Feb 25, 2009
Feb 24, 2009
Living in the Deep Water
I understand some things about my life:
That I want to live in the deep water
That it is what I have chosen
And a part of the complexity of who I am
Not deep water of the sea that consumes you
So you feel you are weighed down and drowning
But deep water so you feel anything and everything
With a deep sensitivity of heart and soul
And not just what lies on the surface
True, living below the surface can be hard and painful
Trying to make sense of losses and struggle and challenges
Trying to see how the tapestry of life is woven together
Both the innate joy and the veil of darkness that sometimes sets in
Having to peel every layer away and reveal the depth of my soul
Responding to the voice deep within instead of remaining passive
Like a caterpillar encased in the warmth of the coccoon
Risking all to become a creature of beauty ready to fly
Living my truth, and not the truth others imagine for me
Invoking diligence and courage and fortitude and strength
That is not second nature to me, but rather a gift I receive
When I am open and ready and willing to seek, and then accept
For so long I lived on the surface, making everyone else happy
Yet not experiencing and receiving the gifts I was given to share in the world
Not loving myself enough, so it was impossible to truly love others genuinely
Until I was to be pulled from the surface and enter the deep water
Deep water that allows me to let go of what was
Deep water that hopes for what is yet to be
Deep water that washes me clean
Deep water that allows freedom and soaring
Deep water that empowers me to experience the flow of life
Knowing that without the deep water
I would never have known
What lies inherently and profoundly within
And how God is ever shaping me still, even in the deep water
Feb 18, 2009
It was the season of restlessness in my soul. Yet I hadn’t given much thought to soul talk, or soul work for so long. But in the pain and chaos of circumstances of my life, I had to make choices. I know now, it was God gently whispering, nudging me awake.
Hidden away, I felt so unknown to anyone. I wanted to scream: Who am I really? A young mother with much to learn ahead, a hard worker, a good daughter, a faithful wife, a loving sister, a loyal friend, a child of God (last on the list, you notice). And, as a woman, so aware of all the hats I must wear in this world—especially now that many things were on my shoulders. It wasn’t the roles were before me, it was masks that I was wearing that were perplexing and mystifying.
As if a child at a Halloween party trying on every mask to see what I fit, I had chosen the “I have everything under control” and “I will please all people no matter the cost” masks. But it was early on as a single Mom that God shook me wide awake urging me to become my authentic self. During this time I began to really seek God with my whole heart—probably as a natural part of my healing but of my sense to go deeper and to find my true purpose.
Nurturing came naturally, so I began to be more concerned about caring for others and less about addressing my own needs. Yet my soul was dry and thirsty. Covering up fear of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, doubt, fear by being all and doing all to seek others’ approval wasn’t working so well. I was burned out. The “everything is OK, see I’m doing great and can handle it all” smile may have fooled some. But I knew as I drew closer to God that He saw the real me. I didn’t know how to ask for help and I thought I’d seem a failure to others if I did. I was losing myself, or at least my soul, by hiding myself in the shadows instead of living my life fully and genuinely.
Fear was at the root of continuing to wear these unflattering masks that began to make me less than I was created to be. Peeling back the layers of those masks was hard work. I had worn them for so long. But slowly I began to give up on the unreasonable patterns of not measuring up (in my own mind). I was enamored with the temporal, instead of the eternal. Perfection was what I strived for and wondered why I could never measure up. Was I serious? Even with the brokenness of a divided family, I still wanted to look sparkling—inside an out. I wanted to cover up my flaws. This kind of thought pattern was crushing me. Wounds just grew deeper. I felt the canyon between God and I. Choosing masks to please others instead of living a God-pleasing life.
It was like playing dress-up as a child. Putting on a whole new persona and becoming someone I was never meant to be. It was a pretend life. Instead of choosing to allow my real, true, authentic nature show, I was living under false pretense and veil of a facade.
That is when I cried out to God wondering who I was, who I was supposed to be, who I’d become. Who was I at the core of my being? I thought about the fear that held me and I opened my Bible to this verse: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (I John 4:16,18). Imagine that, no fear in love!
As I prayed, I found God saying in many different ways to me: You are called to be who you were created to be. I knew that meant first being a Child of God. That’s where I started and that was the journey that took me beyond busyness and approval seeking, poor self-image and past wounds to the God that loves me.
You see, it was the discovery that the Good Girl within me—the girl who made everyone happy, spoke when spoken to, took the path of least resistance, often stuffed down her own true feelings and never, never colored outside the lines—just had to go. Delving deep into God’s love gave me the opportunity—the gift—of being loved just as I was. God brought me through pain to a season of my life where He was revealing Himself to me and myself to me. The journey was the first part of finding myself loved completely by the God that shaped me.
