The Onset of the Dark Night

It’s funny, how fast time flies…my last post was on January 21st and, as far as I can tell from re-reading it, was really good! Full of powerful faith statements, assertions of truth…a truly uplifting, confident post!

But less than a month later, everything just…

…crashed.

Everything – my career, my marriage, my spiritual life, my mental health – was burning…drowning… hemmorhaging.

Choices that I thought were grounded in faith turned out to have been borne of fear.

The reality I perceived once as true…well, let’s just say I’ve had reason to continually question my sanity.

Everything I’ve ever trusted is up for revisiting, re-evaluation.

The pain is unending.

The loneliness is overwhelming.

And when I’ve called out in desperation, “Jesus, fix this…”

…nothing.

Heaven is locked in silence.

And in this silent time, I have found myself unable to join in worship, to pray, or to find joy. I haven’t truly smiled in months; trying to do so makes my face feel like it’s going to crack. Things that I enjoyed I don’t care about. I have pulled back from nearly every relationship, because, quite frankly, everything hurts just too much. Sleep is my best relief…and waking up just brings more fear, more pain, more dread of the day. I have gained 20 pounds, seeking the dopamine stimulation from food I really shouldn’t be eating.

According the the DSM-V (and yes, as a Master of Social Work, I know how to use it), I am on the cusp of transitioning from acute to chronic depression. And yes, I sought out counseling…and stopped.

Ultimately, this journey, this trial of faith or, as St. John of the Cross called it, this “dark night of the soul”, can’t be counseled or medicated or prayed away. It can only be traveled through, and no one’s journey is like another’s.

According to family history and, most recently, Ancestry.com, I am primarily Jewish – of the Ashkenazi, Eastern European variety. Suffering and isolation is part of my genetic makeup and memory. Psalm 137 documents the grief and loneliness and anguish of my ancestors as they mourned the loss of their home in Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon.

“By the Waters of Babylon” by James Tissot

Just a few days ago, I found myself able to write again…this is what I wrote:

I sit by the waters of Babylon,
And weep for what might have been,
For choices unmade, for plans not yet laid,
For the light of the sunrise not seen.
How long I will sit here is not mine to know,
Nor how many tears I will cry;
All that I know is that You brought me here,
And in the pain, remain by my side.

You have numbered my tossings as I’ve wept through the night,
You have counted my tears, one by one;
And when that bottle is full to the brim, Your love
Will turn their water to wine.

I think it’s a song, and there is more to come. Just when the muse will hit again, I don’t know. Just like I don’t know when this dark night will end, or what life will look like when the night gives way to the light.

I do know that, as soon as I penned those words, I had the first moments of peace, of settledness, that I’d had in months.

I don’t know how often I will be posting…the last few months have removed any sense of being qualified to speak into anyone’s life. I will keep writing, though…

…and perhaps this is the beginning of a rebirth. I will be partnering with my husband in a fairly new venture. My husband has been so very hurt by me and by the turns our life together has taken this year…

…this is the one way, the only way, I can think of the actively repair the damage.

It is so dark in my life, I can’t see my hand in front of my face…

…but I can see him.

It is the one step I know I can take, so take it I shall, and soon you can follow his Bigfoot adventures on our joint blog, “Squatchin’ With Hannah.” Totally out of my comfort zone, totally not what I thought my life was about…

…but with this, maybe for the first time in our 20+ years of marriage, it won’t be “my life”.

Maybe this dark night is leading me to “our life”.

I Have More Power than I Ever Thought I Had…Some Thoughts on FAITH

I very nearly to forgot write this post.  I’ve done super well, faithfully following through on my New Year’s intention to post something every week…

…TWO WEEKS.  Not until Week 3 did I falter.  Technically, we’re right at the beginning of Week 4 and I really did miss Week 3, but I’ll treat myself with some grace and lump both weekend days into Week 3, ‘kay?

