Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life!

I love Christmas and what it represents to me. It is easy, even as an adult to feel anticipation, excitement, joy, hope and peace. For a little while the world seems brighter, better, and almost magical. Christmas always comes to an end though. Life goes on, and we go back to the daily grind of life and routines.

J.B. Phillips wrote, "Nothing can alter the fact that we live on a visited planet." He urges us as we daily tread through life on the surface of this planet, to reflect with confidence that, "My God has been here, here on this planet!" With that in mind, we can choose daily to live with joy, hope, peace and anticipation. Don't get me wrong, I have bad days. There are days I live with sickness, sadness, fear and loneliness. However, I have to choose daily to overcome this. There is truth to the fact that we choose how we want to live. What kind of legacy do you want to leave? I want my children to know that life is fun, wonderful and worth living, despite the challenges.

I have been reflecting on how short life is, and how quickly things in our lives can change. Sometimes what seems important at the time, can mean nothing in an instant. A few years ago when packing to move, it suddenly hit me how ridiculous it was that I had cabinets full of good dishes. I vowed that when I unpacked, all my fine china and crystal would never be hidden away again. Today, we daily use these things, crazy as it may seem. We choose to live differently.

What changes can you make in your house to live differently today? Maybe this Christmas season you can establish new Christmas traditions. I have found that it is our traditions that have held us together through difficult times. Even when everything else in our life was different, there were certain things that we made sure remained the same. This has been important for my children who have a hard time with change. Here are some of our family traditions:

- hot chocolate on the first snow day
- the Duluth Christmas parade
- watching Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV
- baking Christmas cookies at Grandma's
- drinking eggnog while decorating the tree
- attending church on Christmas Eve

Yesterday my friend and I drove to Duluth for our fourth annual Christmas shopping spree. I shared with her how much our yearly trip meant to me. "It's tradition," I said. It has been like a shiny star on a dark night. It led me through my first Christmas season as a newly divorced, single mom and years of exhausting school finals, as simple as it seems.

Don't underestimate the power of tradition, and the power of how you choose to live. Life is short. I do not believe that God created me to live an ordinary life. It's time to live an abundant, extraordinary, wonderful life!

"Wake up to the sunlight with your windows open, don't hold in your anger or leaves things unspoken, wear your red dress, use your good dishes, make a big mess and make lots of wishes. Have what you want, but want what you have, and don't spend your life looking back. Turn up the music, turn it up loud, take a few chances and let it all out. 'Cause you won't regret it, looking back from where you have been. 'Cause it's not who you knew, and it's not what you did. IT'S HOW YOU LIVE!" (Point of Grace - How You Live)

Matthew 1-2 ...Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have see His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Believe in Miracles Because She is One

As the heat from her forehead meets my hand, I feel fear rise up in me. The fear that can so easily wrap itself around a mother's heart like a tightly grasped fist. It brings me back to the first days after she was born.

She was born on May 10, the day before Mother's Day. I remember the moment she was born, as the Dr. exclaimed "Happy Birthday little girl!" She was so incredibly beautiful with her long, dark, wavy hair sticking out in all directions. No one could have prepared me for how I would feel. It was love at first sight. Two days later, as we were preparing to leave the hospital, the nurse approached me and told me that they discovered she had an irregular heart beat. Fear as I had never known before gripped my heart. I had to stop nursing her, because she would become too relaxed and her heart would slow to almost a stand still, and the alarms would sound. She was attached to various heart monitors. The next couple of days were spent learning infant CPR and learning how to manage the heart monitor. I remember thinking some strange and erratic thoughts such as, "I wish I could just put her back into my body. She was safer there." We left the hospital with an appointment scheduled to take her to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Once in awhile, I am asked why I believe in God. My reply is, "How can I not?" I didn't plan on this life. I sort of stumbled upon it. The funny thing about it, is that I never saw Him move in my life until I decided to follow Him. He is after all a gentleman. I didn't know I signed up for a supernatural life. It didn't take long for me to see Him start moving and aligning things in my life. Now I look back and see His big fingerprints all over my messy life. He works in wonderous and marvelous ways with what sometimes seems like no rhyme or reason.

So as I left the hospital that day, knowing my God was a great big God, I decided to take my baby girl to church. It was prayer night, and there were only a few people there. I walked to the front of the church and lay her on the altar. I gave her to God, and we prayed that He would heal her.

