Listen Up

 

The-Woman-At-The-Well

Don’t talk to me.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t talk to me. When I give you my time, don’t waste it. Don’t try to tell me what I need to do. Don’t tell me what might be helpful. Don’t pretend that you want to enjoy my company.

Just stop.

Stop the long held belief that in order to love someone you have to fix their problems. Stop sharing information with others that was only meant to be shared with you. Stop showing up to the relationship like we are living in the past.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say.

Don’t talk to me, oh no, listen.

Listen, with all that you are. Listen with as little preconceived ideas as possible. Listen, and seek, to understand. It’s a quality long lost in this instant social media, texting world. I’d rather sit with you over a cup of tea and hear your heart, while you hear mine – rather than text you all hours of the day. Slow down. Let’s not share information, let’s share conversation. Let’s unite by loving one another and hearing our stories. Not talking, but listening.

Of all the examples of Jesus life and how he interacted with people, this one I gravitate to the most. Read with me.

“… He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.” (John 4: 4-30, The Message)

Oh, I am that woman.

The woman who hides herself away from the crowds at midday in shame. The woman who suffers in isolation and loneliness. The woman who understands that for this man to greet her, speak to her and acknowledge her presence in such way – is a voice validating who she is.

She matters.

Think I am reading too much into the text? Think again. The context reveals that this woman was so isolated that she chose to go to that well midday, in the heat of the sun, to gather water to drink. Often gathering water was done very early in the morning or very late in the daytime due to the extreme heat. Why not gather water with others? Wouldn’t having others there mean someone could help her carry the water jars back to town? Why not go at the same time as the other women gathering water?

Fear. Crowds. Damage control.

What makes sense to us on the outside, looking in, makes absolutely no sense to the one who is alone. She found solace in the midday sun, for it was there in the quiet she could avoid the talk of the crowds. The nonstop chatter of their voices as they spoke about her life and the things she had done. The whispers of gossip cloaked as righteousness, “Oh, you should pray for her.” How often we deceive ourselves into thinking that with our talking we are helping the other person and seeking their good.

Are we?

Just reread her encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus begins by asking for a cup of water. A simple request. He invites conversation by indicating his need, he’s thirsty. Can she help?  The Samaritan woman was immediately taken aback by His request. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t even supposed to acknowledge her presence. It was just the two of them at that well – she a Samaritan and He a Jew. He had every religious right to ignore her. He was obligated to. He was righteous. He had opportunity. Yet, rather than invoke his religiosity, he embraced the grace, compassion and generosity of God.

“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

Jesus knew immediately that He had an opportunity and he harnessed it. He chose to draw upon the generosity of God as He asked this woman to draw that water for Him to drink. He was thirsty and He could have drawn some water Himself, rather He begins a conversation with a woman who had been abandoned by society, choosing instead to say to her, “I see you.”

I see you.

I see you as you hide here at this well. I am here. Let’s talk – no, you talk, I will listen.  I asked for water but what I really want is to give you living water. I didn’t really need the water. I needed you to see that you are worth listening to. I don’t care about the customs of this day, I care about you. Now. Today. Always.

Drink.

Oh, how she wanted to drink. She asks Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” Perhaps she was only thinking physically at this point – wanting this living water that welled up so that she would never thirst again. Never taste that dry, cottony mouth we get when we are parched. Perhaps she didn’t want to travel this road ever again – never having to place herself at this well where the local woman gathered. She already felt this place of scorn and shame as an outsider. “Give it to me,” she asked, but Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and then come back.

Ah. Yeah. My husband.  “I have no husband.”

Oh. Truth. They spoke such truth to one another. Stop. You’ve heard this story a hundred times. Listen with fresh ears. They spoke such truth to one another. Total strangers, yet deeply honest with one another. Jesus went on from this moment of raw truth and spoke life into her heart. He used this moment as a turning point, saying once again. I see you. No matter one, or 5 men, whom are not your husband, I am here – with you now.

I see you.

As this woman begins to wrestle with the uncertainty of this stranger – you can almost sense her heart on her sleeve. Exposed with the truth of her deepest soul, her sins and her shame – rather than run from it, she embraces it. Let that sink in. She didn’t deny all the men she had been with, rather she accepts the truth. Ownership.She grasps the utter humanity of this moment- and speaks. Real talk.

Not cloaked in righteous indignation or proclamation. Not professed concern passively masquerading as love. Not a well intended, “I will pray for you” spoken as we move quickly back into our own life and it’s circle. Don’t be like those disciples who questioned why Jesus would be with “that kind” of woman. No. Jesus never talked to people this way. He stepped in when most of our footsteps may tread in another direction. He moved towards those in need. He comforted them. He listened. He loved.

Don’t you want that too?

To be heard. To be comforted. To have your most deepest longings accepted. Jesus had every societal, religious and moral right to ignore this woman. Culturally, that’s how it was at this time. Yet, Jesus didn’t let religious pressure, or cultural norms or even His disciples determine His path – He let God lead Him. Jesus Christ paved a new path.

