This Notion of Rest

For a person that is used to doing big things, rehabbing houses, building a business of some sort ALWAYS or just creating something, this is a big thought.  Resting is hard!  It’s just hard…until one’s health forces compliance.

I’ve recently been given some orders to fly low for a while, that my body is needing some reprieve to do some healing.  Honestly, defiance would rise within me if I had the oomph to muster it up.  But. I. Don’t.  I’ll save you the bore of typing out the details, in other words it’s uncomfortable for me to share my weaknesses and expose myself to being judged for whining or to be pitied. Probably the former brings more anxiety.  There it is!  Isn’t it crazy to just get really honest.

Mike and I were sitting in the hot tub last week just chatting about health, life, fun and responsibilities and these crazy words escaped my mouth with barely any prior thought. I said, “I commit to you that I won’t start a new business endeavor for the rest of this year.  I’m going to try to learn what normal life is without such incredible demand on me!”.  His eyes got wide.  His whole posture changed as he responded with a surprising and excited statement of, “Wow! What a great idea!”. (Let me make this clear, excitement for Mike is being wide eyed and a quick response.  That would equal me jumping up and down, squealing and releasing a slew of words to describe the previously demonstrated state of excitement, over and over again.)  His quick agreement and response really touched me and confirmed the need for this newfound discipline.  Yes, discipline is the accurate word to describe me abstaining from another wild business idea.  I’m a dreamer!  Can’t stop won’t stop but evidently, I will for 2020, the year of the mouth.

Today I had an appointment for a heart healing session.  I’m talking about the emotional, spiritual kind of heart healing, which can’t really be separated from the physical, but I’ll explain it that way just to bring a little more clarification.  Let’s just call it a counseling session to make it easier to understand.  The difference in this type of session is Jesus joins me in them and always brings revelation and healing. It’s definitely worth investing in!  If you want to know more just ask me later.

The whole point of this writing is to share what He showed me today; I’m wrestling with the whole thing of physically resting when I have so much spillage left over from rehabbing houses etc.  It looks like a garbage truck from Habitat for Humanity unloaded in my garage.  We have a landscaping project 90% done.  I’ve had a rug shampooer staring at me for a week, calling me to clean the throw rugs soiled with the dirt that should be in my lawn but somehow took up residence in my rugs and carpet. There is so much dust in my house it feels like I could scoop it up and fill one of my new raised beds to the rim and plant some thriving petunias in it! Everything is coated with a layer of dust! 

I have yet to switch out my winter clothes for my cute summer clothes and it’s almost time to use the winter ones again.  All of these things weigh heavily on me.  I’ll just be real.  I have been overcome with anxiety to get these things done so I can function in peace.  I just don’t have the oomph to do it. Plus there is the hope that listening to the Doctor and resting will improve these crazy health issues.

But God….  Yes, But God has other ideas, so much higher than ours.  Today Jesus had other ideas.  I want to share one of the pictures He gave me when we were pressing in to see what He had to say about all of the things I just spilled to you plus all of the anxiety attached to these health issues!  He showed me a picture of the back wheel of a ten-speed bike.  It was spinning.  He drew me in closer to see the gears.  He showed me in this time of resting I was not idle but making great gains.  He reminded me of when I ride my bike in a low gear how fast I pedal, how much effort it takes to not cover much distance.  Then He showed me the larger/higher gear reminding me that the amount of distance covered is much larger with fewer rotations.  He showed me that REST IS HIGH GEAR!  Please read that again!  REST IS HIGH GEAR!  When we operate from a restful state, we cover much more ground with less effort!  He just gave me permission to rest! He just gave this work-a-holic permission to rest! I receive this and lay down the anxiety and fears I have had recently.  I accept that rest is operating in high gear.  Any other “Do-ers” out there that just sat back in their recliner in surrender to this revelation?  This girl did!  Then, He showed me that we still cover ample ground while coasting from our past efforts!  Wow! Just Wow!  Thank you Jesus for your wisdom and grace.  Thank you that you are not of this world and take our minds out of it at times and give us a thought lobotomy in exchanges for truths, our mind for yours!  

Jesus, You are good! You are so very good! I pray over the Do-ers out there and for this to soak into their spirits like it did mine!  Moreover, I pray that it would stay there and not be set aside while we run off on another wild adventure when it’s the time to rest.

Mrs Understanding

Mrs. Understanding

This week a couple of new friends and I experienced a misunderstanding.  We communicated about it, not perfectly, not pretty but real.  I’m a state-the -facts-from-my-perspective type of person.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  Other times it’s not. But it’s me.  It’s who I am.  I have become okay with who I am as I’m learning, in the deep places, that Jesus dearly loves who I am. The interesting portion of that last statement is what prompted the shift was first accepting others exactly where they were.  I decided to offer the same grace to myself. I also believe the same about the other’s in this misunderstanding we experienced this week.  I don’t believe they need to improve something or change who they are to be loved exactly as they are, by Jesus or me.  I truly love them! That’s a big deal! 

I get emotional when I think of how much he loves  you and me exactly as we are, that we don’t always have to be on the “personal improvement life time subscription plan” because… life just passes by so quickly while we are striving toward that goal , always having our ears bent to hear what we need to work on next etc.  We tend to have a photo in our mind that is ever changing and unattainable.  We go about it backwards!  

Resting in Him today, exactly as I am today and receiving the love He pours over me is an upgrade, so much better than my prior “goal” photos in my mind or my tattered vision board.  Resting in Him exactly as I am today towers over the mental picture of myself with a chiseled physique sharing orations, in writing or speech, that have awards and medals hanging next to them, along with a snapped picture of myself wearing a glowing robe of righteousness!  I truly believe we have it backwards.  When we love people exactly where they are at it takes us to higher places, without the blinding/striving that keeps us forever squinting in the distance for what is next.  We pass by scenery that needs to be seen, people that need to be seen and peace that needs to be had.   I believe that is where the glory of the Lord lives and flows out of, those peaceful places of being who we are today while we connect with others and allow them to be loved in the place they are today.  

