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I am a Patient Soul! No seriously!

Speaking of vision boards.

My theme for 2014 has been patience. I pasted, “I am a patient soul” in the center of my board. I was trying to do that thing where you speak life, purpose, vision… Yeah.

If you’re a Christian or have ever been around a Christian, you’ve probably heard us warn the less initiated about prayers for patience. Typically God answers that request with “opportunities for growth.” Apparently one learns patience by facing challenges. By being confronted with real-life scenarios that fly in the face of any naive imaginings about holiness and personal enlightenment. (I’m not bitter!)

I have a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. And, my God, it’s hard. For seven years I rejected the diagnosis. I tried to speak life, purpose, vision into my child and into our home. I prayed and fasted. I cast out demons. Seriously.

Paul wrote a letter to the people in Corinth about a troubling issue, a “thorn in his side.” He wrote about how he earnestly asked God to remove it, until finally God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” In the very next sentence Paul wrote, “most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” But I wonder how much time passed between God’s “no” and Paul’s boasting. Was it a couple seconds, or days… or months? Because when I realized God was pretty much saying the same thing to me, I spent a couple years being angry with Him.

Fast forward to this year, and the whole “patient soul” thing. The anger has passed, but in the meantime, I have never been so… challenged. At least once a week I wish I hadn’t put it on my board–even though I know I had to. I mean, it wasn’t my idea to put it there. It had to be on my board.

This isn’t one of those posts where I’ve got it all figured out. It’s true, I’m no longer angry at God, but I ain’t boasting yet! I know God has invited me to call myself patient because He has something in mind. With each difficult encounter I have to choose to trust that God’s grace is enough, that my weakness is the perfect vessel for his strength. It’s hard! I sometimes struggle to believe any good can come of this.

But I’ve seen God do more with less.

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I’mpossible

I make a vision board every year, and I’ve done so for about five years.

I’ve written about my vision boards before. I’m part of a small circle of women who gather some time in November or December to create vision boards for the coming year. We enter the process prayerfully, asking God ahead of time what the year’s word or theme should be. Then we come together, blank canvases in hand. We also bring the current year’s board, and we each share how God worked through the items on the poster. Next we invite the Holy Spirit to lead us in the words and images we’ll pull from leftover magazines, and we begin. We give ourselves several hours to complete the task.

I mean … it’s kinda funny. We each sit on the floor with a 99¢ poster board before us. We’re surrounded by the hurricane-like chaos of ripped magazines, discarded bits of paper and cheap shiny embellishments, using–then discarding–scissors, vying for glue sticks, pasting cut-out words and images to the poster while the pink tips of our tongues poke from the corners of our mouths. It’s like elementary school or something! Yet God uses all of it. Our prayers, our first-grade tools, our silly seriousness. It’s so like him to meet us in this child-like moment, when what we’re doing feels huge and important to us, but probably not so much to a Father with greater responsibilities on his radar. Yet he looks at his daughters’ hand-made work with loving eyes, discerning his own face and our very hearts in each sticky cut-out, and judging them valuable, important. It’s very kind, very loving of him. But I digress.

Earlier this week I was lying in bed looking at my 2014 board (it’s on the wall beside my bed so I’ll see it when I wake) thinking about the post I needed to finish, and my eyes landed on the bottom left corner. It’s a picture of a woman striking a punching bag. Across the bottom I’d pasted the word “I’mpossible.”

photo 2 photo

And that’s what I love about making a vision board: The vision part.

When I was sitting on my friend’s living room floor making this board, I didn’t really think about why I was attracted to that picture. I just cut it out–and then that picture made it to the board when other images I’d chosen were eventually thrown in the discard pile.

And I didn’t put any deep thought into why I cut out “I’mpossible.” I remember thinking it was catchy. But why did I paste that word/phrase on top of that image?

As always, at different times through the year my eyes would be drawn to different areas on the board. Almost every day I’d stare at the board, my eyes skipping and skimming over the words and images. Occasionally they’d land on some segment, and I’d suddenly find context in those unpremeditated scraps.

That woman punching that bag with that word beneath her has been there all year. My eyes always skipped past her, until earlier this week, when suddenly that corner of the board had context. For so long I didn’t think it was possible to be comfortable in my own skin: To be wholly myself and still wholly acceptable. To be strong and be a woman. To be powerful and determined woman and be a Christ-follower who is feminine and pleasing to God. But it is, and I am. I’m possible.

What ands are you struggling to reconcile?

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The Open Gate (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

As the dream became more and more hungry, the girl became more and more desperate. Why would the servants not open the gate? Why were they ignoring her cries? Had she done something wrong? Was there something wrong with her?

