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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stack of Friends

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I have started to refer to them as "my friends".  A little weird?  Maybe.  

Some evenings, my family giggles and tells me to "go have some time with your friends"... and I sit in my chair and pick up 'a friend'.  

These friends sit there stacked on my table... bought with love and care with saved, special birthday money or Christmas gifts---  my books.  My stack of "friends".  

I am realizing more and more what a relief I feel when I read.  ...and, in particular, when I read books that challenge me; books that are truly 'beyond me'.  I like a book that is just a bit difficult for me to understand.  It strangely relaxes my mind and moves me to think in ways that are refreshing.  Funny? Maybe.  I don't know.  

I have noted this phenomenon to other people and some look at me, smile in a way that communicates---"yep, I totally get you."  Others have different friends... the piano, the paint brush, the computer, their tvs, cds, or their hiking boots.  

Don't get me wrong.  I love LOVE real, human friends more.  There is profoundly more relief in my soul and more fulfillment when I sit with a human friend and talk about life, love, you, me, and God. These are the friends I treasure most, to be sure!  

But, I can't lie... I do like a good, long "conversation" with an author...  Okay... enough of that.  

One friend I am 'talking with' right now is a book entitled, Anatomy of the Soul, by Curt Thompson. And, I am loving our conversation!  This book is a life-giving, hope infusing look at the brain and our minds.  Curt Thompson writes about our redeeming God, who has set-up our brains for redemption and renewal. With salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we really are given the mind of Christ and can be renewed day-by-day.   Did you know that your very brain has been wired in such a way that those habits you hate in yourself, those responses you don't understand and are frustrated with, ...even those memories you loath... they all can be renewed and redeemed---made beautiful for His Kingdom?  I stand amazed at Dr. Thompson's way of integrating Scripture, science and psychology in a hope-filled way.  

If you know me well, you will know that I have always said, "I don't have many memories from my childhood".  This is what my husband has heard for over 20 years.  And, in one very real way, it is true.  I can't articulate the facts of my childhood very well at all.  ..where I schooled.  ...what house or where I lived.  ...the teacher's name ...or the specific 10th birthday party.  I don't seem to have much access to these facts at this point.  These feel like 'lost years'.  

Until...  until my friend Dr. Curt Thompson suggested I sit and try to remember in a different way.  He suggests in one of his exercises...   
"Start by thinking of your earliest memories.  Record it and continue to write as much as you can from the first decade of life.  Do not become overwhelmed by trying to write about later events or keeping strict chronological order.  Simply record what comes to mind---paying close attention to sensations, feelings, images, colors, and the like—not just facts." (excerpt from his autobiography exercise) 
So, I decided to start this process last week.  I set aside some moments of quiet and solitude.  I only began with age 0-6...  really believing there was nothing much there.  I was astonished when I sat and thought of these year; looking specifically for sensations, feelings, images and color.  OH! my!  all sorts of "memories" came to mind.  I filled a few journal pages.  Dr. Thompson suggests that our brains hold memories in a myriad of ways--- smell, sights, sounds, etc.  And, most of these memories are not necessarily transferred to the chronological, facts, part of our brains.  Don't worry about the facts, he writes.  

As I sat and remembered, I saw many things.  White and green.  Yellow.  Cold snow and scary tall trees.  I remembered many things.  Mostly happy.  Which, if I am honest, surprised me!  I saw beautiful, surprisingly happy memories of green fields, swimming pools, a swing set and white! (the vanilla ice cream acquired in magical-never-ending-supply from a little white hut at the club my grandparents belonged to).   I saw snow and snow ice cream.  I saw a yellow bedroom and a friendly neighbor.  I remembered a long, tree covered, cool walk to the school bus.  There were also sensations I remembered as I sat quietly... gleeful, magical, happy and profoundly sad.   Multi-colored.  Multi-sensory.  

I am remembering.  And, I stand amazed.  Thanks, Curt.  ...my husband and children are loving hearing these, too. Which is good fun!   

Believe me, if I am honest, this journey hasn't and won't be all fun and games.  I know.  I truly feel a bit of trepidation and am hesitant about the idea of sitting to remembering the next decade--- those hard, sad years, the 'trauma' years that have 'defined' me for most of my life.  But, for some time now, I have been intrigued by the idea of multi-colored memories (thanks, Disney's 2015 "Inside Out" for this beautiful image!).  For years (even before Disney), I have been praying and on a hopeful search for the happy in the midst of the sad.  ...believing there must be both.  If both live in our mundane every day---why wouldn't it not be true of my age 10?  Curt Thompson agrees with me, I think, and is showing me a way forward in the search.

