Walking a Tightrope

There are days I sit after posting on the blog that I wait. I look at my phone frequently if I’m not home; if I’m home on my computer, I watch for the little banner that shows there’s new mail. I’m watching for the notification that tells me someone has visited/commented on the blog. You see, that’s the only way we bloggers have to know that we are not writing to Blogging Limbo that someone is actually reading what we wrote. There are also times when I’ve posted and there’s not one comment and I think: ‘Oh, gee, I was right all along. I really have nothing to say to anyone. It’s not worth it. I’m gonna eat a big fat worm and die.’  And then-there are other days that I set that post out there and just release it and let it go and never think twice about responses or worth or the post for that matter. Because I had to write.

I am walking a tightrope. I lean first one way then the other. 

I seek affirmation. As I heard someone say recently: “I’m an affirmation junkie, my cup has a crack in it and I’m always wanting it refilled”. It’s not praise I’m looking for, I just want to know that I’m on the right track; that my writing is not so far out there that you need a ride on the space shuttle to get it. 

The posts that sit out there like overripe fruit on the vine and nothing happens, the times I think that this is the best thing I’ve ever written and dead space is all I see- I must admit are a challenge to my understanding and my sense of worth at times.

Then there are moments I know that it says just what it’s supposed to say.  The days when I’m not concerned about reaching just anyone, the day when I hear that whisper to my heart- “That’s what I wanted you to say. There’s one person out there that needs to read this; I’ll get her there, you just post it.” 

 

If you are a writer, I know you know exactly the feelings I’m talking about. If you are a reader, you know this happens throughout life, too.  The compelling thing is that we humans need feedback, whether it’s a smile, a bear hug from our little critters, a note, a message, a text, an email, or just a look. We all want that from our fellow humans; I think we look for that from others to justify our existence as members of the human race.

As believers, it can be very difficult to walk that tightrope in the upright position. We are pulled by media, friends, a desire for worth, pride. So many things. We want recognition for a job well done. Otherwise, our self worth ends up in the tank of “I don’t deserve anything”. When we look to the world we are pulled off balance one way or the other. The reality is that God’s purpose for us is neither tons of praise nor the depths of worthlessness.

It’s when we focus on Jesus that we find we don’t lean more one direction or the other. Our worth, our affirmation, our identity is in Him. He keeps us balanced. The challenge and opportunity we see before us is there all the time.  For me, the challenge is to constantly check what I’m writing with the Holy Spirit; to not go off on a tangent, a rant, or climb up on the soapbox (ok, ok, you can stop laughing now).  The opportunity? To see the gift He’s given me put to use the way He desires.

How’s it going on your tightrope?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:8-10

 

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17

Will it matter in 20 Years?

In the car this morning, with son and granddaughter, on the way to school, I had a sudden flashback when I heard the words coming from his mouth to her ears. Laughing and appalled at the same time. Laughing because it was coming from HIS mouth and appalled that I must have sounded just the same when giving him a talking to when he was that age. Oh, my goodness. Hysterically funny and tragic all in one breath.

We really don’t get how we sound when we are trying to be stern and make a point hit home to our children, do we?

He didn’t raise his voice but the deep, ‘I’m being serious’ daddy tone came out for just a few seconds. Her reaction was contrition but more than that, I could tell there were some feelings hurt there, too. It’s so hard for those happy go lucky kiddos who have a great deal of sensitivity to hear “the voice”.

We talked after she went into the school. After all, this is new territory for him, too. A first grader and a bouncing baby boy can make it tough. He’s hard on her in the ways I was hard on the first two. By the time he arrived on the scene I had mellowed.

I developed a gauge for myself over the years: Is this {issue, behavior, talk, association} going to matter to the person they become in 20 years?  Will it adversely affect their relationship to God, their character, their integrity, their ability to socialize with others, or their ability to be an upright human who can relate their love for Christ to those around them?

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about- this morning she had walked out with a note pad and pen that she had received at her birthday party last weekend. She knows the school rules- not to bring personal toys or items from home unless they are to be used in the learning process. Translation: don’t bring toys and stuff to school. It clutters up the place, causes friction when someone else wants it, and takes away valuable time from learning, not to mention the fact that if it gets lost, then the teacher has a new problem that must be addressed in the classroom.