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Truth is, I didn’t even know what I wanted to write about.  This week has been so busy – conference last weekend, catapulted into a shortened school week due to a holiday and the end of semester, all in one week, started a new graduate program so all my spare time is spent on homework assignments (God, is three master’s degrees enough? Can this be the last? Why I’m working on #3 is, of course, fodder for yet another blog post…). And this afternoon, we welcomed into our home an exchange student from Thailand.  Busy, busy, busy!  Not enough room in my mid-life brain to percolate some fresh inspiration…

Even my Scripture study habit has suffered.  So today, after looking at my schedule of reading and determining just how much I needed to catch up on, I settled into my cushy chair by the fireplace and began reading…

…over and over again, I came across the connection between FAITH and MIRACLES.

faith 1

I know, I’m about to get a “You freakin’ Joel Osteen parrot!” from a lot of you, but regardless of some folks’ use of the word “faith” to turn God into a divine vending machine/ATM/barista, Scripture says it – quite clearly:

  • In Mark 6, Jesus couldn’t perform miracles because of the people’s lack of faith.

faith 2

  • In Numbers 21, those who had faith in God’s directive to look at the bronze serpent were healed; those who didn’t, died.

faith 3

  • In Acts 3, Peter and John clearly state that the crippled man’s faith is what healed him.

faith 4

Please understand – I am absolutely not a name-it-and-claim-it thinker.  I am a dyed-in-the-wool, choices-bring-consequences, you-made-your-bed-now-get-comfortable, and God-gave-you-brains-and-brawn-so-use-them sort of person.  Very independent, and very prone to kicking myself when I make a poor choice or exert less than perfect wisdom in any given situation.

It hasn’t been like me to ask for miracles. Historically, I’ve found that rather embarrassing…a miracle was evidence that I needed God to cover my backside (which, granted, He has done more than once).

There was a time when I no longer believed in miracles, or in God, for that matter. It wasn’t so long ago, and I found myself swimming in a sea of doubt, and despair, and darkness.  And I realized that although I didn’t know if God existed, and if He did, I didn’t know if He was listening to little-ol’-me…

…but I wanted to believe He was, and I wanted Him to hear me.

In my mind, I could see myself as that little lost lamb Jesus told us about, and I wanted a Good Shepherd to rescue me before I fell of the cliff (or, rather, catch me in mid-air because I was already falling).

good shepherd

I remember talking with a friend about this, a friend who was acquainted with my extensive background in a variety of religions, and he directed me to Scripture.  Mind you, this was at a time in my life when the Bible, the Baghavagita, the Book of Mormon, the daily newspaper horoscope, the Wiccan Rede, fortune cookies…they were all about the same to me.  I had great respect for all expressions of faith and religion, but believed none of it.  My life had led me to a place where I hoped everyone could find something that would help them become a better person and leave the world a better place, but I certainly could not speak to the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Savior.

I’d been reading Scripture about the Savior.  At every turn, my heart and my mind were being confronted by Jesus Christ – His words, His actions, His love.  And my friend asked me, “Do you believe this is true?”

I didn’t know.  Like Pilate, I asked myself, “What is truth?”

But maybe the darkness in my life made the light all that much brighter, because it was different than it was when I was growing up and first learning about Him.  There was a power in these Scripture encounters that I’d never experienced before, an urgency, a texture and resonance that was new to me.  What I was reading was no longer merely cerebral, but three-dimensional and REAL.  I could feel the person living inside the earthly tabernacle being sculpted, shaped, literally remodeled. It was almost – heck, maybe it was – physical.

My answer was paltry. “I-I-I [I’m not a stutterer; I was in that moment] think so.”

He said, “Good enough…good enough.”

And you know what?

It was good enough.

The tiny little mustard seed – the desire for the tiny little mustard seed – started a chain reaction of miracles in my life that steered me to a completely unexpected and only-dreamed-of-place.

Where I wanted to run away from my life, I settled in.

The marriage that was failing faster than I could keep it together was healed…because I was healed.

Out of the blue, the opportunity to leave a career that was leaving me withering and lifeless and start a career in music (those of you who know me know how significant that is) presented itself.

