Friday, June 30, 2017

Healing Currents

Every summer water safety advocates come out in full force to warn about the dangers of rip currents. Tragically, many ocean lovers have lost their lives due to the channelized currents of powerful flowing waters. The sandy shore need not be far away and the water need not be deep for a rip current to appear and. Rip tides show up in shallow waters to sweep their victims out into the deep.
All my life I've been aware of rip currents and the dangers they pose to ocean (and even lake) swimmers. On family vacations I used to read the beach signs issuing warnings and instructions on how to survive a rip current. In big, bold red type the signs said that swimmers should never fight to break free from a rip current's grip. The water is too strong and swimmers too weak to pull themselves from its powerful clutches. Instead swimmers should do precisely the opposite of what their natural reaction would be: relax.
From the swimmers perspective this is more easily said than done. Try relaxing as an unseen force is pulling you out into the middle of the ocean while you helplessly watch the land recede into the distance. Can you imagine being calm as the sight of the safe, sandy shore gets smaller and smaller? To remain at ease in such a situation requires that the swimmer deliberately and decisively relax. It won't happen naturally but it must happen to ultimately escape the tide's hold and survive to swim another day.
I've never been caught in a rip current but as I've stepped into uncharted oceans on my journey to regain my health I've been recalling the old warnings of beach trips gone by. As I've been wadding in the waters of treatments, taking copious amounts of Lyme killing antibiotics and loading my body with homeopathic medicines, I've found myself caught in healing currents. I've tried to stay out of them by remaining close to shore, careful to keep my hips above water, but I have been unable to avoid their pull. The healing currents come and sweep me out to sea with crushing fatigue, skin outbreaks, pounding headaches and utter exhaustion. I've watched as I've been carried away from the healthy shore and out into the unknown of the healing crisis seas.
When I was first swept away in the tide of the healing currents I fought it. I didn't want to see my progress float off into the distance and I didn't want to end up in a deeper part of the illness ocean. I kicked and tried to paddle my way out but it was hopeless. Every kick sent the security of wellness and vitality further off into the distance. My attempts to escape only resulted in more weakness, more panic and less hope of ever making it back to shore. It was in the midst of one such hopeless current that I recalled the signs at the beach. I closed my eyes and pictured the sign. Don't fight the current.
With vision of the Atlantic and the beach's sandy shore in my mind's eye I decided to embrace the rip current survivalist tactics. I choose to relax and wait for the current to release me. At first it was difficult. Naturally, I still wanted to kick and try to force my way out of the current but with my new motto in mind I started resisting those feelings. Instead of trying to force my way out of the current I welcomed the release of tension and to-do lists. I instructed myself to stop panicking and start picturing the serenity of floating in warm, peaceful waters.
What I discovered is that the rip current tactics work - at least when it comes to oceans of healing. To escape you have to let the current have its way, patiently trusting for it to release you. To survive you must trust that before you can be brought back to shore you must first be taken out into the deep. You have to feel the waters pull you in new directions before you can be released into pools of renewed restoration and well-being.
As I've been swept out into the sea of healing I've learned that healing doesn't happen at the shore line. It begins there but it doesn't end there. True healing, of both body and soul, happens in the transformative channels of the sea's currents. Everlasting restoration and renewal come when we relax into the mighty arms of God, trusting that He will carry us back to shore.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Streams in the Swamp

Dear Lovely One,
I've been listening to you. I have heard your prayers. You say that your heart has become stagnant, like a pool of swampy water. You say that the rushing river of spiritual renewal that used to refreshed you daily are not flowing like they used to. You cry because the raging waterway has slowed to a halt. You ask, "What happened to the current and why is it no longer flowing? The wind is no longer blowing? Why has the air has gone lifeless and dead?" In your thoughts you have wondered what happened to the movement of your heart's waters.
My Child, have you been concerned that you've been cut off from your river's Source? Have you been questioning if the Almighty Current will ever turn on again and flow new streams of abundant life into stagnant soul? My Beloved, don't you understand that the trouble isn't the Source?
You, my Dear, haven't been moving in my river. You haven't been active in my Spirit. You've been standing still in the river bed without making a move. I haven't even seen you trace your fingers across the water's surface and you certainly haven't been kicking up stream.
Remember how you used to pick up rocks from the sandy shores and skip them across the river's glassy surface? You used to love the rushing waters! I remember when you relished the opportunity to rejoice with joy in the satisfying streams of revitalizing water. But something has changed.
Dear, the change has not been in the Source of the water - I am the same today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. No, the change is not in the living water; the change is in you.
Your Source, my streams of abundant life, are still rushing with the currents of my grace and love. I am still all powerful. I am still able and willing to breath new life into the stale air of your dormant soul. But you, my Dear, need to move. Come back to the river and kick your legs with joy in the sacrificial waters of service. Pick up those rocks you used to love and skip them in acts of compassion into streams of my mercy. Spread out your arms and let your hands glisten the water's glassy surface with a heart full of generosity and grace.
My Darling, I promise that if you move in my grace and stir up the waters of your heart with sacrifice, you will be continually refreshed with the glorious rushing waters of renewal. As you move in my love you'll be washed clean of every mucky remnant of the swamp and filled with my freshest springs of abundant, eternal life.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A sure "yes"

Ask and it shall be given unto you.
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door will be opened.

