When Your Life Has Lost Color

Coffee cup and leaves

“Time is the brush of God, as he paints his masterpiece on the heart of humanity.”
~ R. Zacharias

Fall is a beautiful season and {I strongly believe} it should last in full color through November. But it doesn’t. Ever.

Just maybe, however,  it’s quick passage is meant to remind us that we also do “fade as leaf.” That time is very, very precious – and it’s beautiful offerings are to be carefully taken in as though our season is also very short.

How easily I forget this. Yesterday He graciously reminded me to Let. Him. In.
……to let Him into the innermost chamber of His temple and to let Him “search me and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts.” He reminded me to be There, in the Holiest of Holies, *with Him* unafraid, unashamed. 

His call was refreshment. His call brought color to what was beginning to feel –  even without me noticing – a dull black and white, a blur of sorts, instead of a slow thoughtful passage.

Let’s open our doors to Christ – just like we ‘take in” a beautiful scene in nature. Let’s *join Him* in the blessed process of His painting His masterpiece upon our hearts – as we sit at His feet, behold His glory, hear His words, and move at His call.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.” ~ Rev. 3:20

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When You Feel A Bit Shabby

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This morning I was feeling ugly. This is not too uncommon for me because I have Bells Palsy. I have had it for 16 years, but now things are exacerbated with age. So today when a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit came across my path, I soaked it in like a welcomed beam of light……and immediately felt rooted and grounded.

I hope, friends, it does the same for you:

“‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Let’s remind ourselves today how long, and how far, and how deep the love of Christ comes after us. He is relentless in His care and will never let us go. He will love us, like a favorite, even when worn and falling apart. Now I can find a lot of beauty in that.🍁

Doorstep Wind-blown arrangement

Should I Feel More? (Mourning with Less)

“In the world you will have tribulation…” (1)

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I never questioned what love was until I sat looking out the window of our brown-shuttered house on 45th street, waiting for my dad’s white convertible to pull up in the driveway. I sat…..waiting, tracing the stitches in my blue, hard-covered suitcase as I looked out. This was not the first time. I had been there before, but this time I had doubts. I had questions.

Love, to my 10-year-old mind, was very simple up to that point because I felt I was living in it. I did not question its existence – kinda like when you are taking a walk in a beautiful valley. You don’t question what that valley is  because you are there. You are sensing it, feeling the breeze, touching the flora. My parents were divorced, yes, but my mom and grandparents always made sure I was surrounded and protected – I felt loved.

But, as I sat by the window that day, I was forced to back away from the feeling of being there by my dad.  That beautiful valley was becoming more like a distant view, colder and detached; because as I sat there by the “waiting window,”  the evening became night, and ever….. so…… slowly……..the…. time….. passed.

My dad never showed up –
again.

I expected him to. I expected him to be my daddy. Doesn’t every little girl?

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I always looked forward to spending time with my dad. He was charming in the eyes of others. He liked to bring me to the mall, hand me a $20 bill and send me off to buy something. He would take me to lunch (leave big tips) and sometimes take me to a movie.  But then there were the times in between when me and my 2 brothers would never see him, never hear from him. My brothers liked playing sports but he would rarely come to their games, instead, he had his own leagues.
We watched my mom struggle to provide shelter, food, and clothes for us. (We had all of those things but it was because she fought for us. She kept the valley breezes blowing in our home.) She did not receive her allotted child support and for a while, we were on welfare living in a 2 room shack sleeping in 2 double beds. SO after a while, I started to resent those $20 bills handed to me. I wanted my dad. I wanted him to give himself, his time. I wanted him to show interest in who I and my brothers were, and what we loved.  I wanted him to stop trying to appear like the nice guy to everyone else and to really be a nice dad. In time, that beautiful valley that I was distantly viewing with him, slowly became more like a postcard in my hands – nice to look at but far, far away and unreal.

My relationship with my dad continued to be of post-card quality as my years went on. I would hear from him every couple of months, sometimes every month – whenever it was convenient for him.  I would day-dream of him really taking interest in my life. He was present, but was more there in the bigger moments to hand out gifts. I did appreciate those things  – don’t get me wrong. I did. But I had always hoped we could talk – really talk. I wanted a daddy who really liked to be with me. I wanted to feel his strength and presence over my life. I wanted sound advice. I wanted to trust him.

