living and growing

A New Perspective for 2015

Bonnie Gray, the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, encourages her readers to ask God for a ‘word’ at the beginning of each New Year.

When I discovered Bonnie’s writings last year, I tried this and the word I received was ‘rest’. And much to my surprise, I actually have been learning to rest. I’ve learned that I can stop toiling at night – that not every hour has to have some pre-determined idea of productivity in it. I’ve learned that I like to rest. It’s not painful any more. And I’m growing in my ability to rest in Him and to rely on His time tables and not my own. The mantra’s ‘this to shall pass’ and ‘if it’s meant to get done, it will get done’ have been a solace to me. I have seen the truth in these ideas and by allowing them to be true, I have gained greater freedom from worry.
This year, Bonnie made the suggestion again to ask the Lord for a word for 2015. So I did. And at first I heard only silence. But I kept asking. And eventually a word came to mind. A word, I promptly dismissed. However, it pursued me. Nagging at me. And my response? “I don’t want that word! Bonnie’s word for 2015 is ‘Beloved’. I want a word like that. One that makes me feel special and loved.”

I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and the word debate was still going on in my mind. I was telling God that I didn’t like or want the word he gave me.
The word was ‘quiet’. 

Weeks had gone by and here I was still arguing with God over the very thing I had asked for. Sitting in church that day though, I started to be honest about why I didn’t want it.
I told the Lord,Quiet is a weak word. I want a word that makes me feel better, stronger, loved….. ‘quiet’ isn’t going to do that.” And as I sat there, worries flooded my mind.
And God in his grace, gave me a nudge. I was overwhelmed by my worries and in that moment, I took my word and I spoke it to my worries. “QUIET!” And like the vaporous things worries are, they vanished. Gone. And I felt still.
And in that moment, I realized how foolish I had been. Quiet is a weak word? No. It’s full of power and strength. It’s an incredible gift. God had quieted storms and water. He spoke quiet into people’s hearts and minds and bodies. I was humbled by my foolishness and God’s kindness.
A short time later, I came down with a stomach bug. My body was NOT quiet. It was chaotic and out of control. I tried my quiet word again. And it did nothing. And I learned something. God reminded me that his gift is not a magic talisman. There was nothing wrong in trying to speak quiet into my body. But my disappointment in it not ‘working’ was where the learning needed to happen. Had it worked I might have been inclined to try that word in every situation. God was telling me that the power in the word only came from him. The quiet that He is offering is still bigger than I fully understand.
So, I’m trying to be more open now. To see what the Lord will do with this word in my life in 2015. He and I both know very well, that I have a heart and body and mind that desperately need quieting.
I encourage you to ask for a word…..and to learn from my mistake. Don’t fight it, if you get one. Accept it as a remarkable gift from the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

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All of Me

The first time I heard John Legends song, “All of Me”, something stirred inside of me. The stirring became an obsession as I began playing the song over and over again. The words were getting at something I was feeling but hadn’t yet been able to express. (If you aren’t familiar with the song, both a link to hear it and the lyrics are listed at the end of this blog)

I’ve been married 26 years. Happily. But this song exposed something that I hadn’t realized. I had been holding back in my relationship with my husband. And it was the “all of me” line in the lyrics that showed me this. I started to realize that I wasn’t really giving my all. I was giving my ‘most’.

I started to look more closely at my thinking and here is what I discovered…..

What I determined was unlovable about me, became something I had long ago decided my husband must also see as unlovable. It occurred to me that maybe I would lose that assumption and see what happened.

I was also struck by the line, ‘love your curves and all your edges.”. I know my husband very well. And he has some edges. I think up to this point, I had viewed marriage as making allowances for each other’s edges. But what if I actually started to love his edges? What if I saw his edges as a vital part of who he was?

And as I consider my marriage, I realize that with him, even when I lose, I win. Maybe things in my life don’t always go as I plan, disappointments come, frustrations pop up….but at the end of the day I am married to this amazing man. Even when I lose, I win.

Offering someone all of yourself requires great risk. Even having been married for a long time, there continues to be a part of me that wants to avoid risk. But sometimes not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.

Now and then, I marvel that 32 years after we first met, I am as intrigued and attracted to my husband as I was on our first date. He is my worst distraction. Nobody’s opinion matters more than his. He is crazy and I am out of my mind. We know this. We embrace it. It’s what makes us laugh.

So what happened when I stopped deciding for him what was unlovable about me? He’s more relaxed. I don’t know that he ever hated those things. But my determination that he must, stood between us. When I took a risk and offered them to him (by letting go of my preconceived ideas) I gave him a gift in the form of trust. Without knowing what my motives were, he accepted the gift and my risk was rewarded.

