Wry Not?

I had I laugh, in a wry sort of way, when I read the meaning of dextroscoliosis, a word noted in an old chest X-ray report. One of those “deep meanings” I like to find, or maybe just a bit of light-heartedness in the tumble of things. Born with wryneck (really, I’m not kidding), I also inherited a form of scoliosis – “dextro” (right curving of the spine) rather than “levo” (left curving).

And so it is. I have the classic body oops of one leg longer than the other, one hip higher, one shoulder higher, but without the more serious results of organ issues from severe scoliosis. And, yes, Mother massaged that wryneck (torticlossis) away when I was an infant. Still, wryness and right curving lingers in me… now I know why. Simply, I was born with it.

I think also, simply put, there are many things about ourselves we can laugh about if we would but see the humor. Mother also massaged a great deal of her outlook for the humor in life into me, though at times I’ve had to look far and wide to find it. “Give me Mom’s sense of humor, please!” I prayed long ago. Being off-center, bent-necked, and imperfect have been a tottering load! Very wearisome, indeed. And yet, still right curving, much less stiff-necked, and much more centered, I have learned to laugh more… with joy, at myself, with the truly hilarious things that present themselves, and with delight imagining Jesus laughing in glee with me.

No matter our leanings, our stiffness, our imperfections, God is here to make us new again. To make us supple and whole, yet stalwart in truth. Sure, a perfect new body comes when we get to heaven, yet meanwhile while some are healed physically in this life, all can be healed emotionally and spiritually even now as we come to Christ, again and again, to be relieved of our hurts and pain. Why wait? Laughter and joy, minus the weight of a weary load, are a delight! Wry not?

He Who Wants You

The dream was foggy in her memory… but for the words “He Who wants you.” The words stood out like a glowing banner, though no glow was visible, just the steady pulse of assurance deep inside the truth. It had nothing to do with human relationship, but of a deeper kind from the Source of one’s real acceptance. She sensed it in the very core of her being, a faint whisper of love to her soul.

It had been a hard year. The shell of existence cracking like that of an egg, one more hit threatening to destroy all. The whole world had been holding its breath… waiting, hoping, praying for sweet release. Resilience and faith of humankind was being tested, weariness moving throughout the global atmosphere. Still, the sun rose every day, and the moon each night, without fail.

“He Who wants you.” Long she had wondered at the patience of the Creator. The blatant rebellion of humankind throughout history to listen to Him, to acknowledge His ways. Jeremiah 6:16 (NKJV) recorded such evidence from days long gone by:

16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

What arrogance that the created would speak thus to the Creator! To defy Him to His very face! What would keep Him from simply blasting them off the planet? Destroying them completely? What restraint held back His retaliation, anger, vengeance?

“He Who wants you.” The words ran through her mind again. “How can it be?” she thought. “I have failed so much. I have sought my own way, ignored God’s wise council, been selfishly focused. How could I be wanted? I have not done all the things to be desirable and worthy. How could I be wanted?”

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b)

“I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45:7b)

The Lord has appeared of old to me saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exodus 33:19b)

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

On and on went the words of affirmation and the LORD’s promises of love to His child, His children. Solace to her ears, after years of strife, her battles with inferiority, rejection, and insecurity. “Oh, that I would have listened sooner, more often,” she lamented.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“I come, LORD, I come. Thank You for still reaching out Your Love towards us, your rebellious creation… for loving and wanting each of us… for wanting me!”

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Released

Oh, the pain of brokenness,
The grief, the sorrow carried there
An opening door to let us soar
To freedoms from what binds and snares

Cruel prisons long have held us back
From true joy You’d have us live
Through the broken door’s no lack
Of the freedoms that You give

And as those shattered fetters fall
What joy as tears baptize us new
Lightened from our weary load
We rejoice, LORD, in the light of You

A Thing About Brains

You could say I have a bit of a glow going on. A far cry from Moses’ experience on the Mount, this glow is minute in comparison, and cannot be seen by anyone, besides my doctor and me. And that only on images produced by a high powered Spect scan nuclear medicine camera. A small injection of radioactive isotope, and bingo… I’m glowing. Or at least, my brain is.

Today it seems to be fashionable to have a mental health diagnosis… a topic of casual conversation among friends comparing notes, meds, therapists, experiences. Back in my younger days mental health disease was a mysterious, scary unknown world to enter, and to be labeled with such created but few BIG labels… crazy, weird, one-to-avoid. It was certainly not the topic of conversation, unless whispered in secret confidence.

Through God’s grace and wisdom I have come to know the truth of the matter. We ALL have a mental health diagnosis (at least one), and we are each more than our diagnoses. At first I had to adjust to my mental health diagnoses… wrap my mind around the reality of it, if you will… now I just grin and consider it a colorful feather, or feathers, in my cap.

That is, until the feather gets so heavy it needs yanked out, examined again, tossed, replaced, or reconfigured, the pain (or dis-ease) so unsettling or so great that something must be done. Whatever happens, a gap will be where that feather was, so why not grow it into something healthy and uplifting? Bring a healthier feather to eventually be in that wounded place?

