Monday, November 27, 2017

When Life Breaks Your Vessel; let the oil Pour out

Last week was a not so great week for me; I know, I know, we're not supposed to admit such things as Christians... I mean, we are supposed to be always chipper, right? Not so.  A couple of weeks ago I was messaging a friend who said " I feel like 'happiness' is a luxury..." and I made the statement " I feel like we create it. It's a choice and something you have to be persistent with... Joy may be a better word." Well, I'm not sure if life took that as a challenge from me or what? But my family received a bad health report within a couple of days of this conversation. I came home from work to find my mother staring at the Christmas tree, crying and repeating "I don't understand, I don't understand." Can I just tell you, I am a quintessential "fixer," I get myself into more uncomfortable situations because I offer advice or give my opinion on how to help a situation when people are just wanting to vent or when it's too early in a friendship; I just want to fix all of the problems and I have a hard time when it's not something I can help or someone who can accept help at that time. This is a situation I can do nothing to help, and when I can't help I don't know what else to do other than be strong and be there for everyone else, forgetting my own emotions.  And that worked for this situation too, for about 3 days...

Friday morning I woke up feeling sad and exhausted, almost the same feeling as when you've had a tragedy happen and have cried all day then yourself to sleep the night before... That sort of emotional hangover feeling. I normally don't allow myself to stay down, music helps, prayer helps, friends help, etc. but this time, nothing seemed to take that dark cloud away... Many friends reached out with caring messages, texts and chats, I loved them and was thankful but the pick-me-up they normally would afford didn't seem to happen. Saturday morning I awoke to the same emotional atmosphere, everything that happened over Friday-Sunday that normally wouldn't even be a thought for me felt like a much bigger deal filled my eyes with tears; whether it was a misunderstanding I created by trying to be funny via text that didn't turn out or burning cornbread I was making for dinner didn't matter... And I'm not used to being the overly-emotional type so it made me feel a little crazy, haha. And on top of the frustration all I could think was "of course I had to say happiness is a choice and now I can't make myself happy 😩 I wasn't asking for a life lesson you know!"

Saturday morning I woke up with a song on my mind, Close to You, I listened to it all morning on repeat and cried (I'm listening to it as I type)... A portion of the lyrics in this song says "I just want to be close to you, under the shadow of your wings please hide me Lord, so that I might be close to you... No evil can stand where you are, so I just need to be close, close to you..." and those words were (and are) exactly what I felt my heart was crying. Saturday night at prayer meeting I put the same song on and just sat and cried and prayed; but I have to be honest, I wasn't saying much... I just wanted to melt into God and get it out, and that I did. I knew I had to go through the emotions before singing with the worship team on Sunday or I'd just be a puddle on the platform... I'm happy to say I was not a puddle, ha.

Today, I thought of a biblical narrative that somehow has connected differently in my mind to life's brokenness:

Jesus was in Bethany, in the home of Simon, a man Jesus had healed of leprosy.And as he was reclining at the table, a woman came into the house, holding an alabaster flask. It was filled with the highest quality of fragrant and expensive oil. She walked right up to Jesus, and with a gesture of extreme devotion, she broke the flask and poured out the precious oil over his head.

Usually in this story, we think of the woman and encourage people to be like her... But today I thought of my life/myself as the alabaster flask of perfume.. Broken, not fit for the usual use, damaged, sharp... But there is precious oil found in a broken vessel... I'm not sure what is going to happen, I'm not sure if tomorrow the sun of healing will shine and all will be right in my world, but I'm learning that maybe that's not what should matter to me. That's the thing about life, it knows just how to break us all open... It can be painful, difficult, sad and can bring us to our knees in seconds. Sometimes when I hear someone sing a song in brokenness it means more because I know their story, I know they sing about struggle they have been through and somehow that becomes a deeper level of connection with me and worship to God. I've heard before that sometimes the greatest praise is just one more step on the journey with a lifted hand through fear and pain...  Maybe that's the point of our brokenness in the first place, along with all the unpleasant emotions brokenness affords us a reminder that life is fragile, to love while we can and as hard as we can, not to focus on the small negatives, to appreciate the little pleasures of life. Brokenness reminds us that we don't always have it all together, we cannot control everything nor protect ourselves from hurt let alone protect everyone else, it teaches us to take the chance whether it be in love or a new friendship or business opportunity. Brokenness should teach us to stop holding back, both in asking for/going after things we want, to stop holding ourselves back with doubt, to stop holding happiness back with fear, to stop holding worship back with circumstance, to stop holding closer relationship with God back with apathy or laziness, to stop holding the giving of ourselves and our time back. Brokenness should be teaching us all not to hold back in any area, we don't have enough time or opportunities in life what we can afford to waste any of them.

