Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daddy Speaking

"Just get a box of tissues before you even start watching." I looked at his face, shadowed with stubble. Then I looked in his eyes. The laughing man's-man eyes had changed, become soft, almost misty. His lips tightened as though he were trying to control a quiver in his chin.

"GREAT movie," the woman beside him said, nodding passionately, eyes wide, vulnerable.

A chorus of voices joined in, accolades for the movie, comments on the powerful emotions.

I tried not to tense visibly. The very mention of the movie made my mind shut down...and my heart ache.

They were talking about the movie Courageous, the story of men stepping up, becoming who they should be, being the leaders God intended. Except the man in my life didn't, and I really didn't think I could watch another reminder of how things did not go as God would have chosen...as I wanted.

"It's a promise, not pain." A whisper deep in my heart, just loud enough for my conscious mind to register. Still, easy enough to dismiss as imaginary...because the pain was still all too real.

No. That movie was not for me.

I left the home group that night and headed back to my friend's home. The next day I left there and headed back to Texas.

We had survived Valentine's Day and the first anniversary of my husband's dying, and it was time to go home.

Although I knew it was only a date on the calendar, some part of me felt good, like we had crossed an unspoken line in time, a line that said the first wave of emotional landmines were behind us and although more would be ahead, we would weather them well.

I had no idea the first was waiting for me in a decorated bag on my counter.

When we drove into the driveway, our house sitter came to meet us. Everyone grabbed bags, coolers, and "stuff", and one trip at a time, we unloaded. With piles of bags, pillows, and personal things spread through the house, I went to the kitchen to see the flowers my friend Kristi had sent me. Although they were a few days old, they were stunning. Mary Kate had done a great job trimming them and tending them so they still looked lovely for me. White roses and red carnations hugged up by greenery. Perfect.

Beside the vase of flowers sat my gift. I opened it somewhat slowly, enjoying the thoughtfulness, being remembered, not being alone on this holiday of expressing love...of being loved.

Then I pulled it out...

...and stopped.

Courageous.

The DVD.

"It's a promise."

I slid it back into the bag and stared at the gift lying on my counter.

This was no coincidence. 

This was not a whisper that might or might not be real, a whisper easy to dismiss.

This was a language I understood, the language of a Father speaking to a daughter too raw, too afraid, to trust her own ears. So He spoke in ways I could hear...in a home group I visited once, more than seven hours from my home...and in a gift of love and hope delivered right to me...waiting on my return...clear words too close together in time to miss.

This was more than a movie. This was Daddy speaking...

Monday, February 20, 2012

A View of What I See...And What I Pray to Always See

Periodically, I get asked how I study the Bible or how God speaks to me. This morning I was having some fabulous time with the Lord, and He was giving me answers to questions I have been asking. I thought I would share that with you and demonstrate how I study and how God speaks to me.

My notes are marked with ** and in regular font. The actual scripture is in bold.

I hope this blesses you by helping you with your Bible study, help you understand how God can use scripture to speak, and maybe offer you some answers you have been seeking, too.

Blessings!

