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Soaring Above My Circumstances …

Grief is grueling.

Trauma is terrifying and tiring.

And, I was gripped and tethered to both, which made me very grateful for this second scripture.

Enduring the loss of a loved one was proving to be difficult. Compile that with disturbing death circumstances and many family members suffering at the same time and life quickly became extremely difficult to live.

For months, I was physically spent from sobbing during the day and not sleeping soundly at night. My body ached with exhaustion and my eyes were heavy with unrest. Many days, mgrievingy physical appearance became distorted as evening arrived. I wore red puffy eyes, a wrinkled worn expression and slumped shoulders like a second skin.

Many times, shortly after arriving home from work, David marched me to our room and said, “The only thing you are going to do is go to bed!” Turning back the covers, he tucked me in like a needy child and insisted, “The day is done.” As dusk soaked through the drapes, he kissed the top of my head and gave me a tender hug. I hate that it happened, but at my lowest, I even needed medication to help me relax. I bet as David crept out the room he prayed that a few hours of rest would bring relief. In so many ways, the process of grieving is a treacherous season to survive.

While my body fought a battle, my emotional well being was under siege.  The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful all clamored for control inside of my mind. Which ever emotion won was where I “went.” Anger fought with acceptance, sadness did a battle dance with serenity and loss tried to strangle living. Clinging to the light when negativity wants to have its way demands concentration.  The work of “getting it right” was wearing me out!

The whole ordeal was outrageous and I wasn’t familiar with making constant life or death decisions. However, I participated in each detail of the drama. Enduring everything from the death of my precious 12 year old daughter, Samantha, to walking alongside my family as they suffered through ramifications extending from the boating accident. The legal proceedings that extended over a year added to the angst. Weighing on top of all that was the jarring thought someone could end up in jail.

My life was harrowing, heavy, and hard! I felt broken, burdened and beat!

So, when I read:

Isaiah 40:29-31

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I was refreshed!

Yes, I was familiar with the scripture; I knew it was quoted quite often. However, when I came upon it during my personal state of distress, I found myself “receiving”  with a selfish mindset. Understanding the words unraveled a  message of release. Seriously, the latter part of the scripture, grabbed my attention and provoked a profound image of ease:

“…… they will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  ( I wanted to feel this way!!!!)

mm__soaring_eagle

“Wow!” I thought as I gave the scripture authority over “where I was”, emotionally and physically.”

“Could that really happen?” Could I really fly like a majestic creature, hovering above this treacherous terrain and feel unencumbered through all this?” I questioned. I took the time to close my eyes and imagined myself in such a state, drifting away from fear,  leaving anger behind and flying away from everything that felt bad. The imagery was liberating!

Just seconds before, I was trapped in despair and desperate for a way out. I knew it would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to find a way out.

The phrase that followed  “… run and not grow weary”  was attractiveas well.  In truthI knew my ordeal wasn’t over. To think I could embrace my future and finish out my life with enthusiasm despite the fear and anxiety that follows trauma was something I desired for myself.

Then the part about “…they will walk and not be faint.” let me know life and the little things could even be less stressful. My journey with loss as a close companion would last a lifetime. I would face the absence of Sam on a daily basis, sometime more often than that. I understood this and knew I needed help, so my sidekick of sadness wouldn’t wreck havoc on this rest of my life.

“But how?” I wondered. ” How can I soar above my circumstances?” I prodded the holy promise. Reading backwards was required to search out the answer. Four short words strung together showed me how.

A powerful prescription for stamina, a refreshing source of strength and  a renewed spirit was packed into a single phrase. Elaboration wasn’t required.  “… hope in the Lord.” was the clearly stated cure.

Like the colliding forces of a wellspring, I realized it would be my belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ, that would unleash me and allow me to live in peace again.

My belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ, unleashes me and allows me to live in peace again.  — Tweet This!

As I accepted the truth, the illustration of  freedom manifested in my mind. The feeling of heaviness gave way to the flight. The feeling of weariness turned into winning the race and the thought of a trudging through life was replaced with tiptoeing through the tender parts.

 Yes, I allowed my eyes to drift to the left and reread the scripture from start to finish. It was then, after absorbing the introduction, “… “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;”  I acknowledged my feeble position, realizing that God knew I would get this way, weak, tired, and wobbly as I found my way.

And, there He was ready and waiting with words that gave me a sense of renewal. He showed me it was possible to live apart from the grinding emotions that follow grief and trauma. He described just how wonderful the future could feel.

freedom-to-fly-300x173The rest was up to me. I think He would have captioned my picture with, “Elizabeth, simply
follow me and you will be free.”

To this day,  when I find myself attached to the muck of life or when a trigger of trauma begs me to look backwards, I indulge my senses and savor Isaiah 40:29-31.

I don’t read it, instead I receive it and when I do, the message touches my soul and a breeze blows through my spirit. The lock on the cage of adversity is unlatched.  The imagery lifts me up and moves me away from the pain into a place where I fly separate from my circumstances and feel safe and empowered.

It is then,with  Jesus as my peace partner that I can glide over grief, push beyond anxiety, swoop by sadness, fly over fear and tip my wing to trauma.