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:7 are so familiar to me that I know them by heart. I can rattle off the passage without skipping a beat but when it comes to living the passage...well, that's another story.

Asking, seeking and knocking should be easy, shouldn't they? When I was a toddler I effortlessly mastered the art of all three. I could ask (read: demand) with the best of them. I willingly asked for anything I needed and everything I wanted. When it came to seeking I did so with eager determination. In my tender toddler years I never had trouble knocking and wasn't the least bit shy when producing repeated rhythmic beats against a wooden door.
Now that I'm older I've lost my boldness in asking and when it comes to seeking God, I am reluctant. Even when I do make it to God's Heavenly door I am hesitant to knock.
God's accessibility is not the barrier standing in the way of my asking, seeking or knocking. I know my Father is patiently awaiting my arrival, prepared to meet me at the door and give hear to my requests. What is keeping me from His door is fear of what might happen after I ask, seek and knock. More specifically, it is what might not happen that has silenced my asking, stopped my seeking and halted my knocking.
I hesitate to ask because I fear that God's answer might not be what I want to hear. My grown-up asks are big, unlike my childish toddler requests. The requests I have now are life transforming... To have full health... To be united with a man of God in marriage... To be a witness for Christ... To have internal damage from disease restored to perfection... requests so significant I've been paralyzed to bring them before God out of fear that He might not answer with a "yes." So to shield myself from the risk of disappointment I haven't asked for healing. To protect my heart against sadness I haven't knocked on the door and asked for companionship or love. 

But in Christ, what do I have to fear? Why should I be afraid to voice my requests to my all-loving and all-knowing God? What is there to fear in the perfect plan and will of God? Doesn't He know when "no" is best and "later" is better? Isn't asking God the surest way to get the right answer? Isn't seeking more of God the only treasure worth pursuing? Isn't knocking an act of belief and faith?
In suspending my asking I thought I was protecting my heart from disappointment when in reality it only alienated me from God. Purposefully refraining from actively seeking God separated me from the peace and fulfillment that is only found in His presence. Pulling my hand away from His door, refusing to knock, has kept my face out of the light and truth of life.

As well as I've known Matthew 7:7 in my head, I am just now knowing it in my heart. Matthew 7:7 isn't about approaching God like Santa Clause, hoping I make it on the nice list. Asking God isn't like going before a genie in a bottle and choosing carefully one magnificent request. Seeking God is certainly not about finding what I think I want.
Asking, seeking and knocking are all about nearness to God. Plain and simple. Pursuing God is never about the blessings I receive or the fulfillment of my worldly desires. Living in Matthew 7:7 faith is about relentlessly pursuing the presence and person of God.

Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I know that there is no need to fear God's response to my every request because His answer is not what I am truly seeking. With a heart united with Christ's, my ask will always be simply for more of God... and His answer will always be "yes." 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Gym Gazelle

I watched her glide across the treadmill at speeds so fast my feet couldn't comprehend it. Her run was effortless, as if she were simply a cloud floating through the sky. Like Bambi leaping through a fitness equipment forest.
Her run featured not one but two treadmills running side-by-side, both at dizzying paces. Without even a minute of warm-up she jumped onto the first treadmill. After a few minutes at 6.2 miles per hour the runner made her leap from treadmill one to treadmill two. Even at 7 miles per our she didn't look the least bit phased. Quite the opposite actually. The runner seemed to be relishing in the ease of the pace.
For the next twenty minutes the running goddess hopped from treadmill to treadmill. By the end of her performance I had nicknamed her the Gym Gazelle and was in complete awe. Not only had she run at draw-dropping speeds for miles, she did it while jumping between moving treadmills and without ever breaking a sweat!
Gym Gazelle jumped off her treadmill, grabbed her bag and went trotting out of the gym with a radiating glow of endorphins. As I watched her leave a case of gym jealousy set in. How did her legs do that? I wondered. I marveled at how her muscles could work so powerfully for miles without legs flaring or knees buckling. I asked myself how could she jump from side-to-side without falling? How did her lungs not fatigue and her eyes not go all blurry from the competition paced speed?
In the Gym Gazelle's beautiful run I saw the physicality I wish I had. I coveted her perfect form and smooth stride. I wanted the muscles in her legs, her strength and even her stability. I wanted the lungs and stamina that were propelling her forward. I wanted the body that could do what she could do.

As jealousy descended on me like a dark shadow, a glimmer of light shined through. Don't be jealous, be motivated. 