Be Jesus. 

Listen to the hearts of those around us. Go to their wells. Hear what’s really going on in their life. Share their suffering. Comfort these losses. Empathize. Drink in their experiences and see life through their eyes.

Don’t talk to me.

Don’t talk to me not unless you plan on having an honest conversation. Don’t talk to me one way and speak another way behind my back. Don’t talk to me with your criticism and your judgement.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say. Just stop.

Listen up.

 

Confessions Of A Wayward Spirit

Wayward, yep, that’s me.

If you could sum me up with one word, it’s wayward. Synonyms for wayward are willful, headstrong, stubborn. Okay – that’s enough. Ouch. I don’t really want to sit and consider this truth recently revealed to me. It is too uncomfortable and too raw for me to see clearly right now. But there it is, just the same.

Don’t even try to tell me you don’t see it in me. Don’t try to talk me out of it. I know it’s true. The conviction of this truth was spoken by someone I trust and it’s rocked me to core. They didn’t quite say it like this, but man, God did. He hit me across the head and said, “Shelly, what are you doing?”

I have disguised this reality of who I am with acts of selfless service or moments of deep pain shared with intimate friends. My safety stayed in the story of who I am, but it also kept others at bay – at arms length. I don’t think I was trying to be manipulative or intending to lead others astray, but one’s heart does determine the actions that we choose, doesn’t it? Justify, wrestle and debate all you want – but there it is.

"But the bad things people say with their mouth come from the way they think. And that’s what can make people wrong. All these bad things begin in the mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and insulting people. These are the things that make people wrong. Eating without washing their hands will never make people unacceptable to God." Matthew 15:18-20 (ERV)

It’s not what we do that determines our acceptance to God, it’s what we think. What we meditate on. How we handle situations. The ways in which we really love one another. I can’t say it any other way, I need help.

I need help to love when my mind tells me not to. I need help to forgive when my heart tells me no. I need help to trust in the plan of God, rather than relying upon myself. My wayward, stubborn, forceful self.

I’ve tried for most of my life to control the pain that lies deeply in the recess of my heart and mind. I have done lots of inner work to grow. I have become more and more vulnerable and transparent about life. I yearn for intimacy and because I do, I am wayward. I lust, I long, I linger on thoughts that get in the way of my faithfulness to God.

I have found freedom but I haven’t found forgiveness.

I am still trying to earn my way. Working to change my thoughts. Change my behavior. Change my life. Change, change, change. I, I, I. Ugh! There’s my wayward self striving so hard to fix things that were never mine to fix in the first place. Rather than accepting the powerful truth to let go and have God handle the situation, I hold tightly with these hands so bound they choke my spirit.

God is the only one who knows someone else’s heart. It doesn’t matter what I see, my perception is skewed. God is the only one who can work in all things to bring about healing and hope. Not any new idea or thought I have. God is the one one who loves me more than I love myself. Yeah, love myself.

I see through my own brokenness – don’t you?

Do you find it difficult to love when you hurt so? Do you consider blaming others rather than looking in the mirror to your soul?  Do you think you can handle it all yourself and that you don’t need anyone?

Don’t believe that lie – not for one minute. I need you, and friends, you need me. We are a people who need. Who want. Who long. Who desire. It’s the human condition. The question is, are you a kindred wayward soul like me, or are you a faithful and faith filled overcomer?

I admit there are times I am a faith filled overcomer. But not today, not tomorrow and not in the future. Not while I keep lying to myself. Self deception is the worst of all. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. Then we act upon them, digging ourselves deeper in layers of fear. Before we know it, we fool ourselves and life an unauthentic, unproductive and joyless life.

It ends, today.

Right now I admit, for all to see, read and hear, that I am a wayward, stubborn and self serving soul. My life has been upside down for so long, I don’t even recognize  the right way up very often. I admit, I need help. My heart is so full of pain and insecurity, it’s difficult for me to hear positive, loving and kind words. I have turned from the rejection I fear will come – and try to nip it in the bud.

Self condemnation is a terrible place to live.

Don’t live there my friends – I know it well. It’s a lonely place to be. Give flight to your words and let them come. Speak the truth of where you are at. Confess whatever you might need to and walk this journey with me.

Let’s move into the direction of God’s love. Let’s ask Him to change our hearts and our minds. I don’t know how He will, but certainly know He can. He’s done it for me before, it’s time this wayward woman asked Him again.

Join me?

"Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take." Psalm 119:105

 

A New Year?

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2017.

Just like that, the clock ticks, the bell chimes and the new year slips right in. Not with loud fan fair, or much celebration – but another moment in time. Another hour, another day, another year. Just when I was sweeping up the memories, both happy and sad, of 2016 – 2017 just waltzed right in.

How did that happen?