Listening vs Learning

 

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I was reading out of responsibility when I came across the first scripture I am going to share.  I don’t say that with any negative connotation, rather it was the reality. When you add your name to the signup sheet for a Bible study, one can expect a tad bit of homework.

I didn’t mind the duty that dangled before me, I actually welcomed it. You see, spending time scrutinizing the scriptures brought me serenity. After the loss of Samantha nothing the world had to offer eased the constant ache of every day. Early on, to arm myself against bouts of sadness and depression, I added weekly Bible study to my routine. The daily reading required to complete each chapter helped me stay connected to the treasures tucked away in God’s Word. The questions that I was asked to answer at the end of each section served to teach me about myself. As I struggled through a season of trauma, the work helped me in many ways

So, there I sat with my left palm propping open my Holy handbook and with a pencil perched between my thumb and index finger. I was readied to read and take notes on the

bible-studysubject material. Certainly, as with most studies there was a particular point or “moral of the story” mindset I was to focus on. So as I read, my mind worked to grasp the geographical context of each story, the hidden meaning in each passage and how the outcomes of the stories shaped the history of Christianity. All the while, I jotted down notes on the pages of my spiral notebook so I would be prepared for my next class.

Yes, I was task-orientated as I read God’s word, intent on learning what the workbook aimed to teach me through studying the scripture.

However, when my eyes arrived at Deuteronomy 30:19-20, without warning, smack in the middle of my studies, the dynamics did a detour. All of the sudden, I wasn’t reading God’s words. Instead, He had decided to read to me! The idea of a lesson gave way to real life.

I imagine if God had chosen to make Himself audible to me, I would have heard, “Quit taking notes because we need to have a talk!”, “Stop seeking because I have something to say!” Or, maybe He would have closed the Big Book altogether, lifted my chin with a gentle touch so I could meet His stare as He said, “Look at me and listen!”

Oh, I was moved spiritually and leaned into the written word and flexed my ears making them receptacles for words possessing listeningthe power to change my mindset and to steer my feet on a solid path to recovery.

No longer was I learning, instead I was listening:

 

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

The words carried such a punch, I had to ponder them. Then, I went back and insert myself into the message to grasp the full potential of the passage. Being 10 or so months into my recovery, my brain was just beginning to comprehend again. (trauma has the tendency to scramble one’s ability to read) and my spirit was settled enough to receive. (meaning I wasn’t so crazed that God’s word couldn’t sink in). However, it was necessary for me to slow down the pace to reap the full reward. This resulted in an fantasized dialogue that went something like this:

God to Elizabeth: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you …”  

(I imagined a thunderous voice)

Elizabeth to God: “Wait, you are calling the heavens and earth AGAINST me? You have all of creation standing at attention! Why? This must be serious … Ok, you have my attention, too!”

(I imagined responding shakily.)

God to Elizabeth: “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.”  

(I imagined He said this authoritatively and very matter of factly … there was no wiggle room and He only mentioned two options)

Elizabeth to God: “OK, I get it! There are two ways of doing things. One will result in more pain than I have already experienced, curses. The other promises goodness as I take the time to recover, blessings.

(So often, Samantha’s accident and the aftermath is the “reference point” in my life.)

One can appreciate the two way conversation that my study time turned into. Initially, the scripture was stated to me. After that, God lovingly stuck around so we could discuss and I could flush out what He wanted me to hear.

The pivotal point was made in the next phrase, “Now, choose ….”

Elizabeth to God:  “Wait, I have a choice? What do you want me to choose?”

God to Elizabeth: ” … choose LIFE” (emphasis mine, but I imagine He would have made Himself very clear)

Oh, I was aware of His adamant urging. With authority, He was pointing me in a particular direction. (I think he would have even banged his almighty hand on the table that might have sat between us!)

Then, with compassion and understanding He laid out the reasons to my “WHY?” (knowing in my human frailty I needed to understand the benefits before entering into the bargain)

So with words He painted a picture of peace for me.

God to Elizabeth:so that you and your children may live …”  

(Oh, I did not like being sad and tormented with loss each day. It was like death repeating itself every 24 hours! And, by no means did I want that kind of life for Brooke, nor for my nieces, Claire and Hannah or any other child suffering after the loss of Sam) In addition, God made me aware that my behavior would impact others. (Yikes!)

God to Elizabeth: “… and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  (He continued to shower me with more reasons to live His way!  )

The next few words ensured me that God would be the reason that I carried on, that He would be the One to give me my life back. … “for the Lord is your Life.”

My reading was ended with an invitation to enter a special place  …and  he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” That is, … the land of milk and honey. Oh, I knew a little bit about this particular piece of land from my studies. But, after my time with the Lord came to an end I did a little more research. 

Yes, I went quickly went back to learning. I searched for details and descriptions and became aware of explanations for what the land of milk and honey was like. A land of promise, a place like heaven or paradise, the mountaintop, a place that appeals greatly to someone were phrases that brought this sacred place to life.

After what I had been through and staring into a life without Samantha, this offer was one I couldn’t refuse. I knew it was where I wanted to arrive and I knew I wanted to bring Brooke and David  and others that I loved with me. And, to think I could help lead even more there!

