving, but detrimental. I am aware of this and I am working to shift my focus from it’s all about me and my time and my plans and my wants…to it’s all about God and obediently following where He leads.

Why is insecurity so strong in my life that I think my perfect plans should fit into my perfect schedule so that I feel perfectly safe? I know that my plans and my schedules and my steps are not ordered by me.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Prov. 16:9
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Prov. 19:21

It’s all about time and what I tend to see as my gatekeeper role. I want to control what I let in and keep out of my life story. I know it’s not possible logically or realistically. God has shown me over and over that He is the one in control, not me. He orchestrates events in my life to bring this home to me in ways that are always intense and sometimes very painful. But old habits, those old deep inviting ruts, are difficult to circumvent even though I know better.

It’s about time. About how as I continue to work hard and seek Him, in His timing I will be free.

He Chose. I Choose. A Journey of the Heart

Come with me on a journey of the heart. As a child, I loved to pretend to be someone else, somewhere else, doing something else.  And as an adult, I still love to imagine, but with a different goal.  I find that imagining sometimes helps me understand and relate better.  So come, take a little side trip with me.  Let’s go back in time, and let’s see and hear Jesus.  Let’s follow His footsteps and watch and hear Him.

If I had lived 2,000 years ago as a Jew, seeing Jesus, hearing Him speak, watching Him perform miracles, what would my reaction have been?  I like to think I would have been among those who followed Him. Perhaps I was in with the group of the women who went where He went and ministered to His needs and the needs of the disciples. That’s a nice, sweet thought.  Makes me feel warm inside, like drinking hot chocolate when it’s cold out. How must it have felt to be with Jesus, a silent listener just soaking it all in like a sponge?  Being there as He visited and taught and hung out with the disciples. How wonderful would that have been?

But if I am honest, I must say that is wishful thinking. Could that have been me? Sure. But given my personality and my love for the routine and predictable, I don’t know.

I could also have easily have been among those Jews who whispered among themselves as He walked by. The ones who smiled at Him when He made eye contact, but then turned to whisper when He walked past.  Whispers about how He must be a liar, He must be using the power of demons to perform miracles. He can’t be who He says He is. For that to be true defies all that I have ever heard and all that I have been taught. He is the extreme opposite of all the rules, traditions, and rituals of my culture. He wants us to abandon so much of the belief system we have always known and accept a completely new reality. He is not predictable, not routine, not structured.  At all. He is here in this day and time just like I am, yet He is so not like me, not like anyone.  He is so very different.  And different must be wrong. Yes, I could have fit right in taking that side.

Of course here and now I know that He wasn’t wrong at all. He was so right, perfectly right. And He wasn’t demon possessed or crazy. He stood firm against the fierce and intense flow of insanity as the only sane one. The Anointed One, the real and true Messiah. The Savior of the world.

We have what those who lived then don’t have. We have the Bible that shares His life and death and resurrection. We know what happened to Him and we know why. We know the story. But if we aren’t careful, “we know the story” can become “we know the drill”. It becomes just another truth tucked away with things like “The sky is blue”.  A fact.  Head knowledge.  Not even close to touching the heart because we have not respected it for the treasure it is.

Easter Sunday services.  A celebration of what Jesus did for us.  But if we aren’t proactive we can easily miss it – present physically, but not mentally or spiritually.  We are busy with our busy lives.  We can get lost in those Easter tradition details and forget the significance. We allow our minds to just keep going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny:  Jesus-was-crucified-and-died-and-rose-again-I-hope-it-doesn’t-rain-during-the-Easter-egg-hunt-but-it-did-rain-yesterday-I-hope-it’s-not-muddy-will-everybody-be-on-time-this-year-for-our-family-get-together-will-Johnny’s-girlfriend-pick-a-fight-again-in-front-of-everyone…  Our minds wander, and our hearts wander instead of focusing on what really matters.