Visiting the Amen Clinic Northwest in Washington State has proven to be a beneficial endeavor. It has been a relief to speak with a doctor who is an expert at reading brain spect scans and who has the data base and years of thousands of such scans to know the significance of various blood flow and brain activity patterns. Looking at the physiological status of the brain, and treating the patient as a whole person, the clinic visits include various testing, and an extensive history review. Treatment includes diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, various therapies depending on a patient’s personal needs, and, lastly, only if necessary, pharmaceutical medications.

My mother, who worked in hospital psychiatry, once said she was convinced mental health disease had much to do with chemical imbalances in the brain. After years on that rocky road I heartily agree. When my body and brain are most depleted of good nutrition, exercise, and the nutritional supplements I need, I become more vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, irritability (my brand of mental health issues). It was enlightening really (no pun intended) to learn about the supplements I need to add, and to be thankful for the ones I am already taking and can simply increase. Having a study done that looks at the physical functioning of my brain, and addressing specific areas of need, is to my nurse’s mind a most patient-friendly and sensible approach to mental health that I have encountered in a very long time… digging for the root of the problem, rather than relying solely on a cluster of symptoms.

With everyday stressors having become gradually overwhelming, almost to the point of panicked desperation, it certainly has given me hope. Interestingly… as revealed in part of my scan… being near-stuck in a fight or flight mode tends to cause one to feel like they are losing it! No wonder my patience meter has been down and my irritability factor has been climbing off the charts! In the midst of this, I have learned to give myself grace. The last few years have been fraught with an exorbitant amount of stress, fear, anxiety in our world. Not only are we each dealing with our own personal trials… through the “gift” of social media, we also are thrown into the stress, fear, and anxiety of family, friends, strangers from all over the world, and whoever else joins the harried fray. For those of us who easily carry the burdens of others, no wonder our body and brain chemical balances become out of whack! We are literally churning those heavy things of the world in our exhausted minds. With incoming fodder to fuel the fire nonstop, no wonder one becomes literally drained, and burnt out.

This is how I have found myself surviving these testy times:

1. Thin out social media. Keep that that nourishes; politely unsubscribe from that that does not; or just delete without reading those ads, listening to the news, or the latest, greatest info that only steals part of your brain’s energy.

2. Pray for balance. God knows our needs better than we do. Spend time listening to Him and seeking His wisdom. He never leads one astray.

3. Listen to your body and brain. If you are feeling overloaded, there is a reason. Find the beneficial help you need for a healthy outcome.

4. Write it out. Journaling, writing prayers, honestly grappling with feelings on paper helps make sense of things. God has used this to help me see more clearly, to admit when I am wrong, to cry into His arms my sadness and pain… only to free me from that that was binding me.

5. Never give up hope. “This, too, shall pass,” my wise mother oft’ said. “I make all things new,” says God.

6. Take a walk, and eat real, unadulterated food. Fresh air, exercise, and a change of scenery lets the wind blow cobwebs out of one’s mind. Non-GMO, fresh organic food, avoiding toxins as much as possible, feeds real nutrition to one’s body and brain.

7. Share the burden with someone you trust, a personal friend or a professional helper. Too much isolation can leave one gasping.

As we drive towards home from Washington State I am anticipating receiving my personal evaluation and the recording of the brain scan explanation my doctor reviewed with me via Zoom. Time to absorb a wealth of information before ongoing follow-up. The brain is amazing! A few easy adjustments on my part promise to help my mind, my brain feel better.

Psalm 139:14 (NKJV) gives ultimate praise and credit where it is due: 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Yes, I do have something to glow about! And a new smile to wear. For after all…. 7For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7a- NKJV).

And this promise on which I stand: 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Here’s to healthy minds and healthy thinking!

For info about the Amen Clinics (that are located throughout the United States) see https://www.amenclinics.com/

Sudden Storm

The road opened onto a wide snow-covered plain. Blue pine-covered mountains with fondant layers of snow reigned in the distance, surrounding the west and north views of valley. The east side was more windswept, yet flanked, too, with snow capped peaks that melted into treeless brown lazy lumps of snow-sprinkled hills, sagebrush poking up like stubble on an unshaven face. Pregnant white and grey clouds mimicked the outlining mountains, ringing the sky in kind fashion, brilliant blue the dome. The wind icy and brisk, kept man and beast hidden away and sheltered. Though the sun shown brightly through the clouds, a sense of foreboding blew with the wind.

Dotted here and there in the vast landscape stood a forelorn low-slung farm house, one kept company by a few weather-beaten out buildings and three squat, grey metal silos. Horses grazed on baled hay, thanks to someone’s hard summer work. A curious row of fat green pine trees marched in a diagonal line along the edge of a field. Further down in a similar angle stood a long line of naked Poplars, the wind having won the contest for this icy season, all the leaves blown away.

Without fanfare it began. Sharp ice crystals let loose a torrent, a barrage on the land, mocking the sun as they struck over and over again anything between the sky and the earth. They flew as if knowing their time was short, all the more harried must be their escape from the heavy clouds. Just a few degrees change and they would melt into freezing rain, coating the whole world in a suffocating, clear coat of ice.

To the onlooker the ice was beautiful, glistening crystal, a wonder of nature perfect for photography buffs. If one was encapsulated, it was restrictive, binding all it captured in a tight, unforgiving clench that nearly squeezed the life out of its icy prisoner. Unrelenting, the ice shards hit with staccatoed ferocity one would not soon forget if caught out in it.