And religion (yes, I love that word now) became for me not a trite observance of Sunday ceremony and ritual, but a binding of myself to the God who loves me and makes me able to love, and that love continues to re-create me, every day.  My experience with Jesus Christ is as tangible to me as my experience with my husband or my friends or my colleagues.  He’s right there, just a prayer or thought or funny comment away (yes, we joke with each other now and again…).

But I had to ask myself today – was it really my faith that made those things happen? Because here’s another thought, no less powerful, but one that looks at this issue from a different perspective.

In C.S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian, part of The Chronicles of Narnia, we run into a Dwarf named Nikabrik. He’s quite the surly fellow and absolutely does not believe in Aslan.  As they’re holed up in a bunker and feeling quite hungry, he quips that, if Aslan (who was standing right there) was real, he’d produce a feast for them.

Well, what do you know? Poof! A feast! And everyone digs in. Roast, apples, potatoes, pie, you name it…

…but all Nikabrik seems to experience is a few moldy turnips and rutabagas (both of which are fantastic – less the moldy bits, of course – in a nice beef stew).

Ultimately, Nikabrik didn’t want to believe, so Aslan was powerless to do anything for him.  He chose to remain in blindness, and so he couldn’t experience the miracle that was happening around him.  No faith, no miracle…or no experiencing of the miracle.  Where everyone around him was rejoicing and delighting in the hand of providence, not only did Nikabrik not experience it, but he couldn’t understand why everyone else was so thrilled with moldy turnips and rutabagas.

So does my faith – little and paltry and weak though it might be – actually produce miracles, or does it enable my ability to participate in and experience them?  Does my faith in God move God’s hand or place me in God’s hand?  Does prayer change things…or me?

C.S. Lewis had a very clear thought on this matter:

prayer-changes-me

Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shal find; knock, and it whall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, KJV).

All it takes is to ask.  But if one doesn’t believe, one won’t ask, and so the miracle remains elusive, out-of-reach, and, for all intents and purposes, non-existent.

After pondering all of this, I don’t think that our faith is like a supernatural power-up for God.  God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do…and fortunately, Scripture is pretty clear about His direction, so we don’t have to worry about God being flaky or unpredictable. My experience, however, does indicate that our faith is a supernatural power-up for us, because it gives us the power to move into a place where we can see and hear and experience and partner with everything God is doing.

And that, my friends, is the greatest miracle of all.

You should try it.

 

If We Could See Ahead…We’d Run the Other Way

Have you seen this meme? Every time it pops up on Facebook, I laugh and say, “That is SO my life!”

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I was chatting with a friend last night, and we were talking about goals and priorities and where I wanted to be in the next few years. I’d been thinking about that recently, and, in fact, I KNOW where I want to be and what I want to be doing…at least I think I do.

Because I think like that top picture. I’m all about goal-setting and proactivity and action steps. Here’s my goal, my desired destination, and here’s the straightest path there. BAM! Seems easy.

But that’s not really reality. As I sit here, typing away, I have to reflect and realize (not a new realization, trust me), that NOTHING in my life has turned out like I’d planned. Not family, not career, not even my spiritual life has been at all predictable. In fact, as my girlfriend and I were chatting, we both agreed that, if we knew what the future held, we’d probably pull a 180 and run pell-mell away from it.

But I don’t really like that. I’m such a Type A personality:

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For the more linear folks:

typeApersonality

Here’s how it flushes out in my everyday, well-planned, ordered, and theoretically executed life:

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Sometimes my prayers sound a lot like this.

Highly driven and focused. Proactive, self-motivated, and always thinking about what needs to happen to get closer to the goal. And sometimes I get a little worked-up (since I refuse to use vulgarity here!) with others about it…

And I get a bit worked-up with God when he changes my destination…or, when I get there, says, “This was just a rest stop…movin’ on!”

In my 48 years on this planet, I have had at least five career paths. Ministry (in a variety of churches), music performance, music education, social worker, and a short stint as a Mary Kay lady (never could achieve that cat-eye look with the shadow, though). And in the midst of each different life chapter, I threw everything I had into it, convinced that THIS was what my life was supposed to be about.

