Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rainbows up ahead

On Wednesday April 11, 1990 in North Virginia drivers turned on their headlights and readied their windshield whippers as a storm rolled in. It was one of those seasonal spring storms that arrives in an instant. One moment the sky is light and bright and the next a blanket of ominous dark clouds send sunglasses into retreat. Seconds later the rain comes wrapped in wind gusts. The droplets come down sideways pinging against metal like little stones being thrown from the sky.
It was on this particular Wednesday afternoon, on a particular stretch of road through the Shenandoah Valley, that such a storm rolled in. Little Ford Fiestas slowed down in the right hand lane as massive semis went zooming past on the left. Windshield whippers threw water away from glass in a furry as drivers squinted to see just a few yards ahead. How long would this downpour go on? How long would the storm last?
It didn't take too long for drivers to receive their answer. The storm went as quickly as it came. In an instant the sky opened back up blue and bright. Sunglasses were quickly grabbed from their cases to shield delicate eyes from the radiant light. The storm had been so quick, so short, that not even the pavement gave evidence to the downpour. The road ahead was clear and dry.
Up above, every cloud had departed revealing a magnificent sight. From behind the blanket of gloomy gray, a full rainbow emerged. The brilliant colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet were painted across the perfectly clear canvas of the afternoon sky. The arch of the rainbow was flawless and each color was shining its brightest hue. It was as if the drivers were given a gift for enduring the ride through the storm.

I wasn't there on that Wednesday afternoon to experience that particular storm or see that precious rainbow's reveal. My big reveal, the occasion of my birth, was still eight hours off in the distance but for my Dad who drove through the storm on his way to meet his new daughter that rainbow was a promise.
In the rainbow that painted the sky on the day of my birth God delivered a message that He has been repeating ever since: In this life storms will come but, hold fast, because rainbows will always follow.   
Some storms in my life have lasted mere moments while others have lasted for years. Still God is true to His promise. On the other side of every downpour God has a clear road paved in peace and restoration. Beyond every gloomy, gray and cloudy sky, glorious healing shines. Breaking free from the darkness is the light of new life life beaming in eternal brilliance. 
No matter how fierce the storm I will hold onto the rainbow trusting with full assurance that there are always blue skies up ahead. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My kind of party

Another weekend, another wedding celebration I'm unable to attend. This is the second family wedding I'll be missing just this month. The second time in just two weeks that I'll be sending a congratulatory card when I'd rather be there face-to-face, offering a warm and enthusiastic hug. But my body is too fragile, too weak and too compromised to even sit through the hour long ceremony let alone dance at the reception.
I remember back to the beginning of my body's seven year long saga. It began right around this time of the year. It was May and that year I went to a wedding and I danced. Oh, how I danced! I danced in heels until my feet were too tired and then I danced barefoot. I stayed until the end of the party and helped shut down the celebration.
That is such a sweet memory but such a distant one, too. If I linger on it for too long I risk letting my heart grow heavy and nostalgic for the way things used to be. The way I used to be. The way I used to look. The energy I used to have. The life I used to enjoy. If I recall for too long and reminisce too deeply about lively parties of my past I'm tempted to throw my own kind of pathetic party.
A pity party.
The trouble with the pity parties is that they never have colorful decorations and bouquets of roses. Pity parties are always woefully devoid of bubbles and no one throws celebratory bird seed. There is no upbeat music, no silly chicken dance and certainly no electric slide. Any cards received are left in the mailbox with messages of sympathy that induce tears of sorrow, not tears of joy. Pity parties end early, often in tears and hopefully without a single picture to recall the event.
Quite frankly, pity parties are lame.
So that is why I am instituting a new rule prohibiting all pity partying. Reminiscing is allowed. Remembering is perfectly acceptable. Sharing sweet memories is even encouraged. But pitying is forbidden. I am no longer allowing myself to bring pity to recollections of parties gone by and I am banning pitying the parties I've missed along way. Instead I am bringing their celebratory party to my pity.
Right here, right now, without a dance floor or an RSVP list I have reason to have a party. While I am at home I am having a party of my own, celebrating the healing that is taking place in my body. I am throwing bird seed in the air and blowing copious amounts of bubble because the cause of my seven year saga has been discovered! I'm playing the electric slide and dancing in my own goofy way because the reinforcements have been called in and they are waging war against the evil disease that has caused my body such pain and agony.
Tonight I am not at a wedding. I wasn't at one last weekend and it may be years before I attend another one. But tonight I'm not at a pity party. Tonight I'm bringing the party to my pity.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Be careful what you...

