a meandering path

A short time ago, I wrote a post about how God can be trusted.

Somehow three hours later, I returned to my default.

I slid off the edge of trust and into an abyss of mistrustful thinking.

Once again I couldn’t grab any sense of control with my fingers and my thoughts wandered everywhere but towards truth.

It was painful, crippling and humbling.

Not only do I need to practice what I preach but read what I write and believe it.

I am grateful this spiral didn’t last long but was a reminder of how quickly I can return to faulty and familiar ways.

*****

Three times in this past week, my eyes came upon words which helped me to recover, reminded me of where my trust should reside and provided comfort despite my propensity to tumble.

The Word

“I have not spoken in secret,
In a corner of a land of darkness;
I did not say to the descendants of Jacob,
‘Seek Me in vain [with no benefit for yourselves].’
I, the Lord, speak righteousness [the truth—trustworthy,
a straightforward correlation between deeds and words],

Declaring things that are upright.

+++Isaiah 45: 19 (AMP)

This verse was a good reminder of how God speaks words of truth directly.
He is not playing hide and seek with His people.
If I am actively listening for His voice, I will and for my benefit.

A STUDY

My God does not speak in whispers and accusatory hisses.
My God only speaks in promises. He only speaks over me.
He is a promise-maker and a promise-keeper.

His language is promises.
To hear God speaking, we must become familiar with his promises.

+++Hannah Brencher (from First Be A Follower)

When I am overcome by fear or struggle, if I reflect, the words circling my mind are not affirming, life-giving or encouraging. God’s words are full of promises not defeat.

A STORY

I’m a reader but  when I suffer a book slump, I have found reading middle grade fiction, especially fantasy, snaps me out of my book fog. I picked up Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow from the library last week.