That breakthrough has stayed with me and though twists and turns abound, God continues in this unearthing of love – changing and growing me beyond what I could have imagined.
Psalm 139 is one of my favorites and sometimes when I want to put a mask back on for approval of others, I pray now about what it is God desires of me. And I recite this as memory of who I am in Christ: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (Psalm 139:13-15). And He helps me put the mask aside and look to Him.
I’m pretty sure being loved by and loving God is what finally taught me to take leaps of faith, risk opening my heart again and having the courage to living the life for which I was created.
Unmasking the soul to reveal and unveil your real life--your true self--is highly recommended. And anyway-- drawing outside the lines is great fun!
Feb 14, 2009
My son found a letter this week that he was given when he was in middle school. It was a newspaper clipping with his picture from a baseball game in which he had hit two home runs in one game. The letter that accompanied the clipping was a letter of deep encouragement. It was given by an incredible sister in Christ, from our previous church.
Not only did "Hope" know that Kevin was having great struggles due to managing through the pains of a divorced family with some difficult issues, but Hope was just the best model of encouragement I knew. Hope had her own set of struggles physically and was in a wheel chair. But she looked past her limitations to become an incredible caring, nurturing woman of Christ. I was blessed to have her as a mentor as I started writing, and as a friend as I worked through the tough and hurtful issues as I sought healing for my family.
I didn't realize my son had kept the letter, but he showed it to me on the day that she died this past week. And he asked me to read the part that was so special to him: "Use all the gifts God gives you, Kevin. You are a very special boy. That big smile that you wear on your face sometimes hides the pain of your heart. But God hears your prayer. And he will answer you. Keep the faith. And I know that big smile gives way to your big heart." All these years he held onto that as a source of encouragement and hope.
"Hope" gave her life to God and to the ministry of encouraging others. My son was one example, but her ministry was far-reaching and God used her mightily in the life of so many. What a gift encouragement, established in God's love can be, both in the giving and receiving. Thank you, "Hope" for being such a strong example of becoming a vessel God can use in such a beautiful way.
Thanks be to God.
Feb 13, 2009
To the Center
I have come to the center, where I am rooted in God's love
In this place there is no need for striving,
Impatience or seeking approval.
All I am flows out of God's presence
Life is a silent dance revolving around God
Alive in the artwork and music of His love
Life With God and In God and Through God
Is to experience him in my brokenness
But encounter his complete wholeness
And approach the throne of grace
With all the devotion I can muster.
I don't have to withdraw from the world
Rather, respond to the world from my center
For my center--my God--is what has changed me
And how I desire to bring Him glory through a life changed
Cutting away the old dead blooms that shrivel and die
So that new blossoms can burst forth in vivid brightness
Because seeing God face to face is more sacred and deeper
It is all-encompassing to come to a place of rich communion
The wonder and mystery enveloping my soul
In the awe and splendor of the moment
Surrounded in abundant grace
Feb 11, 2009
Last night at the Single Moms group that I'm part of we were discussing the book "Self Talk, Soul Talk" by Jennifer Rothschild. We had a very animated discussion about the subject of hope. And I've been thinking hopeful thoughts all day.
I like that hope is a choice. I like choices. But I also know that the true hope I find is in Jesus Christ. That knowledge changed my life one day. One day I was going through a very difficult time. I was dealing with a personal grief that had not been expected and it set me spinning a bit. I remember wrapping myself in my robe, with my journal and my tears and coffee, of course. I sat on my deck and just waited in the silence. It was a warm day and the sun was rising--this golden yellow--a perfect fall day. I looked around at the changing hues of leaves on the towering oaks and breathed in the freshness of the day. All at once I had this feeling on my heart: A new day has dawned. In the midst of my own personal grief, for me, it was God's precious message to me that life goes on--whether I am joyful or sad, having a great day or an "off" day. The words of the hymn "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" came to me: I hummed the tune and wrote down the words to let them soak into my heart:
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
Today is a day where hope is overflowing in my soul. The springtime day in February--a special gift--helps me think about hope. One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 5:3-5. It has been meaningful over and over in my life:
Romans 5:3-5: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Even when we have a tiny glimmer of light to hold onto, we are holding onto hope. It may not feel that way in the midst of suffering or pain, but the tiniest light can help us stay steady and hang on. When our hope is in Jesus Christ and not in earthly things or earthly people, the glimmer of hope eventually grows to a wide horizon of hope that seeps into our soul and begins to change our perspective. The despair seems to dissipate and slowly we begin to experience God's truth and God's hope. It's as if we're transformed out of fearfulness and instead we choose hopefulness. Because the One we hope in is an anchor of our faith.
