Everyone has a path, a journey to take. This is a part of mine. I was invited to imagine meeting with Jesus in a safe place and the following is one such encounter. I have no other hope but to know Him more fully. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path. In the way which I should walk. Psalm 142:2
The Bag of Stuff
I trudge up the mountain to the meadow, to the place where I feel the safest. I want to meet with Him. I need to meet with Him. The trail isn’t steep, but I am trudging because of the incredible load I am carrying with me. I stop for a second and heave it up higher on my shoulders. I shift the weight, but the content of the bag is of things I cannot let go of. All of my fears, questions, anxiety, anger and hurt make up this huge bag of stuff that I am bringing up to lay at His feet. I have come up here several times and each time I bring this tattered bag full of burdens and concerns, worries and problems. I am thankful I can take this to Him. It is too much to keep carrying around. I feel better after He helps me sort through the bag so I am eager to talk with Him. As I come into the meadow I quickly spot Him. I rush to kneel at His feet. In doing so, the bag spills open. I fall down to my knees and all of my stuff is around me. He reaches for my hand to pull me up but I see that my hands are full of the contents from the bag. I get to my feet and look around. For the first time I realize that these precious burdens of mine look a lot like garbage. I feel shame and I keep my head down. He lifts my chin so that I am able to look into His eyes. I am having a hard time looking directly at Him. I try to show Him the things in my hands. He shakes His head slightly. With a small smile he reaches for my hand, not to take the garbage I am holding, but to ask me to leave it all and to walk with Him. I hesitate. “Step away from it.” He says quietly. “Come walk with me.” This sounds so good, so inviting, but as I start to step away from the bag I feel that I should gather up the things that fell out. I can’t just leave it all on the ground. Besides, I want to show him the contents of what I worked so hard to bring to Him. He waits, patiently. He doesn’t speak while I look back over at the bag. I finally turn toward Him. I take a small step away from the mess scattered on the grass. “What about this?” I point at the garbage. He gives a little shrug. “What about it?” He says. He takes another step away and I take one to too. I give it one last glance, and then I turn to where He is leading me. Once I look at Him, I find it much easier to leave the debris. We walk to a tree. He stops. I turn and face Him now. Now away from the bag of fears and concerns, it is easier to look into His eyes. He takes both of my hands in His. His face full of tenderness, care in His eyes. Love seeps out of Him. “You are troubled about many things.” He comments, searching my face. My eyes tear up. I look down. “Yes”. I pause for a moment. “I try so hard to be strong, to stay in control and handle all these problems. But really, I am constantly worried about so many things.” He gently leads me to sit down with Him under the tree. I put my head on His chest and lean into Him. I can feel myself relaxing, and the familiar peace of being with Him begins to surround me. We are quiet for a while. Then He speaks softly but firmly. “I am not going through all rubbish you brought with you.” He tells me. “You can choose to pick it back up on the way out of here, or you can leave it with me. It is up to you.” “How do I leave it? What happens to it? Some of what is in that bag are real concerns and things I feel responsible for.” “I will carry it for you; you just have to trust me that I’ve got it.” I think about how freeing it would be to stop carrying so much by myself. I don’t give Him an answer, instead we talk. It is a peaceful talk, full of the things that are on my heart. My children, especially my oldest two, the joys of the friends He has given me and the hope He has also blessed my life with. We touch on some of the burdens I had brought to show Him, but we don’t dig into it. The fear and shame is gone as He listens to my heart. There is hope and light and joy that I didn’t see earlier. He asks me about the things I love and what I want and His questions cause a deeper awareness to desires that are fresh and alive. “It takes a lot of trust to live in total openness and to let go of fear and shame,” He tells me. “I long for my people to experience real relationship with Me. I want you to risk and trust, even in the mess of life.” I have no idea how long we talk. When I must leave, He walks with me to the edge of the meadow. I see the pile of garbage that I brought up here. It looks so ugly and unappealing. I have no desire to gather it and take back with me. I turn my face from it and I head for home.