And then CHANGE. Divinely ordained change.

According to change experts (yes, they’re a thing), change should be prepared for and eased into and processed while it’s happening – ask any management guru about what happens when change is thrust upon an organization. Better yet, ask the employees. They’ll give you an earful.

I don’t think God has consulted with the experts or the gurus.

Each time change has come to my life, it has come with little warning and no time to prepare…probably because if I had warning and time to prepare, I would absolutely pack my bags, pull a Jonah, and catch the next train to Joppa.

In her devotional book, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, (and no, I don’t get a cut for advertising…I just really like this book!), Sarah Young writes:

You would like to see a map, showing all the twists and turns of your journey. You’d feel more prepared if you could somehow visualize what is on the road ahead…I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but I will thoroughly equip you for the journey. (Entry for January 12)

As I look back on the multiple times God has quite literally pulled the rug out from under my feet, I see one common thread. Each time, I have been forced to rely on God’s grace direction and have had to obey not out of pious desire, but out of sheer need to survive the rocking of the boat and the shaking of the foundation. And each time, I can identify the hand of my Heavenly Father orchestrating the whole darn thing.

And it’s not like I was ever being disobedient to be where I was. Oddly enough, as I reflect, each different chapter of my life was, in fact, exactly where I needed to be at that moment.

I learned skills and lessons and evolved as a person. I learned to recognize different facets of Heavenly Father’s character and personality and grew closer to Him. I became more attuned to His voice, more able to recognize Him in the midst of the chaos.

And I rather like me at this point in life.

Furthermore…

I wouldn’t trade any of it.

So here we are. 2018 is still in its infancy. I know where I’d like to be and where I’d like life to go in the next 11-1/2 months, but really, all I know is that God is taking me somewhere.

I can either go all Type A, demand to see the map (and since He won’t show me, it would be making up the map in my little brain) and wrest the steering wheel away from him, or I can learn to be more Type B and relax, enjoy the scenery, and trust that He knows where we’re going.

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It really is a tender mercy that He doesn’t give us the whole plan at once. He really does have our happiness in mind. I can trust that.

Starting Off With Thanksgiving

It’s funny how, as a North American culture, we don’t get around to celebrating Thanksgiving until the end of the year: November for the United States, and October for our cousins in Canada.  And what’s even funnier is how, after we’ve gone around the table and given thanks for whatever pops into our head and stuffed ourselves senseless on enough food to feed a third world country, we start bidding the current year goodbye and begging the new one to hurry up and come and please be better than the last.

2017-horrible-year

When I was reviewing 2017 in my own life, I decided to look for great things that happened instead of focusing on crap that came my way, annoying people who wouldn’t leave, or, God have mercy, politics.  And what I found was that, by-in-large, 2017 was AMAZING!

  • I made it through a very difficult year of teaching – what a victory!
  • 20248063_10213958784507604_2576649771264398820_o
    Completing a teaching credential at the same time as taking over a secondary level choral program and only being there half the time because of grad program demands was crazy-making for not just me, but all the students who needed and deserved my full attention. But we all made it, even if by the skin of our teeth…

    I finished a graduate program.

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    Master’s degree Number Two.
  • I lost 53 pounds (there’s a 2017 resolution checked off!).
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    After a lifetime of struggle, I finally found a program that works!  Feeling great these days!
  • We celebrated TWENTY YEARS of marriage!
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    I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend life with – life here and now and life there and then! I’m so grateful that God has brought us this far!
  • And we welcomed a new puppy into our home (yes, we are staying positive on that one).
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Boudicca, Destroyer of Worlds and Fartmonster Extraordinaire. Our 5-month old Rottweiler who is, regardless of what she chews or where she poos, a sweet little bundle of blessing…I will keep saying that…

So I decided to approach this year differently – starting with gratitude.  And, after all, that’s why I blog – to keep track of all God’s tender mercies that He just showers on me, day after day, month after month, year after year.