In that moment of revelation I realized that envying the Gym Gazelle would never increase my strength, speed or stamina. Coveting had no benefit for my body and certainly wasn't doing my heart any good. My jealousy only poisoned my spirit and sapped me of the desire to live fully in the body God has given me.
That simple revelation changed my attitude and heart. I suddenly saw the Gym Gazelle's performance in a whole new light. Envy disappeared as the Gym Gazelle was transformed into an image of the strength God can empower in the human body. Instead of her run producing pangs of jealousy her performance produced springs of inspiration. The Gym Gazelle was a gift of encouragement running on a treadmill and wink from God cheering me on to run (or walk) every mile of my race with His limitless strength and everlasting joy!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"In love"

I thought I've been "in love" before but now I'm not so sure. You see, I used to believe that love was about how you felt about a person and how that person felt about you. I believed the exchanging of "I love you"s was about mutual affection. I think I had it wrong.
Now I understand that I could never have truly been "in love" before because I didn't know what "in love" really meant. Being in love is not about feeling something for someone or experiencing some kind of special connection. Being in love isn't even about clicking or compatibility.
To truly be perfectly "in love" with someone is to feel the way Christ feels for them; to be "in love" the way Christ is in love with you and I.
In love is about the heart's desire to be sacrificial, giving and generous. To be "in love" is to love through hurts and extend forgiveness. To be "in love" is to be second. To be "in love" is to graciously love past annoying habits and irksome quirk. 
I used to think being "in love" was about the relationship - the hours spent talking, the exchanging of thoughtful gifts and the making of future plans. Now I see that was lust in love's clothing. I was in passion, in excitement, in fascination, in fun, in laughter, in connectedness....but I wasn't in love.  I couldn't have been because I didn't know what love was. I didn't know who love was.
In falling more deeply in love with Christ I am learning that I cannot know true love apart from His indwelling. I cannot love without being tethered to His love. I cannot be truly in love, the way God intended, until I know how to be truly in a united relationship of love and devotion with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today I love Christ with more passion than I did yesterday or the day before. I love Him more every day. That is true love; that is being truly in love. I know that now because I know love in Christ.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Life DIYer

I am, by nature, a do it yourself-er. Or, as you HGTVers would call it, a DIYer. Now, I'm not trying to claim that I'm the next Bob Villa. I'm not a DIYer in the "drywall the basement," "fix the exploding sink" kind of way. That would be helpful but I'll admit I'm not that kind of handy.
I'm what you might call a "Life DIYer." I enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing tasks independently, all on my own. Much of my self-worth has been built on my self-reliance. I can navigate a map. I can cook my own meals. If the TV isn't turning on I'll monkey around with the buttons and plugs on my own or at least be the one to call the cable company to reset the box. If you have a problem I want to be the one to figure out the answer. That is, unless you give me your taxes. If you bring me your taxes I will tell you to file an extension. In high school and college I never was one for group projects. I didn't want to depend on the work of others. I wanted the entire responsibility all for myself.
I was born with a strong independent streak. Some might call it a stubborn independent streak and they may be right. I resist help even when it is offered in love and care. I turn down assistance even when it would aid in my endeavor. I used to think my independence didn't harm anyone else. If I choose to carry ten bags of heavy groceries in one load from the car to the kitchen counter my arms were the only arms being taxed. It made sense to me that if I willingly subjected myself to the unnecessary grocery load burden the only once I was hurting was me - and my arms. I reasoned that I was getting things done myself and my efficient, sometimes painful, way.
For years, even as my body became weaker and sicker, I maintained my independence. The simplest tasks, such as carrying Pippy up the slippery wooden steps, are infinitely tougher than they used to be or should be, but still I have refused help. Having placed such a high value on my self-reliance I have fought with ever ounce of my little being to be the Life DIYer I was before I became ill.
As severely as I've been chronically ill, I've been chronically stubborn, too. Neither one has done my body or my spirit any good. What's more, being chronically stubborn and refusing to allow others to help and assistant me when I'm weak and in need hasn't been a blessing for the one's offering the aid. I thought I was the one blessing them, sparing them the trouble when really I was robbing them of the opportunity to be a blessing. I
My body, and my spirit, have had to become tragically weak and fragile for me to see that I can't do life all on my own. I could ruse a little help from my friends and the people who love me. I should be grateful for their compassion and willingness to give.
Slowly but surely, this stubborn DIYer is learning that if God so supplies the offer of a loving soul I should be gracious enough to accept their act of sacrifice. If God so compels a person to be a giver I should humbly embrace their gift of love in action.
Being a DIYer is a great characteristic to embody when your lost by yourself and all you have is a map. Being a DIYer when your body is failing and you simply need someone to help you carry the dog up the steps is just plain stubborn.
As my body is made weaker my understanding of who I am in Christ is made stronger, instilling in me the true source of my self-worth. My value is not rooted in my ability to accomplish every task and Bob Villa Life DIY project on my own. My worth is in being a child of God. No matter how much help I may need or how fragile I become, I am a cherished and treasured prized daughter of the King.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Reminicing