What happened when I moved beyond just accepting his edges and began to love them? The change is in me. My ‘edgy’ responses towards his edges have softened. I want to love all of him. Not just the easily lovable parts. What good is it if all I can offer him is just a slightly stronger version of what the rest of the world offers him? In trying to see this differently, I have discovered that his ‘perfect imperfections’ are precisely what makes him HIM. And I love him. I don’t love a perfect idealized version of who he is or who he could be. I love him. His imperfections are perfect imperfections. They have always been what makes him uniquely him. My perspective has changed.

He is my end and my beginning. I love that the lyrics are written in that order. He isn’t my beginning and my end. He is my end and my beginning. The best part of my story starts with him and it will end with him. Every day together, is a new beginning.

Someday, one of us will be gone before the other. And if I am the one that goes last, I don’t want to live with any regret. I don’t want to think then of things I could have done differently. And if I were to go first, I want the assurance that I gave him everything I could, while I could. So every now and then I play this song. It’s a reminder to give it my all.

http://youtu.be/Mk7-GRWq7wA

“All of Me” by John Legend

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You’ve got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing, in my head for you

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

Give me all of you
Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it’s hard

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

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Dad and Me

I had a revelation of sorts last week.

It happened while I was driving in my car. My brother made some cd’s right after my dad died. A collection of songs that my dad loved and ones that reminded us of him. Over a year later I’m still listening to them. But then I also have other songs I listen to. Songs that reflect my processing of his aging, dying and death.

So, there I was driving, my music was playing and I was thinking of my dad and I realized something had shifted in my thinking.

Before he died, I worried about how I would survive without him.

After he died, I discovered survival is not only possible, it’s the only viable option.

But I missed him. The loss of his physical presence was overwhelming. Some days it would be crushing and on other days it was and is, merely a dull ache.

Until last week. When I realized that through his death, I gained something I didn’t anticipate. When he was alive he was often on my mind. His influence was steady in my life. But there were moments, and stretches of time where I went about my life not thinking, consciously, too much about him.

Until he died.

As I passed the one year mark, I realized he is with me now in a way he wasn’t when he was alive. I feel him with me. Not in some sort of ghostly way. But somehow I feel like he has become a part of me, a part of my skin and my bones, my heart and my mind.

And I realize, that’s a gain.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’d take him back, in his old physical form in a flash. Without hesitation, I’d give up this new feeling for a more tangible one I can wrap my arms around.

But that’s not an option. The realization of what I’ve gained, despite the loss, is a gift. It’s one I think I don’t fully appreciate yet because it’s new. I was use to my old relationship with my dad. It was comfortable and safe and known.

This new relationship is more really, a relationship with myself. All that he has instilled in me, now seeks to be given life. He is not here to protect me, to save the day, to provide for me. I must do it without him. But he didn’t leave me empty handed. He left both my hands and my heart full.

I feel compelled to act where he once would have. I am still completely me, but now, I am also more.
And since the only choice I have in this matter, is how I respond to this gift, I choose to embrace it.

Even if the return of the embrace is only felt in my heart.

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Jesus and Me……Circa 1969

kalizasheart

Do you ever feel like you were more connected to God when you were a child? For me, it was simple when I was very young.
I loved Jesus and Jesus loved me.

But as I grew, I grew away from the simplicity of that thought. Loving Jesus was complicated. Being loved by Him was even more complicated. There were so many rules. So many things to consider. As I started to discover that I didn’t keep the rules very well, I began to imagine His disappointment. And the divide between He and I started to grow.

Years later, I re-discovered that Jesus loved me and eventually re-discovered that I loved Him. But I had years of broken rules and real and imagined disappointment to wade through. They had to be examined and dealt with so that I could allow Him to love me fully and to love Him fully…

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Jesus and Me……Circa 1969

Do you ever feel like you were more connected to God when you were a child? For me, it was simple when I was very young.
I loved Jesus and Jesus loved me.

But as I grew, I grew away from the simplicity of that thought. Loving Jesus was complicated. Being loved by Him was even more complicated. There were so many rules. So many things to consider. As I started to discover that I didn’t keep the rules very well, I began to imagine His disappointment. And the divide between He and I started to grow.

Years later, I re-discovered that Jesus loved me and eventually re-discovered that I loved Him. But I had years of broken rules and real and imagined disappointment to wade through. They had to be examined and dealt with so that I could allow Him to love me fully and to love Him fully in return.

I’m still working on it.

I’m preparing to lead a small group over the summer, at my church. We are going to be reading and discussing a book by Bonnie Gray called: “Finding Spiritual Whitespace – Awakening Your Soul to Rest”. In the book are many opportunities to look back in order to move forward. At the end of each chapter there are questions.