It’s so easy to get bogged down with the daily grind, isn’t it? And that grind sometimes grinds a little harder than we’d like it to.  And, for whatever reason, the negatives stick in our minds and hearts far more easily and for a lot longer than the positives.  But if we can make a habit of being consciously mindful of the wonderful things that cross our paths, it really will make our lives better.

But don’t take my word for it…you’ll listen to Huffington Post, won’t you?

“Negative attitudes are bad for you. And gratitude, it turns out, makes you happier and healthier. If you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrated, you’re going to get a world that is, well, more mean and frustrating. But if you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say you’re going to be better off” (from The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier).

Now, habitual gratitude can be tricky to develop, so I decided to actually use one of those awesome Pinterest projects I perpetually pin; I made my very own Gratitude Jar!  I put some serious effort into this jar – we’re talking paper tearing, Mod Podge (gosh, I LOVE that stuff, and the smell…I know, totally weird…), hand lettering even.  Then I set up a little thanksgiving station in our dining room.  It’s very obvious and we will always be prompted to take a moment, write down what we’re thankful for, and drop it in the jar. I think it turned out rather well!

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Then, when New Year’s Eve rolls around again, we can spend the evening doing more than binging on Netflix and hoping the crazies won’t crash outside our house and wake us up (because we’re now old and we like to sleep in, rather than party in, the new year). We can go through each little moment of gratitude we’ve deposited and reflect on the amazing tender mercies of God as they’ve been bestowed throughout 2018.

And I daresay that, while we’re doing this, our overall outlook will be transformed.  It is, after all, our mental life that determines how we interpret our outer life.  The state of our mind is what primes us to recognize God at work, and also what primes us to miss His hand in our lives.   Paul tells us this in Romans 12:

Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2, KJV)

I am determined to grow my faith in the Savior’s guidance, and am utterly convinced that cultivating an eye for what He’s doing and a heart of gratitude for it will do just that.  And, as I recognize and give Him thanks for the small things, I will find bigger things to marvel in and bless Him for.

Have a simply BEAUTIFUL 2018!

Intentional Expression

I was a little, or rather, a lot, shocked when I noticed just the other day that my last blog post was on Thanksgiving – approximately 5 weeks ago!  As a music teacher, once Thanksgiving comes and goes, it’s full-speed-ahead into the Christmas music season.  Between 6 school choirs, 1 community choir, and 11 private students, the whole month can be summed up as follows (and believe me, adults differ not from youth in this matter):

december

Auto-pilot somehow got me through seven (that’s right, count them, SEVEN) concerts in in two weeks, plus an open house and, oh, yes, that’s right, the out-of-the-blue funeral for my sister-in-law…then right back into the cook, clean, bake, wrap, drive, celebrate, eat-way-too-much, drive, pass out routine that is Christmas Day and all the days that lead up to it.

Nonetheless, I didn’t seem to have time, energy, or inspiration for any laugh-inducing, thought-provoking blogging.  My activities were quite thrust upon me, rather than being intentional.

But now, it’s New Year’s Eve. On Facebook, someone asked, “Did you achieve any of your resolutions this year?”  I replied to that one, because I’m quite proud of what I achieved this year:

  • Got blogging – and some people even read it (like you are, right now)!
  • Finished a Master of Arts in Teaching (because insanity will, eventually, get you a certificate…of some sort…)
  • Lost weight – a LOT of weight – 53 pounds!

He said, “Good for you! What’s in store for 2018?”

And that got me thinking…what is in store for 2018?  I hadn’t taken a lot of time to think about it.  So I gave it some brief thought and said back:

  • More consistent blogging (like, once a week?)
  • 35 more pounds to reach my goal, and…
  • …WRITE. A. BOOK.

There it is.  I said it out loud. WRITE. A. BOOK.

(Thank you, Greg Trimble…you’ve stoked a fire…)

And not just any book…a book I’ve had on my heart for almost three years now.

A memoir of what God has done in and for me, and the journey I’ve been on to more and more fully experience His Love and Grace and Presence in my life – my every day, often-lived-on-auto-pilot-life.

A testimony. I want to write my testimony, and give it away so that everyone can witness what He has done.

