i am ALIVE again!

It’s been far too long.

I’ve missed this.

You know how when you don’t do something for a really long time, you feel a sense of paralysis to tackle it again?!

That’s been me.

Why is that? We shy away from the very thing that helps make a better us.

For me, it’s been fear- fear that I have nothing valuable or clever to say, fear that I will present a post that is boring or grammatically incorrect (for shame, you know), fear that the FEARS I am currently facing in my life would bleed through to my writing and readers would play on their tiny violin when reading my failures. I am so often constrained by expectations still (need to work on this more)!

But then it hit me: I write because I love it. I write because it frees my mind. I write because if one person can resonate with my thoughts or feelings and it encourages or helps them, my heart is HAPPY!

My blog means something to me and I have neglected it. I intend to change that starting today. You may find an occasional syntax error and I might just type some offensively strong language at times, but I am OK with that.

I strive towards integrity in all things and this can be done only through candor and without fear.

To that end I will write. Hang on. It might be crazy!

 

Plainly,

Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

one sure thing- an allegory

The water keeps coming. Waves drench me in succession. Over the sides of my small craft, they forcefully enter, unwanted. I am not sinking, although it feels eminent.

The storm has reduced visibility to next to nothing. Heavy fog has reached its tendrils into every space previously bathed in scintillating sun rays.

Frigid drops pluck away at my skin and head. My once dry layers of clothing are now drenched. The rain comes in sheets, then lightens, but the stinging never quits.

There is a driving wind. When a forceful gust comes, it envelops my already soggy clothes. Where they cling to me, I experience sharp dagger-like pains over every inch of me.

Then there is the surging; the continual up and down motion of the storm induced current. It is sickening. I am sure I’ll vomit. I want to in fact.

My thinking is muddled and fuzzy. Everything that seemed certain and unchangeable escaped me when this storm began. I am enveloped: mentally, physically, emotionally. My knowledge of sailing seems lost. Nothing makes sense; all the instruments that once made direction certain- my compass, maps and charts- are useless now.

These waters are uncharted.

There is one thing– one single surety in this deluge. I have an anchor holding my craft. Down in the murkiness, beneath the fog, it holds fast off the bow. Although I can’t see it or feel it, I still know it is there. One thing.

It feels like sanity right now. As I lapse in and out of utter despair, the anchor is hope– hope that I won’t be totally destroyed or blown off course, lost at sea forever.

There is nothing to do now but wait. Nightfall has made what already was difficult to see, impossible. The inky black steals into every inch of scenery.

I curl up in fetal position. It is my attempt to stave off the cold and shield my body from the driving elements. Suddenly a familiar tune, very faint, comes straining into the haze of my mind. The words finally come too.

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Soaked, chilled, deliriously worn and trepidatious, I am strangely calmed by this song. It assures me to hope in what I know, despite my current state. It reminds me that something (or rather Someone) greater than myself holds me. The storm will dissipate and the sun will shine once more.

anchornew

Bland and Lukewarm

I tasted the cookie dough. Yeah, yeah, I know, raw eggs. Salmonella risk be cursed. It melted in my mouth like a bit of sweet bliss. The sugars were balanced perfectly with buttery goodness and the chocolate chips still “crunched”. Oh, but something was off. Hmm, what was it? The sea salt. Yes! That teaspoon made an enormous difference in the melding of flavors and balance of sweet and salty.

You see, salt is meant for a purpose. In its simplicity, it adds a depth of flavor unmatched by other spices. The absence or overuse of it can render a dish unpalatable.

Recently, I learned that another person I know has walked away from faith, no, not just walked away, but become an apostate- an outspoken zealot for making a case against God. This makes 4 people in the past 5 years. It just doesn’t gel in my mind. I am left questioning: how could the faith that once seemed evident and thriving in these “friends” now be replaced with a fist raised towards God? I am affronted; left with a mixture of pity and disbelief.

The offense gives way to pity for those who have left the path of faith to follow the great deceiver- Satan- who has sought and devoured yet another person whose disingenuous belief crumbled under the weight of the cares of this world or even disillusionment with God Himself.