One particular question leapt off the page for me. I felt as I read it, that I had an immediate answer that had been sitting there, waiting for someone to ask the question.

Here is the question:

(From Bonnie Gray’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace)

Picture yourself as a little girl with Jesus.
How do you picture her, what is she doing?
How does she feel? What does she want?

And here was the answer that came to my mind……

I picture myself walking with Jesus, holding His hand. Skipping along in that way that little girls do. The sky is blue. We are talking. I feel safe. We come up to a small wall about a foot off the ground that runs along the length of someone’s property. Although it is low to the ground, it feels high up to me. I walk on it, sometimes holding His hand, sometimes putting my arms out for balance. But I feel safe. And secure. Perfectly balanced with no fear of falling. He is beside me and that is all I need to feel assured.
I don’t want anything. I have everything I need in this moment.

I’m not completely sure what this picture means but I want it to be something I am working towards. I want my love for Him to grow, I want to feel that perfect peace I can imagine the child version of me feeling.

But it leaves me wondering too…..how would you answer that question? No doubt each person’s answer reveals something. And if it feels ok to do so, share your answer with me. I’d love to hear it.

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Love expressed…

Love appears in so many forms. Today it appeared in the form of a little song, quickly made up and sung off key.

Scott had a two hour delay because of the storm. He was home when I went to wake Becca up and he was near her room. As I opened the door to her room, he quickly stepped up beside me.

We walked in together and spontaneously I started to sing – and old song from when my kids were young. And Scott joined in. Then we launched into a Happy Valentine’s Day song sung to the tune of Happy Birthday. As we did that, Scott walked around the other side of her bed and together we bent down and kissed her.

And then we left her to get ready for the day.

And a thought occurred to me. Never, growing up, had my parents come into my bedroom and sung to me. Scott said that he had never experienced that either.

Yet we just did it. Something we weren’t taught. Later, I realized we’ve done similar things like that with all our kids, over the years. Spontaneously loving them through song or dance or hugs or kisses.

And I thought about how as parents, it seems that our desire is always to give to our kids some elusive thing we didn’t have as children. It’s a desire, older than time itself. Regardless of what our childhoods were like we want more for our children.

But usually that ‘more’ comes in the form of things, or opportunities. Today it came in the form of songs and kisses and two parents, united in their purpose to love on their daughter when the opportunity presented itself.

Some days we feel guilty about the opportunities we pass up to express love to our kids.

Some days, we get it just right.

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Teenage Wisdom

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” 1 Corinthians 1:27

Have you ever had the experience where people don’t respond in the way you expect that they will? A time when they actually respond better than you would have given them credit for? What did it teach you, about yourself and about them?

I experienced this first hand recently. And it reminded me that I often judge myself and others around me according to some arbitrary standard inside of me.

My son had been after me for years, to read a series of science fiction books he owned. He had loved the series and was certain I would as well. I had dismissed his suggestion, because the books seemed rather young. He had recently been doing a major cleaning of his room, getting rid of many of his belongings, but he had kept these books because he treasured them and was proud of owning the entire series.

A short time back, I was desperate for something to read. He again suggested the series he had loved. This time I listened and read them. There were 13 books in all. They told a wonderful story of perseverance and the search for truth, while holding up the virtues of friendship, trust and faith. The fact that there were dragons in the story, well that was an added bonus!

The books were quite addictive and I found as I neared the end of the series I could no longer wait till I went to bed at night to read, I needed to know what was happening in the story and I needed to know now! I began to take each book out with me so it would be ever present, in case I had a chance to read.

One day I was out with my son at a doctor’s appt and I brought book # 12 with me. It wasn’t until bedtime that I realized I had left the book at the doctors.

I checked the car and checked the house but the book was gone. I immediately told my son and his response was just a quiet acknowledgement.

The next day I called the doctor’s office, twice. Then I drove there. I searched where I waited and asked multiple people, but it was gone. Losing things is unusual for me. Losing something that held value to my son made me feel terrible.

That afternoon I told him of my unsuccessful search. He again met my story with a quiet acknowledgement.

And I learned something. I learned that my behavior in the same situation would not have measured up to my son’s response. Aren’t teens expected to react with drama and intensity? When I mentioned to him, how impressed I was with how he was taking this loss, he assured me, “Mom, you didn’t do it on purpose, it was an accident. It’s just a book.”

True. But I knew in my heart that when people do little things that threaten what I value – even if it is an accident, that my first, second and third responses often include anger, frustration and an overwhelming need to vent.

But deep down, I agree with my son. I don’t actually value things higher than people, so why doesn’t my behavior better reflect that?

I told him he had taught me something. Now I need to live like it was so.

(post script…..the book never was found but I have replaced it!)

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