Category Archives: living life
In the Christian tradition which I grew up in and still attend, we take communion every Sunday. Growing up, it was a very solemn occasion where one focused on the suffrage of Jesus, his crucifixion, and death. The church I currently attend has more of a family getting together for a special occasion feeling to it. We quietly chat, we hug, we go back sit in a seat and meditate. It is still a time of quiet reflection.
Our communion tradition has origin in the Jewish Passover. It was during the Passover, that Jesus took the bread and cup and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We [Christians] often quote this line prior to taking our little cracker wafer and our thimble of juice to help remember why we take communion.
While participating in communion last Sunday, “Do this in remembrance of me” was quoted. Instead of my mind focusing on Jesus and his crucifixion, I pondered more over the phrase, “In remembrance of me.” I began to think of my parents and what it means to remember them. I remember the way they lived. I remember who they were and what they stood for. I remember my dad’s laugh, the way it sounded. I remember my mom with mud on her boots from walking the cow pasture. I remember their strength. I remember the way my dad would aggravate my mom until she was furious with him. I remember how determined my mom was to master any skill that kept her from accomplishing what she wanted. I remember their hearts.
What I don’t think of is their last days. Not because I refuse to, but because it is not a good reflection of who each of them was as a person. When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” I don’t think he wanted us to solemnly dwell on His death and contrast it to our own humanity. I think, rather, he wanted us to celebrate his life, what he taught his followers, and how he treated people–especially the outcast. I think he wanted us to reflect on what he came to represent–the love that God has for us. I have been so transfixed on the suffrage of Jesus, that I think I have lost, or perhaps I never knew, who Jesus really was. I know the stories, but I don’t think I know Him. A pastor who mentored me, Terry Smith, told me, “I wanted to know Him [Jesus] so well that it was like He was the very blood in my veins, like He was the very air I breathed.” I think I am coming to understand what Terry meant by that.
It wasn’t a clinical analysis of Jesus’ death that Terry was after, but rather to know Jesus, the man, His life, the way Jesus thought, what made Him tick that Terry was after. He was in pursuit of life, not death. Perhaps that is the difference I am trying to sum up: that we need to pursue life and not death. We need to remember and participate in the legacy of Jesus, not just His final days. How different would church be, would humanity be, if we lived in legacy and not in death? Pursue life.
I have always been one to push myself to the limits. I went back to college as a full-time student when my twins were four to obtain a degree in Music Business. One semester I pulled two consecutive all-nighters. In my early twenties, I trained horses and enjoyed role-playing scenario paintball events.
Now my life is usually chaotic because of after school activities with my teenagers, while simultaneously my elementary age kids are shouting, “mommy, mommy mommy!” I am teaching my teens to drive a car while teaching my little ones to ride their bikes without training wheels. The school needs volunteers, the church needs volunteers, the house needs to be cleaned, and healthy meals have to be made. My husband is busy working during the day and finishing up his MBA program in the evenings.
I was trying so hard to do it all and to do it all perfectly. Gradually, more and more things keep getting added to my to-do list– not just one time projects, but another extra-cirricular dance class, another after school club, the band has an extra rehearsal, youth group is meetings, another MBA class for the next few weeks. I was juggling all these plates, and I have just been waiting for them to start crashing down.
A couple of mornings ago I went out and the peach tree beside our driveway had a branch drooping to the ground. This is our second spring in our new house. Last year, we had a harsh, late frost that bit all the pink buds right as they were beginning to bloom. This year we were so excited to see the tree blossom and begin to make fruit.
Each tree branch is full of fruit, but to its own detriment. The fruit has become too much, too heavy and it is weighing the branches down until they are touching the ground. It is only late spring, and the fruit still has much maturing to do before it has fulfilled its growth cycle. The branches are not going to be able to withstand the weight of the fruit that it is trying to bear.
Too much and too heavy, the branches start buckling under its own weight.
My husband and I tried to prop it up to help support the weight, but it was no use. The branch began to crack and break.
