Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Normal Day

Its been an interesting day.

How so?


I can't explain it. I've felt almost normal. 


Every day is normal. You can't judge the day by circumstances.


I have no idea what that means.


So, what's different about today?


Well, I don't have a lot of pain. I mean, virtually none. For a while now. I woke up with mild discomfort but it passed off. I'm thankful for that. It has been cloudy all day and finally rained. We went to Louisville to get my son from the airport. It was actually a good trip, despite heavy cloud cover. I read all the way there and most of the way back. About half way home, we put in a Credence Clearwater Revival cd in. I love CCR. Mike and I sang.


So, isn't that normal?


Not that. I mean how it feels. Except on the way back I felt alone. 


But you weren't alone. Both sons and Sarah were with you.


See, I know this. I looked out over the fields and the forest that lay along the highway and there was just this sense of isolation and emptiness and huge sadness.


Maybe it was just because of the large space. 


I really don't think so. That's never going to stop, is it?


You can't judge your circumstances by one day. Everything changes. That's normal.


This may sound crazy but it is very strange when I actually feel good.


Why is that crazy?


That isn't normal. It should be the other way around. It should be strange when I feel bad. But it isn't. When I feel good, I feel weird. 


Whatsoever a man thinks in his heart, so is he.... Proverbs 23:7


So... I think it feels weird and it becomes weird? 


You've felt bad for so long that you've become convinced that is normal.  If you think something long enough, you'll eventually become it. 


If I think I'm rich .....


Stop that. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8

Yeah, that's what I've been doing. "The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.  I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:" Psalms 118: 16-19


It's a start. 


You know, this blog thing . . . I'm not sure I'm doing it right. 


Why?


It isn't working the way I intended. 


I know. 


Violets on the Shoulder

Today was a good day.

I'm glad. You didn't focus so much on the things that were wrong. 

I thought that, too. I learned something.

Really? What did you learn?

It's a long story.

I've got time.

I love old things, particularly old furniture. There is very little "new" stuff in my home. I'm not embarrassed by the old sofa that is so comfy.

You covered it up.

Well, maybe only a little. And I did buy a new one but I kept the old one for the room I use as my sanctuary.  It just sleeps so good.

You should use it more.

Yes, but pay attention! There's a lesson here. 

Sorry. I'm listening.

I used to restore old furniture to use in my home. I wasn't looking to sell it. I wanted it functional and to appeal my taste I wanted a "new" finish on it. I've done beds, chest, book cases, and even recovered chairs and sofas. I loved getting a "new" piece of furniture that people would ask about. I've pilfered roadside trash for a set beat up twin beds, paid a dollar for a beautiful lamp base with rusty fittings. I got years of use out of the refinished and refitted items. 

I remember that lamp. Milk glass. You know, I worked with wood, too.

Yes, I know. When you work with old furniture you learn pretty quickly that an antique has lots of blemishes that you'll be tempted to fix. Yet, the true collector would never for a moment, think of stripping the original finish, sanding out the rough spots and scars, and slapping a new coat of varnish on it. To do so would completely eliminate any value the article had and render it unsalable. It might be functional, but the piece would be worthless to those who prize authenticity. Antique connoisseurs have learned to appreciate the scars.

That sounds important. 

It is. See, life is a bit like that. For most of us, it is hard to accept the flaws that appear in our life on a daily basis. The little things that rear up in our path and cause us to stumble, balk, or even fall flat on our face seem larger than anything else around us. They're blemishes that we want to eliminate. 

And that's not good?

I don't think so. I spend so much time looking at the imperfections, I don't see the beauty of the item. I'm kind of like a well used antique.

Surely not!

I mean, there's lots of dings, nicks, bruises, and well, damage. Rather than focusing on the scars, you must take a step back and look at the overall finish, allowing the blemishes to blend into the background and become part of the beauty of the piece. You must learn to appreciate the scars while overlooking them.

I know about scars, too. But, what did you learn?

If you can redirect your focus, the things that get on your nerves and create chaos in your life will blend into the background and you may gain a greater appreciation for the overall piece. They won't go away but do it enough and you will learn to appreciate the scars. It isn't up to us to perfect the piece. Just learn to appreciate it's overall beauty. 