On and on blew the wind, driving the tiny missiles horizontally for a ways, then furiously crashing them downward to the ground. Horses sought shelter in loafing sheds, behind and under trees, in recesses of the valley floor… anywhere to find relief from the pelting ice and wind.

The sky turned a shade of dirty gray as the wind whipped over the craggy mountains, faster and more unrestricted than a bobsledder in wild abandon as it careened and swirled through the valley, driving the ice particles before it. At times one could hear a “Whee!” whistling in the wind, as though exclaiming its sheer delight in blowing.

Suddenly the howling stopped, as though a strong muzzle had been clamped over the jaws of the storm. The pelting simply… vanished.

The wind slowed, and in the brightness of the sun the earth and it’s habitants began to warm… as abruptly as it had come the capricious wind and storm had had their fun, and danced away over the mountains looking for a new place to play.

Praise Always

I praise You, LORD, for Your might and power 
The grandeur of creation made
Glorious mountains, waterfalls
The strength of love You have displayed

The sky Your vast canvas where
Daily color shows You paint
Living colors man desires
With admiration to replicate

Everywhere we look, dear LORD
Your hand is evident to see
From tallest redwood to tiny cell
This gift of life a mystery

At times Your brightness seems
to dim
As we walk this curious way
When fearful looming monstrous things
Appear, then overwhelm and stay

Now is when our praise for You
Grows stronger in our waning sight
Our puny lamps held in our hands
We marvel at Your constant light

Strengthening faith as we walk
‘Tis but shadows we’re trekking through
Lessons won, though hard fought
In the companionship of You

Dependent not on us at all
Thank You, LORD, for light to see
Your mercy, grace enfolding us
Since then, and now, eternally







Power Source

“What powers me today?” I thought as my eyes drifted close again. I still felt tired. Was it really time to arise? Did I really have to? Nothing pressing scheduled that demanded my obedient slap of feet onto the floor.

How quickly I reach for that 3×5 sized slender electronic pack that reels my mind and eyes to focus on a very narrow portion of existence. A tiny little speck of the universe, really, though it is quite marvelous the places it can take me, the people it connects me to, the sights and sounds I might see, or the information I might glean or share through it. Still, such a tiny fixation that demands a great deal of my time and attention. Even writing on this tiny screen, or it’s two brothers (bigger and biggest), that is still a very narrow focus in a “hugest” world! No wonder my eyes hurt, and get dry!

What alternatives do I have? Where do I find energy for today? What is my fuel source? Lest I forget I am not robotic, an electronic extension of a large mainframe computer, I might just revel in the experience of being human! Putting away the small power cell, I find I can actually walk away without holding it in hand or securing it in pocket. To think my whole life I’ve grown without direct connection to an electronic mainframe. No surprise really, for I know Who gives me life, breath, the energy that makes my heart beat and blood to flow. Who knew me before and as I was knit together in my mother’s womb. Who graces me each day with a new dawn full of choices and possibilities. Who redeems me from all manner of brokenness, never changes programs on me, remains unmovable with unchanging promises to love and grow me into who I was designed to be. Yep! That’s the infusion I need to power-up me today. The life giving power of the giver of life Himself. Beam me up, LORD! Please empower me to embrace today!

Cradled

When cradled in his parent’s arms
Beautiful how content a child
Rocked in soothing to and fro
Heartbeat songs of mother’s smile

No wonder as we grow through life
The holding hug brings solace, cheer
No matter in exult or strife
The warmth of love affects us there

Love ‘tis what that cradling means
E’er tenderly or rudely flung
Love we each so sorely need
That from which all life is sprung

Cradled in my husband’s arms
Or in a child’s wild hug thrown ‘bout
There is that thing of cradling
Souls simply cannot live without

Even an old recliner chair
Soft arms hugging ‘round my frame
Lying back and being held
Cradles me dozing once again

Unfurled

Awakened to a dim lit room
Covered warm in blankets heaped
Secure and snug in my cocoon
My mind is free while body sleeps

I begin to think of how I’m shaped
Curled and curved, all tucked within
And ducks and geese and squirrels and snakes
The shapes they are when they begin

Before their birth all living things
Seem to be in curl or twine
Even leaves and flowers begin
In a knot til blooming time

E’en from a shell or seed or womb
Emerging to a dawning day
All creation does unfurl
Then awakens to the day

So bloom today is my heart’s cry
Creep or spring or jump into
It matters not your mode or pace
Come shine God’s love this day of grace

Unzipping Gratitude

Hands on the wheel, sunglasses in place, she was ready to venture out into a sun-shiny day, a glaring contrast to the months of overcast skies, inversion fog, rain, lingering pandemic gloom. Some days even the sun was too bright, so used had the world become to the pall of gray that lay over it, the suffocating air of despair that just would not blow away. Even dark chocolate had betrayed her, proof now sitting on her widening girth.

While driving to her doctor’s appointment her mind wound round text messages from the morning. One in particular stood out, the one about gratitude. She had had to pause to think about that a bit… what was she really truly grateful for? So much concern and worry had nipped at her heals for so long, she was used to watching out for its incessant, annoying presence. Somehow it had captured her mind, her focus. She knew better, that there was good beyond all the yuk, still there she was. Stuck. In protective defensive mode.

