A Mountain to Climb

Two Sundays in a row.

TWO whole Sundays in a row.

Aaron and I loaded up the dog and headed into the woods.  Last weekend we drove the hour plus to Anacortes and took in the absolutely stunning beauty of Washington Park.  My back was still bothering me quite a bit so my walk wasn't anywhere near as "hike" like as Aaron and Bandit's but we went.

Puget Sound from Bandit's viewpoint
I'm hoping to turn this into a regular habit.  I want to - as many Sundays as possible - walk.  Just walk.  I don't want to do any kind of major climbing yet.  I have a lot of "shape" to get into first.  It's also better for Bandit.  Have you ever owned a high energy dog and then watched him droop and get bored because his people couldn't offer him enough exercise?  We can - we just stopped when I hurt my back.  Yesterday I watched him LOVE every minute of the hour we spent hiking around Evans Creek Preserve and that place?  A new favorite.  It's about a half hour drive but it's mostly freeway driving and when you turn off the major roadway, it's a 1 minute ride to the Preserve's parking lot.  Then?  Acres and acres of beauty and pristine trails.  We went with no set plan, we just walked a loop.  Came to a cross-trail and decided - left or right.  Came to a fork, decided left or right and just went.  Now we know we have miles and miles of walks all in one place, just by turning left instead of right and vice versa.  I can't wait to explore it further!

Excuse A's finger in the picture.  Bandit didn't want to keep still for these.

Can you see why I need to walk?

A will not be thrilled with me but...I posted one of me so...

One of the things I love about Washington State is the mind-boggling beauty that is here.  You can't throw a rock without hitting something of magnificence, usually.  And now I'm ready to get out and see it from a perspective other than the driver's seat of my car.

Here's to getting out and walking!


Jumbled Thoughts

I'm not spending enough time alone with God.  You know how I know?  I rush to judgment.  I speak in certainties - I don't ask questions.  I assume.  I form opinions based on very little.
And that is a horrible, horrible way to be.  It is also not at all the way God wants us to think.  Actually, He considers it foolish...
A fool does not delight in understanding,
     But only in revealing his own mind.  (Proverbs 18:2)
That's been me lately - speaking without really listening or thinking.  Or, if I don't speak, in my mind I've made UP my mind and I don't have all the facts.  Or I don't know the people I'm talking about or listening about.
Or worse.
A couple of huge things have happened in the last couple of weeks.  A local church's Pastor is dealing with very serious accusations by some of his parishioners and we have almost all been reeling from the unexpected death of Robin Williams.
Both of these stories have me evaluating how I come to conclusions, make decisions and just how much DO I judge others? 
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
I don't want to rabbit trail about different "judge"ing - this verse speaks to not judging and there is another verse later that speaks to how we ARE to judge but that's a conversation for another day.
In this verse, I am not to rush to condemn someone to hell for something they have said or done.  It isn't my job to say whether or not someone is meant for heaven.  That is Jesus' job and His job alone (For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, John 5:22).  I try to worm in on that and I'm asking for trouble unleashed against me like I can't begin to imagine. 
I've let this blog go, not writing, not journaling anywhere near what I used to and while seasons in life are not at all uncommon, some habits shouldn't disappear just because life itself has changed.  I am to draw near to God in all things.  Pray unceasingly and NOT make rash statements or draw hasty conclusions.
With all of the "facts" coming to light little by little I need to wait.  Be patient.  Wait on God to reveal things to me - those things He wants me to know.  Love.  And pray. 
Always, always pray.


Mother's Day... again

There are a couple of things I've said dozens, if not hundreds, of times since my mother passed away.  I am not the first person to lose my mother and I won't be the last.  I've also said I knew my mother's death would be hard but I had NO idea what hard really was until she died.

On May 15th it will have been three years since she went home.  It's interesting.  I know exactly where she is but I still refer to it as "losing" my mother and in the three years since she died, I've tried to figure out just what "losing her" is.  Yes, my mother's body died and she is no longer visible here on earth but I know when that happened the true her, the spirit of her, went to be with Jesus and when He returns, she will have a new body and I will know her better than I ever knew her before.

