Saturday, October 22, 2016

From My Window

From My Window

Pink-tinged clouds dance among the tree tops,

Fading to white as daylight dawns.

Beyond the transparent wall 

 A feathered warbler chirps its cheerful greeting.

Orange leaves tumble silently to the ground,

Swirling like so many helicopter blades.

Soon the trees will bare their weathered arms

In preparation for winter sleep.

God speaks, but only to those who stop and listen,

“Peace be with you, my child.  Go forth into this new day." 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Feel, Deal, Heal

I used to be the Queen of Denial--get it? Queen of the Nile/Queen of Denial? Just a little play on words. Okay, if I have to explain it, it's not so funny. Seriously, though, I used to be really good at not-feeling. Sadly, I thought not-feeling was a sign of strength. 

"Don't cry. People will think you're weak."

"I'm not angry. After all, I'm a Christian. Christians forgive and forget."

"I'm not discouraged or depressed. I'm happy. If I keep affirming that I'm happy, it will be true. Right?"
Affirmations are important, for sure, but shutting down or burying our emotions is not healthy. I would go so far as to say denial of our feelings can make us not only emotionally unhealthy, but physically ill, as well. Shaming others about their emotions can make them physically ill. By expressing the truth of how we feel and dealing with the reason we feel as we do, we can finally arrive at a healthy emotional place where we no longer fault or resent others for their limitations and choices.

Just as God created the physical parts of us, He created the emotional parts. If we deny our negative feelings, they don't go away. Rather, they fester and grow until they have eaten away at our very souls. An important part of healing damaged emotions is to acknowledge them (feel) and sit with them (deal). Only then can we begin to let go of them (heal) and move on with our lives.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The older I get, the less I care about stuff. In fact, I revel in getting rid of the possessions that have
accumulated in my home for the last thirty years. It gives me great pleasure to purge closets, drawers, and attics. Someone once said, "Whenever you bring something new into your home, be sure to get rid of something." While that seems like good advice, I would take it a step further and get rid of two "somethings." Let's face it. We really need less than half of what we own. So, why do we surround ourselves with so much stuff?

My parents' generation lived through the Great Depression. They knew what it meant to be lacking. As a result, many of them became hoarders. Whether consciously or subconsciously, they vowed to never "go without" again. I understand that mentality, especially when I throw away something, and-- a day or two later--find myself needing that very item. However, there are only so many surfaces on which to display knick-knacks and so many walls for exhibiting art and photographs.

I'm not, by nature, a collector, but the people in my life seem to enjoy collecting for me. Okay, so I have a special Teddy bear in each room of my house. That doesn't mean I want you to start buying Teddy bears for me. I love books and I love reading, but I already struggle to pare down my personal library. I don't need more books to clutter my shelves. I appreciate fine jewelry, but every time my sweet, generous husband buys me a new ring or necklace, I think of how much good that money could have done for people in need of life's basic necessities.

We--especially we Americans--are products of a capitalist society that emphasizes consummerism. We have been brainwashed to always want more. . . more money, bigger houses, expensive cars, high fashion, more stuff.

I have been poor, and, frankly, I didn't like it. But, I'm convinced wealth can be just as limiting as poverty until we recognize that material accumulation doesn't do anything to develop our spirits or contribute to the universe. It only creates more stuff for our children to dispose of after we're gone.    

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nothing Can Separate Us . . .

Yesterday I attended the memorial service of a young man who passed away at the tender age of twenty-nine. Twenty-nine-year-olds aren't supposed to die. They're certainly not supposed to predecease their parents. I hadn't seen Drew in a while. For many years, he and one of his sisters sang in the youth choirs that I directed. Drew was lively, friendly, funny, adventurous, respectful of his elders, and a bit of a dare-devil. The friends and relatives who spoke at his service reaffirmed everything I remembered about him, and added "happy" and "contented" to the descriptors.

I don't think anyone was surprised when Drew enlisted in the Army after college. He actually survived a tour in Afghanistan--as an explosive disposal specialist--where he received a bronze star. When he returned to the States, his mom breathed a huge sigh of relief.

As she and I hugged and cried together at the visitation, we talked about how she was in the throes of every parent's worst nightmare. Let's face it, we parents spend a lot of time figuratively and literally holding our breath until we can finally feel confident we have successfully raised our children to adulthood. At last, that overwhelming sense of responsibility lifts from our shoulders. They are safe; they are happy; and they are decent people. Our job is done.

