. . . content in the impossibles . . .

I was terrified. One of my greatest fears is failing. Being disappointed in ‘me’.

So when a friend artist invited me to attend a painting class last weekend, I laughed, “I cannot draw a straight line. I drew stick people and little chickens for my children for years. That’s the extent of my creative drawing ability.”

She insisted, “You will have fun; I know you can do this.”

Inwardly, I cried, no, no. You don’t understand. I can’t handle more failure.  I will disappoint you and me. Why should I put myself in a position to fail. . . I need to stay safe. I was firm in my arguments to her.

She smiled, looking a bit stubborn, “I will not let you fail.”

Me, not fail. Now, that’s impossible. At this time in my life when I feel a failure in many areas, why, indeed, would I invite another one? Why would I intentionally add another  failure to that growing heap?

Fragments of happier days lived with a sense of worth and purpose shatter around me like dry leaves. The brokenness of our family colors most days black, a dark midnight black; it screams of my failure as a mother. I can’t even write a weekly blog. No, no, I will not add another defeat to that list.

BUT. . . I went.  Anticipating defeat.

Why?  Maybe there was a slight hope that I could do something I never imagined possible. No. I went simply because of Joyce’s words to me, “I will not let you fail.”

 

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I compare my first canvas painting to life at the moment. I believed totally it was impossible for me to have accomplished anything recognizable! I learned something through this. Which is really what life’s experiences are about.  Right? I did something I thought impossible. How completely freeing on this journey. I was overjoyed.  I realized an enormous victory!

Isn’t this what Jesus whispers to me, to you, “I will not let you fail. I am with you. I will never let you go. . .” Countless promises.  I read the words of hope, while negating each one with doubt. I had even  forgotten my life verse these past months: “I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will continue and continue until the day of His return—developing that good work, perfecting and bringing it to full completion in me.” Philippians 1:6 Amplified.

God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible—what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do ourselves.  A.W. Tozer

Surely there are failures in life.  It is how we see and use them that matters.  Charles Krauthammer, physician, columnist and news contributor, paralyzed from his waist down for all of his adult life never let the impossible stop him.  He is a great example that any of us can accomplish the possible, even when many impossibles surround us.

A fear of failure paralyzes me. Maybe you. Fear blinds one to new possibilities.  I needed this Snowman!  I learned NOT that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. This verse is often misused. It is a Greek idiom that means being content in any and every circumstance, not that I, nor you, can do those feats we are not gifted or equipped to do.  Paul is in prison as he writes this, and he affirms he can be content  because the Lord has promised to give him the strength he needs for whatever is before him. God will sustain him in the failures and heartbreaks of life.

This snowman whispered, “Barb, take your eyes off your failures. Embrace the goodness in life for the many, many possibilities in front of you. The secret is in being confident that the Lord gives strength for the journey NOW . . .”

. . .painting contentedly. . .

 

 

 

 

 

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. . . caught . . .

A recent garden guest has been quiet, unassuming— not disruptive in any way.  For weeks. In fact, we hardly knew she was around.  But there she was! Near the entrance of the front door.  Lurking, plotting to catch other visitors in her inconspicuous lethal strands. 20180831_062452 (1)

A large female yellow orb garden spider set up residence in early summer and lived quite comfortably until mid October. She produced  2 sets of egg sacs containing thousands of little ones and faithfully guarded them.  This species is considered beneficial for our gardens, so I deliberately allowed her long stay.  I didn’t mind this silent intruder near the porch; her daily routines intrigued me.  As long as she snared flies, mosquitoes and wasps in her enticing grid,  she was welcomed.   I often observed her as she quickly wrapped and prepared each victim for dinner. She munched each bite with deliberate detail; she relished each insect.

But when I discovered she had lured one of my butterflies in her subtle web, I was furious.  No, no!  You can’t have that one.

Not my butterflies!  I wanted to post a sign at the butterfly bush warning of impending danger.

My last post three months ago expressed the freedom and beauty learned in the struggle of the butterfly.  Shortly after, I found myself caught in such a web stronger than this spider’s web.  The strands made by spiders are five times stronger than piano wire.  By weight, they are stronger than steel.

We are often blind to the web right near our own front door!   The tentacles that began to grasp me— quietly, unsuspectingly, even easily, were more cunning than those of our garden guest.  And stronger!

I wanted to run for little scissors and cut the butterfly loose that evening.  That would be impossible.  Tom said it was already dead because all life was squeezed from it immediately as venom was secreted when the binding process began.

