Sunday, September 27, 2015

Summer of Clarity

"Grace that is greater than all our sin..."  Bart Millard melodically sings through my speakers...and I feel the comfort of that Grace fall over me, reminding me of the great lessons of grace I have learned these last few years.  God is so very good to me.

So as I enjoy another ginger snap cookie dunked in my evening tea (oh so good!)...I am filled with a deep thankfulness.  What a sweet place God has brought me into... after so long and deep a struggle these past two years! 

These past few years have been very challenging, evidence being here: absence on this blog.  I confess, it was all I could do to keep myself up straight and pull my foot out of the mud to take one more step, to push through another day.

Through these past two years, I have felt emotions rise in me that are usually very dormant, controlled and to some degree understood, yet here they were rushing up, dark and threatening.  As I sought to work through these, through my daily battle, I was very aware I was drying up!  My soul... was brittle and crackling.  I missed the sweet, rich, abundant spring of life and freedom of the previous years of being a student, with less structure and few demands on my time, work, and performance.  Serious thoughts of major job shifts daily taunted me... yet I knew, I had to work through this dry, hard season: I wanted to OVERCOME and walk in victory.  I knew my biggest hurdle came up from within myself, and not my circumstances.

So this past summer I planned some serious strategic time with Jesus: I went to Maine for a week with the sole intention to sit with Him... and meet Him and heal my soul.  Now, of course this is a process... but it's an invaluable practice to pull away with Jesus!  
Sunrise in Maine
A few things happened during my time alone and with the company of my dear friend, Mardy, who joined me the latter half of the week.

One, I struggled with the quietness.  I prepared my heart and mind, I shut down distractions, I felt free to enjoy the activities around me: climbing, kayaking, taking photos.... alone.  I anticipated something GREAT and BIG to hit me over the head.  God doesn't usually come loudly though... He whispers and waits.  So, I felt the angst in my soul... "God, I am listening!  What are You saying?  Where are You?"  As I paddled down the river in my one-woman kayak, my soul struggled.  It did not feel good.  I wasn't lonely, just very aware of being alone.  I stopped for lunch and the story of Elijah came to my mind, and his experience in the cave.  And a whisper came... "quietness is my gift to you..."

Isaiah 30:15 "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."

Wow.  I embraced it and let go of the struggle, and enjoyed the GIFT of His presence.

The rest of my week was a gentle, gracious, sweet gift. My friend arrived and her company blessed the spontaneity, rest, and food of my time.   Our conversations were good, her presence was easy and complimented what God was doing in me.

One piece of wisdom and revelation that came through our conversation was that I don't apply grace to myself very well, when God and no one else really, is demanding perfection.  God accepts me in my messy, quirky, ways.  Why don't I?  It was insight that I put to practice, and grace feels so good.  As I extend grace to myself... I find I extend grace to others that much more.

So over the past few months, I have reflected over the past summer, my time in Maine, and the struggle over the past two years.  God has given me more clarity, of who I am in Him and what I am to be.  He indeed has a plan for us, we are designed to know Him, and do the works He created for us, each individually unique and fulfilling.  This has been such a gift to me.  Clarification makes decision making so much easier.  It's a yoke yet an easy one, as it fits me so well.  I have new, fresh sense of joy and anticipation for each day.  It's not about my title, its about who He calls me to be, and living it out in the circumstances I am in.

This summer, I could feel the sweetness of His Favor and love replenish and soak into the crackling, brittleness of my soul.  The soft, gift of grace filled my heart and brought new Life, fresh perspective and deeper thanksgiving.  Now I am experiencing overcoming joy and victory where I am, like beyond explanation!

Just as Esther received the position of a queen in a foreign land: it's a unique time in history.  God is working, His hand is moving and He will act.  My desire is to be part of His Work, in the place He has put me.  It's wonderful to grasp His love with greater understanding, and Who I am to be so I can pour His love and grace out through my life.

And...I would not want to miss that opportunity for "all the tea in China!" (my dad use to say that to me... "I wouldn't trade you for all the tea in China!")

Monday, July 20, 2015

Flip on the Lights again ~ Light on Singleness

"Coming home is always wonderful and lonely..."

I just messaged that to a dear friend on Facebook.

Here I sit, mid-morning, feeling droggy (i made up that word) as I look over the next few days.  My house is cool (thank you LORD for a/c!), Sasha is snoozing on the rug at my feet, and it's just a gift of quietness... and alone-ness.

I have just spent the past five days traveling to Florida, visiting family, enjoying time off to go, visit, and connect with those I don't see as often as I would like.  An odd stomach bug attacked while away so I have returned a bit more drained of energy than normal.  Though the lonely-feeling is normal; my house is covering only me, not having a housemate makes it feel very lonely.  So, I am praying for God to fill my yellow room with just the right personality!

Yesterday, on my return drive, I was delighted to catch a sermon.  I think it was John McArthur, which I have not actually ever heard before, though his name sounds familiar.  He was preaching on I Corinthians 7, and he was doing a pretty good job in dissecting and teaching it.

