Thursday, December 31, 2009

"You Were Always on my Mind" (Willie Nelson quote for a title, niiiice!)

I had one of those nights last night!!  You know, the ones where you want to sleep but you mind is racing and you just can't make it stop... Counting sheep, deep breathing, hot bath, nothing works!! 

I was thinking of a friend I had in junior high (or middle school as it's now labeled.)  His name is Jeff.  I had heard he was in the hospital a while back and was going to visit but thought he might think it strange considering we have only seen each other in passing a few times since our junior high days..  And I'm not so sure it was even him every time because he has a twin and I was too embarrassed to ask which one was saying "hi" to me!  ha!  I did ask his brother about him a couple of times and he suggested I e-mail, but how would that seem any less strange to him?

I couldn't blame Jeff if he did think me strange, I'm quite sure he didn't realize I thought of him as one of my best friends back then...  He did hang out with me after school and during summer break quite a bit, we went to all the lunch time "sock hops" at our small school, we talked on the phone some, he always seemed to stick-up for me if I needed it and he did often walk me home (I lived in a rather rough neighborhood) I'm not sure he did it to make me feel safe because he knew I was scared or if I just got lucky there but whatever his reasons it was good enough for me, still, I'm not sure if I ranked as high on his list of friends as he did on mine (I'm quite sure I made the list though haha!)  We had a lot of good laughs and conversations. My mum liked Jeff as well, she used to say he was a "sweet boy" but wished he would stop "getting himself into messes"...  Mum didn't mind us being together and so we were, a lot.

I remember him getting into quite a bit of trouble at school, or at least that was the rumor flying around... I do remember seeing a fight Jeff was involved in just off the school's property; and for me, that was enough proof to believe the trouble I heard he had been in.  I do remember a telephone conversation that made me question how "rough" he really was however; he was baking a cake (or so he told me) and his little brother was acting out, jumping around and made the cake fall in the middle...  He was quite upset and from what I had imagined a "rough and tumble" person to be, they wouldn't be baking a cake or know that it was possible for it to fall in the middle because of a jumping little brother much less be upset about it.  Every time I think of that story it makes me smile.

Some people thought of our friendship as awkward; I was, after all, the "goody too shoes" and he was one of the "bad boys."  There were rumors started about "us" as well (by people who were supposed to be my friends but that's junior high) none were true, I actually had a crush on his brother at the time, we were just friends.  I'm not sure what it was that made us "get" each other but there was definitely some sort of connection that made it so easy to be friends.

I've thought about Jeff so much through the years... It's not the first night I've had trouble sleeping because I was wondering how he is doing and it will not likely be the last.  Every once in a while there will be a picture on facebook or a note about someone seeing him and that tells me he's living but other than that I really have no idea...  And I just keep thinking about how much our friendship means to me and how I feel he made my life (if only for a couple of years) better and how I need to thank him pay him back with in kind but he doesn't even know...  Sad.

I always hear about people having a "burden" for their friends and it usually makes me feel like a horrible person... I pray for a burden, but I don't really have the slightest clue how it comes about or what it feels like.  And somehow if I am the person I should be than I should have a "burden" for people!  I know this seems like it has nothing to do with my sad recount of a lost friend but I had a realization last night as I lay in my sleepless bedroom thinking about someone I haven't talked to in ages...  I care deeply about what happens to him, I want the best for him, I would do anything within my own power to help him out in any way I can and that is a burden.  A burden is caring and wondering enough about a person that it makes you want to do something to reconnect and see if you can make life better for them.  It's being a friend to people and making yourself available to them.  It's doing what you can for someone and when you're not able to do something tangible it's praying for and caring about them... It's waiting to hear a good report, and more than that, it's about helping them obtain a good report.  We don't all have money to give, we don't live close enough to everyone we would like to pour out time and efforts into, we don't always have the words to speak into someone's heart that could turn their situation and life around and sometimes when we try to touch someone's soul they pull away with anger or fear... But we all have a burden we just make the definition more complicated than it really is and don't realize it's there.