Then, almost in the same moment, I am drawn to my knees in abject humility: mindful of my own lukewarm faith, my own lack of zeal, my own fickle heart and emotions.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:13:

“You are the salt of the earth. But suppose the salt loses its saltiness. How can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything. It will be thrown out. People will walk all over it.”

And again in Revelation 3, He says to the church of Laodicea:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

It’s like my saltless cookie dough: it may be good, but it lacks balance. Its blandness renders it useless as a dessert. Or it’s like taking a drink to refresh a parched mouth, but the water, which is meant to be cool and quenching is lukewarm and unpleasant.

Have you become a saltless, lukewarm Christ follower? Have you lost your spiritual fervor, your first love? My own fervor wanes, but hearing of this apostasy has caused me to realize that my faith takes work. It is a continual, deliberate, concerted effort to not lose my first love, to not allow “life” to wash out the flavor of Jesus in my actions and words.

Just like salt must be preserved to retain its flavor, so we must be persevering in our faith, moving forward, not becoming lukewarm. Because we are easily distracted, often too busy or perhaps covertly deceived by our own wandering minds, it means we have to PASSIONATELY pursue spiritual things to love God first and best.

By grace we have been saved and by grace we carry on, while continuing on the relentless renewal of our minds through God’s word and prayer, flavoring the world around us with the love of Jesus.Salt by Salt Shaker   Original Filename: 6507-000073.jpg

60 day challenge- Smash Fear!

Sitting near the edge, I could feel the immense upward pressure. Parts of my body had gone numb. My heart palpitated like I had just completed a 100-meter dash. Above the din of the plane engine, I knew my instructor was assuring me, reminding me of the procedures we had been over and over, but I only heard every third word. They had warned me of this exact moment- panic, fear, apprehension- far beyond anything I had ever experienced; something that took over my mind and body relentlessly. My eyes met the vast expanse of sky- that’s what they said, “Never look down”- and I didn’t. Suddenly I saw the pilot give the signal, my instructor grabbed my arm and we jumped…

That would be me, conquering one of my greatest fears and strangely I am drawn to it. It is on my “bucket list”.

At the beginning of the summer, I stumbled across this book at the library that made me come face to face with a few realities:

  1. I have more fear than I like to admit.
  2. I have not worked through the “why” behind many of my fears.
  3. These fears have held me captive for too long. It was time to do something about them.

I am no super woman. I am no risk taker (by nature). I have spent the greater portion of my adult life caring for others, carefully avoiding those things which would interfere or impede this job. In short, I didn’t want to rock my boat of hum-drum duties or my “safe” life.  But this book challenged me to stop and LIVE, not in a self-consumed, “I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR” kind of way, but in a “what’s stopping you besides this huge obstacle called FEAR” kind of way.

And so I began writing my book and training for a half marathon- small steps towards a bigger process of facing fears like rejection and limitation.

So here, dear readers, is our new 60 day challenge (because 30 days is just too unrealistic and being realistic is key to this):

Face your fear. Confront it. Overcome it.

Some day, I want to skydive. Some day, I’d like to climb an impressive mountain like Mt Fuji in Japan. Some day, I’d like to be the speaker at a women’s conference or be sitting at a table signing my book that people bought and were helped by.

But right here, right now, there are much smaller fears that I have- smaller only in the less daunting fashion of doing something about them- but just as large in the paralysis that results because I am conquered by them, instead of me conquering them! These are the fears that hold me back, that keep me from accomplishing things, that make me unable to enjoy life.

How about you? What are YOUR fears- the things or situations that you wish you could overcome to have an experience or accomplish a goal? Maybe socially, you have always wanted to sing in front of a crowd or go see a movie by yourself. Perhaps intellectually, you have always desired to learn more about math or sociology. Physically, you have always wanted to run a race or take up swimming.

You get the point. So now for homework:

Make a list of fears you have in several different areas. Pick two of them. Then list tangible solutions for ways to overcome them. Be realistic. Be purposeful. Be brave. Be FEARLESS!