You might be ready to be rid of 2016. Perhaps it included loss, pain and  unfulfilled dreams – for you that door can’t close fast enough on the year, can it? I know. I know that sense of closure needed to move forward and beyond what was, hoping for what’s to come. I’ve had many years where I slammed that door shut myself.

So, here we stand, on the cusp of a year not yet lived. What do you long for in this year? I know what I do. I can speak it faster than you process your own thoughts. I’ve been kicking around stones on a new path, following it, even as it’s windy roads keep me in circles sometimes. I am ready. So ready – for 2017.

How about you?

Are ready to breathe in new life into your own? Are you ready to lay aside your pain, your anxiety and sense of hopelessness? Taking a hard look at who you are and how you live your life. Knowing with strength and certainty that you are worth each moment that this year will bring you.

If there is one truth to grab ahold of as you start this new year, it’s that you are worth every moment you give to yourself. Don’t doubt it. Don’t deny it. Don’t hesitate. Love. Love yourself. As you love yourself, or perhaps learn to love yourself, love springs from within you to share with others. If it seems trite to you, don’t take my word for it.

Jesus Christ was asked once,

“Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:28b – 31  The Message)

Did you ever stop to realize that loving God means loving yourself?

Jesus asks us to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy. Then He proceeds to instruct us to do the same to our very hearts. How often do you love yourself passionately? Really? Me neither.

It takes great effort to think about myself. I spend so much of my time thinking of others, of what needs have to be met, of what things have to be done – that somewhere along the way, I get lost. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a raw reality of my life. I’ve allowed myself to be loved less, and in the process, believed I am unlovable.

The greatest gift I hope to give myself in 2017, is love.

Loving myself. Accepting the desires that are within me as gifts from the Heavenly Father and live them in my daily life.  Some may profess that’s not a Christian attitude, well.. I use to believe that myself. God has had to teach me through years of suffering that loving myself is how I honor and love Him. It’s not what I do that makes me a follower of Jesus. It’s who I am, and who lives in me. God’s Spirit resides in me.

Read that again.

God’s Spirit lives in me! If you are a Christian reading this, then He lives in you too. Have I spent my time, wasting time, putting myself in a position I was never meant to be in? Am I putting down the Almighty God Himself when I reject His life within me? When I repeat long held negatively tucked deep away in my spirit. When I insist on focusing on what I do, rather than who He created me to be – I am choking the Spirit’s ability to reign fully in my heart and lead.

We must let go, and love, ourself.

So, as you kick off this New Year, I ask you to join me. Stand in the front of the mirror of your heart and listen to your soul and hear it’s cries. Listen. Don’t turn away. Don’t get busy. Be still. Get quiet. When the thoughts come of what you really love, find a way to use that passion for good, and for God. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart into a new direction, His. Don’t quench the Spirit of God, let Him love you. And in doing so, you love yourself.

2017, bring it on.

Wearing our weariness

wearySometimes, we just need time -time to feel, to process and to heal.

Not quick platitudes of prayer and offers to listen, but some real, deep, one on one time. Sigh. Can you feel that tension where intimacy calls you name? This past year my personal life has not afforded me much time to truly let down and recover . To take some time and let the calming peace wash over me. Oh no, not at all.

So, rather than wait for it to somehow magically appear. I made a decision that perhaps years ago I wouldn’t have. I took the time myself. I disconnected from life, from the blog, from Facebook and really tried to being a season of listening. My heart was calling me to focus and to make time for myself.

You can’t listen if you don’t slow down to hear.

I’ve spent my life working in many fashions. Caring for people, teaching, organizing events, managing blogs to grow community and being focused on pathways to inner growth. Moving in and out of life with some renewal and hope of lessons learned tucked away – growing older but hopefully just a tiny bit wiser. Regardless of what I have learned,  I continued to stumble about in my own sin and shame filled insecurities which has extended for a lifetime.

Man, am I tired.

Emotional growth and healing take time and energy. Focus. Purpose. I am confident caring for my father in law was pivotal in helping me see things my heart had been saying for some time.  I needed to slow down, find some balance of where moments of time stood still – and cherish them. It was time to sacrifice the perfectionist tendencies of my heart and accept the reality of the life I have been given. Treasuring time together for the gift it is. Becoming a caregiver I found that I  had been given a precious gift as well.

I learned to listen. I learned to hear. I learned to really be in a moment. I thought I knew how to do this before, but I was kidding myself. This was transformational! Each and every day with Basil I needed to ride the waves of whatever happened that particular day and just be  Now that the experience  is gone as he has passed on, I find myself looking for the focused life I was living when Basil was alive. Walking in those days where nothing else mattered except loving those around you.

This was paramount!

I learned to really love and experience unconditional love. Walking in pure love grounds you. I learned to accept people exactly where they were at and love them irregardless of their circumstances. I realized I could love more than I ever thought possible. How my life begin to change!

