Friday, May 29, 2020

WARNING: Melancholic Emotions Ahead

The gloomy-grey of the morning sky is very fitting today...it perfectly reflects the way my heart feels.  Today was the original day when Grant's commencement ceremony would have taken place.  And of course, there's nothing going on.  Two days ago he received his diploma, cap & gown by the curbside.  No fanfare...no "Pomp and Circumstance" playing in the background...no cheers...no handshakes and pats on the back...no flipping of the tassle... no tossing of the cap... no celebration... but plenty of weepy Mom.

I can't even think about this without feeling the knot in my throat tighten and the tears in my eyes burning.  But it's not about the loss of the festivities...really...it's more about the knowledge that life will never be the same.  High School graduation represents the first step into a process of letting go that feels more like a voodoo ceremony where someone rips one's heart right out of the chest and eats it in front of you while you bleed out helplessly...

I know, drama-queen 101, right?  Get a grip! You're not the only Mother ever to go through this.  Your pain is insignificant when compared to the real pain others have to go through.  You're pathetic.  Well, what can I tell you? Yes, perhaps, I am...I'm a wimp.  I'm a softy.  I don't know.  The only thing I know is that being a Mother is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life so far...and I'm guessing, it's not about to get any easier.

The depth of my weakness and my neediness can only be withstand by the One Who Sustains me.  He is the One who truly sees me and understands the source of my pain.  He is the Only One who could carry it for me and give me the respite I long for.  He is the cool breeze that soothes me.  He is the comfy blanket that embraces me.  He is the strong arm that comforts me.

And this morning is no difference, as He speaks to me through the readings to which He leads me:

"I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me.  Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you.  Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.  When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful.  Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation." (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

He knows that what I need is Him...so He draws me nearer still by nudging me towards what I must do:  fix my eyes upon His Face.

I open the windows and let the soft breeze come in so I can breathe!  I take another look at the source of my melancholic mood and I find the blessing that it is to be able to feel this way.  The only reason I feel the way I feel today is because God gave me a son named Grant who has been a conduit to His joy ever since he was conceived.  Grant is one of God's amazing gifts to my life...a life that otherwise would had been empty...like my womb was... The reason I feel like my heart is about to be ripped out of my chest is because God blessed me with a son who helps my heart still beat, and he is healthy and able to go on with his life wherever it may take him.  The reason I feel like life will never be the same is because, PRAISE THE LORD it never will!  Grant has the means to move on and go seek God's path guided by His Light!  The reason I can't think about all these without crying is because this is exactly the way that it is supposed to be happening...otherwise...it would mean I have nothing to be sad about...which is sad in all that it implies.

He is showing me the "hand-tailored provision" of my needs.  I'm not going to reject His gifts.  I'm going to embrace this moment in my life and express my eternal gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessing of having allowed me to experience this very situation...the very nature of which, makes it unforgettable.

So...welcome melancholy!  I'm glad you're here! 

May the Lord show His Presence to all Mothers of Seniors during this season of letting go.  May the Holy Spirit show us the path and give us and our children all we need to make the best out of the blessings we've received.  May God's Light shine on the path that they will now have to walk.  And may the Holy Trinity strengthen us as we fix our eyes upon Jesus the Sustainer of our lives.  In His Precious Name I pray.  Amen!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Morning Thoughts

I just wanted to share this morning devotional reading from Sarah Young's Jesus Calling book because it really spoke to me at a rather practical level.  Here it is:

"Seek My Face at the beginning of your day.  This practice enables you to 'put Me on' and 'wear Me' throughout the day.  Most people put on clothes soon after arising from bed.  Similarly, the sooner you 'put Me on' by communicating with Me, the better prepared you are for whatever comes your way.

To 'wear Me' is essentially to have My mind: to think My thoughts.  Ask the Holy Spirit to control your thinking; be transformed by this renewal within you.  Thus you are well-equipped to face whatever people and situations I bring your way.  Clothing your mind in Me is your best preparation for each day.  This discipline brings Joy and Peace to you and those around you."