On days like tomorrow I feel my loss in such an acute way that it's a physical pain.  My heart feels like it's being rended in two, from top to bottom and at some point it's going to rupture.  It takes my breath away, stops me in my tracks - literally.  I'm not talking about this in some sort of figurative way - it's physical, the pain of great loss. 

And that's the loss.  That part of you that was a part of them. That part of you who relied on them for an ear, advice, a hug...  It can't be, you can't make a phone call and connect and it's a wound.  An open wound that tries to scar but... another anniversary, a smell, another memory - something... SOMETHING rips it open again.

I know I'm not the only one who will struggle tomorrow.  I know I'm not the only one whose world seems to stop on birthdays, Mother's Day (or Father's Day), other important days...holidays.  The truth is - and this is where I hope I don't sound like a cliche - I will spend tomorrow praying through the day.  I will pray for comfort and grace from God (more grace...after all He's already given...) and the ability to smile and enjoy the new memories.  To be reminded that this is the way of life, that it is hard but He is Sovereign and none of this is too hard for Him.  That He will carry me - and anyone who is hurting and asks - right on through it.  Again.  Because as great as our loss is, His love for us is greater.  There will be a reunion.  This ache, this pain, the tears - they will end.  He will end it in His time.

And so I trust.  I hurt, yes.  I cry, oh yes - a LOT, usually tears that seem as if they'll never stop.  I'll wish for the day to end, the commercials to stop, yes.  But I trust.  Ultimately I trust.  I trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.  That He works ALL things to the good of those who love Him - even when that "good" doesn't feel good (in human terms).  He loves us more than I can ever describe here.

So...there I will rest tomorrow.  At least as much as I possibly can.  And for all of you who are without your mother tomorrow, I pray He comforts you, too - in ways that surprise and overwhelm you.

Be blessed this Mother's Day.  God be with you. 


What I Learned During Lent

I'm not 100% sure that title is correct but..it works.  It's more like what I was reminded of or re-discovered AND learned during Lent but it just seems the absolute right word eludes me.
Lent started March 5th this year and it seemed a bit longer than usual but perhaps that's just because I actually gave up something that was difficult.  I started a little late (March 8th) but that was due to indecisiveness and a wish to give up something God wanted me to give up, not just pick something out of haste to make sure I started on time.
On Friday, March 7th, my husband and I were in the middle of this year's first month of counseling training and let me tell you that first speaker?  He was ummmm... difficult to sit through.  I don't mean to be or sound mean because it takes a lot to stand in front of 300 strangers and pour out knowledge to them one hour at a time but that man was boring.  Boring.  Boring as in I almost had to tape my eyes open.  As in I almost fell asleep more times than I can remember counting.  It was hard.
And in the middle of those hours I checked Facebook.  Twice.  And not just a random scroll through.  Nope.  A read each post, click on links to articles check.  Twice.  Why is that a big deal?  Because my husband and I paid $410 to take these classes this year.  That's $205 each.  At six sessions that $34.17 a day.  Doesn't seem like much but it's a significant enough number that I didn't want to be ignoring what I was being taught.
That's when it struck me.  Facebook was too important to me.  I was spending way too much time checking to see if it was my turn in Words with Friends and other such inane things.  Facebook and I needed a break.  So - that is what I gave up until yesterday.
I've signed back on and yes, I've been on it more than I should already but I've been thinking about this all day and honestly?  I am checking it less so far but I pray to continue that.  I'm asking the Holy Spirit to help me resist the dulling lure of Facebook because it does take me away from things I should be doing and actually prefer (like reading books) and keeps me from taking care of things I should take care of (like cleaning house, laundry...and my job) and that is just not good.
Above all of that, though, there were some imperative things I was reminded of, learned, discovered... and by imperative I mean draw me closer to God things.  Let me see if I can get them all listed and not forget any.