Traps are baited for us at every turn, every day.   Fear, doubt, distrust, pain, pride, busyness, lust, negative words and thoughts–oh, the list is endless and different for each one.  How quickly we can be charmed into an unsuspecting web. Our GPS failed to warn of impending dangers.

The analogy of the spider’s web and our webs stops here. As impossible as it is for an insect to free itself from the invisible web, it is possible for you and me to be set free.

“In my anguish  I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5. There is a process in binding one up, slowly, slowly when we are “caught”, and there is a process in being set free.  Much is involved in being set free, yes.  Beginning the journey of release from being the prey to freedom takes prayer and action.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

A broken heart in a family situation, coupled with fear crippled me these weeks.  Added to this or perhaps because of— a physical condition due to my Lyme history caused my auto immune system to crash.  Too many sticky silken threads, and I was caught . . .

I love these words from Ginny Owens, a beautiful Christian music writer and singer:

We meet God in our suffering and either learn to trust Him or turn our hearts away from Him. As  I cried out to God with fear and uncertainty, He gave me more of Himself. I didn’t need to have the answers anymore. 

 Listen to her song, “I’ll Walk through the valley if you want me to  https://youtu.be/aaXxwFpavj4

Perhaps you are currently caught in a web, held hostage, wrapped tightly.  I do not allow Satan credit for orchestrating the sticky strands of mistakes, choices, habits or even a physical issue, to entrap me —or you.  But he does delight when a believer is caught and is unable to live in joy and confidence. He pulls the dangerous, delicate threads tighter, and often, we see no way out.

It is then we must discover a new GPS– Grace’s Present Sanctuary.  “God has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless (no matter the strong web you find yourself–my words here in italics 🙂  nor forsake nor let you down. I will not relax my hold on you–surely not!” Hebrews 13: 5b,  Amplified.  I love, love, love that verse in this translation!

If you are currently ‘caught’, please reply. I am a bit experienced in untangling the threads.

Becoming  free . . .

 

 

 

 

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. . . struggling . . .

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. . . celebrating the pain . . .

It has been two months since I have written.  Is it because there is nothing to say?  Or perhaps my day hours have been filled with grand and glorious tasks for others, and there is no time or energy for writing.   I know there are bloggers who develop a business on line and yearly earn thousands of dollars–even millions!  They are consistent, generous with gifts and offer something to sell.

I am not one of those.  I am surely not consistent 🙂

I can only share my heart. A part of  life, and today, I share the pain. I have deliberately kept silent as to not be vulnerable.  T.D. Jakes says, “why do we work so hard to not be vulnerable?”   He adds that we spend so much time and energy getting ready for tomorrow while disguising ourselves in the present. Why do we hide who we are and how we are breaking?

And too often we cry alone. . . (how thankful I am to share tears with Tom.)

. . . celebrate the pain . . .

Wow.  Now, that’s a novel verb for this situation in which we find ourselves.  Who would give anyone advice like that?  I found the following poem recently while preparing a study on David celebrating before the Lord when the ark had been moved to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6)

“Live in the now with all its problems and its agonies, with its joy and its pain. Celebrate your pain, your despair, your anger.  It means you’re alive. . .”  Clyde Reid, Celebrate the Temporary.   The entire poem is attached at the end.

I have never thought of celebrating pain. Have you? Celebrations are fun, happy  occasions.  They are parties, full of joy. Of more than a hundred synonyms  associated with celebrate, the majority are defined with praise. Is it possible to praise this season of pain?

Lately, I keep myself sheltered within a safe place. It’s easier. But oh, what I have missed.

. . . the Now of life.  When I cannot embrace this season of pain,  I have missed many now moments.  If I am numb to the pain, then I am also numb to the tiniest moment of joy.

Why are we so afraid to share our breaking hearts? We all have them. Or we will. Life happens, and we cry. We would rather read about happy events;  let’s ignore the pain. I encourage you to share your heart ache with another or listen quietly as they share theirs. May I add, don’t give advice–give yourself.

Today I will celebrate–the reality that I hurt. The fact that I am alive.  And I celebrate the Lord Jesus who gives life and joy in this season.  I can choose to embrace the pain while praising the One who is still in control, who whispers His love in the darkness.

“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145: 21

I dare not miss a moment of the NOW. . .

