Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Word Up

My fascination with words and language began to develop when I was a teenager.  Words have the power to transport us to different places.  Words have the power to change minds for the better--or the worse.  Words have the power to change our bodies.

When I became pregnant with our first child, I became aware of the definite power of words to change our physical bodies.  Through self-hypnosis, I was able to resolve a complete placenta previa and recover from a miscarriage.  Using self-hypnosis, I birthed three beautiful babies completely pain free, without any medication.  My children's births were the most transcendent, empowering, fun experiences of my life. All because I changed the words I used to describe how the experiences would unfold and be interpreted by my body. 

Words have power.

Unfortunately, many of the words I use are self-defeating to my goals and harmful to my body.  Saying, "I'm so exhausted," might be true, but it also confirms to my subconscious mind that I lack energy.  If I say, "Um, vegetables are gross," enough times, my subconscious mind begins to believe that vegetables are gross.  I have struggled with depression and feelings of fear and inadequacy my whole life.  I have struggled with lack of energy.   Despite being on medication to treat my various conditions, I have always felt as though there is something more out there, something better, some bigger sort of freedom.  A bigger, more free me.  With that feeling in mind, I have been spending time lately thinking about the words that I use and how they shape my mental and physical states.  I am trying to change the words I use to describe myself and my life.

That intention has led me to look more closely at affirmations--not just for pregnancy and childbirth, but for life as a whole.   Affirm means "to make a positive statement, as of fact".  "As of fact".....that part hit me right between the eyes. It hit me that I have the power to state facts with my words, even if those words are not yet facts.  I began to look at the words I use to describe my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, my circumstances.  And I began to wonder what would happen if I changed those words.  What would happen if I woke every day and, instead of the same kind of script I've said to myself for 30+ years, I said this instead.....

I reject mediocrity.  TODAY, I am exceptional.
I reject marginalization and inferiority. TODAY, I stand tall and proud and attract big things into my world.
I reject exhaustion. TODAY, I have all the strength I need for the tasks I have determined to accomplish.
I reject poverty.  TODAY, I attract wealth and abundance into my life.
I reject doubt.  TODAY, I trust my Self, my God, and my Loved Ones.
I reject isolation.  TODAY, I find support and friendship from those around me and those who have gone before me.  TODAY, I will ask for that support when I need it. 
I reject angst and anxiety.  TODAY, my Spirit is peaceful.
I reject food addiction.  TODAY, food heals and nourishes my body.
I reject fear.  TODAY, I see and claim victory over the generational curses that grow like parasites in our families of origin.  TODAY, I water a different family tree.  TODAY, I water a healthier tree.  TODAY, I water a stronger tree.
I choose to fight only the battles I can win.  TODAY, I accept the people in my life for who and where they are right now, and I eagerly anticipate the transformations they choose to make in themselves.
I refuse to phone it in.  TODAY, I will show up and walk through, take goodness in so that I can give goodness out, and live for and lift up My Manifesto.....

By the Grace of God, through the Power of God, 
and for the Glory of God,
I live my life Thriving in the Abundance of God,
and this Abundance in which I live is a 
Beacon of Hope and Inspiration to others.

What would happen.....?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

$1.85 and a Cardboard Sign

I haven't been in a very happy place the past several days.  I've been cranky.  Resentful.  Irritated.  Jealous.  Fearful. Short-tempered.  Everything seems so hard lately, especially financially, and my heart has not been in a thankful place. As a single income family, our budget is very tight.  Of course we have to eat, and our grocery budget is....tight.  $75 a week to feed a family of four.

So, today I went grocery shopping, as is my usual custom.  Poppa had both babes, so I was free to price compare a little more than I usually am when I have a 20 month old climbing out of the cart seat and a 35 month old standing up in the back of the cart.  Even so, I grumbled as I moved through the store, putting things we needed into our cart.  I usually add everything up as I go along, keeping a tally of the expected charges, to make sure I don't go over our budgeted amount. 

I didn't pull out my calculator today.  I grumbled to myself, as I put the last few items we needed into our cart.  "It doesn't even really matter what it costs, because we need all of this.  There are ZERO unnecessary items in this cart.  And that sucks.  It isn't fair that I have to count every single penny this way.  Seriously?  I'm so mad. F--k it."  Yeah, I said that.  In my head.  Actually, I said it out loud.  Food 4 Less is full of crazy people.  I'm sure I didn't stand out talking to myself.

When the cashier gave me the total, I admit that I smiled and gave a little chuckle.  My grand total for the week: $73.15.  One dollar and eighty-five cents under budget.  "Okay, God, that's cute," I thought, "but, I'm still a little irritated that I even have to care so much about a single dollar and eighty-five pennies."

