Thursday, July 31, 2008

Awards and Acknowledgments

I'm a bit behind on acknowledging and accepting some beautiful blog awards recently given to me. In fact, I'm a bit behind on a lot of things. So that's what I've been doing since we came home from vacation: I've been catching up on odds and ends, things that must be done, and things that haven't been done that I've put off for quite a while.

One thing about the blog world that is so inspiring is the immediate communication and responses you get to your writing, to your thoughts. Being the mother of a semi-comatose (at times) 18 year old son who graces me with his appreciative responses to my acts of loving service (my mothering and my hovering over him) about once a year, I am touched by these two blog awards I've recently been given. Besides the awards, thank you just for talking to me!

Gi at You Can Hope2
has awarded me a beautiful award with a jazzy Spanish name- Arte Y Pico, which originated here at http://arteypico.blogspot.com/



"What is the meaning of the expression: Arte y Pico
What is the meaning of the expression: And basically, ironically, it translates into a wonderful phrase in Mexico, “lo maximo.” LOL! It will never find its counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like, Wow. The Best Art. Over the top."

I'd like to pass this award on to four beautiful blogs that never fail to inspire, encourage, or wow me with their insights and their honesty (and ask that they pass the award on to 3-5 other blogs):

Random Redheaded Ramblings

Weighty Thoughts


Sonflower

This I Do

Then I received from Random Redheaded Ramblings
a colorful award called Robin's Red Award which came out of a personal experience she had with being noticed and identified as the creative, beautiful person she is. This award touched my heart, because I also had an experience with a teacher that changed my life because it changed how I viewed myself. I'll tell you about it sometime.
Thanks for the award Robin!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Quote for the Day

"Ah, that is the risk of faith, Mack.
Faith does not grow in the house of certainty."
-The Shack by William P. Young

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Clam Chowder and Sunshine

We've been on vacation this week. I did not realize how shallow my breathing had become, how frantic and frenzied my pace was, how ready I was to take a week and slow the pace down to the thick slow drip of New England Clam chowder dripping off a spoon. That we've done nothing but read, sit at the beach, eat, play cards, laugh, eat, and read is a testament to the perfection of this vacation. Our family didn't really need a lot of entertainment or roller coaster rides or crowds of people. What we needed was family time, food, fun, and life at the pace of a hot summer day when you feel like your only responsibility is to live and love.

Instead of a phone constantly ringing in the background, I hear my kids cheerfully discussing the choice of ice cream or slushies. Or I should say that Abby, my daughter, is cheerfully discussing the choices and Alex is nodding slightly and without regard for her question because he has his headphones on and a book in his hand. His job, as a kid going off to college in a month, is to accommodate our time together as a family without letting on too much that he is enjoying himself.

I'm so relaxed. You would be too- if you were sitting at the beach and listening to the roar of the ocean, and feeling very small but loved. You see the ocean, hear it roar, wonder at its presence, and then remember that the God who created it is the God who has a plan for your life. You sit at the beach and see all the people, hear them, feel the sun beat down on your skin- and yet you are miles away in thought. You're feeling hope and you're starting to dream bigger. You're letting go of hurts and confusion. There are possibilities, endless possibilities, when you feel refreshed, rejuvenated...and loved.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Watch Me Dance

Sometimes just the sight of someone rejoicing and celebrating will provoke you to do the same- even if you think you don't currently have reason to celebrate. As one of my Mom's dear friends used to say, "It is never hypocritical to act the way God would want you to feel."

And so, last night, when my daughter and I returned from the movies (having used our two free tickets to see a musical that excelled in celebration even if it lacked in content), I waltzed into the house singing loudly and off-key and unashamedly. It felt so good to belt out a joyous sound, and I realized it's been a while since I majored in joy rather than in problem-solving.

Some people easily celebrate the little things in life, while others have to purpose in their heart to celebrate and rejoice. For some of us, celebrating and rejoicing can seem like a selfish, frivolous thing to do. But lately I've been learning that there is power in celebration. Mainly, I think, because celebration does not have to be done with all your ducks in a row, all your victories in plain sight. In fact, if you wait till you really think you have reason to celebrate, you might be waiting too long. You might go a long time without the wells of rejoicing springing up in your soul. And I know that I can't afford to be dried out. I can't make it if God's life-giving power to celebrate and overcome isn't manifesting in my life.