Celebrate the temporary

Don’t wait until tomorrow, live today

Celebrate the simple things

Enjoy the butterfly, embrace the snow

Run with the ocean, delight in the trees

Or a single lonely flower

Go barefoot in the wet grass

Don’t wait until all the problems are solved

Or all the bills are paid. You will wait forever

Eternity will come and go and you will still be waiting

Live in the now with all its problems and its agonies

With its joy and its pain

Celebrate your pain, your despair

 your anger,

It means you’re alive. Look closer,

Breathe deeper, stand taller

Stop grieving the past- there is joy and beauty

Today

It is temporary here now and gone

So celebrate it while you can

Celebrate the temporary

From Celebrate the Temporary by Clyde Reid

 

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. . . in which world? . . .

Hoof clops invade the morning stillness.   I watch the buggy pass the house, and I fancy I live in two worlds.  With the Amish–living without automobiles, electricity, running water, cell phones. . . no mirrors!

We live near a large community of Amish, the oldest order of this belief who settled in Lawrence county, Tennessee in 1944.  About 250 families have chosen to live here, but perhaps they only survive in this culture.  They live in another world, regarding the conveniences most of us use and enjoy as worldliness, the chief evil of life.  Isolating themselves from outside influences, they desperately  conserve the heritage of their past.

Am I missing something. . .

I listen a long time, realizing with each clop growing fainter that life, real life, needs to be slower, slower. . . slow.   My ears strain to hear the last sound as the hard wheels rattle a determined tradition of an old world.

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(this was my parking buddy at Kroger’s last week)

“Can your heart be in two places?” I asked Tom, one evening when we arrived home from one of our worlds into our other world.

“I think not”, he smiled. “You can’t for sure.”  He knows me.  Since December we have been living in two houses, in two worlds, every week–a hundred miles apart–one in Lawrenceburg where we retired in August 2016, living between cow pastures and corn fields.  The other in Lebanon near all the amenities of Nashville where Tom returned as Associate Pastor at Immanuel Baptist.

In our current living arrangement, I’m often confused in which place I am!  I know I had celery in the refrigerator–just not the one where I need it NOW.  I realize I cannot be at home  in both places. I am more at home where heart things surround me, wrap me.  Where the floors creak ‘welcome home’ and memories murmur.

Some of you will remember the T.V. series, I Led Three Lives, based on the true story of  Herbert Philbrick.  He was a citizen of the community, a Communist, and a counter spy for the F.B.I. Not even his family, his church, his friends suspected his covert  activities.  For nine harrowing years, he cautiously stepped into each day frightened. . .

As believers anticipating an eternal home, can you and I be fully home in this physical world?  Should we be?  There is a longing for the other world, the one we call home. For the something more. . .

Our Amish community has found a way to live in this world but not be in it. John says in 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. . .” We live in two worlds, but which one do we love.  I wonder how many lives we lead in those two.  Tom and I joke about leading three lives these days.

And Paul cautions us to “not be conformed to the world, to the patterns of the world, to be transformed. . .” Romans 12:2.  I imagine  it may be difficult for the Amish to live simply, without conveniences — or not. Perhaps the pull to the other world is stronger than the desires of the flesh.

The words of the old song whisper . . .”this world is not my home; I’m just a’passin through. . .”

In which world are you living. . . NOW?

 

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. . . desperate. . .

Easter morning dawned more in sad reflection than in a glorious celebration.  Lately there have been too many ‘why’ questions,  too many reasons to give up. How painless it would be to surrender to the hurts of life.

There has to be more. . .

My tears mingled with the bubbles in the sink as words of Michael W. Smith’s  Breathe hung in the atmosphere:  “This is the air I breathe, I’m lost without you; I’m desperate for you”–  jolted me to examine my desperation level.

A desperate squirrel (squirrels are always desperate, aren’t they?) raced up a small tree near my kitchen window. His idea was to jump to the bird feeder about six feet from the tree exactly as he had done the day before.  He didn’t know  the feeder had been moved two feet to prevent that possibility from happening again.

This feisty tree climber recognized something different; you could sense his nervous calculations.  I counted the times he scaled the tree, observed the distance, scampered down, up again, switching to another limb.  He prayed. (You’ve watched a spiritual squirrel stand with folded paws as if praying.) More than a dozen times he made this trip–up, down, more frantic each time.

Then suddenly, he scampered up the tall, stronger trunk in the center.  And jumped . . .

