A Time to Dance

The title of my post today might not be an expected title for a Christian blog, but bear with me. All will be made clear. This phrase actually appears in Scripture and is in the set of verses I’ll be talking about today in relation to what’s going on in my life.

First, the Scripture I’m quoting is from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to fear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

These have always been favorite verses of mine. They talk about all the cycles of life and how we’re meant to do and to feel all of these things. We’re not meant to just act and behave one way though some Christians would have you think that is the case. It is not the case at all. At different points this spring, I have wept, laughed, scattered stones, gathered them, embraced, refrained from embracing, searched, given up, kept, thrown away, been silent, spoken, and loved. All have been a part of my life, and through all of them, God has been my anchor even when  I didn’t feel like He was there.

Last week, I posted a status on Facebook that is worth quoting here. These words helped me realize that my hope is returning and that this summer will be a time when I can dance, dance with the joy of the Lord in my heart no matter what else is going on. #timetodance

“This has been a rough spring, and I lost my hope for a little while. I forgot that God is bigger than my giants and that He is always there. Glad my hope is returning and glad summer is starting! ‪#‎hope‬ ‪#‎faith‬ ‪#‎love‬‪#‎Godisbiggerthanmygiants‬ ‪#‎Heisable‬

 

A Place for My Gifts and A Place for Me

I’m in a funny place right now in my faith walk and in my life in general. I turned fifty last December. This isn’t something women usually admit to, but it’s part of the story so bear with me. I’m an older mom with a child still at home. Most of the women I know who are five years older or five years younger than me are already empty nesters. Some of them have grandchildren that they are, rightly so, proud of, and they want to talk about said grandchildren. But, the question I have for myself is what do I have to talk about when I’m around said women. Sometimes, I feel, it’s not a lot. With one of my children in college, and the other still in high school, it will probably be another 7 – 10 years before grandchildren are a possibility. (It had better be that long. I want them out of my pocket with gainful employment before grandchildren happen. 🙂 )

So, what happens in the meantime? I have gravitated towards younger women for friendships, and that has satisfied my longings for female friendships to an extent. But, I still struggle in wanting an older role model, someone to mentor me, especially in the church. I have other issues from my background that have also made this difficult. Coming from an unstable and non-Christian background, it’s hard sometimes to know how to act around other women in the church. It’s hard to be the base for your family’s faith and not have anything to draw from knowing that your children are drawing from what you say and do with regards to faith. In other words, no family faith history to speak of. I’m not sure women or even people, in general, who have a lifelong family faith history can understand that.

Then, I need to couple that with the other part of my blog title–a place for my gifts. We talk in the church, all the time, about sharing the gifts God has given us. In most of our churches, I am sure, opportunities are limitless for sharing. The question I have though is what happens if I have marshaled up the courage to say I want to share a gift, and then that gift is rejected. This might be a question that surprises you, but it has happened to me. It has made me wonder how I fit into a church community, and it has made me think about going somewhere else.

Why haven’t I? Gone somewhere else, I mean. As I’ve written this blog post, I’ve realized some things about myself. I need to be more of a person who notices than I have been. Noticing when a person comes in alone. Noticing when someone needs a ride. (like I did last week) Noticing the young mom who is sitting outside eating a popsicle with her daughter. (like I saw last night) Noticing the person who is different. Because, you see, Jesus noticed the people who were different, and He shared His love with them first. That’s what He wants us to do, and that’s what He wants me to do. Community is messy, and it can engender all of the ugliness in this world like pain, hurt feelings, and sadness. In fact, the song, “Does Anybody Hear Her”, by Casting Crowns, brings all this into focus for me. It resonates with me because it’s how I’ve felt and how I still feel sometimes. Does anybody hear me? But, if we can hear the people around us, if we can notice them and bring them into our fold, if we can show them Jesus’ love, community will become what it is meant to be, a place where angels sing, and we all lift our voices in worship of our Lord and Savior.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Forgiveness

My church has started something new this year on Wednesday nights. We take a scriptural characteristic such as forgiveness and learn about it for three weeks and then we live it on the fourth Wednesday doing various things that will help cement the characteristic in our minds. It’s been pretty cool, and I’ve learned a lot. The characteristic for this month, if you haven’t guessed it already, is forgiveness. I’m writing about it here today because God has been convicting me for the past few weeks.

First, the definition of forgiveness. Wikipedia says that “forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”

It’s an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do especially if you are the one who has been wronged. Christ has called us to this though, to forgive each other. It was the main reason He died on the cross for us, for our sins, so we could come back to relationship with Him. If we truly believe in what He did for us, we should be able to forgive others when they wrong us.

But, why believe me, your basic blogger? 🙂 Here are some examples from Scripture. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Here’s one from I John. Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And finally, one of my favorites, though I might be being a bit sarcastic about that :-), since it tells the number of times Jesus says we should forgive. From Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

There are many, many more, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. Now, where am I going with this? Well, like I said God has been convicting me. It’s not that I’ve done anything heinous or anything that’s a crime or anything that people would put into a “needing to ask forgiveness” category. Isn’t that the point though? All of us have caused offense and hurt at some point. It’s part of the definition of living in a fallen world. But, we have a hard time admitting it. We have a problem asking for forgiveness, and we have a hard time accepting forgiveness. Both of those require that we go deep down into our souls, into places that we don’t want to admit to God exist. God knows they exist, and God wants us to let Him in so we can do the things He asks of us.

