Saturday, December 26, 2009
I was in Bay Shore, NY with my mom, dad and two sisters attending the funeral of my mother’s youngest brother when the thought struck me and I was able to see the two words mesh together for what I believe was their intended purpose.
We drove up from Richmond to connect with my parents and sister in Maryland before heading to New York. I left work, kids, and holiday parties unattended, packed a bag and got on the road. After all, family is first in my book. My mother was taking this pretty hard. It was her baby brother. He was the youngest of 10 children and she was number 9. They had grown up together and were very close. We have all been anticipating the death of another brother who is suffering from cancer and so this was a surprise. She was emotionally drained from another death the preceding week so we were all very much aware of her fragility and it was our desire to be there with her and for her. We wanted to comfort her, support her and provide whatever we could by way of our physical presence.
It was during this time of closeness (10 hours in a car with 5 people) that the meaning of the words came together. She took great comfort in our being there and joy in our presence as we caught up on each other's lives, reminisced about the past, both the good and the bad, and during the silence - each deep in our own thoughts, allowed the Holy Spirit to have his way with us.
We attended the wake and to my great surprise when they opened the floor for comments my mother was the first to get up there and say something. She said we drew strength from the family and those in attendance. No one would have known earlier her brokenness, her heartache and her desire to just curl up in a ball and wish it all away or better yet to be with her brother.
I was blessed by the words from the crowd as they got up and recalled what my uncle meant in their lives. I saw tears stop flowing and smiles spreading, we had a few moments of deep laughter and there was much joy in the room from the memories that will last us the remainder of our lives.
One of the final speakers was a 10 year old boy who summed up the events of the evening like no other. He realized from all that was said that he was missing out on something great in his life and he was sad. He told us to stop taking people for granted. To embrace them while they are here and to find the time to be around them and learn all that we could from them because when they are gone, they are gone and something great is missed.
Wow, from the mouth of babes. Those words resonated around that room and soaked into our hearts. We applauded this young man for his words and the spirit in which they were delivered.
That young man did not realize that he had not missed out in what my uncle taught us during our lives but that during that moment he just displayed for us something that my uncle will always be remembered for - CHARACTER.
And from that we all felt comfort and joy.
I pray that you all had a very Merry CHRISTmas! Our morning was great. We had blueberry and triple berry muffins, bacon, juice and milk. We listened to Christmas music of all sorts and they got the biggest kick out of the Jackson 5 singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". We brushed our teeth and settled down to read the CHRISTmas story in Luke 2 and talk about the GREATEST GIFT OF ALL - JESUS CHRIST! We shared our thoughts and feelings about this season and the reason we celebrate it and then the mayhem began.
They opened their stockings from us and big brother and then we moved to the living room where the tree and their other gifts awaited them and dug in. Paper was flying everywhere, there were squeals of delight, groans at the gag gifts and lots of love and joy flowing around the room as CHRISTmas carols played in the background. All too soon the gifts were all unwrapped and the mood was somber. Is this all???
My heart stopped for a moment at those words and I gathered them around to pick up the wrapping paper, etc. and talked to them once again about it not being about presents and gifts but about Jesus Christ. They nodded and wandered off to start opening everything and the day ensued with a lot of - Can I open this? Can you help me open that? as I cooked our CHRISTmas dinner. The aroma of the ham, yams and turkey cooking filled the air and lots of thoughts filled my mind.
I decided that we have had enough of the commercialism of CHRISTmas in our lives and that next year will be much different. I know they are relatively young but this is the best time to start. We have already reached the point where they don't believe in Santa Claus as a real live person, rather he is a symbol of the "spirit of giving". So I've decided to take some very wise advise and limit the number of gifts we give our children to three apiece much like the offering of the three wise men. Don't applaud me for this great undertaking because it is not an original thought, it came from Sheila Wray Gregoire, Canadian columnist, author, speaker, and mom.
"... several years ago we started a new gift giving tradition with my children. We call it the “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh” ritual, where they each get three gifts, and nothing more. The gold gift is something they want. The frankincense gift is something they need, like socks. And the myrrh gift is something to nurture their souls. It could be a journal, or a book, or a CD, or a movie. It’s something that reminds them of their purpose here on earth, or encourages them to think, to write, and to pray about what’s important."
This way I know that all the joy, fun and celebrating will focus mainly around CHRIST and not the gifts. It will also add joy back into our lives as we won't feel the pressure to buy, buy and buy gifts that will lose their luster within 48 hours of opening them and the headache of paying for them into the new year. Although we did the Angel tree this year and sponsored a boy and a girl I didn't let them in on the process but next year we will let them pick out the gifts for the children we choose to sponsor so they can start to feel the joy that comes from buying for others - giving not just receiving.
How was your CHRISTmas?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
My heart has been sorely distressed at the actions of my co-workers as they clamored, clawed and back-bit to retain their positions. I was caught in a tug of war, without my knowledge, and strung along until I said enough; just tell me the truth and let me move on. Don't take the last three years and toss them in the trash because you just don't know how to come out with it.