No longer were the words that I read simply a story about God speaking to the Israelite’s. Instead, it was God revealing to me how to live a life so that I was alive!

Oh my, I was moved and without hesitation, I made my decision. I linked arms with Jesus and decided to do things His way.i-choose-life

No, it isn’t always easy. Yes, sometimes, I have to dig deep and fight the demons to find my way . And, as always, some days are easier than others.

However, always fashioning my choices after the truth found in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 has made all the difference.

And, listening, not learning has given me life!

 

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Trauma … Take Two

cinema clipboard 1

“PTSD from Katrina kicking in, smells that you can never imagine. Every house has lost everything including at least 2 cars. Y’all pray for Louisiana!!!

When I saw this Facebook status posted alongside a photo of piled up debris, I knew I wasn’t the only one sliding backwards.

For so many affected by the recent floods in the Baton Rouge/Lafayette area, this current cataclysmic event is a flashback to the aftermath of some other natural disaster experienced or overwhelming sense of loss incurred. Whether it is the smell of sweltering garbage, the reality of all of your belongings stacked in a heap on the curb in front of your house, the loss of a loved one to the raging flood waters or possible even a beloved pet, the triggers all point to the same underlying issue.

TRAUMA – an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident or natural disaster. A traumatic event or situation creates psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope.

water rescueWould it be surprising to know that the above list didn’t do it for me? Rather, it was the process of saving the people and the water recovery that sent me reeling backwards. The scenes of boats racing over the water, men in life jackets intent on rescue and helicopters overhead that pulled me to a painful place. The scenes were so familiar and carried a past so stressful that it felt like a smoldering piece of metal piercing my heart every time I saw a picture.

Physical symptoms of distress began to manifest as tears trickled down my cheeks while out for a walk, I noticed myself upset and unsettled in the evenings when it was time to relax and I began waking up in the wee hours of the morning because my mind was racing with thoughts. The third time I confessed to David, “I feel like tears are filling my ears and a bulge of emotions is blocking my throat.” I knew I needed to stop with the activity and devote some time to myself.

 It was then, in the stillness of assessing what was messing with my head and in turn twisting my heart that a light was shown on what I was going through. I realized something happening in my current environment was causing me to look backwards, to revisit, to relive, to revive an extraordinarily painful time in my life.

ptss

Oh, and I was guilty of “going there” and walking in defeat for a few days. I withdrew from helping with relief efforts out of sheer self-protection. I sought refuge from the chaos by seeking calm environments. Honestly, being in the disarray of recovery mixed me up mentally. As well, reopened an emotional wound I would rather leave untouched. My empathy overflowed at the overwhelming sense of loss that so many are experiencing to the point I couldn’t concentrate. I know what it feels like to have your life turned upside down and scattered like a 10,000 piece puzzle.

Truly, being amidst the shambles was causing me to stumble.

(I wish I could say it isn’t so, that I’m stronger than that, that I can handle any situation that comes my way. Instead, I’m realizing I can’t. Nor, am I called, too. )

So, in an effort to find my way out of the slimy pit that I sunk into, I began to pay attention to myself and worked to mentally challenge the triggers. I made a concerted effort to turn off the memories that possessed the potential to wreck my well-being. As I used the tools in my trauma toolbox to help me cope, room was made in my mind to remember what served to save me during my personal season of trauma.

Yes, during that time God showed up in miraculous ways on numerous days, but it was His Word that carried me through the tedious times. When fear, anxiety, stress, and uncertainty arose (symptoms of PTSS)  I recited, chanted, sung, wrote, read and clung to God’s written word, knowing that through it He shares His wisdom with us, that He teaches us the perspective He wants us to adopt and that He states the promises we can trust in.

Sams Bible

The longer I sat, the more grateful I became for the time and foresight to regain my composure. As I rested, a sense of urgency swelled inside of me to reread the scriptures that were earmarked with a sticky note in Samantha’s Bible. The ones that I had repeated over and over, the ones I read then implemented in my own life, the ones I trusted in, the ones that encouraged me to take another step and the ones that promised a fruitful future after profound loss.

Ahhhh, rest, renewal and reassurance soothed my heart. Words that served to revive me before where breathing life into me again. Text that brought dominion and order over this world were doing it again. Passages that promised God’s presence and offered hope were pouring into my spirit again.

Yes, God’s Word had gotten me through a season of personal trauma. And, it was doing it again!

I invite you to journey with me over the next few weeks as I share ten scriptures that serve to sustain me. Along, with how, when, where and why they work for me. Whether it is past or present circumstances doesn’t make a difference. What is important to remember is God’s Word is living and actionable in all situations and it works!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Matthew 7:24

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What I’ve Been Reading

lizs-library

“Elizabeth, you need to read this book!” my friend exclaimed.

“Ok!” I replied, showing my openness to be inspired.

“The story is about a family from Bogalusa, LA, right here, in our own backyard,” my friend continued as she bobbled the book in front of my face. Her jerky movements were meant to get my attention and keep me engaged.