1.  Sacrifice is hard.  Even small sacrifices and my sacrifice was ridiculously insignificant next to Christ's.

2.  If I don't rely on Christ; keep my eyes on Him, I will fail at everything I try to do on my own.  Always.

3.  I cannot draw close to God if I have my eyeballs glued to a computer screen.

4.  Things happen to people in my life, things I can't control or do anything about.

5.  I love the people in my life.  I love them dearly.  I enjoy knowing what they're doing, how they're feeling, when they're struggling (I don't enjoy THAT they are struggling, though).  It gives me specific ways to pray for them.

6.  Investing in the people in my life is one of the best things I can do to glorify God.  However, investing in them in person is the best way to go about it even though the computer seems somewhat sufficient in some matters.

7.  I would like to take a trip back to Jersey.  Connecting with where I've come from is an ache in my heart that I hope to get rid of and the only way to do that is by heading in that direction.  Need to start planning that one.

8.  Facebook is a fabulous tool but it is only that - a tool.  It is not real, it is not human and it is not intimate.  If my only interaction with someone is through Facebook, I don't really know them.

9.  I love Jesus more than I realized.  I also need Him more than I really knew.

Those are the reasons that have come to mind so far.  If there are more, I'll add them but these nine things have given me a lot to think about.  A lot to use to change my habits. 

Now let's see how I do...


Good Friday

Easter and the rejoicing of the risen Christ has been my favorite holiday for a long, long time.  However, it took me a very, very long time to understand why today is called "Good" Friday.  If you still don't understand, I encourage you - find a church near you that teaches from the Bible and ONLY from the Bible and ask that question. 

In the meantime, today is a day of deep, deep reflection for me.  Several years ago God brought me to my knees, showing me just how flippant I was being, how ungrateful I showed myself to Him for all Jesus had done for me that Friday so many, many years ago.

In the years since then, I have been brought to my knees by it many times but now in awe.  In goose-bump causing awe and disbelief that He would willingly, lovingly take on the burden of enduring God's wrath so I don't ever have to experience it.  Such love I can't explain, understand or - in the face of all the evidence - ever deny. 

Colossians 2:13-15 states:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

This isn't a trivial thing.  It can feel quite removed, it can seem stupid (God speaks to that, too - see 1 Corinthians 1:17-25) but it is truth.  Life giving, life altering, life saving truth. 

That Good Friday over 2,000 years ago was a day of horror, of unfathomable sadness, terror, mockery, pain, derision and hatred but also a day of humility, love and the first step to glory.  Triumph.  Grace.

On all of that I reflect today and this evening I turn to eager anticipation because the sun will rise on Sunday and I will rejoice because the Son has already risen.  He is risen indeed.


Worth Reading

Yesterday I read this.  And I fought tears.  Not because Will has Down Syndrome but because that mother doubted she'd be able to love him as he deserved.

What a joy to read she discovered God provides - all we will ever always need.


This Season of Lent

I don't know how often I'll write about this.  This post will probably be quite random and rambling.  A few weeks ago I read this post talking about Lent.  And you know what happened, right?  You would be correct.  Something in it jumped at me and grabbed me by the shoulders so I couldn't move and stared straight into my eyes.  Into my very soul.

It was this: 

"I’ve made soup. I’ve lit the candle. We bow.
I serve bowls, I pass out bread, I pour cups.
They’re talking and I am listening and I blithely sit down and I eat.
I have bread in the mouth, the bowl half empty, when I drop the spoon. I shake the head hard. I taste disgust. I absentmindedly eat in the evening, a meal I vowed to fast from.
What was I thinking? I can’t scrub my lips clean.
I choke it out in a whisper, “Do I not think enough of You to remember?”
I close the eyes tight and the heart cries the words silent. Do I love You so little?”
It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess —
before one can be possessed of God.
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary – to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
But the flesh is corrupt. I can’t do it."

