"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hangover Headache and Heartache

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I have a hangover today.  

In this case it wasn't from a blog post, it was a *good* conversation that sent me internally puking.  I am reeling from a very real conversation and a "revealing" of some of my darkest yuck.  I shared my true self and now I feel the regret.  It still happens... regularly, these hang-overs---as I push into vulnerability and explore gut-honesty with myself and others.  

I chose it---and by God's grace, I will continue to choose it.  But, now I am feeling the consequences.  So, I re-post this blog entry from November, 2012, because I could easily have written it today.  


"A vulnerability hangover" is what author and researcher, Brene' Brown calls it...

I have never been drunk.  So, I have never actually had a proper hangover; therefore, I can't say I know what one feels like.  But, I am guessing it isn't very comfortable!  I have heard a few stories and seen my share of instances.  So, I gather from the puking, purging and pounding-head that a hangover is never a positive things.

A vulnerability hangover isn't fun either.

Too much vulnerability... and you are destined for a sickening hangover!

Let's just say that each time I write a particularly vulnerable blog post---write something deep, hard, or ugly--- I experience the incredible urge to purge!

Within 2 hours of writing and "publishing" my post, I have this desire to go online and delete the post immediately.  Thoughts like:  "Too much", "too raw", "too weak"... pour over my mind.  If I resist the urge to "purge" the post, I then want to "purge" the blog...  "I just need to stop blogging".  "This is stupid".  "People don't want to read and hear this..."

And, if I resist the urge to delete my blog; then, the final 'hangover' symptom is to write a "nice" post.

There are nicer posts, right?  Posts that are true and right and encouraging.  I like those posts, too.  There are blog posts---still honest and real posts---about God's blessings, His gifts, His peace and His Word.  But, after I share one of my "I cried" or "I am in pain" posts--- I desperately want to get on quickly and write a "nice" post.  This last vulnerability-hangover-urge is an attempt to let you all know, "I am okay."  With a "nice" post, I assure you (and me) that "I am not in pain all the time".

I have resisted urge #1, and #2.  So, I am officially saying it now---without writing a "nice" post...

Readers, I am okay!

Did I need to say that?  I don't know.  But, the gut-wrenching urge within me was to communicate to you, my friends and readers, that I am not "the sick person", "the weak person", or "the messy person".  When the fact of the matter is... I am.

Why do I feel the deepest urge to write "I am okay... don't worry about me"?  Or, elsewhere--- other times in my life---why do I need to back away and tell you, "Please don't be bothered about me!"?

I am pretty sure it is because at some point in my life (probably more than one point!), I believed the lie that I am supposed to be perfect.  I am supposed to be "okay".  Not weak.  Not in-process.  Not a bother.  And, certainly, not messy.

Well, the truth is... I really am okay.  I am well.  And, happy.  And, at peace today.

But, it is also truth that I am a bit messy, too!!  Both.  And.

But, none-the-less, vulnerability and weakness are hard for me.   I talked to the Lord about this today--- can I just delete that post or this blog, Lord?  ... I felt prompted to keep on sharing, keep on posting, and keep on getting drunk on vulnerability.  Courage to share weakness is one cure to perfectionism!

And, so I "drink" the healthy carrot-orange-alka selzer juice concoction of this blog post to bring a little healing to my hangover!

That said, right about now I am feeling a bit over-vulnerable---tipsy, you might say----so give me about 4 hours and I will be sick with my vulnerability hangover from this post...

Maybe I will write soon about the blessings, growth and strength that have come with deep honesty and, the pushing into, vulnerability.   The benefits are innumerable and priceless, to be sure.  Maybe I will share...  but, today, I am just reeling a bit.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What God Really Wants

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What do you want from me?  

This is just one of the many questions swimming in our minds, often underneath the surface.

There are certain personality types that seek this answer more than others, to be sure.  But, as humans, we all do it--- to some degree---even if in different ways.

We look up after birth asking our mothers to tell us what they wants from us.  Each little face ultimately seeking love and relationship; we want to hear:   I am so happy you are here!  I just want you!  I want to hold you and love you and be with you.  

We long for her to say... I want you.  Just look at me, connect to me.  I love you.  

Certainly, we have all received varying messages from our mothers.  And we follow forward--- looking to our fathers, our siblings, our friends, our bosses, our spouse, our neighbors---asking similar questions. How can I please you and keep you happy?  How can I make you like me and/or respect me, or value me? How can we stay connected?  The questions vary depending on our make-up and uniqueness.

Essentially we are asking the world:  What do you really want from me?

Maybe it is just me.  But, somehow, I don't think so.

As I journey through the Old Testament, I keep looking for God's heart.  I want to know Him more.  I want to know what He wants.  Lord, show me Your heart.  What is it You want? What is Your desire? What is the purpose, the foundation, the goal of Your words, these stories, these commands and Your workings? 