In my mind’s eye I see a beautiful woman completely relaxed, almost draped over a lawn chair looking upward and soaking in the sun, simply absorbing what God placed there for us to partake of, eyes closed, and shoulders relaxed.  She is so grateful! The sun itself is a wonder, how it hangs in the sky and warms us, moves around in the timing He assigned to it, all for us, all for the ones He loves.  It’s so simple but so difficult for us to accept the deep love He has for us without toil.  Metaphors are hard to grasp at times.  This could easily look the same as stating, “I don’t like my job but feel obligated to stay here because this is a step toward my goal photo of who I am to be!”.  Try resting in Him, just accept the beautiful things about YOU and make decisions from that place.  Meditate on that and take just one step.  That’s resting in Him.  Don’t baulk.  I’m a planner too but one step at a time is all that’s needed.  Yes, it’s most definitely a walk of faith and you just can’t mess faith up!

Last night, I faded off to sleep after conversing with two amazing women, seriously… incredible women!  They were the women involved in this misunderstanding with me. Holy Spirit woke me with typed words going through my mind like a banner.  Misunderstood, Miss Understood and Mrs. Understood.   Then it was as if the phrase was diagramed or conjugated or whatever the proper term is for changing something from past to present.  They changed to Misunderstanding, Miss Understanding and Mrs. Understanding. They weaved through my thoughts as I entered and evaded sleep through the night.  I meditated on them for the morning, on the edge of tears, knowing His revelation was near. I’m always deeply touched when He speaks to me, with the goal of never receiving something He shares as being small or trivial.  

It’s a simple message.  Misunderstandings will come.  These beautiful opportunities will come.  There will always be another human or humans connected on the other end.  Will we stand on the outer edge of commitment and dabble in a relationship, just taking them on dates when it will benefit the evading Miss Understanding, the one always wanting to stay single and toy with others?  Or will we commit to loving who they are today?  Will we choose to see them?  Will we choose to expose our toes to be stepped on while we learn how to sway in the intimate dance of relationship and community? These are things that happen during a first dance at a wedding, after they voice their commitments before witnesses.  The Miss becomes a Mrs. Her identity changes after her commitment.  Mrs. Understanding is committed to learning and understanding the one she is dancing with, the one she is toe -to- toe with, the one she sees fully, accepts and chooses to be intimate with.

My mind wanders to one of my favorite moves where it ends with Mr. Darcy saying, Mrs. Darcy over and over because he was only allowed to use the term when he was completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.  Too much?  I think not!  When are we completely, perfectly and incandescently filled with joy?  When we know we are deeply loved by the one who created us and loves us perfectly, exactly where we are today.  I’m certain His perfect love doesn’t have levels released according to our effort or toil, though I do believe we “feel” it in waves equal to our acceptance!  Equal isn’t the best description either because He never gives in tune to our understanding.  It’s always much larger than we can imagine but you get the idea.

Our identity changes when we say I DO, accepting His love toward us in this very moment, not down the road when we shape up.  This allows us to love those we stand toe to toe with in community, committing to understanding and intimacy. While walking this out, one day we walk by a mirror and are taken back by what we see.  It’s not our “goal” photo., not even close!  Our goal photos pale in comparison to His goal photos of us!  I would venture to say that he doesn’t even have goal photos of us because He is so in love with who we are right now, this moment as you are reading this sentence!  What we see in that reflection is beautiful!  We like it!  We have changed so much by simply making a commitment.  (I changed this week by interacting with these beautiful women) What we see is sincere, genuine, love in relationship, a result of commitment, a result of resting, nothing like we planned and so much better than we could have imagined.

Hey, you!  You are loved beyond what you can imagine, right now.  Yes, right this second!  Set aside that belief system that lingers and prods you to step it up a notch.  Sit down, close your eyes and let Him speak truths to you that will blow old beliefs away like rain clouds whisked away by a warm, fresh wind revealing the sunny blue sky behind them.  Soak it in.  He made it for you!

Signed,

Mrs. Understanding

Sorry, Don’t Have a Title! You okay with that? ; )

I once went through a long season where I spent over four hours on an average, day in the Word of God, sometimes up to eight hours.  That still felt like it wasn’t enough.  I was feasting, ingesting, enjoying, drinking it in along with revelation of many truths and more importantly being in the midst of the Father’s heart.  He was right there with me and I was very aware of it.  I loved it.  I miss that season in a way because it was a heavy learning season for me.  What I learned and experienced more than anything was the Father’s love.  It felt like I was wading in it.  In that season He even gave me a nickname.  He simply dropped it into my spirit.  I wept.  For days.  I wept.  His love is so real.

It has been years, more than a decade, since that season, probably closer to fifteen years.  I have had dips and peaks of my time in The Word but it’s difficult to compare the time of thick lexicons and commentaries laid out on a desk to this digital age.  So, I won’t.  This isn’t about comparing my lack or abundance, but it is about sharing His abundance.  I have that personality that is deep and wide.  That is a nice way to say, “I’m all over the stinkin’ place”!  I like and thrive in routine but tend to often find the inconsistent route.  I seem to always be reaching for something to stream line myself so I may be more productive or less of a day dreamer.  I’m sure there is a medication out there that may be able to curtail my whims.  I have learned that M&M’s aren’t the answer.  : )

Anyway, I shared this for one reason, and it is this: I had a dream yesterday.  Have you ever had a dream that you know the Holy Spirit just dropped into your night time hours, or maybe during the day?  I remember weeping in my sleep because this dream was so filled with His love.  I had stayed home from work not feeling well and woke up much later than I normally do, just in time to say goodbye to Mike for the day.  As I was hugging him good-bye, I remembered the dream and shared it with him.  He was touched by it too. Now, I will share it with you.  It is a very simple and short dream but so profound, so generous, so beautiful.  Please accept is as if it was dropped into your night time hours too.  You see, I like sharing.  So does He!

I was walking in a grassy area and saw a picnic table.  As I got closer to the table the Father’s love became more intense.  I could feel His love within me and only increasing as I approached the picnic table.  There was nothing on the table.  It was simply a green picnic table in the dream.  I walked up to it and sat on the top of the table.  (Have you ever been driving down the highway on a hot summer day and the heat on the road makes the distant landscape look wavery and shimmery?. That’s what His love looked like in my dream.)  For a moment I was outside of myself, further away from the table just long enough to see His love impact me.  Then He spoke to me.  He said, “Don’t sit ON it.  Sit AT it and eat of it with Me.”  Then He revealed that the picnic table was The Word.  His Word is the feast that He has prepared for us. Those waves intensified as I stood up and moved from the top of the table to sit AT the table with Him.  I’ll say it again.  I wept.  I wept while I was asleep having the dream and every time I have thought of it since.