Doing this just might change your life forever and we can do it together. That is what makes it fun! Share this challenge with as many friends you can! We can be a team- rooting for the underdogs, encouraging each other, keeping it real. We will dub ourselves: THE FEAR CRUSHERS.  Nothing is too silly or small to conquer and we each have unique fears.

So, holler back if you are with me. Let’s start this weekend. Ready? Set? GO!

Drowning Parents

They just keep coming like relentless waves crashing against the rocky shore. At first, I was shocked. Now when I hear something new, my stomach turns sour and my eyes well up with tears. “Not another one”, I hear myself scream.

I am searching for some common thread and find none.

They found a condom in her purse. He smoked something that made him vomit. She is pregnant. He is verbally abusing his girlfriend. They were up all night at the hospital because she had alcohol poisoning. Gay porn was discovered on his laptop. She ran away from home. He is getting high every chance he gets. They found a pregnancy test in her drawer. She denies the faith. He questions if there even is a God.

These are all real scenarios, from real kids that I know. Kids from the church. Kids that were home schooled or public schooled. Kids that were in AWANA all their lives. Kids whose parents are godly, gospel loving parents. Kids who served in the nursery. Kids who went to youth group every week.

I grieve. I wrestle with it. I ask God why. I shake my head. Something went wrong. Or did it?

There are the “other” parents that I now observe from a distance because some of them have put me there; ostracized because they “have heard” what my son has done. They are afraid that their children will be tainted by him, so they avoid me and do not let their younger kids play with mine.

The rest of us, whose kids are the main characters in the scenarios above, are left…. heart broken, baffled, wrung out, embarrassed.

We raised them to be different. Maybe that’s just it. All the work we did and we thought we would have our “prize” at the end: a successful child, a godly child, a child that others look at and admire as an example. Then naturally, they would look at us and think, “They did parenting right. Accolades are due them.”

I can’t shake the guilt or disappointment- no matter how I try. It keeps coming back, hauntingly. I know it doesn’t do me any good, (in fact it only harms and points an accusing finger). It comes through the stares of the parents whose kids are on the right path, keeping their noses clean and heading towards a bright successful future. They don’t mean to (probably), but they have this oh so smug aura about them. And every time, it twists my own knife further.

Meanwhile, we are crushed, sitting on the sidelines trying to love our children unconditionally, trying with every ounce of our being to exemplify patience with their foolish choices. Our hearts broken. Our minds perplexed.

All I can do is cry out through the tears as another wave, another heart-wrenching story comes at me. I beg God to save them all, to let them see the dawning of another day, to save them from an early death and eternal separation from Himself.

Did I do everything right? No. Neither did the other parents. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes, by us all. Will God have to save all in His time? Yes. He makes things beautiful in HIS time.

I am left to weep and try to make sense of it all. The waves wash over me and they linger through the salty residue left behind. At moments, I think I might drown. Then I remember the life preserver at my waist. I can’t see it. I just know it’s there and that alone assuages my fear and guilt for another moment.

Life is Like a 1,000 Piece Puzzle

One by one, I turned over the pieces. My excitement was a bit diminished by the task- tedious and monotonous.  One thousand pieces was daunting. The tiny cardboard cut-outs appeared so insignificant and disjuncted. Yet, I knew this was an imperative step I would not regret later.

Life is like this 1,000 piece puzzle: sometimes daunting, at moments seemingly impossible, pieces and parts that appear elusive to the bigger picture, progress is slow, but bit by bit an image is born.

I studied the box’s glossy image, captivated by the night time cityscape. It was peaceful and serene, so unlike the scattered mess that lay before me. The edge pieces would prove so much easier than the middle (this I knew from experience), so I tackled them first. Without these, the more challenging parts would lose their definition and purpose.

I know the “edges” that frame the whole must be constructed meaningfully and purposefully. It would be simple to fashion the framework into a “self- gratifying, grab for the gusto, it’s all about me” picture. But the more arduous effort is trusting the Divine power outside myself to be the framework that will hold up and support all the smaller parts. God as Master of me, hemming me in before and behind, sometimes chaffs against my self-sufficiency, my sense of accomplishment even. Yet, deep down my soul cries out for Him.