"Be careful what you wish for..."
Was that famous idiom first offered up as a Chinese Proverb or spoken during a play of Greek Mythology? Regardless of origin, the warning for wishers is sound advice. Be careful if you wish for money and fame... Be careful if you wish for love and marriage. Sure, money can be beneficial and, of course, love can be beautiful, but both come with their own unique set of challenges - thorns among the roses. Wisher beware: the dream that formulates the wish often looks drastically different when the wish comes true.
Learning from the old saying, I've been careful about what I've wished for. In fact, I've stopped wishing and replaced it with desiring and praying. The wishes I used to place on shooting stars I now hand to God in the form of desires spoken in prayers.
Believing that desiring and praying would be safe alternative to wishing, I began carelessly offering prayers of desire to God about seven years ago. The first one went a little something like this, "God, I give you my life, every part of it. I want to be obedient and completely surrendered to you. It is the earnest desire of my heart that I be pleasing in your eyes. Remove from my life anything that would draw me away from you or cause me to stumble. Purify me!" 
It was by surrendering my life to Christ that I was inspired to turn my wishes into"careless" prayers of desire. I carelessly prayed against protecting my own interest, having my own way and dictating my own life. My prayers took the shape of taking no care for what I wanted and the plans I had made for myself. Instead, my prayers became fixated on caring only for the will of God.
Through sin and my own fall I came to understand that I'm not fit to run my own life or even formulate my own wishes. My eyes were opened to the blackness and wickedness of my own heart and my great need to be saved by grace. Through salvation God transformed my heart and made it beat with the desire to be more like Christ.
Little did I know when I made that first "careless" prayer that God would grant me just what I requested. God went to work stripping me of everything that wasn't of Him. Bit by bit, He began to scrape away every happiness and pleasure apart from Himself. He removed every security but Himself, even the most fundamental security of health.
In 2010 when I exchanged my wishes for prayers I could never have anticipated how sharp and plentiful the thorns to come. I wasn't careful to formulate prayers that avoided the thorns or protected me against pain. I simply asked for God's will. If I could go back and rewrite those prayers and change my desires I wouldn't alter them one bit.
The woman I am today is because of those desires, those prayers and the way God has answered them. Because of those careless prayers that flowed from the deepest desires of my heart I have a beautiful, intimate union with Jesus Christ. God has answered my prayers of desire with an ever increasing passion for His goodness. He has enriched my life with more of His peace and love. By transforming my wishes into desires to be offered in prayer, my heart has been set ablaze, burning ever increasingly brighter for the glory of God.
In ways I never anticipated, expected or could have imagined, God is answering my prayers. He is fulfilling the very deepest desire of my heart: To be purified and made perfect in His Son, Jesus Christ... To be made more into the image of my Savior so that I will one day hear that I pleased the Lord as a good and faithful daughter of the King.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Survivinglyme.com

For days I contemplated the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. This isn't my first "so long" to Facebook. I pressed deactivate once or twice before only to return to the social media giant months - sometimes only weeks - later. I'm convinced Facebook has its own gravitational pull. In the spirit of Arnold Schwarzenegger I can practically hear the deactivate button laughing at me. "You'll be back," it says. And it's right. At least it always has been.
This time around I'm not making any false claims about my Facebook deactivation. It may be forever but, then again, I may be back. If I've learned one thing over the years it is to never say never. But for now I am stepping away from Facebook. For the sake of my health and, more importantly, the spirit of my heart, I am on a Facebook hiatus.
On my way to deactivation I was met with a number of "deactivate" buttons and "clicks to confirm." Near the end of the long Facebook goodbye a page full of options required that I select my reason for departure. "I spend too much time on Facebook," was one option. True but not why I was leaving. "I don't feel safe on Facebook." Not being one to act out of fear I couldn't honestly claim that rationale. None of the answers fit quite right. As I read through the deactivation excuses I realized that my reason for leaving the social media world wasn't going to turn up on any list.
For lack of a better option I chose "other" and went on to supply my own rationale in the box below. In my own words I told the Facebook world that I was leaving because looking at the lives of my peers having adventures, meeting life milestones and celebrating their accomplishments reminded me too acutely of the world I had always thought I would be a part of. Growing up I envisioned my future and my life as a twenty-seven year old and it looked like the pictures I was seeing on Facebook - pictures I wasn't in, pictures I had no part in creating.
After observing the lives of others from behind my computer screen for far too long, allowing myself to become far too melancholy, I came to realize that the real danger I was facing was not of wasted time or of accepting friend requests from complete strangers. The real danger was in allowing my heart to become discontent, my spirit envious and my soul dissatisfied. Every time I logged onto Facebook I threatened my peace and serenity. I became restless and even envious.
When I was on Facebook it wasn't a specific person or a specific picture that pained my heart. It was the parading of the worldly life in general that left me lamenting my lonesome lot. It was the very fact that hundreds of friends, family members and near strangers had news to post while I had...what did I have?
It was facing that reality that led me to disconnect with Facebook. I decided to step away from the world I didn't fit into in order to free myself to pursue a different world, a reality I wasn't seeing on Facebook. The Lyme world.
For those who have followed my story on Pippy Love or through Facebook, you know that I have MS. Or at least I thought I did. As it turns out, my case of MS had really been misdiagnosed Lyme Disease all along. Early last month, I finally received the news that the cause of my seven year saga is all thanks to a tick - or another mystery carrier of the devastating disease known as Lyme.
Now I am on the road to recovery. This road is going to be long. I have been warned that it could take two years at best, but I'm all in. I've been sick for seven years and I'd easily give seven more to get well again, so two sounds like a deal.
Embarking on this journey to beat Lyme was a major factor in my decision to disconnect from Facebook. This journey to regain my health was also the major factor in my decision to connect with a new online world, the Lyme world, on my new blog called Surviving Lyme.
Discovering that I have Lyme has pointed my life in a new direction, a new path towards recovery. I know this road will have ups and downs, hills and valleys, but God is faithful. He has brought me this far and I know He is not about to leave me now. With God's help I'm surviving Lyme.
So join me on the journey. It won't be on Facebook, but I'd love for you to share this road to recovery alongside me. See you on Survivinglyme.com!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A letter to a Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter,

I know today you feel hopeless. Illness has hit you like a category five hurricane. This seven year long sickness storm has taken its toll. How could it not?