Have you sat ON The Word that you have heard, read, experienced in the past?  Is it time for us to sit AT the table with Him again? There is nothing that compares to being in His presence.  Nothing!  I assure you that you will be grateful that you did.  And you will weep because that is what happens when Love Himself pursues us and we allow ourselves to be caught.  C’mon, pull up a seat next to me and we will weep together.

The F-Bomb Theory

October 14, 2018

The F-bomb Theory

 

I met my husband, Mike, when I was 15 and he was 17.  He has always been a gentleman since the day I met him, though I know it began long before.  Not long after we started dating I happened to walk into the middle of a huddle of hormonal teenage boys laughing it up near the locker rooms at our high school gym.  My husband is hilarious and was the cause of the laughter.  He didn’t know I was present. When  I heard his words he I was completely shocked.  His comments included several f-bombs and I turned red from head to toe.  When he became aware I was there the color drained from his face.  I quietly dismissed myself. He quickly came after me and deeply apologized for his words and behavior, that he was just being an idiot in front of his friends.  My husband grew up a little on that day, recognizing a need for an increase in his character and word choices.  I was deeply touched by that, after the initial shock of it all.

I was his first girlfriend.  He was my first serious boyfriend.  I’m grateful.  He quickly developed actions and a vocabulary that were honoring and I never again heard such language out of him in the 39 years I have known him. He learned to honor those around him.  I was impressed with his disciplined choices and he was only 17.

To explain my history it was extremely rare, almost non-existent to hear a swear word cross my lips. I simply believed there were better words to communicate with.  I’m a communicator.  Words are simply tools to me.  I like to challenge my intellect and attempt to raise my IQ every chance I get.  I personally believe that authentic communication with my Creator is a form of worship and reverence.  Surrender and full exposure (as if He couldn’t already see our inner words and works) is vulnerable and trusting.  We offer it to Him and what we get in return is a deeper understanding of His heart toward us.  Authenticity is for us, not for Him.

This pattern continued through the raising of our five children.  Our oldest son moved into his own place when he was 18.  One evening he came to visit and enthusiastically shared with his younger siblings that the word “butt” was not a swear word.   We nervously laughed at the realization of the stern boundaries we had set for our children, relaxing them a bit since our youngest was ten at that time.

These silly factoids are simply to preface the fifty-plus years of pattern that was interrupted by the death of our daughter.  Finding words to describe grief and the death of my daughter is beyond me, though I continue to search for paths that would communicate such pain, not to educate but for connection.  I’m not yet convinced one can be educated by the world to get through grief. But just as a mountain climber can complete his task much easier with certain tools and skills attached to his belt I hope to equip those after me with a tool or two that would aid them in their ascent from the depths of grief.

In my greatest effort to grieve well I allowed myself the freedom to cry when I felt like crying, to laugh when wonderful memories surfaced etc.  Swearing became a part of that, yes- even the occasional F-bomb.  I know.  It still shocks me too.  It really shocked my husband who encouraged me to not use such words, which provoked an increase in its usage.  I believe I came to the end of my emotional intellect.  My IQ simply is not high enough to process the intense level of pain and emotion that came with the death of our daughter.  We spent 18 years of our lives raising her, teaching her, even schooling her at home for the first twelve years of her education, then the following three years enjoying her and her husband as adults.  We were very close.    What my husband learned at the age of 17, an increase in character and word choices to honor others, I had to learn in my early fifties.  I had to learn a new discipline that was never in my peripheral, how to NOT use the F-bomb in a culture where it’s unacceptable. On the same note, diffusing the toxicity of a word-tool that helped me cross a threshold, not of maturity (though it could be deemed so.  At the same time it could be deemed an equal digression in maturity) but of man-made boundaries, of religious hand cuffs and many more descriptions of imprisonments of the mind and spirit.  If you haven’t figured it out, this article is about much more than F-bombs.

I picture standing on the roof of a three story building and dropping an over filled water balloon.  There was something very satisfying to it.  I know what it was.  On the rare occasions that an F-bomb crossed my lips my husband (who is the only person that ever heard me say it) took his understanding up a level.  He knows me so well that he knew I was at the end of my emotional intellect, the end of my emotional and mental IQ.  There were no words to explain the ache of my heart.  He was very familiar with this pain and his grace increased in those moments. Selah: (let’s pause and take a moment) If my husband can stir up this grace just imagine what The Father can do!   I am extremely grateful for my husband’s patient efforts to increase his emotional intellect when mine was depleted.  I probably depended on this more than I should have but in the end it has amazed me what he has brought to the table in our marriage.  Hardship has a way of picking us up when we aren’t even aware and setting us in higher places.  Mike is a different man that he was before the death of our daughter.  I’m a different woman too but Mike has permission to lead me anywhere and I would follow.  I am over the moon in love with him.

The first Scripture that comes to mind in regards to swearing or  The first Scripture I used as ammunition toward my children about swearing is “Let no unwholesome talk come from your mouth”.  I will let you look that up and study it but I would be willing to bet that the Greek word that was translated to “unwholesome” is not as we take it today.  I would research that for you but I’m typing this as I lay in bed in my stateroom on a cruise ship.  I don’t have internet or my Strong’s Concordance next me.  There is something very “wholesome” yes, WHOLE-some, where character is GAINED by using authentic words.  I will share the following story that Holy Spirit brought back to me as I was writing this to remind me of the Father’s heart toward me, toward you.

