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Undone

I’m simply undone. The church I attend semi-regularly has a first Sunday of the month evening worship service that I say I really love but haven’t made a priority in several months. Tonight I pulled myself together 20 minutes before the start and headed out.

I asked God for an answer to a specific prayer on the 5-minute drive. It’s a prayer I’ve been asking off and on (more off than on) for the past 5+ years. I haven’t really been serious about receiving a response from Him because to get one requires something of me. And I’ve been really reluctant to know the outcome of this one. Anyway, question asked on the drive and kind of forgotten as I took my seat.

Sunday night typically has really good worship music. Tonight was no exception, but none of the music was really impacting me. In fact, I had to mentally remind myself several times about where my focus belongs. At some point during the service, I mentioned to God that if He were looking to get a hold of me tonight, the music was going to have to be something really meaningful to me. And I suggested in my heart that it should be something I really like and probably as moving as The Agnus Dei.

The night proceeded. I was touched by the readings, the prayers, the fellowship, and by the music (a little). At the close, the attendees were reminded this was the last Sunday evening service ever. And the worship team closed. With . . . The Agnus Dei.

Total heart silence on my part. Barely able to sing the words. And then I realized God was answering my 5+ year prayer. With the last song. Likely chosen by the worship team days before. On a night when I didn’t even anticipate going to church. Bam. That’s just how God is. I am not random. You are not random. We are forever in His thoughts and He loves us through words and songs and every individual way imaginable.

The answer He shared with me tonight is not one I am thrilled with. In fact, I wrestled with Him a little on the way home, lightly arguing that I meant I wanted better music and that part really wasn’t about answering my prayer. I gave up pretty quickly though. It’s not remotely arguable. He reached out and touched me without a doubt.

What’s next? A whole lot of trust. Because this step isn’t going down without my leaning on him for every footfall. It requires mental, physical, and spiritual commitment of more than I can put forth on my own. Good thing He’s God and I belong to Him. He told me so on a quiet Sunday night in a small town church during their last Sunday evening service.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgUVugjcWI

 

 

The P Word (and its evil twin)

Perfectionism. I am not a fan. The first 7 letters are enough to cause me instant angst. Perfect. Nobody has managed that in over 2,000 years. And yet, we strive and reach and make ourselves crazy. I have a friend who is very pleased to call herself a perfectionist. I’m quite worried about her actually. You can’t possibly be a perfectionist and enjoy the little things in life at the same time. So as I ponder how to share with her that I think her attitude is akin to walking the plank, I’m jolted by a realization of my own.

I may not welcome perfectionism into my heart, but I am surely well-acquainted with her sister, “Performance-based Worth.” Ah. The dagger strikes. I can feel as smug as I like over disdaining perfectionism, but my performance meter is drumming up a party beat.

It’s been an extensive battle. And battle is really the only word to describe it. For the first four decades of my life, I felt like a failure unless I was the very best at whatever was the flavor of the day. Academics, athletics, best friending, work, etc. The problem with this, of course, is that no one can be the best at absolutely everything. So I felt pretty rotten a lot of the time.

In my forties, I started to realize I had really wasted a ton of time measuring myself not only by what I was doing but also by how well I was doing it. Safe to say God had been trying to get my attention for a really long time but I was just too deep into weighing, measuring, and groaning to expand my view to match His. As I began to open myself to the thought that I maybe had some personal thought processes messed up, God showed me quite clearly that nobody thinks about me nearly as much as I think about myself and certainly no one else is assessing my every move to figure out if I’m worthy of their time and attention. This concept was freeing.

 A couple of years ago, I lost track of God’s wise teaching  and ended up not really liking much of anything and finding every day really hard to get through. Life was good all around in general, but I was only counting the failures. God clearly spoke to me that it was time for a serious change. No more worth based on performance.

What is a girl to do when the framework she has spent nearly 50 years developing needs dismantling? Get on her knees, that’s what. And as always, God came through. Wholely and completely. He led me to His own words over and over again of how much He loves me and finds me worthy simply because I Am His. So simple; so amazing and awesome.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% cured, but I surely am aware of when I find myself trying to earn, rather than accept, my place. And I know to let go and surrender the “I can do everything myself” attitude before it gets entirely out of hand.

There is more than one reward to living this way. Peace. The supernatural kind that only Christ can give to any of us who stop flailing around long enough to receive it. I have a new P word in my life and it’s the best reward I’ve experienced yet.

Restless Heart

Not the ’80s country group. My own heart.

It doesn’t happen everyday. I’m often clicking through life just fine and then–bam!–I awaken the next morning restless and, quite honestly, a little unlikeable.