All you need to know about the plot is the main character, Morrigan, believes she is a cursed child but she has been rescued from the family and city which gave her this identity. She must conquer a number of trials to be granted admission to the Wondrous Society.  At this point in the book, she fearful her patron will not be present for her last trial. She has the following exchange with Fenestra, an enormous feline or a Magnificat (stick with me).

~~~~

He’d promised her. He’d promised.

Just like he promised to take you to the Nevermoor Bazaar, said a little voice in the back of her head. And look how that turned out.

But this was different, Morrigan told herself. This was her trial. The big one—the one he’d sworn he’d take care of, the one he’d said she didn’t even have to think about. She’d done her very best not to think about it, but now what? She couldn’t do it on her own. She didn’t even know what her talent was supposed to be.

“Fenestra, please!” she yelled, and the cat turned to glare at her. “What’s he doing, where did he go?”

“He said he had something important to do. That’s all I know.”

Morrigan’s heart sank. More important than being there for the most important day of her life? More important than keeping his promise?

She felt wrong-footed. Seized by the sudden terror of her predicament, she entirely forgot why she had been looking for him in the first place.

She was on her own. She would have to do her Show Trial without him. She was on her own

Morrigan slumped down into one of the leather armchairs by the fire. Her whole body felt as if it were made of lead.

Fenestra stood up suddenly and appeared above Morrigan’s armchair, bringing her enormous furry face down to the girl’s eye level. “Did he say he’d be here for your trial?”

Tears pricked Morrigan’s eyes. “Yes, but—“

“Did he tell you he’d take care of it?”

“Yes, but—“

“Did he promise you everything would be all right?”

A few hot tears spilled down Morrigan’s face. “Yes, but—“

“That settles it, then.” With a placid blink of her huge amber eyes, Fen nodded once. “He’ll be here for your trial. He’ll take care of it. Everything will be all right.”

Morrigan sniffled and wiped her nose with her shirtsleeve. She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head.

“How do you know that?”

“He’s my friend. I know my friend.”

+++from Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

When faced with struggles, ask the following questions:

Am I all alone?

What do I know to be true?

What true words can replace my words of fear,insecurity or lies?

Who am I? Who does God say I am? Does each answer agree or contradict?

Can I trust my Friend today?

May we each continue on the path of complete and continuous trust in our Maker, but may we also accept grace when we meander.

Amen.

 

before a work of heart: pt.2

Our lives are like a glorious page turner, in which we are not able to determine the twists and turns.  Had we known which way the details of our lives would align themselves, our lives would be predictable and not the journey that they are designed to be.

There are many times that I feel as if my bookmark has fallen to the ground.  I scramble to pick it up as if by simply holding it in my hand, it will magically replace itself.  I rifle through the pages trying desperately to find my location. 

Where am I?

If I backtrack needlessly, it is fruitless…territory already covered.  Lessons learned and vision restored.  If I jump ahead of my place, I will only be skipping important details that are essential to any good story.  Oh, it is so tempting to sneak a peek, just one juicy tidbit to keep my interest engaged, but that morsel will be all the tastier when it is revealed at the proper time.

(excerpt from A Work of Heart blog post-September 2006)

(I fought the urge to rewrite the above.)

If I am honest, had my life been a book, I wanted to be the author.

I wanted to name all the characters, describe the plot, subplots and

construct the ending.

Although predictable endings are often chided, I considered that possibility

fabulous in my book.

Not having a plan or direction in my life unnerved me.

I placed my qualms in a brightly colored box filled with perfection and performance

enveloped with a sparkly smiling bow.

As college approached and tensions heightened,

the public library offered me tranquility and a comfortable setting

to determine the course of my life.

On Saturdays, I would stride toward the reference section

containing  mammoth volumes about careers

and hoist one upon a table.

From A to Z, I would investigate career options, requirements,

salary ranges and who was best suited for each profession.

From the pages of a heavy tome in a library, I chose physical therapy

as my career choice.

I had laser sharp focus in college.

There were subjects I was drawn towards but

if they weren’t on the map,

I ignored the gravitational pull and I drop kicked those classes.

With the exception of a semester of college physics which proved to be

my undoing, I worked hard enough to earn grades necessary to

apply to physical therapy school.

Carl and I had been engaged for a few months and we had a huge decision

to make regarding physical therapy school at

Northwestern University in Chicago or

The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Graduate school began three weeks after Carl and I had said our vows.

We stuffed our Honda, waved goodbye to family, friends

and wedding gifts and headed to Rochester, Minnesota

and called it a honeymoon.

We were young, in love and anything familiar to us was thousands of miles

away, visible only if we squinted in our rear view mirror.

The P.T. program at Mayo was affectionately or not so affectionately

called mini-Medical school.

It was intense and not the ideal orientation for newlyweds.

Physical therapy school proved to be

the catalyst of stripping away chunks of my identity.

I found myself uncomfortable answering questions on the spot.

I cringed when I demonstrated techniques before my classmates.

In college, I set up camp in a library and studied without time constraints but as

a young married, I had to learn how to balance school and a husband.

After 8 hours of class most students were in the library or anatomy lab for

the rest of the night.

I wanted to study but I also longed to be with Carl.

I wanted to decorate our apartment and cook meals yet

Carl worked late hours, I would return to an empty apartment and find

a pan of Hamburger Helper and a note from Carl.

I was accustomed to working hard enough to ensure good grades,

now I inhabited the lower third of my class.

Every clinical day I put on my white laboratory coat over my “Mayo Way” dress

code and raced to keep up.

I used to have hours to spend with God, now I could only nod my head knowing

He was with me but we felt like strangers.

I felt every bit like the pizza Carl would bring home at 2 am.

We would sit on the floor and catch up.

Slivers of slumber gave way to awakening with the pizza

hangovers we thought were exclusive to college.

There was a silent conversation between our eyes expressing

disbelief of how our newlywed bliss was spent in tiny scattered segments.

My carefully constructed life was a jumbled up mess of partially devoured

wedges without hope of fitting back into a whole concentric circle.

The steadfast words filling those two years were found in textbooks, clinical

evaluations, board exams

and love notes from my husband encouraging me to not give up.

All words written by the hands of others and not my own.

Could my bookmark be retrieved once it floated to the ground?

**********

To be continued…

This post is from a series called  A Work of Heart History.
You can read the first post here.

 

the reality of my corner office

 

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I imagine most homes have one or two prized places to sit.

The overwhelming majority of my family likes to plop into their seats and

linger for a while in one place.