I was sitting in the waiting area of a minor emergency clinic with Patrick, our third son. (we had three boys then two girls.) He has always been very verbal and a great communicator.  He was four years old and sitting on the floor playing with some toys.  There were 3-4 other moms in the small, crowded waiting room with their children.  Patrick was in his own world of imagination, talking to himself while scooting some trucks around on the floor.  He was learning how to rhyme.  There he went.  I could see it coming as he started rhyming words with truck- buck, duck and so on.  I had only seconds to prepare myself for the bomb that was about to explode and in those seconds I reminded myself that my son was much more important to me than any other person in the room.  I cared about him much more than the judging looks that would come when he got to the letter “f” in the alphabet cycle of his rhyming.  The bomb hit and every mothers head swung quickly in unison to see what I was going to do about this unruly child and the nuclear word that just dropped.  I could feel my body get warm with embarrassment but it only lasted a second. The truth was that my son was not an unruly child for finding a new word.  I chose to be more proud of my son for his new skill of rhyming. Then I jokingly said, “Rhyming is so fun but sometimes it can be a little embarrassing”.  All of the moms chuckled and set me free from their judgement, or so it seemed.  I told Patrick that he was doing a great job rhyming.  If I would have pointed out that he should never speak such a thing again I am certain I would have found him in the bathroom looking in the mirror writing new lyrics to a song that included the repetition of this “off-limits” word in the chorus so it could be repeated as often as possible.  That’s just how strong willed he is.  I love that about him!  He is much like his mother in that respect.

I could have labeled my son as “rebellious” in this moment (which is based in fear and was the label was shared too often in our household as we raised our children) compared to recognizing his “growth” in the moment.  That’s powerful!  Dig deep into that thought; especially you young mommies! We all are either planting seeds of death or life! Let’s choose life, ey! (Hey, I’m cruising with a bunch of Canadians.  I had to create an opportunity to use one of their cool expressions)

I am not condoning or encouraging the use of profanity.  What I am encouraging is authenticity with The Father, with yourself, with your spouse.  At the time of this writing our daughter died four years ago this month.  Because of the fog that surrounded our hearts and minds through grief it seems like it has only been months since she died. Close to a year ago I began finding new words that could reach the boundaries of my vocabulary and stretch it again.  I began replacing the swear words that were a little too handy in the midst of intense emotion.  These intense moments remind me of the brick wall in front of the test crash dummy.  Do YOU think the test crash dummy dropped an f-bomb or two when he saw that wall quickly approaching?  I would argue that the dummy did!  : )

It’s been almost a year since I committed to weeding those words out of my vocabulary but just days before this trip a couple slipped out.  Okay, they didn’t slip out.  I threw them out on purpose.  What we have figured out together is when I am in a place that I can find no other word to use, because I am a word guru, I may need a little help in my communications.  Mike has picked up on that and upped his game in those moments.  His grace has increased exponentially and I have stopped trying to hold in the things I had deemed “off limits” such as strong emotion or anger.  I think I am finally through the stage of discipline that my husband chose when he was  17 and receiving the love my son unknowingly learned when he was 4.  I feel so grown up right now!

Last week we were driving to Vancouver, BC to board the beautiful ship we are now cruising on and heading for Hawaii.  Mike and I were talking about signing up for a marriage conference for some refreshers, to do some maintenance on our marriage.  We haven’t been to one since we helped lead Marriage Ministries over twenty years ago.

Here is how our conversation went.  I said, “Hey, it would be good to have some healthy marriage reminders, wouldn’t it”?  Mike said, “Yes, it probably is a good idea”.  I said, “Hey, maybe it would help me to stop dropping F-bombs”.  He said (in his very best Mr. Rogers impression), “Well, that would be very nice now, wouldn’t it kids ”.  Needless to say, our trip has been filled with laughter at our silly conversations.

 

Mike and I call this a joyful dysfunction!  Hey, we all have dysfunctions!  We may as well laugh at them!

 

Mom, put that bar of soap away!  Seriously, Mom, if you’re reading this (and I know you will) put that bar of Ivory away!  I’m too old for you to wash my mouth out with soap!

To my grand-kids, don’t you make me get out that bar of soap! : )

 

So, here is my conclusion; in the religious bowels of our Christian walk we tend to have a scoring system to rate our sin. Adultery is a 10,  sexual sin is a 10, dropping F-bombs is an 8 or 9. Hell, sex-offenders are immediately tied to a stake and slow roasted for the satisfaction of the one lighting the match! Yes, the religious zealots caught the fact that I said Hell!  (just helping you out, man) I hope that offended someone, seriously, we need to be offended by our own judgements!!  Judging others opposed to loving them where they are at is a 1.  I know.  I know. I just offended someone else. I’m okay with that and… by the way, love me where I’m at,  Dude, even though I just said Hell! (Mostly to provoke someone)  ; )  I’ll save the sensitive topic of loving deeply for another blog or go read someone else’s blog that’s smarter or better than I in that arena.

The point of this statement is not to, Heaven forbid; challenge our current scoring system but possibly to create a whole new scoring system to add to it.  We all know that we don’t like to jostle our long time systems that we cuddle up next to like pulling our favorite blanket or pillow up to us when we snuggle down to watch a good movie.

How about creating a new scoring system to measure authenticity, grace and the love of the Father? We may quickly learn that the first scoring system begins to blur a little in comparison to the new one.  It is the greatest of these!

Being on this side of my F-bomb season, with spring in the air, I can see such evidence of God’s grace.  I can see, just like the day I was sitting in the waiting room with Patrick, when he dropped his first F-bomb.  Just as I looked at him with such love toward him, desiring the very best for his life, wealth, growth and development, I believe with every part of me that I have a good Father that is looking upon me and my heart in the same manner , except what He offers is an infinite love.  He was proudly looking at me and watching me develop a new found authenticity, a decreased fear of man, challenging what is acceptable in our Christian culture (or any culture), the beginning of the sluffing off of a scoring system that I had lived with for too many years.  For the sake of curiosity, creativity and the intense love for learning more of His heart, I would venture to say that I don’t even know if I sinned when I dropped those F-bombs! Woah, Woah, Woah, you say!!!  Soak this in! I don’t say this with the intention of dodging repentance, quite the contrary.  It’s part of  my greater effort to accept and receive the love that He offers me, a love that has no boundaries. When we accept this deep, real, tangible, overwhelming love our perspectives changes.  Repentance (changing old paths and patterns) is a by-product of accepting and believing what He longs for us to know and live in.  This defines Kingdom living and is contagious! So, go look through the Gospels for yourself!  Make sure what you are searching for is evidence of how much He adores you!  He will ALWAYS reveal Himself to you when you seek Him. ALWAYS!!  It’s one of His greatest promises!  Step into the pool of intimacy and authenticity that brings freedom and opens the doors to the love of the Father.  I promise that it doesn’t have to be the F-bomb door.  I certainly would never have expected to grab the handles of that door and fling it wide open, but I did.