“Throw the whole of your anxiety upon Him, because He Himself cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7)
Everyone has a path, a journey to take. This is a part of mine. I was invited to imagine meeting with Jesus in a safe place and the following is one such encounter. May you hunger to know Him and know that He will meet with you. I have no other hope but to know Him more fully. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path. In the way which I should walk. Psalm 142:2
As I quieted my mind, I imagined the meadow where I spent many hours of my early teen years. I could see my mare and I make our way through the familiar path. I noticed that the manzanita bushes brushing against the saddle and my jean covered legs. There was a familiar sweet fragrance. The horse tried every once in a while to nip at a bush, or leaf, but I held her head straight. The trail wasn’t steep, but it did go up, and even though we were traveling at a walk, the horse was breathing hard. I noticed I was too, in anticipation of what I had come to do once we reached the meadow. I used to sing and make up little songs along the way, but today I just concentrated on getting up the trail. I got off and opened up the little wired gate, and tried to remember which way to turn as we went through the oak trees and the manzanita. “Boy, I have miss this place,” I patted my horse on the neck. Finally I got up to the meadow. It is so pretty. There is a trail and a few scattered trees. I could see in the distance the clump of trees where my friend and I usually ate lunch. I was drawn in my spirit to come to this place, to meet with Someone, and I was pretty sure those trees is where He would be. I felt a bit of shame and fear about this meeting even though my heart was eager to go to Him. This part of the trail is where I used to let the horses run. I push forward on the horse, and nudged with my heels. “Let’s go”, I whispered. And we took off. It wasn’t as freeing as in the old days, because I knew that I had come up here for more than a ride, but still it felt great. I got closer to the trees and I saw Him waiting there. He smiled as I rode closer. Instead of stopping, even though I could tell He was waiting, I ran past and circled around. I worried that might make Him mad, but I just wasn’t ready quite yet. My stomach tightened. I came back by the trees. I slowed down the horse and stopped. I looked at His face as He came over to greet me. Was He disappointed in me? But He smiled, and His look was more of amusement and joy. I realized He was glad I was there. He held the reins as I climbed down. And then He took the mare and tied her up on the big branch that acted as a hitching post. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” I started to apologize and explain. But He was so calm, and so at peace with me there, that I didn’t really feel like I had to apologize for anything. And I knew in that moment that everything I said I could be me without formalities. “Come eat,” He said. He had prepared my lunch, sandwiches just like the ones my friend and I used to make on Saturday mornings for our day adventures out here. It was perfect. I was quiet while I ate, but not uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to start the conversation, and small talk was out of the question. He didn’t eat, but rather tended to me. Then when I was thinking about how to begin, He said, “You came to tell me something, so go ahead.” I took a deep breath and started in. I told Him that I had thought He had taken care of many things from my past, without us really talking about them. But that lately I had been feeling there were some areas that were raw and needed healing. Some things deep in me that were hidden. He assured me that this was the right thing, that indeed He was glad that I had come to open this part of me to Him. He encouraged me to tell him everything that came to my mind. And so I talked. I told him everything I could remember about the most private things that had happened to me as a child, and as a young adult. He let me talk and talk and He actively listened. He wasn’t surprised at what I told Him, nor was He disgusted with me. I asked for forgiveness for others I had hurt as well as for myself. After I had told Him all that I could, He grabbed my hand and led me to a little creek. “I want to wash you.” I nodded in agreement. He washed every part of me. The water wasn’t cold like you would think, it felt warm. There was no shame or embarrassment. It felt natural and necessary, very much like a parent washing a small child. When He was done, I looked at Him. His face so full of love and peace. “Will you also wash my heart?” “No, that is mine.” He smiled. “It is already clean and pure.” He put His hand on my heart and smiled warmly. I saw that He had kept my heart pure and clean because I had long ago entrusted my heart to Him. I hugged Him. “There is more to heal,” He whispered. But as we journey together the healing will come.” I had thought perhaps this encounter would be a one time event and I would be healed. He smiled at me again. “Before the healing begins, I want you to understand first, that I see you as pure, and clean. You are free from guilt and sin. This is how I see you.” I saw that He was giving me the ability to see myself as He saw me. In this way I could freely come to Him and go deeper with Him into these things that have been hurting me for so long. I knew I would journey again to this meadow and He would meet me there anytime I came.