With the edges complete, I decide to piece together a part that seems most challenging, for fear that if I leave it for last, I will become discouraged and give up. It is the reflection of lights on water; lights that appear almost identical except for a few variances in color. After this section, the other parts flow together nicely, until I tackle the night sky, which is a vast expanse of blackness, save a few small stars. I want to rip out my hair. It is driving me nuts!

Some seasons of my life have been this night sky: perplexing, discouraging, even enraging. I can’t see how things fit and I certainly am NOT enjoying it. Time stretches out before me vast and uninviting. I have to tell myself to remember WHO: frames me in, keeps me safe in His loving, watchful care, and knows the plan far beyond the moment of difficulty I see.

Other seasons have been the more pleasing satisfying parts: the “easy” pieces that fit together on the first try, the ones you spot amongst the messy pile and just pop them right into their spot. These pieces are like the breath of fresh air, the lovely lingering sense of a job well done or just the simple pleasure of being with family and friends. These are the days you wake up and feel at peace, when your faith buoys you above the surface and anchors your soul to rest in the bigger picture.

I gingerly place together pieces 999 then 1,000. Running my hand over the completed picture, I sit back in my chair satisfied and wonder how many hours this took me. Does it matter? Not really. I am finished and now relish the fruit of my labors both easy and difficult. 

My “life” puzzle isn’t finished until I draw my last breath. The sum of the parts make the picture that God intended- and those will never look just like anyone else’s.  My own finished product will be uniquely mine, fashioned and put together by the Creator of the universe. What could be more beautiful than that?!

Life is Like… a bike ride

Ever been on a good bike ride? No, not the beach cruising, doggie in a basket kind nor the cushy for the tushy touristy lookey-loo kind. I am talking about the hard as a rock, too small for the cheeks seat kind; the kind that strains muscles you didn’t know you had.

I have been on THAT kind of ride. A few years back, the hubby insisted I get the skinny tire kind of bike, when I really wanted a knobby tired kind. (Long story of marital communication break down. We’ve “recovered” since then!!!) Yep, I became one with my bike; clipping my shoes in, donning the padded booty spandex shorts, the alien helmet and the many pocketed zip up shirt. (Why those shirts have that many pockets is beyond me. It’s not like you are packing for a day trip!)

Since childhood, I have always enjoyed bike riding, but this was something different- a new kind of pastime beast. As a kid, I loved the feeling of the wind in my face and the power to pedal as hard as my legs could carry me, going places faster than I ever could have on foot. Now I was balanced precariously on ultra thin tires, tottering on the edge of a road, hoping and praying that the cars down draft would not blow me off into the wicked thorny weed patch just a few feet away.

Life is like THAT kind of bike ride.  I was reminded of this yesterday when discussing the ride to/from my son’s workplace. It happens to be nestled up in the hills of our city.

The hills, oh how lovely they are, but the quad burn as you churn at the pedals… oh man. You stand up (this is supposed to make it easier- ha- I don’t think so). You sit back down. The front tire wobbles as your forearms strain for control. If you stop, it literally seems almost impossible to get going again. No, the momentum must continue. Movement propels you, compels you to keep at it, despite the burn in your calves and the sweat trickling down your back. “Don’t stop”, you tell yourself- and that is good advice.

Here is why: you know that just beyond the crest of that next peak is the down grade- the moment you have been waiting for. For all the toil and pain, now comes the ecstasy of flying free. Your feet will barely have to move the pedals and the wind blasts your sweaty face like a giant air conditioning vent. It is pure exhilaration! During those few minutes you forget everything else as the scenery rushes past and your heart beat slows. You may even have a sudden urge to let go of the handle bars and take your feet off the pedals- but (hopefully) the better part of reason kicks in and you avoid this danger. Coasting downhill is the taste of soaring freedom that makes the climb worth every ounce of toil.The thrill of this part of the ride may be short-lived, but that ‘s alright because you know it will come again and when it does, be ready to let it invigorate you body and soul.