I guess this is one way to put on the Armor of God that Ephesians 6: 10-18 talks about:  to devote my first thoughts each morning to the Lord...and to beg the Holy Spirit to take hold of my thoughts since before my feet reach the ground until my body goes down to sleep at night again.  So often, I haven't opened my eyes yet, and my mind starts racing about the troubling things of the day.  The day hasn't even started, and I'm already fretting what I anticipate will happen.  I'm not still yet awake, and I'm stressing out over all the items on my daily list. 

This spiritual discipline of making a conscious effort to dedicate my first thoughts to the Lord in the morning helps me center my attention on what's important.  Ever since I first read this same devotional reading several years ago (I'm actually on my 4th or more year of re-reading Sarah Young's Jesus Calling book as one of my morning routines) I have been able to at least, catch myself when my mind drifts to the worries of the day ahead, rather than on consecrating my first thoughts to Christ.  I can't say that I'm successful, 100% of the time in my attempts of beginning my day seeking God's face.  But, at least I am aware when I don't, so I can try to redirect my path.

This discipline is helping me even with being better at letting go of stressful thoughts and circumstances.  It happened just this past weekend, when the threat of stress upon a situation came to me on an e-mail (don't you love this era when work follows you wherever you are?) ... but instead of doing what I usually do:  panic!  I was able to say:  God will take care of it.  It's in His hands...and just like that...a sense of peace came over me and I was able to not drive myself crazy trying to figure out what to do next.  And, after that, whenever the worry would threaten to enter my heart again, I would repeat the same phrase in my mind...and peace would return.

I was amazed!  It actually works!  Imagine that...God's promises ARE true, indeed!

It all starts with small steps of faith...small spiritual disciplines that transform our "normal" of chaos into a new normal where peace flows like a river.  I'm not there yet, by any means!  But I'm here as a testimony that it is possible to bring all of our weaknesses to the Cross and allow Jesus to infuse His strength in us.  All He asks in return is that we fix our eyes on His Precious Face.  What a beautiful price to pay for all that He does for us.

May the Holy Spirit hold every thought captive and enable us to, by His strength, honor Him with our first thoughts every morning as a demonstration of our trust in Him and on His power to work all things for good.  In Christ's Name.  Amen!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Be a Colander Not a Bowl

"Mom, you know that you can choose not to get mad, right?"  Grant said this to me the other day after one of my routine displays of hysterics in the car about something that irritated me, which I can't even remember what it was.  He wants to be a counselor...I guess he might be into something here...

Then, shortly after, while I was becoming irritated at who knows what, Dan said to me:  "be a colander not a bowl."

I was like, "what?!  So now I'm a bull?!" I got so irritated thinking he had called me a "bull."  He's like, "a bowl, B.O.W.L." So I got more irritated now thinking he was insinuating I was fat!  So he proceeded to explain:  "Be a colander, let things sift through so they don't irritate you, instead of collecting every single irritating thing so you can be mad at everything."  Well, now I was REALLY irritated because what he said made a lot of sense...he was right...and I was wrong...and that makes me furious!

Sigh...

There are crazy elements in my bowl: I have an insane amount of pride mixed in with a high dose of insecurity.  This is a very volatile and extremely flammable combination that makes the person super unstable. In my bowl, I collect all irritating things so I can carefully dissect them to make sure I confirm the fact that I was right to be irritated.  In that bowl I catch all my triggers.  The thing is, my triggers are pulled by perception...which is a dangerously subjective way to become trigger-happy.  The incident doesn't even have to be real.  I just have to perceive it as real, and the trigger is pulled...and I become a mutant Hulk-cowgirl.  The one perception that causes an instant finger on the irritation trigger is when I sense that others might be disrespecting me...it triggers my insecurity that makes me believe that I'm really not worthy of anyone's respect, so my pride is hurt then, my thwarted perception pulls the trigger:

*Car cuts in front of me on the road...BAM!
*Person in line in front of me strikes a personal conversation with the cashier...BOOM
*Drivers block me while they chit chat from car to car (works the same at the grocery store when two customers with carts decide to block the isle while they have a fun conversation)...POW
*People going the wrong way at the grocery store during social distancing...KAPOW
*Neighbor turning my backyard on his giant dog's personal toilet every morning and evening...BANG
*Co-workers thinking they can outsmart me and make me look bad in front of the boss....GROWL
*Co-workers thinking they can get away with doing nothing while I kill myself trying to get things done...ROAR
*Kids not obeying instantly...WHAM
*Husband not doing what I asked...ZING
*Dog thinking he's my boss...ZAP
*People thinking they can do what they want...SNAP
*Life showing me I'm not in control...BAM! BOOM! POW!

Anyway...sigh...my pride makes me think too highly of myself and my insecurity makes me hate myself when I find out that the world doesn't respect me enough because I'm really not all that...

I forget that life is not about me.  I forget that the purpose of my existence is to follow Jesus.  I forget that all that is required of me is to: act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God. (Micah 6: 8)

I love the Amplified Version of this verse:

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Micah 6: 8

I especially love the last sentence in brackets.  It is time I set aside my overblown sense of importance...It's time to really pray for humility and for the Holy Spirit to grow the fruit of self-control in my soul.  I really do not want to be a grumpy old-lady.  I want to be humble enough to accept the fact that it is OK not to be perfect.  I want to be humble enough to accept that I do not have to be "all that." I want to be secured enough to know that my sense of worth comes from who I am in the Lord.

The quicker I accept my reality with humility, the quicker I would stop being mad at the world...the quicker I would become more of a colander and stop being such a big bowl.




Wednesday, May 20, 2020

My Little Bodyguard

"Link is your bodyguard, Mama," Dylan said to me a couple of days ago.  Link is our little poodle and he follows me around the house wherever I go.  Often seen laying by my side as I sit at my workstation at home, he is very quick to growl and loudly bark at anyone or anything that walks, runs, flies, flutters or rides outside.  Long before any of us, especially me, sees the "danger," Link is already by the window, making his ferocious presence known, giving a voice of alert that is impossible for anyone to ignore. 

As I see Link peacefully laying by my feet this morning, it's kind of surprising to think how, in a matter of seconds, at the slightest sound that may signal someone is outside (a signal that goes totally unnoticed to me most of the time, of course), he would jump to attention and start his protective routine...leaving me no other alternative than to go and check out what's going on (thank Goodness this is a rather quiet neighborhood...).

I read chapter 22 of Numbers a couple of days ago, and after scratching my head about that totally bizarre incident when a donkey speaks, I thought of Link.  I thought of my little bodyguard and of all the people, animals, things, events, etc. that God uses to communicate with us...to warn us of danger...to protect us...to show us the right way...to keep us safe.

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” (Numbers 22: 26-34)

How many times we walk around completely blinded by whatever it is that clouds our minds, hearts and eyes, and we fail to see the harm that awaits a few steps ahead if we continue to go on that direction of recklessness...completely unaware of the danger?  God, in His compassion uses something or someone...often the one we least expect or the one we most ignore, to sound the alarm.  And how many times, we are so caught up on our own selves, that the signal has to be rather shocking in order to catch our attention, wake us up and make us see.

I know that Link's loud and annoying bark at the slightest movement outside our house is most likely never going to be the sign of imminent danger and harm for me or my family.  But, after reading about Balaam's donkey...I tell you, I'm thinking I better always pay attention.  I don't want to have the Lord open his mouth and make him start speaking in intelligibly words to me due to my hardheadedness. I'm most happy to endure the annoying loud bark of my little bodyguard.

May the Holy Spirit give us awareness and wisdom to discern the warning signs that are displayed in front of us through the actions and words of others around us as a protection from imminent danger.  In the Precious Name of Jesus.  Amen!