We have to remember the oil, maybe the point of brokenness is to allow that oil to flow more freely in worship to God and in care for others. I've read many quotes on brokenness, "broken crayons still color" and "we're all broken, that's how the light gets in." and now I'd like to add "when life breaks your vessel, let the oil pour out."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fear and Faith: Work it, Honey!

It's past my bedtime, yet, here I am thinking and writing away! But hey, sometimes I'm a rebel, I mean I don't even have my retainer in 😝 Ok, too much, sorry, but we may need this comic relief by the end of this one...

As some of you know from an earlier post of mine "Big Eyes: Things I've Learned." I had a health scare this year... the long and short of it is that I woke up one Saturday with about 90% vision loss in my right eye... fast forward through a day in the hospital and a trip to a couple of specialists, the word was "you're the perfect candidate for MS..." let's skip over all that's wrong with that phrasing with a patient who's scared and never even been in the hospital over night before and get to a couple of months ago after an MRI and testing by a leading neurologist who specializes in MS telling me he sees nothing to support that belief and although we will continue annual MRIs to make sure there are no changes, he is confident everything was triggered by a virus gone wrong.... and to that I say "thank you Jesus!"  Now let me interject here and say that I only had one horrible evening of crying and fearing over it, and then an extended period of wondering and thinking way too much, but the fear was gone. I'm blessed  to have a family full of ministers and one of my uncles, Morton, called me and talked me through that first night, he talked, answered questions, prophesied, prayed and told me the sign would be that when we hung up peace would come and I wouldn't have a problem pillowing my head to sleep... all I could think was "you're right that'll be a sign, because I know me and if I sleep a wink it's got to be God!" Of course, all I said was "okay, thanks, love ya." But we hung up and within a few minutes I could barely keep my eyes opened. To all of you "give it to God and go to sleepers," yes, I agree, it's just that I normally have to remind myself of that until around 4:00am on those nights.

Since god brought me through all of that, however, I've noticed a change in my left eye.. I see flashing when I look down or too far to the left, mainly when I'm in bed or in a dimly lit place... you'd think i might learn my lesson and just approach this problem with blind faith (no pun intended.) And I will say, I was proud of myself, I did wait many weeks before thinking I do really need to get this checked... I wasn't worried about MS or Optic Neuritis this time, but my dad had a detached retina and I've had enough of the eye prodding and drops for a few decades, let's not go sticking needles in and doing surgeries now, okay?  Blessed again, I know an optometrist who attends my home church, I saw him last night and asked about it. He recommended I make an appointment for testing today because it sounded like a tear which in many cases leads to retina detachment, just what I was fearing. That pride I felt for having faith dissolved into embarrassment I had let it go so long and felt more like stupidity than faith... today I went for more eye prodding and drops and pictures and lights but this time they didn't find anything, the flashing must be left over effects from my initial problem because there are no visible tears or anything abnormal looking, again, "thank you Lord for being faithful when I am of little faith."

