Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ill-Equipped

My head is foggy.  I have thus chained myself to my to-do list, lest I forget to pay a bill, drop the ball at work, or neglect to pick up a child (thank God that one hasn't happened yet).

My grandmother has taken the turn.  She is semi-rapidly declining and all I can do from Texas is walk around in a daze, throw up my prayers, and try to get though my days without making too many mistakes.

When I woke up today, I put on my running clothes since I knew I'd go out for a quick run sometime while the kids were at school.  I put on my old running shoes while I took them to school and ran my errands, planning on changing into my newer ones when I actually went out to run.  Then, I got the news about Grannie.  I started trying to soothe my grief and anxiety by working and marking things off on my to do list.  Suddenly, I stood up from my computer and decided it was time to run. 

And I walked out the door. 

It took no less than about 30 feet for me to realize I was still in my old shoes.  I was too lazy to turn back to change them out, so I just kept running.  For those of you who are not runners, let me explain the difference between good running shoes and old running shoes.  Good running shoes feel like you are running on clouds -- soft, cushy, comfortable.  Old running shoes feel like there is a thin piece of rubber between you and the street. 

I was ill-equipped to run today.  I am ill-equipped to deal with Grannie dying.  Grief is overwhelming, anger seems to creep up, and the anxiety that I feel surrounding the details of getting my family to the funeral when the time comes is just enough to completely push me over the edge.

Thank God for Jesus.

I may be ill-equipped, but He is not.  The best part of it is that He knows when to swoop down and rescue me and when to let me work through the hardship.  Last night, my friend texted me to see if my daughter could go to her house after preschool today, which has given me so much more time to process this on my own without having to grapple with my littlest one and all her emotions from the day.  It is simple gifts like this that makes the load bearable.

And then, there is the sweet sound of His voice.  Though I do not hear Him audibly, today I just told Him, I am grieving.  He said in my heart, I grieve with you.  Oh, I am never alone, no matter my emotions, my mistakes, my state of mind.

I can't express the depths of my pain in words.  My heart just feels so...broken.  It's hard to articulate what I want to say, but just getting it out there helps with healing.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

All I Was Doing Was Vacuuming!

It never ceases to amaze me how God can use just the most ordinary things to speak to me.  I'm talking about really ordinary things.

Like vacuuming the kitchen floor.  Really, God?

I have one of those hard floor cleaners that works best if you dry vacuum first and then wash.  The dry vac has nowhere near the suction of a regular carpet vac, so I find myself going over and over in the same spot to pick up larger pieces of dirt, small paper scraps, etc, until I finally give up, bend over, and put it in the trashcan  myself.  At any rate, I had gone over a small piece of foil a few times and the vacuum finally sucked it up.  Victory!

Or so I thought.

I continued to vacuum along my merry way (actually, I HATE cleaning the kitchen floor so I was not merry at all), when lo and behold, the vacuum regurgitated the same piece of foil back onto my floor.  It had actually never gotten sucked up, but probably just loosely stuck on the brush. 

I picked up the foil, but it in the trash can and then God spoke.

How many times have you convinced yourself that you have gotten rid of a bad attitude or a sinful behavior, just to have it crop right back up again -- regurgitating itself right back into your soul?

How many times have I promised myself that I wouldn't yell at my kids?  Nag my husband?  Gossip? Use passive-aggressive tactics?  Use food to fill a need other than hunger?  Worry?

More times than I've cleaned my kitchen floor, I'll tell you that.  I still struggle at times with all of the above.

Recently someone asked me to do something that I really did not want to do.  I hemmed and hawed about it, venting to my husband who stood over my shoulder to make sure my emails weren't excessively aggressive or something like that (who, me?).   I came to the point where I just had to accept it, do it, and do it with a good attitude (not the, "Well, fine, I'll do it, but I AM NOT GOING TO LIKE IT!" attitude).  I wanted to desire to do it because it was the right thing to do and leave all the other stuff behind.  So I prayed, and really released it.  And during a long, hot bath, my feelings of animosity left my heart -- a gift from God.  A true change, a true shift.  No negative feelings left to be regurgitated onto the floor of my soul. 

Freedom.

I wonder how many times I have asked God to change my heart and then justified every reason why He really didn't need to change me at all. 