A prayer came to her lips as she continued in the flow of traffic. A plea for all those tiresome worries about her family… did God ever get weary of such ongoing woeful lament? Then suddenly, an embarrassed laugh spilled out of her, “Well, God, I guess I could start by thanking You for some positive things, like that You love them more than I do, and today they are okay. Thank You things are not harder than they are at this very moment. Thank You for listening to me no matter what I have to say.” Driving on, thinking of other blessings, she pulled to a stop behind a car waiting at a red light. And laughed again. There on the bumper in front of her, in bold capital letters, were the words “In God We Trust.”

It was then she realized her hands were gripping the steering wheel like her life depended on it. Her shoulders were tight. She needed to relax. Even with her previous attitude of gratitude, she was still a hot mess of nerves. “In God We Trust! If I really trust You, LORD, I guess I don’t need to strangle this steering wheel! I can actually let go of the tension I’m holding in my shoulders. I can just breathe… and let go of the worry.” And so she did, immediately noticing her body losing its tightness as she placed her thoughts on the hope of God’s goodness, and not on ill.

No, she did not hear angels singing at that very moment, but something akin to a well-known allergy commercial occurred. The dull, smoggy tainted blue sky seemed to unzip, from the top down, turning to a clear brilliant blue. The sun shown brightly, yet did not cause her to want to take solace in the shadows. No, it was an invitingly beautiful day.

Arriving home after her appointment, sky still clear blue, sun still bright, the lady surprised herself and took a walk. Just a plain old everyday walk. The kind in a neighborhood where sidewalks changed elevation every few feet for a driveway entrance, dogs barked, strangers greeted each other and smiled, children skipped along while Mama pushed baby in a pram, delivery trucks hopscotched down the subdivision roadways, breezes blew through varieties of trees, dormant lawns and flower borders still rested awaiting Spring. Yes, just an ordinary, normal, every-day day. “Thank You, God, for another day like this! For unzipping in me a reminder for having an attitude of gratitude… and to again put my trust in You!”

Jeremiah 29:11 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Cowlicks

While trying to tame unruly hair this morning I reflected on my hairdresser’s comment about the cowlicks I have here and there. Hmmm…maybe I was born in a barn.

Barns conjure up thoughts of nurture, shelter, warmth, food, pungent refuse, true reality, and that life takes tending. They are strong structures that last for generations, when built on strong foundations. So what does one do when foundations are shaken, things get stinky, there is threat of the barn tumbling down? Abandon it? Blame the cow? Or embrace the reality and beauty of what that unruly stuff means. Like cowlicks that insist on going their way…

For hair, I tug and pull, back-comb a bit, add gel or mousse, and, of course, add spray to hold it all in place. Dealing with my own personal cowlicks the best I can, trying to exert my brand of influence or measure of control, I am still learning better ways of managing those wayward places in me, figuring how to steward my barn. And still I need help!

Me thinks it’s not so bad to carry traits of being born in a barn. After all, that’s where my Savior was born, amidst all the barn-y things. Who knows, maybe He received a loving cowlick or two.

Could our cowlicks be a hidden reminder of the love given us from long ago, an infinite Love that still loves us so? Why not? No matter where we were physically born, what station in life we hold, whether or not our parents cherished us, what challenges in life we face, there are always those glimpses, those gentle nudges, maybe even a lick or two, to remind us of our humble beginnings, and to encourage along. Maybe I was not literally born in a barn… but like each of us, came born in naked humility with my own unique messes. Praise God He is an unchanging sturdy foundation that can never be moved. Even when my world seems upside down, His foundation is sure.

Snipe Hunting

It was a rite of passage back in the day. To go on a snipe hunt was beyond exciting. “Really? Really? Are we finally going snipe hunting this time?” We all knew it was a super secret event, a time of great revelation especially if one actually caught a snipe. Our grade school hearts fairly burst with anticipation. A long awaited dream come true! We were finally going to go!

“Shhh! You must walk very softly,” our adult guides whispered to my brother and me and our friends as we crept through the forest, eyes peeled in the dark, looking for the ever-elusive snipes, whatever they were. Some sort of little mysterious bird, long-legged, and able to run like the wind, it had been rarely seen in these hills, and even more rarely captured. Apparently snipes made a distinct sound, if one ever heard it. They were mystery wrapped up with a bow, one we were determined to capture and reveal. Wearing the cloak of Snipe Hunters International was the overall nebulous idea… if there ever was such a thing back then.

Tip-toeing through pine forest deadfall in the dark was not what one would call a quiet endeavor. No flashlights allowed – they’d alert our prey – so they stayed pushed deep down in our pockets. Just the start of the hunt and we were fairly defeated by the terrain. Yet we trudged on, with nary a sound but a “shhhhh!” or the rude “snap!” of a dry branch or twig, as we peeked around trees, under fallen logs, and into brushy piles.

