31 Days...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Isolated Isolation

Longing for isolation...longing to NOT be or feel isolated. Funny how this week as I am trying to formulate the words to share with some young people in a few months the theme of which is faith...from the standpoint of God always being there for us...I find myself feeling both isolated and yet longing for isolation at the same time! How can that even be?
OK - so maybe it's not as weird as it sounds to me. I feel isolated from my friends, from my church family, even from the love in my life - I guess the distance is getting old. I am so busy with work, grad school, and kids there seems to be little time left for friends, fun and relaxing... and just me. It has seemed like when I post something on the dreaded Facebook in the never-ending stream from my girlfriends my posts are ignored...like they are invisible, like they have forgotten who I am. But who can blame them...all I do is work, study, go see my love when I have a chance, so maybe they have felt neglected too. But it's sort of funny how even at the age of 46 I can still get that "left out" feeling. I don't like it now any more than I did 30 years ago.
"That feeling" nagged me many nights in my teens and 20's...the longing to be part of something, to be included, to be wanted, desired...even loved. That feeling resulted in poor decisions being made that changed the course of my life over 30 years ago. So, how could it still plague me? What is it's source?
At this point I do KNOW what the source is...it's the God-shaped hole inside my heart, inside your heart, inside every living breathing human being's heart. And yes, I know that only God can fill it. No other person, man or woman, child or adult, can fill that hole. No matter what they do or say to me to make me "feel" included, desired, loved, wanted, valued. But allowing God and only God to fill it takes courage to believe - it takes faith. Faith is that which you believe in that cannot be seen and I think I might even add "felt" from the physical aspect too. Because it's really easy to feel included, loved, wanted, desired...when someone has their arms wrapped around you. But allowing God to wrap His arms around us is a whole other story. Faith...Merriam-Webster defines it as "belief and trust in and loyalty to God".
Interesting I think...belief and trust - got the belief part - but TRUST?...and LOYALTY?! Wow! I think that is eye-opening! Have I trusted Him lately? Have I given up control and handed it over to Him? Hardly - I am still trying to steer as hard as ever! Have I been loyal to the God who has carried me through the worst of times? An emphatic NO is the only answer. I've allowed Him to slip to the bottom of the list. I've put someone else in front of him, I've replaced Bible study and reading with reading Old Testament textbooks and writing papers. I have this vision of God just oozing out of my heart - that God-shaped hole starting to gape open again.
So where is my FAITH? I have realized that is the reason I have been longing for some isolation. Some quiet, uninterrupted, no-paper-due time to sit and listen to what He has to say to me. To be able to tell God what I long for and how thankful I truly am even though all it seems I can do lately is whine and complain. To simply enter His presence and be..isolated with my awesome and loving God. Believe. Trust. Be Loyal to. It's time for me to find my FAITH again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Where is Grace? Or is it Merit?