So, no stuff from home. Not a new issue with her. She loves to show and tell and she loves to share. Bless her. But will it matter in 20 years? Maybe, maybe not. After all, sharing is a good thing, right? And show and tell was around in my day too! So, will it matter in 20 years? Bottom line is – yes.

Because this is not a new issue but one now, of disobedience. She knows the rules. She “forgets” the rules. She disobeys the rules. He’s trying to be a good daddy and teach her right from wrong, obedience and the importance of being honest. He had told her to leave it in her room for after school – more than once this morning.

It’s hard being a parent, seeing those traits in your children and trying to mold their hearts while teaching responsibility and accountability. It’s even harder, when you are trying to see them with Jesus’ eyes.

Spilt milk won’t matter in 20 years, but not making them clean up the mess- just might.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9


 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said,  ” Lay hold of my words with all your heart; Keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom,and she will protect you; love her,  and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you;   embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4


 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17

 

If Only

In today’s world, how can we make it in our upside down reality? We think we know what our lives could be like if only…. everything had turned out like we planned.

If we knew everything or had everything or everyone loved us we would wake up in a different world. Everything would be bright and shiny; smiles all around, breakfast on the table when we got up, dinner on the table at 6pm. That’s what it would have been like if Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit. But, she did. And she didn’t get what she expected either.

Sin is the big UGLY that we all experience. Victim or perpetrator, there is sin in our lives. Large and in living color sin. It sits there like 3-day old fish on the counter making every thing stink that’s nearby. Takes days, weeks even, to get the smell out. Permeates even our clothes and hair… Get the picture? Sin is stinky stuff. It contributes to the “My life isn’t supposed to be this way!”  line of thinking.

How do we do it? How do we work out the problems, the disasters, the grief, the constant sadness of what has happened to us in our lives that have derailed our plans for our lives to the extent that we have gotten to the place where we cry out: But my life wasn’t supposed to be like this! This isn’t how I thought it would be! It’s not how I planned it! I didn’t do anything wrong! I never wanted this!

 

I never dreamed this would happen to me.

Our souls cry out with longing: How long? Why is this happening in my life, to my family, to those I love, because of those I love? What have I done? What are You trying to teach me? My mother always said:  “Be sure your sins will find you out.”; What sin, Lord, what sin? Where did I go wrong? What did I do to p*** you off? (oh yes I did ask that at one time- and I think it was only once and I’m so sad I did and so thankful for His forgiveness) What is it I am not getting? When will this end? When will I see the light at the end of the tunnel? Why not him and not me? Why not her and not me? What about them, their sin, their messed up lives? Why Me?

And the corker, now to me is this: How come You allowed this to happen to me?  If you could hear me say ‘allowed’ it would be very loud, long and drawn out. Acckk.

Looking back and looking at what I wrote above I notice something that stands out. You probably have, too.

I, I, I, I, me, me, me.

How incredibly self-centered I’ve been at times. There’s no getting around it. Out in the wasteland, out there, it’s terribly lonely and the only one I saw out there was me.

Just thinking about this, I hear the Michael Card song “How Long?”  playing in my head- (you can find it on youtube- just ignore the 80’s guitar solo bridge) His words were taken from Psalm 13:1-6:

 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ”and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

 

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

 

Just writing about this has taken me back to that place, those volcanic feelings erupting all over my day. Ick. Most of the time I’ve read this I’ve stopped after verse 4. I’ve fallen into the crack between ‘fall.’ and ‘But’ more times than I care to admit. I fallBut when I keep reading, the promise is fully given, the trial redeemed. I am set free to praise Him in the cracks and empty spaces in my life. I am free to praise Him for the cracks and empty spaces in my life.  I am free to mourn my plight because He is good to me. And, I am free to offer up my praise for His salvation as long as I draw breath.

I can actively practice trust daily, regardless of what life {God} brings to my door.   And, in doing so I find the gift of His Love in the small and large. In the minutiae of taking the next breath and in the grandness of a sunrise.

Dear friend, has everything happened according to what you planned for your life? Are you worn out because of the constant wrestling with your heart?  Will you let Him meet you in your wilderness?