This year, join me in making a choice.  I choose to focus on Him.  I choose to think through every single detail of His incredible suffering and death.  I choose to experience afresh the true story of God’s elaborate plan to save me.  I choose to ponder the fact that Jesus was left utterly alone in agony because God could not look upon the sin state of the world that Jesus was embracing, bearing, and pulling up from the depths of evil and depravity and despair.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.   Is 53:3-7   

 

I choose humble and all encompassing gratitude to Him for my very life.  I choose, because He chose.

The Pretense

This is me and this is where I was recently. Still feeling the sting from the fallout.  And that’s OK.  It’s painful and brutal, but it’s OK because I am never alone.  And I’m working very hard to learn and grow.  Very slow forwards backwards progress.  But I suppose I get an E for effort, and I know God is very patient.

Maybe you’ve been here too. Maybe you’re here right now.

The pretense works sometimes.

I can do this. This is what other people do. Make a decision and know it’s the right one and stick by it.  And when the time comes to follow through I’ll know how to handle it.

This is a normal thing right? Other people do it all the time.  I can do it too.

But when I begin to move forward with confidence and certainty and trust – you know – just like other people…

That’s when the pretense breaks open to reveal the hollow cavernous lack of support underneath. The superficial veneer gives way with a sharp ear splitting crack, and it all falls apart.  It’s really ugly and destructive and loud.  I’m left with a deafening roar in my ears that echoes and reverberates in the emptiness.

And the loud whispers start again and I fight to silence them. And they say something like this – again:  “Remember? You aren’t like other people.  They’ve got this.  You so don’t.  Why would you ever think that this time would be any different?” 

And it’s only then that I see the obvious. The truth hides until I allow revelation to dawn. I have allowed myself to be driven by desperation and panic – again. Yes, again – a reoccurring theme. These forces of desperation and panic compel me to claw feverishly at the empty air. And I tell myself I’m at least doing something, when it really would be better if I did nothing.  But nothing seems so…lame, so I keep the forward motion going down this rocky dark path to defeat.

I’m reminded again of what I know:  Confidence and certainty and trust somehow don’t make it in my world.  Why?  Because for unknown reasons I deny their existence.  Why? Because I’m afraid.  Of what?  Of so many ways it could play out differently than what I intend. Of doing it wrong.  Of messing up a good thing.  Of being hurt again.  Of believing a lie again.  Of adversely affecting others.

 So I am not confident or certain and I don’t trust.

 I’m so weary of all this. I feel like I live in a constant state of questioning and indecision and exhaustion from analyzing and weighing options and creating future scenarios and wondering if I’ll ever do enough but it’s never enough.

And I know the answer. I must choose to be still and stop fighting and live based on the unconditional ever present love that engulfs the lies with searing flame while at the same time warming my soul gently with comfort and peace.  And then I can finally rest.

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:21-23

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10a

Believing lies. Knowing Truth.

Believing the lies today. Know the truth.  Doesn’t matter. Believing the lies anyway.

They are swirling all around me in a feeding frenzy. Feeding on each other and growing stronger and darker and louder. Yet they aren’t shouting. That would be wasted energy.

They whisper.

Inept. Incapable.  Inadequate.  Incompetent.  Inferior.

And the whispers echo everywhere. Over and over. Around and around. My meager attempts to combat them with the truth I know fall flat and break apart into shattered pieces blown away by the windswept lies. Defeated and overwhelmed, I find myself listening again.

Yes I know the lies are lies. So why do I believe them and feel such assurance in what I believe that is not true? I don’t know. I can’t stop. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.

Thank God that His mercies really are new every morning. His faithfulness is infinite. Even when I falter and fail and believe lies as if they are true.

Even when I cry out to Him for help and feel nothing and wonder and doubt and question and long for peace.

I’m held and loved and enveloped in grace. But I feel lost and afraid and confused.

And alone.

Then Glorious Light dawns. Shining, warming, helping me to see. New thoughts in my mind that open my heart to finally feel their truth.

I realize that this cycle of softly whispered resounding lies has me hunkered down, hiding, and setting up residence in a place I don’t belong.

Inept. Incapable.  Inadequate.  Incompetent.  Inferior.