And so it is with life: Remember the enthralling joys in the moments of pain, toil and struggle. Be propelled forward by it, keeping the momentum when the burn overtakes every muscle. Look ahead to the peak. Don’t be engulfed by the climb.

{Oh and from one bike rider to another- never forget the padded spandex! Your tush will thank me!}

 

 

A Day in the Life of Jane

I start each day the same- fresh with no mistakes in it, like Anne Shirley says in “Anne of Green Gables”. As I sit with my steaming mug of caffeine in a still house, I am hopeful and invigorated. My mind wanders all over the place, roving through scenes from the previous days and curious how this day will unfold before me. I think about what to make for dinner before I’ve even had my breakfast and I am concerned about ”getting it all done” and it’s only 7 a.m.

Should I bake some delicious muffins (yes, please!)? Or should I go sweat profusely with a run? There are limitless choices. The next 12 or so hours cast a mysterious aura in front of me. Will the day be mostly sunshine and rainbows or will it be fraught with black cloud moments or worse, just turn into a big pile of oh, well, you know?

I pray and read my bible. Like the coffee I crave, this is truly my lifeline, my sustenance, my sanity preserver, my one sure thing. I am calmed, helped, assured, reminded, comforted, challenged.

Then, the kids get up on the wrong side of the bed, the husband texts about problems at work, the dog won’t stop barking, the laundry needs to be started. And if that weren’t enough to fizzle a fresh start, I’ve already had to don my mental boxing gloves to fight the temptation to despair, the guilt I just can’t shake over poor choices or the looming sense that things may go terribly amiss. Clearly, I have OMS- overwhelmed mom syndrome.

It is only 9 o’clock now. The hope and expectations of this day have already blurred like watercolor on canvas. I recall the words of God about how He cares for me, loves me fully, knows my needs, but my situation looks a little bleak and the words get fuzzy. Breathing a little deeper, I calm down again. (My caffeine has kicked in too, so the world just looks a little brighter!)

By lunch, our schoolwork is in full swing (yes, my kids are schooling at home again this year- long story). It has been a morning of testy attitudes, complaining, occasional tears and laziness – some of it mine! Cherry on top of the morning? The hubby has forwarded yet another rejection letter for a job he didn’t get. I feel resentment creep over me. I want to go for a run, better yet, run away.

It’s 3 pm. A bedraggled me must run some errands (The high point to having teenagers in the house- I can leave everyone at home and have a few blissful moments of  alone time.) I run to the store half-ass, trying for the life of me to remember what is on my shopping list- that I conveniently left at home. Walking down the coffee I aisle, I stop and take a deep inhale of the smell that started my morning. It {almost} has a placebo affect and for a brief moment, I feel invigorated again. Then I go down the beverage aisle. The boxed wine catches my eye and for a moment I imagine drinking large amounts and sitting numb while the world goes on around me. A voice rebukes me from my daydream. That’s not me- though at moments, I am tempted. 🙂

Throw in soccer practice then dinner dishes, walking the dog, et al… The day has blazed past me at warp speed. My body is worn from the fatigue and I look forward to bed as a delicious respite from the past hours of chaos and clamor.

My mental boxing gloves are well-worn. They have been put to good use today fighting off a number of evils from within. I am amazed to think of how determined I was just a mere 14 hours ago- ready to face the day armed with truth, zeal and caffeine! How easily I succumb to the out of control craziness!

But I did have my moments I guess: beautiful brushstrokes of grace, joy, love, appreciation, gratefulness, peace, sweetness, bliss, comfort, faith, awe, grit, perseverance, success, kindness.

I lay down, happy. Knowing that the sum of the parts of my day look beautiful on the canvas of the bigger picture and knowing that tomorrow, I begin again with a fresh start and no mistakes.

Help for the Journey

We recently heard a message about what it means to know and follow Jesus by daily cross-bearing. Then this past week, our challenge was to take a hard look at things, people or pastimes, that we bow down to instead of God.

