Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When a Snake Blocks Your Path (Letting Go of Control)

It was early June and a rare get-away opportunity found us exploring the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

I remember the early summer day well. A thick forest of trees littered with rocks and lush mountain laurels blooming along a lake trail. The warm sun sneaked and danced through the cracks left by branches and leaves. And the air held the coolness of a lingering spring.

We walked from the trailhead not entirely sure what adventure awaited us. According to the map, our chosen course would ring-a-round a mountain lake, a fairly easy hike to navigate with our small children.

Not ten minutes into our walk and the sound of rushing water teased our steps. We approached a wide tributary cluttered with branches and small rocks. A recent rain had invigorated the waterway and made it appear nearly impassable.

Determined to cross, my husband scoured the surrounding grasses for anything that could act as a bridge or a way to sure up the branches that already reached across to the other side.

All of his pushing and pulling and building and fixing stirred up a snake who had found a small dry patch on one of the logs. The snake sealed my fate. I would not cross.

I hemmed and hawed.

I made excuses — the children, my camera, wearing the wrong footwear, the deadly snake that was waiting to eat us if we attempted to cross (come to find out it was harmless).

"Don't be a wuss. The kids are fine. I'll carry them and the camera. No problem," he reassured.

Then, I started to get mad. What if I didn't want to cross? What if I didn't want to make a way?

But the angry gave way to tears and it all started to make sense.

I was always in control, very competitive, and self-sufficient.

And I was no wuss.

But could it all just be a facade?

Being a control freak is tiresome. It's nearly impossible to control every aspect of your life and not be exhausted. And when you're not controlling you worry — about the things beyond your control.

It was like a dam broke that day. As the water rushed and tumbled over the logs and rocks that threatened to stop its momentum, I realized that I was done.

I don't want to rearrange the branches to clear the path.

I don't want to be the strong, independent one who sucks it up and barrels through because I think that's what I'm supposed to do.

And I don't think God wants me to do that either.

For far too long I have tried to navigate this life on my own — thinking I was controlling my fate.

But what choices had I made that were not meant for me?

Which paths did I take because it led to what I thought I wanted?

And how often did the perceived "shortcuts" take me the long way back to God?

As I explained my conflict to my confused, but loving husband we agreed to change course. We turned around and followed the trail down the other side of the lake. We found a frog and twelve more snakes (lucky us).

And I relished in the peace of surrender, acknowledging how much I need God and how weak I really am.

Asking for help and submitting to God's leading is not always easy. But there is an awesome amount of freedom that comes from letting go and letting God be your trail guide.

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Fig Leaves Are Too Small for the Shame

I am naked and I know it.

Like Adam and Eve after the fall, I am painfully aware of myself. And I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to cover myself with "fig leaves".

Cover myself.

I was reminded by Pastor Tony last Sunday that it was not God who did the covering. Once Eve ate from the forbidden tree they both became painfully aware of their nakedness and hid — literally.

I self-protect.

I hide my shame, my embarassment.

I concern myself with what other people think.

I blame-shift and doubt myself.

It was the first man's natural response and it's mine, too. But I've graduated from fig leaves, friends. I'm wearing so many layers I'd be all set for a trip to frigid Antarctica.

In the last eight or so years I have removed some of the layers. I'm not down to the fig leaves yet, but I'm getting there — slowly exposing, admitting, and sharing this imperfect heart and a life that is sometimes hard. 

When I reveal my weaknesses (especially to myself) then I realize how much I desperately need God. I want to hide, but He pursues me.

Why are you hiding?

I hide because I am worried what people will think of me.

Why do you believe others over me?

I feel ashamed and regret choices I made.

Will you be responsible for what you've done?

When I allow myself to stand naked before Him, I find that I am already covered — covered by His blood, His grace, His forgiveness.

I will always be naked and the feelings of shame may forever nag. But instead of covering myself with more "fig leaves," I pray I will reach for God. For His covering is the one I need.