“Elizabeth, you know how this story came into print?” she asked pinching her voice to make a point. I rounded my lips to respond, but didn’t have enough time for a sound to form.

In a split second, I realized my friend had no intention of hearing from me. Instead, she was determined to move her end of the conversation forward and motivate me.

“Rebecca, the author of the book was sharing her story during a Bible Study. The people in attendance were so moved by what they heard they convinced her to write the story down. Elizabeth, God took it from there, leading Rebecca on a path to get it published,” she added.

“You know, the same thing is going to happen to you!” she punctuated her words with firmness.

I nodded my head to let her know I was listening. As well, I received her words of encouragement because I needed them. I am beginning to learn there is nothing easy about publishing a book. Besides the writing process that is required, there is a social media platform that must be built (YUCK!) and many rejection letters to be received before finding the right publisher, all of which have stretched me beyond myself.

However, anything that I am feeling in the department of discomfort pales in comparison to what Rebecca and her family were called to endure. As I read, The Devil in Pew Number Seven, I was reminded of the pain Christians are often time called to endure. Surely, the Nichols family suffered their fair share. Often times when reading, I thought more than what they could possibly handle. Fear, persecution and feeling hated played a part in their journey. They were constantly harassed, bombs were set off near their home and a broken glass window pane shattered on top of their newborn son.

As difficult as it was to read, God’s grace in the lives of these people was ever present. Rebecca is honest about the scars that are left on her family. However, she doesn’t park herself there and hang onto the pain that was inflicted on her nor, the family she loved.

Instead, she moves past the affliction and learns how to forgive. She isn’t shy about sharing the struggles. However her ending emphasis is one of deliverance. Ultimately, she shares a story of survival. Therefore, allowing her readers to tag along with her as she breaks the chains of trauma, allowing her to live a life of freedom.

If you can imagine, when I turned the last page, I found a gentle smile on my face.

Oh, yes I ached on the inside and my empathy was in over drive!

However, the message that I walked away with is Forgiveness is the Answer to Freedom. In the end, Rebecca’s faith allowed her to heal after living through a season of scarring. Then as the years past, she was led to a place of peace about what had happened.

On top of that, she took the time to write down her experience so that another person could glean from the wisdom she gained, be inspired by her perseverance and to illustrate an example that faith in Jesus Christ works.

Thank you Rebecca for showing me how it is done. You made yourself vulnerable and for that I appreciate you. You kept my eyes on the cross as you walked me through your crisis. As well, you showered me with hope, love and faith all the way to the end.

A few days later, during a quick phone call my precious yet pesky friend asked “And, how did you like the book?”  “It was unbelievable and reading it was good for so many reasons,” I started my response. Quickly sucking air through my nostrils, I readied myself to unleash all that I reaped by reading Rebecca’s book. Unlike our last conversation, this time I had plenty to say. “You were right,” I confirmed to my loving phone caller. “Reading her story inspires me! Seeing her story in printed form lets me know publishing can happen for little ole’ me living in Mandeville and her faith journey has nourished the hope inside of my heart.” I added.

Before we hung up, I ended our conversation with,”You know, it is my prayer, that one day I could touch as many lives as Rebecca has.”

Here’s to hoping Sam was Here … (my proposed book title) will be used in the same way.”

Be blessed as you read this book:

The Devil in Pew Number Seven

 

 

 

Dear Lord,

Guide me as I try to do the same good work as Rebecca. I know, just as she does, that you are present in all things and that what occurs in our lives will be worked for good. Help me as I work to record your presence in the middle of my mayhem. Possess my writing so that my words are interesting, easily understood and carry your message of healing. I ask that you open doors wide so that I can step through them. I ask that you lead me to the places, to the people  and to the publisher that are waiting for me to arrive, so that together  we can send forth your message of hope.

Amen

Lessons in Everyday Life ~ part three

bike path

Pedaling Down the Path

Around and around and around the skinny wheels on my bike spun as I rhythmically pushed against the pedals. The tree lined bike path was identical to days before, my water bottle was in arm’s reach like always and the shoes on my feet were familiar. However, for some reason this cycling experience was panning out to be quite different from days prior.

Normally, I can ride eight miles at a quickened pace without ever having to take a rest. Invigorated by the effort I am applying, the calories I’m burning and sweat pouring from my pores, I can press in and reach my destination. Not this time! By mile four, my resolve was already wearing thin and I was entertaining taking a break. Rolling into mile six, I felt another level of exhaustion and wondered if I needed to turn around.

As I continued to strive for my goal, physical symptoms of fatigue flared. The thick muscle that runs vertically on the tops of my thighs was tingling with tightness. My shoulders felt like lead blocks causing me to lean forward and rely on the handlebars to support the weight of my torso. My upper arms were stiff and my elbows were pointing outward as I strained to spin my wheels. As burdensome as my body was, so were the thoughts of weariness racing through my brain.

“I don’t know if I can do this today,” I thought. “What the heck is going on? Why is this so hard?” I asked myself. At this point, it was either walk myself and my bike back six or seven miles or find a way to go on. Desperate to work off the ice cream from the night before, I yearned to do the distance.