I do want to talk about one thing tonight... many times in the Bible I read "oh ye of little faith!" Or "why do you doubt" or "fear not." One of my questions for my uncle on night one was about fear... as a Christian being raised in the church I've been taught, or at least I've interpreted that if you have fear you can't have faith... and without faith you can't see a miracle... and because of that I felt embarrassed of being scared and I was also even more afraid because I wanted a healing miracle if I could have one. And through this I learned something, Morton told me that I was getting two things confused... the emotion of fear and the spirit of fear... they are two separate things. Emotions are reactional, and everyone feels the emotion of fear at some point. But the spirit of fear is something you live under, that oppresses you, something you have to fight against. I also started noticing little things in the Word of God that had slipped by before.. It says "ye of little faith" not "ye faithless" and it's Jesus or angels talking, well of course, comparatively we are all, even uncle Mort,  of "little faith" when standing in a place with the heavenlies! So maybe I want to increase my faith yes but at least I have a little, and there's also scripture about a "grain of mustard seed" sized faith being enough!! I also got thinking that people doubt things they somewhat believe, you don't "doubt" something you have no belief in in the first place, you can only doubt things you think could be true or are true... So if you doubt something there's a degree of faith in the first place. Listen, I'm not saying we should leave our faith mixed with doubt, we should not, work to increase your faith! I'm saying we can't continue to think we are faithless because we are not and we must not accept that lie. Because if we view ourselves as having no faith we lose hope, the two are intertwined and lead to actions! We need to have faith to act on, that's where all good comes from!

It's late, I hope this makes sense when I read it back in the morning... I just want you all to know that we all have fears and rough patches but we all have faith too! And if you recognize that faith then please act on it! Faith is like a muscle, if you use it, it will grow! And the last scripture I want to mention is "God has given each person THE MEASURE of FAITH" you do have faith, what God gives he doesn't take away, you just need to work it, honey!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Experience the Pain

Today I found out someone I grew up with died... She was my age... It should not have happened.  Anyone who has had someone they've known from childhood, who is the same age pass away knows, it kind of rocks you. It doesn't matter if you were close friends, ran in the same circles or only attended a class or two together, we're young, this isn't supposed to happen. It's sad, it's scary and it's difficult to process. To Andrea's family and loved ones, I'm so sorry for your loss.

I found out Andrea passed away via social media... Just an Instagram post with the caption "you will be missed..." A few friends and I were in a text conversation to confirm it was a passing rather than a move to another City. After the confirmation came, one friend said her heart was breaking a bit, that she could have done more, should have encouraged more and gone out of her way. Another friend said we can't beat ourselves up about these things... I already knew I'd be writing some of my thoughts about this and my response to that conversation was the match to the fire.

My response is "I agree a bit with both of you... " We cannot take on the responsibility of what happened, we may not have been able to change anything... BUT Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:20) and we need not refuse that work. I think it's a danger of our current culture that we are so hyper sensitive to offence and judgement that it dampens our own consciences... We find "negative vibes" so distasteful that we can easily forget the sting of the negative is sometimes what keeps us on a better, smarter path... Someone invented shoes because they experienced the negative of walking on sharp rocks one too many times... Don't always automatically avoid the negative, the pain, experience it, let it teach you, allow it to change you.

This weekend we had a special guest speaker at our church, Lee Stoneking.  All weekend long he repeated "do what you feel when you feel it even if it doesn't make sense."  He told a story of a missionary to an Indian tribe... She had worked with them, preached to them and poured her heart into the people for years with little change.  A chief stepped on a thorn and his foot got infected, sending him into a downward health spiral that was leading to his death... The missionary came to him one day and saw the thorn barely breaking the skin on the bottom of his foot, she approached him, knelt on her knees, lifted his foot to her mouth and pulled the torn out with her teeth. The chief recovered and turned the heart of the people saying that a woman that would take the most precious part of her body, humble herself to that level to help him just be lead by Devine love and he wanted to follow a God that would cause that.  What struck me about this story is it wasn't a moment of what we would call "ministry" that lead to the miracle of a whole tribe turning to God, it wasn't glamorous or even emotion filled, it was probably something she didn't really want to do, she was just doing what she knew to be good at the time, trying to help with no guarantee of acceptance or improvement. And I'm reminded that "those that know to do good and do it not, to them it is sin."   (James 4:17)

The fact is we all know we've only regretted not doing the good we've felt to do.  Even at times we do the good we are impressed to do and get nothing of positive feedback, we know we've done what God wanted us to, or what He would have done if He were there in flesh and we gain from knowing alone... We feel good that we've done good... The worst I've said to myself is "at least I know I did the right thing..." So, I've never received nothing from the doing.