It's just like the verse that begins with "Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established;..."(2 Chron. 20:20). The word "believe", here, means to be firm, stable, established. It's basically saying "Establish yourself in the Lord and you will be established." That's how powerful our belief, our conviction, is: it brings us in touch with the One who establishes us, who makes us stand tall and firm.

But you can apply this to the principle of celebration; especially the idea of celebrating by faith. Celebrate what God is doing in your life (even if you don't "see" it all) and you will feel like celebrating! Rejoice and you will be rejoicing. This isn't acting. This isn't fabricating the truth. This is manifesting the truth of which we do not yet see or feel. Because, remember:"It is never hypocritical to act the way God would want you to feel."

So today I'm celebrating breakthroughs and victories of all kinds. Things I don't even know yet. Because God is always up to something good in my life. It's just that sometimes you have to shout and rejoice and celebrate before you even see the victory.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Way He Does It

I had a dream last night. That may not sound like an earth shattering event, but it can be a turning point in my life. You see, God often talks to me through dreams, and I usually dream almost nightly. But its been about a month or more since I've had a dream. It's been a month of so many changes and disappointments and momentous celebrations that signal a turning point in our life. During this time things got very quiet inside me. I was wrestling with hope and despair, clarity and confusion. I had not anticipated that I was going to go through such a strange season of strained relationships and radical changes.

"There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything"(My Utmost for His Highest). But when we can't control whats happening around us, when we don't have an authoritative explanation or proclamation to calm the turbulent waters, things can get very troubled. We want everything we go through to be meaningful and useful for our spiritual growth. But often we don't see what's happening. We don't understand what's happening. We feel things are out of control and therefore that we are in a very precarious situation.

Here's how God speaks to my heart when it is beating fast and my eyes are looking heavenward with hope and confusion: He speaks to me through a dream. Last night's dream was about me explaining to a woman what had been going on in my life these last number of years. And I was not recounting my successes and my glorious moments. I was telling her about where we had felt lost, where we had failed, what moments we had wondered where God was.

This woman was an old acquaintance that I never knew that well. But I knew she represented spiritual integrity. She and her husband had been influential people in our life. My husband and I had connected with this couple in their passion to serve Christ, to take chances, to be authentic, and therefore to come across as very real, very human, and without all the answers.

So as we spoke to each other in my dream, there was this sense of me not having to explain why I was not further along than I was. There was a sense of peace about having had problems, delays, and times of disappointment. She asked me a couple of insightful questions that made me ponder a bit. And then we talked about what her needs were, what her hopes were, and she and I were smiling as she did this. Neither of us had all the answers. But we both had God as our guide. We felt good about that. We felt victorious about that.

So this morning I woke up and felt a burden lifted from my shoulders. God had arranged a very helpful counseling session for me, and it happened in a dream. It was miraculous. It was mysterious. I can't explain how I absorbed the grace, the hope, the clarity that God offered to me in this dream. But I can tell you that I love the way God loves me. When I feel like things are out of control, He mysteriously and miraculously comes to me and whispers insight and peace to my soul.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quote for the Day

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.
What we need is to love without getting tired."
-Mother Theresa

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

He Leadeth Me

It often comes down to one word- expectation. What we expect, we look for. What we expect to receive, we get ready to receive: our hands are out, our hands are open, our eyes are raised heavenward.

My expectation, lately, has been that I will get through "this"; "this" referring to the flood of small take-downs that have occurred these last couple months. I got a call from the doctor the other day and he said, "You don't have Mono again; but you do have a very low red blood cell count. I can see why you almost fainted the other day." It was nice to have someone confirm that you are not a wilting violet of your own volition, but rather, sometimes life comes at you hard and you fall down.

"We fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up; and the saints are just the sinners who fall down...and get up." Yes, that's the song for me, right now. That beautiful chorus is going through my mind- and with that soothing chorus going through my mind I won't let my heart be troubled by the events and disturbances I recently went through.

You see, I had asked God, several months ago, to confirm what direction I should take, where to go and what to do. I thought God was going to answer my request by leading me directly TO the right place, the right setting. But no, God decided to confirm the direction for me to take by confirming where I don't belong, what I should not be concentrating on, what isn't working in my life.