Psalm 105
 1 Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
   make known among the nations what he has done.
**Praise the Lord and proclaim His name. Simple stuff. There are no qualifications. It isn't praise and proclaim when things go my way, when things are easy, or when I'm in the mood. I need to praise Him and proclaim His name period.
**"Make known what He has done"--sometimes it feels like He has done nothing. Sometimes I am drowning in all the stuff I have been hoping for that hasn't happened, or all I see is what I've lost. What am I supposed to say He has done. "All good and perfect gifts come from God." What good gift do I have? My kids, warm clothes, food, coffee with my friend, a good car, warm house, running water, clean water, the ability to put my feet up, the ability to read the Bible for myself....
Dear God, thank you. You spoil me with good things. Thank you.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
   tell of all his wonderful acts.
**"All His wonderful acts"--Daddy, please make me acutely aware of your wonderful acts, right down to the dandelion that makes me smile in the park. Who knows but that you protected that flower just so I would see it on a bumpy day and feel joy? In fact, I am willing to believe you did just that, that you saved that flower just for me because you know I love them. Thank you. Thank you for being so detailed in your love for me. Help me to not miss the tiny, but so intimate and personal detailed ways you love me.
3 Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
**Dad, sometimes when I'm seeking you, I get frustrated because I don't see you answering. Please show me how to rejoice anyway. Show me how to rejoice as I seek you. I'm not really sure how to do this, but I am seeking you, and I believe rejoicing has a purpose. Help me not to think my rejoicing means I will get something from you. Help me to rejoice simply because you deserve it. You are worthy of my rejoicing. But, Dad, I know if I seek you, I will find you, and honestly, that makes me giddy with expectation. So, please keep my motives in check for me.
4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
   seek his face always.
**Daddy, there are things I've needed help with that I've been avoiding because I don't have the answer. It is easier to escape. Forgive me for looking for the easy way out instead of looking for you. Forgive me for forgetting that you have every answer to every problem. Forgive me for not believing you care as much about those things as I do, maybe more, because I seem to think they are inconsequential or can be ignored. You never ignore a need. NEVER. Daddy, I'm sorry. I know you probably have been sitting there waiting to give me the answer so I could handle this and we could move on. I'm sorry. You are the answer. Forgive me for whining and not actually looking to you for the solution. Oh, Lord, keep pulling me back to you until I remember.
 5 Remember the wonders he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
**Daddy, I know this is probably talking about water out of a rock, armies in the ocean, and such, but honestly, the fact that you love me so much and you are so detailed in your commitment to me is a miracle. I think of all the times you speak to me, answer me, work on my behalf, save my butt, and just lavish me with your love, and I know the kazillion reasons I have given you not to love that way, but you do. THAT is miracle enough for me.
6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
   his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7 He is the LORD our God;
   his judgments are in all the earth.
 8 He remembers his covenant forever,
   the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant he made with Abraham,
   the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
   to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
   as the portion you will inherit.”
 12 When they were but few in number,
   few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
   from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
   for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
   do my prophets no harm.”
 16 He called down famine on the land
   and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
   Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
   his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
   till the word of the LORD proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
   the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
   ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
   and teach his elders wisdom.
 23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
   Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The LORD made his people very fruitful;
   he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
   to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
   and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
   his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
   for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
   causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
   which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
   and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
   with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
   and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
   grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
   ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
   the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
   and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
   because dread of Israel had fallen on them.
 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
   and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
   he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
   it flowed like a river in the desert.
 42 For he remembered his holy promise
   given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
   his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
**Daddy, thank you. I believe you are going to bring the children and me out of this with rejoicing. I believe you are going to bring us out with shouts of joy. I already see it. I see the huge change. We aren't where I want to be yet, but I see such faithfulness and wondrous change. The desert has been hard, but you have been so faithful. Thank you for reminding me of Joseph and Israel and the steadfastness of your promises. Thank you for feeding my anticipation and expectation. Thank you for the desert. I hated it, but I am amazed at how present you were in it, and if you brought others out with rejoicing and shouts of joy, I know we are coming out the same way. You take my breath away with your goodness.
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
   and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
   and observe his laws.
   Praise the LORD.
 **Daddy, I'm pondering this, "...that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws." I don't understand how their getting the lands of nations or the stuff others toiled for leads to keeping your precepts or observing your laws, but I want to understand because I want to keep your heart. I want to be faithful.
Daddy, I know this chapter is your promise to me. It is you assuring me again that you have us even if we are in the desert, and it is encouraging me to continue to believe in your promises. When the hard days come, help me not to fall into flesh patterns but to fall into THIS truth, right here. Help me to remember that you are in the desert and good things are here with you. Miracles and provision and love are in the desert, and, Daddy, if this is where you are the most evident, I want to be here. I know...I know I'm not always faithful, and I know I whine a lot, but really, if this is where I know you, this is where I would rather be. I love the idea of the Promised Land, and honestly, I'd like to rest, but the Promised Land is nothing if I am too busy with the "good stuff" to see the God stuff. All the gifts are useless if I don't see you. Please, Daddy, help me to always see you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When You Need...Something

It's that kind of day.

You know the one I mean? The kind of day when you are sort of wading through emotions that are all muddled like colors in a child's fingerpainting, and you can identify the emotions in the mix but can't really pick one out, so you just stare at the whole mess and wish somehow you could shake it like an Impressionistic Etch-a-sketch and come up with something that resembles a Monet masterpiece, something that may not look perfectly like what you think it should but is at least recognizable?

Yep. That kind of day.

Wanting to be by myself curled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee watching a favorite movie...and wishing a friend would show up with an invite to Starbucks.

Thinking this single life works and I can live like this and wishing I had some to curl up with on the couch and feel his arm around me.

Thanking God for the long list good stuff has gone on today but still wanting to cry because...because.

