Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Joy and Pain

A friend of mine said once. "You have to let the pain wash over you and then when you are ready, you will move away from it." That made a lot of sense to me because I strive to understand emotional pain and why it affects me so deeply and so personally for such a long time. Yet, there is sense of joy that will overtake the pain if I allow it to.

This is a devotional by Rick Warren. I just had to share this so I copied the parts that put words around what I have been struggling to express.

"My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible! Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible. We have to start somewhere more realistic — and close to Scripture.
So here’s the definition I’ve come up with from studying Scripture:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.
We tend to think that life comes in hills and valleys. In reality, it’s much more like train tracks.
(Here's the part I like.)
Every day of your life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to you. At the exact same time, painful things happen to you or those you love that disappoint you, hurt you, and fill you with sorrow. These two tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of your life.That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there is still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense."

There are days when life does makes the day my new grandson was born 5 weeks prematurely and my prayers given up with fear and panic for all those months were radically, graciously answered with a resounding "yes". Despite all the warnings from the specialists, he was perfectly normal, breathing on his own, crying and a full pound heavier than they anticipated. I can't even begin to describe the joy and relief I felt at the moment the nurse came out with what I would call miraculously good news. I thought I might just burst.

Not every day is that emotionally charged but I have to focus on the idea that there is joy to be experienced in each day. I admit being sensitive, easily hurt and overly aware and honestly, there are few who truly get that. My artist's soul needs "something beautiful to touch me"...yes, pretty much every day. This beauty comes in many forms like music, art and contact with friends and loved ones. But, topping the list is the Savior I have, the God who answers prayer. That should be enough to turn a frown upside down....every time, every day.
I'm working on that

What's This Self Love Stuff?

Self love, self esteem, self preservation...all buzz words that are pretty prevelant in our culture today. I don't remember hearing a lot about that as a kid. In Sunday school, I mostly learned how to be "unselfish" and how to love others. There is some sort of line I must be missing.

I've been talking to a friend about self love. Doesn't that sound pretentious or arrogant? I have to define for myself what love of self is and then what it means to me.

I do like some of the things I do. I could list those things that fall mostly into the accomplishments/experiences/relationships category. I could even tell you how incredibly blessed I am in many ways but I don't think that is the axis this thing is spinning on.

A friend asked me if I enjoy being alone with myself? I said that I don't know if I ever have been alone with least for an extended period of time. Then, here's the question. When you are alone, are you with your best friend or your worst enemy? I spent time trying to wrap my head around that, well frankly, sometimes I truly am my own worst enemy. I am harder on myself than anyone would ever be and I let my thoughts take me to places that are not safe or healthy for my self-esteem or for my faith.

My life has been predicated on serving others, students, family, kids, parents, community and of course, God. I usually fall in somewhere near the bottom on my "to do" list and if there are needs that interfere with what I'm thinking I want, they always come first. That, my friends, really is an addiction. Do they have a PA? Pleasers anonymous, or CA Caretakers Anonymous? It would be great to be able to share that struggle with others who walk this path. I have the gift of exhortation, (encouragement, cheerleading). I am attempting to set healthy boundaries around that.

John Eldredge, from the book "Walking with God", You can't find your real purpose in life while you're still slavishly serving other people;s expectations of you. You can't find peace while you're ruled by fear. You can't enjoy what you have while you're envying what the other guy has."

I am shocked to find out that I need not give up myself and my innermost desires in lieu of others and their needs....all the time. I do think there is a place of sacrifice for the good of the whole and I will never become calloused to the needs of others. I am in the business of service. I serve others as a teacher but there is a point at which I give up myself and what makes me tick. I give up on seeking those goose bump moments that fill my own heart and set my spirit free. Why? Here's what resonates in my thinking. Others needs are more important than my own. I don't like confrontation. I don't want to "rock the boat" or make people mad or cause people to hurt or to dislike me. The list goes on and on. Those last statements have been an integral part of my daily thought process. I have given up many things that I love, things that make my socks go up and down. And I absolutely DO know what those things are.