Today’s Old Testament reading was from Isaiah.  Isaiah’s one of those books that you labor through and, quite frankly, I don’t remember a whole lot of what’s in there.  But this passage is, quite possibly, the most beautiful I’ve ever read:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.  For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see they righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. (Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3, KJV)

This is such a gorgeous description of what happens when the Lord saves, when He heals, when he restores that which the locust has eaten and makes restitution for lost, broken years.  The joy He has kindled within me and the beauty He has bestowed on me has made people wonder…and I want to tell my story.  I’ve been waiting for the right time, and I think 2018 is it.  Not quite sure, but I’m very nearly positive that yes, this is the set time.

Today’s Gospel reading was, not surprisingly, from John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

I am very rarely satisfied with rote teaching, and so I had to look this up.  Greek is a difficult language to translate into English, mostly because we don’t have enough words to encapsulate the richness and subtle shades of meaning that Greek has. (And, with the onset of textese, soon we won’t have any words at all…NOT LOL…)  So, pulling out my handy dandy Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (now easily accessed on the internet instead of having to lift all 72 pounds of the actual book), I looked up logos, the word we translate as “Word”.

logos

Here’s what I found, and I can’t believe I’d never seen this before:

“Logos: the expression of a thought…preeminently used of Christ expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit.”

English is so inadequate.  But now when I read it, here’s what it says to me:

“In the beginning was God’s thought, His plan, expressed, spoken, brought forth.  The plan perfectly reflected Him.  The plan – that perfect expression of His love and grace and truth and mercy – was with Him in the beginning.”

Everything Jesus Christ thought, said, and did – and everything He continues to think, say, and do – is a perfect, flawless, intentional expression of His Father’s character and His plan of salvation.  It has always been thus.  And that’s what I want my testimony, and my very life, to be – a perfect, flawless, intention expression of my Father’s character.  Now, I certainly can’t guarantee perfection and flawlessness, but I can be INTENTIONAL.  I can choose my actions and my words carefully, so that they will communicate “the king’s glory”, and so that they shine like a diadem and a crown in the hand of my Heavenly Father, causing all who see that light to spring forth in praise.

crown of glory

Here’s to 2018…what do you have in store?

 

For All These Things, We Give Thee THANKS!

It is SUPER early on Thanksgiving morning.  I’ve actually been awake since 3:00 am (thank you, puppy), and have since scrolled through Facebook, sent some work emails and messages (I know, shame on me), and have read through a Litany of Thanksgiving.

In the Episcopal (or Anglican, depending on which continent you live) Church, worship services are dictated by rubrics and pre-written prayers and responses.  I grew up in what was considered a “progressive, spontaneous” denomination, and for the most part, prayers were personally developed and not prescribed.  As a middle-aged gal, although sometimes the structure of the liturgy can be boring, it also provides a centering point, being that the worship service is not about me.  Those pre-written prayers have often forced me to consider things and contemplate God in a way I wouldn’t on my own.

So here it is, the Litany of Thanksgiving…with my own little touches here and there (because progressive and spontaneous, right?):

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so
freely bestowed upon us.

Every good and perfect gift comes to us from the Father of lights…have you ever considered just how gracious God has been with you, for all the amazing and sustaining gifts and blessings He’s bestowed?  I’ve been participating in the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on Facebook, which has so powerfully helped me to acknowledge just how good my Heavenly Father has been to me – from the simple things like a new puppy to a fantastic house in which to live to meaningful work…all comes from His hand.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and
sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

The last few days in Baker have been amazingly warm and temperate for this time of year…what we thought would be an early onset winter, complete with ice and snow and plows and chains, has turned out to be a lovely fall.  I have so enjoyed not totally bundling up every day, and not freezing all day long.  But even when the days turn frigid and I long for the warmth of spring, I have to remember that God set in motion the seasons, gave us day and night, seeded the earth with all forms of beautiful and often entertaining life (just watch my pets in action!), and called it all good.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

“I see Jesus in you, I see Jesus in you; in your eyes, and all that you do, I see Jesus in you.”  I have so many dear ones in my life about whom I can sing that…too long to list…how about you?  When was the last time you looked at your spouse/sibling/parent/friend and recognized the light and image of Christ in them?