When my husband and I had 2 beautiful children, I again caressed that postcard and wished for more of the “real”. I thought maybe they would be a catalyst to better our relationship – they were so wonderful after all, and here was the second chance he always told me he wished he had. He said he was sorry for his absence and would do it differently had he had the chance. Here was his chance.
So, I remember vividly when he broke the news to me (all while he expressed tremendous guilt) that he would be moving 4 states away to rural Ohio to live with his in-laws. Disappointed, I remember looking out yet another window – this time with no suitcase packed, no anticipation, no more waiting. Thoughts unraveled as I gazed out  into the wooded lot next to our family home – my stare blank, my mind full, the sound of my 2 children playing in the background. I held that post-card relationship in the hand of my mind wondering why this would be all there would ever be. I wondered about the unsettling feeling I had – the co-mingling of love and resentment in my broken heart.

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I recalled some things my mom told me about my dad’s growing up years. His parents, Mona and Daniel (a coal miner) had him when they were very old so by the time his teen years hit, his parents were in their mid 60’s. They were (described by my dad as loving each other and never fighting) described by my mom as distant, his mother very cold. Hence, my dad ended up very often on his own. For that young boy, I felt compassion – maybe he had never learned responsibility; maybe he had never learned how to love (have I?); maybe he learned how to survive for himself. I don’t know for sure – and I will never know.
But I did resolve to know this: my dad was broken, just like all of us. I resolved that we are all tangled up in some way because of this broken world – a world where the god (small g) makes messes of people lives.  He authored sin; he destroys relationships; he keeps the love of Jesus Christ veiled and re-defines it into something “other” –  something that looks similar but lacks real life. (2)
Love on this earth will always be imperfect in some way, and can never be defined or explained through another human being – in some way it will be distorted. Perfect love can only be found in its immutable Source.
For this, I say, “My soul wait only upon God for my expectation is from Him.” (3)
Not people.
Now this is the goal for which I clumsily reach…….

…..and when my eyes rest there, my expectation from others grows dim, my resentment leaves, and the true “definition” of love seeps into my pores.
I start to learn from Someone,
instead of trying to define love through someone else.

This alone has released any anger and has allowed me to forgive.
“He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds” (4)

 

But forgiveness does not make two people close. I have tried over the last 10 years of my relationship with my dad to still hope – but a certain distance was more comfortable for him
so, it became more comfortable for me.

I question that distance, especially now.
A few weeks ago my dad died and it is as though he is now at the “waiting window” of my heart watching for me to feel more.

Maybe I should feel more.
I feel like I should feel more.
I try to force myself into that postcard in order to produce some realness.

But it is just not there, so I ask for grace.

My dad asked for grace too. And I guess, that is what heaven is full of………he is there now not because of what he had to bring, nor what he could not bring, but simply and only because of the blood of Christ.

“For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves” (5)

In glory, my dad finally knows perfect love. He is with my late brother, Steve and he can now finally talk with my mom with an open heart. Fences are being mended and one day I will be there too and we will be a family again.

“….but take heart I have overcome the world.”

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Maybe in this broken world, the beautiful valley of 1 Corinthians 13 love is a piece of grace too — a gift we get to experience in fragments. Fragments that are precious to enjoy in those moments we have them.  But reality for now – is that we will not always BE there when it comes to our relationships  – and it is unfair to expect others to fill a place
only God can.
And He will.
IN the Person of Jesus.
He calls us to intimately learn of Him. (6)
He calls us to wait at the window of His meek and lowly heart with great expectation.
He calls for our souls to repose on His chest and with perfect freedom of soul unabashedly say,

Abba,
Daddy.

And in that place, we return to the freedom of a well-loved child. (7)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~How have you found healing for your own wounds? How have you dealt with a broken family? Leave a comment – I would love to hear your thoughts.

Extras:
1) John 16:33
2) 2 Corinthians 4:4
3) Psalm 62:5
4) Psalm 147:3
5) Ephesians 2:8,9
6) Matthew 11:29
7) John 8:36

 

Coming Out

I have a confession to make. IMG_5353

This past weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone. Want to know what I did? It really isn’t very interesting, but for me it felt like a very large step in a direction  I have been being pushed into.

(Yes, pushed. Kinda like being told that you have to swim when you don’t really know how.)

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This weekend, I walked up to a red-brick building edged with snowball hydrangea bushes, my eyes wide and my heart a little nervous. The scurry of all the people around me only made me wonder why I was there; I felt unworthy really. I decided I would be a passive listener – and that is exactly what I did. I doodled what I thought was important to me during each session of the day:

These are the things that will stick.
Now, you can zoom in and notice all my imperfections – you can really see up close that I’m no expert or artist. You can scrutinize my words on this blog and find faulty sentence flow. I know you can – like I said, I don’t really know how to swim. I lack confidence. But I am going to try.

