Grace for the Day

Its been a week since the day I had to decide to send my beloved Great Dane, Asher to heaven. I sit here on a rainy day continuing to process my grief. At this moment it isn’t as intense as other moments. Each day I’m able to feel it and travel through it. It all happened within a couple of weeks, a Dane so full of energy and bounding every where suddenly turn and become almost crippled. There wasn’t even enough time to figure out what had gone wrong before I had to let him go. I remember speaking with my mother, the day after we had the vets come to the house to set his soul free. I could barely talk, the grief strangling my throat and my lungs working harder to get air. I confessed to my mother that in some ways I felt I had no right to grieve so deeply the loss of my pet when I know that my own mother had walked through a great grief years ago losing my brother when we were younger. My mother speaking through her tears gently said, “It doesn’t matter. Grief is still the same.” Those words helped me to truly let go, be unashamed of being misunderstood, and give into my grief so I could heal. I realized that different scenarios bring grief about but it all intersects at the same crossroad – the deep pain of loss.

I knew deep down what I needed to do for my beloved Asher when I did it. My head knew it was the right thing but my heart had trouble understanding.  All of the stages flooded in and out like ocean waves hitting the shore, some harder than others – shock, anger, denial, regret, fear. Yes, fear. Fear of moving on without him. Fear of walking in the door as life goes on and knowing he wouldn’t be there to greet me. Fear of loneliness as he would sit by my feet when I would read or write or pray. Asher was my shadow. Wherever I went so did he. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, loyal, protective, four-legged companion than Asher. His name in hebrew means happy and blessed. I certainly felt as if my happiness and my blessing had been taken from me.

While wrestling with my grief, in my shock and anger stage, I asked the Lord, ” How come you feel so far away when I’m hurting so deeply? Why can I not feel you? Aren’t you going to offer me some comfort in all of this? Don’t you see my grief, my pain?” God then showed me a picture on the cross of his dying Son and he was saying the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When I saw the vision in my mind, I immediately understood. The word forsaken means abandoned or deserted.  If I’m honest, that is exactly how I felt, abandoned and deserted by my heavenly Father, left to navigate this sudden loss by myself. Yet I knew at the moment of the vision, God understood my pain.

I had never truly connected it before that when Jesus cried out those words that it was specifically because of grief. Pain, I knew. Taking on the burden of the sins of the world, I knew. I’d heard things like how God turned his head and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore.  I never really believed that one. But when I associated sin with grief, I realized the depth of Christ’s guttural cry on that cross. The grief of injustice, the grief of pain, of loss, of disconnection, of shame, of guilt, of condemnation, of fear, of panic, of abandonment, etc. etc. Jesus took it all on, none of it his, but he took it from us. The grief so deep, he could not hear God speak or even feel his presence. Some refer to it as the dark night of the soul, when it feels as if you are dying or that a part of yourself is being ripped away. God never left Christ alone on the cross, he was with him through it all just as he was with me, waiting by my side for when I asked of him. If you’ve ever tried to console someone grieving, you know there truly are no words that can take their pain away.  You often just sit quietly as they weep simply so they know you are there for support when needed. Simply so they know, they are not left alone. They may not even be able to comprehend your presence or they may remove themselves to another room to be alone in their pain. Grief must be journeyed through, felt on every level in order to heal properly. Denying grief only prolongs it. Trying to speed it up creates frustration and anger and more heartache. The truth is, we are not wired to desire to feel loss. We want it whisked away. We beg God to remove suffering. Though I believe it is not something God enjoys watching us go through it, just like our own kids, we know that loss and grief is a part of this earthly life that everyone experiences at least one time in their lives. It is something that changes you. You are never the same person you were after grief’s visit. You cannot help but somehow grow in all of it. How we will grow from it or what it will look like depends on the individual. We each take away different things from our experiences. We each receive a different revelation for ourselves through the process. There is no formula, no agenda or time constraint. There is only choice. The day we choose to allow God to give us grace for the day, and then the next and then the next.