After what seemed not long enough, yet forever as we stumbled around in the dark, a fearless leader yelled, “Come on, gang, it looks like there are no snipes out here tonight,” calling us to a fire-pit area. Flashlights flipped on helped us wend our way to our reward: a good talk around the roaring, warm campfire… and the soon-to-be-revealed coveted initiation into the secret snipe hunters club. Who knew what that was all about?… now we would find out…

The fire crackled as we young ones bent on our knees, initiation-posed and ready. To understand the secret we were to say over and over, while bowing up and down, a repeated phrase until it’s hidden meaning came clear to each of us individually. Only then could one stop repeating the phrase and leave the group, waiting quietly til the others had received their revelation.

“Ahwah tagoo siam…” Must be snipes were some sort of oriental bird… scenes from South Pacific and The King and I flashed through my head as I repeated the strange words over and over again. The phrase swirled like a whirling dervish in my mind and out my lips until… suddenly, the light clicked on!

One by one… a gasp, a titter, an “oh!”… as we each got the message. Then there we all were, standing round the campfire in the dark, grinning and laughing, congratulating each other, talking about our amazing accomplishment, and finding we had learned some special things that night. Especially a little more about ourselves, and the bonds of friendship, family, and good old fashion fun. And, perhaps more long-term, the wonderful advantage of using light to hunt out the truth of those snipe-ish things hidden in the dark… and in ourselves.

The Box of Chocolates

If life is a box of chocolates 
What should I do with it
Give mine away to others
Share some of the sweetened bits
Set it on the shelf for later
Nibbling a little piece at a time
Or in some frenzied orgy
Squander it all as mine

Or shall I become an appraiser
Studying each tiny piece
Determining if each is too bitter
Or overwhelmingly sweet
Bent on examining content
Presentation and form
If the centers are worth tasting
Questioning where all it’s from

Suddenly the experience of chocolate
A confection meant to delight
Has become a box of confusion
Comparison, contest, a blight
What happened to joy in the tasting
As each bite uniquely explodes
Experiences melting into us
Pieces of life, rich episodes

Oh may my box of chocolates
Be one that I share and still yet
Be able to savor the flavors
Be open to new morsels I get
Amidst the sweetness and bitter
Rather than choosing what I prefer
Take time to fully experience
Each bite as it naturally occurs

Assumptions

Do one’s assumptions that things will be hard 
Throw up barriers or prison bars
Restrict them and others from their escape
From the negativity that overtakes
Their minds and hearts

Does it claim the personal landscape
Cluttering, marring relationships made
Confining one’s ways to those that won’t grow
Withhold from them the freedom to know
The joy of harmony

Does it shut them in their own private guard
Bent on reviewing only what’s hard
It’s time to turn over a new furrowed ground
Planting for positive thoughts to be found
Expect new hope growing

Whether in social or personal ways
The words that we speak to ourselves everyday
Color our landscape and tint each one’s view
May false assumptions not block what is true
Plant positive affirmations

A Burden Shared

Peace through the trials
Though burdens are mourned
Worries become less
The heaviness borne

Cares of the world
Suffering there
Loved ones are hurting
Life’s hard to bear

Sharing with others
Thoughts from the heart
Uplift our spirits
Give hope a fresh start

Reminds us to drink
From that well that flows free
The Water of Life
From Heavenly streams

Most of the above words were written nearly two years ago. Contemplating the thought of burden-sharing brought them to light again today as I arrived home from a Bible Study meeting, one I had seriously contemplated not attending, so weighed down I felt this morning. “But for God”—a well loved phrase that recalls to mind evidences of His working in our lives. These “But for God” experiences are precious, clearly indicating He is way ahead of us in knowing the best ways to fill our needs.

The radio started playing… must I leave the vivid dream? Such drama, such story line! I could have remained immersed there for hours, carried away to who knows where on the interesting wisps of fantasy. But today was study day. “I have a responsibility to show up,” I argued with myself while resting in bed. With the urging of nature finally rousting me out, I reached for my phone, noting a list of messages and a missed call. Not one, but two missives of encouragement to get me beyond myself. And a third received not long later. Three distinct encouragements pointing me forward.

A phone call, a text, a seemingly random word to let me know I was indeed not forgotten, and that I needed also to remember others. That the load in my backpack could be laid down, lightened, or (imagine!) thrown out. Of course the study today was poignant, right on the mark, and the rich fellowship a number of us had afterwards an extra measure of blessing. A burden shared. Opening the door for others to lay their burdens down as well. Trusted friends who share and pray up concerns, not use them as weapons against one another.

“But for God.” Today I returned home and realized a lightness of spirit I have not experienced for a very long time. As though a diaphanous wind of change breezed through my mind and soul, clearing away inversion fog, helping me breathe clean air again. A heavy blanket falling off. Subtle yet mighty. Strong yet gentle. A tweak in my channel to erase the static, fine tune the peace. And ramp up my gratitude!

Thank You, God, for knowing me better than I know myself. For allowing raw honesty with You… and for Your provision for lifting us up beyond ourselves! Thank You for others to share this journey… bless them please, as we bear our burdens together, and give them up to You. Thank You, LORD, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Pretzel In The Wind

Not a tome about practicing yoga outside on a stormy day, this musing is about those soft baked pretzels, dough that’s formed and shaped, that still is pliable though firm. More flexible than its hard cast cousins that break with a snap, this pretzel has been given an ability to bend and endure pressure put upon it. It holds fast, requiring much strength to tear it apart. It has nothing to do with the pretzel’s ability… It has all to do with the Maker of the pretzel and the ingredients thrown in.

