Monday, March 31, 2014

A New Story


Our whole family was sick this week.  The yucky, middle of the night, throw-up kind.  And we all got it one by one.  It was a looooong week.  Luckily I got it after the kids did.  Not so luckily, I definitely had it the worst of us all. So we spend a lot of days holed up, TV watching, doing a whole lot of nothing.  I had some time on my hands.

I was reading in Ephesians and thinking about who I am as a person.  We all have a story.  Some lovely, some not-so-lovely, and we all have a narrative that we live by.  Here is what I found in my Bible.  I found who I am.  Do you know who you are?  
And also, this is who I am NOW.  Not someday when I manage to get myself a little closer to perfection.  My house is a wreck after this week, the kids are fighting, people are puking, there isn't a stitch of makeup on this face, and here I am. And if I go back into my life even farther, I find a path littered with secrets and shame and masks. But I don't find a need for a mask in these verses. I find more than just acceptance.  I find the mask stripped, and a new life given full of grace and an abundance of love. I don't find any "if, then" statements.  When you are perfect, then...Nope.  It's now.  I am living in God's kingdom as His beloved child even now.  I have dumped all those secrets, failings, and masks into the King's lap and He has redeemed them. I have come trembling, expecting the King to act as our often too human church or even myself, with judgement, and found only love.  And then He invites me to dig a little deeper and I find more of my true self only to hold it up to His light, and again, I am loved and slowly transformed.  His truth is rooted in grace.  It's such a sweet love.  I have discovered it's like nowhere else.  How can anyone else manage to love me that completely in my shortcomings and at the same time breathe truth and transformation so completely?

It seems me that as I start talking to God about my shortcomings, I see myself before Him in my mind's eye.  He is usually standing somehow in front of me, taller than me.  As I talk I let my confusion pour out.  I am reminded of scriptures.  We discuss my joys, frustrations, and lows. I wonder if He shares the same joys, frustrations and lows about me. Are we seeing the world the same? I ask Him that we might. And somehow, by the end of my prayers, He is around me.  Instead of being in front of Him, I am centered in Him.  Like a child, curled up on her Father's lap.  

 I highlighted it all in blue in my Bible (I always go with blue for some reason), but in case you missed it, here ya go:
You are: Blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, given wisdom, united to Christ, heirs, sealed as a promise, God's own possession.
So is this your story?  This is my story.  
If you are feeling forgotten, far away, unloved, shamed, a failure, or unworthy, God says, "Let me tell you your story, dear one."  This is your story.  This is your truth.
I made a little subway art.  It's an 8x10 size.  If you click on the picture, you should be able to save it to print it.  It's yours.  I put mine on my inspiration board until I find a better spot for it.  Right above the card my sister sent me of a Mom whose house it falling apart while she sips coffee in the kitchen.  It made me laugh so hard then, and it makes me laugh so hard now.  Because you see, that's me.  A straight up disaster but for the parts that the grace of God is redeeming little by little.
 Do you know your story?  If not, go back over Ephesians 1 yourself.  If you call yourself a child of God, then that's your story.  Any other just isn't the truth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The invitation


Driving with my emotions all awash.  Again.  The silence of the car gives me space to reflect as I drive back home for my forgotten phone.
Wishing that emotions didn't eat up a significant part of my life.  Or rather, the emotions of frustration and irritation wouldn't pop up as often as they do.  
Or perhaps that the emotions didn't control my responses as much as they do.  
Irritated with being irritated.
With kids who lost their shoes, a messy floor, a dead line to make, a class to teach and prep. 
 I'm feeling irrational and wishing for a way to shut off the valve knowing that the emotion doesn't have a rational basis in reality, but yet it still washes over me.

Wishing away an emotion or trying to think rationally doesn't work for me.  It exists.  It's strong.  
Sunday, a supposed day of rest, found me defeated again in this area.  I had five minutes to myself in the car before I would find myself hitting the ground running, working our children's program, and I didn't want it to begin this way.  I gripped the steering wheel and asked God why emotions were so able to control my joy.  

And then I was reminded.  I can do nothing about my emotions.  I can do nothing about inner peace.  Because it doesn't begin with me.
My will power alone will never turn on the "right" emotions.

Peace begins with an invitation.
It first begins with "Come".  Learn a new story.  God whispers to the soul that in His story, I am OK regardless of fears and irritations.  Shoes will be found, you'll still be a child of the King if you're late, classes will work themselves out, God is King is His kingdom with all the control.  I am not a failure when things get out of my control.  

It begins with "Be Still".  Ask for peace.  Ask for help.  Peace comes by asking.   The Holy Spirit indwells us.  So invite Him into the story of our lives each moment.