So it's been one of those days...I have to stop and wonder - who have I become? Where did the real Merit go? Have I ever met her in the first place? She seems to have gotten lost somewhere...under all the stuff life is apt to throw at us. I guess some people must have some sort of Teflon exterior and the "stuff" just slides off...not me - I am fairly certain I must have gone through a Velcro factory or something cause I am feeling like everything is STICKING TO ME!
And the stickiness isn't really very attractive. It makes me so many things I DO NOT want to be...cynical, jealous, pessimistic, doubt-filled, impatient...just down right grumpy too. It's not fun.
I had a friend who used to call me "Gracie". I say used to because we are still two people who know each other, but the relationship changed - if you get my drift. I never really understood why this person decided one day - in the oddest of places - Moe's..."Welcome to Moe's" - to call me this - but it stuck. It is certainly a name I strive to live into. Gosh, light bulb moment just this instant...my own name...Merit - now that has a significant meaning too...and it even is part of the definition of grace - unmerited favor, unconditional love. (I realize that already less than 2 paragraphs in I am rambling and all over the place - but stay with me and this might end up somewhere!) So...my name...Merit - it means, according to Merriam-Webster - "a praiseworthy quality; character or conduct deserving reward, honor or esteem". Great - now I feel even worse than I already did tonight. Not living up to either of those names at this moment.
So back to today...I went from feeling somewhat frustrated and helplessly hopeless due to the wonderful budget news regarding the state of my job next year, to this amazing feeling of - HEY GIRL - maybe this is your chance...take that leap of faith you have been avoiding the past 9 months and see what God does. That "you can do it" attitude lasted all of about 1 hour. What gives? Then I find myself being jealous of someone I have absolutely no reason to be jealous of, getting upset with the person I love -and who I know loves me, and diving into my always standing by pity pool party. What a jerk! Grace? Merit? Hardly. I can only ask the question "WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?"
I know one thing - if I were God - and obviously it's a good thing I AM...NOT! - I would say - forget her - she can't get her head in the game or her act together. But thank goodness I am not God - because He IS the source of the grace and merit I long for, long to be, long to live into. Even on my worst days - and right now I am feeling like this one ranks right up there, as I have been negative, hurtful, jealous and self-centered - far from grace filled and of merit - yes, even on my worst days -He is willing to forgive me and to give me another chance tomorrow morning. Can I be like that? Can I dig deep down and let the fear that resides in my soul that drives my need for control, attention, and jealousy go? Why do I allow it to hold me hostage? What am I really afraid of. What are any of us afraid of? Being hurt - again? Not being loved? Being alone?
Within the last few months I have noticed a new verse that has started to follow me around...interestingly enough the title of my blog is part of the verse - and although I am sure I have heard it over the years - I didn't draw from it when I was naming the blog.
The blog name came simply - or not as I am finding - from how I wanted to live my life after the events that occurred in my life during 2008-2010. Bold and courageous.
Here is the verse - Joshua 1:9 - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." So this verse has been popping up time after time...this is usually how God works for me...He knows I love a theme and so He works it.
So what happened to the Merit who wanted to be bold/strong and courageous. Did life beat her down? Why do I allow the lies of the Enemy to have control over me? What does this say of my faith in my Savior? After months of theology it says Christ's death on the cross was all for naught if I buy into all this stuff that is sticking to me. I want to take off the Velcro suit.
The crossroads has been building for months now. I truly believe I am standing at the intersection of many different highways. The Velcro will make my path terribly slow and cluttered and sticky...continuing to catch the stuff that flies by, dangerous curves and briers and roadkill. Is this the life I want? Hardly.
I want the Teflon coating - no worrying, no fear, no sticking..because I have a God who, if I chose to trust Him as I know I am called to do, will make my path straight. It won't be without bumps and curves, but it will be a highway with the most magnificent guard rails and safety features you can imagine.
So it seems tonight I am at the precipice of my crossroads. I must choose the highway I am going to follow. I cannot stand in the intersection any longer. My mind, body and spirit have been there long enough. June 1, 2011 is the day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The God Who Sees Me

It's been awhile since I have written. There are many reasons why I guess...most of which are just life in general. Being a single mom, working full time, going to graduate school full time, doing various activities at my church, and establishing a new relationship...there really isn't time for much else. Even sleep has taken a backseat in life - and trust me it's starting to catch up with me.
I sat through church this morning - sitting in the pew for a change not having "to work" as a Worship Team member. It's a different place for me to be - sitting rather than doing. I guess I am more of a Martha than a Mary most days. As a matter of fact sitting - being still is pretty tough for me to do. As I sat there listening for a change, I found myself crying through the beginning of the sermon. I could blame it on the thick layer of pollen I felt coating my throat and eyes...I could blame it on the words I was hearing from Paul, our pastor, that were slicing through my soul...I could blame it on the grief I have recently been feeling over the events of the past 2 years of my life - divorce, loss of a home I loved, loss of a lifestyle I enjoyed and took for granted, loss of my dear sweet grandmother whom I adored, loss of my precious dad. The list could go on - as for many of us.
At the moment I felt the tears, I chose to blame them on the pain in saw in my amazing daughter's face when she saw two of her best friends sitting together - not having spoken to her or asking her to come sit with them. This has been a year of, as I call it,"girl drama". I have many times gotten frustrated with her over it - figuring she certainly had some part in it and encouraging her to "deal with it". But this morning it was different - it was heart wrenching. And I didn't know what to do to make her feel better - to make the pain go away. It has been on my mind all day.
I came home and after a quick trip to Lowe's to buy some cheer in the form of bright pink and purple plants, I sat down on the couch - still feeling deflated by the events of the morning- the pain for my child, the loss in my life, the discouragement with myself and my seeming lack of direction and focus in life - just a GOOD OLD FASHIONED pity party! I picked up the devotional booklet our church compiles - written by congregation members for the Lenten season. Today's lesson was
Genesis 16:7-14 - when Hagar, the maidservant of Sarah fled to the dessert - distraught over how her "friend" had turned on her and sent her packing after years of loyal service. In the text, God finds Hagar and tells her to hold her chin up and go back to Sarah and that He will bless her. It's sort of a difficult story to wrap your head around - I'll let you read it and decide what you think - but the part that STOOD OUT was that God sees us. That even when we might not have the strength to see HIM, He still sees us.
I remember being around the age of 6 and my mother had done or said something that I didn't like - so I packed my bag and I "ran away". I carried my little blue suitcase down the steps as she vacuumed, not seeing me. I walked out the kitchen door and made it to the cement steps outside the big beautiful farm house where we lived. I'm not sure where he came from, but my dad called me and asked where I was going. I told him I was running away. He tried to talk me out of it - but I had made up my mind. He told me he would miss me terribly, but he understood. So off I went - into the barn where the old yellow tabby cat hung out chasing mice. It was a place I liked to play and get away - so it seemed like a great place to get away from whatever I was running away from that day.
So I was sort of feeling like Hagar today - she was fleeing from it all. I want, on many days to flee from it all - just go somewhere and start all over.Like when I was a child - to run away. But is this what I really want to do? It seems that much like my own father all those decades ago - when he saw me leave and he came after me - that my heavenly Father saw me just that same way today. God sees the pain in my heart - for myself, for my daughter, for my family. And HE will come after me. He will come after me...sometimes quietly in the things I read or the songs I hear. Sometimes He comes not so quietly - in the words from others whom I know love me, the words I read, the songs I hear.
Here is what I know - He does see us. He does love us with a love we can't even begin to imagine. He gives us the strength to go on - to go on boldly and courageously. It is only with Him that I can go on boldly and courageously. Knowing that He has gone before me to set my path, that He is with me on the path - crooked as I often make it. But He sees me. He sees ME! Sometimes that's all we need - to know that we are seen. I hope I can teach my daughter that even when our friends don't seem to see us - God sees us and He loves us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Heart is a Funny Thing