When I think back over my life and see the twists and turns, I often feel like a pretzel, one that has more bends in it than usual. Not unlike every other person on the planet, the shape of my pretzel is unique to me, though in pretzel-land pretzels seem to look alike. So it would be if we were all stamped out from a machine. Or made by hand in only one design. Glory be that our Creator has made each of us uniquely individual. And though the world says we should fit in with all the other pretzels, compare ourself to others to be sure we are in line, the truth is each of us was created as a priceless treasure. With twists, turns, nicks and various degrees of baking and brownness, we are, every one, fearfully and wonderfully made. How glorious to think of my life as an amazing gift to me as a beloved one, rather than just me existing as a broken disqualified pretzel, one that has not measured up, that is not good enough, that is unworthy to be recognized and cherished, just another plain old pretzel.

I am a redeemed pretzel! Though humbled by that realization, gratefully I stand, by the grace of my Maker, even in the wind! Those cracks and twists let storms and gales blow though, buffing me and refining my shape. Blowing away the roughened places til smooth and sleek, I become a gleaming reflection back to God. Why do we wonder so about our identity, purpose, fulfillment, other than the fact we lost all that back when the first man and woman became pretzels. Determined to know it all, they lost their innocence and pure relationship with their Maker. They chose to listen to the grand lie that they could be makers, like the Most High Creator Himself. Sure, they were given the joy to be creative, to reproduce, but seemed to forget that all their creativity and offspring were a gift from God. And that ability was still a gift to them as they entered the broken world of pretzel-land.

So on those stormy days especially, when your pretzel shape is stretched to your limits, remember one’s true self and identity remains with the Maker. Run to Him. You are more than a mere pretzel in the wind!

The Medusa Tattoo

Someone very dear to me recently updated her Facebook profile picture, baring her left shoulder to reveal her Medusa tattoo. So far her tattoos have been reminiscent of home: the lilac tree, deer, quail. Lovely works of art representative of important parts of her life. Representing not only treasured things, but also her choice of expression.

Then Medusa. I had to look up its meaning in today’s culture, and found its new symbolism. One website stated, “The Medusa tattoo is not regarded as offensive as it has now been adopted as an emblem of power for sexual assault survivors. Medusa is recognized as a victim rather than a villain, which gives the inkings of her a poignant meaning (the-sun.com). Another stated, “The meaning behind the Medusa tattoo links to the story behind this monstrous creature that has many protective instincts. Many people get a tattoo of Medusa tatted on their bodies to earn a sense of protectiveness from all the negativity surrounding them, especially to keep them away from all the haters” (wildtattooart.com).

These explanations helped me more to understand the choice, especially since our loved one works professionally against domestic violence and sexual abuse. Looking at the design of her tattoo brought other thoughts to mind as well…

Snakes covering the head, or mind, symbolically speak of another reality… that age-old war between the servant of evil bent to rule us and conquer our minds from the truth of God’s love, His gift of redemptive freedom, and the rebirth of our souls to eternal life. Might the opaque eyes of Medusa been blinded, perhaps from the horrors, but as well from the truth of the One Who would set her free? And the long nose – that in the Hebrew description of the character of God means slow to anger, long-suffering, patience – may it in some way symbolically speak to the hope that resides deep within, though in the Medusa seems grotesquely lost? The hope that somewhere, somehow our long-suffering has not been in vain?

It goes to show that the meaning of things is important to understanding the why one stands beneath a certain banner. Under-standing… it goes a long ways towards knowing someone, their reasons why. And like that long nose… patience, long-suffering, slow-to-anger… those long nose traits I would like to adopt, have “written on my heart” by God. Traits that identify me as standing under His banner… with eyes no longer blinded, but wide open, healed from the pain, washed new in the truth that I am a beloved child of God. Would that all who hold within themselves the deep agony of abuse, or trauma of any kind, come to know and accept the redemption of the Living God Who longs to heal us of our pain… to help us under-stand we are indeed truly, gloriously, freely, no matter what, beloved!

Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV) 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Offering

To whom, child, are you offering?
To self-glory, or to Me?
Acclaim? The world’s acceptance?
What gods do you really seek?

Yes, excellence may be a goal
As you work, create, and strive
Yet, who is that truly, deeply for?
For Me? Or for your pride?

The world demands you to conform
Rise above the churning fray
I’ve conquered all upon the cross
To free you in every way

So take My hand and walk with Me
My words the same yet new
My precious one, remember please
My offered Life for you

A Curious Bird

“Oh, how exquisite!” she exclaimed, while gazing out her window. The old woman’s yearning was rewarded with a delightful surprise, a very small red bird perched on her porch railing, looking this way and that. “I wonder what he is thinking?” she thought to herself. “He is so tiny, so different from the other birds around here. Where has he come from?” It was just an ordinary winter day, a bit gray and overcast, quite the backdrop for the bright red color of the bird. He stood out nearly as brilliantly as if it had been a white snowy day, crystal cold as it was. Like the glossy red berries of a holly tree, he was a little spot of joy.