I heard a very successful business woman say once that she began to ask God to give her grace for each day. That’s it, just for the day.  She based it on the scripture when Paul asked God to take the thorn from his flesh. Could the thorn have been something that was grieving Paul? The bible doesn’t say specifically. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient. My grace is all you need.” I ponder those words, My grace is ALL you need.  Grace has to be pretty powerful if God says it’s ALL that we need. Maybe you need his grace for each hour in your grief right now. It’s okay. As for me, I began asking for God’s grace during my time of grief each morning as I awoke. It doesn’t mean I won’t still have the tears of remembrance come flooding in a few times throughout the day. It doesn’t mean that I might not have a day where I feel as if I  cannot seem to rally my heart to get out of bed, missing my beautiful beast. It simply means, I’m relying on God’s strength through his grace,  the light footed-ness instead of the heavy hearted-ness (my interpretation) to keep me going. It means God will take care and grant you favor for some things that have gone by the wayside while you transition and transform through your grief. It means there is a supernatural portion available that you may not understand but it will be ALL you need for that day. I have to say, it hasn’t taken the pain of loss away but it has given me hope for each day. I hope in some way, if even just a fragment, that helps you in your journey through grief. I continue to pray God grant me and you his grace for the day.

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Powerless or Powerful?

When we think of being powerless, we think of being completely helpless. Powerlessness exudes a stigma of being stuck with no way out or having something done to you in which you have no recourse. Powerlessness can often couple itself with being a victim of circumstance or injustice. It never feels good to be powerless. In some ways we can feel forced into a desperate situation due to feelings of powerlessness. How do we get out of it? How do we overcome?

I’ve learned that it begins with the power of choice. If we believe we have no choice then we will stay in a state of powerlessness in that particular event or circumstance. But if we tell ourselves, “I have the power to choose”, we have stepped over a threshold from a desert life of being a victim to a promised land of victory. Often we convince ourselves that we don’t get to choose when in fact it is very far from the truth. Remember the old saying, ‘Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity?’ That includes powerlessness. We always have a choice. Not necessarily in what will come at us, but in how we handle and/or react to it. That choice may just be wrapped up in fear. You might have to decide enough is enough to push past that fear and make an alternate choice for yourself. You could be facing a toxic relationship, or you may be at a job that barely keeps you afloat financially. You may have a jealous friend who holds you back or tries to tell you all the ways why your dream won’t work or come true or share how they think it could go all wrong for you. You may want to stay safe, secure, predictable and be able to control your own world. It’s o.k if you do, but all those things may be the very things keeping you captive in your powerlessness. You may want to remain unforgiving, bitter and resentful but that will just keep you a victim.

I encourage us all to ask ourselves if our life is bearing any fruit in our desert circumstances or are we brave enough to realize our true power lies in the choices we make for ourselves.Whether we stay stagnant and accept what we are dealt or we choose to create another outcome, another career, finish schooling, or pursue higher education in a specific field, or walk away from that which no longer serves the health of our heart and well being, we decide if we remain powerless. We choose if we will remain a victim to our circumstance. It begins in our heads first before it reaches our hearts. Anything that is in our head will eventually reach our heart so we must be careful of the thoughts we think. If we let negative thoughts swirl around there for too long, they will work their way into our hearts and become our belief system and we will live out of that false belief system. Sometimes we will hide behind what happened to us and that stays our story because we are too afraid of making a different choice because we fear it will be the wrong choice. Instead, what if we looked at our choices, not necessarily as wrong, but maybe not our best choice? What if we looked at it as a learning experience, as part of our journey and saw that it was an opportunity presenting itself to us to make a different one? If we see it that way, then we have just empowered ourselves to to make a new choice that aligns with our hearts desired outcome. There are so many choices in front of us. Today, I encourage you to ask yourself, What do I want my heart to believe? Will I tell my heart the message that I am powerless or that I AM Powerful? The choice really is ours.

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Begin Again

My heart had broken. I remember the day so well. For years it had felt chiseled away, little by little, from the hurt of others and the consistent disappointment from hope deferred. A big piece had given way and it felt as if a chunk had broken off like a statue being carved out and separated from its cement mold. I went numb and for the first time in my life I felt….nothing.

It was during that time I discovered that the fear of people’s opinions or aggression toward me no longer mattered. I wasn’t afraid anymore and I could not be manipulated nor controlled. In a strange way, it was sort of refreshing and freeing. At first I wondered, “How come I cannot feel anymore. God? Why can I not even cry anymore?” To which God responded to me through a faith based radio station the song, “Just be Held” by Casting Crowns. The whole song was poignant for what I was going through and became a life line for me during that season, but I’ll just post a few key lines,

“When you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away, You’re not alone, stop holding on and Just Be Held.

