The Giant Question Mark Left Behind…Suicide

I went for a walk this evening and was thinking about today’s sermon at the church I attend. There was a statement our Pastor made that stuck out to me. He was talking about the events around Jesus’ death and resurrection and how Thomas doubted Jesus being alive. “Thank God He is the God of second chances!! Or third, or fourth or more.” In light of events in my week these words hung in my mind.

Last Monday my husband and I went for our evening walk on the track at our local YMCA. While finishing up our laps, we got a call from my oldest son with very sad news. A family friend that we have known him and his wife for several years, Clint, had ended his life by shooting himself. Leaving behind a wake of sadness and gigantic question marks in the hearts of his family and his friends. My husband and I went to the home of Clint’s best friend, also a family friend for decades. As I sat there with Clint’s wife and other ladies who knew him or were friends with the family, I watched different ones shuffle in and out of the house. It was that night that I watched a grown man, biker from Clint’s motorcycle club, cry harder than I have ever seen a grown man cry. My heart broke and I have had no words to say.

Clint, his smile could light up a room.

This is the third suicide that has touched someone I know in less than a year: One a friend’s grandson in his early teens, another a sister in law’s nephew in his 20’s and then Clint, a husband, father, grandpa, son and friend. Tragedies beyond any words to describe. All this leaving me thinking about my own struggles and trying to understand. As one who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I would be lying to say that I have never ever thought of suicide as something that would be the cure. It’s a horrible thing to have your mind running with thoughts so jumbled that ending the thoughts permanently seems like a good solution. Thankfully God has graciously helped me to see something in the distance, past the jumbled mess of my mind to hope in a second chance, or third, fourth or 50th.

It occurred to me tonight as I walked, that God is always waiting there with another chance. We turn down that chance when we say we’re done and take the final step ending it all. I’m not saying God is eternally done with us at that moment. But I am saying the chance we had here on earth to see Him make something beautiful out of our broken goes away. That’s probably why the big question mark is left with all those who knew and loved us. Why? If we only knew what could we have done differently to help? There is always hope. It’s just a momentary blindness to it that leaves us choosing the ultimate act of hopelessness and leaving a gaping hollow hole in the hearts of all those who loved us in the aftermath of that choice.

The story in the Bible of Jesus’ death includes each of His closest friends struggling to find hope. One denied his friendship. One doubted his resurrection, all of them scattered so many different ways. Of these, Jesus gave them each a second chance. It makes me wonder, “What about Judas?” If he had taken his mess of betraying Jesus to God in repentance instead of hanging himself, could his brokenness been made beautiful too? That’s yet another question mark left behind by the act of suicide.

I want to find myself on the side of always taking that second chance, third chance, fiftieth… Jesus paid a huge price out of His great love to give that to me. If I can get just get a glimpse of it. There is always hope no matter how small and far away it may seem. If we can somehow let Jesus in, even in our darkest hour, that hope will do the impossible with our broken pieces of our mess. Because that is what Jesus does. He makes all things new. Even the ones that seem impossible.

(Clint was a believer in Jesus. I want to honor his Memory. I am sure that anything that points to the hope found in Jesus would be on Clint’s heart right now for those who hear his story to grab ahold of, and even in these moments of extreme brokenness that all who knew him and loved him that are left behind feel, God still will take the brokenness and make it beautiful once more. That is what God does.

There is no shame in asking for help. If these thoughts of self harm plague you, talk about them. Reach out. There is no shame in getting help. I know in religious circles there can sometimes be a stigma with receiving professional help. I go to a doctor if I can’t get over a sore throat or a cough. I go to a mental health therapist if I can’t get past the thoughts that run in my head. This in no way negates what God can do. God can use these professionals to let the healing begin. Don’t leave behind a giant question mark for those you know and love to wrestle with. You are worth more than that to God and them.)

The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Wilderness Wandering

Several years ago me and God had this thing. That may sound a little strange at first, but hear me out. My house has an upstairs deck. It’s not very big, but it’s not easily accessible by my Great Pyrenees, and it faces East. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise without getting slobbered on on a beautiful Spring morning. Several years ago it was my spot that I went out on with a cup of coffee and my Bible, sometimes a blanket. I would pray and contemplate God and His goodness over my life. But I got busy… Busy homeschooling teens/ four kids, prepping for my volunteer work at church and in our homeschool community, keeping my house somewhat clean, the troups feed, etc… So even though I still maintained my quiet time or prayer and Bible reading in the morning, my moments of sunrise with Jesus went to the wayside.