For years you have held on for dear life as this hurricane named Illness has repeatedly battered against your shores. Its winds and waves have beaten you so hard you are unrecognizable. Your life is nothing like it was before this storm hit. Not even the tenor of your voice has remained the same. With each crashing wave you've lost another part of you. A wave took your weight. A wave took the functioning of your strong heart beat. A wave washed away the strength in your muscles and the thickness in your hair. One wave took your stamina. Another wave took your stability. The physical pain has been crushing but the spiritual agony has been torture.
As each wave has crashed you've been dragged further and further away from the shore of who you once were. With desperation you have tried to hang on to any reachable remnant of "you" the way you were before the storm hit. You've tried to hang onto your passions and fought to keep up your strength but, wave by wave, you've lost your grip. Today you are further out to sea than you have ever been before and there is not even a tree limb in sight to grab hold of.
Dear Daughter, I am here to tell you that it is okay to let go. You have done well. You've held on tightly. You haven't lost your faith and you've maintained your hope. You haven't given up but I want to tell you that it is okay if you do. If the sea looks vast and there is nothing to hold onto, don't panic. If you cannot muster the strength to reach a piece of the old you floating past you in the water, just rest and let it sail away.
Today I give you permission to give up your trying. You have tried long enough and fought hard enough yet the waves keep coming and the hurricane won't let up. Child, today is the day to stop kicking your legs against waters you can't beat. Cease your striving to hold on in the midst of this storm.
It is time to let go.
Let go of your worry that you'll float away. Release your need for strength. Free yourself from scanning the waters in search of stillness off in the distance. Simply rest in the waves and let the hurricane have its way.
You need not be worry about the force of the waves. Just hold your breath and let the waters overtake you. You need not fear the speed of the winds. Just relax and let yourself go where they push you. And dear Daughter, you need not be concerned about when the storm will end. Just know that someday it will. Because it will. I promise you that.

Today is the day to let go and let me get you back to my shore - the shore of who you're meant to be. You're not going back to the shore of who you once were. You're on your way to a life far better than the one the hurricane left behind. I'm taking you there. By these winds I am pushing you there. The waves you're fighting against are carrying you there.

So, please, Dear Daughter, just let go.


Forever and always,
Your Father God

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mountains of mulch

It was early on Saturday morning when I first saw the weary homeowner. He stood alone in front of his stately residence, resting on his shovel to catch his breath. Not even ten o'clock and he was already tired from tedious work of spreading the mountain of mulch spanning the length and width of his double wide driveway.
"I know what you'll be doing this weekend," I called out as Pippy, Molly and I scooted past the house on our morning walk.
The owner laughed and shook his head. "This weekend? If I'm lucky!"
Without much thought I shot back with a word of encouragement. "Keep your head up, it'll go faster than you think!"
I didn't think much about that pile of mulch until later that afternoon when Pippy, Molly and I set out on another walk. Out of curiosity for the progress of the mulch pile I decided to take the same route I had that morning. Sure enough, the home owner was still in his yard, shovel in hand, but this time he wasn't alone. He had called in reinforcements - two to be exact. One hardy helper was covered in dirt, knee deep in a flower bed while another made trips between the yard and the mulch pile with a shovel of his own. When the homeowner saw the dogs and I coming he paused in his driveway and pointed his shovel at the pile. "Looks like we've barely even touched it, doesn't it?"
He was right. The pile still looked gigantic but to maintain my encouraging attitude I told him I could see progress. He didn't seem to buy my optimism and neither did his weary workers.
It wasn't until the next evening that I thought about that man and his mulch. The weekend was nearly over and I wondered if he had "lucked" out by clearing the driveway by sundown on Sunday. I clipped the dogs on their leashes and headed out to get my answer.
As we made our way down the steep descent of the hilly Pittsburgh neighborhood the mulch house should have come into view. It was right at the bend, I was sure of it, but the mulch driveway was no where to be found. I nearly forgot which house had been delivered the mountain of dirt just the day before until I caught the glimpse of the most pristine yard in all the neighborhood.
At the house where the mulch pile once loomed big and dirty in the driveway was a yard of beauty. The mountain had been transformed into a lush lawn boasting immaculate flower beds. The bushes were lovingly tucked into the rich soil. The blooms were bursting in all of their vibrant color against a blanket of freshly cultivated earth.
And the driveway was spotless.
I couldn't help but stop and stare. I was awe struck not so much by the bushes or the flowers but by the transformation. Overnight a mess had turned into a masterpiece. In one weekend a dirt pile had become a garden oasis. With three sets of hands and two shovels a mountain had been leveled and the pavement swept clean so that not even a stray shed of bark remained.
I needed to see that driveway full of dirt become a yard of beauty because I needed to be reminded that God makes masterpieces out of messes.
In my life I have mountains of mulch, gigantic challenges that look to me like sure defeat. I don't see how they will ever be moved. I can't imagine that they will ever be cleared away. The task looks to tedious. My shovel is too small, my arms are too weak and the weekend is too short.
But God's shovel is bigger. His arms are stronger. His weekend is just the right length of time. He can move my mountain. He can clear away the driveway of my life of even the messiest of challenges.
What's more, is that when God is done moving the mountain of mulch He accomplishes a task more profound than making the pavement clear. He makes the yard beautiful, too. He enriches my life with beauty. Through the daunting trials and overwhelming challenges, God creates His most glorious masterpieces and reveals His most awe-inspiring transformations.
In the mulch pile I saw my life as it is today. I have a mess but, shovel-full by shovel-full, God is clearing it away. The work is underway and, although it may not be complete by sundown this Sunday, it will be done just in time for the big reveal. In God's perfect time the yard of my life will be transformed into a garden oasis rich in His goodness, bursting forth for His glory.
Because God is faithful and true to His promises, I know that His work of mountain moving is underway even now. I just need to keep my head up because, faster than I can imagine, this mountain will be gone and all that will remain is the most amazing testimony I could have never planted without all the mulch.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The latest in letting go