All those plates I am juggling; I feel exactly like this peach tree branch. I have too much fruit I am trying to bear. There are too many things to do. I don’t have the emotional strength nor enough hours in the day.
Like the branch, I am getting very close to breaking. The beauty is that I realize this, and while I am still whole, I can trim some things from my life to make time for a less exhausted wife and mommy. I can take some time and remain whole. I can give myself grace for not being everything to everybody. Why do I think I have to say ‘yes’ to everything anyway?
I need to take some time for self-care. It is a simple concept, really. It is preventive maintenance. Maybe it is just me, but I have a really hard time taking care of myself before the needs of others. But I have to look down the road and decide where those choices are going to lead me. That makes the choice of taking care of myself a bit more justifiable. Learn to Breathe. Learn to give yourself Grace. Learn to do the things you enjoy for the simple pleasures of enjoyment. Learn to Rest. This is going to be a hard struggle for me.
A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in couples’ therapy when I confessed how hard it is for me to ask for help. “Why is it that you can’t ask for help? What do you think would happen?” our therapist inquired of me.
She was hitting a deeply sensitive spot and my face twisted up. I felt my face getting hot as I fought back the response, “Because if I have to ask for help, then I am failing,” the response tumbled out.
The truth is I hate asking for help. I am a mom of four with a pile of Mt. Saint Laundry that actually has its own altitude and climate changes. I often feel like I suffer from the “Little Red Hen” syndrome, except, unlike the little red hen, I never ask. I just brood over the fact that everything seems to get placed on my plate to take care of. Dishes are in the sink and I am angry that no one has taken the initiative to load them into the dishwasher, there is actually dust in the grooves of the kitchen cabinets that no one seems to see except me and let’s not talk about the pile of crumbs under the table that my preschooler leaves behind. But if I can’t ask, then I really don’t have justification for being upset over something no one knew would even bother me in the first place. I have to learn to ask. I have to give myself permission to ask with the understanding that it does not mean I am failing because I can’t handle everything.
I have thought frequently over the last couple of weeks regarding the conversation with the therapist. And I have thought about my prayer life and my relationship to God. The truth is, I don’t lean on God the way I should. Like everything else, I feel as if everything is my responsibility and I only ask for Him to intercede after I am beyond desperate. In fact, I may just harbor a bit of secret pride in the fact that my prayer life does not read like a Christmas wish list of wants and desires. (Something else I need to work on).
Matt. 7:7 (NLT) says, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”
My daughters have taught me this concept more than anyone else in my life. It is watching and hearing the tiniest of prayers–praying for the bees, for safety in the storm and thanking God for “my pink blankey.” They know they are not self-reliant, so they have no problem asking for their needs to be met. It is only through the wounds of humanity that we stop asking. I forget that God is not like the rest of humanity. It is the nature of being human that we eventually emotionally hurt someone. God, however, will not let me down. He is constant and He is omni-everything. Only He can fulfill my deepest desires that I am unable to even whisper. But I need to ask.
Before a painter put brush to canvas, he sees his picture mentally … If you think of .: in terms of a painting, what do you see? Is the picture you think worth painting? … You create yourself in the image you hold in your mind. – Thomas Dreier.
We all have goals in life. Some goals are material, others are spiritual. Honestly, I concentrate more on my physical world than my spiritual ones. I am in the middle of raising my family, I would like a bigger house, I need to bring in a regular income to our family. There are so many other things that my mind obsesses about. But when I boil down who I really want to be, it all comes down to being Godly. My goals consist of writing a book for women based on my own spiritual experiences, I want to minister to those who believe that they are not “good enough.” I believe this is the calling God has placed upon me. I know things will happen all in His time. Honestly though, I am not doing a whole lot to make that happen.