Sometimes I find myself confused and ill-equipped to answer this question.  I don't readily know and I don't understand the "why".  I have trouble seeing His heart.  And, thus, the conversation continues.

Yet, there are moments when His heart's desire jumps off the page and shouts out with His words.  Loud and clear:  God tells us exactly what He wants and why He has done this or that...

In Exodus 29, I found such a place.

After very specifically enumerating the particulars of sacrifice, clothing and worship instruments, God speaks the "why" behind His orders.

"[After all this] Then regularly... there I will meet with you and speak to you and the place will be consecrated by my glory"  (Exodus 29: 42) 

What does God really want?  What is His purpose for all this?

He wants to meet with His people.

He wants to speak to His people.

And, He wants His glory to fill, to clean, to make us holy (consecrated).

He is setting it all up for meeting.  ...for dwelling and connectedness.  He wants to draw near.   We are indeed designed for relationship with Him.

In fact, He says it over and over.  He reminds them yet again in the next verses following that this is exactly WHY He delivered them from Egypt: "I brought you out of Egypt... so that I may dwell among you and be your God". (Exodus 29: 46)

God Almighty wants to be with us...  to dwell among us.  

This is one of His deepest 'wants'.  THIS is what He really desires.

God reminds me this morning----  Stephanie, you ask how to please me?  How do you stay connected to me and make me smile?  Let me dwell with you.  Let me meet you.  Meet with me.  Listen and speak with me.  Let my glory fill you, make you holy and new.  

I just want you.  I want to hold you and love you and be with you.  
I am just happy you are here.  

"As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you." (Isaiah 66:13)
"Come away with me, my love."  (Song of Solomon 2:10)

Friday, May 20, 2016

I am Getting Larger Every Day

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Do you ever get tired of the sin in your life?  I do.

I can feel small.  Narrow and dark.

Some days I wish I was just done.   Done with sin.  Finished. Completed.  Perfect.

I have this deep desire to be perfect and ...to be perfect yesterday, please.

But, alas, that is not how God works, I know.  He is the author...  writing our faith.   He is the perfecter---the finisher--- of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) He is the one who is bringing it into completion.  (Philippians 1:6)

This truth jumped off the page and settled into my heart last week as I read in Exodus 23.  He reminds His people that He is indeed leading them and will bring them to the land.  He tells them that He, Himself, will destroy all enemies---all those that will cause them harm.  But, ...  BUT... He tells them,
"But, I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land will become desolate and the wild animals are too numerous for you.  Little by little, I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."  
Little by little, I will drive them out... 

All these enemies of my soul... the sin, the pain and wounds, the flesh, the temptations, the devil... He is driving them out, to be sure!  And, He will complete His work.  But... little by little.

I have always seen this truth play out in my life.  The "distrust and unbelief" issue in my life that He has been driving out.  Little by little.  Do you trust me now?  Stephanie, now, do you believe me? 

Yes, Lord, I believe!!

Good, He says, that was the 'Amorites' of distrust.  Now let's get to work on the 'Hittites' of unbelief... and next year we will grapple with the Jebusites.  "I will be an enemy to your enemies.  I will wipe them all out completely!" (v. 20, 23)

He doesn't wipe our "land" clean all at once... because, well--- maybe... just maybe we can't handle it. We simply aren't ready to be that free!  I don't know.  "The wild animals are too numerous for you." He knows.  He promises to keep working.  He keeps watching and helping.

Until you have increased enough to take possession of the land...  He whispers.

He IS increasing us.
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Augustine of Hippo once said, "Narrow is the mansion of my soul, enlarge it, Lord..."

He knows what I can handle.  He knows that the world and the devil prowl around like a lion looking to devour and steal; wild animals looking to pounce on my soul.

Don't be dismayed or discouraged.  God will take the land!  He is completing His work in me.  He does win in the end... and always, always, always I walk through it all with Him.  Led by Him.

Narrow is my heart, please enlarge it, Lord!  Increase my soul...  increase me and take full possession, Holy Spirit.  Have Your way, little by little, in my mind and heart and soul!  

Not perfect yesterday.  Not tomorrow, either.  But, by His grace, I am getting larger every day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Can Only Imagine

There are just those moments in life when words fail to describe experience.  The feeling is so full, that words feel less-than.  I had one of those moments this week.  

I had the privilege to see Monet's Water Lillies at L'Orangerie.  I know.  The privilege, I promise, does not escape me! 
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I can hardly touch or grab words to describe how I felt the very moment when I entered the rooms that house these Water Lilly paintings.  I was not expecting it.  The feeling came upon me like a torrent.  Overwhelmed.  Awe.  Euphoria.  ...all I can say is that I just wanted to cry. With no sadness, only fullness and joy, tears came and welled through my very being.  