I know immediately I’m “off.” Edgy. Wanting to stay isolated but too bored be alone. So I start looking for something to fill me. And nothing satisfies. I move from thing to thing, not really accomplishing anything. Social Media can serve to distract me in the short run, but by day’s end I’m frustrated and critical of myself for all the time wasted.

This cycle repeats every few weeks. It never lasts long but it wrings me out both mentally and physically. And judging by the way my family scatters when this phenomena strikes me, I gather it’s no picnic for them either.

Today was such a day. It bled into this evening and I’m now sitting here wishing for a do over. As that is not possible, I turn my brain cells toward figuring this out. 

The answer is immediate and oh so simple. It’s my focus. When I put my eyes and heart on only myself, I end up in a dangerous place. Self-serving, self-sufficient, and the all-consuming selfish. I lose sight that I am created by God and for God and His purposes. I haven’t forgotten about him this week, just have been sliding him into the backseat instead of handing over the steering wheel. 

Big sigh of relief when I discover I don’t have a cyclical mental disorder. This is so fixable. Immediately fixable. So I turn my head and heart to My Best Friend Ever to obtain clarity and peace. As usual, he does not fail. And I’m no longer failing either. My head and heart are at peace and I’m looking forward tomorrow because I know I’m restless no more.

Can we find a friend so faithful? – From the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus (my Grandma Gobel’s favorite by the way) written by Henry Crosby

To My Oldest Son

What a ride we’ve had so far. Your recent high school graduation prompts me to look back on what we’ve shared so far and it can only be called amazing. You have taught me far more than you know and it is my turn to say thank you.

You won’t remember the winter and spring of 1997 when I had the first ultrasound of my pregnancy with you and a black spot on your brain was discovered. You won’t remember the tissue test the two of us underwent and the doctor’s resulting recommendation to abort you. I’ver never told you that I regret that test every day of my life. Your dad and I are convinced something we were told was so simple and necessary was actually invasive and traumatizing to both of us. And completely unnecessary.

You do know, of course, that thankfully and prayerfully we ignored that doctor’s advice. As a result, you stand before us today a man of health and integrity and your body houses the largest heart that anyone could ever imagine.

Early years with you were tough. You rarely slept. And I mean that literally. The first 3 1/2 years of your life, while precious, are somewhat of a fog to all of us. And you struggled with some health issues that I again can’t help but wonder if they tied into that damned tissue test! (Seriously, I’m getting over that . . . )

I remember the first day you went to “Moose School.” You stood in the living room with your backpack strapped to your back on your 4th birthday, watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center. You were devastated by what was unfolding on TV but so excited about your first day of school and celebrating your birthday. You have lived every day of your life since that fateful day in the same way–caring beyond measure what is happening to others while looking forward to what every day brings.

You had some struggles in school, academically and socially. And I worried. A little. Until your wise fifth grade teacher told me how much you were liked by everyone and that the heart you show every day makes you “golden.” She was right then and she is right now. And as I learned to let go of you (and you are the hardest one for me to release my grip), you began to flourish, to find your own way, and eventually to establish close friendships with people I couldn’t be happier to call your best friends.

You’re ready to take your next steps. College. And we’ve had lots of talks about what you are most comfortable with and what makes the most sense. Just remember, life doesn’t always make sense. The hard, early days you spent in the womb and adjusting to life after birth and the health issues you experienced off and on in your first decade of life were not a foreshadowing of your future. Rather they provided with you with development of strength, resilience, and love to grow into the man you are today.

And I could not be more proud of you. You love like no one else I know. You give of your time, talents, and money like no other. Your thoughtfulness and compassion are rare commodities in this “me first” world. You, son, are my treasure.

 

Connor Prom 2016

Kissing Anxiety Goodbye

Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety – Alli Worthington

Yes. That.

A-n-x-i-e-t-y: An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear over an impending or anticipated ill.

Who wants to have that? Not me. And yet I did. Do. A couple of weeks ago I realized I have been living in an ongoing state of anxiety for months. Some of it I can trace back to a heavy workload and a few twists in the road of life that have taken me by surprise. But the state of extreme anxiety in which I found myself clearly has a lot more buried beneath the surface. Basically, I’ve been wrapped in a chokehold of ever-increasing destructive thought patterns. A self-imposed prison of sorts.

One thing I had immediate conrol over is recognizing that a medication I have been on for several months could be the culprit inducing some of these false feelings. For better or worse and without consulting a medical professional (something I don’t advocate), I went off the pills cold turkey. I felt relief within a couple of days. But not complete relief. And that was a total downer because it meant I needed to face myself. Again. That’s when I went searching for the rest of the problem.

