Walking Alone After Our Loss

The Single Walk is not always an easy one. It is frequently more difficult for people who have been in long-standing relationships who now find themselves walking alone. Singles struggle to find a new way to fit into community, especially religious community, following the end of a life with a partner.

Some of us are single because the person we planned to spend all our years with has died or left us. The singleness that comes from the death of our partner can leave us in un-imagined pain and grief. A divorce, or end of a committed partnership, can do the same for many; even when we might agree with the decision to terminate the relationship. We go from two to one. We are no longer part of the “couples community” and we aren’t quite ready to function as a single person. This is especially true for the widow/widower who may remain married in their heart.

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The Line Between Can’t and Won’t

We’ve all said it: “I can’t right now,” and we usually launch into a litany  of  reasons as to why we “can’t” do something. I don’t think many of us ever say, “I won’t” do something; however, we frequently mean won’t when we say can’t.

Have you ever been in that place that something just tugs at your heart? It seems no matter where you go something reminds you of that urge. Is there some thing that you strongly believe should be changed or improved and you wish you could be a part of the change? Do you know someone who is passionate about a social injustice or mission area and you have often thought “I could never do that.”

The Bible is full of stories of people who said “I can’t” to God. Jonah was directed by God to deliver a message to Nineveh that could change their lives. Jonah took off in the opposite direction, was swallowed up by a big fish, he prayed, and God sent him back to Nineveh. He didn’t think he had what it took to deliver a dangerous message, and yet God called him to this mission and it was worth it in the end as lives were changed.

When we say “I can’t,” Jesus says, “I will.” The apostles frequently questioned Jesus when he told them to do something. Just look at the way the disciples grumbled when Jesus said to get food  for the 4,000 plus followers who sat and listened to Jesus. “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” They were done and ready to just leave. Jesus, however, had other plans and fed all who stayed and even had food leftover. We need to trust that if we are willing to say “yes”  the Holy Spirit will overcome our fears and great things can happen.

Taking action is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves. When we say yes and shift our focus to the needs of other people, we change ourselves. When we ask others to pray with us to discern the next right step to take, we are uplifted and spiritually nourished. When we trust the call we hear and step forward, God steps forward with us. I believe we are closest to God when we are fulfilling the mission he sets before us–even when that mission or call surprises us.

If you are hanging on to a call, if you have heard from the Lord, or if you are waiting for clarity, I encourage you to seek the prayerful partnership of others for the courage to take the first step. Ask for prayer to overcome  your fear and prayer for an open door through which you will walk. And then walk on my friends–walk on in faith and joy.

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9

 

Hearing What We Don’t Want to Hear

As I lay out my plans, I have found it helpful to have someone who will ask me the questions I don’t want anyone to ask me. I have a coach and a spiritual director who does a great job of seeing into my carefully concocted plan and finding the areas that I am avoiding because it might cause me to regroup and take new action. As much as I dread these questions, they get at the meat of what God intends for my plans and away from how I envision things. Some may call this an accountability partner, other wise counsel, or maybe just a concerned friend. Whatever title you give this person, make sure you have someone who will tell you what you don’t’ want to hear—and this applies especially to relationship building! Continue reading

Christmas Snowlight

Snow flake on snow flake
Growing blanket of winter.
Rooftops frosted in white.
My season of delight.

Diamonds in the dark.
Dancing sparkle in the sky.
One shining oh so bright’
The reason for the light.

Guiding star above.
Lights the path to follow.
News the angels recite.
The lesson of the night.

Words coming to life.
History born in a barn.
Promises to ignite.
Generations made right.

Christmas joy arrives.
Dreams of a savior fulfilled.
Heard in a meadow bright.
Glorious risen light.

Christmas of white.
Starlight of life.
Pathway of truth.
Reason for life.