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Dandelions Were Not Canceled

Every year I get so annoyed by dandelions.  They signal the beginning of bad allergy season for me and Dylan.  AND, I don't like how they plague the lawn with what looks like grass yellow fever.  We have been spending a small fortune over the last few years to keep them away from our yard...but our neighbors haven't...so...every time I look out the window, I sigh in disgust when I see one of those yellow pests on our beautiful green and luscious grass. 

And you know what?  This year has been no exception to that reality.

A year when the word CANCELLATION has been so freely and easily propagated all around us, impacting everything from school, movies, swimming pools, graduations, wedding receptions, stores, restaurants all the way to funeral gatherings and church services...dandelions sprouted and opened up right on schedule.

Isn't that amazing?

It just hit me this morning.  As I was wrestling with the fact that so much of our "normal" routines has been disrupted and how unpredictable life has become...how crazy even the seasons have been (hardly any snow in the winter and a grey, stormy and snowy spring), the dandelions came.  I thought the latest snow would confuse them and keep them from popping their yellow heads...but no!  They came right on time.  Along with the robins, cherries and daffodils, the dandelions arrived.

Dandelions were not canceled. When it was time for them to show up, there they were, with the same force and strength as always.  The dandelions came to cover the neighbor's lawn with their yellow blanket, spilling to our yard here and there like drops from a sun that refuses to shine.

Who would have thought that the source of annoyance would speak to me of hope today?

Not just the majestic mountains or the roaring seas tell us of God's Power and Might.  If we are willing to listen, all of God's creation is capable of speaking to us. And it is impossible for its voice to be silenced or for its impact to be canceled.

That is the God we serve.  He is the One Who Uses ALL to communicate to His beloved that He is here, even if it doesn't seem like it.  We serve a God Who is Present always, regardless of what the world may say.  He is Constant.  He is Omnipresent.  He is All Powerful.  He knows all.  He manages all.  He is King over all.  He is Holy but He is also Patient.  He is Almighty, but He is also Kind.  He is Perfect, but He is also Love.  He is in the Heavens, but He is also Emanuel: God with Us.

I'm sure next year, if life ever comes back to some sense of normalcy, I will be annoyed by dandelions again.  I hope, however, that in my petty frustration I find room to remember the way I feel today: comforted by the fact that somethings would never be canceled and that dandelions are a reminder of God's Ever Presence and Control over all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Fierce

Grant:  hey Mom, you know? K-Love was asking people to describe their Mom's in 1 word.  I wrote my word and got tons of likes.
Me:      O no...what word did you write?
Grant:   "Fierce."
Me:       silence...sigh...silence

As I continue to explore the book of Numbers in the Old Testament, I find it ironic that one of my least favorite books of the Bible contains one of my favorite stories:  Exploring Canaan.

Numbers 13 tells us about the time when God asked Moses to send a representative from each ancestral tribe to survey the land of promise.  As we may remember, the men went and after 40 days in Canaan, came back to camp and gave their report:  yes, the land is certainly amazing, flowing with milk and honey, capable of producing larger than normal fruit, BUT...it is also heavily fortified and not only that, but the people themselves are "stronger than we are," the scouts said. And also,  they said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13: 32-33)

Isn't that the case that "in our own eyes" it's easy to identify with the israelites?  At least, for me, it has often been possible to identify with them as I see myself as the grasshopper. 

However, have you ever seen yourself as the giant?

Have you ever seen yourself, "in your own eyes" as the giant among grasshoppers?

I have to admit that lately...very recently...I believe God has been removing the veil from my eyes, giving me a clearer understanding of my situation at the moment.  And, perhaps, what He has been telling me through the discomfort I've been experiencing is that...today, I might be the giant.  I might be the Nephilim to those around me...While they feel like the grasshoppers who retreat in fear of what I might do to them, I stand taller than ever, imposing my inflexible presence, ideas, values, plans, goals, ways with little regard of what others may think, need or want.