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.Psalm 138:8

I have another question. How did you redirect your focus?

That was easy. I listened to you instead of the chaos.

Oh! 

Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 1 Timothy 4:15

So, it worked? 

It worked. All day I listened to messages as I worked. I'm mixing my metaphors a bit but I realized that I've been so busy watching the potholes in the road that I missed the violets along the shoulder.

Ah... I think you found the title.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blessings in Dark Times


Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Sometimes there seems to be no peace at all. Sometimes it seems as if the whole world is an ever expanding asylum filled with insane and violent people. There are the insane who seek to harm and the insane who seek to blame. Both are equally crazy.

Today, I'm tired and depressed and filled with a longing to go somewhere that these things do not exist. A place where there is no one wanting to destroy as many lives as possible because their own are so empty and meaningless. I'd like a place where people still wave from the porches, hold doors, smile as they pass with no ulterior motives beneath it. I remember a time that if  I broke down beside the road I was not afraid to ask a passing car for help. And they weren't afraid to stop and help. I remember when I knew the phone numbers of all the neighbors, and could call if I thought I had a prowler. Yes, there were bad people but there were more good people than bad.

I am so blessed to have grown up in a nation that these were common things when I was a child. I'm thankful that I remember a time like that. I wish it still existed but I'm thankful I knew it. I'm sad my children have a vague sense that there was a time like that. But I'm sad that my granddaughter will see only violence, hate, and vengeance. How sad that those who are responsible will pass it on to their own children, thus is can't ever end.

I can only give praise to an almighty God for His love and care during dark times. I know that those who are suffering loss will not feel thankful. They will not see light. They will not feel peace. For months and years they will suffer the torment of a loss that can never be replaced. There is no fix for that pain. But the human spirit has a way of clinging to hope. Over time you learn how to step from the darkness into the light. The dark never leaves, it is always beside you. But even in the dark, great darkness, God is there. I am thankful that is He is.

"The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness." 1 Kings 8:12 

"Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." Ps 97:2







Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rain Dance

A storm rolled in today. It was raining and I didn't want to go to work. I wanted to sit in my chair and stare out the window into it. It made me sad to have to leave.

You'll think me crazy but sometimes I want to be in the storm. I want to stand in the rain and hear the thunder explode around me, to watch the lightning set the clouds ablaze. I want to feel the cool of the rain as it washes my skin clean from the dust of the day and to let the elements give vent to all the pent up emotions and stress that threaten to obliterate me. 

Maybe it is because I feel more alive in a thunderstorm than anywhere else. I don't know why. A counselor told me once that I needed to figure out why I felt that way. Since he wouldn't tell me why he thought that, I figured it wasn't important enough for me to waste time on.

I think God likes storms, too. I see him running in the rain and laughing in the thunder. He claps his hands and lightening explodes around him. If I could, I would run with him and I'd laugh, too. Just the thought of it makes me long for it. 

If I were on a ship at sea and a storm struck I don't think I would see a laughing God. I think I'd see an angry one. His face would be twisted in anger and his roar would be thunder and lightning would flash from his eyes. But maybe not. Maybe he'd be dancing on the waves. 

"Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known."Psalm 77:19

Life storms aren't as much fun. We don't often see good in them, much less God. There is very little light in those storms but I know he's always there, in the raging dark that surrounds me, he is there. All I have to do is reach out and catch his hand. Maybe.... maybe... if I did that... he'd clap his hands and take me dancing. 



"...the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet." Nahum 1:3






Monday, April 15, 2013

The Monsters in My Head

I dreaded getting up. I was worn out yesterday and did not go to church at all but I listened to some really good teaching YouTube. I watched a video called Pressing Past Our Fears and I have to say, it was intended for me. I was blessed with the sense that God is listening and is not far off. I sat most of the evening and talked to God about my problems. 

I struggle with fear daily. I don't usually tell people that but I do. I'm afraid of everything. I never thought I was afraid of much until after Jerry died but then the world became this huge chasm yawning at my feet, filled with treacherous routes, dangerous creatures, and unknown perils. At every turn I had to face another fear. Fear over money, my children, my health, my house, my car, my own existance. It gets exhausting over time. When I am sick, it isn't just fear. It becomes terror. There is not one to step in and take the reins so I can recover. 