Something happened that I didn't tell you about. I didn't write a word about it. I guess, the truth is, I didn't want to give voice to the pain deep inside. By keeping the page of this story blank I thought I was protecting my rejected heart, but I think I thought wrong. Hidden hurt only festers. Open and honest hurt has the opportunity to be healed and made whole. Surrendering pain is good for the soul.
So here it goes.
Just a couple of short weeks ago I was "let go" from my part-time position at the city mission. The opportunity to be a part of the staff there was made available to me last fall. It was like a dream come true to be working in ministry. For years I had hoped for such a job. I never imagined it would come so soon and I certainly never imagined it would end just as quickly. For reasons that I may never fully understand, I was let go and the door of opportunity slammed shut.
The ending of that job, no matter how few hours it was a week or how unofficial my title, was a rejection that felt more like a slap in the face than a wave good bye. For days I replayed my words, actions and duties of the past few months trying to pinpoint where I went wrong. If I were of value and worth to the organization certainly they would have kept me on staff, right?
At the end of my pondering I didn't come to any neat and tidy conclusion. All I came up with was more pain, more mourning the loss of the job I celebrated as my dream come true, more wounds made by the sharp cut of rejection.
The pain of being let go might not have stung so much had it not been made on top of a thousand other cuts. Over the course of the past decade of my life the cuts of rejection and failure have been fast and furious. Relationship rejection. Friendship failure. Lost opportunities. Slashes made at my health. Cuts made to my attempts to finish college and get a degree. Milestones missed.
The pain of letting go and being let go has been so intense, so obvious in my life that I resisted giving voice to its latest source. I didn't want to admit another failure when I've already had so many.
But God wouldn't let me hide my hurt. He never does. In all of the hurt caused by being let go and having to let go, I've had to learn that when a door slams on my dreams I am never left in a dark hallway. God always unlocks and opens another door. Sometimes He simply props open another window. But He never abandons me in the hall with no where to go or nothing to do. He never leaves me suffering dreamless and hopeless.
When the mission called to give me my final word I went and sat in the hall of my own grief. For days I didn't even open my eyes to truly let the sight of the slammed door sink in. By refusing to look at the rejection and the hurt I didn't help myself heal. It took opening my eyes and acknowledging the pain to see that down the hall another door was ajar with the promise of another opportunity, another dream.
By pushing that door open I was introduced to a dream I had let die - the dream of health and physical restoration. In the past I've knocked on hundreds of doors with this dream on the other side. Sometimes the door has been opened if only for a moment. Other times the door has remained firmly locked. This time a door was ajar with that old dream casting out radiant light, bidding me to cross its threshold and take hold of its promise.
And so I did. I have. I am.
Letting go of dreams - and being let go by dreams - has been part of my story but it has never been the end of my story. The ending of one dream, no matter how painful the rejection, has always led me to greater paths, new doors and more glorious dreams.
The latest letting go is no different. It is not a slammed door. It is not a hurt to be hidden. This latest in my letting go series is my open door to go on living.
So here's to the next door, the next dream and the promise of my future on the other side of this threshold. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The death of the dove

A cat killed the dove - my beloved, porch-visiting mourning dove. I loved watching the dove from my living room window. She would come and sit on the railings while she sang bird songs and calmed me with gentle coos. My mourning dove was graceful and innocent.
Then an enemy robbed her of life. A vicious, blood-thirsty cat attacked and killed her. I heard the violent assault take place outside my bedroom window under the darkness of night. The screeching of the cat released desperate calls from the dove. I shuttered at the sounds of such a beautiful, simple creature being brutalized. I pictured her futile fluttering, made in a final attempt to flee from her foe. But she couldn't escape. The dove went silent while the cat made its final victorious cry.
I awoke the next morning under a pall of sadness. The events of the night had left my inner soul disquieted and unsettled. Where was God when the dove needed protection and safety? Why did God let the ferocious foe have the victory over its feathered victim? How could God allow such evil to brutalize the innocent?
As I made my way into the living room at the break of dawn I didn't want to look out the window. With my heart uneasy with questions I wanted to avoid even the sight of the railing where the dove once stood to make her daily revelry. But avoiding a big glass window is a lost cause. As my eyes glanced in the direction of the sun they caught a glimpse of the porch. For a few moments I let my gaze linger on the railing where the dove once stood and as I did, a movement off in the distance caught my attention from the corner of my eye.
A rabbit.
In the grass just a few feet away a little brown hare stood alone on the lawn, munching on the lush green feast beneath her paws. As I made my way to the window she looked up and paused mid-munch. I paused too, careful not to disturb her meal. She seemed to sniff the air to reaffirm her assurance that the noise she heard wasn't a nearby cat, then she went back to her breakfast.