 

Disclaimer: There was no soap or grandchild harmed in the making of this article.

Second Disclaimer:  There was much pain experienced in our lives to be able to write these words but there was much, much more grace from the Father to be able to write past that pain and still walk in joy.  I welcome you to join me!  His name is Jesus!  He is Wisdom!  He IS Joy!  His love is indescribable and I get to live in it.  He offers the same to you!

Journaling, Again…

Something that scares me: Journaling. Right after my daughter died I published and our book became an International Best Seller. I have always been a journaler but can count the times I have journaled since my daughters death on both hands, or less. It has been too painful and it’s been over three years. SO, to overcome this fear I journaled today and now I’m sharing it with you. Whew!!

My journaling is always a prayer to my best friend, My Abba, Jesus, The Comforter, Love Himself!!!

February 17, 2018
Hello to my Best Friend,
I know, I haven’t journaled in a very long time. The truth is, I have been afraid. I just kept waiting to be ready and more and more days passed, then months and on to years. I’ve been afraid I won’t be able to handle the emotion that comes as well as the revelation that comes. With revelation comes responsibility and my responsibility muscles have severely atrophied from the weight of grief and past failures. I gave up, like the roof of our neighbors old shed under the weight of a heavy snow load. It couldn’t repair itself and neither can I repair myself.

I already know that you have called me to the deep path of vulnerability and created a generous heart in me to share that vulnerability. But…. My daughter died. Our child died. I know, I know… you know this. Something in me just has to write it again. Our beautiful daughter died. Though my head and my heart both know that you roll out a red carpet of grace and strength when you allow us to walk through dark days I fear my emotions simply can’t handle it. I fear I am not strong enough. No, I know that I’m not strong enough. Since her death I have only become weaker by holding onto the things I don’t know how to process. It’s like when you hold your breath until you get to the other side of something, all the while weakening your body as you deprive it from oxygen or possibly similar to pulling a hot pan out of the oven without a hotpad and having no place to set it. I fear that I have done this very thing too long and only weakened my story, my state and ready to drop it all, causing a hot mess for everyone around me.
So, this social woman that had a broad span of friendships and wide range of experience has made herself small so she could cope. I need help. Well, that’s not all together true. You have helped me all along. I do need help but it hasn’t been absent to this point. Now is simply a time for new vision and renewed strength. You have spoken clearly to me but I fear that my current condition could not hold up to what you are asking me to do. The very things I use to teach to others I have let fall to the wayside, not on purpose but within that foggy cloud of grief, despair and deep pain. God, unveil my eyes but… please be gentle. Please, be gentle. I am afraid. I am trying to remind myself that you are always gentle with me, always, always, always.

Repentance, why do we avoid such a beautiful thing? I am very familiar with the beauty of repentance and the power of the aftermath but the path is overgrown with the weeds of pain, circumstance, fear, fear and more fear. Sometimes we fall victim to something that we allow. Fear! I have allowed it! Anxiety, I have allowed it. How did this happen? This is not who I am. The death of my daughter brought the death of so much. I choose today to believe that the things that have died were meant to die, such as the need for approval from others. In their own fear people had expectations of how I should grieve. I was judged harshly. I surprised them, disappointed them, challenged them, annoyed them and encouraged them.

Being a leader when you walk through difficult things is hard. It’s that simple. This allowed me to walk out of an old habit of looking for the approval of others. I’m grateful as well as alert when he tries to revisit. His visits tend to be farther and farther apart.
It’s surprising how the searing pain of the death of a child naturally reduces relationships. I don’t need to explain away their different reasons but I accept it. It’s painful and freeing. I would have never seen this side of the sincerity of relationship prior to my daughter dying. I gave superficially to so many out of a need to feel significant. Isolation and a long distance move painfully freed me from disingenuous friendships and allowed beautiful ones to emerge that were lost in the crowd before. I am grateful but I didn’t get there without first wading through a sea of pain.

I am called to give deeply and I fear that I am too shallow. Or, at least that is the shallow voice of the liar that lies to me some days and discourages me from identifying and taking that first step. Truths like that last sentence bring new freedoms, or old ones revisited.

I love to write. You always show up when I write. It’s like one of those old pictures of two old guys on each end of a long saw pushing and pulling to accomplish the task at hand, to fall a tree. Thank you for honoring my limited intellect, for pushing and pulling and allowing me to wrestle with you, for patting me on the back and loving me so deeply. Thank you for showing me that what I have to give is very valuable and in your grace you frame it to show off, much like when I put my children and grandchildren’s art on the fridge. Your love truly amazes me.

One of the greatest things I have learned from relationship with you, my Heavenly Father, My Abba, My Best Friend, or my favorite title for you, The One I Adore and Who Adores Me, is that I am in the greatest place, an abyss of weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my (enormous, mountain of) weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (my emphasis added) I couldn’t possibly be in a better position. I praise your name and thank you for your unending grace. Through written word I am boasting of my frail and feeble state so your glory may come. Oh, God, let your glory come!

My own Insufficiency – What a Gift It Is

When error rings loud and echoes to a crowd
I must praise Him
When shallow attempts reflect the weakness within
I must worship.
When great efforts miss the mark and return with the force they were delivered
I must bend my knee in surrender
And worship the Worthy One.
My own insufficiency.
What a gift it is.
Humble stature positioned to receive
Aching heart standing at attention
The sting of inadequacy ringing in my ears.
It is beautiful!
Insufficiency, insufficiency, my own insufficiency…
It becomes a melody in a chorus of praise
A new strength
Only available through the framed doorway of “I’m not enough”.
My Own Insufficiency,  What a gift it is.
It positions me to walk out one of the simplest of Kingdom principles, to exchange my inept attempts for the power of His strength that shows up at the very moment of my surrender.
It is the most beautiful gift I have ever received.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Cornithians 12:9

Happy 23rd Birthday Katelyn!

Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins,
Today would have been your 23rd birthday. We still celebrate you. We still honor the beauty that you were….are. We still cry some days as we miss you but we quite often smile at funny memories.
Just this week I was laughing to myself about the time you were demonstrating to Dad and I how you would swim if you had no legs. You had just completed a bout of chemo and had no hair. We affectionately called you Q-ball because your head was so white. You were in a swimming pool demonstrating how you would swim with no legs but you were sinking. Your name suddenly became the “Sinking Q-ball”. We were doubled over with laughter. We have so many memories like that, filled with laughter.
We have begun to settle into life without you here but still imagine how you would react to certain things, such as the birth of your new nephew, Bryan. You would have gobbled him up! He has so many chubby little rolls and is well on his way to being the same size as his daddy. Your other nieces and nephew have grown so much. Paige and Arryanna had a particularly hard time with accepting that you won’t be around to hang out with them any longer. Josh did too but he was young enough to move on a bit easier.
Some things happened this week that made me think of the day you had your first surgery. You had only been out of surgery a few hours, enough time for the major anesthesia to start wearing off. You were in a lot of pain. A nurse came in and started turning you over. I thought she was kind of rough but kept silent, trying to be a good mom and allow you to find your own bold voice. As soon as she left you looked at me and started crying and said, “Mom, she hurt me so much. She was SO rough”. I said, “I thought she was pretty rough but I was waiting for you to say something.” I got up and made a b-line to the nurses station and made it clear that that nurse was to never touch you again. I quietly came back and sat by you while you were sleeping. You woke up later and said, “Mom, thank you for making the bad nurse go away.” You were 18 but it was as if you were 3 again and asking me to hold you during a thunder storm.

Thunderstorms use to terrify you. When you were around 12 or 13 years old we had one of the largest storms I had ever experienced. You were trembling because you were so afraid. We could feel the house rattling and creaking from the wind and the lightening. I retold the story of how I use to be terribly afraid of thunder storms but how I had learned to love them. They are beautiful.
I asked your permission to take you outside into the thunderstorm. You cowered at the thought and clung to me. I told you that I would wrap you in a blanket and you could sit on my lap in your dad’s truck. You agreed. You clung to me with every clap of thunder and would bury your face in my chest and under your blanket. I reminded you that I would hold you tight but encouraged you to look up and see the beautiful show before us. We were sitting in the middle of incredible flashes of lightening and loud crashes of thunder happening all around us. The light show was spectacular and massive. The lightening looked like a neon net in every direction. We tried to count seconds before we heard the thunder but we couldn’t count fast enough because we were literally in the middle of the storm.
As we sat together I encouraged you to lift your head and watch the splendor. You slowly loosened your clenched fists and started to relax, your head started peaking out from under the blanket. You started looking for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects. Before I knew it you were beside me in the truck seat instead of on me. Rain was pelting the roof of the truck so hard that it was hard to hear each other speak. I told you to close your eyes and listen to the beauty of it’s sound. It was incredible. That was the last time I recall you ever being afraid in a thunder storm. You learned to appreciate its beauty.

Your death has been like a tremendous storm to our family. We have run to The Father for comfort. He provides comfort like no other but you know this. You were very familiar with His comfort. There have been times that we have cowered under the blankets and clenched our fists in fear and some of the family those fists were clenched in anger but not for long. The storm has felt spectacular and massive. We have begun to look for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects.
Our heads are peaking out from under the blankets and viewing the beauty in the storm. All three of your brothers and your sister and sister-in-loves have amazed me with their strength. Vulnerability and humility are beautiful gifts that they share openly. I love that about them. Grandparents are healing and overcoming. Your sweet husband has remarried, just as you had hoped he would. I believe he is very happy. That makes my heart happy too.
We have learned that joy does not always displace grief but often parallels it. It’s like a beautiful melody that wouldn’t be as rich without the low and the high octaves being played at the same time. These are things learned in a storm. We have the freedom to cry because we miss you and because we are grateful for where you are while we are remembering how incredible you are. It is not unusual to feel all of these things in unison. That is when the comforting, faith-filled melodies resound and sway us back and forth in the arms of The Father. He lulls us with His peace.
No matter how large and loud the storm is the comfort of the Father always rings louder and larger. No matter the condition of our heart He is ready to receive us as we are and pour grace over us so we may walk away with much more than we invested in our own healing. We can come to Him as a vagabond, whipped and empty and walk away as a King. His mercy amazes me and makes me desire even more of Him. His generosity brings me to my knees in adoration of Him. He always exceeds my expectations and I had BIG expectations!
His word is true. Romans 5:3-4 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

A new hope has risen up in us. We are still wobbly kneed at times but walking in new fruit that wasn’t there before. More than ever we rely on His mercies and grace. More than ever we are learning to receive from Him instead of relying on those strong Leavitt tendencies that were simply not strong enough to endure this storm. The roots of our faith have grown deeper and wider simply by His grace. I know of no other god than is so merciful and generous. I know of no other god willing to take the sting out of death and replace it with such victories.
You would have loved sitting and listening to this story. Now, I imagine your sweet, contemplative and patient smile that use to melt my heart. It still does.
We love you and miss you. We celebrate you today! Happy 23rd birthday, Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins!