Bible passage references: Genesis 3:1-21

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Mom, My Net (a Five Minute Friday)

A Five Minute Friday on: what my Mom did that made her mine

I did it once — jumped off a 20 foot high platform without a net. I was tethered, mind you, to a rope secured around a waist harness, but all I could see beyond my toes as they dangled over the edge was forest floor.

There was something unsettling about risking that way. Putting yourself out there without the visible assurance you would be caught by something if the rope didn't do its job.

I grew up with a loving and supportive net.

My net gave me security, so I was rarely unwilling to try things.

I knew if it didn't work out well or if I completely stunk at whatever it was I tried that it would be okay — my net would be there to catch me.

In fact, that may well be one of the greatest gifts my Mom ever gave me. My Mom, my net.

She was always there. She encouraged and supported and — caught me, when necessary.

With that safety I tried out for sports, I played a musical instrument in the band, I sang solos in the choir, I tried out for leading roles in theater productions, I ran for student council, I volunteered to feed the homeless…

This introvert took risks I could never have imagined taking if it wasn't for her constant reassurance. Or maybe it was her example as I watched her put her own self out there. Either way, I am so thankful to my Mom for that.

My mother's heartening confidence in me and her loyal support are traits I desire to pour into my own children's lives. So when they look over the edge, they see me there — and decide to jump.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dearly Loved (a Five Minute Friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Beloved

I didn't know the best moment would be the card.

All the pomp and circumstance, all the pressure and expectations for one day — a day someone made up so we wouldn't forget to tell our sweetheart we love them?

We had a plan, but my husband decided to surprise me and change it up. We argued over the door-to-door salesman wanting to sell us Fios and why my husband thought it was rude that he showed up today of all days.

There was rushing and pouting and frustration as we drove to dinner. And somehow the reality of life got in the way of why we were doing this in the first place.

We fussed still as we placed our order, but we started to forget to be irritable when the crab fries arrived.

This marriage is beautiful, but it's raw and real and not at all like a fairytale.

And this man, no matter what we allow to rub us wrong, I love him. It's like breathing, it doesn't stop. I wouldn't know how.

Some days it feels like we can't get it right. And most days he doesn't believe that he is right and loved and worthy.

This sentence in a grocery store valentine card, "when my hand is in yours, I know that both of our hands are stronger." This is how I feel. This is truth for us. We need each other to be better.

And I scribble out my own words above my name saying,

"I love who you are, even if it doesn't feel that way sometimes. I am proud to be your wife and I love you so much!"

And tears rise in his eyes and threaten to spill over. And I hope the words sink into his heart and he believes them.

He is my beloved — dearly loved.

Linking with Lisa-Jo…

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Best Love (a poem)

I know a love from my family, loyal.
Like the puffy white seeds of a mature dandelion,
we are planted where the wind takes us.
But our common roots connect us.
Near or far, often or few —
the best love is ever protected and present.

And I know a love that rolls,
not in calm ripples like the glassy lake,
but ebbing and chopping like the sea.
It pulls in and it pushes away —
this tug of war between me and him.

The smooth lake, wrapped in calm, may appeal —
but easy is rarely worthy.
I'd rather the sea, with its bumpy currents,
challenge and stir.
The best love the fruit of persevering together.

I know a love from my Father, constant.
He sees my ragged and tattered heart
and wants me anyway.
Smoother of my rough edges,
His the perfect, best love
on which I can steadily rely.

In all of its complexities,
the best love is diversely displayed.
It's my faithful companion in the storm;
my compass as I climb the steep mountains;
a voice of truth when I hear only lies;
And grace when I'm not at my best.

I know a love that flows from my own heart.
To put other's first.
To accept the unacceptable
and forgive the unforgivable.
And a desire to be more then a receiver —
but a free giver of the best love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Linking today with… Serving Joyfully and Imperfect Prose.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Baring My Heart (a Five Minute Friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Bare

I am a recovering control freak.

Others were on the receiving end, but no one felt it more than me. A burdening pressure to keep it all together. A suffocating need to protect myself by doing it all.

Did others know I was falling a part on the inside?