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

 Linked up with:

Five Minute Fridays: Focus

Here we go again! and today’s prompt is:

Focus

I see the words slip in and out of focus on the page. I’ve tried once before to put them together in just the right way. It’s no good. I’m stumped. Focus demands our full attention. I glance at the words again. Oh, there! A phrase clicks into focus. I read it again. Pull a word out here, insert there. Delete that one entirely. Slowly the writing begins to take the shape that was intended. And…. then, it is complete. I look at  the words again and they are crisp, clear, lined up on the page. They make sense. This is focus. There is no uncertainty of meaning  here. I write words down in a certain order; I am a designer of a word picture. Click. Print.

 

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker.

Clothed with Joy?

 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30: 11-12

When I read that verse, I’m reminded of Minnie Pearl’s trademark statement (yes, I’m that old). Her declaration: “Howdy!  I’m just so glad to be here!”  made everyone laugh. Well, maybe it was really the price tag hanging from her hat she always wore, but as a child I heard her say that more times that I can remember- Grand Ol’ Opry was a staple in the house. When she would arrive on stage and make that statement her eyes would sparkle and she had a sweet, mischievous look on her face. I don’t remember any of her routines but I loved watching her. There was real, deep joy in her face and it was contagious.

If you read a my previous post, The Overwhelming, you realize that I referred to not having much joy in my life. My life has not been traumatic by most measurements but repeated events with my grandmother/mother contributed to chipping away what joy I had.

She was- different. 

She could turn on the charm to get a doc to give her the med of the moment and she could turn on me for an imagined wrong that she had been steaming over all day while I was at school.  Her mind could dish up stuff that folks would never believe unless they actually heard it from her mouth. I lived with her manipulations, unpredictability and instability my entire adult life.

As a child, I became invisible with my nose in a book in the corner of the room- out of the way of the fray of the day. As adolescence approached, her focus turned on me with a vengeance. I had become a woman; inconceivably, I became competition, and other unprintable adjectives as her mind conjured up situations that did not exist. I was 12 when I was blindsided by it the first time.  When I married, I was the one who abandoned her; she always declared that when I came to my senses and came home and everything would be ok again. She knew the time to pick for her most vicious accusations- when we were alone and there was no one to hear the insane ramblings but me. For years, I would steel myself in prayer before being in the same room with her, hoping that just this once she would open her eyes and see.

I know what being overwhelmed looks like.                       Me. 

God allowed me to be overwhelmed more times than I can remember with her. After almost every encounter, I would find myself in a smoldering heap of garbage inside. I plodded through life with her; angry that I had to hear the insinuations and the manipulations that I refused to play along with, sad that I did not have the mother I thought I needed or wanted.

When it was really bad, the Overwhelming would spill out of me and onto my husband and children; it was hard to keep it bundled up. Angry isn’t pretty-especially on me. Think nuclear waste dump. When I slept it was with a clenched jaw and my fingers curled into my palms til they made dents in my skin. I never knew when the phone would ring in the small hours of the morning with another issue demanding my attention.

As I matured in life and in faith, living in this overwhelming refining, I finally understood that this was life with her; she would not or could not change. And this was when I learned

Joy doesn’t find itself at home much when forced to share with anger.

When she died, I had been in the battle for so long, I was numb and had forgotten Joy.  But God, (don’t you love those two words?) But God gave me a little verse hidden in the midst of one of David’s Psalms and gave me the gift that restored Joy to its rightful residence in my heart.

 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

I cling to that verse today- it was the catalyst for the scales to fall from my eyes so that I can see the overwhelming refining for what it was and is the prayer I have prayed since. And I’m beginning to sing again and wonder what being clothed with Joy will look like on me. Maybe, just maybe it will look like Minnie Pearl’s face…

Are you still in the Overwhelming? Or have you begun to dance and sing in a new outfit called Joy? Tell me about it?

P.S. I’m not sure that there is a logical, medical or spiritual explanation for her behavior- some would say borderline personality disorder, some would say oppression by the ultimate liar, me- I just called it functionally insane. She was very much in the present and knew who, how, what, where and when up to her death. There was just this part of her brain that worked wrong. I stayed in her life because she was the only mother I had- and for so long kept hoping she would see “me”. Then, because there was no one else, I was there, unwilling, but knew that God wanted me there. He was in control then and He is in control now.