Funny how sometimes a phrase jumps out and grabs you; maybe it is something you have read, heard or even said yourself but a moment in time comes when the Spirit of God plugs in heavenly energy into it and it sparkles and glows with new light.

"Singleness is a gift, and it is good.  Are you handling your singleness as a gift, and running with it as far and as fast as you can?" Later in the message McArthur pointed out marriage is bondage:  now when I hear "bondage" I don't usually think positive; it's really a neutral word!  So, let's look at it that way... when you are married, you are bound to another person.  That can be positive and negative.  I know, this seems very obvious, but these words fell into my ears and down into my soul in a very fresh way.  Singleness does not mean we a void of relationships, but -if walking in the Ways of Christ- void of marital intimacy. 

I like it when God flips on His heavenly lights and gives my mind and heart greater perspective.  I have not even been thinking about this topic lately, well, not deeply anyhow.  I am always aware of being single... and coming home to an empty house seems to highlight what is not there.  Though, I can say I was very thankful I had no "bondage" last night when I crawled out of my car, with an undeterred focus on getting myself as quickly as I could into my bed.  Exhaustion has a way of harvesting that kind of rejoicing over my singleness!!

When the morning light awakes me, the stillness of my house embraces me; it can start feeling not so wonderful of a gift.   So...I move, feed the dog, make breakfast, read my Bible, forgo coffee as I have no cream, but make a lovely mental plan to utilize a gift certificate for a cool coffee joint downtown... and life begins to feel and look much better.

How can I utilize this gift of singleness!  It is a gift... and God wants me to unwrap it and enjoy it every day!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

Man it's been a long while since I have blogged.  I have been in survival mode, fighting through, keep'n my gaze high as I can, sloughing the mud off and out of my eyes, and trusting that there was some reason for this trench.  Things have been shifting in me in the last few weeks....

I am starting to dream again.  I am starting to gaze through the grey and see sunshine and possibilities in the clouds!  Yet, I believe it's more than mere possibilities, I believe its the edges of the reality of who and what I am.

I have learned a lot.  God has given me mooch-o much, that I can't hoard - hoarding kills life.  So, I want to share all HE has given me and proclaim that HE DOES give life abundantly.  He has created us to live... to glorify and honor our Maker.

That is what I intend to do, starting now.

Since you are trekking with me, you have seen my journey, my "a-ha" moments and dismal days.  I have fought many years to "find" my purpose and calling, all the while believing that I (we all) have a significant purpose in being here, now!

So I am following some advice that has come my way, it lies at the core of what I believe in... but I have lacked the guts to follow.

From this day forward, I am moving towards what gives me life and energy and laying down the white flag on all other endeavors which have drained me of joy.

No more defining "life is hard" because hard is letting circumstances define my days; hard says I am weak.  In some respect, yes, I a very weak but I believe through Christ, I am more than a conquerer, I am strong in Him and who He designed me to be.  Now, when I try to be something I am not... well, that is weak, that is hard.

This evening a dear friend shared a website with me, someone who uses her passions to fuel her living - monetarily and significantly.  I read a few things on her site, and this blog post about NOT FIGHTING rings true in me.

I have faced down a lot of fears in me, the lie that states "I am not enough" or "I am not acceptable" - Through the truth of who God says I am:

Today, I am choosing to live in my Maker's Design of me - His Daughter, His beloved child - forgiven, chosen, blessed.

Won't you join me?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"I Shall Not Want" - Audrey Assad

Every now and than a song comes along that weaves words into melody, and carries the words and cries of my heart perfectly.  This masterpiece draws upon Psalm 23, which is a familiar passage to many but one that has grown in depth of meaning to me, as God has drawn me by His Light and Revelation, beneath the words to His Spirit and Life.

"I Shall Not Want" Lyrics:

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
when I taste Your goodness I shall not want
when I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Songs on Saturday

When one works a long full week, Saturday is always a welcome gift.  I pretty much face-planted into the weekend.  It was a long, not-bad, hard week.  I celebrated by watching two episodes of Foyle's War and popping an herbal sleep supplement before finding slumber last night.  

Not sure if it was the effect of the supplement or if I was just that tired, but I slept hard, even with Kitty's 2:30AM food demand.  I came to consciousness around 7:30, knowing I had to be on my way to an appointment by 8:30.  I stumbled out of the house by 8:27 still feeling in a fog and not fully conscious.  I brought Sasha along as I felt some guilt in neglecting her and wanted to go for a jaunt in a local trail on my way home from town.  

All in all, my first two hours of Saturday were spent doing things I normally find delight and joy yet as I stomped through the local woods, I was anything but delighted or joyed.  An all too familiar rant of complain was drizzling down through my brain.  I thankfully have come along in understanding that sometimes when we hear ourselves with a certain tone and volume, it's really because we are just in need of rest.  So, I did not take myself too seriously and drove home in need of coffee and time in His Word.