Since we are supposed to be His hands and feet, the salt, the light (Matthew 5:13-14,) I say let this passing work in us and change us, let it call us to be better, to be doers of the Word, not hearers only (James 1:22.) Let us remember this negative feeling the next time we find it inconvenient to pass along encouragement or a kind word (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Romans 12:10.)Let us remember this may be someone's last day next time we don't want to take the time, to go out of our way and let us do! Let us remember it could be our last day, none of us are promised a tomorrow, let us do the good we know to do, whatever it may be (James 4:14, Ecclesiastes 1:2, Psalm 144:4, Psalm 90:12, 1 Peter 1:24 Ephesians 5:15-17)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Things I learned from Big Eyes: Vision

As you all know, I had a scare with my vision this year... When I woke up one Saturday morning not being able to see out of my right eye. I've now been through a few appointments with Specialists and my family doctor... And it looks like it was just a virus that caused the vision impairment. AND, I can see clearly now. I did, however, get lots of time to think, and I did learn a lot that I think can be applied in speaking of life vision, vision for your future, Spiritual vision, and probably any other sort of vision you can think of.

My pupils after some testing at my last specialist appointment.

Vision effects a lot more than what you see...

1)  When you can't see properly, you can't move around with ease, you bump into things.  You can be as careful and slow moving as you want but chances are you're not going to see that corner or even if you do see it your when your depth perception is off you're going to still get hurt. I had a bruise on my knee for weeks all because I bent down too close to a door frame... I saw the door frame, knew it was there, even had the thought it would hurt me if I hit it; none of those thoughts did me one ounce of good because I didn't see that I was too close... Don't get too close to the edge of a bad decision; if you know the outcome is pain for you or others, if you know it's wrong for you, don't get close, don't get curious, stay smart, stay back from that line... Most times in life, we don't have good depth perception in those areas, somehow by us knowing the outcome can be disastrous we think we are smarter and we won't get that far into it, not too close to the edge, we just have to satisfy the curiosity and then we will course correct back to safety. How many times do we see others get hurt thinking the same thing? Learn to just listen to the first thought, when we have that thought of "this could hurt," stay away?  On the flip side, don't get so close to something good that you miss something great!

It's not that we can't course correct, we do it all the time... And I know it makes it tempting to just check it out, get close just close enough BUT trust me, our depth perception is not good enough to know what "close enough/not too close" is.  Let me tell you, once I hurt my knee there was a week of not walking right! I knew my depth perception was off at that point and I course corrected so I didn't get hurt the next time, I stayed back far enough the next time, but only after I got hurt and walked with a limp.

2) Limited vision limits your actions. No one told me I couldn't or shouldn't work or drive for a week while I couldn't see out of my right eye... I did ask the specialist and she said it wouldn't necessarily change the outcome of my healing process but that it may cause headaches and a few other irritations... First of all, when it comes to my vision's healing outcome, let's go on more than "won't necessarily hinder..." Second, you don't have to take my licence away for me to know that driving with no peripheral vision is NOT a good idea for me... No one is going to stop me but the vehicle I don't see speeding from my right side may stop more than my car. Thanks, but no thanks. It's like that in life, when we can't see properly we risk an accident. I know sometimes in life it's about trusting God an moving forward, but if you don't have vision through the Word of God, you're most likely supposed to stay put until you know what direction to take.

3)  Not being able to see properly is scary, especially when you don't know how permanent your vision loss will be... I started to think of all the things I see that I take for granted... There are so many things I would miss if I could never see them again. I LOVE the little things, seeing a bunny hopping along the ditch, seeing deer on the golf course, seeing people's faces and expressions, colors, sunsets... So many things... I couldn't read my Bible in the morning or before bed like usual and I started thinking of the days I skipped because I was tired or in a rush and I started wishing I could get those days back. Why would I decide not to do something good just because I didn't feel like it or I was in a rush, why would I put something so important off? And I learned something... If you can, then do! Whatever it is, if it is important to you, if it is a habit, it is a habit for a reason, keep doing it even if you don't feel like it. I know it seems small when you think, she could listen to an audio, but trust me, it doesn't feel the same when you're forced to listen to audio, when something you take for granted is taken from you, it's missed and replacement is not the go-to method for a reason, it's not the same... It's good but not great.