So, now that you've read this you're probably thinking about the person or people who keep you awake later than usual with thoughts and wonderings about where they are, how they are, if there is anything you could do for them and time you could spend on them...  I implore you to take a step in their direction because there is a reason they are on your mind...  Sometimes we think we aren't changing any lives or touching situations around us to make life better, but maybe it's because we are not aware of the places and people we are given a burden to touch.  Now you are aware, do something about it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Dreamer!" Insult or Compliment?

When I was about 9 I realized a dream I had might be more than just a dream...

A lot of not so pleasant things happened directly related to the only ways I could possibly see to "administer" those dreams.. I got angry at the people who I thought should have been the ones to "help God out" but were not... I grew discouraged with even believing a dream like that could happen in my life and that lead to disappointment in God... So I decided to just forget about the dream all together; that way I could be a better person, not getting angry with people who didn't seem to be aware of my dream and what they needed to do to help it come to pass for me or be frustrated with God for being such a procrastinator in my eyes...

The problem is, forgetting is never easy, although it seems like a great idea at the time of conception it, in fact, may prove to be impossible. I certainly did let go of the dream and shortly thereafter forgot to believe in it's possibilities. In some ways it was helping, I got to experience God and his work through my life in many other ways, I looked for positive ways I could impact the people around me in place of what I felt I was made to do which opened up a whole new world of ministry to me (that's when I started writing and encouraging others...) The only time I really felt good about my own life was when I was pouring myself and my encouragement into whatever spaces seemed to need filled. Since no one seemed to believe in my dream I made it a personal goal to ensure everyone around me knew I believed in their dreams and supported them whole-heartedly. I didn't have to have sleepless nights, any longer, when things happened that were against how I thought my dream should play out and while not completely forgetting I could, at that point, live numb to the disappointment of my unfulfilled dreams.

Along the way there have been clear reminders, words spoken and signs but I just wouldn't really allow myself to believe they were about my dream. I convinced myself the God was talking to someone else and when it was obvious that wasn't the case I convinced myself he wasn't talking about the dream I had originally thought and I had been wrong about my dreams from the beginning.

Reciently I was praying in church during a song called "Breakthrough" I felt like God was again talking to me, this time I actually seemed to hear him ask me "What about your dream? Have you forgotten it?" It's a hard thing for me to disappoint anyone, but when I think I'm disappointing God I pretty much change my tune ("change my tune" may be a very New Brunswick saying ha!) about any issue. I'm sure God knows that about me (since he created me) and uses it to his advantage when he's dealing with important issues I seem to have made my mind up about, ha! And for the record, I don't mind that he uses my personality against me for that. I didn't really say (or pray) much in response to that question, just something along the lines of "no, you know I haven't forgotten, I just had to put it in the back of my mind to get rid of the pain." Of course he came back with "Will you take it up again? Believe in it?" I didn't respond at all for a while, just cried because, for me, that's a lot to take on again... All I could think of was the scripture with Jesus asking to "take up your cross" and follow him... See, my dream is something I feel is completely beyond anything I can "Make happen" and when I don't see progress but still have to believe it will happen feel stupid for allowing myself to believe in the first place... A few moments passed with me searching for an escape from the conversation but then I felt His disappointment, it seemed as if he turned around and started walking away, not from me in general, just from that part of my life (if that makes sense at all). Although I'm not sure he said anything, it seemed to be implied that it wasn't the dream I wasn't believing in, it was God's ability to make the dream happen. I quickly recanted my prior hesitation and explained "I wasn't saying I wouldn't believe in my dream I was just thinking it through because it was hard for me..." I talked to him about the hurt and complications with taking it back and asked for a bit of time... I went back to my seat as quickly as possible when we were told we could. I was hoping God and I both would forget about that little conversation without any guilt on my part and I could have probably found a way to convince myself, again, that I was wrong about what He was intending to talk to me about.