It is an unspoken secret that I am leaving but not one for public consumption so the phone calls still come in and I have to pass them off to the new executive assistant unless she happens to be out, then I get to handle it.
The transition from Queen B to "low man on the totem pole" has been very humbling. The way my co-workers treat me now has caused my feelings to be hurt on more than one occasion. To literally sit for eight hours and be ignored is very difficult to take, as you watch everyone around you go about their daily routine and you are stuck in limbo. Some days I am extremely busy though, as I perform tasks delegated down from on high that no one else wants or feels like isn't their job to do. I have had to swallow my pride, smile and submit myself to the tasks because that is what Jesus would do.
God did not create in me a spirit of one-upmanship. I never want to succeed in life by standing on another person's head or climbing over their back. I don't believe that "anything goes." Let my work ethic, my morals and integrity speak for me. Not my popularity, my ability to brown-nose or submit myself to acts that leave a bitter taste in my mouth or the inability to look myself in the mirror each day. So to that end, I am grateful to be leaving but it has been a lesson from God I won't soon forget.
Now I am trying to figure out where I am and what is next. Am I at a crossroad, a fork or a crosswalk? I haven't come up with anything yet, but I have been petitioning God for an answer. Hence, the reality check from the questions asked in my earlier post.
Dictionary.com defines these three words as follows:
Crossroad: The place where roads intersect. A point at which a vital decision must be made. A main center of activity.
Fork: To divide into branches. To turn as indicated.
Crosswalk: A path marked off on a street to indicate where pedestrians should cross.
What do you think?
Yes, I am at a point where a vital decision has to be made - where do I look for another job? Do I stay in the field I've been in or is this the time for me to branch out to another area where my passion lies; or is this a path that will lead me from one side of the street to the other?
It's kind of exciting but a little disconcerting at the same time. I KNOW that God has a plan for my life. I KNOW that He has it worked out. I don't like not knowing or not being involved in the process of working it out though. That is a bitter pill to swallow. Surrendering my life totally unto Him like that is so very hard because I am a VERY independent person. I have worked hard all of my life to take care of me and mine. I take my responsibilities to heart and so I am struggling with my inability to move left or right, to cross over or apply in this arena or that until I hear from God.
My thoughts are centered on how will my bills get paid? How will we eat? What about insurance? What am I going to do with all this time on my hands? I am not very good at being still or idle. I dread it and would subject myself to a root canal rather than not have my life planned out each day from beginning to end.
He is stretching me far beyond anything I could have imagined. When I prayed to Him, Lord here am I, use me, shape me, mold me and have your way with me I didn't think that it would have the effects it is having. I meant those words, still do and still pray them daily but it sure does bring new meaning to be careful what you pray for. It will be difficult to walk this out, to sit back and wait on the Lord. I am already chomping at the bit and I still have until the 31st to be here at my job. But I will trust in the Lord and wait on him as instructed in Psalms 27, 37 & 40 and Isaiah 30:18-21 because He is my source, my strength, my all and more than anything I want to go and do what it is He has predestined for me.
I finally want to do it right and stop doing it my way and having to pay for the mistakes I make by not inquiring of Him before I make a move, say a thing or do a thing.
So in the end, I guess it doesn't matter whether it is a crossroad, a fork or a crosswalk. What matters is what He chooses for it to be and for me to be obedient to whatever it turns out to be.
Monday, December 7, 2009
After training last week I stayed behind and talked with Sam, our facilitator, and we had what I would call a life changing conversation. It started out easy going, casual and natural. We talked about her life, her challenges, work, dreams, etc. and then we started discussing my life and that's when it got real personal and uncomfortable for me really fast.
Her questions were thought provoking, soul stirring and made me want to put my hands over my ears and start saying "lalalalala, I can't hear you." Seriously, I wanted to turn away from them. They weren't mean spirited or meant to hurt. They were made to provoke me into thought and then action, of this I am sure. It would put me outside of my comfort zone; cause me to have to view myself, my life, my thoughts, dreams and desires in a different light. It would mean giving up the safety of my "infanthood - crawling" and step into my "adulthood - walking" with Christ on a whole new level. 1 Corinthians 13:10-12
It would require me to break out of the box, shut down the negative thoughts or no thought mentality and start viewing and thinking of things from a different perspective. I know the scriptures, I know the truth but I've never tried to apply it to me because I never thought of myself as worthy. My hopes, dreams and desires are mostly centered on things for others. That is how I get joy - serving, being behind the scenes and watch and pushing others to excel and reach for their dreams, hopes and desires.