Your world is not falling apart, It’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and Just be held”

I assure you that God did hold me through that season. My heart had changed, my outlook toward life had changed and even my behaviors and responses to life had changed. It was if this protective wall, a strong and much needed boundary if you will guarded my soul from outside terrorists. A few years had passed and I had put my dreams, my writings, what I knew and thought I knew upon a shelf. Looking back I refer to it as my graveyard moment. Who knew what had seemed so devastating that I thought I had died inside, could be what would catapult me into a deeper, greater relationship with God? Who knew I would receive a new heart because the other had been duct taped so much it was almost beyond repair? Who knew that lies I had believed about false labels assigned to me from others who wanted to limit me would fade away? And who knew that new truths would take their place in the slight Spirit whispers I would intercept here and there. I didn’t. But God did. My worship had ceased. My devotional time, barren. Yet I was re-discovering myself and my God, not through the usual means but in the day to day unintentional happenings – a word here, a picture there. Oh how I longed for a rescue mission from God and an angelic visitation from this desert like foreign place but there was only the blood in my veins, and a small evidence of life still lingering in my soul.

Eventually I would take small baby steps, one or two at a time, like a toddler learning to walk. Sure there were frequent rest stops too as I began to build my faith and trust muscles again. But then suddenly, I fell forward into something, I’m not even sure how it happened really. But I found myself searching and kept shuffling my feet forward inches at a time. I started questioning things again. I began to ponder the deeper things of God…ah evidence that life was beginning to take place in me again. I now knew that the past season was not a permanent death as it felt but a resurrection. I likened it to a fruit tree that goes dormant in the winter. The fruit that was there eaten by the birds and squirrels. Some of it even rotting off the branches, a necessary thing to lighten its load as sheds it leaves and sleeps until its time to fruit again. The old and the new fruit cannot grow together. “…See the old has passed away, the new begins.” (2Cor. 5:17) The taste and texture of the fruit is determined by its climate. Sometimes a harsh climate can produce bitter fruit. A new climate brings with it new opportunity. The old will not work for the new season. Yet, nothing gets wasted because the old fruit decomposes and becomes fertilizer in the soil helping to bring forth the new fruit. As I look back, I see the necessity of it all. I see the story God was desiring to tell through ME bringing forth a “oneness” with him. And in the midst of it all, I heard the whisper of God say to me, “It’s time to come out and begin again”.

 

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A Breaking Dawn

Breaking, yup that’s the word of the day for my household. Everything around me seems to be breaking, my car, our garbage disposal, our shower head, our faucet, our back door, our water heater and our furnace, even me – emotionally. I’m done. I’m tired, I’m so ready to move onward and UPWARD! To top it off, the mice have come back. We used to have rats and mice visit our home because of all the construction going on in what used to be a field behind us, so where do they run…yep you guessed it, to our house, a little old house we rent. Well we haven’t had any for a long time…until…until….I began hearing something chewing behind my stove again. Once you have mice, you recognize the sound of the little intruders right away when they come back. Grrr! Things are changing, but seemingly not for the better as I had hoped. So what do you do? Well if you are like me you sulk just a little, get mad a bit and have a momentary pity party…then…well then, you remind yourself of all the blessings you have and the opportunity for things to take a turn for the better. I realize that when things break, it’s time for the old to go and the new to come. I’m ready for the new…well at least I think I am…because sometimes new changes might not always be what you think. Along with new changes, also come new challenges. But that’s not to scare you or bring you down. It just means nothing is ever going to be perfect. The only thing you can resolve to do is look for the positive, adjust your own attitude. I heard a phrase the other day that said “Happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is having an ice cream cone but Joy is something you choose in spite of the circumstances you may be facing”. Today as I wrestle with my flesh and emotions I’m going to count it all Joy because I know a new dawn is breaking in my life. So I’m going to choose to believe if all of this around me is falling apart, it’s because God has greater things in store for me ahead. I’m choosing to move onward and Upward in my attitude instead and soon my physical circumstances follow suit.