It ends with "Rest".  I gripped the steering wheel and remembered in that moment to tell myself a new story.  A story where God is in control and not me.  My emotions still not settled, I remembered to tell God all about my emotions.  What I was feeling and why I thought I was feeling them - I gave myself free-reign to spit it all out.  And I asked Him to do something about them.  They did not dissipate right that second.  I got out of the car, wondering if prayers "work" on emotions, or if somehow it was still my responsibility to somehow shut them down.  I decided to not try, but to rest and see what happened.  In the ten seconds it took to walk into the building, they were gone.  Completely gone.  And while I was busy outwardly the next four hours, my soul was at rest.

God says, "Come, tell yourself a new story about living as my child.  Be still, don't control it, tell me about it and ask for help.  Rest, because this is mine."

You have been invited.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March-ing into spring


This winter has been the winter of eternal spring.  My bulbs have already bloomed and are gone and here we are going into March.  The Valentine decor has come down, and while the rest of the nation is yearning for Spring and flip-flops, I'm still yearning from some sort of winter to make Spring all that much better. 

 I remember the one Easter spent in upstate New York where we lived through two winters as very poor newlyweds.  We had been cooped up in our little place for months and I had never experienced a winter like that.  This California girl was WAY out of her league.  They're not playin' up there.  I naively thought one day in mid January that I would just make a run for the mailbox and get the mail just a few yards from my front door.  It may have been 0 degrees out, but that number (or lack of) didn't register in my visions-of-etermal-sunshine-head.  I was so unprepared for the numbing, bone-chilling cold that blasted through my frame as I sprinted for the box in short sleeves and flannel jammie pants and thin slippers, and for the next hour that it took to defrost draped over the heating vent. I don't care what was in that box. Never again guys, never again.  I remember thinking, "what's wrong with a place where you can't even flippantly decide to grab some mail without some major planning about wrapping up every square inch of exposed skin?!"  Those New Yorkers who have always lived there....well, just....well, bless them.

Anyways, I digressed.  Back to my Easter story.  I told you the above mailbox tragedy to explain that when April arrived I was itching to get out in some warmth.  I decided it should be warm enough in the first week of April to venture out for a short waterside picnic by the Hudson River.  So I made a potato salad, got a ham together, and convinced Tone that this was going to be fun.  Bwahaha, poor man. We tried it.  A brilliant sun in the sky does not necessarily make a warm day, guys.  The breeze blowing off the river was still very bitter.  I forgot to factor that in.  I think Tone was trying to be super nice, but it was me who suggested after only five minutes at the picnic table that I would like to eat in the car and VIEW the river only.  We ate our Easter dinner shivering in a car with the heater going.  I'm not even sure the view was that great because the trees weren't dumb enough yet to put out their leaves and have them frozen off.  That should have been my first sign. 

At any rate, spring that year was the sweetest spring I have ever experienced.  Here in Cali, it means the return of dead grass after a brief flash of green hills in February/March. But that year, I decided for Tone's birthday, at the end of May, that we should drive over to Cooperstown to the baseball hall of fame.  New York, just a month later, was flaunting spring. And I was able to flaunt shorts and flip flops. Glorious. It was the most idyllic drive through farm towns I have ever, ever seen.  Green, with daffodil bulbs blooming everywhere, and bushy trees for days.  

This is how my brain rolls. Jenny thinks of "ideas" and road trips and activities for the day very last minute.  This birthday one panned out perfectly, but it's no wonder my darling dear looks at me with a mixture doubt and skepticism when I scheme up an idea we could "do this week".

(It'll be fun, she said.  You'll  enjoy it, she said.)
All that to say, spring this year will not be all that sweet.  It'll be the long road to a hot summer without water.  Usually, every year at this time, I plant this dirt area in my garden with annuals.  This year, I knew that restricted watering would kill them so I planted mostly succulents and drought resistant plants and made a "toad city" with the kid's help (we're making lemonade out of dry lemons).

We all now that seasons are good for the soul.  While we want eternal "summers" of happiness, it's the winters of our life that make the turning of the seasons so much sweeter.   This year I am reminded that seasons are good for the soul.  That the tears/rain shed in one season, water the joys of the next season.
This week has had more than one rainy day in a row.  I'm not sure that we can catch up this year to the amount of rain needed for the summers here, but it was a refreshing change.  I enjoyed the cold and rainy days.  I'm not sure that I have ever said that before.  To the people who live in the Pacific Northwest, well...well, just...well, bless them.
All that being said,  flip flop weather will always and forever be my favorite.