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Splash! He landed hard on the ground, missing his goal about twelve inches.  Do you think that stopped him?  For an hour he repeated these obsessive climbs and jumps. Each time he fell short. I had to abandon this scene for church, but now more encouraged. If a squirrel can try such an impossible feat-over and over and over, surely I can confidently walk into the NOW.

I can’t give up.

“Listen to my cry for I am in desperate need” – Psalm 142: 6. David encourages us in his transparency before his Lord at a time when he is fearful for his life.  Hiding in a cave from Saul who wants to kill him, David is not ashamed to cry out to the Lord for mercy, for refuge.  I cry, too, before the Lord, trusting that it “is He who knows my way, when my spirit grows faint within me.” (verse 3)

Dark, muddled circumstances of life can blind me momentarily, blocking the sunshine. Hiding the reality of God’s promises.  Sending me to a cave, my prison. It is then I examine my responsibility in this situation of despair. My heart may be breaking, but I, like this determined squirrel, must continually  seek God through the pain.

. . .desperate. . .

. . . you know, I think it is good to be desperate every day for the One  who leads with light and truth. I walked this morning down our country lane (we are living in two worlds currently –one where the squirrel lives and the second one, here with the country road), singing loudly, “this is my Father’s world.  I rest in Him complete.   This is my Father’s world

. . . still desperate. . .

Timothy Keller’s prayer on Psalm 142:  Father, your Son was no Stoic.  He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.  He was constantly weeping, sighing, and exulting in spirit.  I confess that I either deny my emotions, trying to put on a good front, or let them simply carry me away.  Show me how to bring them honestly, yet submissively to you. Amen (Timothy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, page 353. )

. . . after thought. . . I noticed the grass beneath the feeder was trampled perfectly flat when I returned home Easter Sunday.  How many times had that determined squirrel jumped and failed?  I think he may have bruised himself badly or broken a hip.  He or his two buddies have yet to return to the tree.  Did he give up?   But that’s another blog  🙂

 

 

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. . .anniversary ramblings. . .

I was 16  . . . going on 17.  “I am going to marry that fella,” I whispered to my friend Rosemary in church the last Sunday in August, 1962.

And so I did.

How did I know this young good looking ‘kid’ wearing a traditional crew cut of the 60’s would indeed be my knight in shining armor. We soon discovered that this was the beginning of a storybook journey . . . a daily adventure walking in step these 54 years.

“If I look for imperfections, I can find them, can’t I?” I asked Tom yesterday when he came into the kitchen where I was painting cabinets. I am a frustrated painter as I agonize over the drips, the tiniest nail holes that must be filled, more rough places to be sanded. I paint and repaint.  Then do it all again.

“Yes, you can.  Look at the whole picture, enjoy the room, just do your best.  This will never be perfect, Barb. There will always be drips to clean up and redo, more sanding to be done.  Don’t focus on the negatives.”

Good words, I mused as I remembered something I had read early morning pondering my blog of the day–wondering how we arrived at this 54 year occasion. Words from an article by Shana Schutte with Focus on the Family seemed to sum up what I had learned very early in marriage.  She was told by her mentor when she began dating a particular guy, “If you focus on all that he is not, you’ll miss what he is.”  (Sort of like the lesson in the kitchen, too 🙂

Early on I just believed that Tom was perfect. No doubts. I was young and immature, right? By the time I understood more of life, a truth dawned. Of course, he wasn’t perfect. But by never focusing on his imperfections, those things he wasn’t,  I did not miss all he was/is. And if I could have changed anything negative, even one tiny thing, he would not have been the Tom I chose. Surely there were times I failed in this, but Tom quickly reminded me–:-)

 

Tom’s first funeral in his pastorate was for a young husband and father of two boys; he had been mowing his yard, went in to rest, and died of a heart attack. Tom has had numerous funerals since that day, but that first one set a tone for our beginning years: I will live and love you today, this NOW.  We may not have tomorrow.

 

Psalm 133 is a beautiful song for marriage.  “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity” (v1). When two walk together, united in tears and laughter, strong against the winds that would destroy and divide, fragrant precious oils fill each space; needed moisture gives relief to the dryness in life.  These verses do not give promise to marriages alone, but this truth is revealed to our communities and the world . . .  as believers  sacrificially and selflessly  live, love and walk together in unity.

And “yes, yes,” I whisper again, “I ‘m going to marry this old man.”

. . . one of my all time favorites about 12 years ago. . .20180313_110438

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