God invades our lives. We are often lulled to sleep by this life. We live out our ordinary days doing our “have tos” and finding solace in our glasses of wine or perhaps something stronger, our weekend warrior mentality or drown ourselves in mind numbing activities. Most people are not thinking about God- they are going to work, driving their cars and thinking about the next project at work or the long list of emails to answer that day. As life lulls us to sleep, our stronger emotions are designed to keep us awake. Fear, anger, even loneliness and sorrow wake us up- if we allow it. Good science starts with questions. All of life deals with problems and questions. Faith does this too. Faith and science are committed to rationality. There is a rational connection between what we see in the world and something greater that is largely unseen. God gives us opportunity to ask questions-He doesn’t ask for blind faith.Real faith starts with a question. “Who do you think God is?” “What is my purpose here?” “Who am I?” It is good rational to ask questions.
The problem is when we are lulled to sleep we are not asking questions. The questions we need to be asking are pushed aside. And our uncomfortable tugs of desire are drowned out. Although I want to come to some kind of harmony with my doubts and evidence in the world around us, I am afraid of evidence that creates reasonable doubt that there is more to life than this dimension offers. It is that reasonable doubt that pushes us at some point to take a step with moral certainty to be part of the conversation with God. From the beginning of time He has been inviting us in.
What we often finds happens in our half asleep state of living out our ordinary, mundane lives is that there are distinct times when God invades. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone to the world. Is this how He gets our attention? People are quick to ask: where is a loving God in the face of much suffering and pain? I would say he is present.
He does not abandon us in our pain. He invades our everyday, doing business as usual lives through trials, through difficulties. We don’t even ask questions about God when things are going great, but when tragedy hits, or we face a crisis, or even in our stronger emotions that we try to push away, we wake up.Trials may work against our natural complacent life, but trials work for you to live in a deeper way with those around you and in your spiritual journey. For those that learn to embrace the trials and tribulations that fall on all of us-believers or not- we find in ourselves greater maturity, strength and deeper trust. There is a richness to be gain that we have to be awake to find.
Our family is about to embark on a new journey--An adoption journey. Even though there are so many first and so many unknowns, the path feels familiar and certain.
Maybe it feels familiar because I was adopted or perhaps because I work with so many adoptive families. Adoption has been and will always be a part of my story and because it was written into mine, it has also touched others in my family in unique ways. Now it will part of their story too, in a bigger than life, right now, this is happening, way. There is something about this 12 year old boy, this man child I have not carried in my body, nor have I kissed his newborn toes or changed his diaper, and yet am so acquainted with already, I forget I did not see his first steps, or hear his first words. For how many years did I carry him in my heart? There are things about this child I am so aware of because of our shared history. Yes, this path is familiar; I am just seeing it with from a different perspective.
While there are still many firsts: first younger brother, first time having a boy live in our somewhat new house, first time being a foster parent/adoptive parent, or first time my husband has had a son, it isn’t all new. Tim and I have worked countless hours with hurt kids from troubling situations. Our family has been trained and often looks for the opportunities to reach into the lives of others and have invited them into love and warmth and peace. There is a shared understanding about this child we are adopting and at some level we are ready. Although we are a little scared, a little nervous, we are most solid in our certainty that God has led our family to this boy and this is His idea, plan and path for us. And over all we are excited to step into this adventure.