I never requested that God lead me through only positive events- but that's because I just didn't think that leading someone onward and upward would ever necessitate leading them through painful or negative circumstances. I just simply,and maybe naively, asked Him to lead me- and then some surprising encounters happened, some upsetting events occurred, and I was dismayed and surprised and floored by it all. I shouldn't have been. I should have expected that I would wind up quoting what Job said: "But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

Why God deems it necessary to refine and try us, I'm not real sure. I do see that something glorious does happen when we are roughed up by upsetting events and difficult circumstances: I see that the troubling events we go through cause us to trust Him MORE. During these difficult times we often see Him more clearly because we are desperately looking for Him. These tough times are, indeed, tinged with His glory, and therefore could even be called glorious- because HE is WITH us, and He has something good in mind when we are tried and refined. He has a glorious outcome in mind.

God is not a Sadist. He takes no pleasure in our suffering. But He does take pleasure in seeing us learn to differentiate good from evil, and in our learning to value His help, value His perspective, and therefore not be dismayed when trouble rocks our boat. Trouble may rock our boat, but He guides the boat.

My boat has been rocking, lately. I've been surprised by difficult times- and my health is the least of the problems. Feeling faint and weak (part of being Anemic) only adds to me feeling needy and ready for God's help.

But feeling expectant that His help is coming- and that even though the going has been rough, that His help has already come- well, that makes me stay in my rocky boat with my hands stretched out, my eyes heavenward, expectant of His whisper of a wind that will nudge my boat onward, safely, to the shore.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Quote for the Day

"The Christian life is gloriously difficult,
but its difficulty does not make us faint and cave in-
it stirs us up to overcome
."
(My Utmost for His Highest)


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Celebrating the Victory

There were ups and downs, highs and lows, over the weekend- but there was no rain on Sunday, the day we all gathered to celebrate a milestone in our son's life. The days preceding the party were emotionally charged and there were a couple upsetting incidents that clouded our joy. So on Sunday morning, early in the morning, as I laid in bed and looked at at the cloudy sky, I whispered a pleading prayer, "Please God, please- don't let it rain today. Let it be a sign that everything is not always all uphill."

Now that's a dangerous prayer. First of all, because God doesn't have to stop the rain just to make you feel better. Someone may be praying for rain in the house next door to you, and then what does God do?! Secondly, I was asking out of weariness and frustration- not necessarily out of faith.

But God can handle how and why I ask Him for what I do- and God parted the clouds and allowed the sun to come out. There wasn't a drop of rain. Mu, my best friend, arrived at the party early in the evening and told me it was raining at her house (several miles away)- but it wasn't raining at my house.

People gathered on our deck outside, talking and sipping cold drinks. My son was beaming with happiness at the number of people who kept coming. There were new friends, neighbors, school friends and family members. Old friends of our family arrived early, and looked forward to meeting with my parents. But would my Mom come? She's been battling depression and it has been fierce. But there she was, frail and beautiful, smiling tentatively, walking through my front door with loved ones at her side holding her up.

That's what we do when we fall down- we hopefully get held up by love, by loved ones who come rushing in when the wind goes out of our sails. Or in my case, when the knees grow suddenly weak and you're about to faint. I got sick right int he middle of the party. One minute I was chatting with people, feeling a bit ill, and the next minute I was rushing to the bathroom. Due to the heat and having not eaten all day and the emotional upheaval I had been through prior to the party, I suddenly felt the world swim. I became violently ill and wound up lying in bed. Different people came rushing in to check on me. My younger sister took over and began serving food. A dear friend started washing dishes that had piled up in the sink. My husband went out and chatted with guests after I whispered, "Just say that I'm resting for a minute. I'll be right out."I was weak, but people were strong for me. The party went on.

I thought it was heat exhaustion and nausea due to not eating all day and then drinking a few sips of too-sweet-iced tea. But today, several days after the party, I am still feeling ill. It feels like I have Mono again. I'll go get checked out at the doctor's. It's not that big of a deal.

What was a big deal was the day we celebrated my son's graduation from high school. That day was a challenge and it was wonderful. That day was exhausting and it was exhilarating. That day there were people in and around my house, pulling into the driveway, playing music down in our opened garage, milling around the yard, smiling and feasting on food that disappeared quickly. In fact, I ran out of food. But we never ran out of victory. We never ran out of grace. The skies held back the rain, but God let grace, like rain, fall down and we celebrated the victory of being loved by Him.