But God, my kids' behavior is just so frustrating -- I can't help but yell!  How else will I get their attention?

How else will my husband get to the gym if I don't remind him?  Every. Single. Day.  (Thankfully, I'm much better at this one, right, honey?)

I totally deserve this bowl of ice cream.  And these 3 Oreos.  It's been such a hard day...

So, I'm going to pick one of these things that always seem to reappear after I think I have done away with them and really release it.  Really.  Really. 

Oh, this is going to be hard. 

Even figuring out what to choose will be hard. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do Not Be Afraid

I've been robbed.  Not in the way you might think, though.

Yesterday, as I was pulling out of my driveway, I saw a vehicle that may have been suspicious drive by my house.  Our small(ish) community has been plagued by a rash of burglaries.  Apparently the robbers stake out a person's house -- noting where they store their cars, when they leave, when they come home, etc.  I was just convinced that the person in that car was coming to rob my house.  I wondered if I should stay home from Bible study just so I could ward off these potential thugs.  I was paralyzed with indecision, even making the block to see if the strange car was parked outside my house.  Do I sound irrational yet?  Yes, I do.

Anyway, I knew the answer was not to sit at home instead of going to Bible study.  I thought of what I might miss while I was there -- fabulous friendship, God's Word speaking to my soul, free childcare.  Then I thought about what the very worst thing that could happen if my house was indeed robbed.  Well, I thought, they could take all my stuff.  My kids wouldn't be able to watch television, I wouldn't be able to work on my blog until my husband returned home with his laptop, and if they took the Time Capsule (our back-up hard drive), I wouldn't have all my digital photos anymore.  All it came down to was stuff of the earth versus stuff of eternity (save the free childcare).  I drove on to Bible study, saying a quick prayer that God would protect our house, and then set my mind to leave behind my worries so that I might focus on what really mattered.

I came home from Bible study, heart and soul-filled.  And my house was still filled, too.  Dust bunnies and all.  But the whole experience, as silly as it may be, made me realize how often I have robbed myself of experiences and relationships when I give in to fear.  Granted, some days the costs of giving in are higher than others, but when I think about missing out on anything that God wants to give me, it makes me want to trust Him more.  Even the trials and tribulations have sweet moments interspersed that makes the hard journeys bearable.  Neglecting to take God up on a blessing is something I never want to do.  His blessings are just too good.

I did a quick search on fear on www.Biblegateway.com.  When I mean quick, I mean about 3 minutes (I'm not a huge researcher here).  Sixty-five (65!!) times God specifically tells us "Do not be afraid."  Another 14 times, He tells us, "Do not fear."  I think He knew that it would be a struggle to live in faith, to trust Him, to not give into to the "what ifs."  Thus, He continually reminds me that no matter what, He is with me, He is good, and He brings redemption to even the worst of situations and tragedies.  I don't have to fear because my God is bigger than the worst things that could happen to me or my family.  I now have the freedom to shed the cloak of fear that for some reason I thought would protect me from endangering my pride or getting hurt, physically or emotionally.  I can live knowing that I can walk through anything He asks with His full protection and providence.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

30 Seconds of Bliss

The other day I was blissfully happy as I was washing away the grime from the day -- that yucky combination of make-up, dirt, and maybe even some sweat -- off my face.  I then patted dry, applied my nightly moisturizer, and feeling completely clean and refreshed, I looked in the mirror.  Here ends bliss.

No longer did I feel clean and shiny, but deflated, disappointed, and maybe even (gulp!) ugly.  All I could see were my imperfections.  Wrinkles!  Pimples!  Stray eyebrow hairs!  Oh my!  I thought how nice it would feel to be completely clean and beautiful all at the same time -- refreshed, pure, unadulterated.  Ready to face the world.

I guess if this actually happened to many people, the cosmetics companies would be in the toilet.  So, at least I don't feel alone in this place.  I have fellow sufferers, I'm sure of it.

Anyway, I thought how much this contrasted with how God views my heart.  When I confess, when I seek to clean the grime out of my soul, renewal happens.  I am shiny and spotless, completely cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  There are no more blemishes to cover up, no wrinkles left unsmoothed, and my sins are carefully plucked from my heart.  Simply put, I am beautiful in the eyes of God.  In fact, it is when I try to cover up my sins, my beauty becomes tainted and the radiant glow of Christ that shines through me, begins to dim.