We start a new chapter September 20, 2013 and our story will never be the same.
"I have to get back to what I was before." I heard these words in my head over and over about many things in my life in the last few years. I have to get back to the weight I was before, to the level of commitment I had before, to the things that made me happy, to way I parented I was home with my kids...the list goes on. But it wasn't until this morning that I really started putting it all together. I am not going back. It's all about going forward.
Today when I was out running/walking it dawned on me, that I couldn't go back to any of it. Not one thing is really the same as it was even five years ago, let alone eight to ten years earlier. I realized that in just about every area of my life I am in a different place than I was before-- as a mom, as a wife, professionally, personally and spiritually. So how can I go back to what I was before (and do I really want to)? I started to feel this weight lift off of me as I realized how hard I was making it to go forward when I was anchoring myself to some success and goals met in the past. It is hard to move forward while looking at where you were; and thinking that back there holds something you need to get to the next step.
I have been working through Donald Miller's Storyline chart and I focused each role (each part I play in everyday life). I took some time to reflect on what was different about those roles now as compared to five years ago. I thought the differences between a mother of young children, home schooling them, and now with two adult children, and three in high school and how different that is. I thought about what I want with them as we move forward instead of what we have had. I noticed that I was feeling like I have to try really hard to maintain that something that I at that time, but I can't because it isn't the same. Acknowledging it is different, I took a deep breath and it felt good. Then I thought about my role as a professional. How everything is new as I am stepping into counseling, advocating for adoption and families, and writing and speaking. It is all new territory that requires me to let go of what I was doing before so that I give time and space for these new avenues. As soon as I let it go, there came a freedom and clarity in what lies ahead. It felt awesome. I did this with each area where things had changed. As a result I felt more focused and way more able to reach for things I want to see happen in each of those areas.
Then I thought of this verse: Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14).
I don't think my life is dull at all, so we can rule that one out right off the bat!! In fact I came across a note I had written and placed in my old Bible from college. The note said, "What are you going to do to keep your life from being ordinary?" I used to think of myself as organized and I think outside of living with Jesus, I would have settled for a more dull and lot more organized life.
I think my life is pretty exciting. I am never bored and I do my best to keep people around me from getting bored. I don't see my life as a caper. You might have to read Bob Goff's book Love Does to really a get a picture of a life full of exciting capers. But I do live in a way that I hope ultimately my life will shine in light of eternity. And that effort keeps things pretty exciting most of the time.
I believe we are here for such a short time really, and our moments count.So I want mine days to be meaningful and I find meaning in the things I do and who I do them with. I like to have fun with my kids and create memories with them. I try to live for things that will last and spend time and money where moth and rust won't destroy.
I like the way this one is worded..once when. It takes into account that our feelings get hurt and that there has clearly been more than one time. Feelings getting hurt is part of our human experience, at least it is if we really live in connection with others. So besides the other little bumps and scrapes we all get from our times together..the cross word, the sullen look, the words said when tired or hungry or just plain grouchiness; there are times of hurt feelings from real intent as well as misunderstandings. I am thinking about criticism, judgements, gossip and the like.
I don't like being so sensitive that it even matters to me what others think or say about me, but I am. In most cases when there is real intent, I have had to just move on and do what I think is the right thing even if someone disagrees or opposes me in it. And then I have to forgive as well. Getting over the sting of hurt feelings is the hardest part. Then assessing if that person is someone you can trust or not is important. Was it intentional? Can we talk about it? Are they someone I should have close in my life? The good thing about hurt feelings, is it repairable and we can heal from most bumps and bruises. Sometimes we need to have thicker skin, and a better sense of who we are so we are being tossed around by others thoughts and emotions so much.