And it is here and now that the whispers are inexplicably pierced by silence. Deafening silence that somehow has the capacity to shine brilliantly, illuminating the darkness and bringing forth new truth that shatters the lies into tiny fragments of dust that simply blow away. Yet there is no wind except a soft and gentle breeze that slowly stops.

Stillness.

And in the stillness, a calming, a comforting, a love like no other. And one word spoken with incomparable compassion from the mouth that spoke everything into being.

Invaluable.

I am beyond value. There is no limit to my worth.  I am continuously and forever loved unconditionally.  Created just as I am for a purpose beyond my grasp yet within God’s plan.

A new day, with a new perspective, and a new God given strategic weapon.

The power of a word of Truth that speaks softly to the broken hurting longing places within.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new ever morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  Lam 3:21-24

 

 

Close your eyes and see

More on my current season – this difficult chapter in my twisting turning up down and around life’s journey. Even without details, I hope that many can identify with the struggle.  What it feels like when moving forward involves changing direction while still trying to keep the focus on the goal.  What it really means to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:14  

I watch it go around and around, a cycle.  Kind of like watching someone on a merry-go- round.  I see, I don’t see.  There, then gone, then back, then gone again, over and over.  It really makes no difference because I don’t know what I’m seeing anyway.  No reference for it, no comparison to it, no logic with it.  And then there are those ribbons of white, wispy, thready scariness, weaving all around, above, below, beside me, surrounding me.  Unknowns.  Everywhere.  And the ever present heavy sadness hovering above, looking menacing and threatening like an approaching storm.  Dipping low and falling upon me, then rising back up again.

I feel like I’m constantly dancing.  I’m a terrible dancer, but I do my best to dance all around the frightening tendrils of unknowns, trying to avoid them because when they meet my heart the impact is horrific and overwhelming.  Yet I’m already overwhelmed as it is with all this dancing around and watching the merry-go-round and keeping the sadness at bay and longing and yearning for peace.

Close your eyes. 

What?  Why?  That makes no sense.  I can’t do that.  In my analytically driven world where I must see to breathe easier, that’s beyond all limits.  For things to make sense, I must see.  And I need things to make sense.  I need that stability.  I’m looking for it.  I have to keep my eyes open to see so that I can look for some level of… something. Something that is…  I don’t know, Consistent. Normal. Predictable. Safe. Sure. Different. Better.

Hmmm.  So how is that working for you?

Well, OK, so it’s not working real well.  Oh, all right, it’s not working at all.  But if I keep straining my eyes to see, ever so often I get rewarded.  The merry-go-round cycle provides a brief glimpse: here, then gone.  A flash of bright in the gray undefined nothingness.  Then I see what I believe to be true and I’m reminded.  Or I see very briefly what I wish was true and I wonder.  These glimpses bring pain and the uncertainty brings fear and confusion. Yet I keep straining to see.  Maybe if I open my eyes wider?  Or look in a different direction?

My life is like walking through FOG.  Not fog, but FOG.  Deep and solid and dense.  Like when it’s foggy and I’m driving and I strain my eyes to see more than the fog allows even though I know it’s useless. Yet, there are those spaces where the fog does not reach, but then it’s foggy again.  There are those brief moments of clarity in the chaotic confusion where I live.  But it’s not enough.  A brief glimpse periodically is like a drop of water when I long for an ocean.  And I’m exhausted.

And I know.  Though my actions don’t show my knowledge, it is there.  I know that I do need to close my eyes so that I can truly see.  I know what I am trying so desperately to see is not seeable.  Not on my own.  This is beyond my ability.  Yet, I hesitate.  Why?  Because I’m afraid.  To close my eyes means to embrace the unknowns – those intangible ribbons that contain doubt and fear and worry and turmoil that I try so hard to dance around.  I must willingly hold what I fear the most, while trusting in the truth that is the only way to freedom and peace.

Close your eyes and hold on to Me.  I’ve got this.  You will find that you will see as never before because I will be seeing for you as you rest in Me. 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matt 11:28-30