Do you remember summertime as a kid? I do and it was glorious. Mom would put out the sprinkler in the front yard where my friends and I would dart back and forth between the rotating streams of cold water. Barefoot and full of adventure I would climb the trees and dangle from branches. When I got older I traded in the tree for the backyard shed and declared myself "Queen of the World" from atop its shingled roof.
During the summer I could spend hours riding my bike up and down the street and all around the neighborhood. I relished the freedom to peddle my way over to my friend's houses and I never missed an opportunity to run after the ice cream truck. The day my taste buds discovered the Choco-Taco I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Now that I'm older summers have changed and they don't declare "freedom" the way they used to. It's more than just the June release from school and a warm-weather increase in ice cream consumption that's changed. Everything about my summers are dramatically different.
Now during summers I can't spend as much time outdoors and certainly not in the heat of the day. My spastic muscles can't take it. I don't run through sprinkles or jump into pools of frigid waters. My body's thermostat doesn't tolerate that activity, either. I can't ride a bike like I did as a kid because my rear has lost all of its cushioning. And I can't eat ice cream - not unless I want a debilitating stomach ache.
I know it is possible to get winter blues, but is it possible to suffer from summer blues? I think it must be, because on some hot, beautiful and bright summer days I get a little melancholy when I remember summers the way they used to be, when I could embrace them and relish them in all of their sun-shiny glory. I'll admit that on some summer days the tune of my heart has hummed a gloomy, "I'll be so blue just thinking about you" instead of a cheery, "I want to soak up the sun."
At the heart of my summer blues is sadness at what used to be and what is now. I used to be healthy and well and the season of summer embodied that season of my life. From my perfectly golden tan to the strength in my legs to pedal my bicycle for hours, everything about summer was good and right, the way I thought it always would be. For years I have been singing the blues over the loss of summer but not today. Today I am singing a new summer song. A song of freedom.
Whether or not I ever lay on a beach again and soak up a golden tan, I will relish freedom. If I never bite into an ice cream cone again, I will savor freedom. Regardless of my body's thermostat or the stamina and strength in my legs, I will celebrate freedom.
I will sing about freedom from the chains of regrets. I will dance because I am free from the burden of worry and fear. I will smile for the freedom from loneliness and relish the freedom to enjoy silence. I will cherish the freedom to rest and choose the freedom to live in peace over anxiety. I will celebrate because I am free to embrace life and experience it with joy!
Without need a BBQ or a beach I will choose to rejoice in the true freedom of Christ and sing an everlasting song about the Savior who broke my chains of bondage so that I may live in a perpetual season of summer freedom.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The balloon watch continues....

For weeks I have been watching the deflated balloons stuck in my neighbor's tree. When I introduced you to this particular bundle of balloons I described to you my dreams and how God has been trapping them. Then I told you about the discovery that one of the balloons had dropped from the tree on the same day I found a deflated balloon lying on the ground. In that balloon I saw a dream reenter my life although the big reveal of which particular dream became a reality in that balloon drop is still to come.
A few days after one balloon dropped and turned up in the woods, another balloon went missing. This one hasn't turned up just yet. It was a red balloon so keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you see it hanging from a tree or laying in a forest.
So all that has been left in the tree is one balloon. A black balloon. For days the balloon's string has been tangled up in the tree limbs and its round shape has been in tact, floating up and down in the wind. Then a storm came and beat the last balloon to a pulp. It is practically unrecognizable. The balloon looks like a trash bag wrapped around bark. It isn't a pretty sight and it isn't the least bit festive. The balloon looks like decorations gone bad.
The latest development in my balloon dream sage is troubling. If that black balloon is a representation of my dreams what does that say for them? Are they as doomed as the tree's black balloon ravaged by the wind and punctured by pointy branches? Is that the fate of my dreams? To be confused as high-flying trash? To be unrecognizable as anything beautiful, celebratory and joyful?
The enemy wants me to lose hope in my dreams. The black balloon lingering in the tree is nearly taunting me with the temptation. Give up on them. Those balloons are doomed. Your future and the dreams you have for it are going to end up as good as trash. This is the enemy's goal. He wants to use darkness to overcome me and he'll use any means necessary. Even black balloons.
To keep my faith in my dreams and keep the hope in my balloons alive I must make the choose to trust God regardless of the color and condition of my balloons. Even when storms come and ravage them, I have to decide to believe that God is in control. When the balloons look like trash I have to claim the promise that God is in the business of restoration - even dream restoration. When balloons go missing, I must reaffirm my confidence in God's ability to rescue them and His timing to reveal them.
The enemy wants to use my black trash bag balloon dream to destroy my faith in God. He wants to shake my foundation and disturb my dream life. But what satan means for evil, God means for good. Instead of buying into the enemy's lies, I am recommitting to God's truth. He has my dreams. He is protecting them and they will come true. No scheme of the enemy can thwart my God. No storm of satan can destroy His plan. God has a future for me and it is full of beautiful, glorious, eternal dreams. My faith, trust and assurance is in God and the balloons He is holding up for me in Heaven.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To the afflicted