That morning when I had stepped up to the window I had looked out expecting to meditate on the loss of the dove. My heart was aching for the death of the beauty I had come to enjoy and appreciate but the rabbit restored to me the hope I have in life. When I saw the rabbit, the quiet survivor of the previous night's attacks, I was reminded that evil never has the final say. Wickedness does not have the ultimate victory.
Life always wins.
The beauty of the dove is gone but the dove was not the only creature that blessed the view from my back porch. The rabbit out in the lawn, the chipmunk in the mulch and the Caterpillar climbing up my door post have all bestowed on my little porch a goodness and beauty all their own. They do not sing songs like the mourning dove and they do not flutter feathers, but they are their own special kind of beautiful, the bearers of a beauty I had missed when I was only listening to the tune of the dove.
Of course I will miss the dove. She was a sweet daily visitor but I know that God had even the days and hours of the dove in His hands. He didn't let her meet her end without His knowledge. Although I do not understand why He allowed her to endure such a cruel fate, I will not question the ways of God.
For I know that in the lives of doves and in the lives of all God's created children, He allows death to bring about life. As God did not spare His own Son from the cruelty of death that brought about the everlasting beauty of eternal life, so He will not spare me from the death of what I cherish as beautiful to bring about a Heavenly glory that is beyond any splendor this world could ever contain. In this life I will see death and endure loss, but in Christ I have the assurance of life - eternal, everlasting, abundant life.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Beastly

"I want to be an animal. I want to be a beast!"
I didn't intent to eavesdrop on my fellow gym-goers conversation but her adamant proclamation caught my attention. The declaration of intent was made a young woman, just about my age, sporting brightly colored blonde hair and thick layers of eye shadow. As she chatted with her gym partner in between sets I couldn't help but hear the details of her spirited conversation.
"I don't care about cute purses and clothes. I just want to get big and beastly. When people see me I want them to stop and go, 'Woah!'" 
The two abandoned their squats and entered into a spirited, and loud, conversation of meal plans, cardio workouts and strength training schedules. Over the course of the next ten minutes they covered every topic from water intake to weight class. The two sweaty "beasts" traversed the world of power-lifting as I practiced my curtsy lunges on my mat nearby. 
As I picked up my dinky five pound kettle bell in the presence of the nearby workout animals I felt overly conscious of my lack of beastliness. In the gym's mirror I caught a glimpse of my twiggy legs and was overcome with embarrassment. I felt exposed and vulnerable. In a world of beast-wannabes I felt like an ant about to be crushed. 
In that moment I wanted to put my pathetic weights back on the shelf and leave the gym behind. It wasn't envy that caused me such heartache. Trust me when I say my fitness goals do not include becoming an animal or a beast. I just want to be normal. My fitness goal is to simply be healthy and whole. I don't desire a body that elicits "Woahs" and animal-adoration. Nor do I desire a stickily figure that elicits a whole different kind of "Woah!" - a "Woah" that I've heard countless times in the last seven years.
In that moment of intense, raw vulnerability I wanted to put the weights down and leave. I wanted to escape the affront to my emotional instability and flee from the presence of the beasts. But something in me wouldn't run. It was as if my ankles had weights holding me back. I stayed still, frozen to my fitness mat.
"Don't flee the presence of the beast." It was as if God's voice were speaking just as clearly as the workout buffs a few feet away. I couldn't run. God wouldn't let my conscious rest with such a cowardly act. I had to stay and complete what I started. For some reason I knew it was God's will that I finish my workout.
And so I did. I picked up my five pound weights and did another set of lunges. I even threw in a couple rounds of downward dogs for good measure. They weren't beastly but they were beneficial for my back and my spirit because by deciding to stay and finish what I started I made a declaration of my own: "I want to be strong in the Lord."  
To the world I may look like a little twig of a girl. I may look weak and delicate and, according to the world of power-lifting, that's true. Heaven knows I'm not destined for a squatting competition any time soon. But I am strong in an entirely different way. I am strong and confident in the Lord.
The strength I have can't be measured in weights, squats and dead lifts. Those measurements could never quantify the kind of strength that is in this little frame. The mirror will never give an accurate picture of the muscle that is in my spirit.
I finished my sets and completed my workout because God has made me stronger than the the gym's mightiest beasts. The Lord God empowered me so power-lifters, don't be fooled by the five pound weights. This little woman is much bigger, much stronger - dare I say much beastlier - than her body gives her credit for.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A lesson from the shower