Soon her desperation turned to anger. She kept beating at the gate, but the servants would not respond. Enraged, the girl decided to leave the hospital. She wanted the servants to regret their cruelty and wish in vain that they had opened the gate for her.

But despite her anger, the girl knew that her thoughts weren’t pleasing to the King. She believed the King had brought her to the hospital, that in His kindness he had provided a place for her to serve. She had served loyally out of love for the King and his servants. She didn’t want to throw away his generous gift because she was blinded by anger and pain.

So before she carried out her revenge, she went away to a secret place and sought Him. She waited quietly there for Him. And one day He came to her.

“Lord,” she cried,”You know what pain I am feeling! This hunger gnaws away at me, but your servants have refused to feed me! Why won’t they give me the small meal I’ve enjoyed all these years?”

The King sat beside her and touched her cheek. “My girl,” He said gently. “You have been blind! Look.”

Then the girl saw herself as the King saw her. She was facing the closed gate, beating at it with all her strength yet powerless to open it.

“Why do you think the food I have for you can only be found through that closed gate?” He asked.

And then the girl saw that behind her was another gate. One that stood wide open. One she’d never noticed, because all her attention had been focused on the closed gate.

“But Lord,” the girl asked with astonishment. “Are you saying it is okay to serve somewhere other than this garden, at this hospital? I was certain you would say that my desire was a wrong one!”

“Your heart was misled by revenge, this is true,” He said. “And I did lead you to this place. You have served here and you have grown here, and you have also found the food I left here for you. These are good things. But it was never my intention that you should serve me here–and here only–forever. Do you not know that all seasons must end so that new seasons can begin? Do you not know that you can serve me anywhere? Do you not know that I am able to provide abundant nourishment for you, wherever I lead you?”

Suddenly the girl saw how silly and afraid she had been. She realized the other gate had been open to her for a long time–she’d known this somewhere inside herself. But she’d been too afraid to turn around, too terrified to give the King the dream she’d hidden. She’d told herself she needed what was behind the closed gate, when in truth her King had awakened a hunger that could no longer be satisfied there. Through the open gate was the path to the land of her childhood, filled with flowers that bloomed colorful and bright, in beautiful defiance of the weeds and thorns. There in that beautiful land (called Faith) was a place for her to plant the seed of her dream, where it would surely die beneath the ground. Yet this was a chance for the girl to trust the King. He would be able to grow the dead seed into the new, living thing He’d always meant it to be. She knew He could: she’d seen Him do it countless times before.

The King wrapped His arms around the girl. “Will you trust me and walk through the open gate?” She nodded. And then the girl stood up with Him, encircled in His kind embrace, and walked through the open gate.

The End Middle.

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The Open Gate (Part 1)

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a beautiful land where nothing was impossible. The King of that beautiful place had given her a seed for big, lovely dream, and with all the trust in her heart she awaited its blossoming. Because she was a child, the heavy seed and the big dream it contained didn’t terrify her. She didn’t ask silly questions like, “How will my dream ever blossom and grow?”

Then hard things happened, and to the little girl’s eyes, these hard things overtook the beautiful land. Her childhood home seemed overgrown with weeds and thorns. So to protect herself from the pain of a dead dream, she placed the dream in a tiny box and hid it deep inside her heart. No longer little, she hacked away at the weeds and thorns with tools fashioned from duty, responsibility and fear. But the buried dream somehow added depth and intricacy to her tools, so that sometimes she could use them to produce tiny, pretty flowers. She decided to use her tools to survive, forsaking the big dream. But the tiny, pretty flowers were incomparable to the dream she’d put away.

The King was very kind. He often tried to show her that the beautiful land was still near if she would simply look beyond the weeds. He sustained the hidden dream with tiny rays of sunshine and little drops of rain. But the silly girl thought she had found a way to sustain the dream.

In her journey she’d come upon servants who were building a hospital on behalf of the King. She offered to help them build the hospital by sharing her tools with them. One day while she was serving at the hospital, the girl walked down a path and passed through an open gate. There she found a lovely garden. She thought, “My tiny flowers would thrive in this little garden!” The servants agreed, and from then on she would often pass through the gate and into the garden.

Each time she passed through the gate, she’d find a small, tasty meal that the King’s servants had left for her. The meal was just enough to sustain her hidden dream, and this made her happy. So she would regularly walk through the gate and eat the meal. She trusted that these servants would always feed her this way. She didn’t realize the meal was the result of the King’s tiny rays of sunshine and little drops of rain.

But then one day the gate, through which she’d always so freely walked, was shut and locked.

The girl despaired, but she decided to wait for the gate to be opened again.