As a man thinketh so he becomes.

If I choose to remain Joyful in spite of what I am facing I will create an atmosphere in my life that invites my future to become my NOW! Speaking of, now, I’ve got to get after that mouse!

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Letting Go (of the “Role”)

Many of you I’m sure have seen or at least heard about plays or musical theatre, places where the souls of men and women are laid bare and there is triumph and tragedy and comedy in between. Each cast member has a role to play and they do it to the best of their ability waiting for the audience to clap with approval signifying they had done their job well, convincing.

I play a part too, as a mom to three children ages, 10, 7 and 4. I go about doing my “best work” trying to convince my children, my husband and myself, that I can do this housewife and stay at home mom thing. It’s my own little musical that also has bits and pieces of triumph, tragedy and even quite a bit of comedy. It’s a real drama piece that’s for sure! I try to hit all the high notes and nail my stage points -making lunches, keeping up with laundry, pick-ups, drop offs, treats for school parties, etc, etc. the list goes on. If you are a mom reading this then I know you know what I’m talking about.

Some moms make this thing, this role, look easy. I assure you I am not one of them. I’m the one that flies in and out like a whirlwind, trying to play the part of a role that I don’t know the lines too, nor do I even know what octave or key to hit in the song of motherhood – well, except when I lose it, then I’d probably be considered a soprano. I’d like to say I’m a hot mess, but honestly I feel like any last iota of hotness has left my body and instead I’m just a mess.

So today, I quit my job. I quit the “role” of motherhood and housewife because I wasn’t getting the applauses I wanted for doing pretty well at “winging it”. Last Minute Morgan’s I sometimes think of us, our motto being “we fly by the seat of our pants!” Sure that sounds an awful lot like comedy in the making but often it feels more like tragedy when we are all trying to get out the door in the morning. But my daughter said something that made me come undone and I simply quit my job. It was merely her perception, not necessarily a truth, but in her little 10 year old mind it was real for her. She felt as if my two whole hours of week of working out ( yes, I know I’m training to be the strongest women in the world and at that pace I’m sure I’ll get there in another 2,000 years)  was taking precedence over her needs to be available for every little school function and assembly they had.  When I couldn’t make one, on short notice of course, well…in her mind tragedy had just set in.

Well, I obviously didn’t play the Glenda the Good Witch part too well and came across more or less like the wicked step mom from Cinderella as I shouted out, “oh really? Lord forbid I have two whole hours a week to try to do my Pilates during the times YOU are at school! How does this exactly affect you?” I was merely trying to get some resemblance of my former B.C ( before children) core strength back after having it swish around like a bowl full of J-E-L-L-O for the last 10 years and get a better posture so my hips and neck didn’t hurt anymore. Of course I could have explained it more calmly I admit. However, did I mention in plays and musicals there is a lot of drama? And I surely didn’t want to disappoint. Heh, heh. Well anyway, shortly afterward, I announced to my kids that I quit! They would now being making their own lunches, folding and putting away their own laundry, making their own dinners and snacks and cleaning the house ALL BY THEMSELVES. Horrible, I know, but really I was only going to test that out for a weekend, not forever so don’t go and get all CPS on me here.

Yet, something surprising happened. After the shocked look on their faces, yes they too are good at their role, convincing little actors and actress I might add, and the “wha, wha, WHAT???” exclamations, they proceeded to complete their homework quickly. That’s a first right there! Then my two oldest, one girl and one boy went into the kitchen, fed the dogs, cleaned the dishes and proceeded to make chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. My daughter missed the ready made, just add water pancake mix, and proceeded to grab the bisquick, eggs, a measuring cup and all the other ingredients needed. My son grabbed the chocolate chips as my youngest son watched them mix up this concoction excited about the fact that they got to have “Sugar” for dinner.

Well off they went to their recipe and worked together pleasantly with no fighting. I could hardly believe it! The pancakes were a total success, of course I sat nearby to make sure nobody caught on fire or got hurt. But I stayed out of it completely…and if you know me, you will know that’s a hard thing for me to do! I’m a slowly recovering control freak.

They happily ate their pancakes even offering me some proudly. I congratulated them as I secretly thought, Oh no! Maybe they will get the idea in their head I’m not needed and maybe I just hosed myself! But that quickly passed, as I watched them clean up afterward and heard them expressing how tired they were and what hard work that was.