At the end of our conversation, Drew's mom said, "If anyone dares to tell me it was God's will for my son to die . . ." I could tell she needed to feel and express intense anger. So, when she hesitated, I finished her sentence, "You'll punch 'em where it hurts." She nodded her head adamantly as we both recalled instances when we had heard those very words spoken by well-meaning Christians. The implication was that we should be grateful for losing our loved-one; we should be grateful for the worst pain we have ever experienced because God, in His infinite wisdom, willed it.

No! It is not God's will for us to suffer such unimaginable loss and pain. It is not God's will for us to have our children ripped from our lives and our hearts. When faced with the horrors that can befall us in this earthly life, we are allowed to be angry, despondent, grief-striken, lonely, and afraid. We are even allowed to rail against God.

The promise is, "Nothing [including death] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39)." Accordingly, God honors each stage of our grief and stands ready to walk through it with us, every excruciating step of the way until we are whole again.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bitter or Better

We all know people who have been beaten down by life. Maybe they have suffered a great loss or are struggling with a serious illness or both. Perhaps their loss is of a financial nature. Maybe they have lost an important relationship or job. No one in this earthly life is exempt from loss or pain. We cannot control what life hands us. We can only control how we respond to life's inevitable changes and challenges.

We live in an imperfect world, and we deal with imperfect people. We, ourselves, are flawed. All of us. At some point, we must choose. We can either allow the pain and hardship of imperfection to make us bitter or we can choose to use our human existence to make us better.

Shortly after my second child was born, I developed endometriosis, a painful, unrelenting condition. Gradually, it worsened throughout the next fifteen years. If I had the power to change that period of my life, I would. If I could erase those terrible memories, I would. I saw doctor after doctor and tried first one medication and then another. I was referred to gynaecologists, edocrinologists, psychotherapists, nutritionists and more. Nothing helped. I became depressed, angry, and desperate. My life, my family, and my dreams were slipping away. I wanted to be a good wife and mother, but I was failing in both roles. I pushed my husband away with negativity and criticism borne of constant pain. I was missing out on the joy of raising the children I so desperately wanted. My passionate career aspirations required energy. But every day was colored by incessant, insidious misery. Life had become a burden too heavy for me to carry.

Finally, at the age of forty-two, in a last-ditch effort to restore my health, I underwent a hysterectomy. But, instead of the cure I had joyfully anticipated, I faced the beginning of a long journey. Now, my body was plunged into the living-hell of surgical menopause. I couldn't start hormone replacement therapy until a year after the surgery because hormones would cause the remaining endometrial tissue to regrow.

At this point, my marriage was strained, my depression worsened, and suddenly my children were teenagers. Where was this God who supposedly loved me and cared about me? Where was the God who promised to never leave me or forsake me? I had accepted Jesus at a young age. I had prayed daily, read the Bible regularly, and attended church faithfully. Why was God allowing me to suffer? I had begged and pleaded. I had bargained and questioned. I had railed against God for deserting me. I had chosen bitterness.

The only action I had not taken was surrender. The verb, surrender, has the hallmarks of being passive, but the act of surrender is a tall order. Surrender is an attitude that requires courage. It is a behavior demanding great, heaving effort. Surrender involves the intentional struggle of letting go. Letting go of pride, ego, and stubborn self-sufficiency. Surrendering our egocentric schemes to God's perfect plan requires a conscious decision that no one can make for us, even when it seems we are too weak to decide anything.

I would love to proclaim that surrender resulted in instant, miraculous healing. Indeed, some miracles do manifest instantly. No, I wasn't the recipient of an instant miracle, but I did experience immediate, pervasive assurance that my miracle was promised in God's time. It came in the form of peace. Yet, God still had a lot of work to do in me and required a lot of work from me, but now I was indwelt with peace.

The moment I released every aspect of my being into God's omnipotent, omniscient hands, trusting the resurrected, living Christ to be Lord of my life, was the moment my life began to change for the better. The journey began nearly 30 years ago, and today I am living, learning, and loving every day.

Today, I recognize and experience God's miracles wherever I am, in whatever state I find myself. I cherish every moment in this earthly body, aware that it is but a temporary vessel. As it gradually deteriorates, turning back to dust, it will fail me again, but my spirit soars now and into eternity because I have chosen to live, learn, and love, reminded that I can be better instead of bitter.