I found it wasn’t my own strength that carried me through the days, oh certainly not! It was the presence of something stronger and mightier than myself. God soaked me in moments of quiet everyday that revealed His presence in the pain. He was real. He was alive. He was with me. I understood that my ability to love was in direct correlation with my understanding that I wasn’t alone.

Oh goodness, I am not alone.

Neither are you, my friend. He’s with you too! No matter what you are facing. No matter what you are dealing with. No matter what your life story is at this very moment. God is present.  He wants to make His Presence known to you. Let me say that again, God is present and He wants to make His Presence known to you. Perhaps, you don’t know Him – or maybe, you want to know Him more, experience Him deeply in your life. God’s invitation to you, as well as to me, rings out from the heart of Jesus –

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

Oh, how I want rest!

I am weary. Aren’t you? Don’t you tire of the daily demands that are placed upon you? Don’t you tire of expectations you place upon yourself? Don’t you ever just want to let it all go? It can’t be only me! It’s a dry and weary land when the demands of life overwhelm you my friends. But, there is hope. You don’t have to handle it alone today, tomorrow or  anymore.

For a long time I lived in denial. I thought I had given my heart to God and followed Him, yet I clung to things I had learned long ago. Thinking that those were the things that would bring me rest and relief. I worked harder. I gave more. I sacrificed precious time that I will never have again. Don’t be me. The regrets can consume you. The fear can paralyze you. The anxiety can stop you.

Come to Jesus. Come to know Him . Come to rest in His love. Accept His invitation. Today you can walk a different life, right now. I don’t mean your life will be perfect, but I do know the provider of peace Himself, Jesus, will walk with you.  There is hope and calm assurance in knowing you aren’t alone. Because you aren’t, my friend. There is nowhere where His Presence can’t be. There is nothing outside His reach. There is no one that His love can’t fill.

He is God! The Almighty Father cares for you. He sent His only son because His love is beyond anything you have ever experienced. God loves you and wants to give you rest in your everyday life.

Come.

Endless Days

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It’s been months now.

Days after day, turning into month upon month. Incessant needs swirling all around seemingly never-ending . Moments of nonstop activity. Times of restless energy. Interrupted by deep suffering. Yes suffering. Mourning. Grieving. Hurting. Moving through the darkness of a life left with unfulfilled dreams, unspoken love and sadness – knowing they were about to leave this world as they struggled to feel loved.

Heartbreaking.

So heartbreaking to realize that people go through this life feeling unloved. Not experiencing, not knowing, not accepting love in it’s purest form. Letting it sink down deeply into the recesses of one’s heart – a precious gift from one to another. Compassion. Forgiveness. Mercy – love.

Perhaps the love you experienced in your life, or are experiencing now, is not something you want to emulate, not something you want to give or even not what you want to receive. Maybe it’s not the reality you desire … yet here you are. Yearning for love, but your understanding of it, and perhaps your lack of experience in knowing what real love is, skews your perception, effects your ability to give and certainly to receive love. It’s like reaching for something you deeply desire – to find it falls between your grasp. Hoping that the next time you reach for it, you’ll snag it with your hands. So simple, huh?

No.

Loving and being loved is learned through the social framework and family structures in which we were born, how we were raised and to this point, how we have chosen to live our lives. Some of these things we have encountered may not be a personal choice. You didn’t chose to be the son or the daughter of an alcoholic, of an addict or of an abuser. There are things in your life that you have had absolutely no control over. None. You can’t change the beliefs, the choices or the addictions that others in your life wrestled with. The insecurities, the frailities or the demons that they faced. That was not your choice -you had no say in the matter.

None.

It shaped your reality. Helped form your identity. It can haunt you for eternity. You see my friend, love is. In it’s purest nature, love fills hearts, fills minds and fills souls like nothing else can. It breeds empathy, mercy and compassion. Allowing relationships to grow, to expand and go into places that were once guarded. Love heals. Love gives. Love hopes. This pure love is not something often familiar to many of us – or part of our daily interactions with those we care for. If you grew up in an alcoholic, an addictive or an abusive home, love is not always pure. Love is interpreted by the pain of the past, often difficult to break free from and facing daily struggles to find hope. To feel loved.

God says that love never fails.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Often when I read this I find myself questioning the reality and truth in these words. If love is truly all these things, then where exactly does the love I give or experience come from? In what form or fashion do I find myself defining love and how come it’s so much more different than how God defines it?

How come, God?

I’ve been asking this question for ages. Why? Maybe you have asked it a time or two yourself?  Depending on your life circumstances and personal experiences – you could be asking it often. A daily grind of combatting the deep truth that you really are loved and you are worth loving. I have news for you, you ARE. You are loved and your are worth loving! Don’t take my word for it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He wants a relationship with you, so that you can begin to understand His love for you through His Son, Jesus Christ. The story of His love is true, and it’s so incredibly deep. We will talk more about the divine love of God, but not today.