Blind Spots

I am convinced that there is something wrong with the thermostat in my apartment. I have programmed it to warm up the apartment just before I get out of bed so that I’m not stepping into the freezing cold. It, however, seems to think it is much warmer than it actually feels—at least in my bedroom. So most mornings I get up and manually turn it up a couple of degrees to take the chill out of the air. Then I realize it is too late to warm up my bedroom because I’m already up and out of my comfy covers. I keep repeating this behavior, thinking this is the morning it won’t be so cold. Ha!

Blind spots. Those things we don’t see or aren’t willing to acknowledge about ourselves. My thermostat is reading the air near it. The living room area is much warmer than our bedrooms and so it doesn’t think it needs to do anything. Our bedrooms are its blind spots. I have a blind spot in setting the thermostat to match when I wake up. After several cold mornings I need to make an adjustment if I don’t want to get up in a cold room. And I STILL haven’t fixed it. Part of that might also be because I don’t want to accept that winter is coming and I hate the cold.

Life coach Georgia Shaffer says that we all have blind spots that impede our process forward. One of those areas in which we get stuck is not seeing the reality in our situation. In my example, the reality is nothing will change in my morning ritual unless I do something to change the environment and circumstances. We may be living out a fantasy in hopes that what we wish for will come true. It can be painful to look at our situations and realize that we are the problem. I have to accept that I don’t live in California and it is getting colder. In some cases, we may be stuck in a make-believe life because the alternative is unknown and scary.

Do you find yourself sitting in an office day after day and feeling that something just isn’t right with the business practices or the people you work for? Do you tell yourself, “it will get better” or “I’m just imaging things” and go home feeling drained a little bit sick. Are you waiting for a promotion or raise that is never going to come? We tell ourselves a lot of things out of fear when really we should move on. Are you refusing to see the reality of whatever situation is not benefiting you at work when it is time to find something new? Are you missing beneficial opportunities because you don’t know what to expect? Has someone told you this is as good as it gets and you are lucky to have this job?

Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you or treat you well? Are you hanging on because most of the time it is ok and ignoring the other not so great times? Are you thinking that the longer you stay the better it will get—that they will come around? Are you compromising who you are so you won’t be alone? Reality check. Most times the person we are in a relationship with is not going to change. If you have shared your point of view and it is ignored, the chances are it is not going to get better. Are you willing to commit to someone that steals your joy and who only makes you happy if you ignore all the other stuff? Are you conceding who you are so that they will love you? Your blind spot may leave you committed to something that compromises who you are and stops your personal growth.

There are many areas in which we have blind spots. I can’t seem to lose weight but maybe that is because I am sneaking in candy bars. I can’t pay off my bills because I cheat on my budget. I am not getting promoted because there is no opportunity or I am not putting enough effort into the job. I can’t find a job I like but I am not putting much effort into preparing myself for a career. I’m not growing spiritually but I’m also not making time to read my Bible or to pray or go to church.

I can’t…I don’t…I won’t…Those are killer words that might indicate you have a blind spot that is holding you back. Ask yourself what the truth is in your situation. Ask yourself if you want it to be better. Ask yourself if you are really ready to stop ignoring the things that are clear to others and make a change. Are you negotiating which truths you want to believe in to the point that you don’t know what you value or what truth means anymore?

You matter. You are valuable and worthy of success and good things in your life. You have the right to make decisions about your happiness, even if there may be some pain along the way. You have the right to reset your thermostat and greet the day with hope and promise. You have the right to set a new positive course for your life. Start by being honest and pulling back the curtain to let the light into your blind spot. Breathe in the truth and make the changes that align you with that truth.

I Can See Clearly Now

It takes a deliberate effort, and probably a fair amount of time, to see the truth in our lives. We may hear it and know it, but in our hearts, we just don’t want to believe it. Denial. That’s what counselors and 12 steppers call it. I call it: the lies we tell ourselves because it is easier than facing that a painful change may be coming. In Psalm 25, David asks God to “lead me by your truth” (NLT). David, of all people, knew how hard it would be to face the truth and to turn his life in a new direction. But he was willing to listen to a wise man speak the truth and he was forever motivated to alter his lifestyle.

