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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Human Nature

I took a run today for the first time in...too long. I had forgotten how calming it could be. When I run it's just me and the pavement. I'm not trying to prove anything - except maybe prove to myself I can improve with every step. It's me against me. It's mindclearing.

A funny thing happens when you clear your mind of all the crap life throws at us. All the bad. All the stress. All the things you wish you could change but have to accept as hell on earth. When your mind is that clear you notice the little things. The raw beauty around us. Like a bird stopping to catch its breath. A grasshopper bouncing from blade of grass to blade of grass.

As you let go of all the dirt and grime of life that drags you down so far you can't see the top anymore, you begin to ponder the good. You think of the heartwarming story that you heard of some random person helping a stranger in some small but impacting way. You think about how people describe other people who do good things as being angels. Or heroes. Or saints.  

Human Nature gets blamed for all the bad things. Someone has some self destructive habit and it's human nature to do that. Someone makes a poor choice against better judgement or advice, oh well, it's just human nature. Or is it?

Human nature is actually perfect. Genesis tells us that God created us, male and female, in His image. God is perfect. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that we are perfect beings at our core. We were made to do good. To bring praise and honor and glory to our Maker. We are not angels on earth when we help each other. When a community pulls together after a tragedy, that is our human nature shining through - not some aberration or anomaly. 

Sin is bad. Sin is the anomaly. Society wants us to think that good is the rarity. Maybe it is but that isn't because human nature is to gravitate towards evil. It's because we are bombarded with so much bad that many of us get pushed past our breaking point. It's a choice. Everything in life is a choice. Always has been and always will be. There's a great line in a song that says something about if you decide not to choose than you still have made a choice. We have the choice to listen to our human nature to be kind, caring, considerate...good. Or not. 

What do you choose? Does your choice change often? 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Timing Skews Perception

This morning I came to the conclusion that I stink at asking for help. I have a panic attack, I fumble my words, I put it off and avoid it if at all possible. Then I decided that maybe it's worse because 99% of the time I ask for help I don't actually get help. I can count on one hand the people who have consistently helped when I've been in a bind. I could more easily count the stars in the sky than tell you the number of people who have told me that they would help me if I ever need it only to turn me down when I ask. The friends that Tracy Lawrence sings about here: 

http://youtu.be/_jyafQe_2Do

But then I did what I always do...I prayed. Now, some people pray by closing their eyes, bowing their heads, hitting their knees and formally speaking to their Maker. That's how people who don't pray a lot probably envision those of us who talk about praying like we talk about breathing, right? Well, let me break your stereotype up a bit...that's not how I pray. Not typically. 

My favorite hymn growing up was What A Friend We Have in Jesus. (Lyrics here: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh526.sht  ) I believe prayer is simply a conversation with my best friend. So I talk to God like He is sitting, standing or whatever right beside me. It's an unending conversation. Well, okay, so I do too much of the talking but those of you who know me best, are you really surprised? 

I do quiet my head to try to listen at least once a day...today, when I let it all go and shut myself up, He showed me the error in my logic. 

I asked myself, how many times have I wanted to help a friend but because of timing or circumstance I wasn't available? How many times was I actually stuck in a spot where I wanted to drop everything but doing so to help one friend or loved one would break a promise or let down another friend or loved one? Too many to count, just this year. 

I am not alone. I have the most amazing Father in heaven. I have a loving family. I have the most caring friends who are my second family. I am blessed. Blessed beyond my deserving. Blessed that my loved ones have the patience to wait for me to wake up and realize that I am not a burden in their lives. The understanding to see that my hesitation isn't because I doubt them but rather because I don't want to pester them.

So, it turns out that the timing of needs can be a serious hindrance on perception. I'm awfully thankful that God's timing is always perfect cause heaven knows my timing is atrocious! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Freedom Most Definitely Is Not Free...

Days like today I see an increase of patriotic activity...strange to me how many people only think about their freedoms and our country's sacrifices a few times a year. Here's what's on my mind tonight:

Freedom isn't free. Every freedom we have has been paid for. Through blood of our soldiers, sweat off their brows, tears from the ones the fallen have left behind. No freedom has never been free.