So what could she have asked that caused such a stir you say? I'm glad you asked. She asked me:
1. Why Not Me? Meaning why couldn't great, wonderful, supernatural blessings happen in my life. Why would they?
2. What are the desires of your heart??? Desires, what are desires? I had to look it up to make sure I was understanding what she was asking. Desire - seeking something to make you a better Christian. The longing in your heart that you are willing to commit unto God's will to receive or achieve it. Wow!
3. Why shouldn't you have hopes, dreams and desires bigger than you can imagine? Because I'm not worthy; I think small, dream small and live small because that is all I know.
4. Why shouldn't you expect God to bless you abundantly above and beyond anything you can comprehend or be able to receive? Again my own personal belief of worthiness and because it has never happened to the extent that I could attribute it to God abundantly blessing me. There have been times when things have happened and I thanked Him for the blessing but at the same time it was rationalized out as to how I came about receiving it. I've never had something given to me on a great magnitude that was one of those things that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was a supernatural blessing.
5. Why do you allow yourself to think small and remain limited in your blessings? I've never been taught how to think big. My mind has never been exposed to open, limitless thinking. I am driven by order and organization.
6. Where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years from now? Honestly, I don't know. My by the book answer would be "Wherever He wants me to be." But I don't have any specifics to put to that question.
Then she challenged me to have a heart to heart conversation with God and ask Him the following questions:
1. God, who am I in you?
2. Who are you developing me into?
3. God, show me who I am, reveal to me that person - introduce me to myself!
4. Lord, how do you want me to move forward?
5. Where do you want me to go?
6. What do you want me to do?
As I have been working through this conversation the following scriptures have been given to me. There seems to be the recurring theme of faith and belief.
I have faith and I believe but I don't think I have used the two in tandem. I can believe for others but have rarely believed for myself and my faith too has also been predicated on things for others (my children, extended family, friends, etc.). The majority of my prayers have been petitions and intercessions for others with little thought to self. In some ways this saddens me to think that I have put so little of myself out there.
That conversation led me to the knowledge that I have a great deal of work to do to be able to answer those questions in a way that is satisfactory to myself much less my Heavenly Father. But I desire to do so; therefore, I am putting myself out there to work on changing my thought pattern, to opening myself up to believe some things for myself and have faith that they shall come to pass.
Bishop told us that when we speak the Word, we are speaking life into a situation predicated on our faith. That God's words are spirit and life. John 6:63
I believe that and know it to be true yet have not spoken life in to my own world. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and it is as though by not speaking I have allowed death, stagnation and nothingness permeate my world.
Amazing what is revealed in a conversation so small and unexpected yet I know that God orchestrated that moment and the revelations that have flowed from that conversation just as He created me in my mother's womb and allowed me to be born at such a time as this. (Psalms 139:13-16)
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Mark 11:24
"Delight yourself also in the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:4-5
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;" "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6 & 4:19
"...faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17
He met us right where we were and filled each of us with what we were in need of; some of us needed comfort, peace, and love. Other's needed assurance of His presence and a Word that touched us to our very core letting us know that He has it all under control and is working it out; and all of us needed his goodness and mercy to carry us through the rest of that evening.
What really amazed me was that He used me to facilitate these results. My heart leaps with joy to think that I could be an instrument in His hands to carry out such an assignment. I had no idea that the promptings that kept my stomach and heart all aflutter would provoke everyone to open up and receive what He had to pour out into us that evening. I marvel at how he uses the "least of these" (me) to do his work.
I arrived a few minutes late and quickly got absorbed in what was being taught. I gained a great deal of wisdom from our teacher's impartation and felt blessed to be among them. As we were closing, the prompting to speak what was on my heart increased until I was sure everyone could hear the thudding in my chest and see the tears welling up in my eyes. I kept my head down at first and just started talking. Out spewed words I had no idea were there and they just continued until I stopped and the next one started and so on and so forth until each one of us had had our turn to open up and release several times over. It was so awesome to witness and be a partaker of all at the same time.
There is much going on in the world today that causes us to feel overwhelmed, deeply saddened and lost; even if we know Christ, because we are human and tend to go with our feelings and not with the Spirit that dwells within.
The Word says that when we release our cares on Him and take up His yoke, our burdens go from our shoulders onto His and our load is lessened. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
I know to some it sounds crazy but for the believers, the witnesses to this miracle, the transfer of our burdens to Christs' is one of the greatest blessings we can experience - letting go and letting God have our cares is freeing. To "cast our cares upon the Lord" allows Him to have his way in our lives and move in ways we can't fathom. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Yet time and time again as quickly as we release them we scoop them back up and become heavy laden and burdened all over again. It has been a cycle in my life that is starting to shorten in length. Meaning, I'm not holding on to things as long but releasing them quicker and benefiting from the freedom that comes from not being weighed down under the weight of the problems in my life.
But, there is still much work that needs to be done in me. I am very much a work in progress but I am choosing daily to surrender myself unto Him. Opening myself up to follow His promptings and going where He leads me even if it is out of my comfort zone and into the unknown for I trust Him and believe in His Word. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)