Then Justin (the Youth Pastor at my church) preached a message about dreams and I knew it was confirmed that God was in fact talking to me about my dream again. Justin's message totally disarmed any defense of "I was wrong about what God was talking about" or "I must have misunderstood God" I could have come up with... There was a point made about loneliness not being an enemy but we are to independent and God uses loneliness and seclusion to make us realize we are not ok to do everything on our own and to make us depend on him which was perfect for me to hear... At any given point during the speaking, it could have been just Justin, God and I sitting in a room talking about my life.

In the alter after the service was over I was feeling guilty for turning my back on something I should have believed. Remembering the pain and discouragement I faced before giving up on my dream and somehow trying to work through it and step back into a litfe with a vision.. I was praying about fear and doubt and the face that I didn't know how God was going to bring my dreams to pass but I didn't want to doubt Him anymore, I didn't want to be afraid of the dream or my abilities not being good enough... Grace (a new personal friend and Justin's wife) Came and prayed with me... Most of it was not in my ear but the part she did whisper loud enough for me to hear was about fear and doubt and once again I knew God was speaking. Grace's words were actually direct opposition to the things I was scared of, and it was cool to have God stand someone beside.

So now I am standing, dream in hand, not knowing or even trying to figure out how it will happen just waiting for it to happen and looking for ways to show faithfulness and trust in the meantime.

That was pretty much a book, thanks for taking the time to read!  You're wonderful and DON'T YOU FORGET IT! It's not a mistake you've read this, maybe you should think about a dream you've let go and considre picking it back up agian!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The Ugly Truth"

I have had a crazy weekend... It started on Friday at work; there was this file I was supposed to take care of while my boss was out of the office... ALL DAY I received phone call after phone call on that stupid file! One saying something was wrong, the next asking what to do to fix the problem, the next asking if it was going to close!! Ahhh! The office on the other side is one of my favorites, a close friend of mine works there and they have all treated me very well but this time I felt I was being pressured into just going ahead with the file on my own.. The last phone call I received I just said "look Jim, I really don't know what I'm doing so I'm just going to have to call him and get him to deal with it." Him, being my boss, of course. I called my boss, for the 9th time that day, with tears in my eyes and begged him to look after it, which he did. (P.S. I have worked at the same office for 6 years now and have not cried over the job yet!)

Saturday was an exceptionally good day... My mother called me out of bed at about nine in the morning wanting to go to the USA shopping, I rushed to get ready but she still managed to be in the driveway honking the horn for about 10 minutes while I ran up and down my stairs grabbing all the items I forgot the time before... Dog in tow, under my arm, I reached into the closet, grabbed my boots and pulled them on as fast as I could hop and zipping all the while... After an initial cross word about always being late we turned the Christmas music on and were on our way! The shopping was great, although instead of the Christmas shopping I had intended, I bought for myself. Ha! People were so nice to me all day, a lady told me I needed a cart because I had an arm load of sweaters and then brought one to me, I was called in at the boarder to pay duty but the man in the office refused to charge me, people I didn't even know talked to me and were so nice! When we finally came home I rushed in the house with the groceries, changed my skirt, put my boots and coat back on and rushed out to Christmas music practice and a prayer meeting... After about an hour of singing on stage, with an audience of about 100 I looked down to pull up what seemed to be my now slouching boot and realized I had one brown, square toe, 3/4 calf-length boot and one black, pointed toe, 1/2 calf-length boot.. I had been walking around ALL DAY with miss-matched boots!! No wonder people were so kind, they were thinking "poor dear needs help!" Funny, I know, at least until the 25th comment about managing to get matching shoes on I received the next day.

Sunday I was having one of those ever so famous "I hate everything about myself" kind of days... I tried on somewhere around 5 outfits before I finally settled for one, couldn't get my hair to co-operate and was half an hour late for church in the morning... I had a friend over which meant she was also late... We sat near the back of the church since the pastor had already started his message when we graced the doors. After sitting there for about half the preaching I realized I hadn’t pulled my button and tag off my new, sheer sweater I was wearing... The tag was silver and about 2"x2" square and since my hair was up it was clearly visible to everyone sitting behind me. My friend just patted my knee and advised that I may as well just give up on the weekend...