As I’ve alluded to before in my blog, I’m in a new season in my life. All the indicators of this new season have been popping up all over: three of my four kids have graduated our homeschool, my oldest is married, my next one is engaged, my third is in college, my fourth is a junior and has a drivers license- never around , I’ve got a grandbaby, and I turned 50. I’ve felt a little lost here recently, a little bit like I’ve been wandering in a wilderness.

Today as I was reading my Bible. I came a cross a few verses that stuck out to me. Jeremiah 31:2-3 “This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”” The Message version puts it this way, “They found grace out in the desert(wilderness)…Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” Finding grace in the wilderness sounds pretty good to a person that feels like they’ve been wandering around in one here lately, and for a person who has been looking around trying to figure out how to rest, the assurance that God is out looking for me and gives rest freely is awesome.

I think from time to time in my 36 years of walking with the Lord I get myself off track. I forget what I am really seeking and find myself chasing after other stuff. The “other stuff” may not be all that bad, like the busyness of life: Raising a family, feeding the aforementioned family, cleaning house, church committments, community committments… not all bad. Sometimes it takes me waking up in a wilderness to show me I may have gotten a little off track.

The book of Hosea in the Bible is the story of a prophet who marries a prostitute. He loves the prostitute and tries to get her to quit running after her other lovers. It was a living illustration of what Israel was like to God. God loved Israel, and they continually ran after their other lovers, idols. I can see myself in that story too. I find myself too busy chasing other lovers and lose my way to the upper deck for “A Sunrise with Jesus”. Hosea records these words, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14. There are times it takes God leading us out into a spiritual “wilderness” to show us that our other “lovers” are not what will fulfill. The truth of the matter is God is not after all the things I can do… He is after me. He wants my heart, my love, my worship, my time…He wants me.

It hit me today after reading these verses, how much I’ve missed my “Sunrises with Jesus”. I may let my neck of the woods warm up a bit more before I head out the upper deck door, but I need that time to resume. It is in that place I can experience the rest of Jeremiah 31:2-3 I quoted above. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love and HIs kindness are revealed to us when we take the time to slow down and “rest” in His presence, when we’re quiet and calm enough to be able to receive what He’s been offering us all along, Himself.

Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, Dearly Loved

I grew up in a small Missouri town. When I say small, I’m talking one stop light and no McDonalds until I was a teenager. Population 4,600. And I must emphasize, I grew up in town, small house on a lot with neighbors close by. Since I moved away and married, I have ended up living in the country. Some people may term my property as a small farm. I can stand out on my porch and hear cows mooing in the distance. Having never owned cows or livestock of any kind as a kid, I was not aware of the extent of care they could require in the winter months. A few years ago my husband ventured out into the livestock arena. We purchased a few cows, had them bred, and watched the little calves grow. It was alot of fun and a learning experience for me. Things that never occured to me like giving them bales of hay on an extremely cold day and breaking the ice on our pond so they could get a drink were part of the daily norm until we sold them. Yesterday I was scanning my facebook account where I saw a brief video my niece had posted. Her husband is a farmer. They had a little calf that was near to freezing in these subzero temps from the “Polar Vortex” we are experiencing. He came into their house with an armful of calf to be warmed up in their bathroom for awhile. This was much to the delight of her little boy. That calf had achieved prefered status.

The scene from that clip has been rolling around in my head this morning as I have read my Bible. I’ve been spending some time chewing on a couple of sections of scripture. One is John 21:15-22 and the other is Ephesians 4:1-3. The section of John is an account of Jesus and Peter having a conversation after Jesus had ressurected from the dead. Just prior to Jesus’ death Peter had denied Jesus three times in an effort to save his own skin. I’m not so sure I would have done much better in view of the circumstances. Peter had watched Jesus be arrested and hauled off to an unfair trial and knew the hatred the religious establishment had for Jesus and His teaching. When questioned about his affiliation with Jesus, he made it plain to those questioning that he didn’t know Him, the One he had previously said He would fight for and die for, never deny. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Twice He used the term “agape”. Once He used the term “phileo”. “Peter do you agape me, ‘actively prefer me and self sacrifice for me’? Take care of my sheep.” “Peter do you phileo me- ‘ hold me affectionately in your heart’?”