I really should be asleep right now - and I am sure that the typing will be atrocious! But I just had two conversations of sorts(does texting count as a conversation?) and my mind started going and I thought I should at least get this down before it got lost in the great abyss of a now 46 year old brain!

The first conversation was with a new person in my life. One who has come into it much like a warm spring breeze. The conversation is easy, we talk for hours. The times we are together are full of the hope that comes with the newness of that Spring breeze - knowing that the chill of winter is behind you and that the world is full of new birth, new growth, new life - a hope for the season to come. It is in this conversation that thoughts of the heart (mine in particular) came to mind.

The other conversation was with a dear friend from college. This friend is in a totally different place in life. There is no spring breeze blowing their way right now. It's more of the stillness that comes before a storm. The feeling that comes when you can begin to hear the thunder and see the lightning in the distance - knowing that you are going to have to weather the storm one way or another - but with that completely paralyzing feeling that you have NO idea how - or even if you can.

Which brings me to the "heart" of the matter so to speak. In both of these conversations the heart is the central focus -whether you realize it or admit it or not. The heart not only beats to give us life, but the heart beats as part of our souls. God knew what he was doing when he made the heart the center of our being...it is the center of what keeps us physically alive, but it is also the center of what keeps us emotionally alive. The terms referring to the heart abound: heart ache, heart break, heart soaring, heart about to burst, heart broken, tender-hearted, hard-hearted, open heart, cold hearted - the list goes on and on! Seriously - I actually found a list of heart idioms - it was incredible how many there are! If the brain were the center of our being these terms would be completely different! But it is in our hearts that we feel the pain, the joy, the anxiety, the excitement, the sorrow, the gratitude - all the emotions of our lives. We were designed to physically FEEL them in our hearts.

Isn't that amazing to you? That we can be over joyed and our hearts be about to burst AND at another time we can be so full of grief that we are certain our hearts are going to actually break. Tonight my heart felt both... joy and gratitude - about to burst...then pain for someone hurting - heartache. It is truly amazing to me that even within minutes I can feel the difference between the two emotions in my chest. And what is even more amazing to me is that God gave us this gift to feel so truly deeply - and not just the good stuff, but the bad stuff too.

Now I have had my share of heart ache the past 2 years. The loss of a marriage, the loss of a dear grandmother, the loss of my sweet dad most recently...and the pain I felt - physical pain in my chest - was at times nearly more than I could bear. And it was during these times that I reached for the one and only thing I know to reach for - my awesome God! He held me in His arms, He comforted me with words that He so often shared through others or in my own study of His word, or songs that I would hear or sing. He healed my broken heart, putting it back together piece by precious piece only as quickly as I was ready.

Now I have a new feeling in my chest - and it is a physical feeling as well...but it is one of hope, gratitude, love, joy - for the future is bright and the possibilities are exciting! And yes, that fresh warm spring breeze certainly is contributing to my heart warming condition - but it is more than that.

After a day of hundreds of birthday wishes how could my heart not be full? I have been so blessed by so many people in my life. As I sit here and think about the people who have lifted me in prayer, sent me a note, encouraged me in my ministry hopes and dreams, offered me help and love...how in the world could my heart not be close to overflowing?

So what I have learned over the past 2 years? I have learned from the heartache comes pain, from the pain comes healing, from the healing comes hope, from the hope comes the abundant love of my friends and family - but most importantly the extraordinary love of God!

So if you're full of heartache right now - reach for Him - He can carry you through.
If your heart is full of love and gratitude - reach for those whose hearts are empty and broken. That is what I intend to do - in this - my year of gratitude!