Today I decided to watch... You guessed it, "The Ugly Truth" and it got me thinking... Maybe it's my emotions from the weekend talking but is it true? Is the truth always ugly? Seriously, I don't know how many times I've had someone tell me the truth about any given situation and I hated to hear it! So is it true, is truth always ugly? Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend the movie, I may be inclined to believe a lot of the instruction it gives on relationships to be true... In the end (this will spoil the movie for you so don't finish reading this post if you are not willing to know the end before the... well, end :o)) the instructor, so to speak, fell in love with the woman he was helping with relationships and they ended up together.. It's always nice to see that but sometimes I feel like I have been feeding my mind with all the great love stories in Disney books and movies, romance novels (although I have only read about 2 myself, I am not unaware of the break down of most widely read novels), who can forget "Gone with the Wind" or "Pride and Prejudice"...   Are those kind of stories true or is the truth actually ugly like it was in my parents divorce, ”Becoming Jane" (Jane Austin's actual life story which ended nothing like her hopelessly perfect literary endings), "Romeo and Juliet" or "Wuthering Heights"? Even the crucifixion is an ugly truth of the savior I happen to serve unapologetically dying in agony and shame... And if truth is ugly then what is there to hold onto?

Hereafter I state my case: True stories like one I heard on Oprah years ago... A German man and woman who fell in love just before the Nazi's invaded their little town... They would ride their bicycles together, or go for long walks talking about their future; never anything extravagant but apparently filled with love. While under Nazi control they, of course, were separated and sent to different concentration camps.  When the invasion came to an end they franticly searched for each other but to no avail... Eventually they each accepted the death of the other, both married and moved on, had families and lived their separate lives holding only the memory in their heart. Somehow, years later, they found out each other were still living. Their respective spouses had passed away and they decided to meet, got married shortly after and lived the rest of their days making up for time lost. Stories of people like Jack and Kathy (the Assistant Pastors at my church), when they met Kathy was uninterested to say the least but now, after years of falling in love daily, are so in love you can actually see it in their eyes every time the other enters a room. Lastly, the "ugly" crucifixion is where the beauty of salvation, miracles and true love really comes from.

So maybe the truth is always ugly, at least in the beginning... Maybe we need the ugly moments to be able to recognize beauty at all... If everything was always great wouldn't it all just become average and dull? So... My weekend was pretty much one embarrassment or sadness after another and today was not a day I will remember, but when I went out for a walk with my pup tonight I looked up at the stars so many people rarely take the time to notice and they were beautiful and soothing to me... Maybe I have been emotional and not feeling as positive as I would like about life in general but maybe that's exactly what I needed; life has been coasting right along for me lately and it started feeling average when I really should be feeling blessed for everything that has happened in my life this year. Maybe I'm not always confident with regards to my single status (or even talking about the lack of confidence in that status in this blog); there are days when I don't even feel pretty let alone beautiful... But maybe that's all so I will appreciate my future spouse enough to support him, work on our marriage with him and make sure he knows he is respected and loved always in our household... Maybe it's just an answer to prayer that I will be able to recognize true love when it comes my way...

"It's always darkest just before the dawn", there is nothing quite like the beauty of a new day and maybe that's because we compare it to the emptiness of the dark. So... I'm excited, even though it sometimes seems ugly; the truth is exactly what I want... True love, true relationship with God, true joy and true appreciation for all the wonderful things in life... The ugly truth is, some days are hard, a lot of relationships do not work out, and yes Jesus was crucified but that all means I'll know when I have a great day, one relationship just around the corner will work out (and that will be the only one I need to work out) and every one of my sins (and your's) can be forgiven, we are healed because Jesus was crucified and rose again!