Agape… digging around on my “Bible Hub” app. looking at the Strong’s concordance puts it in a brighter light. It’s a preferred love. A preferred status if you will. It’s placing someone as your priority, your preference that you would give yourself away for. Here’s where the second scripture comes in: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” That term for love comes from “agape” too. Except this time the focus of the agape is from God toward us. It speaks of us being chosen by God, set apart for Him, and dearly loved- preferred, sacrificed for. Kind of like that little calf of my niece and her husband. Quite honestly when I look at myself, I don’t see a whole lot for me to offer God. I’m like a little calf in a “Polar Vortex” freezing to death, but God looks at me as her husband, the farmer, did the calf, VALUABLE. Valuable enought to brave a cold winter storm, pick up the little calf and take it into his home to be warmed and cared for, given preferred status. Not every calf in the field gets the attention that little one did yesterday. The farmer saw the need and sacrificed to meet it.

I believe that from the moment we are born until the day we die, our enemy, Satan, spends his time trying to get us to view God as anything but the One who prefers us, the One who sacrificed for us, and the One who went out looking for us in our most desperate time of need so He could bring us in. Satan tries to paint the picture of God as the one who looks out on a sea of people that are expendible, and a pain in God’s side. Not enough time for us, not enough grace, not enough love, distant, uncaring, tired of our screw ups, etc… But God “agape’s” us. He’s the one who leaves the 99 to find the one. So He can give the prefered status of His forgiveness, care, and constant attention to us. It is when I am able to see myself as that little calf, brought in from the cold, delighted in that I understand God has set me with His “Preferred Status- Chosen, Holy, and Dearly Loved”.

Letting the baby see the calf

Big Head/ Low Self Esteem/ Beloved- That’s Just Right

My Grandma used to say I should be careful bragging on my kids too much. She’d say, “You’re going to give them the big head”. I didn’t pay any attention to her concern, because the way I saw it, in our world a kid needs all the praise, encouraging, and bragging they could get. BUT, I do get it. Pride is an awful thing, and being a conceited little snot is not what a young mother is aiming for in her sweet little child either. Somewhere in the middle between the proud person and the person with very low self esteem is where God created us to be. Jesus called that “the meek”. Someone humble enough to yield themselves to God and understanding enough to give Him glory for all good things.

I’ve been thinking alot about Performance Based religion and true Christianity lately. It may have taken me almost 50 years, but I’ve been seeing things a lot more clearly as of late. Performance Based Religion has many roots and fruits that have been on display for Years in our world. I’ve spent my time exhibiting both the roots and the fruits in my journey with God. Spiritual pride can be one of the fruits. I’ve spent time in religious groups that thought they had it all together. You know, they were all that and a bag of chips. “Our doctrine is the most Biblically accurate, our fellowship is the closest to the Acts church. Other churches don’t get the truth like we do…” and on and on and on. Those attitudes and beliefs isolate you from a lot of Brothers and Sisters in the Church (God’s family) that may not agree with you on every little detail of doctrine, yet they still have a precious walk with God. They also set up a standard that noone can live by. “We have this truth… So we must walk in a manner more spiritual than those around us. We have to NEVER let the other ones see us sweat… or they won’t ever see how superior our walk is to theirs.” Once again, Performance Based… Noone can be that good.

Romans 12:3 has alot to say about these things. “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service].” Amplified. or as the Message puts it “…The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are what we do for him.”

Understanding ourselves according to who God is and what He has done and continues to do Is HUGE. Whether you suffer from spiritual pride or from extremely low self esteem. Ultimately our relationship with God and our purpose within the church has nothing to do with US. It is all about glorifying God, and we can’t even do that rightly without God’s grace giving us the ability and the faith to do so. Let that take the pressure off. We don’t have to worry about having the Spiritual Big Head when we are always pointing to Jesus, and we don’t have to worry about not ever being enough when our goal is to have all eyes off of us and on Him.

The details of our awesome attributes we think we have to bring to the table or the knowledge of everything we lack both vanish when we see God right. It is true “our righteousness is like filthy rags.” We can’t “DO” enough. Good news for the one who feels like, and rightfully so, that they can’t measure up. You can’t… But God can. It’s also true that if we think we are all that we need, we should watch our step, “lest we fall”. Because we simply cannot be good enough on our own. We need Jesus. Understanding this makes our relationship with God real. We don’t have to be a show off and we don’t have to be a slave. We just have to be HIS… His Beloved and That is just right.