4) You don't have to experience total vision loss to be limited and bound.  I could see, not completely, not clearly, but I could see... There was lots I could still do, but it wasn't what I usually do, it wasn't complete and in a lot of cases it was less than what I wanted because I wasn't whole.  My vision issue only affected one eye, but my vision issue limited nearly everything I did. Sometimes I think we know there's something we should work on, something that would push us to a better place, but it's a small issue, it's not something we NEED to fix, just sort of a benefit, an add on... You know the phrase "it would be nice, it's not a deal breaker if I don't have it..." But when it comes to those things why settle for less? If you can change, grow, become better, why stay limited? If you know to so good and don't what is that?  Or even if you just procrastinate the change, why? What is the point in that (and trust me, I'm preaching to myself right now) what good does it do you to know "this will make me better" to only know and not do?

I'm sure there's more I could write, and maybe someday, but for now this seems enough... Let's work on these four things:

  • Know our depth perception is off, don't get too close to things we should, or to things that are good but not best the enemy of great isn't bad, it's good. That's because we tend to settle for good and miss the great.
  • If you can't see where you're going, stop! It's okay to wait, to take a break, in fact, it's probably exactly what you should be doing! Don't let the pressure of a made-up timeline lead you to choose a wrong path.
  • Enjoy life. Take some time to think of all the things you love that you may take for granted. All the things that make things easy for you now that you could lose... And if they are people tell them you value them, if it is the bunny in the ditch, thank God you can see it. Whatever it is, appreciate it.
  • Be aware of the small changes in your vision... If you are losing vision for your future, limit yourself, take a time out and get inspired again. Encourage yourself. Don't make life-decisions if you can't see properly. And if you have a friend who seems to be losing vision, HELP THEM through encouragement and companionship.

Monday, May 8, 2017

To friend or not to friend, that is the question...

Hi guys, I'm trying to get back into this whole writing thing... I do want to apologize for procrastinating, it's not even that I have nothing to say lately, nor am I too busy... I'm not sure what has stopped me from writing. I know it's not lack of people asking me to write, or telling me to get back at it and I do appreciate the support and interest, I'm sorry, I've been a bad blogger. I'm sure there is a lesson in it and when I figure one out, I'll share with you! ha! Or, if you know the lesson, why don't you share it with me!? Now I am a head full of topics and I'm trying to figure our which I should write first...

One of my recent lessons has been particularly difficult for me... There's been a lot of changes going on for me lately... Well, when I think about it, it's sort of a constant in my life actually.  Growing up we moved around, a lot, like a lot, a lot... I seemed to always be joining new schools and being the new girl when you're young is no fun, at least not for a shy kid.  I remember my dad trying to comfort me by telling me "you just need one good friend..." Somewhere along the way that got changed around in my mind like I need one friend who is my best friend, meaning they choose me over anyone else, they like me better, they always take my side... Well, we all know how that's going to go in the early years of school... Not going to happen if you're the new girl every year.

In adulthood, not much changed for me, I have still been looking for that one BFF who chooses me over anyone else, likes me better than the rest of our friends, and  always takes my side (even against themselves 😜) and that just seems so silly, even to me... But I just could never seem to shake it.  I've had a few of those close friendships in my time, there are a few I still have now... Although, separated by life's timeline, distance and schedules. I actually just made another of those friendships and once again have been separated by life circumstance and my new friend having to move away... I actually said to someone who asked how I felt about it, "I have no right to feel anything but supportive, but completely selfishly speaking, I've thought maybe it's just not meant for me to have a friend who I can just call and hang out with or travel with... It's just not meant for me to have one of those friends I see everyone else have around them." Now, before you go scolding me in your mind, I'm not looking for pity, this is going somewhere, hold on to your delicates... I also don't want to diminish the friendships I do have, they are wonderful and I appreciate them so much, I love each of my close friends and I will be there for you - as I know you would be for me - at any time you need someone... I am however aware that we are adults and well, life is dumb sometimes and creates physical and time distance and that can sometimes make some people (me) feel lonely, or left out... Sort of like those memes you see "all my friends getting married and making families and I'm just here like, pizza is good."