Dear Afflicted One,
I received word that you are suffering. The report was not breaking news to me. I already knew you were in terrible physical distress. I knew because I've been watching. I have seen every hardship you've faced and every malady you've endured. Believe me when I tell you that not a single one of your aches or pains has gone unnoticed by me. I've been witness to them all but you already knew that much. It is not my presence that you've doubted, it is what I'm doing in your presence that troubles you.
My heart nearly broke when I read your words. "What kind of God would allow such suffering?" How could it be that you've walked with me so long, spent so much time in my company, and still doubt what kind of God I am? Have I not shown myself to be loving? Have I withheld from you any eternally good thing? Have I ever abandoned you, even at your very lowest?
Beloved, I am not here to guilt you into trusting me. I cannot coerce you to have faith. I can only reassure you of what is true. It is up to you to believe it.
The truth is this: there is a purpose in your pain. You are not an afflicted one for nothing. You have been divinely chosen. This life is my plan designed for you and you only.
I cannot reveal the whole plan to you just yet but I can reveal to you the mission: It is to make you more like Jesus. That is the purpose of all of this. From the pain in your back to the loss of vision in your eyes to the emotional breakdowns and breakthroughs. The pain is all pointing in one direction: unification with Jesus.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. You don't feel united with Him while you are cursing your illness and crying out in agony. I know, I hear your words and they are not songs of praise. They are songs of the Psalms and laments of pain. But, take heart, dear Child because even the Psalmist finishes on a high note of praise to the Lord.
If ever you doubt that the pain you are feeling has a reason beyond the here and now, look to Jesus. He is my gift to you. He has saved you into this earthly affliction to deliver you from eternal affliction. He suffered and knew the most brutal pain but that wasn't the end of Jesus' story. He is here with me now, seated in perfection, free of even the tiniest ache and pain. He fulfilled His mission. His thorny crown of suffering was transformed into a radiant crown of glory.
Beloved, you have not received your final crown yet. Yours still has thorns but they are thorns for a purpose, part of a grander plan to be made more like Jesus.
So, to answer your question, that is the kind of God I am. The one and only God who saved you. The God who sees your flaws, your sins and your transgressions and loves you anyways. Your Father God who loves you enough to redeem you and spend every minute of every hour with you. I am the God who designed you as a one of a kind, with a plan for your life that is unlike any other. God, the only one who will never abandon you. I am your God who is readying you for eternity and polishing up your crown.
Dear Afflicted, I see more than just your every moment of suffering. I see the entire plan from start to finish and the eternal purpose that will bear fruit forever. I promise that if you trust me and put all of your faith in me, one day you, too, will share this view with me in glory.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Take that Rosetta Stone

As a Freshman in high school I fulfilled my first year of language requirement by enrolling in French 101. Most students went Spanish but not me. I was always more keen on crepes than tacos and had dreams of Paris, not Madrid. French sounded romantic and, as an added bonus, the Eiffel tower made an appearance in more than one of my favorite chick flicks. Being the lover of love that I was and am, French was a perfect fit. Who knew, maybe I could become fluent and study for a semester of college in France? It didn't take but a moment for visions to shift from studying to a country filled young, handsome French speaking college boys. I've always been a hopeless romantic at heart.
It took about a month of French class for me to release I might need to formulate a new dream, one that didn't require language acquisition skills. I tried to learn French, I really did but it was a lost cause. I stunk at learning a second language. I was as hopeless a French student as I was hopeless a romantic.
To graduate high school I attempted to speak some stuttering, halting, very poorly structured form of the French language for two years. Call it the "Florence" style of French. Florence was my French name. See what I mean by being hopeless in French class? Not only could I barely speak a word of the language but I couldn't even pick a truly French name.
After I completed by required two years of a second language I gladly moved on to classes spoken entirely and exclusively in English and, to date, I have never had anyone walk up to me and ask for emergency services while speaking in French. Or Spanish for that matter. So as far as I can tell, language courses might be a waste of time, but that's for another post.
Despite my contentedness with my uni-lingual status, I've been convicted that maybe I do need to learn another language. I know what you're thinking, "Learn Spanish! It is so useful in today's marketplace!" Trust me, the language I'm set to learn is universally useful. In fact, this language is so vital to the marketplace it's a travesty it isn't a graduation requirement for high school. But that's for another post, too.
The language I am committed to learning is the language of love. And not just any fluffy, feel good, romantic comedy in front of the Eiffel Tower kind of love. I'm talking about the language of Christ's Love.
Christ's love language is the sweetest language ever spoken, always pleasing to the ear. When He speaks, grace rolls off of His tongue. His words of truth serenade the soul with forgiveness, mercy and rest.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, is love.
With the Lord's example as my guide and the Father himself as my teacher, I am committing myself to becoming fluent in the language of His perfect love. With visions of heaven, not Paris, I will study from the inerrant, unchanging Word of God. With dreams of eternity, not a semester abroad, I will call on the Holy Spirit for help and correction. Because Christ's Love is the language of eternity it is truly the only language I will ever need.
Why didn't they teach me that in high school?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Balloons the 3rd

Dreams represented as deflated balloons trapped in the limbs of trees is an odd life metaphor but it is the one God gave me so of course, it's the one that's stuck.