So, the question remains. Why do I do that? "People pleasers have never learned to say no, they think that others would get mad at them; and when that happens it means they're bad people and would be abandoned by the people they love." Earnie Larsen

Okay, here's the simple Biblical truth that may have helped me turn a corner.
A wise woman quoted scripture, a commandment, to be exact, that I committed to memory as a child. She said, "Love thy neighbor, as thyself." Hmmmmm. That means it is a given, to GOD, that we love ourselves.
That thought never occurred to me....until now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Off we go!

I'm stoked. I sit at my desk and watch student after student walk into my art room with a powerful tool in tow. We are on a steep learning curve with our new computers but we're getting there...quickly. With Adobe Creative Suite, including the latest version of Photoshop and a sweet printer in the office that I can print to from my room, we are starting off the year in a whole new dimension. It's been a good start to the year and the possibilities are endless.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"In The Blink Of An Eye"

I always look forward to Christmas. The anticipation and planning is exciting and keeps me smiling during this time of year. I love the break from school to be with family and in my own home where it is warm and the smell of baking fills the air. This year was especially nice because the kids were home and stayed longer than usual. I so love finding treasures for each of them and thinking about what would surprise them. It becomes a challenge and daily ritual until all the gifts are neatly wrapped and piled under the tree. When the little ones see it for the first time, their expressions are priceless as they run towards the tree to check for their names.

I really don't care about the getting part and people get frustrated with my lack of "list". All it takes is a sentimental card or a picture that reminds me of a special time and I get all sappy and become teary eyed. In years past it was a contest to see who could "make mom cry". be honest, that doesn't take much. My heart is way to soft for it's own good.

Of course, not everything goes perfectly, the prime rib didn't get warm and I panicked about that, the effervescent wine we brought home from Italy blew all over the kitchen when the cork was popped, I couldn't remember how to work the self-timer on my camera to the dismay and impatience of those waiting to eat and the little one in the high chair decided she was finished and turned the tray full of corn and cheesy potatoes over on the floor. Despite those temporary set backs, we all ate, dressed and made it to church for a blessed Christmas Eve Service. There is something incredibly precious about having your family in church...(especially when it's not Christmas or Easter but that's a blog for another day).

We had a wonderful Christmas and my heart was full from all the hugs and kisses, the squealing, laughter and teasing and kids reminiscing memories. It seems that everyone is a little more loving, tolerant, appreciative and kind. I was keenly aware of my blessings this year as everyone is basically healthy and happy and there are no major problems that we have to deal with. That is blessing beyond blessing and it was sadly not the case in some families this year.

Then, in the blink of an eye it's over. People have to go home, the tree and lights have to come down and it's back to work and the normal every day things. There are things that just thrill me beyond words and then, so quickly, they are over and somehow I must find a way to be okay with that. My thrills (aside from our trip to Italy) almost always swirl around the ones I love and getting to see them or be with them. I think it is probably okay if I am disappointed when it's over. I think about all this and how blessed I am and what a good life I have to enjoy on a daily basis. I have much to look forward to as I anticipate the next time those special thrills come my way.

Then, I am reminded that in this life, we always have that anticipation. When Christ died, He gave us something grand to look forward to. Despite the disappointments of this world, He told us that He would return to take us to Him if only we believe in Him and His work of salvation on the cross. There is hope and joy that pale in comparison to any happiness we have experienced in this world.

In the blink of an eye, our lives will be over and then...get ready for the real thrills to begin.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ouch, that hurts!

I know that there are a lot of people right this very minute that are hurting for a variety of reasons. Some people have seemingly unbearable problems, burdens that make me ashamed to sulk about the small stuff. But some of them are people just like me who should be fine, they're living in the sweet spot, just cruising through life. There is no illness at the moment, there is no major problem, no issues of real note, but there is a hurt, a pain that comes from the small arrows that have apparently never been addressed over the years and the resulting confusion whirling around the "why am I feeling like this" question.

There are just things that come to the surface when I least expect it and sweep my legs out from under me. After I recover from the surprise, I get to my knees and lay them before the throne. Through the tears, I try to hand them to the one who offers healing and security.  It's a scary feeling to let go of those things but it's a necessary release.  There isn't a lot of inspiration in this writing, just truth.  I'm sorry that I can't explain it any better than that but those of you who have pain...of any kind...understand. 

