Praising God in the Dark

The February rain has usurped the modest daylight. i lie here trapped in a body that rarely tolerates being upright and i confess ingratitude. Recognizing how blessed i am to be watching a tufted titmouse at the feeder on the hill facing my patio doors stops me. A pile of rocks and roots that is the steep hill a few feet from my window blocks the view. Or, perchance, it is the glorious view of chipmunk, wren, and squirrel.

KQzoK4%+TVuQ2twtOQpuJwThe infirmity that keeps me lying and prevents me from participating in our society is the burden God gave me to bear. All our burdens are custom designed to help us grow toward Him.  The gloom and haze that infects the weather and our mood is the very medium we need to move our gaze to Him. i only feel sorry for myself when i am thinking about myself.

i am not the point. Period. Full stop.

Repentance, metanoia means to turn around, change direction and move the other way. i repent of thinking about myself.

The only reason i feel low is that i am thinking about what i would like to be doing. Being is more important than doing. i am learning in the lying down all the time to be. To be with God. In prayer.

Ceaseless, relentlessly He pursues me. Like Peter, i look about at the waves and cry that i am drowning. How can i drown when He is near?

i fear because i forget to be in His presence.

The hill does not block my view, the hill is my beautiful view even in the dismal dank rain.

My physical limitations are not preventing me from having a full life they are teaching me how to live a full life.

i praise God for His extraordinary blessings! His mercy never ends!

Rest

This is post number eleven On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.

One of the discussion questions for this chapter is, “Do you have trouble with rest?” I have perhaps misquoted this slightly in my perennial flurry. I would go back and double-check to ensure that I have the quote verbatim, but I am deliberately leaving it as is since I think it speaks to my underlying difficulty with the concept of rest. If this is not the precise wording of the question, this is the question that I need to find the answer for.

Yes, I have a problem with rest.

I am not referring to my insomnia. I have trouble taking restorative rest because I become sick and am unable to work so often. The truth is supposed to release you, but it looks ugly to me. All my life I have battled chronic illness, so I am always playing catch up. In theory I take breaks. I take plenty of breaks. Being too weak to hold your head up or in extreme pain is not restful, however. As I studied this chapter and read the other posts I was convicted in the strongest possible way. I rarely have time for restorative rest. Honestly, I don’t imagine that any significant change can be made to this scenario. The demands of family alone leave me depleted. I imagine that many moms of young children experience the same challenges no matter how robust their health. Doubtless many others find the same difficulties for a variety of reasons.

  • What comes between you and restorative breaks?
  • What techniques do you employ to keep your creative energy flowing?

What I can change is my attitude and my planning. I had not thought of allowing restorative respite of non-verbal periods in the writing schedule. This I shall attempt in the future. Even brief stops may be useful, and brief stops I can allow myself.

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I love to knit. I find it very relaxing and I can knit when I am too sick to do anything else. Unless I am knitting a complex pattern I find plenty of parts in knitting that I can do while lying down, with my eyes closed. I frequently reserve it for when I am unable to accomplish something more productive. Knitting sometimes contains parts where I do need to check a pattern periodically. My knitting basket happens to hang just beside the chaise where I do my writing. Inspiration is leading me to think that 15 minutes of knitting scheduled every 2 hours of writing might be a good idea. Tiny knitting breaks might give my brain useful reflect periods.

  • Does this sound silly?
  • Would it be wasteful to use precious fully functioning writing time on something as frivolous as knitting?

Define Success

imageI am thinking that how we define failure and success tells more about our faith and character than we like to admit. It is relatively easy to say that we are followers of Jesus when times are stable, but it is another thing altogether when it will cost us significantly to behave in a meek way. How do we define success? Is it a nice house, a good job and others treating us with respect?

As Christians we are called to view success as following our Servant-King and responding with gentleness even when life-changing issues are on the line. Failure would be recounting who did and said what, and when. Assessing the situation from a worldly, get-ahead viewpoint would be failure. It should not about us or our feelings. It is all about glorifying God. Contributing to dissension and conflict would be putting ourselves first.

If our job as the Church is to demonstrate Christ’s teachings, then we are required to turn the other cheek. Human desires include slamming the door on our way out to shake things up a bit. That is not what our Savior taught.

A friend once told me they worried about me being such a “gentle person.” They feared that others would take advantage of me. After the conversation I pondered their comments and realized that by the Christian definition  for success, they had paid me a very great compliment.