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and
our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

Today I’m not preparing a huge Thanksgiving meal, for which I am utterly grateful; we are blessed to be able to go out and pay someone else to feed us.  As I write this, I’m sitting in a gorgeous old home that I love, knowing that my husband is upstairs (wondering why on earth his wife is not in bed with him – he’s not much for insomnia). I have a list of friends and family to whom I will send a “Happy Thanksgiving” message to in just a few minutes, people that I know I can turn to in times of joy and sorrow, people that surround me with love and prayer and share my laughter and my tears.  But I have to think, too, of those who don’t share that experience – I should never, never, NEVER whine – about anything; I am far too blessed.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

Does it ever strike you funny that God entrusts His work to us?  That He has placed within our minds the capability to plan and create and implement; places us in networks of people who rely on us for not only physical, but emotional and spiritual support; and opens doors of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World?  “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see, you’re the only words of life some will ever read” (The Imperials).  What an amazing amount of trust we have been given…

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

I get up every morning, before the the sun, on work days and days off, and start a long list of to-dos.  Some are enjoyable, some are tedious.  Regardless, I rarely have to take a sick day and I am still, even in middle-age, amazingly strong and capable.  It is a wonder, and I am so thankful.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering
and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

At the same time, so many go through their days with difficulty.  I used to work in Child Welfare – talk about patient in suffering.  First responders, social workers, medical personnel, our military…day in and day out of YUCK.  Yet we wouldn’t have a functional society without their dedication.  I think I’m going to go hug my veteran…

 
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

I hope we’re all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice.  Today, take a few moments to think about how you can promote these things in your own little corner of the world.  And thank your spiritual leader(s) the next time you see him/her/them.  It’s sometimes quite exhausting to search the Scriptures and exhort the flock of Christ to better things…
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

The communion of saints – living and dead.  I am surrounded by saints on earth and know that those who have gone before continue to surround me with prayer and encouragement, encircling me with a cloud of witness that strengthens me to run my earthly race.

 
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and
promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;

My husband – God bless him! – often gets on my for not giving him time to answer the question I just asked before asking another one, or completing the task I requested before hounding him about it (I really am quite the nag when left unchecked). Just the other day I was reading in Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet.”  In the middle of all that doom and gloom, I came across this:  “It is good that a man (or woman, or child, or anyone) should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).  That really convicted me – I am so unwilling to “hope and quietly wait” for Jesus to fulfill His promises – I want everything RIGHT. NOW.  So I made my own little covenant, in that moment:

Lamentations

(If you don’t keep a Scripture and devotional journal…try visiting The Holy Mess for some great ideas and even a free kit!  It’s not what I use, but Sara has some great tools for making your studies exciting and personally relevant!)

To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

AMEN!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Ladies…Stop Breaking the Hearts of Your Tender Husbands!

 

Not too long ago – a month, maybe? – I read an article by fellow blogger, Greg Trimble. That article was Dudes… Stop Breaking the Hearts of Your Tender Wives.  As I was scrolling through a motley variety of comments, I saw one that I just couldn’t resist: some well-meaning brother commented that Mr. Trimble should write a companion post, Chicks…Stop Breaking the Hearts of Your Tender Husbands.  Mr. Trimble, in turn, said he would leave that for a woman to write.

Someone told me recently that I tend to take on too much. She was right. But I couldn’t help it.  I thought, I can write that!  I responded on that comment stream, “I’ll do it!”  And Mr. Trimble said, “More power to ya!”  Or something thereabouts.  And excited little ol’ me opened up my computer to go and…

…nothing.  This overly verbose, educated, experienced woman who always has something to say about absolutely everything was at a loss for words.  Not that I don’t know how a tender husband’s heart is broken; I know far too well.  Not only have I broken his heart multiple times using all the tried-and-true methods, I may have invented some.  But for some reason, nothing eloquent landed on the screen.  I was a total blank.  This girl would obviously not be preaching about anything.