According to the archives of Pippy Love, my first balloon encounter occurred on February 7, 2017. On that special day a tangled mess of deflated balloons trapped in the limbs of a tree delivered a special message and a big thumbs up meant just for me: It's time to take up dreaming again.
And dreaming is precisely what I've been up to ever since. I reclaimed my dreams of old and even started forming new ones. Without skipping a beat, my past champion dreamer skill set returned as naturally as riding a bicycle
The very first dream to return was one that I had completely let go: my dream of full health. When I gave up all hope on that particular dream I didn't even turn around to watch it fly away. But then I caught a glimpse of the balloons in the tree and viola! The dream of full health returned.
Next came the dream of a full, vibrant life with a bright future. This dream had never died entirely but it was so close to breathing its last that it troubled me. I had to search for my dream's pulse. It was nearing its last breath but the balloons brought it back to life with a miraculous recovery. The moment my eyes caught the sight of the shiny balloons new life was breathed into my precious dream. In an  instant the dream came back to life and, I am happy to report, has been breathing strong and steady ever since.
Over the next few days and weeks that followed my first balloon encounter dreams came flooding back like a damn broke open. Dreams for love. Dreams of a career. Dreams of a ministry or two or three. I even began dreaming glorious thoughts of God healing my body with His mighty touch.
My dreams returned at all times of day and night. Before the balloons I had slept through the night rarely recalling a single dream but with the balloons came a blessedly disrupted REM sleep cycle. One night I envisioned myself in a grand ballgown, standing on a ship set out to sea. In another dream I saw a field of flowers so magnificent that only heaven's glory could rival the beauty of the scene.
As you can imagine, I've started looking bit more closely at trees, scanning the limbs for a stray dreams - I mean balloons - to claim as my own. And today I saw another one, although not like any other I'd ever seen. Today I saw a deflated balloon in the middle of a forest, laying among the sticks, dirt and moss of a wooded trail. I looked at that balloon and I knew it in an instant: that balloon is mine. The balloon had once been trapped in a tree but its time had come to break free from the limbs, and fall back down to earth. In the balloon I saw the fulfillment of a dream. I saw one of my balloons fall from the sky and gently fall back into my life.
But which dream was it?
I starred long and hard at the balloon trying to discern the particular dream that had once filled the air inside, the air that was now filling my lungs and my life. The balloon gave me no hints or clues. Even now, after pondering the balloon, its blue color and its wooded location, I have not a single indication of the dream it contained. The big reveal is still yet to come.

So, friends, mark this day down in your calendar: June 9, 2017, a special day in my history. It is the day the first of my balloon filled dreams reached its fulfillment. The first of many beautiful dreams to come.
Some day, maybe even some day soon, I know that I will be back at this keyboard sharing with you the ending of that particular balloon's story.  I promise to record the sweet, dreamy details of how the dream comes true.
And until then, stay tuned, because I know God isn't done showing up in dream filled balloons.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In the tunnel

I've ended up in a tunnel. It is deep and dark and I have no idea how I'll ever get out. I can't see anything. Not a door, not an emergency exit, not a single blinking arrow and, sadly, no big red "call" button.
I have become obsessed with getting out of this tunnel. Everything in me screams, "escape this darkness." I want to break free. I want to live in the light.
At first I glance behind me and wonder if I should turn back. Maybe if I could go back to the beginning I could exit this tunnel the same way in which I entered but behind me is utter darkness. A black hole. I shutter at the thought of being on that stretch of the tunnel. I remember walking in that pitch black. I could see nothing, not even my hand in front of my face let alone an exit door.
But this part of the tunnel isn't  as dark. It can't be because here I can see my hand. It's outline is faint  but it is my hand and the sight of it has given me hope. If I can just keep moving forward, away from the blackness behind me, I can get more of this glorious light and if I can find more light then maybe I can find my way out.
I begin to move away from the darkness behind me. Slowly and carefully at first. My vision is still so limited I fear I could easily trip and fall so I am deliberate with my steps. I gently feel my way forward, seeing only the outline of what lies before me. But the outline is enough to keep me moving ahead.
Traveling towards the light is the only hope I have. Going back to the darkness would take me to a fate of sure doom but before me, following this light, I have hope for freedom.
I am still in this tunnel. I haven't made it to the exit yet but I am full of hope because the light in front of me is getting brighter. More and more details are coming into view. It is glorious just to think that there is something more to see than the outline of my hands.
The light up ahead is my hope. It is my purpose. Following the light is what keeps me from collapsing in this tunnel and giving up my search for an exit. So I will keep pursuing the light because one day it will set me free.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Springboard to Success

I know what you must think when you read my posts. "She sounds so depressed... She sounds sad and lonely... This poor girl is so full of sorrow... She must be utterly beaten down..."
I can't fault you for thinking any such thoughts. Before I became the writer of these posts and the voice telling these stories I would have shared the same thoughts as you. Before my body and spirit knew the feelings of illness and physical helplessness I would have reacted with feelings of sympathy and pity. I might have even taken it a step further in my mind and asked what kind of life God was giving the girl writing the posts? Why would God let someone suffer? Is there no healing and victory in such a life?
Before I became the girl writing these posts I would have confused her sadness with defeat but now I know better. Now I know the truth about sadness.
To be sad is to be down, but it isn't to be out. Sadness never needs to be the end of the story. If given the chance, a step into sadness can actually be the springboard for spiritual success.
Allow me to explain...