Happy Anniversary

Dear Mike,

We have gone through some difficult things… some Very difficult things in our lifetime. Our 34th year won the prize. The death of our Katelyn has been the most painful experience of our lives . Grief offers no mercies but is quick to generously magnify poor habits and shout loudly of our weaknesses. Hardship tends to highlight our greatest foes. If feels as though our one flesh has been taken out to the back alley and beaten. Being true to ourselves and grieving as differently as night and day felt like a dividing wall between us. Oh, the things you don’t think about prior to actually experiencing it but, honestly, who prepares for the death of a child? A person cannot prepare for something that they have never tasted. What a year!
There have been days when we had to remind each other to simply breath and days that we didn’t want to. One can’t prepare for the mixture of true joy because we know Katelyn is in the presence of the One we love so dearly and the anguish because she is not with us.
Four years ago today, after a whirlwind week of passing each other as we were rushing Katelyn from one appointment to another, a major surgery on the 9th, my birthday, we finally stole a moment and went to the waiting room. It was the first we had even tried to talk about what was happening. I remember the words like they were just spoken. We sat across a small table from each other and grabbed each other’s hands and this is what we spoke.
Me: Hi
You: Happy Anniversary
Me: Happy Anniversary to you too. (We smiled) It’s really good to look at your face.
Me: Our daughter has cancer.
You: Yes, she does.
Me: She could die from cancer.
You: Yes, she could.
Me: Will we trust God either way?
You: Absolutely!
This is the only serious conversation we ever had and it was sufficient. When we attempted to have another conversation we always returned this one. I thank you for the simplicity of the faith we share. It truly is a great gift to me.
Today I celebrate you and thank you for who you are. Your tenderness, humility and vulnerability have branded you “Hero” in my world. Statements such as “I am not afraid of tears, yours or mine.”, “My heart is broken” and “I miss my girl” deem you the most macho man I have ever known. You don’t walk around pain to avoid it. You take the shortest route. Sometimes straight up over the jagged mountain range to get to the top and have the greatest view. These are the practices of a mighty man that is willing to take the high road and trust God to guide him through the paths that appear impossible, all the while knowing where your strength comes from. What an example you are to me and those around you. I love you so much.
The last few years have been difficult in many ways, losing our main home, moving six times, Katelyn being diagnosed with cancer and getting married 3 weeks later, going through many treatments then passing away. Grief is difficult enough but to watch our other children and grand children grieve so deeply multiplies a broken heart. I have never experienced such pain. We became empty nesters, endured a 3 year grueling IRS audit that paralleled Katelyn’s diagnosis, treatment and death. We slogged through what felt like the betrayal of a dear friend then restoration. We must laugh that experiencing the beginning stages of menopause was the cherry on top of this Sundae!
It’s easy to list hardship. I didn’t even mention all of the big things but I only list them as a reminder of where we stand today and what it took to stand here. We have made declarations in faith and been faithful to them for the most part and fell short at times. Distinguishing the fine line between grief and self-pity is another piece to this puzzle. These are real questions, real moments and hours of our days. I often think back on the day after Katelyn died, when we were at the zoo with the whole family. You asked me how I was holding it together. We revisit that moment on a regular basis because my answer was filled with prophetic hope. I said, “Today is no different than any other day that we walk with the Lord. We will not walk in shame, fear or regret. Regret is a counterfeit that the world would include in the process of grief. We have lived our lives with a focus on doing ‘today’ well so we don’t have to experience the regrets of yesterday. We will not walk in fear! The world encourages looking at the mistakes and regrets of yesterday instead of the hope of tomorrow. We will keep our eyes focused on the hope offered to us.”
This prologue is to be framed with the truth of today and the gratitude that fills me. Thank you for standing with me as we have pointed our feet in the same direction, gripped hands when we really didn’t feel like it and didn’t allow the dividing wall of grief to separate us or poor habits and inflamed weaknesses to pull us apart. I have truly experienced your strength this year and appreciate your “Lion” heart. I thank you for loving so deeply, for your example of commitment and your complete devotion to your family. I look forward to taking the victories of this year into our 35th year, the Silver year. Silver is a symbol of redemption, the price of a soul. Though we can’t see it now because it is still too close to us, still too fresh, I believe that our 34th year was a polishing for the treasured years to come. I am grateful for your steadfast heart. I am grateful for your unfailing commitment. I am grateful for you!
I love you sweet man. Happy 34th Anniversary!

Shame or Crown?

Shame or Crown?

When our children were young we built fun, space-saving beds in order to fit our five children into smallish bedrooms. The first bed was a fort bed that our three boys enjoyed for years, allowing them a permanent play place to have sword fights, light saber wars and scale castle walls through the day (an innocent light fixture surrendered its life in one of those fierce battles) and hold them while they slept at night.

Later their daddy built them a triple-bunk. I remember him having them lay on the floor to measure their gangly teen and pre-teen bent legs to make sure they had plenty of room to maneuver. Our boys slept in that bed for years then it was passed to their two younger sisters. The girls used the third bunk for their stuffed animals and enjoyed the convenience of stacking a random third girl during a sleep-over.

Originally I planned that this piece of furniture would become an heirloom used by grandkids for many years to come. After much use and too many years of storage, last year I considered sanding down the wood and painting it but we decided it had lived its full life. We used the larger pieces in the construction of a new pottery studio. We threw the smaller pieces, the slats that supported the mattresses, into a scrap pile with intentions of burning them to keep the house warm.

Our oldest son looked at the boards that use to hold him as a teen, as well as his younger siblings, and saw something much different than I did. They had graffiti all over them from our children lying on their backs and writing and drawing with crayon, marker, pen and pencil. They were twisted and warped from being jumped on while parents were out of sight and from simply being low budget, pine 1×4’s.

I only saw scrap wood pieces that reminded me of the frustrating, “Will we ever have anything nice” season or the, “Will my children learn to respect property” season!, I looked at those boards and felt shame and embarrassment by them. They reminded me of unmade beds and messes in a home that I longed to be tidy and wanted to decorate tastefully. That did not include furniture that was written on, towels on the floor and unidentifiable smells that consumed those years.

Kyle took those boards and intricately measured each one, spacing them the same distance apart, relishing every single board so not to lose a single scribble or subtract even a saw blades width from the treasures that he saw. He framed them in redwood. He added legs and sealed them with the highest quality sealer available. He made those embarrassing boards into a beautiful table that will serve our family for years to come. It became a greater heirloom now than it ever was at the beginning of its wooded life.

Our daughter, Katelyn, was the one who wrote most of the words on those boards. She passed away six months and eleven days before Mother’s day 2015, the first Mother’s Day since her birth that I would spend without her. Kyle saw the boards in the scrap pile and thought they were perfect just as they were. They didn’t need to be sanded. They didn’t need paint. They only needed to be framed to accentuate the beauty that had already been created years before and sealed in their perfection.