At the Northwestern Writer’s Conference (Yes! THAT is my confession – I boldly went –  Eeeeee!!) and was reminded to try. I was encouraged that in the Body of Christ we all are different. We are all imperfect. We are all unique.
Yet
(glorious, yet)
GOD works in and through each of us to touch others – maybe even just one person – in ways that no one personality or even a few could. NONE of us should sit on the edge of the dock in fear thinking we aren’t good enough, or that I don’t swim like the person on my right, or I should wait until I have it more together. (Ha! That would be never for me.)

“For it is God who works in you both to desire and to do of His good pleasure.”

SO that is all. Be bold. Be you…..IN Him. He IS safe – jump in and swim!

 

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What make you unique? What is it that others have told you you should do because it shines out of you? What makes you light up when the subject comes up?

I’d love to hear about it. And this newbie would also love any writing advice.

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That Still Small Voice

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”~ Seuss


IMG_5251      “For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

I want to live with His light shining truth upon my circumstances.

But I often lay bare in my cowardly refusal – because of a fear of rejection and ridicule – to live from my true self, who is clothed in the resurrected Christ. I often choose that love of self (unto the forgetfulness of God) when I am faced with another person who is difficult to love. This is a tomb-like place to be. There I stand irritated, distant, unloving and ungracious – all of the things HE is teaching me that

HE is not.

I want to rise above.

But HOW?

I often ask that harder questions, and am never satisfied with cliches of truth like: “Trust the Lord”. Facts are facts, but standing alone they do not give life.     IMG_5247

 

 

The living answer is simple. He draws me to Himself, the Person, Who yearns for a heart relationship. A relationship that reaches deeply through those important facts that can simply fill the head.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life”

He desires that I see HIM so I can see all things through His eyes.
One way He helps me accomplish this is that He has made many “picture books” for His “little one” –  in creation and in scripture – so I can see and understand the deeper things of God.
I imagine myself crawling in His lap as He opens one of those books and begins to read it to me.
He shows me the sun:
Just as it is a simple fact that the sun rises, so is it a deeper truth that the sun gives life, movement, health, warmth, and a vast array of relationships. The sun brings the interconnected dance of life and without it all would be dead – a picture He created so we could see that…..IMG_5254

The Son being alive FOR US,  wants His presence to bring true life, healthy spiritual movement, kind warmth and rich inviting relationships. The facts leave the page and become the Person.
He makes our lives an artistic masterpiece, a dance of spiritual life.

Soak Him in.

“We are His poetry piece♥♥ created in Christ Jesus…”

With that picture in mind can I take you back in time to the morning when Jesus arose? Very early in the morning just after sunrise (no coincidence in that timing), along comes Mary. She talks to Him, not knowing with whom she is talking, and in sadness asks if He knew where the beloved body of Jesus lay. The grave was empty. She is distressed.
It is then He breathes with familiarity her name – which often she had heard before.

She knew that voice….
and collapsed in joy and victory into an embrace. Can you imagine being there at that moment?! Moreover, can you imagine being her?

Yet in a way, we are.
“Living in an awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves.”

I often think of Jesus saying my name.

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He says my name as I stand shackled to myself, events and people around me that are negative. He reminds me there is another way. He reminds me to become more and more familiar with His voice, with HIS promptings in my heart; so I too can RISE and collapse in Him with joy and victory; so I, and you, can have a vision of those same dark things through His light – and reflect that beauty outward. img_5256.jpg
My broken hallelujah: “Help thou my unbelief”

May you and I hear His “still small voice” call our names out of those places where we lay bare. The circumstance may remain, but we will KNOW WHO surrounds us, and we can REST IN HIS LIFE AND LIGHT.

We can live a resurrected life;
therefore, in His glorious name,

 

 RISE.

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“….that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and

what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,
according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ
when he raised him from the dead…”


Ephesians 5: 14; John 5:39,40; Ephesians 1:17-20
also see, Romans 8:11 and Acts 2:24

♥♥The word “workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10 is from the Greek word “Poiema”, meaning poem/God’s creative work – just as He created “the things that are made {Poiema}” in creation (Romans 1:20).

Where is the Music?