With no cheering squad nearby, I looked inward for a way to keep riding. “Elizabeth, you a097b26c918c7f4b4ed156227cafcbd1are just being a wimp. So what, if you are tired,” I pushed myself to continue pedaling. “Elizabeth, just keep going. It’s OK if you are worthless the rest of the day,” I worked to excuse myself from being productive. “Elizabeth, just ignore the heaviness you are feeling. You can figure out what is wrong when you get home,” I tried to push aside what was ailing me.

After my silent self-help session, I finally reached the half way mark. This was my routine rest stop. And, boy did I stop! Certainly, the heat of the day increased the difficulty of the ride. However, I was certain something else was going on.

In order to give my legs a rest, I slid off the tiny triangular seat and tipped my chin towards my toes. Quickly, I grabbed the edge of my t-shirt and wiped away the sheet of sweat floating on my forehead before it streamed into my eyes. Pausing for a rest, I fussed, “UUggghhhh, now, I need to turn around and do it again!”

Determined, but not delighted, I pushed my buttocks back in the saddle and returned to a racing position. “Hmm, that felt a little bouncy!” I thought. Ready to dig in, I gripped the curved metal bars stretched out before me and peered down at the pavement. “Hmmm, my wheels don’t look exactly right!” I noticed.  It was then, in this crouched position with my body weight crushing the circular rubber tubes that I discovered my problem. It had little to do with my personal state of fitness. Instead, it had everything to do with my equipment!

Simply put, my tires weren’t properly inflated. Somehow the air was leaking out causing the added struggle during my workout session. “Dang! That’s it! My tires are going flat!” I confirmed to myself. There was relief, knowing the reason for the extra exertion needed had nothing to do with me. However, I still dreaded the return ride. Enduring another eight miles on deflated tires didn’t sound like any fun.

bicycle 1There was no use in stalling. So, I flexed the little muscle stored in my upper arms and went for it. Mile nine and ten weren’t easy. Mile eleven, twelve and thirteen proved to be increasingly difficult. During mile fourteen my body was in as bad a shape as before. To carry on, I needed a new strategy. So, I stirred up mental toughness and pulled my muscles taught to endure to the end. I held my breath and squinted the corners of my eyes to tap into the energy that was left. I could see the break in the trees that indicated the opening into my subdivision, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it!

And, that is when the Holy Spirit awakened and spoke to the essence of my struggle. When I was feeling tired, fatigued and wanting to give up, He had something to share,

Elizabeth, this is how people feel when they try to do life without me. They are tired, burdened, weary and ready to through in the towel. They press through time and endure the difficulty of days on their own!”  

Coming into the home stretch, the Holy Spirit was quick to make His point:

“You need to know I never intended for any of you to live this way, relying on your own strength, your own knowledge, your own will power to walk through life. I know it is too difficult to do on your own! Surely, you will wear out!” I sensed the Spirit stressing to my burnt out body.

From now on when you get tired, turn to me!” I was urged. “Allow me to pump up your Spirit! Read My Word for strength and receive My power from the scriptures!

 

By the time I rounded my street corner, I was worn out, yet renewed. Physically exhausted, but spiritually strengthened. The Holy Spirit had shown me He is the One to shore up our souls. Therefore, naturally making the journey of living more doable, more manageable, more enjoyable!

 

bike 2

As I hung my bike on the wall hook, I heard one last piece of wise council, “And Elizabeth, from now on never leave home without first checking your tires!!

Who would have thought, I could learn such a lesson while sweating so much!  

 

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Ephesians 3:16 (NIV)

 

 

In the Middle of Ordinary

 

Lessons in Everyday Life – part two

Three days, three lessons. Each time it occurred, I was engaged in an average activity. Then in the middle of ordinary, the Holy Spirit stood up and had something to say.

Unlike like last time, reclined and relaxed in a beautiful beach setting, I was taught a lesson through everyday life while out on my bike.

Oh, it wasn’t a leisurely ride or one intended as exercise. Instead, riding the bikeit was all about the four legged furry animal that lives in our home. You see, I was riding my bike for the sole purpose of walking the dog. As unusual as it sounds; it’s absolutely necessary. You see, “Faith”, our family pet is a fast runner and has an abundance of energy.

Midway through our normal stunt, I began to perspire. Trying to ignore the heat, I looked down and peered at Faith’s sleek body and shiny black coat. With respect and resolve, I thought, “We aren’t going home, until I wear you out!” Around and around the neighborhood we went. I pedaled and she panted. The faster I went, the faster she ran.

On our third lap, we received a welcomed reprieve. “Hey Elizabeth! How are you today?” my neighbor calldogs-925701_960_720ed out as she walked into the street. As I slowed my pedal stroke, she approached the front tire. “I am well, how are you?” I asked, coming to a soft stop. Instantly, there were four of us squeezing in a visit on a muggy summer evening. My neighbor and I exchanged common pleasantries while watching her puppy, “Bandit” and my full grown mutt roll around.

“The girls have enjoyed watching Faith this summer,” she earnestly remarked. “I really appreciate their help while we are out of town,” I replied. “Elizabeth, she really is a great dog,” my neighbor added in gist.

My immediate response to her complement wasn’t expressed in words. Instead, all I could do was chuckle.