The shower is a torture chamber. At least it is for me.
The daily shower hygiene ritual hasn't always been such a dreaded experience. I remember the days I used to love my morning shower. I would linger under the scolding hot water and savor every moment of it, letting the experience last as long as the hot water tank would allow.
But those days of long, hot showers are a distant memory thanks to my malfunctioning body. Now instead of enjoying the shower I dread it for the ill effect it has on my muscles and joints. Under the shower's heat my muscles go into spastic fits. My left side becomes so rigid and stiff that I struggle to stay standing. My knees buckle and I lose my balance under the onslaught of arresting pain. Lightheaded, dizziness soon follows. Even with the heat lowered and duration shortened, the humidity and steam still wreck havoc on my body.
Years ago, when my shower torture first began, I was nervous to enter the porcelain tub while home alone. I imagined getting so dizzy that I'd slip on soap suds, crash to the ground and hit my head on the tile wall on my way down. In my worst nightmares I could see myself going unconscious in the shallow bath water below.
For years, to put my ill-fated shower fears at ease, I timed my showers around when another person would be in the house. At least if my shower turned deadly someone would be there to save me, I reasoned to myself. To calm my fears I relied on the reassuring presence of another person, even if they were on the other side of a wall and down a hall.
But then I moved out and into my own, empty apartment. My shower security was gone. If I went crashing to the bottom of the tub I would be like a tree falling in forest with no one around to hear. Would I even make a sound?
With the threat of smelliness looming over me, I decided to conquer my home alone shower fear. As I anticipated, the heat sent my muscles into a state of chaos. My joints locked and my head started to spin. The shampoo bottle that was in my hand went falling to the floor as I lost my balance and ability to grip. In that moment I expected to be scared but something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.
A grab bar.
How had I not seen it before? When I moved into my new apartment and took note of its features, I completely missed the blessed grab bar perfectly placed in my shower at my waist height.
As I took hold of that bar my fears disappeared. I had no need to fear the shower or worry about slipping and falling because in this shower I had something to hang onto.
The first shower in my new apartment, and every shower since, has ended without incident - no falling and, thankfully, no crashing. Although my muscles have still flared under the assault of the heat and my joints have still buckled, I've had the bar to cling to and keep me upright.

In the simple, routine act of taking a shower in my new apartment God has reminded me that no matter how hot the shower or brutal these years of illness have been, He has always shown up and blessed me with something to hold onto. Sometimes He has delivered a special something that can't be seen like hope, a vision of His future glory, or an inaudible word spoken from His lips straight to my ears. Other times He has blessed me with a tangible something like those silly geese on the road, or a beautifully penned, unexpected letter of encouragement from a friend.
And sometimes He's shown up in the shower with a stability bar.
God never fails to provide just what I need. He is always faithful in His steadfast care for me. In this life, even in the shower, I have nothing to fear because I have the peace and reassurance that God is my safety and security. The Lord God is my eternal salvation and He will never let me fall.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I used to be a dreamer....

I used to be a dreamer, a vivid, imaginative, active dreamer. I remember my dreams well. I used to replay them over and over again in my mind as I would lay in bed falling asleep at night. They were vivid dreams crafted with detail. Fantasies and idyllic visions that took shape in living color.
I used to love to dream about my future and what it would look like. I even had my future house picked out and fully furnished. It was a traditional style home with big windows, lots of light and a wrap around front porch. The kitchen was white and bright complete with a fabulous island and farmhouse kitchen sink. The bedroom in my dreams was serene and the bathroom spa inspired. The yard was lush and green, landscaped straight out of the pages of The Secret Garden.
In the home of my dreams I envisioned myself enraptured in the life of my dreams. A husband, two kids and dog completed my dreamy perfect picture. My husband was handsome and sweet. He even brought me the occasional bouquet of fresh flowers. In my dreams he would return home from work, greeted with a kiss and the scent of a homemade dinner roasting in the oven. Outside the kids would be swinging and sliding on their play set while the dog lounged under an old oak tree. My dreams for the future were a fantasy of the life I hoped would come and the family I hoped to create.
But all of those rose colored dreams have died.
The death of my dreams began in the garden when I came to realize I wasn't endowed with a green thumb. The dream of the perfect house and pristine floors died shortly after thanks to the reality of dust and mortgage payments. With age and maturing wisdom I buried my material dreams. They were never my most precious dreams anyhow.
Still I clung tightly to the upholstered dreams, the dreams that couldn't be manufactured or produced. I gave up on my perfect house dream but I didn't give up on my perfect husband dream. The kitchen he entered looked different in my mature dream based in a more realistic cape cod but he still came in after work to the same greeting. And he still strolled in with the occasional surprise flower. The kids still played in the yard and the dog still enjoyed the old oak tree.
But then an unexpected reality killed that dream, too. Sickness stole the most precious jewel in my dream chest. Illness put to death every last vision and image of my most vivid dreams.

I don't remember the last time I lay in bed at night walking through the house of my dreams, cooking in the kitchen of my dreams for the husband and kids of my dreams. The dream of that life has been dead for so long I can hardly remember where I buried its memory. It has been years since I've gone looking for its tombstone. I'm afraid it would be to painful a sight.
When I buried my dreams I said a final farewell to dreams forever. I didn't go out and purchase new dreams and build a new house in my mind's eye. There hasn't been a new dream husband. There is a dog but she's real and she doesn't seem to favor one sort of tree to another. When I lost my dreams I lost more than a set of fantasies and idyllic pictures. I lost the very ability to dream at all.