Right now, neither of those are academic to me. I have real-life examples of both. When I was at church yesterday, someone came up to me and asked for my forgiveness. I was astounded! I could think of nothing they had done to offend me. But, then the person explained. She didn’t think she had done a good job in encouraging me in my walk with God. That my words on this blog and on my Facebook page had encouraged her, and she had not done a good enough job in encouraging me. I hugged her, told her it was ok, and we walked in different directions. I thought about what she had said during the service and realized I needed to speak with her one more time before I left. I had been wondering if my words had been encouraging anyone. Writing can be a lonely trade, and sometimes, you can’t really know if you have made an impact or not. I went back and told her thank you. God had given me a gift that day even though I was unaware I had needed it.

I went home with God continuing to convict me. He told me there were several people I needed to ask for forgiveness. I resisted at first. It’s not pleasant; in fact, it’s embarrassing to admit when you’ve done something wrong. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness and to share your heart when you don’t know how it will be received. God then brought the most convicting thought of all to my mind. Did I truly believe in Him? Did I truly believe in what Jesus had done on the cross for me? Of course, I did. I told God He was my everything. Do this, He told me, and it will bless you in ways you don’t even know yet.

So, I will be sending notes to several local friends this week asking for forgiveness. I don’t know if any of those people will read this blog post, but, if you do, please know that this is something God has convicted me about which makes it important for me to do.

If you have someone in your life, you either need to ask for forgiveness or accept forgiveness from, I pray that God gives you the courage to do it so you can continue to grow in what He wants to give you.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Lines of My Story

I saw a post on Facebook from the page The Hands Free Revolution, and it inspired me. The last few months have been rough, and every word you have read here has been hard-fought for. Back to this post. It talked about how our stories were written in the lines of our faces, especially the lines where you would see tears. That resonated with me because there have been a lot of tears in the last few months, a lot of pain, and a lot of hurt. Pain that I have felt uncomfortable sharing in person, and pain that it has taken a lot for me to share by the written word. This post, however, showed me how important it was for me to share my story even if it was messy and even if it hurt. It inspired me to finish writing an essay about the defining moments of my life and inspired me to write this post today.

Why can’t we share our broken and messy stories in the church and feel safe with our brothers and sisters in the sharing? Why can’t we feel love and acceptance from others even if we do have a messy and painful story? That’s what Jesus would do. He loves us in spite of all of that, and He’s calling us to love each other in spite of all of that. It’s what grace is, and I don’t think we’ve done a good job in the church of explaining it or living it. We jockey for position in the church like we do in society, and I think, unconsciously, we want Jesus to see us as the best.

Jesus’ own words in Scripture though invalidate those thoughts. Matthew 20:25-28 says, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”

Matthew 23:11-12 has more thoughts in the same vein.  “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

So, we’ve clarified that Jesus wants us to serve and not to try to be the best while we’re here on this earth. What about giving each other grace and a safe space to share our stories? How do we let people know that a place is safe and that love and acceptance will be given despite the brokenness and messiness of life? This is a hard one. Hard for the people who will receive those stories and hard for the people who will tell them. No one likes to cry even though God did make tear ducts for a reason, and no one likes to think they will be judged.  But, sharing our stories is healing and hearing a “me too” can be the most healing of all.

Being able to write my essay on the defining moments of my life and being able to write this post have been healing for me. I need to do more though especially when I’m with my brothers and sisters at church. I need to be willing to share my story out loud, broken and messy that it is, so that more people will be willing to share theirs. Share it even through tears and through fears of being judged. It is the only way more of us who are believers will have the courage to share our own stories.

So, I make this promise to you all. I will share my broken and messy story through words and out loud so that more people will know about the love and grace of Jesus Christ!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Wisps of Light in the Darkness

I have spoken on this blog before of suffering from depression. It can come on suddenly, or it can come on so gradually that I don’t even realize it until I’m in the middle of the darkness. The latter is where I am right now. It has been one thing after another for the past month. Hospital stays, job concerns, getting homeschool finished, going to baseball games, trying to get some writing under my belt. Just a lot of stuff. And the thing is, I, being the mom and being the wife, am usually the one everyone else relies on for support. I’m the person everyone asks about the status of the family, and while I’m grateful people ask, I sometimes wish someone would ask how I’m doing.

It’s a lot of pressure we moms put on ourselves not to appear weak before others, to keep the perfect Christian shield up. Couple that with someone whose brain chemistry is not the best and you have what could be a disaster in the making. It’s hard to be honest when you don’t feel like the Christian you think you should feel like. It’s especially hard when all you feel is darkness around you.

God has been with me in the darkness though. He promises that in His Word. Micah 7:8 says, “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though, I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”

Two verses from my favorite psalm also illustrate this. Verses 11-12 of Psalm 139 state, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Another verse is Psalm 18:28. “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”

There are many more examples, but you’re reading this blog to read my writing and not just Bible verses, at least that’s what I hope. 🙂

So, God has been with me. He has been my light in the darkness. I firmly believe that with all of my heart. It has been a matter of trust and faith to navigate these feelings of darkness and loneliness and sadness.

He knows we all need encouragement though even those who are wired like me and who go through these times of depression.  This is where the wisps of light come into play. I’ve had a few of those in the last several days. One from an online friend who asked how I was doing. One from a baseball dad who was willing to bring my son to church after a ball game because I needed to worship. One from a friend who helped my husband and I move our older son home from college after his exams were over. And one, from my husband who helped me put something together I had been dreaming about for months. These have all been wisps of light and have been things God has used to encourage me.

A final Scriptural example brings all this home to me. Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.”

This tells me that my heart and my hurt have a purpose in God’s eyes and that even though I’m going through this time of depression, my Lord and Savior has not abandoned me even though other people might because they don’t understand.

God’s blessings on all of you today!