Let’s keep it simple.

Not long debates about what you need to do, or not do. No exegesis of the Bible and every word where love is spoken. No. Simply put – the love of God. The love that combats all doubt. The love that confronts your fears. The love that has been poured out for you so that you might walk away from the pain and the brokenness of what you know and walk into the holiness of what is true. That deep love you yearn for is real and you can grasp it within your hands. It’s real. It’s true. It’s full of hope.

You are loved. No circumstance. No situation. No person can tell that you are not worth loving. Do not give them that power. Find rest in the assurance that you are loved. Drink a small drop of living water that recognizes that you are worthy. Cling to the truth that you matter. Don’t let go of who you are – God sent His Son for you because He loves you so – don’t give up. Feeling loved begins now.

Love yourself.

 

I Had No Idea

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I had no idea.

Not a single thought, or wandering moment, when I considered the choice before me. My heart had already spoke before the words came off my lips. “Yes, yes, I will do this.” I believed in the choice before me. I knew it was right. I understood their would be sacrifice. I envisioned, I suppose, what my days might encompass Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this past year as a mother, as a wife, as a woman- who chose to be a caregiver.

I find deep joy in giving to others. It’s second nature to me. It’s who I am. I believe in good. I believe in people. I believe in loving them to the best of your ability. Offering love and compassion to someone is a gift – having the honor to do so in their final days on this earth – indescribable. Regardless of my beliefs, nothing could prepare me for the months that would follow.

I really had no idea.

This was a time when believing in what you thought was right turned your feelings and thoughts into action – you just do. I thought I had the strength, the fortitude, to march onward. Although I had no knowledge of what lay before me, I believed I would be able to withstand the pressure. But whom can prepare you for moments like these in your life?

Looking back on it now, if you had told me then what it would be like, perhaps giving me descriptions and details of what would unfold – I may have made a different choice. I probably would have wanted someone else to come in and do all the work. Because there was no way  I was going to be able to handle it all. The daily grind of medication administration, personal care giving, driving to appointments/treatment, the constant need for attention. Working 16 hour days – day after day, week after week, month after month.

Oh.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of the burden would lay at my feet. I assumed it would be a family affair – sharing responsibilities between us as we worked together. At times it was as we combined efforts to divvy up responsibilities, but that was short lived. It was my wonderful husband, whose plate was already overflowing, who worked so hard to help shoulder the burden that lay before us. This was a new journey we were walking, together. 

The exhaustion would envelope me daily as I crashed upon the bed hoping to find some reprise and rest. I pushed through days savoring gentle moments of God’s presence with me. Seeing the sunrise and witnessing the start of another day, I would snap a quick photo to remind me why I was here. That God called me to these moments. I was learning to be still – to rest – to trust. To allow the situation to unfold and know that I have absolutely no control, this had to be okay. It was beyond time for me to learn how to be. Being still in the knowledge that these moments, no matter how crazy they are, are precious gifts from the Hand of the Almighty Father.

I was walking a path filled with instances of God breathing life into long ago dead places. When His Presence becomes known. Where His fingerprints become your marking. When you are planted in peace that permeates your soul. Your purpose clear, the calm present, a gift from the throne room of heaven.. Whispering as you collapse into God’s tender embrace, you begin to feel His love, know His love, be His love. Your existence no longer becomes about what you do – but who you are – bellowing out for all the world to hear. You are there, you are here – you are. Somehow in the everydayness of caregiving, you became cared for.

I had no idea.

This journey has been so much more than a physical one. Facing your final days on this earth your focus begins to shift as you pause and reflect on what is of most importance. All that you had invested in comes crashing down. The security you put in your bank account or shored up property can’t erase the fact that death is knocking at your door. Questioning your choices in life, you ask some very hard questions. Hoping to ease your heart, your mind and your eternal soul, you search for answers where only God holds the key.

Tending to your soul is of primal important in these precious days, what a privilege to alongside you. Emotional times spring forth as we talk about the value of life. All pretense began to drop as you face the reality that death is coming – soon. Gentle times of togetherness, laughter among family and friends and the truth spoken brings calm to anxiety filled hearts.

I had no idea.

None. Nada. Zip. That the emotional journey I would embark on during this caregiving time would take such a tremendous toll on my life.  I didn’t bargain for the way your story became my own. I didn’t know that your pain would be so unbearable to witness. I didn’t plan that the days which followed your death would immobilize me so very much. Your death became a part of my own – for a part of my old self passed along with you.

My body, my mind and my spirit are all eager for rest. Not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally and spiritually too.  I am forever changed by these days of sacrifice, that’s the wonderful thing about love – it changes you. I am hopeful for healing. I am waiting for peace to reside. I am quiet as I listen. I continue in the practices You wrote upon my heart God, each day looking to You, for You and being with You.  I know you are here and I am enough because I am Yours..