Notice the tail end of the anxiety definition above: “impending or anticipated ill.” I have no such things. I have no reason to believe there is impending or anticipated trouble of any kind and yet I have been living as though I am one tiptoe away from disaster. As I examined these tentacles of dread, I discovered they aren’t carrying truth. Just anxiety. For the sake of anxiety. And to keep me mentally and emotionally tangled up so as not to live in peace.

How to reset myself? I wrestled with that for a little bit. Then I came face to face with the same truth I’ve encountered many times. The truth I don’t like to admit. I have a problem trusting God. I know and believe His words and promises, but I continue to have trouble flat out trusting Him. Even though He has seen us through some real disasters. Time and again. Faithfully. Do I really think that one more misstep on my part is going to put me so far out of His reach that He won’t save me again? I really don’t. Yet I have been living like that is exactly what I believe. Sad. Simply sad. And unnecessary. I know better.

Enter Alli Worthington’s wise words above: Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety. So true. Again, so simple. When I look back over the last several years, there are times of crisis where I have absolutely thrived and seasons of plenty where I have choked on fear. The difference is in the approach. When my eyes are off myself and I am giving thanks and praise to the one who deserves every bit of it, life is navigable and joyful. Hopeful and peaceful.

After months of unfounded fear and a few tears, I am again choosing gratitude. It’s only been a day but that nasty elephant on my chest is gone. And my soul is quietly trusting.

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives [thank God, emphasis mine].

Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. John 14:27 (HCSB)

Sheep pasture.jpg

 

 

 

 

Blogging, An Unexpected Spiritual Art

I started blogging in August of 2013 as a response to a difficult life situation. The point was not to dwell or get lost in the difficulty but rather to remember to be grateful for life and all the marvelous things that still held true.

I blogged almost every day for the remainder of that year, using my words to count my blessings. Counting blessings sounds so cliche, yet is so true when one considers the many things for which to be thankful and so important to a truly healthy life and perspective.

The tough season and the catharsis of public writing changed me in ways I did not foresee. In some ways, I am quieter, more thoughtful, and definitely more careful. Not bad qualities. Just different. And sometimes they don’t feel like they fit my skin. But skin adapts to the shape of the body eventually and I am more comfortable with myself today.

The greatest good of that season and today is the spiritual shaping that is taking place. Some days the change happens through a gentle rub. Other days have felt like a chisel against hard clay. But the beauty that comes forth is worth the touch, no matter the depth of the pressure applied.

The truth is, Christ has changed me. Graciously and mercifully he has changed me into someone who looks for the good. Some days I don’t feel like looking. Other days it’s harder to find things for which to give thanks. Those are often the best days because they require some extra effort. And that is the difference. I am making the effort.

Some of you shake your head about what I believe or my words make you uncomfortable. Or you misunderstand what I’ve written and I have to work through my own discomfort of sorting out what I could have said better or wondering if writing is worth my time, even when I know it is.

As I close out 2015, what I know for sure is that I am meant to write. Whether my blog gets forty or zero views in a day. Whether anybody believes in what I have to say. Whether or not you find yourself nodding along quietly. My words have been my stepping stone from darkness to light and a reminder to trust in Jesus every single day.

May you find your hope in 2016-Cindy

  
PS: To all of you out there who have continually encouraged me – Thank you!

Of Locusts and Asian Beetles

Honestly the only downer of our late autumn warm weather is the plethora of Asian beetles that seem to spring from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Hard to enjoy a few quiet moments on the porch with them landing in the cuffs of my sweahirt and climbing on my shoes–let alone alighting in my hair.

A few Sundays ago it was another unseasonably warm day. Despite my best efforts and prevention, the spotted creatures drove me from my porch again. That particular day was the thickest I have ever seen them. Asian beetles to the left, the right, before, behind, above, and below. And all trying (and succeeding!) to gain entry to my home. I joked to one of my friends that the experience was reminiscent of the plagues of locusts and flies in Exodus.

The return of those sorry little bugs today reminded me again of the plagues. I thought about what awful experiences those must have been. Take my beetle troubles and multiply them by 10,000 and you might get the start of the picture.  As an aside, I’m fairly certain they didn’t have screens in those days.

The word “locusts” also reminds me of two other verses in the bible. Two truths that I am seeing come true in this present day:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.

My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you and my people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:25-26

When I started this blog in 2013 it was during a time I categorize as a great trial for me and my immediate family. I wrote through (and sometimes because of) that pain and misunderstanding and truly wondered if life would ever be the same again. 