I was encountering beauty.  Pure beauty.  And, it was awesome.  Truly awesome.  
Purity and beauty entwined in fullness.  A surrounding.  A wrapping.  

Claude Monet not only spent 30 years of his life painting these scenes (take that in for a minute---30 years!); but, he also had the opportunity to design the rooms they would be displayed.  He created his lily garden with a painters eye... he painted these scenes for 30 years and then he designed the room they would be housed.  He was Creator from beginning to end...  

And it is awesome to behold.  Glorious. 

How often I forget that I, too, have been created in such a manner!   Created with such care.  

You, too.  

Him and her.  You and I and  ...every single soul around...  has been formed in our mother's womb.  We have been knit together and God is working out His good plans to form us into His likeness. 

He planned us.  He thought of us.  He is painting us.  He has housed us on display.  He has made us and IS making us glorious and awesome.  

But of course, we know... Monet is just a man.  Monet was only painting and giving us an impression of real things.  Every day.  Real things.  

Water.  Lilies. Trees. Light.  Color. Texture.  And, obviously, Monet is not the Creator of these things!  He who is the Creator of all--- the Maker of water, lilies, trees, light and you.  

I want to see more, Lord. 

What if I didn't take for granted the privilege of seeing Eunice at Church or Marie, the checker, at the grocery store?  What if I looked on with eyes of wonder and awe... these every day things.  Sam.  Becka.  Dave.  Olwen.  Ellen.  ...water.  lilies.  light. color and texture.  
In Awe....

Give me eyes to see more, Lord.  When I walk into church on Sunday, when I walk into the grocery store, or into my bedroom and see my reflection in the mirror.  Open my eyes to see the masterpiece you are working on, the vision of beauty and glory that You wish to display.  

For we are God's masterpiece.  (Ephesians 2:10)  I am His painting.  You are His painting!  Awesome. Glorious. Purity and beauty intertwined.  Woven.  Being made. On display...  

Can I see the Master's vision for her? Or, for you?   His vision for me?   He is making us glorious!  

I can only imagine.  

...it doesn't escape me that in my last post God was whispering "the glory of man is like a flower which shrivels in the sun and then gone".   In this post He is singing... You are glorious. Is it two sides of the same coin? ...pondering and praying here.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remembering the Wisp of Time

While washing dishes, the music plays quietly in the background. Quiet songs.  Beautiful, gentle, peaceful; but, really, I barely take notice. Until, like a moment frozen in time, the words pierce through the myriad of thoughts in my head, "All flesh is like the grass.  The grass withers and fades.  The glory of man like a flower that shrivels in the sun and falls.  But, the Word of the Lord endures forever." (Fernando Ortega, taken from Isaiah 40).

The glory of man is like a flower...

I am listening.  Now, Lord, I am listening.  

While looking out my kitchen window at the fading tulips in my yard, I am listening.  Bowing and drooping and dying.   Their 'end' is clearly in the near future.

These tulips have been a joy to me these past weeks.  I have become a bit addicted in my looking at them from the kitchen window.  Planted with care, over the years we have lived here, they bloomed this Spring with gusto.  A parade of color!  They really have brought a great deal of pleasure, delight and praise.  He truly does make beautiful things.

But, they are now fading.  A whisper of time, really.  Didn't they just bloom yesterday?  Here today and then they will be gone.  Their splendor and vibrancy will be a memory.

God reminds me today that this is true about me, too.  This physical body, this tent, is just like these flowers or like the withering grass.  Life here on earth only a wisp of time... only the first few chapters in the book of reality and life.

But the Word of the Lord endures forever...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Directionally Challenged

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It's been a joke in our family for years.  We laugh in agreement at the facts of the case... I am, indeed, "directionally challenged".   Regularly, my husband painfully and patiently explains the route, yet again...   Yes, I have been there many times.  But, no, I can't remember how to get there this time. Directions.  A great challenge;  extreme and laughable.  They joke that if someone set me down in the middle of my small town, I may have trouble finding my way home.  I'm not sure I am that bad. But, maybe.

That is why Monday was so remarkable.

My daughter and I were headed out to a new part of the nearest city.  Headed to a funeral, I was responsible to drive us there.  This type of scenario is a typical, big time "stress-trigger" for me. A general, low level anxiety and insecurity is commonly triggered by the unknown.  New things do this to me.  Can I do this?  Can I handle it?  A new place.  New directions.  New situation (I have never been to a funeral in this culture).  New people.  This has always been a recipe for overwhelmed, anxious, and/or afraid.  But, Monday was different--- markedly and remarkably different.