“Really?” I thought. I was sure she was totally unaware of the fact that Faith wiggles when she walks and runs sideways when she gets excited. Despite constant correction, she jumps on every person that walks through the door and has ripped through skin with her claws. On accident, thank goodness! As well, she eats her dinner at midnight and is traumatized when someone attempts to take her picture with a cell phone. Honestly, she hides under the bed for hours!

Regina smiled and nodded her head as I shared my laundry list of Faith’s downfalls. With the door opened to complain about our pets shortcomings, my friend added, “Yeah, I can relate. Bandit tinkles every time he gets excited. And, while out walking, sometimes, he just stops. He plops down and refuses to get up. We have to carry him home every time.”

I laughed, while I listened. After sharing faults as long as Santa’s scroll, Regina punctuated her statement, “It’s a wonder we still love them.”  “You know you are right! They make us crazy with all their antics.” I confirmed.

Jumping, barking, licking, growling and whining all of it can be annoying and difficult to deal with. People spend enormous amounts of time, effort and money trying to train their animals to behave.  Sometimes the pet’s behavior is corrected quickly.  Other times, the furry beast goes back to doggie school.

dog.jpg

 

Nonetheless, we love them!

 

 

 

As the perspiration beaded my brow, I pulled Faith’s leash a tad bit tighter, pushed back in my bicycle seat, and said my goodbyes. With each rotation of the wheels, Faith and I headed back home. However, I sensed the Spirit wasn’t ready to say, “So long …!”

“Elizabeth, there is more here to learn” stirred in my soul. Again, I felt like God wanted me to listen for His lesson. In a whisper of thoughts that wafted through my brain, I heard, “That’s exactly how I love you!”  “Despite your flaws and personality quirks, I love you!” the spirit of Jesus softly spoke. “In all your mess and madness, I will care for you!” delivered the spirit of God to the depths of my soul.

Certainly this isn’t new news. At the sweet age of two, I was singing Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells us so…. By the age of 12, I could recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …” As an adult, I became aware of Augustine’s famous quote, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

However, at that very moment slouched in a bicycle seat, sticky from the moisture that hung in the air and wheeling my way back towards my house it was the mental picture that made the difference. “Lord, thank you for that.” I whispered while climbing the cement curb. “Lord, simple imagery reminded me of your unending love,” I continued to respond to the powerful truth as I rolled down the driveway. Parking my bike in jowls of my garage, I expressed my gratitude, “Lord, I’m so grateful you speak to me in ways I can understand.”

I’m learning  

~ When the Spirit of God mingles with the mundane one can expect to hear a magnetic and mighty message! 

Certainly, a bath was required before I climbed into bed. The residual of a steamy evening spent outside needed to be removed from my skin. As I refreshed myself in the warm water, I soaked my spirit in the love of Christ.  In all my mess-ups, He is going to love me. Through all my failed attempts, He is going to love me. Regardless, of my crazy characteristics and annoying habits, He is going to love me. And, when I finally get it right, He is going to love me.

Who would have thought, I could relearn so much while out on a walk.

~ In the middle of ordinary, it is a blessing to seek and see the Almighty! ~

 

This is the way God put it:

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
    Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 – The Message 

 

P.S. – stay tuned for Lessons in Everyday Life – part three

 

 

Lessons in Everyday Life

beach

The sun was shining and the waves were rolling in. David and I sat in lounge chairs, protected from the afternoon heat by a large blue and white striped canvas umbrella. Our seats were angled just a tad, allowing me a bird’s eye view of the family to my right.

Yes, we were at the beach and I was relaxed. The crew next to me, not so much, taking little ones to the beach can turn into a lot of work. I witnessed this as the parents lathered three little bodies with ample amounts of sunscreen. Then, the older boy called out, “Mom, can you help me find my goggles?” I looked on; her shoulders dropped as she pulled herself out of the folding beach chair slung close to the sand. Plodding through the shifting granules of the beach floor, she reach into their overstuffed straw bag and rifled under the brightly colored beach towels. Fumbling her fingers on the bottom of the rattan sack, relieved, she called across to her son, “I found them.” Minutes later her brood of hungry beach goers begged for a snack, along with asking for an ice cold bottle of water. Eventually, everyone was appeased enough to play.

Father and sons frolicked in the waves. Mom stole a few minutes of rest and read a book. Their third child, wearing a sunhat as big as a serving saucer, quietly played in the sand. Her little fingers sifted through the mixture of shiny and matte, tan colored crystals. She poked a plastic shovel into miniature sand dunes and flung what she scochild playing in the sand 2oped up over her soft rounded shoulder. Bowing over her personal playground, she was satisfied and oblivious to the wonder surrounding her. The majesty and motion of the ocean were just steps away. The
seagulls that decorated and danced in the sky were straight above her head. The rays of the sun that warmed the sand were on display behind her back. However, she was calm, content and carefree. Why would anyone want to interrupt such a peaceful scene? Especially one that involved a toddler.