God needed to be my life source and keep me going. He was the fuel to my engine for each day. It was just my job to wake up and move. To glance out that window and remember who was in charge. Then let Him be that one. My purpose was to rest. My aim, to trust. My hope, to live. It sounds so simple now, like some quick and easy plan or mathematical equation we often use to define our spiritual selves. Like study + prayer = Peace – who believes the eternal God who created the universe and calls each of us home in His time, can be summed up in a + b = c? How finite our minds are! During these long days that stretched into months,  I didn’t have time to study. There weren’t moments for long winded prayers. I gasped for prayer like I was gulping down air. I needed oxygen to breath and I needed His Spirit to fill me. Period.

I had no idea.

Of the blessings that would flow. Of the depths to which your love would reach me. Of the truth that your ways are higher than my ways releases me from imposing my own way on others. I am free. Because of you and my relationship with you, I am free. You are more than a ticket to heaven later, you are the life giving force in my life now. Here. Today.

We serve an infinite God! He chooses to love us in intimate and personal ways. Speaking to our hearts and our minds. He brings clarity to our thoughts. He brings hope to our musings. He is more than words on a page. He is more than an answer to prayer. He is. The Almighty God is over all and wants to bring peace and build quiet places where we live, where you live, where I live – today.

My body may be weak, my emotions may vacillate but my hope is in God. Would you put your hope in Him today? His arms are large enough to hold you. His heart beats for you, empathizes with you, loves you. Yes – you. So, don’t wonder if you are good enough. Life is too short and precious to focus our energies and our vision on our weaknesses, our shortcomings and our missed opportunities. Don’t belabor the choices you have made already in your life. Seek God out, He is enough.

All this time, I had no idea.

I Am Not Ready

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I walked outside and felt the sun upon my face. It’s been a few days since I felt its warmth. It wrapped me up like a blanket, touching my face and my heart. I needed it’s warmth. I took a deep breath and looked at that blue sky and wondered how it could look the same when all inside my heart felt so different.

As we emerged from the Hospice House, I had family come walking towards me. Normally a light and happy feeling, today felt like a deep pain inside of me. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find any words, so I just kept on walking straight to the car. How had the warmth of the sun I had just felt become so cold?

It hit me then in that moment, as it has many more since then – that life goes on no matter what happens in your own. People will still gather together, enjoying meals, laughing, telling jokes. Working, playing, living – that is the nature of life. It’s meant to be lived.

Even in death.

I had just witnessed someone I dearly love loose their battle with cancer. They had fought  very long as they faced the disease that would finally claim their life. As I said goodbye for the final time, I was overcome with the emotions that saying goodbye really means. This isn’t a TV show you turn on and off at a whim, or some internet sensation you can google to learn more about them, this is not temporary, but final. This is life – and his was ending.

Somehow sitting around talking about the weather, the news, the current state of politics, or any other subject just doesn’t matter. It was all minutiae in comparison to the deeper questions we had been facing. We had been talking about life and death, embracing the precious journey of having one foot in this life and one in the hereafter. Moments were sacred. Time was precious. Love is eternal.

We all have a journey in life and this was his to walk.  I was humbled and so honored to be a part of his story. Touched to be trusted with tender moments that I will never share again. Forever changed by the authenticity and the humility that comes in facing death. If you are blessed to walk this road, standing beside them from this life into the next – it’s a gift.

Embrace it.

Do not fear the difficult days, the hard work of love, the sleepless nights nor endless days of activity and probably stress.. There will be painful moments of grief that tear apart your soul. Ripping at who you thought you were and inviting you to step even deeper into the presence of God. This road is not something to be taken lightly. Countless hours of doctor’s appointments, treatment, travel time, injections, TPN administration, medication, organization, physical, emotional and relational assistance. It wasn’t a blur – it was a hurricane.

Yet, oh yet… there were moments of deep conversations, laughter that came from deep in your soul.  Times of reminiscing and rememberance. Moments of regret and of wonderful forgiveness. Oneness like never experienced before. Family that bonded in new ways. A treasure which anchors your soul. Love heals and love hurts.,

It hurts to give sacrificially, it hurts to give it your all, it hurts to love in deep ways over long periods of time – it just hurts. This pain doesn’t go away overnight. There is no easement of the grief as the people who surrounded you during the memorial services leave your side. It doesn’t subside when the grave is covered up with dirt. Grief lives when you love, why would I expect it or want it any other way?

So, if you are reading this – I am not ready.

I wasn’t ready that first day standing in the sunshine and I am not ready today. Don’t invite me to a crowd or gathering, I probably won’t come. I am not ready to be around people. I am not ready for the questions that may come. That very first day I said goodbye, I didn’t want to talk and it’s still true today. The grief is suffocating, the loss too raw. I am not the same person and I pray I remain forever changed by the gift of the relationship that emerged in these months of service.