My children have identified the author of each word written or scribbled. Here are some of the incredible things that I am so grateful were written on those embarrassing boards that are now the surface of our family’s beautiful table:

I love my Mommy, (Katelyn)

My diary is behind the bed. (in much smaller writing is the following statement) My diary is really in my t-shirt drawer. (Katelyn)

Hello Governor (can only be read with a heavy British accent and was written by Jessica)

Not Telling! (Katelyn)

Jan 14, 2008, 40 days until we go on vacation to Florida on February 23 (Katelyn)

PK’s Poltry Farm (Katelyn’s misspelled name of her and Patrick’s chicken business)

I Hate Mosquitoes (Katelyn-she was allergic to them and swelled up like a balloon)

Katelyn’s Vision 150 people healed. 2 down and 148 to go! (Katelyn’s handwriting but a collaborative desire between Patrick, Katelyn and Jessica)

The last statement was birthed from the following experience. Our third son, Patrick, laid his hands on and prayed for our friend, Kathy, when she had back pain in May of 2006. She was instantly healed. Patrick, Katelyn and Jessica prayed for one other person and they were instantly healed. They witnessed the healing power of God move through them. They were forever changed. They etched their testimony and vision on the bottom of their bed. This is priceless to me.

Before this weekend I had not looked closely at the boards from that bed. I had not read the words. I only threw them into a scrap pile so they could be burned or sanded down to make something of value. I only saw those boards as failures of my past; that I failed to teach my children value and respect. I associated those boards with the shame of untidy messes in my life. At this moment I feel more regret that Kyle and Nick, our older two boys didn’t write on these boards. I will not be able to read words of their history on this table. Our two oldest boys would never consider writing on a piece of furniture. This makes me wonder where the true balance is. They have both written many treasures on my heart that will never be forgotten.

On the morning of Katelyn’s memorial our children informed us, and have teased us often since, that it is their turn to raise us! We had raised them now they are going to raise us! This week our oldest son taught me a lesson. He taught me how to “respect property” and that I am worth and can have “Very nice things”.

Often the things that look like failure or shame in our lives are merely small dots in a greater composition of beauty with the Master’s touch, that He later frames for a greater, more valuable display in our future. It is important to walk in faith expecting such beauty!

I have learned that every one of these writings on this table validate the opposite of the perceived shame and mess that I had assigned to it in that season. Isn’t it like a generous God to use loved ones to send such a loving message from the heart of The Father.

Thank you to all of our children for raising us right! Kyle there is no way for you to know the depth of my gratitude for a gift that touches my heart so deeply. There is no possible way of communicating it. I love you.

Calling Out Your Tomorrows!

When I have heard the term “defending my faith” in the past it has been applied to apologetics, a knowing of the Word of God in such a manner that you can argue it. I am not opposing that definition but there is additional definition to “defending your faith”.

I have recently been reminded of the many times I have walked in fear. Honestly, they are like the grains of sand on a seashore. My life has been filled with fear, from the first abusive memories of my youth to scattered moments of this very day. Fear presents itself constantly, like the relentless bully on the block that demands your lunch money before he will allow you to pass. We have a choice to step toward fear and pay the bully, but he will never let us pass! We can turn our backs on him or throat punch him, cutting off the wind beneath his words, stepping over him as he diminishs to the squawking runt that he truly is. We have daily opportunity to choose faith, to “defend our faith” with our actions and choices, as well as our words. I would compare fear to temptations. It is not a sin to be tempted. We have a choice when temptation presents itself. We have that same choice when fear presents itself.

The moments that I choose fear, I walk as a prodigal, squandering my inheritance of faith, prostituting a portion of The Body of Christ in exchange for the folly of vain imaginations, for the fleeting pleasure of self pity, with the meager compensation of acceptance and conformity in this world. We support the co-dependant habits of others by tickling the ears of those that believe they have need to hear our woes, which in turn reduces the valiancy of their walk, leaving them with a false definition of their worth and their calling.

I wonder how many people questioned Jesus’ authority and calling in the town of His youth? I can’t imagine that He was fearful of their fiery words, or that His foundation was rattled as their doubts and speculations were hurled at Him and fell at His feet. I can only imagine the mocking that Jesus could have endured, even as a toddler, as he was learning to walk and talk. There were the questioning faces of onlookers who were trying to have faith that He was their Savior or prove that He was not. Glances shifted to words of disbelief and accusation but still would not have hindered Him as he was learning to walk or talk because His eyes were only on The Father. Some wanted to believe what the prophets had spoken but the fears within caused their eyes to focus on the immaturity of His natural process of learning to walk one step at a time, causing those close, in His home town, to look more upon their fears and disbelief than on His calling. The God of this universe put Himself in the position to be ridiculed, to be judged harshly, to be in a fish bowl for others to watch as He matured in His humble human state, the state that He chose! His humility leaves me undone and in awe. His love for us is immeasurable. His sacrifice will never be matched! He is my endearing example of how we are to serve one another. He did not do anything that He did not see the Father do or hear the Father say. To love like this is my great commission!

If Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people (1 Samuel 2:26) and If Jesus grew in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52) then we have permission to do the same.  By Jesus leading a sinless life and “growing” throughout his life, then we need to allow each other to grow and mature without assuming it is sin. I believe we can walk away from those scriptures knowing that immaturity isn’t sin and give grace to grow in this walk.  What freedom!

We will always have people in our lives that remind us of our yesterdays, of when we fell when we were learning to walk and of the broken words spoken when we were learning to talk. We will always have people in our lives that freely share their pseudo-counsel that falsely validates their own worth, in their own eyes. But my God calls out my tomorrows! My God pours grace over me like warm honey that puts me in a state of peaceful rest and surrender to Him. His Love pours over those grains of sand, washing away the abrasive fears and the failures of my yesterdays that, could otherwise, hinder me from walking boldly and uprightly in my tomorrows.

Though others may look at my yesterdays, I will look at my tomorrows and at the tomorrows of others. On the days when I feel that annoying sand between my toes, I pray that I will recognize the need to humbly receive the foot washing of redemption that has already been poured over my yesterdays, as well as my tomorrows. I will trust The Father today! I believe these are the actions of a warrior. Actually, these are the actions of a fierce warrior! I am sending out a war cry!

I am calling out YOUR tomorrows!