I have never really mourned the death of my dreams. Occasionally I have thought about the void they left behind but I never let the thought linger long. It hurts too much.
But God won't let me forget the pain. He keeps reminding me of my scars. Over and over again He directs my glance back to the wounds of my past dreams that I have refused to acknowledge and let heal. He wants me to look because He wants me to realize how gaping the wound. God keeps drawing my attention back to the most painful parts of my heart because He wants me to recognize that the ache needs healing. The cut left behind by the death of my dreams needs mending and the only way it can be made whole, healthy and right is to let God fix it. The only hope I have of being restored is to let God do the work of revitalization. The only way I will ever have the ability to dream again is to let God bind up my brokenness and restore me with new dreams. His dreams.

I used to be a dreamer. A vivid, imaginative, active dreamer. And because God is willing and abundantly able, I will be a dreamer again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Life as I've never known it

When life as you know it backs out of your driveway and goes speeding off into the distance, don't linger too long waving goodbye. Make your farewell short and sweet. Don't watch the dust settle on the the tire tracks. Don't squint to catch the last glimpse of your dreams fade out of view. Let life go its own way as you go yours.
 
When life as you know it flies off into the sky like a balloon freed from its string don't try to jump and catch it. Don't waste a moment chiding yourself for loosening your grip and letting the wind take your beloved balloon away. Simply look to the sky and wave so-long to the life that was tying you down.

When life as you know it burns out like a light bulb gone dead don't just sit there in the dark. If the outlet is still good and the lamp of life still vital, then simply change the bulb. Replace what is broken and restore the light.

Life is every changing. 
Life is an exciting adventure. 
Life will not always be life as we've known it. 
But life is always good because God is always great.

So next time God gives you life as you've never known it don't fear or fret. When life delivers the unexpected simply empty your hands and heart of the past. Embrace the change and enjoy the journey as you venture into God's good and glorious future.

Spring doesn't come in May

Forty five degrees and rainy with low hanging gray clouds, gusty winds and a dense fog. What happened to dreary April showers giving way to bright and beautiful May flowers?
There is something inherently depressing about a May drenched in rain, devoid of flowers. The season just doesn't feel quite right without colorful displays bursting forth against the background of lush green lawns. May should always bring about a return to life on the earth. There should be tulips in every color and the rich fragrance of hyacinth in the air. There should be blue skies and birds. Glory and beauty in every color should come bursting forth on every tree and bush. In May the world should change, revealing the transformation that was taking shape beneath April's showers.
 But not this May. In this rainy May the tulips have been blown to bits and all of the daffodils have drowned. There is not a bud in sight behind all of the sky's hazy mist. It is too cold and too blustery for even nature's hardiest botany to come into bloom and too damp for life to break through the soggy earth. May's spring's pedals are trapped in perpetual April puddles.
After consecutive days of May showers I convinced that a May with rain just isn't right. This simply isn't the way the seasons should be. May should be sunny and bright not rainy and cold. That is the May I've always knows. That is the May I've come to cherish and anticipate all April long.
But then I noticed something in the rain, something that shouldn't be worth noticing. I noticed a metal roof atop a little old shed. On the bright red metal roof, in the drenching rains, cascading water came rushing down the bright red roof. I watched as the torrential downpour beat against the roof and came flowing off its surface by the gallons, tumbling to the earth in bucket fulls.
The sides of that old rickety shed looked so weak I wondered how they would hold up under the weight of the pounding waters. Surely at any moment the sides would collapse under the weight of the heavy rain being blown against the little building in the mighty winds. But the building didn't fall. The rain kept coming down and the roof kept sending the rushing waters down its slanted, slippery surface right onto the ground below.
And that's when I saw it. I saw spring.
Here I had been waiting for the rain to stop for spring to arrive in the sun and all the while spring was in the rain. On the roof of that little shed I saw the enduring life I was looking for in the flowers and bushes. Despite the winds and rains blowing against the weak little shed, the roof kept it standing. It sent the rain off in a cascading river of glory. With mighty strength the roof cast off the burden of heavy waters that would have been too much for the little shed to bear. Under the protection of the metal roof the building was saved. The little shed stood because the roof wouldn't let it fall.
That, my friend, is the true meaning of spring. The truth and glory of spring is not in the color on the flowers or the fragrance in the air, it is in the sustaining power of God to keep His beloved safe and secure through every season of life. Spring's beauty is in the proclamation that God is faithful. Spring arrives with the reminder that God has not forgotten His own or abandoned His creation. In Spring we remember that God stands as our protection when the rains come and when the wind blows. Even when our shed feels far too rickety to survive the storm, spring comes to assure us that God's beloved will endure.
Spring is not in the daffodils or the blue skies. Spring is not in the month of May or the return of the birds. Spring is in the saving and sustaining grace of Jesus Christ and He will be our eternal spring no matter what May may bring.




Friday, May 5, 2017

Where do broken hearts go?