In time – love will heal, love will reignite the spark, love will bind up the wounds. But for now, I choose to embrace the pain and not run from it. Be brave, like he was. Honor his memory by fully feeling the loss of his place in my life and the life of my family. It won’t bring him back, oh no. But it will allow me to process through the depths of pain that come in losing someone so dear. So when the time is right, I will fully laugh and love anew again.

Just not now.

Think whatever you’d like about how to handle this grief. Encourage me or not, that’s your choice. I have no control over your thoughts or your perception of me. Just remember, it’s not your place to tell how me to grieve. You can honor me, and the memory of the one I loved and cared for – by accepting me for who I am. It’s time character trumps duty, grace more than works – love overall. All.

That was the gift of these precious months as his health declined and his body gave out. Authenticity. Realness. Honesty. Openness. I may not be ready to live again, as most people would define their day to day. Certainly not ready for crowds of people. Ready for conversations about what seems to me trivial things. I just may not be much fun for a while. Oh well – deal.

Love me, or not.

That’s your call, this one is  already deeply entrenched in my own heart. Love me unconditionally. Places no strings upon me. No expectations on how to handle life. No quick prayers that all will be okay. I challenge you today – to love. Truly, give deeply of yourself and your heart – and love.

Let go of the past. Let go of your anger. Let go or your bitterness. Let go of your unforgiveness. Those dark places in our hearts we all fear to admit even exist. Let it all go. Rest in the promise that love can heal. That love is enough. My friends, it’s time to experience love. To receive love. To feel love for others. To give in ways you never expected. To see with new eyes that every heart is hurting and it is only love that carves into the trenches of hearts and heals.

How?

By trusting others. By giving in new ways. By accepting someone for who they are. Do you struggle in really loving? Do you gossip and slander those you say you love? Do you harbor resentment and bitterness? Are you selfish with your time? Do you waylay your energy? Shift your focus? It’s hard to offer unconditional love. It’s so hard to bring compassion into places that may have never experienced them before. I encourage you, I challenge you. Do it.

There is a beautiful treasure that lies within a heart, let God dig in you. Give to yourself and to others. Most of all, honor those whose lives you stand upon, who came before you and loved you when no one else would. Yes, I am grieving, but grieving is a part of love.

Love anyway.

As The Storm Closes In…

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How long will it last – the storm that is?

The weatherman says it will be the largest blizzard in over one hundred years to hit New England. A place where snow is a plenty and each flake is as welcome as the sands that scatter the shoreline. It is part of our culture and who we are. Storms come, we hunker down – press in and watch with scattered enthusiasm as the snow falls and witness anew the beauty of creation which casts it’s shadows among us on frigid winter days.

Whether it is a Nor’easter, a blizzard or just plain ‘ol snow granting us a few inches – we find ourselves like a child filled with wonder for a moment as we gaze at the white washed blanket that has settled over our landscape. It sure is pretty, isn’t it?  We pull ourselves away from the dreamlike state and remind ourselves of the reality that storms bring. Shoveling, losing power for hours on end and being house bound to remain safe on the roads we most often travel.

Just like life.

When faced with our own personal, individual storms. We have a choice in how we handle them – how we face them. Do we gaze upon our lives in reflection with realistic eyes of the work that lies ahead or do we remain in a  dreamlike state, unmoving – accepting the snow even as it falls?

Along with any storm or trial in our life, there comes a point where we can no longer deny the reality of how much snow will be dumped upon us. We have little control over the storms that come our way, but we do have control over how we respond to them. One lesson I needed to learn oh so long ago.

Sometimes, I just wander around in the storm. Overcome by the beauty as I walk about. Gazing at the places where the fresh snow lights up and glitters all around me. Digging perhaps into new places and finding new adventures along the way. Yet, often when you shake that tree limb as you climb on up – snow just pummels you down.

You just don’t always expect what comes your way.

How long will you wander about in your storm? At what point do you admit that you may need to bundle up, chart a new course as you walk about. I suggest, the only way to handle a storm is to get through them. There might be white outs as the wind howls and throws things to distract you as we walk. Sometimes we must settle in, hunker down and keep on walking.

Don’t believe me, that’s okay, you don’t need to. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 14, we find some stories of storms and trials in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It began with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Why would Jesus remove himself in private to find a solitary place? Could He perhaps be upset with this news? Jesus recognized His need to be alone and allowed himself the grace to find such a place for Him. This is how He chose to handle this personal storm – alone with His Father.

Yet, what does Scripture tell us? Verse 13b-14 says, “…. the crowds followed him on foot …. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Do you see? Jesus hears the sad news of the beheading of the man who baptized him and helped start His ministry. In grief, I suppose, he left privately in a boat to be alone. Yet as He landed on the shore, a crowd of people gathered. They sought Jesus out and He had compassion on them.

Compassion.