The first sips of my coffee were good, as I opened my Bible to my scheduled reading.  I saw the passages listed and loudly moaned as I realized my scheduled reading included the first few chapters of Song of Solomon, with the normal Psalms and Proverbs and New Testament portion.  

"Lord,... I really don't want to read Song of Solomon today.  Lord... ugh, I just don't know if I can handle reading about lovers and sex today."  

Sometimes, as a single, it's just a book I would like to skip.  

The Psalm was 101, ascribing God's love and justice, and a question, "oh when will you come to me?"

I read through each passage and then began combing through, focusing on God's character. 

I was still in a funk, and the passage seemed to taunt me.  But then as I looked over it, I realized the question was from God, to me.  

“Oh when will you come to me, Tammie?”

Then I saw Him, covering me with His loving gentle embrace, in the Songs passage.  His love for me is passionate, pursuing, faithful and strong.  He was inviting me to see Him, in His Love, and justice, as always, My Shepherd, and Lover of my soul, guiding me in the right path, always illuminating Himself to me.

Again, and again... grace, upon grace.

My tired soul breathed in the fresh Manna He provided.

My complaints He tenderly washed away in His Presence.

And I rejoiced.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Land of 40 ~ Love Story

I am really in the fourth decade of my life now.  Hitting 40 was indeed a milestone, and now I pass the first marker of this 4th decade.

I can't say that with much hoopla, to be honest.  Lately I am looking a little more carefully in the mirror for lines that were not there yesterday, thinking more about how many days it's been since my last good work out and that it only takes three days of non-aerobic work for your muscles to begin to atrophy.  Ugh... I don't want to look old, but I feel older!  My body is not wanting to move like I did a few years ago.  I even got bi-focals this past year, which at the time made me happy cause I was having a hard time seeing but that is what OLD people have!

41.... oh man.

But, I enjoyed my birthday with many well wishes on Facebook, and many texts, a skype call and a few phone calls.  I feel loved.  I feel thankful.

And, I am noticing that a year is moving along much quicker.  I now see the year ahead as 180 school days until summer comes again. Yes, I loved my summer and a year counted off in school days is much  easier to measure.  Yet that means Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and Christmas, and Spring and then... we will be finished with another school year.  Oh summer, how I love you.  Then another birthday will pop up... I can wait on that, I don't want it to come that quickly.

I hope, and pray that the days between now and then will be full of life and love.  I hope, and dream of love to come, as I hope every year, that maybe this year a love story will be written.

But this year.... I will realize a greater love story for you see I want to love more.

You see, I am grasping His love for me more and more, and as I do that I realize my purpose more and more, and that is to love!

He has a purpose for me this 41st year: To love more because I am loved.   I believe that may be the secret to living, for when we love and know we are loved, we live!

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ConnectedSoulGrief ~ Robin Williams

My soul is so grieved over the loss of Robin Williams.

It seems so odd that I would feel such grief over someone I did not personally know.  I know many grieve this loss, and deeply so.

So this morning I stopped and asked, why does this affect me so?

He connected with my soul.

There was something in Robin Williams, the characters he brought to life, that connected with something in me.  He made us laugh indeed, but his dramatic performances also made us feel, there was such an authenticity in his characters.   Some of my favorite films were Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, Awakenings.   Some of his roles were not exactly where I stand on my values and convictions, so I can't endorse everything ethically and morally.  Sadly and obviously, the spiritual state and direction of our culture is expressed in the arts.  Yet as an actor, he was able to embody and connect us to the cry of the human soul; he voiced, questioned, made us feel, ask and laugh.  He bridged souls, hearts and emotion.

But maybe it was his deep pain and loneliness that truly connected us all. He laughed and was a delight, as there was a gentle, touchable soul behind his blue eyes.  He seemed to be the kind of person who could be that friend you could enjoy a long walk on the beach with, or sit silently in the backyard to watch the stars.  He was so transparent over the pain behind the humor, we could have been transparent right back.

Many years ago, I saw a clip from a stand-up act he did, within the few minutes of his routine, he made a very crass joke about our human form and design.  He mocked The Creator's design.  In that moment, I saw such agony and anger in him, towards God.  A sad soul, searching, asking, demanding and lost, laughing through the pain.

I saw the anguish of his soul and my heart broke for him.

I don't know if Williams ever really saw or heard his Creator as a Redeemer, Savior, Lord, but he hurt, so he made it funny.  We laughed along, maybe because we identify with the pain.

My heart breaks now as I know he has stepped through the veil of eternity, facing his Creator now.   The One who designed him, wonderfully and uniquely.  His Maker did hear, did see, and does love him.

He Loves You, and sees and hears...

I prayed for Williams over the years.  The day before hearing of his death, I had a random moment in which he came to my mind and I prayed, or I think I prayed, for him.  I wish I would have prayed more.

Now I pray for his family and all of us left who feel such deep grief as I.

And I must rest the unknown in my Makers arms, and trust eternity with God who is compassionate and gracious, full of mercy and truth.  He alone is God, and there is none other than He.

"But You, O LORD, are a God full of compassion and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in mercy and truth." Psalm 86:17