Two days later, we made the trip to Duke University. We had an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist. Upon arrival, I reached into the back seat to remove her infant seat from the car. As I looked into her tiny face, I was overwhelmed with love for this child I had just recently met. Fear overtook me and I started to weep. The Dr. spent the afternoon taking tests and studying her records. He finally came to us with his diagnosis. "Well, either she never had anything wrong with her, which I know is not true from her records, or God healed her." I looked at him and said, "Yes, you are right, God healed her."

That was almost 13 years ago. It's didn't stop there. Dr.'s spent the next year or so trying to figure out what had happened to her. When she was over a year old I was tested for Lupus because her pediatrician said that they find slow heart beats in babies born to mothers with Lupus. I tested negative for Lupus.

I have seen and experienced my share of miracles. Sometimes like this one, I have asked for them. Sometimes I have not asked for them, yet received them. Then there are the miracles that I have begged and pleaded God for, and have not received. That is when I have to choose to trust, because I believe all things are in His timing, and He holds the master plan.

1 Thess. 5:18: In all things give thanks....

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I need to be thankful in good times, and bad. This Thanksgiving may we remember that though we may lack, we have much to be thankful for and we can be confident that He knows what we need and that He has a plan for our lives.

Psalm 76:10-11: And I said, This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tenacity of Weasels

There was a time in my life that I thought I knew what my future held. I could see it, and I could almost touch it. And then it vanished. Life became new, uncertain, unfamiliar and without clear purpose.

During this time, I sat one early morning in a cafe, sipping my usual latte, surrounded by the buzz of customers and overwhelmed with all the studying I had to do. Exhausted from many late nights, I opened to my latest assignment and groaned as I read the title, Living Like Weasels, by Annie Dillard. "Weasels? Ridiculous," I thought. And then I began to read one of the most profound things I have ever read. It had to do with the tenacity of weasels. Tears streamed down my face as I read the words.

Weasels are obedient to instinct. They bite their prey at the neck. They either split the jugular vein at the throat or crunch the brain at the base of the skull, and they do not let go. Annie shared a story about a man who shot an eagle out of the sky. The dry skull of a weasel was fixed by the jaws to the eagle's throat. The belief is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and he nearly won. Her reflection was this: We can live any way we want. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender spot and plug into that pulse. Yielding, not fighting. Grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part.

It was in this place that I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be. Sometimes in the midst of what we see as nothing, we find everything. It was time to grasp onto my one necessity, my faith, and not let it go. I needed to stalk my calling, or purpose. The eagle to me represented my faith, and purpose. I decided I would not sit and hide under His wings, but I would soar with Him high wherever He might lead me. He is all that I need. I will refuse to let go, surrendering to wherever He takes me, hanging on with the tenacity of a weasel.

Beautiful Messy Garden

Spring is here and I am looking forward to getting my hands deep down in the dirt. Gardening, like blueberry picking is therapy for me. Colorful cosmos, perky pansies, and poppys are my favorite! I love to take that clean slate of dirt and create something beautiful out of it. Watching it's progress over time brings me satisfaction.

This past year I read The Shack, a novel written by WM. Paul Young. The Shack is a story about a man named Mack who is mysteriously invited to a shack, a place of painful memories for him. At the shack he comes to terms with the horrible death of his daughter, as he has an incredible experiece with God. Can you imagine having coffee with God out on the porch, or lying on the dock with Him, while looking up at the stars that He created? This amazing book had me both laughing and crying. My favorite part of the book is when Sarayu (The Holy Spirit) asks Mack to help her in the garden.

As Mack approaches the garden he is stunned. He expects a perfectly manicured garden. What he discovers instead is a crazy, chaotic beautiful mess. Vegetables, herbs and fruit trees are randomly planted among a dazzling display of flowers. It is an amazing array of wild colors and patterns. Mack assists Sarayu with preparing ground by digging up roots. When he is finished, he steps back to survey the messy, but beautiful garden. He realizes there is still more work to be done. At this time, Sarayu reveals the secret of the garden to Mack:

"Mack, this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive."