Coming to this realization did not make me feel any better about the physical appearance of my face.

However, it did make me realize how differently God operates as opposed to the world.  It did make me pay a bit more attention to the matters of the heart.  I appreciate greatly, the knowledge that I am loved, wholly and completely, by a God who desires righteousness, unconditional love, and selfless kindness.  And He will claim me, blemishes and all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weeds

I have spent the last two days in  my yard weeding and clearing out my flower beds.  Ever since I have started messing around in the yard, I have found that God has spoken to me while I am gardening.  In fact, it has happened so many times that now I find myself poised to listen to that still quiet voice while I am up to my neck in mud and allergies.

I felt like I should have written this blog entry last night, but realized that would entail being very open about my weaknesses.  Who wants to show their weaknesses?  But, in (ahem) unearthing them, they are forced into the light.  And, where there is light, there is darkness no more.  So, here it goes.

While I was pulling up the weeds, my daughter was asking why I had to use the shovel.  I told her that in order to make sure the weed was completely gone from the ground, I had to make sure that I pulled it up by the roots.  Otherwise, even though the top part was gone and I couldn't really see it anymore, by leaving the roots, it was just like an invitation to grow again.  It wouldn't really be gone.  As I went back to work, God started to nudge my heart as I was pulling out a particularly gross one -- you know, the kind that is so spiny and prickly it can get you even through your gardening gloves -- and I felt Him say to my heart, "That is your competitive spirit."  Ouch.  Physical and spiritual ouch.  I have tried time and time again to not be so competitive, to not pay attention to who does what better than me, to who has more than me, to who seems to have it all, but time and time again I have failed.  I think all those times I had just been lopping the top of the weed off, but the roots were still firmly entrenched in the soil of my heart. 

Here is the insidious root -- I have learned to never be satisfied with what I have right now.  I have not found full security and peace with who God has created me to be.  I have looked to other things to fill places in my heart that only He can fill.  Sounds like a pretty big root.  But, ironically, it doesn't seem too big to handle because I know that God works on it piece by piece to loosen it from the ground.  And just like any gardener knows, you have to clear out the weeds before you can plant your new flowers, lest the new blooms get choked out.  So just as I look forward to my garden being full of new life and wonderful color, I know that God is preparing my heart to be the same way. 

At least, this is the outlook I have now -- when the pulling actually starts to occur, we'll see if I'm still so cheerful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Never Grow Old

I love Patty Griffin.  Her new album, Downtown Church, is amazing.  The songs are all old hymns and such.  One of my favorite is "Never Grow Old."  Here are the lyrics:

I have heard of a land on the far away strand
'Tis a beautiful home of the soul
Built by Jesus on high, there we never shall die
'Tis a land where we never grow old

Never grow old, never grow old

In a land where we'll never grow old
Never grow old, never grow old
In a land where we'll never grow old

In that beautiful home where we'll never more roam

We shall be in the sweet by and by
Happy praise to the king thru eternity sing
'Tis a land where we never shall die

When our work here is done and the life crown is won

And out troubles and trials are o'er
All our sorrows will end and our voices will blend
With the loved ones who've gone on before


Knowing that my grandmother is nearing the end of her life on earth, I have to guard myself from being overwhelmed by death.  It's often hard to see beyond the finite.  It's one thing to know that she'll be with Jesus when her time finally comes, but it's another to actual live life without her in it.  It's a daily battle to choose to see light instead of darkness.  It's so easy to sink back into a place where I dwell only in a worldly realm.  Thank goodness that God is gracious and He finds ways to lead me from a dismal journey to one that captures the joy in all things -- even in death.  This song, originally written in 1914, reminds me -- what better place to be than where our sorrows are no more? when our voices will blend with those who've gone on before?  where we can sing praises forever to our King?  Like everything, death needs perspective.  What an amazing peace transforms my soul when I know that where she goes is a million times better than were she is now and that one day, I will be lifting my voice with hers.  Perhaps there we will actually sound good together!