Not wanting to startle him away, the lady slowly sat, her eyes ever watching as he preened, and fluffed his feathers, shook himself a few times, then settled down as if nesting on the wide railing. And there he sat. While she watched he slowly looked around, then rose up, faced her directly, and, with a tiny bow of sorts, began to sing.

Astonished, the woman sat transfixed at the song that poured forth from the heart of the tiny bird. Piercing her very soul, the sweetness sang to a part of her that needed that very song. She could not move as tears ran down her face, watering her hands clasped in her lap. A torrent of tears were unleashed, washing her clean, perhaps of regret, remorse, grief… she was unsure why she was crying, she just knew the song brought relief. And still the tiny bird sang on and on, his concert just for her, that very day, her porch railing his stage.

Suddenly the music began to fade, the small red bird nearly spent. Back to preening, fluffing feathers, resting on the rail. “Thank you, tiny one,” she whispered. “The message you brought has encouraged me this gray day.” After long moments of pause and quiet reflection the woman sensed something rising up within her. Something she could barely contain. As a warmth cascaded over her, she began to sing. At first a bit warbley, then with more strength as her voice took flight. At the sound of her trills the red bird rose up on his wee spindly legs and, puffing out his tiny breast, joined her in song. They sang together in complete abandon until they were both filled to overflowing.

When night time came, moon glow softly gleaming through the clouds, the red bird, content with fulfilling his day’s mission, and in no hurry to depart, hunkered himself down to rest. Iridescent, his feathers reflected the soft light of the moon, creating the effect of him sitting in a warm pool, enveloped in his own down comforter. In the still night he had no need of twiggy shelter… he was cozy there, still on the railing in his own soft radiance. Even in rest it seemed his very being… hummed.

For days the red bird stayed, singing, preening, fluffing, singing again. Refreshed with offerings of water and birdseed, he brought joy and laughter back to the heart of the lonely old woman. And since those days, if one listens carefully, the sound of their singing just might be heard, winging on the wind… the song of an ageless old woman and a curious little bird.

Addendum: A day or so after writing this piece a beloved verse ran through my mind. I wonder if it has visited you, too. No matter our age or stage, may hope flutter within us always:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all…

—Emily Dickinson

Before Sailing On

Holidays passed, the New Year firmly entrenched, a lapse in time seems to hang in the air. Emotions have run high for so long… is this what it feels like when the swells of rising tide recede back into the deep, away from the rocky, sandy shores that have been beaten and lapped and carved upon? Does the sea ever wonder at the pauses, the doldrums? The gentle sway of windless days, and calm nights? Must it always be a torrent, proud flow, tsunami force to make its presence known, to be alive? Or may those quiet, peaceful days bring glad refrain and purposeful rest to an ocean wide?

The older I become the more I crave peace-filled days. Less churning, more learning in quiet ways. Weary of sensory overload, I find myself pulling into my shell, much like a hermit crab. Let the wild and crazy things that raise adrenaline to soaring heights, roiling froths of glistening foam… let it all skid and slide away, wash far out to sea. Even those things that have interested me…

It’s okay to be in a recessive wave, or tidal pool, to rest these days. The storm has lasted, oh, so long. Other vessels have sailed through such straits. So with assurance, let’s pause before sailing on. Held in security that does not fail, though the boat is rocking new and soon to charter an unfamiliar course, somehow the adventure will go on, the route already planned… no need to worry about details. Right now in faith let’s rest awhile… relishing the view!

Unexpected Grace

It was a little thing. Just business cards. A handy way to share information about my blog. But for some reason the image on the front looked off-center, the font on the back so small I could barely read it. According to company policy I could call if not completely satisfied, so I did.

I was delighted with the lovely people who listened patiently, helped me upload pictures of my concern, gave me replacement options, and quickly initiated the reorder. No cost to me. The new cards would be express shipped. And they were, delivered to my door.

Eager to compare the new cards to the original, I gingerly opened the two boxes. After pulling a card from each, confusion crept up my face… they looked exactly the same. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Had they before? Had I made a royal error, thinking the workmanship of others was wrong, when I had been at fault? My heart sank as I grabbed a tiny see-through ruler… yes, the cards were both the same, the images centered.

Calling the company, again, I explained my concerns and remorse for the error I had made. Though reassured by the customer rep, I asked once more: “Do I not need to pay for the replacement cards that actually did not need centering?” Again she insisted I did not. “Even though it is my error?” I asked. “No,” she replied, “it is okay.” My voice broke as we continued to talk. She offered me company credit with the original discount I had received, enlarged the font on the back of the original card for me, and instructed me how to place the reorder. Again, one hundred cards. No charge.

To some this may seem like a little thing, just an incident of company policy, great customer service. But today my tears came for the poignant receiving of unmerited favor, grace, when I had been in error. And through that forgiving grace came reconciliation of the problem, at the cost of the company granting their favor, again supplying remade new cards. Just a moment. A speck in the great expanse of time. And yet, an incredible experience of how God’s grace reaches towards us: unmerited, readily willing to help us, paid for by Him, forgiving, fixing, loving, redeeming… amazing!