In my prideful nature, I secretly and often, not so secretly, embrace the adjective that my son gave me:  fierce.  "I want to be feared not liked" I said once...more than once, really.  The definition of fierce, however is not a flattering one:  having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness...but it is consistent with who I am.  And it is a cause of shame today...as I realize that such aggressiveness could be used for things less than holy.  The same intensity I can display for the Kingdom of God, I can also display for the kingdom of self.  The same ferocious aggressiveness I can have for defending what I consider the right thing and the right cause, I can also have to destroy and devour those whom I perceive as being on the wrong side, defending the wrong cause and doing the wrong things.  Fierce throws compassion out the wagon and pushes through blindly pulling ahead, regardless of who gets crushed.

That's who I am.  That's my nature...when left untamed...when having no Lord other than myself.

I'm in a place of abundance, surrounded by many who have nothing...and I dare to complain.  I'm just like the Israelites who were never satisfied even thought they lived and walked in the Presence of God.  I'm the Israelite who didn't realize that there's no need to fear, plot and manipulate for we are truly the giants as we are backed by the One Who Defeats All Giants. 

I don't need to be the freight train or the tornado or the "she Hulk" that indiscriminately smashes all that is on her way.  I can actually just  "act justly and ... love mercy and ... walk humbly with [My] God." (Micah 6:8) And leave the rest in His Hands instead of getting mine dirty with the mud of regret and shame.

I don't want to be fierce...I want to be humble...I don't know that Grant will ever see me as such.  My prayer is that someday, God does.

May my failures to be who God wants me to be today, transform me into who I am supposed to be tomorrow.  May a sense of humility that destroys my pride, allow me to realize that I am nothing without Him.  In the Precious Name of Jesus, My Lord and Savior.  Amen!


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Lord's Blessing

This social distancing reality and my inability to do my "normal" routine has me embarking on new and strange "adventures."  For instance, I'm reading through the book of Numbers in the Bible. 

I have to say, so far, Numbers is not my favorite.  But then, hidden at the end of chapter 6, after all that talk about the Nazirite...which, btw, I'm still very confused about...but I think it has something to do with separating yourself from the world and dedicating to the Lord for a period of time, keeping in mind a bunch of consequences if defiling oneself, etc...there is a precious gem: The Lord's Blessing through Aaron and his sons, the priests:

“‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6: 24-27

Where did this come from?  I mean, the entire chapter was about the Nazirite.  Then, all of a sudden, The Lord tells Moses to tell Aaron and his sons to proclaim these words to the Israelites.  What?

I believe, this blessing is a reminder that, the Lord's intent is not to hurt us or torture us with complicated rituals.  His purpose is to bless us and to love us.  The Israelites had been separated from God for far too long.  They weren't truly a nation when they became slaves in Egypt.  Therefore, this time wandering in the desert was used by God to forge a cohesive sense of identity with all the rigor of discipline and obedience.  But, for a reason: to make them into His people.  And as His people, His purpose was to bless them and love them.  Hence, this beautiful blessing, proclaiming all that anyone may possibly want from God.

The Almighty God who calls us His own always has that same purpose for all of us in His family.  He still wants to bless us and love us today as much as He did back then during the foundational days of desert dwelling.  He still wants to make His face shine upon us, be gracious to us and turn His face toward us and give us peace.  Even as we are still immersed in the uncertainty of our pandemic days, He is moving us toward the recognition that our identity is in Him as Children of the Most High God!  Who we are is not determined by what is happening to us.  We are children of the King regardless of viruses, masks, social distancing and economic crisis.  He keeps us and blesses us always even when the hour seems dark, hopeless or just plain strange and confusing.

May the Holy Spirit help us to keep our eyes on what is important: His Face, as we seek to focus on the blessings of His Love.  In the Precious Name of Our Lord, Jesus.  Amen!