As I was stopped at a red light on my way home, I happened to look up and across the street.  There stood a man with a cardboard sign.  Obviously, he was homeless or out of work.  Obviously, he was begging for food or money or a job.  Obviously, I'm sure there were at least ten other places he would rather have been than on that corner holding a cardboard sign.

Then it hit me. My little family is not homeless.  My little family has $75 a week to spend on food.  My hard-working husband has a job.  These things should be enough to fill my heart with thankfulness.  As I watched that man, standing in the hot sun, shuffling from foot to foot (from embarrassment? fatigue? irritation?), I was humbled.  I am blessed.  I am fortunate. 

Now, I'm wishing I had turned around and given that $1.85 to the homeless man on the corner.  I think he needed it more than I did.





Saturday, August 18, 2012

Immutable

"Not capable of or susceptible to change"

Big Word to start a blog entry after nearly 8 months without any entries.  Clearly some big stuff has been going down.  On March 31 of this year, I experienced a miscarriage of our third child, at ten weeks gestation.  (More about that over here if you care.)  Since then, I feel as though we've been faced with some pretty big financial and life decisions, and all of it has caused me to rethink some of the core things that I've always believed about God.

Specifically, I've been thinking about the concepts of His omniscience and immutability.   Since March, I've been hashing it out in my head and with other people whom I respect.  I no longer think that God is omniscient in the way most people use the word: that he knows everything that is ever going to happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.  I am also beginning to embrace the idea that God is NOT immutable--that he can and does "change" his mind or his chosen action(s) based upon external forces.

Hang on.  Calm down.  Don't haul me out into the street to be stoned as a heretic just yet.  You know that tightness in your chest, that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach, that threatening "thing" you feel in your soul?  I've felt them.  I've been wrestling with them for months.  But it finally clicked tonight.  In the shower, of all places.  (Go figure, right?)

What if, just maybe, what if God has an overall plan for my life but the path itself, including the stops and detours along the way, is influenced by the fallen natural world in which I live and by my own decisions or by the decisions of others?  What if (just humor me) God doesn't know everything that will happen in my life, but instead experiences my life with me feeling all the joy and sorrow even as I feel it myself?  What if he has chosen to limit his knowledge in order to have a more honest and dynamic relationship with me?

I was raised to believe the alternative: That God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful.  Because he is all-knowing, he knows everything that will happen (duh).  And, because God is also all-powerful, then everything that happens is part of his will.  I can accept the first claim....until you bring in the second claim.  How could it possibly be God's will that innocent people die? How could it possibly be God's will that one person be physically or emotionally or mentally or verbally abused by another person day in and day out?  I was raised to believe that God is all-knowing so He knows that these types of things will happen.  Furthermore, I was raised to believe that God is all-powerful but chooses not to act to stop these bad things from happening because He has a plan for our lives and these bad things contribute to His plan.  I can't accept this anymore.  To be quite honest, I don't want to be in a relationship with someone--anyone--who has a plan for my life but doesn't tell me what that plan is and who doesn't let me effect that plan in any way, shape, or form.  In a relationship like that, I am nothing more than a robot going through motions that have been predetermined for me.  How can I love a God who controls me like that?  Why would I want to?

But, I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I can't just toss out God's omniscience and His omnipotence altogether and reduce Him to my level of a fallen human being.  Here is where the click occurred earlier tonight.  Are you ready?  The knowing or not knowing (Omniscient: Yes or No?) doesn't change God's immutable character.  He is still God: slow to anger, abounding in grace, without sin, compassionate beyond my comprehension, the Savior and Sustainer of my Soul.  God obviously knows what has happened in The Past, and He knows what the Conclusion of All Things will look like.  But, in giving us free will, I'm beginning to think that He has limited his knowledge because free will isn't truly free unless it is also unexpected.  To use a simple analogy, if I were to set up a situation for my two toddlers (being more powerful than they) that led them to an action which was part of my will, then they didn't freely choose that action.  I set it up that way so they would choose it.  That may be a good way to maintain order with my children or a good game to play sometimes, but I'm pretty sure they will get tired of it as they grow up.  They won't want to play with me anymore because I always make the rules and things always turn out the way I want them to (but I don't ever tell them what the rules are or how I want things to turn out).  That's not cool.

No, a relationship really is much more fun, fulfilling, dynamic, equitable, respectful, when both parties have the ability to influence one another.  To use my tots as an example once more, they are sleeping right now.  One of them might very well have a nightmare tonight or just wake up lonely and find his way into our bedroom.  I am not expecting this, even though I am much smarter than they are and can see things they cannot, but it could happen.  The fact that I don't know whether it will happen or not does not change my character as their mother.  I still love them completely, support them entirely, and wish only the best and most fulfilling things for their lives.

I'm starting to think God is kind of like that. It's a big shift in my thinking.  But life is always shifting, so I guess it's a good thing that I'm not immutable.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

History: The Stars or the Cookie Jar?