With a peaceful heart, I watched the family drama unfold. The father’s aqua swimming trunks clung to his muscular thighs as he trotted away from the entertainment of the ocean. His quickened steps through the hot sand were aimed towards the youngest of his clan. Without warning and from behind, he tucked one strong hand under the youngster’s pudgy little armpit and slid his other muscular appendage under her diaper clad bottom. Lifting her into his safe embrace, he must have had good reason to disturb her.

Immediately, his daughter didn’t like it. She erupted into a fountain of tears that stung her pink cheeks and rapidly flashed her legs in an attempt to wrangle herself from his firm
dad and little girl in the wavesgrip. I believe, she liked what she was doing and saw no good reason to leave. The father held her tight and took a second to tenderly whisper a few words into her tiny ear. Whatever he said, didn’t work. Despite her two year old protest, he carried her towards the crystal blue waters of the nearby aquatic playground. He knew there were seashells to see, fish to find and the waves offered pure enjoyment, serving up splashes and sprays of cooling mist as they lapped up against the sandy shores. However, the unexpected interruption bringing her to a different place to play was not well received by the independent and absorbed young girl.

Initially, I chuckled at the unnecessary upheaval of an otherwise serene setting. As a mother watching from afar, my first thought was, “You should have just left her alone. She was perfectly happy just playing in the sand.”

Then, the Holy Spirit stood up and clamored for control, posing for battle against my average thoughts. This sacred part of me, which invites me to see the world through the eyes of Jesus began to write it’s version of what was going on across the ticker tape of thoughts passing through my brain. I sensed God was urging me to see below the surface. Within in seconds, I found myself asking,”What should I learn from this scene?”

Living in a new season of life, I have more space to tease out these kinds of questions. No longer do they rise inside of me, only to be swept away by the next item on my to-do list. With Sam in Heaven and Brooke away at college, the demands on my energy and attention have lessened. Therefore, allowing me space to ponder and soak up the wisdom that comes from everyday life. So, in my attuned frame of mind, I worked to reveal what the Holy Spirit told me I needed to see.

blog 1First, my eyes fixated on the father/daughter combo having fun in the sea. No longer did the little girl cry. Instead, she wore a smile that caused her cheekbones to touch the outside corners of her almond shaped eyes. Squeals of laughter and delight filled the heated air as her father tossed her up above the crests of the incoming waves. Her initial intimidation with the overwhelming body of water had given way to a relaxed posture while held in her father’s protective arms.

Sweetly, silently the lesson I was to learn eased into my soul.

“How many times have I acted like that little girl?” I asked myself.  Even as an adult, I have put on such a show.

Comfortable, contented, and complacent, I pitch a fit when God points me in a new direction. Not trusting when He moves me away from my easy-go-luck environment that surely, the place He is leading me will be overflowing with abundance. So many times, I have behaved like that youngest sibling, kicking and flailing when swept away from what’s familiar to try something new.

I had hours in the shadows of a glowing sunset to lean into what I was to learn. As the afternoon eased into a cooler evening, I gleaned the wisdom everyday life has to offer.

See, I believe the adoring dad wanted to share the wonders of the ocean with his cherished daughter. That is reason he returned to the beach and scooped her up, without asking. Actually, it was his job as a pareblog 4nt to always enhance her experience of living. He knew the added joy the ocean would bring. Despite her hesitation and unhappy reaction, he knew what lay ahead was better. In addition, he knew she would like, if she just gave it a chance. Gently he carried her to something more wonderful. When he decided to test her trust by dipping her toes in the bubbling waters below, he never let her go.

As so it is with our Heavenly Father, often He asks us to relinquish our comfort zone. So that, he can lead us to a richer environment. We kick and scream against change and fuss because we become worried about our future. Gently, he carries us as we struggle against what He knows is best, never letting us go as we come to peace with our new place.

Who knew a little girl playing in the sand could teach me so much?

Lord, 

Please forgive me when I choose to kick and scream with every new thing you ask me to do. Help me to rise into your arms willingly and embrace the constant wonder, joy, and excitement you offer. If I start feeling a little scared of what is to come, please cover me with your peace.

I give thanks for the Holy Spirit that stands ready to bring me closer to you. Everything you do, whether we like it or not, understand it or are confounded by it, welcome it or want to walk away from it is for our good. Help me to remember this, so I can step into the abundant living you have promised. 

I ask these things in the sweet name of Jesus.  Amen!

I’m Ready for the Red Ink

Almost a year to the date, I’m done. Today, I reread the last chapter for the final time before I ask others to slash and insert, rearrange and make suggestions to this project I have been working on. Relieved of their proofreading duties, David and Brooke eagerly agreed, ” Mom, the first draft is a done deal.”


“Elizabeth, you need to write a book” was the statement that got me started. Knowing I had a lot to say, but with no skill, nor knowledge about how to get started, I opened my word processor to a blank sheet and simply tapped the keyboard to type out “Chapter One.” Spilling my guts on the subsequent pages has kept me busy for the past twelve months. Dedicating a large portion of each workday has made this process seem like a part time job. Yet again, employment with no paycheck. I thank Jesus for an encouraging and supportive husband.