Because of all the stuff I can't put into words...all the stuff mooshed together in the fingerpainting that I can't quite shake into something that looks like real life.

And I want to tell someone, but really, what do I say? "My fingerpainting is broken, and I can't fix it"? Uh, yeah. They are sure to get that.

So I say nothing.

Instead, I ask.

I pick up my phone, look through the contacts, pick a name, and ask, "How are you today? Can I do anything?"

I pick up my computer, type in a name, write an email, and ask, "How is your day going? Is it better?"

I pull out my card box, address the envelope, open the card, and ask, "Do you know I'm thinking about you and praying for you? If not, I am."

I answer the phone, listen to the voice filled with anger or tears waiting to fall, and ask, "Do you need to scream?"

I get on my knees (literally and figuratively), and I ask, "Daddy, who needs me to pray for them right now?"

A name comes to mind, and I ask, "Daddy, please reach where they are. Please reach into wherever they are and meet them there. Whatever they need. Whatever they need to hear. Whatever they need to know. Oh, Daddy, give them that something. Meet them there."

The words come and so do the tears because I understand they are wading through their own life fingerpainting, trying to find some answers, trying to find some clarity, trying to find...something.

Who knows? Maybe me on my knees is the exact something they need.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Choose Daring

It is easy to pray about the problems.
It is far more daring to pray to be the answer.
Dear God, I choose daring.
How am I the answer?

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Prayer for You Today

I don't know what is going on in your life today...right now, but I prayed for everyone in my life realm this morning, and I want you to know I prayed:

Dear Lord, you are God over all things. You know all these people by name. You know the intimate parts, the silent joys they think others will believe are dorky, so they don't tell. I pray today that they share those joys with you and y'all have a great time rejoicing in them. I pray you share laughter, giggles, chuckles, and deep belly laughs.

I pray for the pain areas that they don't know how to talk bout or human words or best efforts can't touch. I ask you to speak to those pains and heal them and be sure they know you are not afraid of the tears, the screaming, or the coffee cups smashing against the wall as long as they are only aimed at a wall.

You know their dreams, even the ones they don't put in their diaries and journals because if someone sees, they might laugh at them. I pray today you would whisper life into the dreams, especially the dreams of loving deeply and being loved, make a difference in the world, knowing they have a purpose and belong, and I pray you would breathe into the other dreams...of getting to repaint the house, go on that vacation, or get a car that runs consistantly.

Daddy, you know how they need to be led and loved. Speak clarity of mind, clarity of priority, and clarity of purpose. Show them how to love others through time, action, and word. Bless families to be healed whether they be intact or broken. Just because folks fail at marriage doesn't mean they have to fail as Christians who choose to have a healthy relationship for family's--especially children's--sake. Daddy, show us how to be good to each other and value each other and bless each other...especially those annoying enemies of ours. Thank you for loving me when I was your enemy.

Meet financial needs and give folks wisdom to see the big picture not just the big screen TV. so much of our financial issues we create ourselvs and then want you to bail us out. Give us more sense than that, and nag the stuffing out of us so we are miserable when we ignore you.

Daddy, thank you for hearing my heart and my prayers. If I have prayed with the wrong heart or wrong intent--in judgment in anyway--I ask you to forgive me. Take my words and bend them to your will for your purpose. Above all, reveal yourself to everyone on my list and in my realm of life because above all things, they need you.

I love you, Daddy. I'm looking forward to spending the day with you. Amen.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friends and Enemies

"I've met someone," I say, smiling slightly, mostly looking down at the table.

In my peripheral, I see her sit up straight and her body get tight with excitement.

"Really?" she asks trying to control the excitement.

I nod, take a deep breath, and look up.

Who is he? What does he do? How did we meet?

I try to answer each question before the next question comes. I watch her face light with joy. Her eyes are bright. Her smile is big.

"Do you think he is the one?"

My eyes drop back to the table. I am caught off guard by the question, but more so by my answer.

"I think I buried one husband. I don't know if I can bury another one."

She is quiet. I wipe the annoying tear from my cheek and bite at my lip.

"I know you tell me I'm one of the bravest people you've ever known, and I know so many of you think I really would have made a helluva Marine. I don't know if I can do this."

My chin quivers. The table blurs, and I wipe at another stupid tear.

I am thankful she does not try to tell me not everyone dies because it doesn't matter. Some people do.

My husband did.

And people who like to remind me he wouldn't be here anyway don't understand. It is very different watching your husband walk out the door because he is starting a new life and walking out of a sanctuary and leaving him lying in a casket because he's dead.