I have a confession to make.
Sometimes I listen to One Direction. I'm not proud of this music choice. Heaven knows it certainly isn't the most refined and sophisticated. And it certainly isn't the most spiritual. But sometimes I get in the mood for sappy lyrics belted out by English teenage boys and One Direction fits the bill.
My One Direction moods nearly always come when I'm feeling a bit on the lonesome side of the relationship spectrum. The moods seep in slowly. They begin innocently enough. A romantic comedy, a chat with a friend about her impending marriage or a quick glance through the Martha Stewart bridal magazine while awaiting my turn in the grocery store check out line. A few veils, gowns and episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" later and my heart begins to feel heavy and lonely. Enter One Direction.
Driving along with my radio blasting I indulge my mood with lyrics of puppy love heart ache. I put the pedal to the metal as I sing about nights changing, driving too fast and moon's light breaking through some love interest's hair. The lyrics are pathetic and sappy but I don't mind. In fact, the sappier the better. In my lonely mood I feast on pitiful emotionalism.
When I'm singing along to One Direction I feel completely justified in my loneliness. In the lyrics I tell myself that I am entitled to romance. The words seep into my heart and whisper discontent melodies. It isn't fair that you are alone. You should want to be loved. You deserve a date. Someone should want to steal you, girl! 
I wish I could say I didn't buy into the lyrics' lies but in my lonely moods I revel in them. I willingly let the tune of the boy band serenade my singleness. I turn up the volume and let it magnify my aching heart. I take my broken heart right to track number three and let it coddle my pathetic, sappy, lover-less lament.
But what good does any of this One Direction moodiness do me? When I take my broken heart to the boy band the songs never put it back together. There is no healing in "Girl Almighty" and no contentment in "No Control." It never fails that every time the album ends my lonesome mood remains. The cracks in my heart are only magnified and made more painful as the songs fade away and my singleness remains.
My One Direction moods get me nowhere. They only break my heart further and magnify what the world's songs claim I'm missing.
So where can my broken heart go? It can go to One Direction but it shouldn't. There is only one place that my broken heart can go where it will be made whole.
The feet of Jesus.
At the feet of One Direction my brokenness is only made more discontent. There is no joy in singing about what the world has that I don't. Lyrics about puppy love won't fill my heart with anything but sympathy for the self. But going to the feet of Jesus fixes what is broken inside of me. I find that singing about Jesus brings joy. Belting out lyrics about the love I have received in His salvation fills my heart to the overflowing with gratitude. I am content, whole and at peace when my spirit is set on my Savior, not my singleness.
The world will tell you and I that if we feel broken we should turn up the sappy and let ourselves "feel" our pain but feeling it won't fix it. Jesus fixes pain. Jesus puts broken people back together again. One Direction doesn't mend the heart and the romance of this world won't make the lonely content. The only place to take the broken heart is to the cross of the Savior. There we will find that there is no need for pathetic love songs because our mood won't suit a lover's lament. We'll be filled with the gratitude, grace and joy of the Lord and our hearts and lips will sing a new song, a song about the love of our Lord.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A journey of joy

The journey has felt long. Indeed it has been long. Seven years long. A short time in light of eternity but a significant magnitude of time in the eyes of a twenty-seven year old.
Seven years ago the journey began when God opened the doors of a train with no formally announced destination. He warned me to "mind the gap" and I heeded the call. The moment I boarded the train it departed from its comfortable station to embark on a voyage into the unknown. I looked behind me as the train pulled away and waved goodbye to the only life I had ever known. As my life went speeding off on a new track I watched all things familiar and routine fade away. In what felt like an instant the platform of my former life disappeared.
On this new, mystery journey, I peered out the window to behold a stunning view. My eyes took in sights unlike anything I had ever seen before. Life outside the train's windows were nothing like the view on the platform of the train's station. The vistas were breathtaking. The valleys were humbling.
The train went up and down mountains, making daring twists and turns. At times the train slowed down and then sped up but it never made a single stop. I waited tucked away in the train's cabin for the conductor to make an announcement about the future but no radio call ever came. The train journeyed on its mysterious route.
As the train lumbered along and the years passed by I nearly became weary of the journey. I started questioning why the ride was taking so long and where the train would ever end up. Frustrated and confused, I shut the curtains of my cabin's window. I was lonely, sad and in need of a good long cry. So that is just what I did. I laid my head down and soaked my well worn pillow in tears. I gasped for breath and sent sniffles reverberating throughout my empty cabin.
But then someone interrupted my breakdown. A fellow traveler knocked on my cabin door. God made His presence on my journey known. Hesitant at first I welcomed Him in. I didn't ask Him any questions. I didn't even ask Him about the route of the train or its speed and lack of stops. His presence left me speechless...tearless...stunningly sniffleless.
The train traveled on. It didn't pause for my frustrations or make a stop for my sorrow. It just kept going. Up hills, around corners, over waters and bridges. It kept going but I stopped crying. God's presence in the cabin dried up my tears. My heart ceased its yearning for a platform in the world. My anxious spirit that was begging the train to slow down and make a stop was replaced with a spirit at comfortable rest. My eyes that were looking out the window trying to catch a glimpse of where the track was headed next stopped looking ahead and barely even looked out. My eyes, my heart and my spirit became fixated on what was inside the cabin. God, the lover of my soul and giver of my life. The Lord God, my source of joy for the journey.
The train hasn't stopped yet. The journey hasn't come to a close. I have yet to reach a platform and be let off. By now, seven years into this journey, I can hardly remember what the platform of my old life looks like. I have a new life now. A life on a journey with God - a beautiful, exciting, adventurous, joyful journey.