There's a time I can recall,
Four years old and three feet tall
Trying to touch the stars and the cookie jar
And both were out of reach.....
(c) 1995 New Spring Publishing

Carolyn Arrends penned those words, and although I have never met her, she captured my own cry in her song.  In truth, she captured everyone's cry.  Who among us ever has enough?  Who among us has the answers to every question that our hearts ever ask?  Who among us does not reach for something more, something beyond and bigger than ourselves?

As children, we reach for our teenage years.  As teenagers, we reach for adulthood and freedom.  As adults, we reach for success and achievement.  In our old age, we reach for comfort in the face of illnesses and understanding as we look back on the lives we have lived.  Do we ever grasp what we are looking for?  The cookie jar may change as we grow older--both in appearance and contents--but its promise does not change.  If only we could reach inside it...if only we could have that cookie of acceptance, or that cookie of a better job, or a better home, or a better car, or that cookie of love...then we would be happy.  We would never want anything again.

Most of us are so busy trying to get into the cookie jar that we don't even have the time to consider the stars.  Those of us who do consider the stars often find them even farther away and more inaccessible than the cookie jar and its contents.  Our dreams get lost in the muck and mire of daily living.  Life always has a way of sidetracking us.  Well-meaning people discourage us from pursuing the stars.  Our own fears and shortcomings keep us from reaching for the stars.

So what's the point?  If we can never reach the cookie jar or the stars, why keep trying?  Why push ourselves?  Why not let the cookie jar and the stars go and resign ourselves to a mediocre existence?  Should we accept our fate in life as that of people who never fully grasp what they are reaching for?  After all, if we can never grasp what we reach for, then the reaching is futile, right?  The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes certainly thought so.  He reached for and grasped all the cookies: wealth, wisdom, love, power.  And he declared them all futile.  "This too was meaningless, a chasing after the wind."  Is this, then, the end?  Is that the moral of the story?  Are we simply supposed to give up and accept futility?

I don't think so.  At the end of his story, the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments."  If the cessation of all reaching and the acceptance of futility were the answer, why should we continue to reach for a God who is perfect?  The secret to reaching, grasping, and finding fulfillment in the things we have attained is to reach for the right things.  God told a guy named Jeremiah, "You will seek me and find my when you seek me with all your heart."  The search for God, the reaching for the stars, is not futile.  Cookie jars fall and break.  Cookies crumble and decay.  God is timeless, and the stars, though thousands of years old, still shine to light the way in the darkness.  The only things we can reach for and grasp are the things that do not pass away.

Carolyn ends her song with the words, "We are desperate to discover what is just beyond our grasp.  Maybe that's what heaven is for." I think she's right.  Don't give up reaching, my friend.  Just make sure you are reaching for the right Thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

History: Seasons Change

So hold me, Jesus, cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of My Glory,
Won't you be my Prince of Peace?
Copyright 1993 - Edward Grant, Inc. (Rich Mullins)

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  I grew up in Virginia, where the arrival of fall means the oak trees, sycamore trees, and crepe myrtle trees compete to see which one of them can put on the most dazzling display of leaf-changing color.  Of course, this change of color means death is on the way for those leaves.  I can recall watching as the last leaves of summer clung desperately to their branches--resisting the wind and the cold, refusing to let go of the last drop of life that ran through their cracking veins.  In my mind's eye, I can clearly see the last leaf on the oak tree's  branch.  It may not be bigger than all the leaves that have already fallen, but it is more determined.  The wind whips it back and forth, and leaves swirl below it on the ground, beckoning to their companion to join them.  But the leaf refuses to fall.  It shakes violently, but clings determinedly.  The wind refuses to give up.  I often wondered, as I watched this almost daily battle, which force of nature would win: the leaf in its efforts to cling to the only life it has ever known, or the wind in its efforts to usher in a new season.

I have often felt like that leaf.  The winds of change have blown around my heart, threatening to usher in fall just when I've become accustomed to the warmth of summer.  I cling to my ways, my habits, just like that leaf clings to the branch.  And change, just like the wind, blows hard around me, urging me to move on, urging me to accept a new stage of life.  The wind can be a frightening thing.  It can be cold, biting, and forceful.  I know--change is a good thing, a sign of life, something to be embraced if growth is ever going to happen.  But the leaf on the tree does not know that if he will only surrender and fall to the ground, he will become nourishment for the tree that gave him life.  The leaf does not see the cycle; he only feels the wind threatening him.  If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we do not naturally embrace change, either.  Just like the leaf, we cling to what is familiar because at least it is safe.  There is some measure of safety in knowing what to expect--even if what you expect is that more wind will blow.  Sometimes, bracing for more wind is easier than bracing for the unknown, for all of those things that might happen if you let go.