I was courageous once. At least, for the most part. But it is easy to be courageous with a six foot male beside you. All loads are lighter when shared and fears are much smaller when faced together. I'm like a one legged woman in a sack race. I don't get far before I fall down. 

I spent time telling God this last night. And just telling him has helped. Maybe because it's hard to be afraid with a big God beside you. 

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

Well...... I can think of a lot of things. In my rational mind.

You have to stop doing that. There are no monsters as big as the ones in your head.

That's not in the Bible.

Yes, I know. But I like it. Don't you think it has a ring to it?

Ummm.... kind of. OK, I get it. I'm so blessed to have another day to get it right. I don't get it right sometimes. Most of the time, it seems.  "To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy."  Psalm 59:17   

Much better. 








Saturday, April 13, 2013

Into His Courts With Praise

Welcome. This blog has been a while in coming because I've been resistant to doing it. I started about two years ago to create it. Had it named and set up on my dashboard but never posted to it and never even made it public. It was just a name in my growing list of blogs. I left it that way for awhile but every time I came to my dashboard there it was, taunting me. Finally, out of frustration  annoyance, or just resignation that I'd never get it going, I gave up and actually deleted it from my blogs. That took care of it.

I thought.

Last week I took two days off because for over a month I had been very sick and was getting worse. I had to take off for a couple of days to get to a doctor and find out what was happening to me. Apparently, on top of everthing else I have, I have the Epstein Barr virus. I'd never heard of it. Didn't know what it was or what it would do to me. So, I was sick and scared and so very tired. 

During my time off I simply sat in a chair and listened to some YouTube videos and read some inspirational books. And I prayed because I don't know what else to do when I'm sick, and afraid, and alone. There is no one to hold my hand or wrap their arms around me.

I wish I could report I had this huge infusion of faith and was instantly healed and all my problems solved. I can't. I wish I could tell you I felt immensely better and didn't feel frightened anymore. I can't. I wish I could tell you that I knew everything was going to be all right. I could tell you all that. But I'd be lying. None of that happened.

Something else did.

I realized that no matter how bad it is, no matter how frightened I am, no matter how sick, frustrated, or tired I always want to be thankful and to render to God the praise He deserves despite life knocking me down and trampling all over me. So, I prayed and cried and listened.

During my attempt at rest a conversation ensued, in my head anyway.

"You need to start a blog called Rendered Praise." 

Sigh.


"I can't."


"Rendered Praise. You know... you had that started and just let it go."


"Because I didn't know what to put on it. I couldn't come up with anything to write about."


"You can now."


Pause. Shake of the head. "I don't think I can. I'm not very thankful for what is happening to me."


"Didn't say thankful."


Oh.


"Well, I think I still have the blog out there on my list."


"No. You deleted it."


Oh. "Are you sure?"


I looked. Yes, deleted. Why did I do that?


"Doesn't matter. You can recreate it."


Sigh. Nods head. "Yes.... I guess so."


"Good.  Get started."


So, this week I recreated the blog and started thinking about what I'd post here. Just as I thought... I had no idea. Not a glimmer of one. Then, on Monday night around one a.m., after I went to bed exhausted from a night of trials, a glimmer of something came to me and I got up and jotted down a few notes. I knew it'd be gone in the morning and I'd need something to prompt me. In the morning, it wasn't gone and I knew I had the start of my first real post for this blog.

"I still don't know what to put on here."

"It'll come to you. Over time, maybe not every day or even every week. But over time, you'll get better at it. I mean, look at that, you've already started."


"It doesn't seem like much."


"I don't know. I like it."


"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4. 

"See I told you, thanksgiving. Right there in black and white. And I still don't feel thankful."


"Will you get over it! Remember all those morning drives... for years now? Take my word for it, you're thankful...uh, maybe not so much for the bad stuff. But you're thankful. Besides, you're beyond the gates. You're in the courts."

Oh. Right. "So now what?"

"It's a surprise."

"Great. Just what I need."

"And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord." Psalm 27:6

I smiled. "Good one."

"I thought so."