It's east to forget as we go about our busy lives. It isn't on the news daily. If we are not personally affected by a loved one serving, either in the military or as a first responder, than it is all to easy to only reflect on the freedoms they're protecting on days like 9/11 and the 4th of July. 

I remember. I think about it daily. I pray for God to bless each of them, and their families for the sacrifices they daily make for us. I pray His protection over them, be they near or far as they serve an ungrateful nation. I pray for their peace and comfort as I cannot begin to fathom what they go through emotionally, mentally and physically day in and day out. 

Freedom may not be free but prayer is. Thoughts are. Remember these brave and selfless men and women on more than just the days that are obvious. Because believe me, they think of us daily as they pull on their boots and prepare to face the unknown.

Gratitude is free. I give mine to every veteran, every serviceman, every first responder, to each and every person who has ever stood up and said with their actions, "You can sleep in peace tonight because I'm on watch duty and won't let you down." My thanks isn't nearly enough but it's a start. You have that and my respect forever and daily. And all my love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When You're Down To Nothing

"When you're down to nothing, God is up to something." I've always liked that quote. I'm not sure who said it, and yea I could Google it but frankly I don't feel like it. Today hasn't been the best of days but it hasn't been the worst. I've had good moments and I am clinging to those but most importantly I am clinging to God. I'm sure there's a lesson in all this. My heart and my head may not be in full agreement however I'm not about to let negativity rule my little corner of the world...if you've been reading me for any length of time I'm sure you've picked up on that. I've struggled with it the past few weeks but how's that Mandisa song go...? "I'm an overcomer!"

I write. There's a line in a song that goes something like, "people got their ways of coping and I got mine..." my way of coping is this. I write. I could write in a journal but have y'all noticed my inconsistency here? Yea, a journal is not my thing. Am I causing drama by sharing my turbulent life publicly? Maybe. Am I helping others who have, are or will go through the same or similar experiences? Judging from the comments, private messages, phone calls and emails I have received I would go out on a limb and say yes. And for that reason alone, if nothing else, I keep going. I write.

How does writing help? Well, I guess it's my outlet. Some people are athletes, some are musicians, some drink, some smoke, some party, some pray...everyone has an outlet (at least I hope & pray they do!), a place where they can escape their stress, their reality, their life...for better or for worse: I write. When I don't write I can tell that it's all bottled up inside and I end up losing a piece of myself and come off a few more shades of crazy than I normally am. 

"The good Lord gives and He takes away..." 

I suppose the argument could be made that talents fall into the category of what God can give and take. I pray He never takes away my talent for writing because I can't imagine a life without written words. However, I know that if I find myself "down to nothing," even find I can no longer right, I will still have multitudes of thanks to be given.

At the end of the day, today for example, I may have unanswered questions, I may have doubts and fears (yea, I'm still working on those!) but I have blessings in abundance. I have a Heavenly Father who has already saved me, I have two of the most amazing kids I've ever met (not just my opinion, others have told me as much), I have family that is loving and supportive, I have friends who have become family in every way that matters, I have a man who has opened my mind and my heart to possibilities that I thought I would never look forward to again after shutting the door on a fourteen year marriage that ended in total heartbreak...I am blessed beyond my deserving and no material thing on this earth could ever compare. 

Are you feeling like you are down to nothing? Believe me, my friend, you simply need to take a breath and say thanks for the air that fills your lungs. Then, find a slightly bigger blessing, and so on and so on...I bet you loose track of time by the time you count your blessings! (By the way, if you're reading this, than you are one of MY blessings, and I thank you!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear. It can influence us without knowing. It can infiltrate its way into the nooks and crannies of our lives, our decision making, our relationships, our faith. Sometimes fear isn't vague, sometimes we know we're avoiding things on purpose because of our fear. Why? Why do we allow this irrational emotion rule any part of our existence.The Bible tells us, "God has not given you a spirit of fear..." (II Timothy 1:7) so one could make the argument that fear is a byproduct of sin...but we have been saved from our sins...

So I ask again, why? Why do we not stand up to our fears? I would venture to guess the answer to this is quite different for each of us. It's hard work to stand up to your fears. It can be draining. It can feel impossible or unrealistic. Sometimes the hardest work is recognizing that fear has control of us and we have to dig deep with a lot of "why" questions to ourselves in order to pinpoint the origin of that fear so we can begin to move past it.