Accepting Graft-hood

It is a wonder to me that each of us are adopted sons and daughters into the Body of Christ, grafted in, if you will. Wild unruly things, some thorny and rigid, others more easily flexible and supple, grafted into the Vine of Christ, He the Vine, we the branches, grafted amongst those naturally growing branches of His chosen people, the Jewish tribes. When I contemplate the love He has demonstrated for me… His sacrifice through death for my eternal salvation and life, I am humbled at this wondrous reality. My love for others pales in comparison. Oh, to love so perfectly and completely!

Becoming a blended family has brought this grafting experience into my reality. The interweaving of four children all from the same father, two each from different mothers, has been our very own experience of grafting. We all, no matter our background, race, religion, heritage, are given life by the same Father. Entrance into this world is gifted by Him who has designed the miraculous possibility of new creation and birth. We might think to take credit for producing our children… no, we participated in receiving a gift given to us.

Our family has also been a flourishing example of differences in individuals, personalities, life choices, experiences, interpretations of how their father and mother raised them, and their embracing or rejecting those teachings. Much like the struggles we have with our Heavenly Father and His teachings (understanding, accepting, rejecting) so are we with our earthly parents. “Have I been rebelling against my father all these years?” I cried to the LORD during a time of recent deep grief. Surprised by that insight I wondered at the deeper truths of it and how it may reflect how have I been rebelling against God as well.

We are all grafted in some fashion in this earthly life, no matter the station we inherit, or attain. We are never the original source… we have all come from parents before us, who came from parents before them, and so on, all the way back to the creation of the first man and woman. Grafting. The joining of two separate entities into one cohesive unit… a loose definition on my part, but you get the idea… none of us can claim pride of our own self-made autonomy. Though individuals, we are closely interwoven. We are grafted to our very core. No wonder God ordained that “the two shall become one” in marriage. Two entities, one cohesive unit.

When a host accepts a new graft, a wound, or opening, in the host is necessary for the graft placement. The graft must integrate into its new medium, accepting the condition of the stronger host in order to flourish. So it is in this world, whether pertaining to family, employment, health issues, spiritual realities, or other concerns. We are all part of something or someone bigger than ourselves.

Am I willing to submit to God’s plan? Accept His design for the grafting of me He has created? Am I willing to receive all He has to offer when I put my hand in His to follow Him, to learn what He has to teach me of becoming healthy and strong? Jesus claims in John 15:5 (NKJV): 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

May we choose wisely to whom or what we become grafted… and ultimately to the long-term result.

The Win of Forgiveness

Considering those years long ago when grade-school relationships were hard and capricious, I wonder at the differing abilities we each employ to cope with hurtful ways people treat us, and one another. Some laugh off the taunts of others, ignore them, or serve back a bucket full of the same. Others become insecure, even depressive, stuffing down deep emotional wounds, unsure what to do with them. No matter our age, purposeful or accidental offenses occur.

And what of physical injuries? Did those two hits to my head one afternoon goof up my brain somehow? Softball hitting one eye, hardball hitting the other? Evidence shows even such apparent mild trauma can have resulting effect as to how the brain physically functions. Who knows? For various reasons we react and respond to life in the ways we do, many factors impacting us.

It took many years before I realized I had been a victim of bullying in school. Only in adulthood did the understanding dawn, and many pieces fall into place regarding my insecurities and sensitivities. Of course, some I have to claim as just unique to me; others were fostered from people in my environment. Forgiveness has been a huge factor in my healing process. At our ten year high school reunion, one of my primary bullying friends sought me out and asked to be forgiven. She had come to faith and seemed genuinely sorry for the hurts she had caused. I was thankful to be able to hug her and say, “I forgave you years ago!”

So good is God to be working in our wounded hearts if we let Him. For even though remembrance of an offense remains, the process of forgiveness frees one of lingering anger and bitterness that if left to fester would prolong the repetitive cycle of hurt in ourselves. I am so glad to have been well into the forgiveness process when my childhood friend came to me. As others also expressed remorse, forgiveness was easily granted.

I have been forgiven so much in my life, being ultimately forgiven by my LORD. Surely it is a joy to extend that grace to others, freeing myself from the burden of resentment and hurt. Yes, it has been a process in every instance, but worth each step. It is a win-win all in all, for the person forgiving, and for the forgiven.

Beneath the Scars

You’d think a scar would fully mean
The wound has finally healed
Then years go by and suddenly
A festering’s revealed

Mind and heart scroll upon
Themselves a memory deep
“Pain-body” is a term I’ve heard
For wounds, once sound asleep

Then anything remotely close
To the cause of that old pain
Renews the memories of that hurt
One’s defenses grow again

Like dross sloughed off of gold refined
Memories bubbling to the top
Still need acknowledged and then let go
Again until they stop

Pray give them up, do not lose heart
Turn mind to things of hope
Wounds indeed can finally mend
Within God’s healing flow

Tether Sure

Battered, bruised, wrapped around 
Poles, like lanyards where I’m found
Extended beyond my earthly reach
To realms of questions, concerns too deep
For my shallow mind

Yet while I whip and freely wave
On stormy winds, or balmy days,
I find myself securely held
By ties that bind, cannot be felled,
Contain my fragile mind

What keeps me fast to life secure?
That floats me not away from here?
‘Tis beyond my reach, attempts to hold
God’s amazing grace, truth be told
My eternal tether sure