It is surprising what incidents linger in our long-term memory. When I was interviewed for my job in the Church I was asked one question that startled me. I had been asking and answering questions in the appropriate college graduate manner when I was asked how I saw myself leading. I paused because I felt an answer jump up in my heart that did not seem an appropriate response. I felt the answer driven to my mouth by a force too great to resist. It was a Church so I replied honestly with the truth I couldn’t contain. “With great love, I hope.” I never forgot that part of the interview and I have unceasingly endeavored to live up to the style of leadership I believe in.

I have loved the Lord in the good times and the hard places. To love is to put the beloved ‘s best interest ahead of our own wishes. I will always have great love for my congregation. I have done all in my power to serve and please them all. I have fervently sought to share the love of the Lord and His Word.

This is a season where my health has become an insurmountable problem. My chronic health problems have been exacerbated by trying to remain upright for too many hours a day. My body withstood over a month of the new schedule, but I became ever weaker with mounting tachycardia and fainting. In the end I had a second full outbreak of chickenpox, which is not healing as it should. I am being forced into a period of rest.

To the core of my heart I am grieved that we have come to the end. As an optimist, I cannot help but add that according to 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends.”

How do you define success? Please tell us about a time of transition that you have experienced. Share with us what you think are some of the hallmarks of a life well-lived.

Dragon-scales

Chickenpox Day 7
The sight of me surprised my sister’s cat. One of her cats is the typical one-person only, skittish, hide-under-the-bed type cat. Snowy has always been that way and days can pass without my actually seeing her. When she hears anyone come she ducks for cover. I have had chickenpox for enough days that I imagined everyone who lives with me was well aware of how I currently look. Last night I saw Snowy and realized that she could not have seen my face lately. The look of shock and fear were too evident. Yes, she knows me. She trusts me, but the deformity of my face covered in scabbed blisters was too much and her ears pinned back and she dodged back into hiding. As I registered the effect my visage had on her I could see my sister’s other cat, Pussywillow across the room gazing at me with adoration.Pussywillow

Pussywillow had self-assigned the role of nurse through the very real misery that is chickenpox in adults. He had devotedly watched over my chills, severe muscle pain, nausea, moaning, and ever-increasing skin blistering. I had pushed him off me because his weight was too much for my agonizing skin to bear. So, he had gently lain himself down by my side and quietly purred. He would lie over my head on the back of my chaise and ever-so-gently reach one paw down and rest it on my shoulder so lightly that I couldn’t even feel it as he sang his most soothing song in my ear. It felt like a benediction. As fear was betrayed in his sister’s eyes his were full of deep, abiding love. I was beautiful to him. He wasn’t looking at my face with its disfigured skin. He was looking into my eyes and deep into my soul. He saw me, not what I looked like. My sister and I joked that it was such a pity neither of us has found a human man who will look at us like her cat.

Later I saw myself in the mirror and was aghast. I don’t take my appearance very seriously, which is I guess a good thing, considering… even I was taken aback. All I could think is, “That’s not me.” I long to pull the scabs off like scales off a dragon. “I look like a monster.” I thought. Suddenly “Beauty and the Beast” and all kinds of children’s fairy tales popped into my head. Who knows, they may have originated in reassuring some child that the blisters of chickenpox or some other such thing would not last.

Now I cannot help but ponder how often we all feel like we are hidden under shells. We all have protective shells acquired to keep our feelings safe. We hide behind fashions, status-cars, houses, spouses, kids, jobs, titles, anything to make us feel immune to criticism. We build walls to keep us safe, but they can in fact become like the dragon-shell and turn us into a mis-understood “monster.” We judge one-another by the shells. We base our actions not upon fact, but assumptions about how someone who lives in that neighborhood, or has that profession, or that tattoo must be. In reality we are all much more alike than different.

What would the world be like if more of us betrayed the real suffering that is part of the human experience? I did not throw Pussywillow out when I became sick. There was a moment when he was determined to “knead” my blistered stomach with his long claws where I really might have considered it if I had felt strong enough to wrestle him. Fortunately, for both of us he got the message and stopped. But, honestly, I trusted this cat. He could have really caused me more pain, but I trusted him to be a good friend and he was. It was due to his sharing the hard part of the journey with me that he looked through the blisters and saw me. How would our communities be different if rather than hide our pain we helped each other though? What if we all pulled off some of our “dragon-scales” and let others care for us? Will you run and hide based on externals or will you get to know people through the good and the bad and look with God’s love at their heart even when they are wearing tired scales?