Something had changed and both my daughter and I noted it.  I just wasn't concerned or worried.  I could certainly feel the tension and reality of not knowing where I was going... and the newness.  But, that is all it was--- slight "normal" tension.  It just wasn't anxiety.  I didn't feel upset or uneasy.  I was calm.  I had the sense that we would make our way with no problem and all would be fine.  This, I know, is the way a lot of people simply live their life.  My husband walks through life with this foundational security. It is beautiful and admirable.  But, it has not been me.

Something had changed.  I believe there are profound moments in our God-journey where we can "see" proof from years of prayer and walking with Jesus.  Monday was that day!

Worry, calculation and 'overwhelmed' have been a constant companions these 40+ years; walking with me, since before I can remember.  I cope.  Sometimes I cope really well.  And, have learned many tricks and tactics--- most people don't have a clue my internal reality.  (Isn't this true for most of us?)  In 2009, I wrote a blog post entitled "What if I just stopped"---questioning and challenging this worrying bend in myself.

In fact, for as long as I have known Jesus, I have been bringing Him these worries... this overwhelmed "natural" tendency.  He has spoken for years, through a variety of ways, about this issue*.   Certainly, by His grace, there has been slow growth.  We have talked together about why I have this... from family of origin, personality to sin habits, God and I have been conversing and looking and digging.  And, I have been asking...

Suddenly, I was seeing something new.  Something miraculous had shifted in me.

His Word tells me that He is completing His good work in me and creating in me a clean heart---  I think I saw a beautiful piece of His work on Monday.  I didn't really DO anything to produce this difference.  ...just time, trust, leaning in, looking, confessing, and the silent, deep work of the Spirit.  "In the silence of the heart, You speak", Audrey Assad sings.  "You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos...  You said be free... in the work of the Spirit---I cannot see".

He has spoken.  "Un-seeable" work done by this quiet Spirit.  Yet again, I am changed.  He has done it.  The unseen becomes visible.

Mom, your are not anxious and not worried.  You aren't questioning yourself.  You just seem calm. These were my daughter's words.  And, I was!

One of the most interesting moments in the day, though, came when I had to make my way home after the funeral.  Miraculously, I did so without any map, or directions.  For the first time in my entire life, I didn't feel directionally challenged.  We just made our way.  What!?  Was it the freedom in my physical brain to just work properly now without anxiety and worry to cloud and confuse? Was this also a part of the gift, the Spirit's change and work?

Laughingly, I tell my family, if I am no longer directionally challenged... what in the world will they tease me for next!

...Plenty other issues to choose from---to be sure--- no worries there.  (smile)

*a myriad of other blog posts on worry...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nearness in His heart

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I heard God's heart today.  As I read, I could feel His tender hope, His desire for His people, and His intention:  "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19)

He had carried them.  He had brought them out with His own hand... "I carried you"... these words are so personal, so very close.  And, yet, they cannot draw near.  He tells the leaders to keep the people from coming too close.  Put up a barrier! God insists. (Exodus 19:12,21) If they come too close it will destroy them... they will die.  He must protect the people from His power, His holiness, perfection and glory.  It would be just too much; His holy Presence would devour them.  So, He must hold them off.  

But... can you just hear His heart to bring them near.  In fact, He tells them how.  Just obey everything I say, God says.  Simple, right?  He gives them a simple IF---THEN statement.  If you obey, then you will be mine.  I will make you a kingdom of priests, holy and mine. 

As I read this in Exodus, I realized how very familiar these word felt.  Where, Lord, have I heard these words before?  Of course,...yes, I know... I have read these exact words before.

A simple google search for "priesthood in the New Testament" and here we are---yes, almost an exact repeat so many years later.  Those words:  a priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession... 

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

I just have to stop, be still, and read it again.  Once through. Twice.  Just take it in.  I stand amazed, once again.   God has done such a beautiful thing for us!

God's heart spoke it out in Exodus.  His desires expressed in Exodus now finalized and written about through Peter.  We couldn't accomplish it.  We want to... just like the Israelites who claimed, "We will do all you have asked" ...and then promptly didn't.  We just can't.  I can't.  Period. Full-stop. 

We couldn't accomplish it, so He did.  He did it for us.  He did it for me. 

A two way "if---then" clause and covenant.  He took care of both sides of the contract.  He fullfills the IF and He takes care of the THEN.  It is done. 

In this verse in 1 Peter, God is declaring this as done.  True.  Finito.  A finished reality.  You are...  He says. Once you were not...  and now you are... 

And, to top it off---with the help of google---I jumped over to Hebrews 4 and then to James 4. Because of Jesus, the head priest, we can boldly approach God's throne.  No more barrier.  No more warning.   No more holding-off.  ...quite the opposite, in fact.  Draw near, He says.  Come very, very close.  Be bold.  Walk right up and touch me!  Abide in me and I will abide IN you. 

I hear God's heart today...
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