Double whammy! Makes me squirm in my seat just thinking about it… Nothing like a healthy dose of “wake up and rearrange your thinking”.

I have, for many months been thinking, rethinking, and analyzing many things- (parenting tops my list right now), but particularly how I LIVE OUT my faith in light of life’s circumstances. Now, I just cannot get this image out of my mind:

Daily I have to die to self, take up whatever cross God gives me and follow the Master, Jesus.

A cinch? NO. Not for me. Not for anyone. Oh sure, we will follow Jesus if He takes us along a pleasant, air-conditioned, dust free, path. And at moments, life can feel that way; all the planets align and our world resembles the chocolate river scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”: deliciously easy, delightful to the eyes and overwhelming the senses with pleasantries.

But follow Him AND cross bear? At the same time? Even when the path I have to tread is full of jagged rocks, all uphill, the weather is humid and every ounce of my strength is gone? Could this really be what God wants from us? Yes and yes.

We can do it because Jesus did it before us and that after He had been beaten with a razor sharp whip, spat upon, goaded, slapped, mocked, ridiculed.

But here is the beautiful part. Ready?

Jesus, in His human state of physical, emotional and mental weakness, had help. The 30-40 pound wooden beam proved to be more than He could bear. A man named Simon came and finished carrying it to the place of crucifixion. Even Jesus did not bear His own cross without help.

We don’t have to either. There is a plethora of assistance right near us. In fact, it is also right INSIDE of us. Yes. The power of the living God, creator and upholder of the universe and every person, dwells IN US: the Holy Spirit! Then there is the word of God at our fingertips: the Bible. Not only that, we have the ability to commune with Him on a personal, gut wrenching, heart rending level through prayer.

He will never shrink away from us, disgusted by our stench. He will never blow us off, preoccupied with bigger, better things. He will never balk against us asking for help, thinking our weakling state beneath Him.

And here is the more beautiful part: we may here bear a cross, but one day it will be replaced by a crown!

Beautiful Brokenness

Sometimes, for what seems like no apparent reason, a theme weaves itself intrinsically into my life. That has happened to me a lot over these last few weeks. Over and over again it plays like a song, with a few variable notes.

 

There is beauty in brokenness because what comes with it is: an irreplaceable sense of dependence (on God) and a complete emptying of self-reliance.

 

I have watched it unfold in my friend’s life as she deals with the pain of a daughter who has spurned the family. I have experienced it when my son makes a choice that shames us and goes against everything we have tried to teach him. I have friends whose family is being torn apart by divorce. I have seen several kids who are walking away from the faith and into a lifestyle of drug abuse or sexual exploitation.

The notes may be different, but the chorus is the same: all around me are lives bruised and battered by poor choices or grief from poor choices those we love are making.

We like things neat and tidy. We like obedient children. We like comforts and harmonious relationships. We like things and stuff and baubles. We like people who smell nice and act nice; people who are like us and people who like us.

But then, people mess up. They reject us. They give up on us. They let us down. They put us down. They get all stupid on us.

We mess up. We get in a funk. We succumb to worry, anxiety or despondency . We don’t love how we should. We get caught up in the pursuit of meaningless things.

We get broken. Sometimes we get down right shattered to pieces when problems come like falling dominos.

And, you know what? It’s alright. Truly, it is.

We are like rocks in a tumbler. Did you know that it takes between 3-5 weeks to tumble a rough, ugly rock into a lovely polished gem? It is a several step process that involves abrasion of several kinds and being cut as well. Bad things have to happen for these rocks to become a lovelier version of themselves.

So it is with us. Coming to the end of ourselves, the end of our expectations, the end of our selfishness, the end of our solutions for solving a problem, the end of hoping to make someone be something they are not, is precisely the climate that cultivates change. The abrasions, nicks and grittiness have their purpose.

The beauty comes when we can cling to nothing else except God. He is the constant that remains unchanged when we are shattered. He will mend what’s been broken.  He will transform us into something lovelier.

An old Puritan said it best:

“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.”- Robert Leightonweb-tumbled rock