When my newest friend came into town there was a struggle, I wanted to befriend her because she was cute, looked nice and I was told people who know both of us thought we should be friends (that sounds really strange written out but it's not, she moved to a new Province knowing very few people.) Anyway, the struggle was sort of why put the effort in if everyone else is going to as well and then I just get left back like when I was a child... Then it became how much effort do I put in? You see, for me, because of the changes when I was young and because of it being difficult to be the new kid all the time, I've come out with some thoughts that yes, some consider weak and silly and even I know aren't always rational or mature but change is a process and I'm still going through... So sometimes, I feel like putting effort in is scary, I have a hard time gauging how much effort is too much or not enough, I've been a score-keeper, you don't invite me so I won't invite you... I've given too much trust too soon and not enough trust to people who deserved it... I've chosen some to bring close and been looked over as they chose other people... So, now I find myself looking at friendship as a lot of difficult decisions that end in hurt either by dumb life separation or by people just clicking with others better... And the song "jaded" comes to mind, oh Garth Brooks, I love you.

Another experience I had happen to me as I was going through the "to friend or not to friend" struggle (and the struggle is real) was on Easter weekend... I found myself on the opposite end of all the feelings I wrote about above... I hurt someone else... And they confronted me.  Somewhere in my explanation that I didn't mean to hurt them, I just didn't see them when they saw me, I realized as I was explaining to that person why they shouldn't feel hurt, I was explaining to myself why I shouldn't feel scared of giving my efforts into other people.  I was telling her that how other people respond doesn't reflect on her, and so, it does not. I was saying how she has to remain open to people regardless of the hurt in the past, and so, we do... I told her of an experience I had just days before where I was left out of a little road-trip and got my feelings hurt, but that my feelings were hurt, not because they did wrong but because of my past experiences that, much like a sunburn does to skin, have made me a little more susceptible to the sting... I perceive some things as rejection when they are just not and that I need to work on that, I need to remind myself that it's my perception amiss and is not the reality of what is happening on the other end, and so, we do.

Driving in my car a few times over the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot on my past and how it has changed my though process in negative ways... I've challenged the negative and tried to look at the other side of what really happened in the situations that hurt me... And I will continue to work on myself.  I have decided I know one thing, pouring myself into the lives of others is as much for me as it is for them! I love helping people! I like that I can be a really great friend to people, if I allow myself. I love that no matter how many times life knocks the wind out of my sails with regards to personal relationships, I do have the power to get out there again and I'm reminded of that every time I struggle to make a decision on effort giving, or level of giving. I'm only able to make a decision on how much to give, how close to get, the effort level I should expend because I am capable of giving more, of allowing people to get closer, of putting in more effort... And if I'm capable, regardless of my past sunburn, I should do it... AND, if you struggle with any of this, so should you.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Vision Matters - my weekend scare

I learned something again this weekend... something we all know, we've all been reminded of one thousand times... these things are precious, eyes, vision... I woke up Saturday morning only having pinhole vision in my right eye (the specialist described it as looking through a straw.)  it was definitely scary to wake up with minimal vision, the testing the lasted all day was equally as frightening. In the end, there are more appointments, more testing, no work and no driving this week but right now it's looking like a fluke, one evening last week I was ill and that was a virus that happened to travel to my optic nerve which is now inflamed and causing the vision problems. This is something that is supposed to heal on its own.

All of this got me thinking about vision in life... MikeEaster preached a message earlier this year at Capital Community Church, Fredericton, called "no vision, no victory" (and if you haven't heard it please go to the archives at media or to our YouTube page and listen! It's a life changing perspective.)  He cited the scripture "where there's no vision the people perish." And that scripture has been on my mind this weekend... I've just been thinking, I have vision, but it's cloudy, a little off because of one inflamed area... of course, I'm comparing my physical issue to life issues. I'm asking myself and I encourage you to ask with me "where is my vision for my future blurred? What in my life is affecting my vision? Is there an area inflamed that I need to get treated?" God gives vision, we must take care of it, protect it, keep it dear and treat any infected area.