I've done both.

And I am not sure I have it in me to risk that again.

"Maybe more time will help," she says softly, and I feel her watching me, and I know she wishes she could help in some way, say something. I wish she could, too.

I nod and wipe more tears.

"Does he make you happy?" Her tone is different, and I know she is trying to find me in this territory neither of us have ever traversed.

"He doesn't make me UNhappy."

She is quiet, watching me.

"I don't know how I feel anymore. I don't know how to identify emotions. I don't know..." I sigh deeply. "That isn't true. I do know how I feel. I feel frustrated.  I feel...broken, and I wonder if it will ever really go away.

"You know, Rob had heart problems from the time I met him. I used to lie awake with my head on his chest listening to his heart beat when it was arrhythmic because I was afraid if I went to sleep he would be gone when I woke up. I can't do that again." My voice cracks.

I shrug. "It's hard to be excited about someone new in your life when you are afraid they are going to die."

 "I can't imagine what that is like, Jer," her voice is low, filled with compassion.

I finally look up at her. Her eyebrows are furrowed, and there are tiny lines around her eyes.

"I know," I say. "Prayer, faith, and time."

She nods, but we both know...

The same time that can be my friend...can be my enemy.

How much time will it take before that truth no longer scares me?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 6--When It Is Just Okay

I spent the day in the garage--moving shelves, organizing, crying, and missing Rob.

Just missing him.

Every time I missed him I told the Lord about it, told Him what I missed. He listened. He didn't talk much actually. He just listened...and I told Him everything.

And somewhere in the missing and the crying and the telling Him, I was suddenly okay.

I cannot explain it. I won't try.

I only know that I really was okay.

I had reached the other side that I have desired for so long. I was out of the fog.

I wasn't delusional. I didn't think life was suddenly hunky dory, but my heart wasn't in torment anymore. My mind was no longer trying to play policeman over my heart or spirit.

I was no longer at war with myself.

I really was okay.

This week the children and I took a short trip. We had no agenda except to not be home. We decided to do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. Not our normal trip, but they decided it was "the best trip ever".

On the first day of the trip, I wasn't excited like I thought I would be. In fact, I was only doing the trip because I had told the kids we would. For whatever reason, I was melancholy laced with on-the-verge-of-tears.

In the past, I would have tried to suck it up and push through anyway, forcing myself to be happy and excited because that is what I was supposed to do. I would have driven myself crazy analyzing what had happened that had made me sad and figured out what I needed to do to avoid it next time. I would have tried everything in my arsenal to "fix" it so I had the "right" feelings.

This time, though, I pulled out my phone and sent a text to several friends. I told them the emotional soup I was in, that I didn't know why, but really wanted this trip to go great. Would they pray?

 My friend Leanna summed it up perfectly. "Sad days happen. Praying it is good anyway."

Sad days happen. Praying it is good anyway.

Sad happens.
Missing happens.
Grief happens.

Life happens.

But it can be good anyway.

And somehow...through ways I cannot explain...God took--takes--all that stuff that hurts and is hard and makes it okay...

...And somehow He takes the Here that looks nothing like I wanted it to be and turns it into exactly what I want it to be...

...And He leaves me humbled and loved...and overcome by His ways of transforming the ugly truth into beautiful Him...

...And that is what happened.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

And Then What Happened? Part 5--The Fifth Point on the Compass

My friend, John Perron, asked me once, "You know there are actually five points on a compass, right? Most folks only think there are four, but until you know the fifth point, the other four don't matter."

The four commonly known points tell a person where she is headed, but without the fifth point, they are useless and can, in fact, lead a person into worse terrain.

The fifth point, to which he refers, is the location of being, where a person is.

We people like to know where we are going. We want the path to where we want to get. What we neglect is the importance of recognizing and accepting where we are.

Too often we want others to believe we are in a high class subdivision with a great media room and nice car when in fact we are living on the edge of the city's favorite garbage heap. It stinks, is piled high with rotting garbage, and is shifted according to the latest thing that gets dumped out way. But we figure out the right words and the right ways to perform because we know what others expect of us. We know who we should be and what we should be, and we try to be that...even when we aren't.

So we fool people.

Sometimes...way too often...we fool ourselves.

And then we wonder why this compass keeps getting us right back Here.

The only way to get out of Here is to be honest about where Here is.

For me personally, I really didn't know where I was, I just knew what it looked like, and it looked dark.