“Falling Into Grace”

It’s a cold, snowy day in my neck of the woods. Too cold for a walk outside and I’m too lazy to go to the Y so the treadmill it has to be. Walking on the treadmill requires something to keep my mind occupied otherwise it is the most mundane of task especially since mine faces a blank wall in my bedroom. Usually I spend my time watching “Garden Answers” YouTube videos so I can dream up new outdoor projects. Or I occasionally crank music as loud as I can through my headphones. Nothing like a good beat and blazing guitars to motivate the 30 minute walk on the “sidewalk that goes nowhere”.

I think it would work…

Today was a perfect day for loud music and the album of choice was “No Name Face” by Lifehouse. The past few days I’ve had one of their songs running through my mind. “Unknown”. The phrase that goes over and over in my head is “I am falling into grace, to the unknown, to where you are, and faith makes everybody scared it’s the unknown they don’t know that keeps me hanging on and on, and on to you.”

Performance based religion, legalism, when you’ve had that wired into your brain it’s hard to see anything else. There have been times that I have been involved in churches that lived and breathed performance… Fear of not being enough has ravaged my mind and heart. I believe the intentions of the people in those churches were very sincere. We wanted to live what the Bible said, and we would do it doggonit… , but sadly it was mainly in our own strength. That is a recipe for disaster. The truth of the matter is there is no system or set of rules, regulations, standards, etc. that will change the heart. Simply said we can’t do it on our own. Somewhere along the line we have to see ourselves rightly, more importantly see God rightly, and “fall into grace”.

Freedom for me hasn’t been in strapping myself to a list of things that I needed to do to be the Christian God wants. It has been in seeing that me, the one God wanted, was wanted when I was at my worst. As the Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. And my value is not in how excellent I can be, it is in being the one God valued enough to pay the ultimate price for, His Son’s life and death on the cross. Nothing has hit me harder than that reality. You don’t pay high prices for things you don’t value. For example: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste my time paying $1000 for a chewed piece of gum on a sidewalk. It has no value to me. I wouldn’t pay a penny either. But I would happily invest $1000 in a hot tub. Actually more than $1000 if I could find one that cheap lol. Anything to warm these chilled Midwestern girl’s bones… (winter blah…) I value the hot tub. It’s worth something to me. In the same way, God saw something worth something in me and paid a price, His Son, to bridge the gap between us so I could be His. That’s Good News.

Yes Please!! This would be so nice right now!!

The issue for me is “falling into grace” is a bit like tandem skydiving with God as my skydiving instructor. Ultimately, when I take the jump out of that plane, I have to trust. I have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. I have to trust that He will do exactly what He said He will do. Here’s the big one… I have to trust that the parachute will open at the right time. As one who is afraid of heights, this whole example would never happen in the real world unless for some reason you got me on a small plane and something went horribly wrong. Then there would be no other option, but to jump and to trust that the Master Jumper was able to rescue me. Here’s the deal, my life, in fact anyone’s life is like the passenger on that “doomed plane’. There’s no turning around the mess I’ve been in in my own strength. It’s only in taking the jump of faith, and holding on to the One who has ahold of me. Nothing I can do or will do at that point changes things because God is the one who gets me safely to where I am going by whatever means He deems necessary to get me there. He does not let go. Thank God.

“Falling into Grace” is really the only viable choice for my heart.. Sitting there when your plane’s going down doesn’t make any sense no matter how scary the options of life may be. Life is a long series of “unknown” circumstances. I just don’t know how it all will turn out. But if I am jumping tandem with God, I know I will arrive,and His Grace will, as the old hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “lead me home”.

Do Not Fret/ Trust

This blog has been my outlet for the past few years. As a habitual “stuffer” I’ve found the best way to get stuff out and let a little pressure off has been to write. I often think of the old pressure cooker my mom used to can vegetables with when I was a kid. The gauge on top would shake and make noises the longer the heat increased and the pressure grew inside until she opened it a little and let the steam out and turned down the heat. Writing is just one of those tools that releases a little of my internal steam and pressure as I live my life day in and day out, amongst many other tools I’ve been developing to deal with anxiety and depression. (exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, etc.).