Meanwhile, the dream began to starve. But rather than wither and die, it burst out of the tiny box and hungrily sought the King’s wonderful nourishment. At first she tried to ignore the hunger, but soon she realized this was useless. Desperate, the girl ran to the closed gate, begging, pleading, banging and crying for the King’s servants to open it again. But the servants ignored her. As the dream became more and more hungry, the girl became more and more desperate. Why would the servants not open the gate? Why were they ignoring her cries? Had she done something wrong? Was there something wrong with her?

Soon her desperation turned to anger.

To be continued.

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I Get Out!

I think when you dream about driving/riding/operating a vehicle, that vehicle represents your life.

That said, for several years when I’ve dreamt of driving, I couldn’t see. Sometimes the windshield was blocked; other times it was foggy outside. But most of the time, I was falling asleep at the wheel and couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was terrified I would crash. Yet I was so tired that I couldn’t apply the brakes.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve been navigating my life feeling out-of-control, powerless, blind and terrified.

That’s why the dream I had this morning feels significant:

I was sitting in a minivan in a parking lot. Some people were trying to get at me. I wasn’t scared of them, but they made me nervous. I hit the lock button to keep them out, but they kept trying the doors. Finally I started up the minivan and drove away. The weird people followed on foot.

Suddenly I was driving a huge bus–like a Greyhound. I was in a big closed-in building, and there was no door big enough for the bus. So I put my foot on the gas, maneuvered this huge steering wheel, and busted through the door. Brick and mortar flew everywhere. And I laughed out loud because I was free!

Yeah. I get out of your boxes.

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The Icing on the Cake

Special Note: Much as I dislike Christian-ese, I’m going to use a word straight out of the Church and Religious People’s Vocabulary Handbook: “Anointing.” Just so no one gets lost, I’ll define it: To be anointed means to have been chosen by God to do a specific thing especially for him.

I was thinking today about the difference between talent and anointing. I was thinking about this because I would consider myself a talented singer. But I have this wonderful, beautiful, amazingly talented friend who is very obviously anointed to lead worship through music. So I wondered today (and not for the first time) if I’m an anointed singer. After I mentally compared myself to my friend, I decided that I’m not.

But today for some reason, it didn’t end there. I felt like God stopped me and asked, “Who said you can’t be anointed?” He impressed on me that he wouldn’t give someone talent in an area if he wasn’t also prepared to anoint in that area. It was simply a matter of wanting it, and that would come by wanting him.

So, what kind of music do I listen to? What are my thoughts toward God? What am I doing to demonstrate to him that I want the honor and responsibility of being anointed? I felt like God said to me, “If you want it, come get it.” And then he reminded me that he’d said the same thing to me years ago. Instead of working toward it then, I spent years gradually letting fear lead to apathy. “I’m not confident enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not compentent enough. God doesn’t even like me. Who wants it anyway? Who cares.” I eventually buried what he said beneath fear and presumed rejection.

Over the years I’ve often compared myself to my friend, and I always fell quite short. That’s stupid of me, of course. I’m not her. Despite my worst thoughts of myself, me being me doesn’t equal automatic disqualification. I think probably the number one requirement of anointing is that you’re you, not wishing you were someone else…

What is the difference between talent and anointing? That’s like asking what’s the difference between cake and icing: They’re not meant to be the same, they’re meant to go together (and quite deliciously). If God baked it, and you offer it back to him, he’ll totally frost it. And then it will be delicious for everyone, and God will get all the glory for making such an awesome cake.

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Sometimes

Sometimes the world closes in
And it’s dark and scary.

The shadows stretch out and distort
the things that once looked “right” and made sense.

Sometimes it feels like you’ve been
wandering in the dark for ages and ages.
You’ve been gone forever,
and people are just, just now noticing.

You thought God didn’t notice either.
He doesn’t seem to have much to say nowadays.
He doesn’t seem to be in arms’ reach lately.

Then sometimes He says something,
and you hear the whisper of His voice
and it feels like the warm breath of your mother
against your ear when she tells you it’s gon’ be alright.

It’s almost too beautiful to believe,
too wonderful to accept,
too sweet to swallow.

If you could hold a moment in your hands forever,
this would be it.

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Joyful Moments

Have you ever done a vision board? It’s a tool to help map out dreams and/or goals. My friend first introduced the idea to me and another friend last January. We wanted to visualize our dreams and goals for 2010, and for us the endeavor involved prayer and the expected guidance of the Holy Spirit.

According to my 2010 vision board, I wanted to be creative and stylish, look good, be a great mom, get together with friends, write, be crafty, grow, spice things up in the bedroom, enjoy unguilty pleasures, get organized, travel, and more.

Looking at that board today, it’s so cluttered that very little stands out. It can barely contain everything I tried to cram on it. Of all I hoped the board would reflect about 2010, the thing it says most clearly is: There was entirely too much crap going on. (How apropos, although I didn’t notice it until after I did this year’s board.) 