How many times when faced with your own moments of pain and strife, does compassion well up within you? Do you find yourself able to pull away and be alone with God to bring strength and comfort to you? In what ways do you seek to soothe your soul? Could I learn from Jesus who tried to carve out time for Himself with God? 

Are you looking for healing? This crowd gathered and waiting for Jesus was seeking just that – healing. Jesus went on to perform a miracle here and feeds the people, 5000 men – along with the women and children too. This my friends, is a lot of people. Many travelled to seek healing in their own storms of life. Whatever their situation upon the mountainside that day, Jesus met them there. He took care of their needs and loved them right where they were.

Right there.

With a compassionate heart, He set aside His own needs and gave. Although Jesus craved intimacy and oneness in the midst of His personal storm, He remained true to who He was, and gave love. I have to ask myself, would I do the same thing? When I am caught in my whitewashed way, do I deeply love from my heart? Am I seeking to calm the storm of my own life, rather than loves others in their’s?

The story continues in Matthew chapter 14 as Jesus continues to teach about compassion and love during storms. Even His disciples who had walked with Him needed teaching, just like me.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

I’ve seen the waves pounding the disciples boat. Felt the spray on my face as the water sprinkled through the sky. Heard the winds howl bemoaning their course. What a storm, one for the record books! Envision Jesus walking, Peter focusing, Jesus reaching. In those quick moments, Jesus saves, saves. No matter what storm is going on in your life, Jesus….He’s got this!

Storms often cause us to focus on the waves, the tossing, turning of the boats. Drawing our attention away from that which centers us and casts us adrift, setting our minds to those things which may incite fear in us. Reminding us of past failures, hidden mistakes and defeat. Do not listen!

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

Are you making time to get away and be alone? Are you loving yourself, and others, right where they are at? Do you have your bearings set for a course straight on through that momentary storm?

Gather up moments my friends, seek out peace, focus on the good and no matter what interruptions comes your way – make the time for oneness with God.

Through the storm.

Who Can You Trust?

 

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Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

The first week ~ 2015

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Well it’s the start of a new year. 2015 has come upon us and we are past the night of resolutions and promise making. Now is the real test of who we are and who we want to become. Will we make the deliberate choice to follow through on our decisions and honor ourselves by being discipled and devoted to the resolutions and goals we set forth?

Will we be the people we want to become?

This is the first year I haven’t made any specific resolution , but rather I made a grounding firm decision to continue the journey I have been engaged in these past few months. I am a woman of faith and any of my resolutions are embedded with a spiritual focus. This year – I chose to be. Yes, just be.

Not an idling, carefree, lack of purpose type of being. No. Moreso a passionate understanding of who I am and was created to be. Living authentically from that place. Engaging in activities which grow who I am and deepen my sense of worth so that I no longer live under the guise of pleasing others – I am looking to just be.

Be free.

Perhaps you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier or focus on something specific physically. All wonderful resolutions. Yet, if  we tend to focus on just one part of who we are, we become unbalanced. So I ask you, dear friends. Do you want to be balanced? Do you want unity in purpose? Do you want freedom to be who you are no matter what the occasion or circumstance? There is a place for you, to walk in this freedom.

With Jesus.

Okay breathe, yes I just said Jesus. You see, with Jesus this is a deep awareness of who you are in light of who He says you are. You can immerse yourself in affirmations and truth of how much you are loved, how much you are worth and believe what He did to save your very soul. His love is powerful, mighty and able to redefine who you think you are. Who you have experienced life to be to this very moment. Jesus, well – he’s a transformer!

Not that robotic movie making, life saving creature. No. This transformation is not something that’s temporary like our resolutions often are. This is deep transformation into who you were created to be and learning to embrace yourself is what Jesus wants for you. Living freely from this place – with no fear.

No fear.

That’s the beauty of making resolutions in spite of who you think you are. We are free to make them and trust God to help us be faithful and devoted. I find  often that we are our deepest critic and the hardest person to please. Let go this year and just be. Find your center and allow yourself to love, yes, love you. How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love is most important, the greatest of all of Jesus’s teaching, it sums everything He taught, and the teachings from the Law and the Prophets hangs upon this premise. Love. Love. LOVE. Loving others comes in direct proportion in how you love yourself, Scripture says so. So I ask again, ” How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?” or  how will you love your neighbor, your spouse, your parents, your children…. if you don’t love yourself? It starts with you and how you view and love yourself.

So, love you.

In this new year of resolutions and promises, I encourage you this very first week to love yourself. Love in the way you desire and want given to you. Learn to love if you must, relearn and untangle all you have been taught. Resolve to love those who have hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you. Whatever your story is – love from that place.

With love springs forth many devoted thoughts and resolutions. Don’t worry about the end result. Just be in the present. Love yourself. Let God’s love empower you, disarm you and break through the shield of denial you’ve placed around your heart. Be in the moments of life. Be who you were created to be. Let your light shine from that most sacred place.

It’s the first week of 2015,  let’s really live in it!

Be.