One of the most difficult areas for us to hear the truth is in our relationships—be they romantic, friendship, or work. There are times when we need to stop and evaluate where these relationships are taking us and determine if they are right for us or not. I walked away from a very lucrative job with great potential—not once but twice—because I came to understand that I was not the right fit. Many people thought I was, but in my heart I knew it was time to move on. I let go of the love of my life because our values were different. He was, and is, a good man, but I need a man to share my faith commitment and the lifestyle I am living today. I had to let go of family that I love dearly because there was no way to resolve our conflict. Rather than continue to hurt each other, we have moved on with our lives, without each other. I walked away from living a life of pretend to a more simple life without the stress of keeping up with the DC or LA crowd.

Each time God inspired me to change, I fought back. There was a fog over my life and I had become comfortable with it. The fog kept me from seeing my true potential and the purpose for my life. When I began to ask God to show me the truth, the fog began to lift. I saw my real calling—my new job if you will. I saw how loved I am by those closest to me and I am no longer on the hunt for that great love. I have done my best to love and pray for my family and God has repaired some relationships. I have a new family in my church. I am surrounded by good people who motivate me every day on my new journey.

I can see clearly now. There is hope for my future. There is peace in my heart. There is joy in my life. Ask yourself some questions about whatever is keeping the fog in your life:

• How is this relationship impacting my relationship with God?
• How are these friendships supporting me on a right path with my faith?
• Am I hiding something so others won’t be hurt?
• How is this job affecting my joy and my dreams?
• Am I happy where I am and do I see myself happy in 5, 10, 15 years from now?
• How is this lifestyle effecting my financial situation?
• How is this situation affecting my emotional well-being?

Prayerfully consider your answers to these questions. Write down your answers and share them with someone who will objectively listen and ask you more questions. Be honest with yourself. Bring light into the fog. If you begin to see the need to change, start the process by making one small change. Think what that change should be and then do it. Do it for you. Do it because you deserve to live the life God has in mind for you.

“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 New Living Translation

Truth Seeker

I grew up in an era of sweeping things under the carpet and hiding our real lives from our neighbors and friends. It didn’t matter if the whole neighborhood heard the fights and saw the bruises—we did not discuss it. And many of us thus were taught to be hiders of truth as well. We even learned how to hide the good things like promotions and awards that we should have let our friends celebrate with us. Today I still hide the truth to protect those I love; except those stories will soon come to light on these pages as the God who saved me from shame and healed my brokenness prompts me to share more. My desire today is to be taught and to share what I have learned that others may learn too.

Things are different for people in today’s society with social media peeking into our lives every day. We post pictures of our trips and adventures. We post cryptic messages when we are angry or sad. We blast at people who have hurt us. We take self-portraits of our moods so everyone knows if we are happy, sad, or drunk! What we don’t do is talk about how we were abused as children or spouses. We don’t talk about addiction in our family. We don’t talk about abortion or the child we gave up for adoption. We hide our divorces in our new marriages. We hide if we are living with someone or in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. We hide if we want or have a relationship with someone of the same sex. We don’t talk about the missed suicide or the suicide that we deny occurred. We hide that our family is struggling with financial burdens or is crying every night because they don’t know how to help their ADD, autistic, or mentally ill child. Those things we still hide from one another.

I have a new truth today. My truth is that God loves me. He sent his son Jesus to save me from my sins and to give me hope in a new life. This God has inspired me to openly share with you the many many sins of my life, and his redemption of that life. Those things above—he let me walk through most of them. God didn’t heap burdens on me that I might fail in life or feel worthless. He taught me to give him my burdens and to let the Holy Spirit help carry them. He gave me you to lift me up when I thought I should die. I want to learn more from him so I spend time in the Word of the Bible. I spend time listening to your stories and I am motivated because I see the potential for change and growth in our lives.

It starts with speaking the truth. Share your burden with someone today. Ask for prayers. Send me a request—it would be an honor to pray with you. Pray for me too. This journey I am entering is not easy. It has painful moments. But I have hope today, hope for you and hope for me. God bless you and bring you truth and hope.

Maggie

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5