It’s not the most comfortable chair but it possesses the best lighting and I dare say the

best place for inspiration.

The head chair at our dining room table is this highly favored spot.

I have dented the cushion with countless hours making lists,

pouring over books or verses and  pounding out words

upon my laptop.

Others like to read the newspaper while eating their morning Wheaties.

Some just sit with ear buds in place and read.

Any given activity is abruptly stopped to witness the increased

traffic pattern of birds finding our bird feeders.

There is an unspoken language in our family and we all make way for whoever

happens to take a seat first.

I appreciate this grace extended to all.

Most days I can wait my turn as I have the most access to this chair.

Over the last couple of years, there have been extended times where the

chair has been occupied…continually.

I decided to turn a section of our “everything” room into a creative space for me.

It already had bookshelves where I kept most of my books and there was a table,

several cupboards and EVERYTHING else.

It was a room where items without a home found a rest stop.

When we first moved in 20 years ago, it was an empty room which we christened

the Costco room. We couldn’t imagine it ever being filled from floor to ceiling.

I got serious last summer and it has taken nearly a year to recover this space.

The process was lengthy as each time I cleared a space,

some lovely wonderful precious person would fill it.

Did I mention they were lovely and wonderful and precious?

Okay!

Good!

I had to reinforce new boundaries for this room.

We all had to reorient our thinking.

When company would come, it had been a pattern to dump wayward objects

on my work table or on the floor.

Returning later, I would find a mountain of stuff and it would extinguish any

creative flame.

We all have places in our lives not only our homes

which are crammed from floor to ceiling.

We shout halt to a few areas in our lives to welcome space and

are puzzled how easily and quickly a no vacancy sign returns.

This small space is a work in progress because this room is not a static space.

It is going to take constant monitoring and avoiding slipping back into bad habits.

Even though it is functional, I have to rewire my thinking

and remember to come downstairs.

20140411_161537

For many evenings, I would walk down the stairs, turn the switches

of the lamps and let my eyes dance around the room.

I would smile, I would dream a little and head back upstairs.

Months of painstaking work and I felt powerless to enter into this set apart space.

Perhaps I was scared to consider what might be created in this place.

But today, I could be upstairs, watching the birds and witnessing the breeze create a

spring snowfall as white azalea petals are tossed airborne.

Instead, I am sitting in a different chair with a different view.

I wonder:

Are there any spaces in your life?

Is your day filled from pillow to pillow?

Do you have a space but are afraid to “sit in the chair”
because of what it might demand?

Sometimes only a corner is needed to resuscitate 

your passions.

Where in your life are you longing for space?

Name it and believe the people in your life will

support you.

Let them amaze you in their solidarity

to not abandon the stuff which does

not belong in your space.

Take a deep breath and claim your space.

**********

A few months ago, I changed the tagline for A Work of Heart.

Bonus points, if you can remember the old one!

The current tagline still needs a bit of tweaking and condensing but for

now it is a piece of A Work of Heart.

I have become aware how many people who pop in and read this blog either

are not in my offline life or haven’t read from the beginning.

Some are in my day-to-day life and only due to the wonders of Facebook,

have just discovered I write.

I started A Work of Heart almost 8 years ago

and next week, I would like to share a bit of

my story.

I think it will be fun and even if you do know me,

you might discover a tidbit I have neglected to mention.

Join me for  a short A Work of Heart history session.

Have a most blessed weekend!

doggone fear

IMG_20131225_194335

 

Three things you need to know:

  1. We have a dog who sheds constantly.
  2. We vacuum endlessly.
  3. Our dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner.

Most days I will wait to vacuum until our dog Hazel is outdoors.

Otherwise, as soon as she hears the door to the hall closet open, she

assumes her position under the dining room table.

There are other places she could go.

Although stairs are a bit of a challenge for her these days,

she does have the option to move farther away from the object of her

fear but she does not.

We have attempted to lead her by the collar to safer rooms but

she will not budge.

The other day, a friend stopped by and I didn’t hear the door bell or

the knocking because I was (can you guess?) vacuuming.

Hazel barked from her huddled up position under the table and this

was the only reason I happened to look through the arched

glass of our front door.

Once I opened the door and welcomed our visitor inside,

I apologized for not hearing him sooner.

I pointed to Hazel, our indoor doorbell

and then laughed as I realized she was

not going to leave her spot to greet him.

I explained Hazel’s fear of the vacuum and was

positive despite her tail was wagging, she wouldn’t come

to inspect him as the vacuum was still in plain sight.

We laughed and to my surprise, Hazel slowly cowered

her way the length of the table, keeping her eyes on that

tall black thing which makes all that noise.

Suddenly, the tablecloth made a tent over her head

and she took her eyes off the vacuum and looked up at

our friend.

She trotted over and gave her customary licks, sniffs

and best wagging performance.

It is hard to take our eyes off of fear isn’t it?

It is always lurking behind a closed-door waiting

to pounce upon its intended victims.

Often we rehearse our fears or at least we have

a great deal of practice bowing down to them.

Hazel hasn’t known another way to conquer her

fears other than to hide under the nearest solid

structure.

My fears have become so familiar, I have been lulled into

believing I will always exhibit

the same response whenever

released from the confines of the dark closeted

places of my mind.

In my estimation the fears expand

exponentially  with each encounter.

How does one conquer fear?

One way is making the decision that

being free is better than being a captive.

This sounds quite simplistic, I know.

Hazel decided to risk being in the presence of

fear for the sake of doing what she loves to

do, namely greeting.

It has taken Hazel nearly 13 years to stare

down her fear.

Several years ago, I was asked to speak about being

a mom.

Public speaking has never been my sweet spot.

A quick answer was required and I fretted.

I was walking to our van at the time and I “heard”

God ask me,

“What are you so afraid of?”

I answered,

“I just hate getting so nervous.”

God asked me.

“Can you risk feeling nervous for 5 minutes for me?”

When it was put this way,

I was undone.

I realized that in most cases, not all for sure,

fear can last for such a short time,

when we face it and then remove our eyes

from fear’s grip, we can walk in freedom.

I did speak and I did get nervous.

Surprisingly I also had fun.

Fear and faith stride along one another.

We don’t have to let fear drag us by

the collar or make us assume a crouched position

under the closest table.

We can shift our gaze and

allow God to make a tent over

our heads.

He longs to greet us in the midst

of our fears.

I know you have heard or read this before but in

case you haven’t or you need to be reminded,

“Do not fear or be afraid” is quoted in the Bible

366 times.

Fear is a real thing and God is fully aware.

There is enough of God to get you through

fear, even during leap years 🙂

Take the risk to trust him in the midst of fear.