It isn’t. A person can’t go through a tremendously difficult situation and come out the same. In the midst of it all, I struggled. And out of that struggle came shape. Not one I’m entirely comfortable with because I am warier and more suspicious. But what I gained from the experience is worth my life.

I learned to trust God. To really trust that I am not random, forgotten or uncared for. I have a purpose, a mission, and a method. And when the winds of doubt blow hard, I can think back to those really difficult days and know the truth.

Today I see and stand on the truth of Joel 2:25-26. The years the locusts have eaten are being restored day by day, moment by moment, step by step. Not all has been restored as it was, but we have plenty, we are satisfied, and we praise and glorify God for holding us steady in trial and blessing us in ways we could not have foreseen.

We are not put to shame. The restoration continues and I am awed.

  

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On Overcoming Fretting

I am simply so grateful. Cold toes stretched out in front of the fire. Scary book and cup of tea to my right. Dog below the foot of the recliner. And–wonder of wonders–I’m the only one in the living room right now. It is q-u-i-e-t.

More surprising than my male-dominated household being currently soundless is the quiet I find within myself. I am ridiculously (in a good way) at peace. I am also astounded.

You see, I have myself in a fairly unhealthy life pattern where I am working too much, eating things like cereal and Oreos for meals, and constantly fretting. Oh how I hate that word! Fretting. It just sounds fussy and needy and tiring. And yet, fretting I have been. (No wonder I’m alone.)

The truth is I do have a tough workload at the moment (yes, the moment) with some tight deadlines. So being a little stressed would be acceptable. But this over-the-top wallowing in busyness and counting all the things I am not getting done is simply a time waster and also bad for my mood. Which not coincidentally is bad for everyone at home. (Did I mention I’m alone?)

So tonight I faced my fretting. And I realized that 24 hours in a day is just not going to cut all that I have going on right now.There is only one answer. I have to let go and be okay with releasing my grip because there is no other way to be healthy, enjoy life, and do good work. Now the ugly part that I’m reluctant to share is I also realized that I only fret when I really groove on this awful “I’m too busy” cycle. If I’m fretting, I have to recognize that means I am also being short (read: unkind) with people and I am not attending to the needs of others with the attention they deserve because I am too busy thinking about ME. Wow. I don’t like that. Or admitting it. But it’s true.

That’s how I arrived at peace tonight. By facing the selfishness and saying, “God, this is not what I want. You made me better than this. I’m sorry.” So simple and yet it has taken me weeks to get here. Or, truthfully, perhaps years.

I started blogging just over 2 years ago to remind myself to be grateful, to count God-given blessings publicly, and because I generally enjoy writing. You’ll notice fewer posts this year than last. I guess the fretting overtook me to a point where one of us had to go. I’m glad it’s me still in the living room. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have company.

Come Away With Me

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life – Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

Get away. Yes. I need that. It’s not that my life is more difficult or complex than anyone else’s. I just happen to be going through a season where even the simplest task is tiring and anything requiring moderate brainpower is absolutely exhausting.

So I have those pep talks with myself. You know, the really helpful kind. Like, “What is the matter with you?” “Get a grip; everyone else seems to be managing just fine.” “You have so much to be thankful for.” I can play those tapes over and over in my head, but the self berating only exhausts and saddens me more.

Fortunately, today I stumbled across this gem from Matthew 11. I’m familiar with the verse, having previously read it in more traditional language that reads: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s really good. The weary receive rest. Nice.

But tonight, I like The Message version better. I want more than rest. I desire to get away. I want to recover my life. I don’t want to be angry, easily irritated, and just plain bothered by the people around me. I want to show patience and love and have the energy to enjoy other people.

So what is my responsibility in this? My job is to “get away.” This doesn’t have to be a physical removal (though I’m not opposed to the idea of a vacation). In fact, I think this verse is all about getting away from the details of life that tend to overwhelm me and living life right no matter where I am, no matter what’s happening in or around me.

What I take from this verse is that rather than channel surf, nap, sigh heavily and loudly, and overwork myself to the point of fatigue, I will get away with the one who loves me. It’s as simple as that. By spending time with Him who made me and rejoices over me, everything else is restored to proper perspective and joyful living is recovered.

If you’re tired, crabby, and self-absorbed, come away with me.

And–just to be sure I’m not misunderstood–I enjoy a quality nap and a good movie as much as the next person. They are good and restorative things to do. But trust me, you’ll enjoy them all the more after you’ve gotten away.

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