I love this story because it reminds me that despite the mistakes we make, we are a work in process. I am a mess and God sees it as a lovely mess! Everyone has made mistakes. Being a "good" Christian, if there is such a thing, does not mean trying to follow all the rules, especially rules imposed by others. If one is truly seeking God he/she will have a desire to become the person God has created them to be. You can't expect a caterpillar to fly. It has to be transformed over time. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:1) If you have made mistakes, let them go now! God is the author of forgiveness. They don't have to define you. There was a time in my life that I tried to act like a Christian and I did what I thought was expected of me. Let me tell you something, God does not want counterfeit, cookie cutter Christians. You are an original work of art. Pleasing others or trying to be like others will consume you. You will lose your passion for God. Walking in the land of religion will leave you feeling empty and feeling like you should do more. Aim to please Him. And better yet, don't judge others. Their walk is not going to look like your walk. It is frustrating when I hear people complain that they don't want to go to church because they feel like they aren't like the others there. You don't have to be, and maybe you are not supposed to be! Your beautiful messy garden of life is unique, created by the Master Gardener.

The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought,

And strengthen your bones;

You shall be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

Is 58:11

Sunday, November 1, 2009

God Made You On Purpose For a Purpose

In 2002, The Purpose Driven Life, written by Rick Warren, became one of the best selling non-fiction books of all time, and stayed on the New York Times Best Seller List for one of the longest periods of time in history. The publisher, Zondervan, expected sales of about a quarter million copies. There are now 30 million copies in print.

What does this say about our society? People are wondering, "What on earth am I here for?" they are searching, and they are seeking. "What is the meaning of life?" is perhaps the most asked question of all time.

It is a simple question, with a simple answer. You were made by God and for God - and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is about becoming what God created you to be (Warren, 2002). St. Augustine wrote, "You formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You."

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Listen! Listen! God has a purpose and a plan for your life!

So what is your purpose? What we do for us, does not last. However, what we do for God will remain forever. When we live according to His plan, things tend to fall into place. Without clear purpose, life will seem empty. We will live desperate lives drifting from job to job, or relationship to relationship, seeking to fill the emptiness and void in our life. Everyone's purpose is unique. Perhaps it is to sing, to teach, to discover, or to heal. More often than not, it is to impact one another. Maybe it's what comes naturally to you, or what you love to do. God loves to give us the desires of our heart when we look to Him. Don't look within for your purpose, look to Him. We are each born with different talents and passions so that everything in the world will get done! Each one of us needs to live a passionate life and leave an impression on the world. What kind of a legacy do you want to leave?

It took me 33 years to realize that God had a purpose for my life. I am not here by accident. He is in control. He knows all the details of my life.

I remember attending church one Sunday where the speaker held up a puzzle that had been assembled and glued together. The puzzle had some missing pieces. She shared with us how the previous week she had handed out a piece of the puzzle to each person. Everyone wrote their name on the back of their piece of the puzzle. The pieces were then collected and the puzzle was assembled and glued together. She went on to share how we each have a purpose, and how we are each gifted in different ways. Together we can accomplish many things. When some are not willing, it leaves a void and things do not get done. The missing pieces represented those that were not willing. The puzzle was not complete. As I left service that day, I almost felt left out. I had been gone the previous week. I was not a part of the "puzzle." As I started to get into my car I happened to look down, and there at my feet was a piece of the puzzle. One of the missing pieces! I heard God say that day, "You are an important piece of the puzzle. I see you. I need you."

Psalm 139:13

"For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Zoe Life

So what does Zoe mean? Zoe is of Greek origin and means life. Zoe is living life abundantly.

So often we (especially women) go through life not truly living. We get caught up in our daily routines and before we know it, we are unwomen living the unlife. It's not that we choose this. It just sort of creeps up on us. Even if we recognize it, we play the "pretend your happy" game to others. This is the place I found myself in six years ago. Stuck in what I call "circumstantial depression," I woke up one day and began to fight my way out. Life did not get easier mind you, it got harder. And one day, I woke up and realized life as I knew it was over. Everything I knew as normal had vanished. I came to an understanding that circumstances have nothing to do with happiness. I had to choose it. I started out by looking for one positive thing each day, teaching my children to do the same.

My journey through life has been filled with pain. Yet when I look back, in between the shadows, I see glimpses of light shining through the darkness. My life has been filled with wonderful friends and some awesome experiences. It's because of these things I would not change a thing. In the midst of the hard times, God has given me many of the desires of my heart. Through this blog I hope to share my thoughts with you and some of the things I have learned and experienced. I am an avid reader, so at times I will be referring to some of the books I have read and will read along the way.

John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.