I am grateful for this new 'friend' from my stack---who is teaching me a bit about my brain and my God.   ...another step in knowing and being known.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Because He lives...

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In church this morning we were asked to fill-in this statement: Because He lives, I can...  

I have been thinking a lot about the word freedom lately.  Generally speaking, I am, by nature a bound person.  I can be bound-up in "shoulds" or in what other's think.  I can be bound-up by the judging voice in my own head, criticizing and reprimanding me.  I can be bound up in the dual shameful feelings of being "too much" or "not enough".

Bound and not free.  Bound by worry about the future.  What if it gets worse..  Will I be able to handle it?  ...what will I say?  Bound by regret from the past--- what I did, what I should have said, or didn't say.  What I could have done or shouldn't have attempted.  We are bound in compulsions, comparison, anger or unforgiveness.  Bound-up in insecurity, in judgment, and in discord.  We are, by nature, a bound people. We bind each other and, most poignantly, we bind ourselves.   I bind myself.

I found myself bound in frustration this morning at church.  Annoyance and frustration: the small, niggling kind--- not the full-blown-loose-temper kind.  I was frustrated with someone and it was distracting me.

Stephanie, there is another way...  As I sat in worship and asked the Holy Spirit to fill me with His way,  I thought again about freedom.   It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.  I am free.  Because He lives I am free...  today.  Every single minute of every day.

What is binding me right now, Lord?  

Judgement.

But, Lord, what they are doing is wrong...  

Mercy triumphs over judgement.  (James 2:13)

These are the words that rang in my head and brought clarity to my clouded thinking.  Mercy. The antidote.  I don't have to judge.  I feel the need, yes.   The urge and the natural tendency, yep.   But, there is another way.  Judgement isn't my job.  ...So NOT my job!  Mercy is the cure for the disease of judgement.

Brene Brown, in her beautiful book Rising Strong, says that "love is the last thing we need to ration in this world".   I don't have to ration or limit how much love I show another person.  I simply can't love too much.  You have been forgiven much, can you love much here?

Can you give too much mercy today, Stephanie?

In the quietness of my heart, mercy was given.  Love offered.  Blessings genuinely prayed for the person I was frustrated with...  Rest was restored in my soul.  Mercy did triumph this morning! Because He lives.

Because He lives... I can be free to love and offer mercy.  Always.



--------this was my answer to the statement.  Here are a few other people's "fill-in" that made my heart smile:

Because He lives, I can....   Be happy.  Be myself.  I can forgive.  I can be forgiven.  I can make mistakes.  I can face tomorrow.  I can be the person He made me to be.  I can love.  I don't have to worry.  I never have to be afraid.  Forgive.  Worship.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Stuck on Yeast

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So, the Lord and I have been chatting about yeast the last few days.  I have just found myself stuck.  I can't quite get past it.  Is there something here for me, Lord...

In January I began a delightful ---very, very, slow---journey through the Old Testament.  I have been stuck in Exodus 12 for over a week now.  Is it coincidental that I am fastened to the Passover at this time of year?   I don't think so.

Through these days in Exodus 12, God and I have been conversing about all sorts of things...  the blood on the door, the "judgment of the Egyptian gods", the changing of the months/calendar...  I am asking and seeking and knocking. Lord, show me more of You.  I want to know You.  

I have been looking for His heart and His Truth.  ...looking and listening to know Him more with every sentence.

And, I got stuck.  ...on yeast.  What is up with the yeast, Lord?  I don't understand.  He tells the people over and over and over again (at least 5 times in one chapter) to get rid of the yeast in their homes for the Passover celebration.  To eat bread without yeast.  It is spoken of more frequently than the sacrificed lamb.  Clearly important.  Why, Lord?  Would you tell me more?

For days I have been walking through my day, musing when it comes to mind.  What is up with the yeast, Lord?  While blow drying my hair yesterday morning... will you tell me more about the yeast?  

This isn't the first time I have been 'stuck' in a passage during this new journey.  The Zipporah and foreskin passage had me stunned for some time,too.  (Exodus 4)  I felt Him give me a slight bit of clarity on that one... but, there have been others.  And, I don't assume God has to share all His secrets with me.  But, certainly, I can ask.  ...and, seek and read and wait.

So, I have been waiting...