And I didn't want to tell anyone that because I really didn't want to hear how I need to go see a counselor or how I need on meds or how there has to be some "fix". So you know, yes, I am aware my fabulous friends--and they are fabulous--are not trying to do a quick fix or plaster me with bandaids so I look good. They are truly concerned and are trying to help me find my way out either through a tour guide, ability to navigate the terrain better, or rescue ops. They love me. I know that. They wanted me out of my wilderness as much as I wanted out of it.

Sometimes it is hard to accept that the first step to getting out is embracing where you are.

You stop thinking about where you want to be or where you should be or where you hope to be. The other points on the mental/emotional/spiritual compass become mute. All the "should be's" don't matter, and you realize until you understand where you are, you will never have clear direction for where you are going.

I was in the dark.

I felt like I should be okay.
I felt like the holidays should have been the worst of it.
I felt like it had been ten months since Rob died, eighteen months since the split.
I felt like I should be able to pull it all together.
I felt like I should be able to determine big goals, break them into little goals, and identify a strategy to ge there.
I felt like...I shouldn't be sad or feel like something was missing...or miss...so much.

But I was sad, and I did feel like something was missing, and there was a lot I missed.

And I didn't know how to tell anyone because all of that was broken, and I didn't want to be broken. I wanted to be healed...and...

I was angry.

I was angry that God expected me to have so much together...anyway.

I was angry that He didn't care if I hurt or was sad. He had these grandiose plans that I needed to fulfill, and He had given these promises that I was supposed to be excited about. He had a hope and a future, and I should be thrilled.

Except no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't excited or thrilled. I was hurt, but I couldn't be hurt. I couldn't be sad. I couldn't...be honest about where I was...because after all, I knew what I should be, and I was trying so hard to be that.

About ten days after the crater, I decided to give myself a break. Instead of trying to keep it together, I hid in the garage. It has been in disarray for over a year as I added Mom's things and then Rob's things and shuffled things around and out and finally decided I couldn't do anymore. With camping season coming, the disarray needed to be organized, so I headed into the disorganized stuff dungeon.

I can't tell you what set it off. I honestly don't remember. I simply remember throwing the box and letting loose on God.

All the anger about His expectations erupted.

I let Him know how I was trying to be everything He wanted me to be, but I felt like He wasn't helping, and sometimes, it felt like He even went so far as to sabotage things.
I told Him how I was asking for help, and He was letting more hits come.
I told Him how much I hated everything that had happened, that I didn't understand, that I was trying to trust Him anyway, but He made it hard.
I told Him how I was trying to do and be...and I was tired.
I told Him I really didn't know what He wanted anymore...but if He would just tell me, I would do my best to be it just so I could have out of the pain.

I screamed and yelled and unleashed my human heart on a perfect God...

...and waited for Him to squish me like a bug.

Who am I to question or accuse a perfect God? Who is He to take it?

He is a perfect Daddy, and I am the daughter He adores.

Periodically, I hear Him speak with clarity of human voice, something so audible and clear that it fills the room. It was that voice He used when He stood with me in my garage and said gently,
"I just want you to be you. In every moment, I want you to be you and not fight it.
You hurt. Let yourself hurt and don't fight it.
You are angry. Let yourself be angry and don't fight it.
I created you to have all of these emotions. Let yourself be what I created you to be.
I created you to be angry, to be sad, to be lonely.
I created you to feel deeply. Let yourself...even when it hurts."
I sat on a set of low shelves and sobbed.

"I miss him."

I felt the presence of God sit beside me. "What do you miss?"

And I told Him.

I miss his laughter and his smile. I miss the inside jokes. I miss the smell of his cologne. I miss the familiarity of his kiss. I miss the out of the box amazing things he did. I miss the feel of reaching over and his being in bed with me. I miss...Rob.

And He listened. He listened to me tell Him how I missed the beauty of the masterpiece He had loaned me for twenty-three years.

He didn't question.

He didn't ask how I could miss someone who had hurt me so deeply, someone who had walked out and took "until death do we part" promises with him. He didn't think I was absurd for being sad or feeling a loss. He didn't give me reason to be ashamed or embarrassed that I loved someone who made mistakes, someone was broken in heart and did broken things, and I didn't have to explain.

I just had to be...

honestly...

in that moment...

And for the first time in over a year and a half, I was at peace...not with everything that had happened...but with being Here...even when no one else understood where I was or why...

I understood...and for the first time, I knew He wasn't focused on where I should be...I knew He was okay with my being...

...Here.