I also realized that the old board held labels of what I thought I should be, or what I thought others expected of me, instead of what I hoped and dreamed for myself. This year I was determined that would not be the case. 

My theme for 2011 is “joyful moments.” Here’s the quote by Brene’ Brown that inspired it:

I think the beauty of twinkle lights is a perfect metaphor for joy.

Joy is not a constant.  It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.  Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments.  Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light.

A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy.  That would eventually become unbearable.

I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, and inspiration.

In that regard, I chose a black canvas to better display the bright words and colors I cut from the magazines. Each piece draws the eye away from the black. Frankly, the bright colors look better because of the black. That’s what I hope the joyful moments of 2011 will be like too. I also rejected words and images that caught my eye, and instead gravitated to the ones that caught my heart. The result:

  • I want to see my children and my family blossom.
  • I want to rebuild my ability to hope and expect good things of myself and in my life.
  • I want to walk with bravery and be wise and open.
  • I want to strive for strength in balance in what’s important.
  • I want to appreciate all of who I am. 
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Remix: Out of Control

This is a remix of “Laundry Ruminations: Control or Out of Control?” (Summer 2008).

***

One day as I was doing laundry, I started thinking about cake, frosting, cookies, chocolate and other delicious gooey things.

Then I thought about the passage I’d read in the book of Romans about a month before. In it, Paul said we should give our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. To me this meant (among other things) I should let God control what I eat. This lined up with what I’d felt God saying to me for awhile. Thing is, I hadn’t been sure I wanted to give Him control, because He wouldn’t want me to eat cake with two inches of frosting. (Maybe occasionally, but not 2-3 times a day as I’d prefer.) This irritated me. Why shouldn’t I dang well eat whatever I want? Why doesn’t God want me to have any fun?!

So I’d rebelled. I didn’t quit going to church or anything; I just started eating like a pig. I couldn’t bear the thought of God saying I couldn’t have a Sonic Fried Ice Cream shake, so I shut off my filter and ate as I pleased. I wanted control of what I put in my mouth.

One day someone brought brownie bites to class. When I saw them I said, “Aw, who did that? Oh well, I have no choice …” A classmate said, “Yes you do have a choice!” I quickly popped one into the mouth. “Oops, too late!” I joked. But it was true: in the face of brownies, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. After class I took two more on the way out.

So that day as I did laundry, indignant with my Father over cake, I had a ridiculously obvious revelation: I didn’t have control. I’d been so determined to have it, but I’d given it up to brownie bites and things of that ilk. BROWNIE BITES. How was I in control if, whenever I saw cake, I had to eat it? If I was so much in control, then what happened to my ability to choose, to say no?

Then God asked me why I was I fighting Him so hard over garbage? It looks and even tastes good, but it’s not good. Seriously, whose health has ever been vastly improved by cake? Has anyone lost weight on the Cake and Frosting Diet? Whose cholesterol level has dropped thanks to sugar? I’d fallen for old lies: my way was better than His, and He wanted to ruin my fun. The result was an old deception: I was out of control because I’d willingly given it away.

FRICK’N DEVIL!

Junk food is a huge temptation, putting a wall between me and God. So I can tell myself I’m in control when I’m not, or I can let God handle it. When I crave junk, it helps to remember that it’s garbage. (“Filth” as Dr. Rubin calls it.) My Father wants what’s best for me. It’s stupid to put garbage ahead of life.

And that lesson applies to much more than junk food.

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Tiny Alien Imposter

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be grown. I had lots of expectations:

  • I’d be a rich and famous singer, actress and dancer.
  • I’d be beautiful. I’d be slender and have big breasts and long hair.
  • I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark anymore. I wouldn’t be afraid of anything.
  • I’d have a handsome and dashing husband, and we’d live happily ever after.
Tiny alien directing an old man's body.

Inside it's a tiny alien.

Last night I had an extremely difficult and painful conversation with my husband. I was surprised at how small I felt inside. Like that tiny alien on Men in Black II. Like a 5-year-old, dressed up in a 38-year-old body. A small imposter, very much afraid of the dark.

Do you remember that paralyzing childhood fear? I remember being terrified that something was under the bed or in the closet. The fear was so intense that I could not move–not even to avoid wetting the bed. It took all my willpower to cry out for my mother.  

I wonder if my maturity will ever match the years on the calendar. I wonder if anyone can see that I’m just a baby. Most days I try to hide it, but sometimes I want to be rightly seen. That way someone can let me be small and scared, and they’ll hold me and tell me it’ll be okay. And because I’m just a little one, I’ll believe it.

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