I believe the scripture in Phil. 1 that states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I know God will finish what He began in me. But I am not doing a whole lot to help that along. In my defense, it is hard to find 3 hours of solitude a day when raising four daughters, two of whom are still at home. And now summer is here and all four of them are with me. And did I mention my little ones wake up as soon as the first bird sings and the first light breaks? (Case in point: It is not even six and I hear small footsteps coming down the hallway).
It seems my life is going so fast that I barely have time to breathe. I give of myself until I crash with exhaustion. But I believe that God has began a good work within me. In my time with Him, I get a little vision of what that person should look like. She would be an author and speaker giving testimony without fear and with fire. She has much more energy than I currently do.
Many times I get so wrapped up in pursing my goals, I forget who I supposed to become. I get wrapped up in: Must blog, must go to conferences, must build my following, must write the rest of my book, –that I loose track of who I want to become.
So I took so time the other day a doodled about goals, who I am, who I am to become. I took a step back and instead of being in the middle of the race, I looked at what type of person the racer is, what they need in order to be nourished, and what they would look like on the inside and out. I took a mental look at what my final painting would look like. I took a look at all the stages in between. I discovered I am too wrapped up in the “got to” of life. When I boil it down to who I want to be and what that will look like, I want to pursue holiness and live in a way that radiates that. It is that simple.
“I’m irritable.” I typed these words out to my psychiatrist in an email last week. It had been a few days of feeling like I was going to start throwing plates across the room at any moment. The intensity of the desire raises red flags within me. It was an email that followed days of feeling like I was going to loose control with my children. I have been on edge, irritable and easily angered.
The truth is that I am very frusterated with who I am. I know that in Psalm 139:13 David says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I have to wonder about the meaning of that verse. I wonder because my body is flawed; my mind is flawed. I have bipolar mood disorder, and trying to keep a good head on your shoulders is sometimes very difficult. Tweaking your meds is a constant. I am very blessed. I have been very stable for the past six or seven years. Some people go their whole life without that type of stability. But this constant tweaking. . .I want to scream, “Why did You make me this way! Why, if you are the one who wove me together, did you make me this way!”
I am thankful for my meds and I would be okay with them if it weren’t for the side effects. In recent years, they have gotten to where they make me so sleepy. I try tweaking my meds only to find myself sleeping half the day away and in a mind-fog the other part of the day. No options seem to be acceptable. I can’t be this irritable as my life-style. I laugh at the funny quips from Facebook that say things like, “I say, you are about to exceed the limitations of my medication” or “I don’t need more medicine, I need people to stop pissing me off.” I can relate to both.
I wonder if a more accurate way to say God wove me together has more to do with my creation of spirit and less with my body and mind. God created my spirit in His image. I am not so sure about my body. I try to be at peace and find a light to light connection between my dim light source and the one who is light, pure light, without a trace of darkness.
Even in my frustration, I remember how far I have come, the days of being unstable, the days of intense emotional pain and agony. I remember the soaring highs of chasing the sun and the darkness of the crashing lows. I remember how utterly worthless I felt I was. I remember being acquainted with the night in a most intimate way.
I am grateful that it has been years since I was intimately acquainted with the night. I praise God that someone was able to make a medicine that keeps me stable. Yet, it is not perfect and I still struggle.
I don’t claim to understand why, if God created me, was I created with bi-polar disorder. I suppose the same reason why people are born without an arm, deaf, or with Down’s Syndrome. I could blame it on genetics. But we live in a fallen world where things are not perfect. Humanity is not perfect and we have imperfect bodies. But the soul, our light source, our made in the image of God, — I am not even sure that is perfect, but I know that my light desires the perfection of God.
I once said that I wonder if we are judged on how well we fight the demons of our lives. I still wonder that. It is easy to be good if you have no struggles in your life, but when put under pressure, we find out who we really are. Maybe it is who we are at core that is judged.
If that is so, then being acquainted with the night has served purpose of which I have been made the humble servant of. Whatever path or obstacles you overcome, do it for God’s Glory.