That's why I'm glad I have someone who can be my Prince of Peace.  It's great to have him there when I want someone who can share the glory.  It's vital to have him there when I need someone to hold me.  The winds of change are blowing.  Very few things are settled in my life right now.  I don't know if the fall will be harsh or kind.  I only know that I'm shaking like a leaf.  I need him to hold me close, and, if it's possible, to cushion my fall just a bit.  Even as I'm afraid, of both the letting go and the unknown, I am pierced by the irony of life.  The irony is that without these moments when I need him to hold me and bring me peace, I wouldn't be able to appreciate fully those moments after the fall, when the change has happened and he stands beside me and shares my glory.

Originally written April 1, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2010

History (Preface, P.2)

Now that I have decided to open the vault of my heart and share some of these deeply personal writings with you, I think a little bit of background is in order so that you may understand better the emotions from which some of these writings flow.

This is neither the time nor place for all the familial dirty laundry, so I'll try to stick with the highlights.  My parents' marriage was not a happy one, marred by my father's substance abuse and infidelity.  Nevertheless, Mom and Dad stayed married for nearly 27 years.  When my mother finally left my father, the circumstances surrounding the separation and divorce plunged me into a major clinical depression that lasted more than five years.  I know the seeds of depression had been germinating in my heart and mind for years, but the trauma of disruption to the only "normal" life I had known was more than I could bear.  It was the trigger that blew the already rotten trap door out from under my feet.

I didn't have any friends as a child/teenager (again, not the time or place to explain why), so I turned to the only medium I had for self-expression: writing.  As a teenager watching my parents' marriage charade play out in all its painful colors and as a young adult trying to put the pieces of a broken life back together, I poured out my heart and soul onto the pages of journal after journal after journal.    At the time, I was terrified that someone would find these writings.  I feared that the pain and confusion, the anger and betrayal I penned on those pages would somehow make the reader push me away in disgust and pity.    I eventually came to realize that--more likely than not--every person who may read the very real emotions I printed on paper had themselves felt those same emotions at some point in time.  And, maybe even they too had been afraid of rejection because of them. 

As I moved through the various stages of my depression, I resolved to always be the person that others could come to and feel safe enough to share their true feelings (no matter how ugly) and be assured of getting my true feelings in return.  I had lived long enough in the shadows of deception, outright lies, and empty words.  Still, I kept all those journal writings close to my heart, not sharing them with anyone, only talking about the experiences to those who asked outright.  My husband and the friends I have made since moving to California just over eleven years ago have helped me see that there is indeed a testimony within those writings.  In my moments of darkness and confusion, I wrote things that resonate in some way with every person who reads them.  The "safe place" I have always wanted to be for others, and the "safe place" I seek daily for myself, are somehow represented in my written words, in the very fact that I gave voice to the truth within me at the time.  I didn't intend for this to be the case; I only intended to put the words of my heart into print in order to purge my soul.  It really does humble me that others would find comfort for themselves in the path my life has taken.

If, then, you see a blog post whose title begins with the word "History" know that you are getting glimpse into my past.  I will try to include the date with these posts as well, so that you know the words you are reading do not represent fully where I am at this moment in life.  (I don't want a bunch of emails and phone calls because something I've posted is unusually dark.)  I am nervously scared that those of you who do not know me that well will be turned away by the depth of the emotions you may encounter in these posts.  I am also nervously excited that those of you who do know me well will get the chance to understand what goes on inside my head--since many of you have told me you wonder that anyway--and the chance to understand a little better why I am the way I am.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Python in the Driver's Seat (History: Preface, P.1)

I once saw a python in the driver's seat.  No kidding.  And, no, he wasn't driving.  He was wrapped around the neck and shoulders of the grizzly looking man who was driving.  I was struck by the irony of watching this man, the driver of an extermination truck, play with the python wrapped around his neck as we all sat in traffic that wasn't moving.

I saw in this strange glimpse into some guy's life, an amazing metaphor for life.  It's a dangerous thing, this business we call life.  At times the python merely sits there, wrapped around your neck and life moves along as it should--no interruptions, no crisis moments, no extremes of either kind. Other times, the python begins to squeeze.  Family members die, dreams are lost, friendships dissolved.  We find it hard to breathe as the python directs our lives down paths we would rather not take. 

But we don't often have much choice when it comes to the paths our lives will take.  We all make our plans, of course, but life has an insidious way of navigating its own twists and turns--just like the python.  Before we know it, we are traveling down paths we never mapped out and stopping in areas we'd rather avoid.  The python steers our way and survival may depend upon surrender.

Most of the essays you will see in this "History" series were born while traveling those paths I wish I didn't have to take and making those rest stops I wish I never had to make.  Life is painful when the python is constricting.  But pain is always lessened when it is shared.  And so I share some of the python's constrictions in my life with you.  Perhaps some of your pain will be lessened, knowing that I have felt it too.