“Every sound perceived by the acute ear in the rhythm of the world about us can be represented musically. Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear.” ~ Debussy

Waves

I was going to post an entirely different thing this morning, but circumstances have steered my mind on a different road…..or a different tune. So here I am on this road of familiar scenery, this song of the all too familiar sound: failure.

I woke up to in-your-face-13-year-old emotion…….
and (That is a very short word, but a lot can happen or not happen in those 3 letters)…….
I let all of that annoyance enter my skin and seep into my mind. Allowing it to enter caused a physiological response called “fight or flight”: my blood pressure rose; my heart started to beat faster; and my potential responses, stemming from rule and law, piled up quickly against the doors of my mouth, ready to burst them open.
(Here comes that word again) and,
I reacted.

The way I reacted was to raise my voice and harshly counter her tone with a consequence. That may not sound too bad, but harshness and quick reaction did not demonstrate my love for her in the correction. In fact, it demonstrated a back-in-your-face-48-year-old emotional response……..
(and here comes that word again)…and…….
my daughter allowed that annoyance to seep into her skin and mind.
So, you can guess what happened: frustration given, brewed frustration; sin given out, created more sin.

She went in her room. I felt the conviction of my Father.
Things could have been different.
I could have not let the noise take over the music.

God’s convictions in my heart have never been harsh or reactionary. They have never been given to me out of a posture of authority. They fall on my mind like sadness, like something is wounded or dying. He knows what it means to speak the truth IN love – and He never fails at it.

Today, when His conviction came, I could have merely heard it and went on my way simply breathing an “I am sorry” to my daughter, but I knew doing so (by the wonder of experience) that I needed to go deeper. Times like this are times to be still……….
and (that beautiful word of rest)…………
really listen. These are times to learn. These are times to understand HOW all the facts we learn, are implemented and woven into the fabric of our lives.

Listening is not easy though. It is an exercise or labor of sorts. I calmed my mind before Him, but, and here is the labor, I felt immediately unworthy to be with Him. I did not feel like I could call Him Abba or Dad. I was shamed by my failure to obey the laws and the rules. But thanks be to Him, He has unlocked those prison gates – my mind does not need to stay there.

I knew those “locked” gates of condemnation were from my human nature and not His nature, because sin and our nature will always block His voice. They will put up walls and veils so we cannot really SEE or HEAR what He has DONE and completed for us in Christ.
He wants me to see and hear that the same Spirit of His that is grieved when I do the wrong thing is also telling me to cry, “Abba, Father!” He does not EVER distance Himself or turn His back on me (us) in times of sin. He already forgave all my sin, past, present and future. His love is unwavering. His love has no limits. His love fulfills all laws.
Blessed thoughts! He has sealed the victory over sin and the law, death and the grave. His love is steady, sure, and faithful.

I am reminded of this after His convictions, and my thoughts fall back onto Him.
All fears and guilt leave………
(and here it is again, the rest note) and……..

Whole note and rest on a staff.

I am THEN able to hear His Spirit teach me. I am able to allow His resurrection life to bring victory over failures. There are no walls. There are no veils. I am able to be taught. I am able to learn.

I am learning.
Today I am reminded to treat my daughter exactly like He treats me.
I need to listen to His voice when I am faced with the harsher notes of life……….
and (rest and listen)……..
so I will not let the sin of others get in the way of my seeing Him in their life… even IN their moments of failure;
so I will not let my sin get in the way of my seeing Him IN all things, working the moments of life into His full song.
I am learning to keep close to Him, and be close to His children – everything else can resolve in the midst of that
love relationship.

Rest.

That vital note in the music of our days.
That pause of allowing the entrance of His love and life, instead of sin and shame.
That pause of knowing that His love for my daughter is deeper, broader, and wider than her sin…..and mine.
That pause and rest that says, I do not need to let failure pass fear, or guilt, or shame in me or on others I relate with.
He is bigger than this moment……He has fought and won the battle, and therefore,
our relationship is bigger than one note.
We do not need to fight what He has already won.

I desire to live in His place of resurrection, victory, and steadfast love.
It is only There that the effects of failures lose their power.
It is There that the noise fades……….
and…..(that vital pause)…….
He makes true music of our days.

Where is the music?
Listen to Him.
He is making it. He is continually working all things together for good.
The music is found “in the space between the notes.”

And………that He is.

The Composer

(Ephesians 4: 2,15; 5:2; 4:30; Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58; 1 John 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3: 6-18; Philippians 2:7-9; Hebrews 10: 1-23; Romans 8:28; Hebrews 4)