Before Jesus went to the cross He went to the garden and He prayed. In His prayer, knowing full well His death warrant was already out and His crucifixion was imminent, Jesus asked God to relieve Him of His upcoming duty to be murdered. If you think my blog posts are sad, imagine how utterly depressing God's prayer must have sounded! Commentators of the Bible refer to that particular prayer as "Agony in the Garden."
At the end of His prayer Jesus left His fate in God's hands. "Not my will but yours." (Matthew 26:36-45). And we know how the story goes. God's will was indeed for Jesus to die in order to be the Savior of sinners.
At the foot of the cross as Jesus died, witnesses wept. They displayed sadness because of their loss. They couldn't see anything but ultimate defeat.
But remember what I said about sadness? This is where we see it in action as a springboard for spiritual success.
Three days later the most glorious, magnificent, splendid springboard sent our Savior up from the grave. Talk about spiritual success! Jesus took the ultimate sadness of death and transformed it into the ultimate joy of eternal life. Jesus wrote the book on turning sadness into gladness. He took the cruelest, surest defeat on earth and turned it into the greatest victory this world will ever know.

If you read words of sadness and feel pangs of pity when you read these posts, double check to make sure you've reached the end because in the end, because of Jesus, there is always victory. He won the ultimate victory and shares it with me every time I seek His intervention in my struggles. When I seek His help, He takes my sadness and uses it to tend to my spirit.
I know sadness, depression and sorrow but that is never where my stories end. There is always success and it is found in my Savior. He always comes near to me in my sadness with a springboard to renew me with His Spirit. Because of Jesus, there is always life at the end of my story.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The girl in the picture

The girl in the picture wore a smile as bright as the sun and eyes that twinkled like stars. Her skin was touched with that flawless, end of summer glow. Her strong cheek bones were kissed with a rosy pink and a faint dusting of freckles. Her long, flowing hair framed her face in silky streaks of gleaming golden hues.
The girl in the picture was full of life and hope for the future. Her eyes glittered with dreams of adventure and excitement. Her big smile welcomed new experiences and dared to confront new challenges. Her zest for life leapt from the printed page.
The girl in the picture was so young and naive. She couldn't see failures or disappointments up ahead. Her eyes couldn't possibly imagine images of darkness or depression. Her smile didn't anticipate future pain and suffering.

The girl in the picture used to be me. I was the girl in the senior graduation picture looking ahead to a bright and exciting future. I was the girl who put her hopes in a fresh start away at college. I was the girl with big, vivid dreams. I was the girl who believed she could conquer anything and would.
I was the girl who couldn't predict a future of missed life milestones and dashed dreams. I was the girl who had no understanding of how deep the river of loneliness or trying the road marked with trials.
I was the girl who couldn't imagine sickness and disease and knew nothing of physical suffering or spiritual sorrow.

When I was that girl in the picture I didn't know the true magnitude of the goodness of God. I had yet to experience the depth of God's forgiveness and how truly extravagant His grace. I couldn't even begin to comprehend the Lord's mercy or how desperately I needed it. The girl I was in that picture didn't understand the definition of surrender or the freedom that comes from it. In that picture I was lost and didn't know I still needed to be found.

Nine years later I'm not the same smiling, glowing, starry-eyed senior I was in that picture. With the passage of time I have grown older and less naive, but I am still full of hope. On my journey of life I have become intimately acquainted with the pain of disappointment and the sorrow of suffering, but I still dream of a bright future. Over the years I have been marred by disease and illness, yet I continue to welcome new challenges and face new giants.

God has transformed me, the girl in the picture.
And He isn't finished yet.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"I do"

At the alter of the Lord I pledged my heart and said "I do." 

It wasn't an "I do" planned months in advance. There were no "Save the Dates," guest lists or seating charts. I didn't wear white or carry a bouquet down an isle draped in petals. There was not a single note of music to accompany the ceremony. 

This "I do" came to pass organically, born out of pain and offered up through tears. 

At the foot of Christ's alter I said "I do" trust God with my future. With forever and always in view, I affirmed my devotion to the Lord and vowed to stay committed for eternity.
Before a heavenly host of witnesses I said "I do" to remaining faithful in every season of life and through every storm. 
"I do" to steadfastly believing in God's goodness whether I be in sorrow or filled with joy. 
"I do" to having unwavering faith in God's provision whether I be rich or poor.
"I do" to having full confidence in God's plan no matter how abundant the health or long, brutal and devastating the disease. 

With words offered in the midst of weeping I pledged to remain forever true to God. I reaffirmed the unity we share and recommitted my life to following His will. 

On the alter of devotion I laid down my plans and preconceived notions I had
for my life. I vowed to faithfully follow God into the future, wherever His path may lead.