I know that many people would say that yeast represents evil and the purging.  Purity is an issue here.  And, I think there is something important about this.  Obviously this is important to God.  But, I also had in the back of my mind the memory that Jesus says something about yeast...  and the Kingdom of God.  Certainly the Kingdom of God is not evil---or something that needs to be purged, right?  And, in Exodus, God tells them to get rid of it for only a short period of time.  Not forever.  So, certainly it isn't about the yeast---or that it is something utterly horrid (like getting rid of the adultery or the blasphemer).

Then, yesterday, I sat again with my journal... asking.  I felt a leading to look at what Jesus DID say.

Oh!  Okay, Lord, thanks.  Here we go!!  A clue.  Love it!  

Jesus does warn them a few times about the yeast of the Pharisees.  ...and the yeast of Herod.  ...and the yeast of the Sadducees.  Okay, Lord, so it isn't ONE particular type of yeast.
And He talks about how a 'little goes a long way'--- the kingdom of God is like yeast and a mustard seed.

Yeast impacts, yeast permeates.  It permeates.  

Then, as I continued through my day... and, the conversation continued.

A random thought in the kitchen...  Where did yeast first come from?  

Oh!  that is an easy search---google!  Thanks, Lord!  

Yeast was first noted to be used 5,000 years ago in Egypt.  They believed it was a miracle (not understanding the science behind fermentation).  Bingo!

I almost wanted to cry.  I was getting it now.  He was answering me.  Something inside me was shifting.  I think I get it a bit, Lord!

The Israelites had been living in Egypt for 400 years.  They had adopted so many things, to be sure, from Egyptian society and culture.  Yeast was only one small reality that had likely become "so normal" to their every day---so essential, so important.  Yeast and it's wonderful power had been taken into their lives from Egypt.  And, God says... get rid of it for a time.  Watch out and be on guard against the yeast of the Egyptians, Jesus might have said.

Do without it.  You don't need this 'miracle'.  I will provide for you.

 I wander through my day wondering... what "yeast", Lord, from this culture that I live in, has become "just normal" or expected.  What am I relying on?  What ways of thinking have permeated or impacted me?  What "benign" realities from this world am I resting in... what teachings, or thought systems do I need to "be on guard" against and look at.  .   ...or rid myself of for a time.

So, for today, my chat with God about yeast continues...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Grandma Asked... to know me.

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Grandma wrote yesterday to wish me a happy birthday... and in her card, she said it again, "Are you still writing, Stephanie?  I miss it."  Grandma has lived a long, happy and beautiful life.  She loves people and she loves God.  What she says matters to me.  She has said it before.

Why am I not writing anymore?

A little over two years ago, I just stopped.  Practically speaking, I developed an intense pain in my right shoulder.  I finally realized that my shoulder is negatively affected by typing.  In fact, I feel it's ache as I type these sentences.  So, this was one true reality.  One reason.

But, if I am honest, there was more...  I stopped for other reasons, too.  So many reasons.

...same 'ol lessons.  ...same song, second verse.  ...nothing new to say.  ...insecurity in my writing.  ...do we really need one-more-blog?  ...and, what do you think of me when you read?

But, bigger than any of these 'reasons' was the most poignant battle of them all:  a quiet, ugly, little, years-old, dark whisper which clamored in the back of my mind--- 'no one really wants to read or know.  what you say doesn't matter.  who cares anyway.  why would you write? you are not worth knowing'

This.

This dark whisper, sown into my heart as a child, reared up and I stopped writing.

Years ago, in an effort to be known and to open my mouth--- to speak louder than that old lie---, I began the journey of this blog.  But, was I more known here?  Not really.  Or maybe slightly more known... to a few people, I suppose.  But, I certainly didn't feel more known. Certainly my hunger for being known was not being fed by this blog.    

Something is shifting in me lately though.  I am learning.  Always.  He is teaching.  Always.  There is so much I am learning.  And, I feel the urge rising in my heart once again to speak and to write.  Maybe I feel the gumption to tell that old lie to "Shut-up!" and "Back off".

So, today I write here.

In truth, I have never stopped writing.  I can't help myself.  I write everyday.  Journals and journals filled with God's heart, my mess, His victories.  But, today, I write here.

I write because I heard Grandma Ginny ask again.  What love!  She wants to hear my voice here. She wants to read.  And, that means so much to me.  I love her and I want to be known by her.

Grandma, we were all made by God to be known.  To know Him and for Him to know us.  ...and, in turn, to know each other.  Thank you for wanting to know me and asking about my writing.
...maybe, I will begin again.
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