Then it hit me. I don’t have to play a “role” anymore because there is a whole cast in this family that can bring value. A leading lady or man is only as good as their cast mates, right? Nobody wants to watch just one person; the excitement is all the characters involved. But even better than that, I got to see that my little understudies were watching me all these years and performed making their dinner with precision. Maybe I wasn’t so bad at being an example after all. And, they all three decided that doing things around the house made them feel good but also made them appreciate the hard work mom does…well at least until they forget again. But I’m thinking I just might take this experiment a little further and let them do things like this more and more.

You know, letting go can actually bring about some pretty amazing results. I may have taught my kids something today but God has been trying to teach me “this” little lesson for a long time. I think I might just get it this time…well that is until I forget again. I wasn’t meant to be a lone cast mate, I was meant to be a part of something bigger, HIM. God just wants me to let go and enjoy the show sometimes instead of getting in the way and trying to play all the parts I think I’m supposed to juggle. Sometimes God is simply waiting for us to yell out “I quit”, so he can finally go “Thank God or well, uh thank me!” and then perform his best work while we stand by and watch. The results can be really surprising when we aren’t there in the middle of it complaining the whole time and just sit back and rest while he performs his miracles.

I think I just broke my own mold today -the mold of my own false expectations that I put on myself.

Think of something you can let go of and trust someone else or God to do. You may find the results surprising enough to become a permanent change in your home or life. We are all in this musical together so why not make melodies. Working together as a family (even if you aren’t related but maybe friends, or co-workers) is music to God’s heart as he watches his children in all their comedy and triumphs over tragedy. And as far as the mess part, well I love what William P. Young says in his book The Shack: “We are all a bunch a beautiful messes!” Things in life are messy sometimes but God created some of the best masterpieces from some of life’s messiest situations. So own your mess, whether hot, beautiful or whatever and remind yourself you are a masterpiece in the making…if you just let go!

Speaking of messes and averting tragedies, I need to make sure the kids, my little masterpieces, aren’t putting too much soap in the washing machine! See you after intermission.

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Winter Has Passed and Spring has Come!

Reflecting on this recently beautiful weather in the greater bay area of California, I found myself looking at the small buds of new beginnings growing on the once barren trees around me. Could it really be the introduction of Spring? The evidence in nature seems to display this is true.

But what about my life? Do I see the same buds of opportunity blooming in the midst of barren winter circumstances? Maybe not quite yet, but I sense them. Sense them?, you might ask. Yes, Sense them. Not in a way that signifies any ounce of “feelings” per se as we all know that feelings can blow to and fro like the wind – sometimes icy and bitter, sometimes warm and gentle. But “sensing”  as like a conscious or discerning awareness, or impression.

I  think about the new growth in the ground and how it lies dormant for some time much like the ground hog, and peaks it bladed head through the soil. I can only imagine the journey of a seed to sprout and how the seed that desires to become pushes it’s way through dry, hardened ground at times and soft moist soil at others searching for light in it’s tunnel through the darkness. I wonder if it thinks to itself at times, “Will I ever break through?” before it feels the warmth of the sun.

I know I’ve experienced a bit of that in my journey to becoming. Some places in my life have been much harder to break through than others. And some have been easier. Each challenge helping me birth into the person I was created to be. I think about the sunflower and how once it opens it follows the sun through the sky, chasing it’s light and soaking it in. I wonder if that’s why it looks regal amongst the other flowers, so large, so full, standing so tall. I don’t know really but as I think about this Spring in my life that I perceive is upon me, I bask in the words of James Allen where he says, “”The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul, a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”

Dreams are the seedlings of realities. For every thought, every plan, every desire, every word has planted seeds in the garden of my life. And as I remembered them and added hope, faith and belief to them, they became well watered and fertilized in my life. How I hope there were far more seeds of blossoms rather than weeds. Each dream we dream is a reality in waiting, an expectation! So may I encourage you today to water the seeds of your dreams and to be expectant for your garden of beautiful realities? Winter may seen long and barren but soon enough you will discern the spring in your own life and when you do, make sure you soak in the midst of the sun and bloom.

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