In the deepest, darkest places there isn't enough strength to hold the facade together anymore. And as the walls around my heart began to crumble, I found myself exposed.


But this is where we start. When the heart is open and you find yourself searching — for answers, for strength, for Someone.

Desperate and bare.

And this is where you meet people. People just like you, with the same questions, feeling weak, and searching for someone. Someone who knows where they've been or where they're going. Someone who reminds them they are not alone in their struggle.

Fear may tease me into rebuilding walls. Control may try to appease my weariness when the harsh world encroaches.

But every time I vulnerably share my heart and my life struggles with others I see Him. Sweeping up the ashes and making them into something beautiful.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo:

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rancid Regret: When You're Clean But You Think You Stink

Every day I live with regrets.

Some are losses — people, opportunities, innocence.

Some are disappointments — a bad decision, a chance I didn't take, a desire for a different outcome.

Many things I have had to grieve. All things I cannot change.

I don't think regret is a bad thing, especially if I did something wrong. Regrets can help us see our mistakes, so we can make wiser choices in the future.

Sometimes, though, regrets become more than just a mistake or an opportunity to live and learn. We can become chained to certain regrets and allow them to define us.

Like souring milk or bad chicken, we can't escape this rancid regret. And it can really stink up the place!

We use rancid regrets to prove how awful we are. We judge ourselves by them and tell ourselves we are not worthy.

But God has a different message. His way covers it all — even the most repugnant odors.

We may choose to condemn ourselves for the things we have done and live in that condemnation for the rest of our lives. A prideful path and a sin against God.

Or we may choose to accept His death on the cross as an amendment for our misdoings — a remedy for our rancidness.

So how do you embrace regrets and stop feeling like a failure? How can I forgive myself when I can't erase what I've done?

Perhaps it starts with understanding what it looks like to live forgiven?

Forgiveness means I am sincerely sorry. I desire to make a different choice, if there is a next time. I acknowledge what I did was wrong, but it is no longer held against me. It is a second chance. A do-over. If I'm forgiven, what I did does not control or define who I am today or how others see me or how I see myself.

A good friend advised, "Let go of the condemnation (it's not our job) and live in wisdom."

Live in wisdom. Maybe instead of judging and punishing ourselves, we allow our mistakes, especially the big ones, to teach and change us. Even God believed the best teachers were the ones with the most life experience — the least likely characters, who didn't have it all together. Your mistakes make you wiser (or they should).

Every day I live with regrets. But I deep down know this truth—

I am clean. White as snow. A sweet-smelling fragrance blessed by God. And absolutely, unconditionally loved, valued, and forgiven by Him.

"Good things come to those who are patient and still hope, even though they've been let down and disappointed, to those who still believe even though they've failed at something, to those who still love even though they've been hurt before. So never regret anything that has happened in the past; it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten. Take it all as lessons learned and move on with grace." Anonymous

Living radically with Ann at "A Holy Experience"…

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fear Is Real, But There Is Beauty

My Five Minute Friday on: Afraid

I poured my heart out on the page. I closed my eyes and transported myself back in time. I asked myself questions. I analyzed my actions.

And somehow I found words. No, I found my voice.

We puttered and changed and revised.

And there it was — attached to that email. The one that said, "yes, it's ready."

I clicked send and in a flash it was gone. Left in its wake, fear. Dread.

No going back now.

I had written a guest post for a friend's blog which described my story, dealing and healing from childhood sexual abuse.

I knew it was time. It was something I wanted to do. I chose to share it.

But once the email was sent I wanted to suck it all back in. Why?

I was afraid.

How would people react? Would they react? Would people understand?

It was posted the next day. I didn't die. And no one pointed fingers.

In the weeks to follow, a series of posts detailing my honest feelings and how God was healing me.

The fear is real, but there is beauty.

God nudged me to share my story when I was ready. He covered my fears with peace and assurance. An assurance that by vulnerably laying my heart bare, He would bless and encourage others.
We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Romans 8:28, The Message)

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday
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