My Word for 2015

My word for 2015 began to impress itself upon my heart one evening in December as a lay recovering from passing out. I had spent just a little too long on my feet as I hurried to catch up with my exponentially accelerating To Do list. I planned to take a few days off during Christmas week and, as I believe is common with most women, the work, shopping, baking, decorating, and wrapping all mounted while the time decreased.

For me there is nothing more frustrating than being forced to lie flat on my back accomplishing nothing. A whole evening was lost while the blood flowed back into my brain in sufficient quantity. I ended up spending most of my time in prayer as a means of keeping myself calm. I have often realized that God will knock you flat on your back if that is what He needs to get your attention. I speak from experience.

My desire for my prayer life was that it be full and rich. Honesty compels me to admit that I found myself complaining most of that time. I was focused on communication with God, however, and I did eventually get to the end of my tirade to the Almighty. One evening doesn’t seem like that much time to loose out of a life but for me it has inevitably felt like an eternity.

I realize, as I share this, that the depth of my prayer life has been inhibited by treating my active life like something that is so packed with commitments that one break will cause the whole thing to fall apart. The obstacle that I have not figured out how to overcome is that your cannot schedule illness. It never comes according to plan. I would plan it out of existence if I had any control.

In the calm induced by a couple of hours of uninterrupted prayer I began to find the notion impressed upon my heart that although my agenda looked unfinished my day was complete in Christ. I kept being reminded that I am complete and lacking in nothing because of what Christ has done on my behalf.

I never complete my To Do: list. For years I felt that I was a failure for this. Then I began to understand that if I only put on the list what I could accomplish in one day I would lack imagination. What I can dream will always exceed my ability, but that gives me something to look forward to for the future. My sufficiency comes from Jesus not my achievements.

“…and you are COMPLETE in Him, who is the head of all principalities and power.” Colossians 2:10 NIV.

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Tearing Down the Walls

I am struggling to accept the place that God has put me in life. I have suffered with chronic illness all my life. I don’t like to talk about it and have always felt ashamed that I could not keep up with others. Eventually I discovered what is wrong with me. I take courage and write this, I have P.O.T.S. type Dysautnomia. (I faint from being upright for too long). How long it takes has varied widely over the years.

Learning how to manage my symptoms and new medicines have made a tremendous improvement in my condition. I am in my 40′s now. (That is something I can’t believe I shared). I am finally stronger, not normal, but closer, and I want my life back; the life I never had; the life I always expected to have. I want God to give me back the years that, “the locusts ate” (Joel 2:25).That looks to be impossible from here.

My Dad is now old and has mobility issues. I have become a caregiver. I was always supposed to write. I wrote for myself, but have been too insecure to share. I have always known what I want, the struggle has been to know what God wants.

I am reluctant to write about my health problems, loneliness, struggles and challenges. I was bullied as a child, and learned to try to hide my weakens as much as possible. Now I find myself sharing my words and life as I never thought possible. I am afraid of revealing too much of myself and regretting it later.

I have many times recognized how God has taught me through the illness great truths that I would never have learned otherwise. My tendency is to focus on my self-sufficiency. God has literally knocked me flat on my back repeatedly to teach me that He is in control. I have become aware that I am nothing without Him. I try to center my whole life around Him because I have become cognizant that nothing else is as important. Yet I still struggle with wanting things my way. Progress, “imperfect progress” as Lysa Terkeurst calls it in Unglued, that is what I have made. Each day I learn more from my time in Bible study and prayer.

The value of our lives is made up in what we spend our time on. My life may not resemble my dreams, but honestly, I have devoted more time to serving my parents, sister, Church, dogs and cats than any other pursuit. It has not been about fun, financial gain, or self-serving interests. I guess, if I had to appraise my life thus far, given the health I’ve had to work with, it has been well lived. I just tend to be dissatisfied.

Which leads me to my besetting sin, I struggle with perfectionism. What I have written is never good enough because it could always be better. What I have said is never right, because I do not always speak the most loving words possible. Nothing I do will ever be enough. That is why Jesus lives. He took all my frailties to the cross. I know this and daily I grow in this knowledge. Tomorrow will be better than today. Spring has come, plants are growing, I am growing in faith. I am growing in grace. His grace is enough!