This quote on hope by Henri Nouwen speaks deeply to me: "When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we cam mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope."
I wonder what your signs of hope might be. Some of mine include looking into my sons' eyes and seeing light, curiosity, determination, wonder. And hearing my nieces and nephews laugh with delight when they play together. Seeing my parents so deeply in love after 50+ years of marriage. Experiencing people growing more deeply in their faith. Getting a call from my nephew serving in Iraq. Letting go of an old hurt. Feeling forgiveness well up within me. A smile exchanged with a stranger. The touch of someone's hand on my shoulder. My sister's courage. And her faith. Seeing a single mom begin to heal through pain. Being used as God's vessel in some surprising way. An answered prayer. The gift of authentic love. (OK, and the Phillies winning the World Series). A robin making her nest, a cardinal in the winter, spring blossoms, the hot summer sun. The list goes on and on when I awake and aware of God's movement in this world.
All signs of hope such a precious wonder. All given by an amazing God. All of it reminding me that hope abounds.
Feb 9, 2009
Hungry and thirsty, I come
This void inside me like a noisy cymbal
Instead of a quiet place within my soul--
Fill my cup
Longing to be what you created me to be
But falling short so many times
Like a robin with a broken wing
Wanting to soar in the sky
Make me whole
The stirrings within me
Only filled by surrendering all
Loving completely, forgiving authentically
Being made new everyday
Allow me to become the bridge
Instead of the stumbling block
The rainbow, instead of the storm
Maker of my heart.
For the longing deep in my soul
Can only be filled by your love
Through the glory of the cross
Feb 6, 2009
Several times in the last few weeks, I've been brought back again to the beautiful words of Psalm 139. It truly is one of my favorite scriptures and over and over I feel the words coming to life. As I prayed for different friends in different situations, this beautiful scripture came to me again. To me, it is this beautiful account of God's deep and lasting love for us.
It reminded me of the way God drew me to him in a new way through the experiences of my life. The fingerprints of God on my life. I recalled a time in my life, especially as a newly single parent that I felt so bad about myself, I was almost paralyzed in this view of myself as a pretty unlovely person. I was broken. That had a great deal with the fact that the one I had carefully chosen to love and take marriage vows with, had decided he no longer loved me. The betrayal and rejection of those feelings, along with still trying to run my house, hold down and job and care for my children was more than overwhelming.
Through the chaos and pain, though, I was brought into an even deeper love affair with God. This Psalm had a great deal to do with it. I remember in all my brokenness one night being led to this Psalm and it has become a comfort and a joy to me. The thing is, God drew my focus off myself and my situation and onto to Him. That was the change for me. I can remember not just acknowledging my faith or feeling God's love. It was as if I heard God whisper, "RECEIVE my love." Something in my heart changed then. It wasn't just a God moment to me. It was THE moment. God's clear fingerprints on my life. On my heart. On my soul.
In David's Psalm he proclaims: "You hem me in both behind and in front and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it… For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; I know that full well." (Psalm 139:5-6, 13-14). I love the passion that David protrays in this Psalm and the knowledge that the reason for our creation is beyond ourselveslves.
On a summer night when my entire family (my parents, siblings and families and my sons and I) were on a vacation at the Jersey shore. I was on the deck alone. I looked out over the bay and up to the full moon and the millions of twinkling stars. As I gazed into the sky, the beauty was breathtaking. I thought of this Psalm and of the vastness of creation and thought and God's fingerprints on creation and His fingerprints on my life.
That God of all creation knit me in mother's womb, knows the number of hairs on my head (even the gray ones), and has laid out my life before me is too wonderful a thought. I am fully known and loved by the God of the universe. Fingerprints on my life.
I know that when I was at my weakest, most broken was when I was able to empty myself and receive God's grace--His unmerited favor--to bring me to Him. To set my eyes on Him and away from my circumstance. I was dying inside. I was hungry and thirsty. And I didn't know. I couldn't see. But He knew. And emptying myself, pouring all of myself out, and coming into His presence and receiving that love and grace allowed me to open myself to His leading, His healing, His plan for my life. Fingerprints.
The journey of knowing God, His love and His grace as my Comforter, Healer, Author, Creator, Life Giver, Life Sustainer and Redeemer gives amazing joy. I am changed because I received. Because God would not let me go, no matter the circumstance. Now I spend my life living KNOWING I am a Child of God, wholly loved, completely forgiven and a new creation every morning. The hope that God gave me can't even be expressed in words.
Wonderful are your works. I know that full well. Your love and grace change everything.