I have been working on this one. I'm a work in progress, I know, and I usually take a few steps forward then a few steps back and so on but I want to share what I think I've learned. I always am hopeful that in doing so it will assist someone, somewhere. Even if only one person is touched or helped than it makes sharing my life and the chaos in my head worth every moment spent typing my thoughts and emotions.

I think my biggest fear (besides my motherly fears of not being able to provide, causing my kids to need therapy later in life, etc, etc) is acceptance. Or rather, not being accepted. I'm a people pleaser, I try to make everyone happy. I know it's an impossible task. Sometimes it causes a bigger mess than it should. I have been working on it though and while I see some regressions at times I am overall seeing an improvement. It took a lot for me to get to the root of that. To admit it to myself. Then to start working on overcoming it. Pray helps. A LOT!

I mention prayer because it is a big part of my life. I don't always think of it as prayer though, I have a conversation with God and since I know He's always with me it's kinda a constant, never-ending one.

I have come to realize that His opinion is the only one that matters. His acceptance is the only one I need. And I already have it, He accepted me, a sinner, and loved me so much His Son paid for my transgressions on a cross a long, long time ago. This of course does not mean I just live my life without considering my choices and their implications. It means that I get myself, my choices, right with God and let the rest of the world worry about themselves.

I have also come to realize that my true friends accept me for who I am and will always support my decisions. Those who love me unconditionally will be happy for me and with me if I am happy. I am blessed to have these people in my life. I am ashamed I have not given them more credit. And by that I mean, I should trust them to have my back no matter what anyone else says or does to react to what is going on in my life.

As people learned of my separation and impending divorce from my husband the support that flowed out was overwhelming. The understanding, the love...I had feared the worst and never saw it. So I'm putting it to the test. I'm kicking fear in the teeth tonight. I have been letting the fear of, "what will people think?" and "what will people say?" keep me from talking openly about something positive in my life...

I have met someone. An amazing man that I can only describe as being a blessing sent from God. He is a kind, thoughtful, gentle, caring, generous and God-fearing man who has lit up my world. I could go on and on but I think what my friends would say is important is that I am happy. To say I am being treated well would be an understatement, he makes me feel like a princess. For the first time in my adult life, I feel cherished. It's an odd and wonderful feeling. I, in turn, am cherishing this feeling and this man. One day at a time. God is great. Life is good. People will call me crazy. I like crazy, it's a good place to reside.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Honesty Hour...Human or Hypocrite?

Oftentimes I get friends, family, even strangers coming to me for inspiration. Often I hear that my faith inspires them; my strength in the Lord inspires them; my words inspire them. I am humbled, honored and so grateful for those moments, for the people, for those interactions. That God would choose a broken, battered, imperfect vessel like me to share a small glimpse of His love is the kind of legacy I hope to leave behind.

But…

On days like today…no…on weeks like the past one, I feel unworthy. I feel like a hypocrite. How can I tell of His love, advise to be patient on His timing, praise His name one moment and then a few more moments later I end up telling a friend that I’m not on speaking terms with the Man upstairs?  I sound like a phony, right? Here’s why I think I’m not, maybe why I had to fall into that pit of despair…maybe part of my purpose is to write. Maybe that is how I am supposed to shine God’s love.

Huh?

I have a friend who lovingly jokes with me, we both are convinced that God needs to frequently pull out a 2x4 to whack us on the head before we receive His message. Guess what’s been pulling gently at me for a while? Writing. Guess what’s been really tugging hard at the hem of my garment for the past few days? Writing. You don’t even need a guess as to what I knew I couldn’t go another night without after the day I had today…you’re reading the true-to-Niki style chaos of the results.

Have you ever been in this predicament (as either party): person A asks person B to help out with something but person B says, “Yea, but first…” Person A comes back after a while, person B again, “Oh yea, I will, I will, but first…” and on and on until person A is all, “HELLO???” (The 2x4 to the head, right?)