So I’ve been on sitting this for about a month, waiting for inspiration, the right words, the persuasive tone and charming syntax that people enjoy about me.  Not a normal situation for me; I can address anything at anytime and really quite bamboozle people with my words.  And I have a lot to say!  So when I can’t say it, I become super frustrated.

Late yesterday afternoon, as the heat was finally a bit more tolerable, I took a walk.  Going down our charming little riverwalk led me to the newly installed labyrinth in our community.  If you’ve never walked a labyrinth, give it a try; it’s a great way to calm your thoughts, be mindful and centered, and find some mental peace and quiet in the midst of the normal clutter and chaos of daily thinking.

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Baker City’s new labyrinth!  Thanks to the local community members who made it possible!

As I slowly paced myself around the intricate path of the labyrinth, I did find myself thinking about this subject, and wondering what I could say that would dazzle and inspire and help women to truly be better partners, companions, helpmeets to those tender husbands (who really just need to pull up their big boy pants, right?).  I could talk about avoiding emotional affairs, or not making them responsible for our personal well-being, or I could quote Proverbs 31 (I hate that woman sometimes) about seeing to the needs of our family, or 1 Peter about having a gentle, quiet spirit.  I could harp on the need to be respectful and deferential, submissive and obedient, “as unto the Lord.”  I could talk about how we, more often than we like to admit, use sex not as a point of intimacy and bonding, but as reward, punishment, and manipulation.

I’d actually planned to write a litany of how I had, as I mentioned above, broken my husband’s heart, time and time and time again, in the ways I just mentioned and then some.

But as I walked that labyrinth, I started thinking about Namaste.  For those of you not caught up in the yoga community (another post for another time), namaste is a Sanskrit term that has become as overused, misused, and even abused in contemporary culture.  Its literal translation is I bow to you.  My yoga teacher interprets that as, “The Divine within me recognizes and honors the Divine within you.”  And as I walked, I realized that we break his heart when we fail to recognize his divinity.  No matter how we do it – and, ladies, we all know just how to best break our tender husbands’ hearts, don’t we? – we do it because we stop seeing the divine within him.

If I, as his wife, am always mindful that yes, there is a divine, immortal being wrapped up in that suit of flesh – a suit that is, yes, aging, and tired, and hungry, and grumpy at times, and prone to misread my own intentions…if I, as his wife, am mindful of the fact that he is a son of God – as much as I am a daughter of God, I am going to be far more careful to, as our Savior reminded us, do unto him as I would have him do unto me:

  • Do I want him to put me before his job? Maybe that load of laundry can wait.
  • Do I want him to trust me to do what I say I will do?  Turn off the nagging.
  • Do I want him to confide in me his deepest, darkest secrets, his griefs, his frustrations?  Confide in him before you call your girlfriend.
  • Do I want him to praise me to his friends?  Cut the trash talk.
  • Do I want him to overlook the times I fail?  Forgive and forget and always extend grace.
  • Do I want him to see and treat me as a goddess (metaphorically or literally – no matter)?  It’s a two-way street, honey.

Every successful human relationship comes down to implementing that Golden Rule, and marriage is the absolutely most important relationship anyone can have.  But familiarity so often breeds contempt, and quite often, our husbands get the short end of that stick.  And because marriage is, as our rings symbolize, a circle, we get what we give…and, if we don’t give, we don’t get.

My marriage nearly ended a few years ago because I didn’t recognize my tender husband as a son of God, and thus, the heartbreaking I had inflicted on him over the years had very nearly destroyed me. I can’t help but think that maybe that’s why he, himself, once a vibrant and glorious witness to the Savior, is no longer.  But because God’s tender mercies are so infinitely glorious and generous and gracious, my sight was restored and my marriage continues to heal.  I now see him as a son of God, as beloved as Jesus Christ Himself, and every day I pray that my love for, and words and actions toward him would cause him to see the light of Christ within me and, once again, within himself.

Ask yourself this: when you look at your tender husband (and, for all their macho bravado, they really are tender), who do you see?