I would have to admit this week I’ve been thinking about exactly what I would say to help ease a lot of the tensions I’ve been feeling in my world and let off a little of the internal pressure I’ve been feeling. There are just so many angles and avenues of thought and discussion going on inside of me. Everything from interpersonal interactions, spiritual direction, the political environment as of late, and me knocking on the door of turning 50 years old in a matter of days. It all kind of shakes my internal pressure gauge and feels like something needs to be let out. Thus this blog entry…

I stand in pretty good company when it comes to blogging as a “feelings outlet”. My favorite “feelings blogger”of Biblical times, would be David. The book of Psalms in the Bible are mainly entries written by him as he too wrestled with inner pressures and outer circumstances. Reading his entries gives comfort to me on the regular. David was my kind of guy. He would lay out his feelings in poems, songs, and verses that would always end up concluding that God was the answer for all uncertain times, feelings, and circumstances.

This week, in particular, I’ve been reading and rereading Psalm 37. A Psalm written by an older more experienced David, who had seen a lot.

As a young man, David had worked in the Palace of a spiritually and mentally unstable King, who threw a spear at him. David had been a warrior in battles that had impossible odds (Fully armored giant vrs. slingshot toting Shepherd boy, David). He then found himself chosen and anointed by God to be the king of Israel. Then there’s David’s struggles with sin. David watching his own son turn against him, taking over the Kingdom. David hiding in caves, pretending to be insane to save his own life, the return to his Kingdom, etc. David reflects on all the ins and outs of life. The ups the downs. The good times and the bad. He says this:

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalms‬ ‭37:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:23-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A few days ago my 20 year old daughter and I went to the YMCA for our morning walk. She said something that kind of hit me. “Mom, a lot of my friends and the people I follow on Social Media talk about how they wish they had been born in a less complicated time, like the 80’s…” I told her I understood that sentiment. When I was her age, living in the 80’s I wished for a life as simple as the 50’s when my mom was a teen. It’s funny how there really isn’t anything new under the sun. Bad rulers have come and gone. Good ones have too. Times of peace and prosperity and freedom have been around, times more restricted and harsh have been too. But in the end when we stand with God we will be alright. Just like David said, “Evil people and their agendas will come and go. But God takes care of those of us who trust in Him.” It is only a matter of me keeping my eyes on God and staying close to Him in my relationship with Him.

David’s words “Do not fret” are what’s been churning around inside of me. I’m pretty good at fretting. I come by it honestly I guess. But God’s goodness to me proves I can “trust”. Somewhere along the line He is going to work all these things out. He has a plan and He is in control. I just need to keep showing up. Show up in my time with Him, reading His word (the Bible) and praying. Show up in my time with my husband and family. Enjoy them and soak up the gift they are. Show up for my friends, who are God’s gift too. Spend time with them and enjoy them encouraging me while I try to encourage them. Show up for those I don’t know that I’m around. You know… “shine your light”. We have been given God’s love to share. It is the cure for our struggles in the uncertain times. God will take care of His kids. That I can be assured.

David said “I’ve been young and now I’m old. I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken”. God will not leave us alone. Eyes on Him. It will all be alright.

My Next Fifty Years

Oh the joys of social media… Probably one of the main reasons I haven’t dumped Facebook and went back to a flip phone is the Birthday reminders. I am notorious for forgetting birthdays. Ask my husband. His is just two days after mine and I forgot it the first year we were married. Notorious… Anyway, the daily reminders of Birthdays of friends and family has been one of the little gems for my life that Facebook has given me. It also provides opportunity for me to mark my birthday each year. I’m not sure if that’s a little gem or not lol. Each year for as long as I can remember having Facebook, my status on my birthday has been “half way to…”. At 45 I was “Half way to 90”. At 47 I was “Half way to 94”. Well this year I have arrived. I will be “Half Way to 100”. This is probably the best year to stop that practice. My grandpa made it to just a few days shy of 101 and I’m pretty sure 100 years is about as far as I want to go.

Me almost 50 years ago. Lol
Just gotta be me.

All this reflecting on being “Halfway to 100” in a few weeks, has had me thinking about an old Tim McGraw song, “My Next 30 Years”. Here’s a little sample of the lyrics to refresh your memory:

“Oh, my next 30 years I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers, huh
Maybe, I’ll remember my next 30 years”

I’m not a beer drinker, but this song has been rolling around in my head for about a month. It’s a summary of all the things he would do different his next 30 years to get more out of his life. It’s got me thinking… “What would I want to do in my next 50 years?”