I just finished a book titled A Testament of Devotion by Tomas R. Kelly. In this book Thomas spoke freely of how to connect, spirit to spirit, to the Creator. His words were so lulling so peaceful, that when I would finish a section, I would feel at peace with the world. In his first chapter, Kelly states, “Protestant emphasis, beginning so nobly in the early Luther, has grown externally rationalistic, humanistic, and service minded. Dogmas and creed and the closed revelation of a completed canon have replaced the emphasis upon keeping close to the fresh upspringins of the Inner Life.” In recent years, I have struggled to have a meditation and devotion time be a consistent part of my life. As a mom of four, it seems like I don’t even have time to pee, much less the take time in daily devotionals. So yeah, maybe I am a product of that line of thought–that doing is more important than meditation with the Spirit.
I must confess that I long for that inner peace and joy from being in tune with the Spirit that Kelly spoke of. I read such authors as Kelly and Wayne Dyer, hoping to obtain that peace. However, I really want a book to tell me how to obtain peace while a toddler is yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, momma, mommmmmyyyyyy . . .”
“Nothing. (giggle) I love you.”
Sweetness laced with frustration. All this happening simultaneously while I am trying to cook dinner and carry on a conversation with my oldest daughters. Are all these peaceful of spirit people, do they have all this stuff coming at them? I don’t know anyone who could keep inner peace while being pulled mentally and emotionally in 20 different directions. Except Ann Voskamp. I think she may be on to something. The rest of us are struggling with “praising Jesus one minute and screaming at your kids the next.” (Lysa Turkheurst, Unglued).
So I do. I keep the house clean and raise my children; try to be a good wife and mother and a woman of God all in the same breath. I am normal. But I desire a relationship with everyone around me that is beyond ordinary, including my creator. I just don’t know how to accomplish that. Maybe I am expecting too much from myself at this stage of my life. I don’t know. I just feel like I am falling short. But then there is grace. Grace from God and Grace from those around me.
I am rambling, so back to meditation and living life fully. There are a few things that help me to be at peace and feel more connected to my creator. I will share them with you:
1. Get up before the kids and have time with God. Read scripture and pray or journal. This is soooo hard for me, but it starts my day with peace, which spills over into the rest of my day. I literally have to go to bed as soon as my pre-schoolers do in order to do this.
2. Get organized. It amazes me how much physical clutter around me translates to emotional and spiritual clutter. I stay at home with my children, and I am trying out a schedule for us. So far I am really liking the results. It is a work in progress. I just have to careful not to make everything into a “check off the to-do list.” I have to remember to enjoy the moment.
3. Simplify. It seems like something is going on in our life all the time that we “must” attend. A birthday party, a sleepover, extra curricular activities. This is why Shabbot is so important. Take time to rest. It is okay to say “no” sometimes to request.
Those are my tricks. What are your tricks for finding inner peace? Please share. I really need more advice than I am giving.
Worldwide, there are many different religions and belief systems. Oddly, we use the differences in these beliefs to set ourselves apart from other sects of humanity. Yet, when we come down to it, much of our beliefs worldwide have the same basic beliefs: Be good to others; There is a higher power; Love each other; value life.
Oddly, most Psychologist would embrace these same thoughts and beliefs for ones well being and happiness. Those who are spiritual in nature as opposed to religious would also agree to these things. Dr. Wayne Dyer is wonderful in his books on spirituality in bringing in beliefs from all around the globe to support how to be happy. I have read several of his books and have been amazed at how Dr. Dyer is so knowledgeable in regards to thoughts worldwide.
Recently, my husband brought me home a book he had purchased for me titled The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by don Miguel Ruiz. In reading this man’s spiritual wisdom, I can not help but be stunned by how biblically based it seems to be, although it is from a place far away. His thoughts sound something like a sermon which could easily be backed up scripturally.
The first thing that Miguel Ruiz speaks of in his introduction is who we are in relationship to God. How we are God-like and made in his image of light. That we are light because God is of light. I was amazed at the parallels to the creation story this has.