In a dress dyed white in surrender, carrying a bouquet full of hopes, I met my Lord at the alter and said "I do" to loving Him forever, trusting Him completely and living for Him fully. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Happy Anniversary

On June 3, 2017 I set out for my daily walk on my routine route. Three blocks to the east; two blocks to the south; three blocks to the west; ending with two blocks to the north. With my square complete I would end up back at home.
It was there, at block ten, that I descended a small hill and sent my gaze up through the green, leafy limbs of a mighty oak tree. Its branches stretched high into the telephone wires, creating a canopy of shade for me below. In the limbs of the tree, high up near the top, my eyes caught a familiar sight: trapped party balloons.
At the very sight of the balloons a question flashed across my mind's eye like a neon sign in the dark of night: Remember the dream you released six years ago?
Six years ago...that delicate, precious, beautiful dream...oh yes, of course I could I ever forget it?
On this day six years ago I released one of my most precious dreams. I let go of the dream filled balloon holding my hopes for love and marriage.
For years I had grown to cherish that balloon. In my imaginations and longings I had crafted a beautiful future built on my heart's deep desire for life long companionship. I had dreams of my life with one special person by my side forever. But all at once that balloon full of dreams lost its air. A called off engagement punctured my balloon, leaving gaping holes. A relationship in ruins ravaged my dreams. My dream became a pathetic, lifeless balloon.
It was on June third six years ago today, the eve of my non-wedding, that I surveyed my damaged dreams filled with pain and loss and decided to release them. In my heart I knew I needed to let go and let God have my most precious dream.
Today, on the anniversary of that fateful night, God delivered a much needed message to remind me that He was there to catch my dreams six years ago and He has never let them go. Through the ups, downs, lows and highs of the past six years God has never loosened His grip on my dreams. He has never, not even for a moment, forgotten my balloons filled with love, companionship and marriage. All these many years God has held my delicate dreams in His hands and treasured my hopes in His heart because they are precious in his sight.
In the trees God assured me that He is not only the lover of my soul, He is the protector and keeper of my dreams. In His tender compassion and care God reminded me to, "Look up and see, your dreams are all here."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Forever Man

He smiled and the world lit up around his eyes. His gaze met mine and that's all it took. I was a goner; captivated by the handsome gentleman standing before me at the post office self-weighing machine.
Enchantment can occur in the most unusual places and it rarely comes with warning. One moment you're on a mission to purchase forever stamps and the next your face-to-face with a far more significant forever: your forever man.
I hadn't walked into the post office thinking about romance or weddings or love in any shape or form. My thoughts were simply, "get stamps to mail the stack of envelopes that should have been mailed yesterday." Then he looked at me and suddenly stamps seemed irrelevant.
Being a gentleman, he stepped aside and offered me the first crack at the self-check out machine. As is so often the case at self-check out, the machine didn't want to read my credit card. He sympathized since his first transaction had suffered the same fate. We exchanged a few pleasantries as I tried another card and confirmed for us both that the machine was working. It spit out my stamps and sent me on my way.
I grabbed my two books of forever stamps and reluctantly made my way to the door. I didn't want to leave without his name and preferably his number, but reality called. I couldn't stand there and stare with puppy dog eyes, willing him with the longing in my heart to fall head over heels in love with me after a four sentence exchange about stamp machines and postage problems. Only I am that crazy.
As I made my way through the glass doors I heard his voice call out to me. For a brief moment I thought maybe the inconceivable was about to come true... My life is about to become the stuff of romantic comedies and Nicholas Sparks novels. This handsome, striking man is about to ask for my name and number. We are about to fall in love and life happily ever after!
If it were possible to have all of those thoughts in the time it takes to shift weight from left to right and swing one's head around to look back, well then I had every one of those thoughts. But a moment later reality hit.
"You forgot your receipt!"
I'm not one to typically take the post office receipts but for the chance to catch one last glimpse of those glittery eyes I took a few steps back and retrieved it from his outstretched hand. And that was it. My meeting with my forever man was over. I lingered for a few extra minutes in the car before exiting the parking lot, holding onto a thin, completely irrational, string of hope that maybe the mystery post office customer would come running from the building to catch me before I left.
But no.
I left without his name or number. I left with only two books of forever stamps.

I know what you must be thinking, "Where's the happy ending?" "What kind of love story is this?" The truth is that this story is one of real life and, hold tight, because it does have a happy ending.

As I drove back home the real reality of love struck me as brilliantly and beautifully as the mystery man's smile in the post office. God's love smiled on me and reassured me with the words of a promise. "Be patient, my dear, I am protecting a prize for you!"
Somewhere out there God has hand picked someone for me to love. He may be the mystery man in the post office or maybe I just haven't met him yet. The details of my forever man are still a surprise yet to be revealed.
This much I know for sure, that God hasn't forgotten to save me a keeper. He hasn't ruled out romance for my future. God is perfecting, pruning and protecting for me a prize of a gentleman.

When God brings my forever man and I together our eyes will meet and the world around us will light up. Our gazes will meet and at once everything will change. When the time is right, when the man is right and when I am right, I will be swept off my feet by God's choice for my forever man.