Reading that took me straight to my knees.  I was confronted by my own arrogance, my own pride.  Those words... "Do I not think enough of You to remember?  Do I love You so little?"  They echoed and echoed and echoed through what felt like very, very dark halls in my heart.  I knew better than to let that echo sound a panic that God may have deserted me but I didn't let it fool me into believing He was thrilled with who I've been...who I am becoming.  I have been "she who does life on her own."  Again.

Isn't that the way?  Or...isn't that my way?  We are I am in the Word, we're I'm praying, God is walking with us me - hand in hand.  And then something sparkles in the distance and we I run off just a little bit ahead.  We I turn back that first time but there is that sparkle again and we I run a little further...

We I run until God is a fuzzy figure in the way-back distance and suddenly?  We're I'm not sure we I can hear him calling.  We're I'm not sure what He's saying...

And because we I can't understand, we I stand there for a little bit and then turn back around to that sparkly thing...and give up listening for good.  Or until something catches our my attention and we I realize what a fool we've I've been... again.

When that happened this time, I "woke up" when I read that article and it broke my heart.  How does God suffer us so well?  I love Him so much but I don't show Him that.  Jesus becomes another word that falls off of my tongue and I am furious at myself for my laziness.

So this time I think - what can I do?  In addition to repenting my pride, my idolatry, my foolishness I look at the calendar and see yes - Lent is starting tomorrow and Easter is coming up quickly.  This year I should try - try to give up something for Lent and this time give up something more meaningful, more painful, than I have in the past.  I've always struggled with Lent (and hence gave up giving up) because it never seemed all that heart-felt to me.  I gave up something (usually chocolate) because it was the thing to do and didn't really cost much.

This time I sat and thought and prayed - what do you want me to give up, Lord?  And when an answer didn't come to me right away, I gave up and opened my computer.

To Facebook.

And it struck me - there it sat in all of it's electronic glory.  Facebook.  That social network hub that keeps me attached to the people in my life - some whom I see often and some I haven't seen in almost 30 years and ranges in between.  Facebook.  That robber of time, duller of senses and honestly?  Reducer of value.  How easy it is to compare yourself to the friend who has 300 friends more than you do or to the acquaintance who has just jetted off to yet another location to hop on yet another cruise ship...  How easy it is to place your value in comparison to others.

When your value lies only in Christ.

I repeated that to myself a few times.  Prayed over it for another day or two and then posted for all to read (so no one would think I was dead) that I was giving up Facebook for Lent. 

And boy oh boy has it hurt.  I really didn't realize just how much I'd come to rely on that silly system to provide entertainment (who doesn't love their friend's kids' funny pictures or playing hours of Scrabble and Words with Friends?), to keep me in the loop on what was happening in people's lives (what is wrong with a phone call or letter?) and to make sure I saw my "daily deals" (who doesn't need another tchotchke for the living room?). 

It's been gone one week now and I will admit - I still go a bit weak in the knees when I think about it.  The temptation to sign on and just "clear my notifications" is almost overwhelming.  Facebook has emailed to TELL me I have notifications and I think "oh...it misses me."  (Right??? Don't touch that one...  I promise you I am NOT crazy!)

Yet in that week what I have replaced Facebook with?  Journaling?  Yes.  Reading the Psalms?  Yes.  Praying more often?  Yes.  Working a bit harder?  Yes.  Tackling that pile of recipes I've wanted to sort for more months than I can remember?   Yes.

And that's just week one...

Tomorrow will be a big test.  It's Saturday and I want to organize the freezer.  I'll be home alone for the bulk of the day and you do realize that means my laptop will be calling my name, even from another room, right? 

So what plan is in place?  Prayer.  Prayer.  Prayer.  I can't do this in my strength so I am requesting He provide His and do you know what I know?  He is faithful and just and all we ask in His will has already been provided.  He works all to the good for those who love Him and this stretching and growing, this reminding myself to whom I pledged my life...

He will be faithful.