It has been quite the challenge for me to believe that I am one made of light. That I am made in the image of God, and therefore God-like. I have spent the majority of my life trying to be good enough, only in recent years to realize that I am His, regardless. Not only am I spawned out of the image of God, but God has a purpose for me, even if that purpose is simply to praise His name. But no, it is more, I am to bear light to others, and be a light-bearer to others.
There we go with those images of light again.
But Miguel, in his book, says that, “Everything in existence is a manifestation of the one Living Being we call God. Everything is God. . . .and the true us is pure love, pure light.”
It makes sense. If we are of God and God is light, then we have to have that light within us as well. The problem is that I don’t think we allow that light to shine though because of the human condition. We are tired, or sick, or we have been rejected or ridiculed too many times to risk showing our light one more time.
The following chapters of The Four Agreements seem to promise how to overcome these obstacles. I will get back to you on that.
“The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me. I’ll read and study and then obey, the B-I-B-L-E.”
I wonder how much of my theology as a child was shaped by songs such as this? It states that we should read, study and obey. But what does that mean? To my child’s mind, I took it very literal. To obey translated into: be good, don’t do bad things. God is good, so you be good.
The problem was that I could never seem to be good enough. Not that I didn’t try. I did. I tried so hard to be good. It is just that I would mess up. As a young child that meant things like not making good grades. As a teenager, that meant defying my parents and doing things they had told me not to do. As an adult, well, I became very prodigal.
Although I knew the story of the prodigal, unlike the son, I felt I couldn’t return home–spiritually speaking that is. I had too much shame. Or maybe I just needed to tuck my pride between my legs. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like I could be accepted in the church. It was like there had been this good-bad line drawn in the sand and I had crossed it. And once I crossed it, there was no going back.
I had spent all this time trying to be good enough and failing at it. It was all about me trying. I was seriously struggling with this issue of being good enough when one day I heard the song, “Who am I” by casting crowns on the radio. Here are the lyrics:
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart
Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are
I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me
I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours
I wanted to understand “how the Lord of all the earth, would ever care to know my name?” Why would God care to know my name? I really wanted to know. There was no way I believed God knew who I was. Then the chorus of the song came. “Not because of who I am/ but because of what you’ve done, Not because of what I’ve done/ But because of who you are! Those words stuck with me and I wrestled with them for months to come.
“What do you mean it is not because of what I have done!” my mind screamed back at the radio. “You just don’t know what all I have done.”
I later downloaded the song and listened to the lyrics over and over again until the message rewrote the theology of the song I learned in my youth about obeying.
It isn’t because I had obeyed or not obeyed, it is because of the nature of God and who He is! It has nothing to do with me at all. It is not about me or anything I can do to earn my way into knowing who God is and getting Him to know my name. It is about accepting that, “I am Yours.”
When you realize the gift that those lyrics state, then you can not help but to lay down at the foot of the throne and weep because mercy you did not deserve has been given to you. You in turn, want to do what is right because of who sits on that throne. You want to show grace and mercy just as grace and mercy has been shown to you. That is what Christianity is about–showing grace and mercy. Remember that during your day today and be grace and mercy to those whom you meet.
By the Way, if you want to see the YouTube video of casting crowns, you can see it here:
By all standards, I have been a very fortunate woman. I have the all-American life–A house, four kids, a husband who works hard and loves me. I get to stay at home with our children. Our daughters do ballet, karate, and summer camps. We live in a small town where community is important. But below the surface, I ask myself the question, “So what?” What if I have it all, but there still seems to be an element of life that is missing. Like there is something more to be had.
In the book I am working on I start it out by stating, “I have always wanted much more than this provincial life.” I always seem to have had it all. I have been blessed with solid, stable things around me. My parents were together until my father passed away a couple of years ago. We never really moved. I never had to change school systems.
I still wanted more than this provincial life. What is it that we yearn for, even if we have it all? There is still something missing to our life. We try to fill it with things–someone’s love and affection, someone treating us with value, or maybe we stay so busy doing good deeds that we fill the void with the good feeling of being there for others. So What?