I think for me, my hurt feelings that are more difficult to overcome are the times when I feel attack as a person, my character. I think I put a lot of value on how I live my life, and it means a lot (maybe too much at times) to me that people see how hard I work, and that I am living my life in light of my beliefs and yes, I want people to like me. It is the most difficult thing to be misunderstood and judged for something that seems like people should be able to discern could not be true in light of who you are. I have had more than one time of being hurt by these kinds of judgments or gossip and it stings everytime. I want to stand up and shout "Don't you know me better than that??" But usually I don't say anything. I don't hit these things head on, I tend to just try and suck it up and move on.This is not the same as forgiving, because I can suck it up and still hold a grudge. Forgiveness is letting go and that is another topic!
I am working on confronting lies and misunderstandings and gossip more directly. Once my feelings are hurt, I am more likely to avoid the person or situation. I am also working on being honest and letting people know that it did hurt. This is not natural for me. When I get really hurt, I won't acknowledge it hurt me. In the past some people believed they could say whatever they wanted to me or about me, because it came across like I didn't care and wasn't sensitive. In an effort to have them like me, I did not stand up for myself. While I don't want to be confrontational nor is every little thing said or done in need of addressing, there are times I need to meet my accusers head on. I believe now it is important to let people know when they are stepping on your toes, or worse hitting you with the giant plank in their own eye!
I am pretty sensitive and fairly emotional. I cry pretty easily, that is I tear up easily. I get tears in my eyes when touched by something I read or watch that touches me emotionally, when I am really blessed or happy, when I am frustrated or even when I am really overwhelmed with things I can't seem to solve or work out. But I don't often just break down and have a really good cry, even though there are many times I want to.
The last time I really, really cried was last month. One of my children was having an incredibly difficult time. It effected our whole family and my older children came to be with her, the younger ones were concerned. I had a group of friends helping me by praying for us, for my child, for me as a mom. Many times during the first 24 hours when we were all together with my daughter I would get teary eyed, cry a little and was feeling everything happening in deep ways. But I also felt like I had to be strong, full of hope for those around me. I had to make multiple decisions and talk to multiple health-care people and I had to decide how best to really help her through while offering hope and stability. All of this was also on less than 3 hours sleep.
Once the first decisions were made, and I saw her in a safe place, I was alone at that point. The other kids were gone and I walked to my car and I completely lost it. I cried uncontrollably in my car in the parking lot, unable to drive. I could no longer hold it together. Her pain and my worry about her met me full force. My own inadequacies as a mother, as a person, hit me in that moment as well. Thankfulness that we were able to get help, that my older kids had stopped their lives to help their sister, and that I knew God was working even in this all also were in the mix of extreme emotions. I was finally able to drive but I could not stop crying as I drove home and into the next day. I feel things very deeply. I think about everything a lot. I am sensitive and am stirred emotionally by many things in my life. But when I really let go like I did that night and just cry and cry, I am usually alone and don't feel like I have to be strong for everyone else. And I need those times too.
There are many things happening in my life right now. I am starting a new business, a counseling center for families called Healthy Foundations: Youth & Family Support Center, I am getting three teens ready for school, my oldest daughter is getting married (next summer), and I just found out that I am getting a congressional award. I read once that when God is doing something in your life, He is really doing a hundred things. So it seems to be true.
At the same time all this really great stuff is happening for me, there are really tough things happening as well. Lately I have been more thankful for the difficulties because it keeps me grounded, and it keeps me in prayer. I realized the other day that our true joy is not in all the great things that happen, but in our constant source of faith, hope and love. Right now, one of my kids is going through a deep, dark and scary depression and that has occupied a great deal of time and worry the past month. I find myself praying for her constantly and while I am there I am praying for all of my family-to have hope, to know Jesus, to fight for good and walk in the light. During this time, I have been challenged in my own thinking about parenting and how to reach those close to me who are in dark places. I am faced with the fact that all I really have, the only true answer I can give that I know for sure is faith and hope in Jesus.
So lately with all that is happening for me, there is a lot of stirring about awards and recognition, and I am truly blessed and honored, but please also join