Where it all started in my first 20 years .

A majority of my first 50 years have been spent being married and raising a family. Married won’t change but raising a family already has. I’m down to one kid out of 4 that isn’t an adult yet and he’s just one year away from turning into one. So for my next 50 years life is going to be a lot more different than the first 50. My first 50 years I spent a lot of time preoccupied with things that just didn’t matter. Though I tried my hardest, I let the worries and cares around me squeeze out a lot of the daily joys. It’s funny how the little things like time spent playing at the park with my kids really did become the big things. Being busy with silly stuff made me miss some of the most important things during my first 50 years. My next 50 years I want to enjoy the gifts God has given me in my life: my husband, my kids, and my grandkid (grandkids to come). Being present, here and now each day with them… I want to soak up every ounce of joy God gives me with them for my next 50 years.

Somewhere in time during my first 30- 40 years.

It’s funny how my first 50 years I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix me. I think my next 50 I’ll try to just let it be and leave that to God. A good place to start is just accepting that I’m not perfect, but dearly loved by God, His grace really is Amazing and His forgiveness is Free. My next 50 years I am going to believe that when God calls me “Holy and Dearly Loved by Him” Colossians 3:12. He means it. It’s not just words on a page, and He wants me to know Him, not just work at crossing off another item from a religious “to do” list to make Him happy with me. Maybe a little less religiousness and a lot more relationship with Him my next 50 years.

For my next 50 years I want my theme song to be “This Little Light of Mine”. Instead of trying to figure out how to be God’s bullhorn, I want to shine. My daily interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances would be marked by this. Not some bold in your face intimidation, but a taste of God’s goodness just seeping off of my life. Get close enough and you’ll smell it, see it, taste it and want more of Him. I want to be a reflection of Him in everything I do for my next 50 years.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my next 50 years will be the best 50 of my life. Thanks to all the things I’ve learned the last 50. I guess they call that perspective, another Gift God has given to me. May I really take hold of it these Next 50 years.

The family. My “Opus Magnum” and The joyful gift God’s granted me my first 50 years

Process- One Step at a Time Toward Freedom

“So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There are some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Things don’t go as you think they would, life takes turns that surprise the most confident and secure of us shaking us to the core. Then there is the constant nagging of an area of struggle. “Paul’s Thorn in the flesh” played out in our everyday life. The one thing that keeps us on our knees holding on to what we can grasp of Jesus when we can’t seem to see what’s up and what’s down.

I imagine the mood of ancient Israel during the time of its enslavement to Egypt was a combination of these emotions. There was this promise given by God to Jacob. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again” Genesis 46:3-4 And then there was the reality of their daily life trapped, enslaved, beaten, berated, suffering… somehow the two didn’t seem to go together. But God had a plan.

I’ve been living the Christian life most of my life. I grew up in church, Gave my life to God at a young age. I am one of those read my Bible daily, pray often, regular church goers. But I can honestly say that some of the “good” ideas to help others has been some of the most devastating areas of struggle in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t go like you think it will and instead of being a temporary resident of Egypt for a good cause you end up enslaved, beaten down, and suffering in a place that in your mind was not meant to be like that. “What did I do wrong?” May be the thought you play over and over in your mind. When really you didn’t do anything “wrong” at all. It may feel like you were left for a long term stay in Egypt.

The anxiety and depression I have battled in my life feels just like a long term stay in Egypt with a cruel task master on my back. Now that I admit that I struggle, (an act of being defeated as seen by some in the “Faith” world) I can see just how long the nagging taskmasters of “you’re never enough” and “everything is all up to you” have been driving me with their long mental whips. It’s been quite awhile, and much like the Israelites, I have asked God to step in and fix it all time and time again.

This morning I sat in the quiet of the pre dawn hours reading my Bible and praying thinking of my day ahead and my appointment with my counselor to come in a matter of a few hours When I came across the verses above. It hit me. God sees me. God has heard my cries because of the driving of my cruel task masters that try to tule over me and He is concerned. God sees our struggles. It’s not a disappointment or a surprise to Him. But He also has a plan and provision made for bringing us out of them. Sometimes it may be one by one, slowly, and not exactly how we expected. But He will come. He does not fail. Even though I may view my world through the eyes distorted by what the disappointment in Egypt caused, God sees me as I really am, His. His promise is not to be enslaved by the thoughts of my mind, but to step into His “spacious place” where I, with Him am “more than enough” and “cared for greatly” by Him.