I have had it all. Yet I have also experienced the horrors of depression. I kept asking myself, “why?” I had everything I could really want. So the question of “So what?” haunted me.
There is more to this provincial life than having it all. What makes our life go from being ordinary to extraordinary? What is it that we are searching for?
We are searching for fulfillment. It has been said that a woman who is confident in her purpose, reveals Beauty. I don’t think we are searching for fulfillment from ourselves as much as fulfillment as to our purpose.
It is an amazing life. To be fully alive, not by doing, but by being. It has taken me forty years and many stepping stones to realize what God has in store for me. “Life is not about finding yourself, it is about discovering who God created you to be.” These two things are very different. I used to say, “it is time for me to grow into my own skin.” I felt so out of place within my own body. Slowly, I am beginning to grow into the woman God has designed for me to be.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I didn’t find myself because I went looking for myself. I found myself because I started searching for who I am in relationship to God. I discovered I am His daughter, His Beloved. When I discovered these things then other things started to fall into place.
If you are not at a place where you can see yourself as Beloved, then I want you to pray that you can begin the steps to that journey. But be careful what you pray for. You may be taken for the journey of a lifetime. Sometimes we are ready for such a journey, other times not. But finding your purpose in God is well worth the risk.
“Of course I am.”
“Well, you don’t look like it. Smile.”
This conversation repeated itself several times during our trip. My nature I am a rather introverted, serious person. But I do like to have joy in my life. I thought I was having fun, but my daughters’ comments made me rethink that.
I rode Small World After All, check.
The little girls rode Dumbo, check.
We had lunch, check.
We met Tinkerbell, check.
I was going through our whole vacation and instead of enjoying the moment, I was on a mission to get my to-do list checked off. I was a woman on a mission to have fun at Disney.
It is not that I didn’t have fun. I did. In fact, I had a great time. But I didn’t have joy, or excitement about me. I was simply content.
Many of us go through life simply being content. It is where we are comfortable. It is a safe place to be. But it is not where the magic happens.
The magic happens when we open ourselves up to allow God to work through us. When we completely relinquish our lives and surrender control.
I know there are external or internal things that make a difference. You may be experiencing divorce, you may be grieving, or worried about a child who has gone astray. Then there are internal things, like depression and heartache. Those things are not seen.
However, all the elements still have a control factor. Where we want to control the circumstances and the outcome. Truth is, we can’t. We can only choose how we respond. I know that, and yet, I choose to live in my comfort zone because it is safe. It is familiar. But it is not where I find my true purpose for living. It is not where I find Joy.
If you could dream big, what/who would you like to be? I don’t mean who, as in, “I want to be just like so-and-so actress when I grow up.” But you, visualize who you can be, all that you can be. Who you were be if you were not frightened to live outside your comfort zone. Dare to dream big inside your own mind.
I am scared to dream big in my own mind. I am scared of setting goals and then failing. If I don’t articulate the goal, then I can’t fail, or at least that it how my logic works. I don’t want to fail. That is very scary for me. So I live my life daily, not thinking of seemingly impossible goals.
I want to challenge you today to visualize in your own mind who you would like to become. Not the labels that have been placed upon you, but who you could be in God’s perfect world. Really visualize her. This week, take one step to become that woman. It may be just keeping that visual in your head is difficult for you. Or maybe, maybe you could write it down somewhere—in a private journal perhaps. It takes years, sometimes a few decades to become that person. God is constantly molding and shaping us into the person He wants us to become, if we will surrender our will and lives to Him. Maybe that is your first step—surrender.
I have dreams that I don’t like to visualize, because I am scared I am not good enough to make them come true. I have to remember it is not me. I am just the vessel, I have to let God work through me. That gives me peace because it means it is not totally up to me. It is up to God to use me.
What are your dreams when you dream big? Do you dare to leave them in the comment section?