During some of my work weeks, thoughts and memories flowed freely filling the empty pages at a rapid rate. On other days, it was a chore to string the sentences together that conveyed my deepest sentiments. Wrangled with how to express the depths of emotions and the gravity of what I felt created frustration and pulsating urges to abandon my writing assignment. “David, I can’t do this. I don’t know the right words to use. This is going to take forever. Trying to write this book is a waste of time. I should just go back to work.” were excuses I raised to try and wiggle out of my responsibility.

I wasn’t prepared for the time, nor committment it would take. I had no idea what it would look like when it was done, nor how long it would take. The uncertainty of it all made it extremely difficult to remain dedicated. When I thought to far ahead, about what was left to accomplish, I welcomed anxiety into my workplace. Thankfully, during the first few months I honed another method of attack. Simply put, I pressed in and wrote the next word, organized the next paragraph, pulled together the next message and brought each chapter to a close.

As I reviewed the scenes in my life and recaptured what I remembered, along with what I thought memorable, I often wondered, “Who is going to be interested in what I have to say? About what happened to me?” When doubt about what I was doing crept from the corners of my desk, Martina McBride’s lyrics from “Anyway” would inspire me to type away ….

You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah, sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love
Anyway

These words resonated with me and with what I was attempting. Martina’s musical message chased away my skepticism and thwarted my attempts to jump ship. Instead, I placed myself in her lyrical story and belted out my own battlesong, ” Whether anybody ever reads it, write it anyway.” Applying the freeing concept helped me focus and remain at my writing station. Who knows what the final outcome will be? Will a publisher deem my story worthy to print? Or, will what I have written only sit on my bookshelf? I don’t know the answer to that. All I know to do is try, trust and take the next step.

People can be more creative and productive when they take the space...: It is a good thing I wasn’t aware of the hours of isolation that would be required to complete this task. Needless to say, I may have never started. Early on, I discovered it was essential to detach myself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to get this job done. Too many distractions, invitations and temptations came my way when I was socially engaged with the world. In order to write about a personal experience, you have to research yourself. The only way I could hear and remain connected to that inward reflection was to withdraw to my inner self. I came to undestand that (somewhat) cutting myself off from society was the answer, but with that came stretchs of silence. When loneliness set in, I pondered Picasso’s words of wisdom and went back to work.

Now, that my heart and soul is poured out on a stack of papers, I am gearing up for the next step in this process. Experienced authors have told me it is more grueling than writing the book. “Well, a Book Proposal, a Query letter, and a public platform will need to be developed before you can even think about approaching a publisher.” they forewarn. Continuing with their intimidating tirade, they suggest “Oh you might need to hire an agent and its best to have an editor read your work.” Adding to the upcoming angst, I don’t know if what I have written even makes sense. A year later, I  can’t remember what I wrote!

As they speak of these roadblocks and I entertain judgement by others, my attitude tends to take a tumble, which makes me to want to stop in my tracks and throw in the towel. “I don’t have to be an author. I don’t need this to be a published book.” I cry out to try and careen myself off course. “Oh no, Elizabeth. Go get started. This is simply the next step.” David will counter and steer me on course again. I know he is right. Marching back to my office, I cringe and push against the work that is ahead.

Reseated in my desk chair and having blown off some steam, I try to remember what first inspired me to get started. Sure, there were encouraging comments from people that attached worth to what I had experienced and what I had to say. Their observations and opinions opened my heart up and allowed God to reveal to me that my mess could become my message. That is good and just motivation and served to carry the writing process to completion. However, not enough to see me through this next step. I am weary and know I need a stronger nudge to kick start this second phase. So, I look to the scriptures for purpose and I have found what I am searching for:

Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.

Luke 8:39

But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

Mark 5:19-20

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

Daniel 4:2

It is when I fix my focus on the cross that life begins to make sense. After breathing in the righteous reason for this project, I am reminded of my original objective-to simply record my personal journey from ache to alleluia. Glorifying God during my walk to restoration was effortless, as he was my trusted companion and mighty miracle worker along the way. His continued presence allows me to reflect and reopen a painful season in my life. In the hopes that intimately sharing my experience with Him will show others a holy way of recovery. As well, bring light and life to all the days ahead.

Leaning into this humbled reason for writing, I am strengthened to take the next step. If allowing others to edit what I have written, writing a lengthy detailed report aimed at captivating a publisher and highlighting the unique aspects of my story and networking with the public to build an author’s persona are what is required in today’s world to spread that message, then for the sake of Christ, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Alas, I have come accustomed to sitting in the quiet, allowing for long patches of stillness. Making it easier to hear the Holy Spirit and search through my own thoughts. Engaging in an attempt to sell by literary work and myself (publishers expect one to have a “following”, basically a built in audience prior to publishing their work!!!!! Lord you will need to lead the way on this one!!!!! ) are not activities that I look forward to. They are extremely out of my comfort zone. However, I’m going to continue to be led by the Lord, following the inspiration that first got me started and step out on that limber limb because I know that’s where the fruit is.

This next step is going to be a stretch for someone like me. As I reach forward inching away from what feels safe, I remind myself who has brought me to this point. Surely, He will accompany me the rest of the way.

14 Chapters, 67,573 words later, I am reinspired and ready for the red ink!