I have heard from multiple sources the concept that you should be careful what you pray for. A “please teach me patience” prayer can turn into raising a toddler & a tween at the same moment In time. A prayer asking for wisdom and peace to learn to hear His still, small voice can turn into coming to the point where you text your friend, “Well, I would pray for you but I don’t know how much merit it would hold today because He and I are no longer on speaking terms,” and it turns into an hour long conversation, by the end of which I am writing this blog.

I have the privilege of worshiping at an amazing church with a very wise, very humble, very down-to-earth priest. He spoke to us a little while back about the myth behind being “called” to do God’s work/will/etc. I won’t go into it all (partly because this is already half-novel-length but mostly because I wouldn’t do it justice) but it shocked me a little when I first digested it. But the more I played it over in my head, the more sense it made…

God doesn’t need me. If I don’t write, someone else will. If I am not a reflection of His light in the world today, others will be. Does that mean I shouldn’t write? Nope. Should I allow His light to be covered instead of shine through me? Of course not! What it means to me is that while I may not be ‘called’ to write this blog or my devotionals, or anything for that matter, I am called, as His child, to share His love with the world. 

There are many ways to do this, it’s not going to look the same for each of His children, it won’t even look the same to each Christian who writes about Him…but when we share His love unconditionally, when we share His love without judgment, or strings attached, then we are fulfilling His calling, His purpose for our lives. We can do that in a blog, or by paying for a strangers meal; we can do that by volunteering our time or by donating goods; if we do it in love it will ultimately point to Him.

Yea. I am human. I am broken, battered, bruised. Earlier today I was not on speaking terms with God. I felt like He had failed me. I felt like He had broken His promise from Matthew, chapter 28 when He said He is with us always even to the end of ages. I was wrong. Of course I was wrong! I read something last week, scrolling through Facebook, it said something about having to hit rock bottom to learn that He is our Rock.

I hope that sharing my flaws, sharing my struggles and tantrums (because clearly I was having one today if I tried giving God the silent treatment, am I right???) can somehow help. If even one person can find their light renewed, their spirit refreshed from something I rambled out here than I have shared His light tonight. I pray none of you ever has to feel as helpless and hopeless as I did however I equally hope that if you ever do than God will send you an olive branch the way He did for me tonight.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sometimes Silver Linings Look Grey

Six weeks.

I will have six weeks to fill with non-momma time. That's a LONG time to go without hugs, kisses, laughs and all the joy, laughter and love that fills my days now. Okay, if I'm brutally honest the reality is that my days are also filled with frustration, headaches and patience killing moments. But those happy moments make every challenge worth it and are the reason I smile when I think about my children. 

My kids know that I won't put up with negative thinking or overloads of complaints. We look for the positive spin in everything, it's not a rugged obstacle it's an adventure. Sure we have moments when we do have to vent to each other but then we help each other find the silver lining. Right now, the silver lining of their impending visit to another state some 800+ miles away, without me, is looking more grey than shiny and sparkly.

So my challenge the next 8 days is to reinforce what they already have come to expect from me, I have to help them see the positive! They are going on vacation, to a state that they have spent little time in so there is much to be explored! They are going to get to spend time with family they have rarely seen over the past nine years, my son will meet aunts, uncles and cousins he has never laid eyes on! God has His hands on them and He will make sure they are cared for and blessed! I have to focus on that and most importantly: I have to show that side of this trip to them...I need to help them get excited about it.

I haven't done a great job of that over the past five days and shame on me for that! My kids need the momma they have come to count on for finding the positive when no one else can; the momma who makes anything, even chores, fun; they need their momma to be their ray of sunshine in their uncertainty over the upcoming journey they are about to embark upon.

I can do this - I have found the positive in being unemployed, in a house foreclosure, I can certainly tackle this with sunshine, rainbows and butterflies! However, I can only do this because God is my strength. I know He is here with all three of us and even while we'll be half a country away from each other He will keep us in each others' hearts, thoughts and prayers. 

Prayers...please keep my kids in yours. Pray with me that they will have so much fun and such an adventure this summer that they won't miss me even for a minute. Pray for their safety and comfort. But most of all, pray they will begin to rebuild the broken relationships in their lives so they can face the future with all their loved ones securely in their corner.