Last night, I was using a Snapfish coupon -- spend $10 and get a free coffee cup.  I chose to put a picture of my grandmother and me on it.  It's not your typical picture -- no faces in the  mix at all.  It's simply a picture of our hands entwined.  I took it in February when I went to see her in the hospital.  Physically, she looks so different -- the cancer and other illnesses have definitely taken a toll on her appearance.  Her hands, though, to me, have never seemed to change much.  Even though I had reached out to her, to give  her comfort and assurance, it was a mere sliver of what she has given to me all those years.  She has held my hand literally and figuratively since I was first born.  She has been that constant source of strength, joy, and love.  So now, every morning as I drink my tea, I will be reminded that I have been loved.  The verse that I had printed with the picture?  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  2 Timothy 4:7

You have done good, Grannie.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Blessing to Everyone

I've always known that my grandmother is an amazing person.  She is kind and loving and giving.  She never stops hoping, never stops seeking, and makes conversation with anyone.  I used to wonder how she could walk into the grocery store and know to ask after the cashier's child who has a mental disability.  Frankly, sometimes I thought she was silly for striking up some of the conversations she did.  I mean, she lives in a big city, not some small town where everyone knows everybody. What was the point?

To a be a blessing to everyone that crossed her path.  That's the point.  Oh and how it comes back around.  She is dying of cancer right now, physically incapacitated and unable to leave her bed.  As I sat with her, we were talking about some of the people who had been by to visit her.  Of course, loads of family and friends from her church.  But when she said two people from Food Lion (her local grocery store) and one from Belk's (the department store where she shops), my jaw dropped open.  I tell you, I've been shopping at some of the same stores for quite awhile and none of them would be visiting me on my deathbed.  They don't know my name much less my phone number!  But, oh, these ladies care for her deeply because she first cared for them.  How many times do I sigh loudly when the checker at the store is slow?  How many times do I get impatient with the customer service rep when they can't answer my question or when my order doesn't come? (I even know better than to do that, since my husband works in customer service.)  To my grandmother, it seemed that there was no one that wasn't worth caring about.  There wasn't anyone that wasn't deserving of a smile or a kind word.  Building those relationships was like a second nature to her.  She never asked for anything in return, but God has allowed her to see the fruit of her blessings as they stream in one by one to visit, to bring food, to sit with her a spell.  I can only hope to have half the visitors that she does, as the glow of my heart just pales in comparison to hers.

When she dies, I will only have memories and her inspiration to take with me.  She inspires me to carry on her legacy -- to care about those normally ignored, to smile even when I have every right to be angry, to hope even when I am drowning in hopelessness, to love like there is nothing more important in the world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow I am headed to across the country to see my sweet grandmother.  She has not been given long to live and this is my last chance to say good-bye.  The last time I went to see her by myself, as we were flying in, we hit a rough patch of turbulence.  I remember thinking how grateful I was to be alive (I know, a bit dramatic sounding) and finally home again.  I was consumed by the thought of leaving my family behind -- namely my husband and two small children.  What would they do if I died?

Now that I am about to leave again, I find myself completely fearful of dying on my trip -- on the airplane, while on a run, driving to the grocery store.  I realize in my head that this is completely irrational and that the chances of me dying in my hometown are just as likely (if not more so) than dying in Florida.  I also know that there is no way that I can cancel this trip -- how does one refuse their dying grandmother's last wish to see her granddaughter one more time? If I continue to allow this fear to fester, all I do is allow Satan to rob me of my joy -- the joy of spending precious last minutes with one of my favorite people in the entire world.

God has not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, a spirit of love.  2 Tim 1:7

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's Finally Time

I've been thinking about blogging for about a year now.  I'm still not 100% sure why I am doing this.  I have serious doubts that anyone will ever read this and I'm sure that the first comment I receive (if it ever comes) will send me into a state of ecstasy (unless of course the comment is a brutal attack on my writing).  Ultimately, I want to share what God is teaching me, and in turn, learn from you -- whoever you are.  I'm not very good at writing daily in my journal and I feel that maybe doing this online might bring me some sense of accountability.  I know that there are so many lessons I have learned that I never recorded and perhaps if I HAD recorded them, I would not have had to live through them once again.  I guess time (and a lot of writing) will tell.