Lately, in dealing with some things, I have been hearing what I believe is a still voice from God that keeps saying "trust me".  I don't know what that means except to know that He offers something calm and peaceful, something greater than I can imagine, something I don't understand but desperately need. Does that take away the stings of today? Right at the moment, it does not, but then maybe it is not supposed to. I am thinking it may be a calm in the storm, a hand extended from heaven to hold while I wait,  the comfort I need to get through the darkness unafraid until the sun shines on me again....and it will.
 Now, here is good news for those of us who are more vulnerable to our hurts and fears at night.
 The Son is always shining on us, even in the dark.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"As It Turns Out"

I am from a church going family. I can't remember a Sunday when we weren't in church and at a family dinner after. It was just what Sunday was about in my world and it has given me some of my most treasured memories. I was in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation and every conceivable youth event our church had to offer. Still, there was a part of me that felt confused and empty, like I was involved in all the business and politics of "churching", but I didn't really understand what faith was really about and there wasn't a lot of talk about salvation.

I thought I just wasn't old enough yet or that there was something more I needed to do. I remember a lot of chanting, standing up and sitting down and hymns that I knew all the words to but sang without thinking about what those words meant. Maybe that sounds familiar to someone.  It is really a personal recollection, and not meant as a slam against any particular church or denomination. I know some extraordinarily faithful people in churches like the one I went to.  I remember a lot of twenty minute talks about God but what I don't remember is someone going through scripture verse by verse and teaching God's word as bottom line truth.  Maybe I was just to young to remember. I even had a pastor, yes, a pastor tell me once that the Bible was written 2000 years ago and is not really applicable for today. That really messed me up!

As I experienced pain and a lot of searching in my life, I found my personal Savior in Jesus Christ and turned my life over to Him. He meets us where we are and I found that so comforting. I didn't have to totally understand doctrine or theology to have His forgiveness, unfailing love and acceptance.  God chose the Bible as His way of communicating with His people and I decided that I needed to know what was in there.  I also determined that I could read it literally and believe that it is truth.  If I can't count on the integrity of scripture then I have no baseline from which to operate.  If it isn't ALL true, then none of it is and it is not worth the time to sort it out.

I have had periodic spurts of quality preaching but I was still missing something.  I believed the Bible and I had no qualms about looking there for answers but I didn't know how to study. I didn't know how it was all connected and which parts were written as prophecy, which were written literally and which were parables. I had no clue about the book of Revelation and virtually no understanding of end times. I didn't know the historical background or chronology that provides necessary incite to the setting and culture of the times.  Turns out that is pretty important and I didn't even know where to begin.

I have to say that all of that has changed. I began to sit under the teaching of a Bible teacher with an incessant  passion for teaching the word of God. He studies the whole picture including historical documents and commentaries from the time. He understands church history. He knows the culture, the region and has actually gone to Jerusalem to study.  When I began to sit under verse by verse Bible teaching with someone who has an incredible gift of making it interesting with movie like reality, I began to put those lost pieces together and figure out that the Bible is a book that IS meant to be understood.  It is meant to communicate with us the ultimate truths of God. Turns out, it is really interesting. Turns out, it is full of instruction for today. Turns out, it was meant as a personal communication to His church and me.  After years of confusion, it turns out that what I really needed was in my hands all along. I just needed to listen to someone who is brave enough to teach it verse by verse without the fear of people getting restless and voicing disapproval at it's depth. Thank you Galyn for not watering it down, for making it real and exciting and for unapologetically bringing the truth to light.  I hope you know what an impact you are making. As it turns out, the truth did set me free.

If you're interested in listening to Galyn Wiemer's teaching, check out his website at It is full of study aids, audio and video teaching and opportunities to attend other Bible studies in Des Moines. He has written four books including a comprehensive study book, "Framework For Christian Faith".  We are privileged to have him teaching at Faith E-Free Church in Audubon on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Please feel free to join us on this incredible journey.