And here’s the main kicker, He is going to show me all of this. Every hour, every minute, every second that I look to Him. It took God to step in a miraculously free the Israelites from their land of oppression. God has already stepped in and purchased my freedom through Jesus. I have to learn how to walk as one who is free, one of freedom’s steps at a time. (Sounds like the power of the P word “Process” Baby! 😬)

https://youtu.be/NieC8KA0EvI

The Power of Being “With”

In 14 days, my husband and I will be doing this “Marriage” thing for 28 years. January 2nd, 1993, the day it all started. After 28 years, it occurs to me on occasion that we tend to act more and more like a little old couple. Bickering back and forth… especially when we drive somewhere together. It’s kind of a cross between a long played game of verbal sparring and an artful dance of our wits.

I was thinking about all this on my brisk winter walk this afternoon around our property. It’s been an emotionally stressful week for the both of us. As I’ve mentioned before in my blog this was the week my husband got a cardiac ablation done at a specialty hospital in the city. This required a two hour trip there and then back, overnight for him in the hospital and me in a hotel by myself. The whole event was a combination of things I would rather not do or have either of us experience: Including me dropping him off at the surgery center, kissing him goodbye, and driving away back to the hotel to sit and wait for word on how everything went. Five hours by myself… me and my thoughts.

I picked up some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, water, and a soda at a close by convenience store and some breakfast at the hotel. Then I went to my room to wait, think, and pray. I had left my Bible at home since I use the YouVersion app on my phone. But I thought about how nice it would be to have a hard copy to hold “with” me at that moment. Thanks to the Gideon’s there was just that. It may be KJV, but at least it was a Bible. I flipped it to Psalms read some verses and remembered a time almost 17 years ago I dug out a Gideon’s Bible at my hospital room when my son was born. He ended up in the NICU and I needed to be “with” God that moment. Because I felt so very much alone at that time. There’s something about being “with”.

I was more than ready to head back to the hospital that afternoon when the nursing staff called me and told me I could come and be “with” my husband. I cannot describe how good it felt to roll the hospital’s recliner next to his bed and sit within a couple of feet of him and to put my hand on his. It reminded me of our wedding day right after the ceremony. I had ahold of his hand, and for some reason I did not want to let go or get more than a few feet away from him. I was “with” him and it felt so good.

“Reunited and it feels so good”

The past few years have taught me a lot about being “with” him. I’ve not always appreciated it as much as I do today. We’ve had our good times and our bad times just like any long term marriage does. There have been times I couldn’t stand to be “with” him and truth be told he’s probably felt that way about me as well, but making it through the hard times has made being “with” him all the more sweet.

The power of being “with”… God knew all about that power thousands of years ago. One of the first things God said after He created the world was “It is not good for man to be alone”. He knew Adam needed to be “with” someone, God made Eve. Then Enter our sin… separating us from God, and then the Promise of Jesus, Emmanuel- God “with” us. The truth of the matter is although I sat alone in a hotel, I was not alone. The Season we are currently celebrating commemorates Jesus being born to make that a reality to the world. We don’t have to be alone. God wanted to be “with” us even when we, in our selfishness, did not want to be “with” Him. Because God loved us and still does and He knows how good it is for us to be “with”.

It has occurred to me that the past few days God “with” me was really orchestrating things for my good as He went along with me. Everything from the location of the hotel, the room I ended up with, the parking spot at the hospital, getting in a door I didn’t know I normally would not get into. He knew my fears and anxieties of being alone in an unfamiliar territory, and He let me know in little details all around me that He was “with” me.

When I arrived at the hospital and went to the room Rich was to be transferred to, I was alone again… But God took another opportunity to show me just how “with” me He is. I looked up on the wall of the Catholic hospital’s room. There was a crucifix and a plaque with these words. “Fear not, for I am with you… Isaiah 41:10” Indeed God is. The promise of Christmas has been fulfilled. Emmanuel, God “with” us. He does not leave us alone. Because His love shows to us the power of Him, God, being “with”.