13 Comments

In 2014

Gentle Reader,

I’ve come across several entries on the interwbes discussing the idea of one word for the new year. While I don’t believe that words carry any kind of mystical power, I do believe that the ideas contained within the lacing together of letters can be impactful. Deeply so. I also believe that God speaks to us through all available avenues, including blogging fads. Thus, I pondered, prayed, and kept arriving at this:

Chalkboard

This word pulls at me. It prompts many questions. When to speak and when to not? When to let the music flow and when to turn it off? When to plunge in with the crowd and when to pull away? When to write about ________ and when to let it go? When to share and when to keep secret?

Silence…I’m good at that. And so maybe the Spirit brought this word to the surface as a reminder that silence is not always golden.

I’ve also seen posts detailing a verse chosen for the new year. Usually, I would roll my eyes. Scripture is deep, complex and fascinating. How can one (or two) verses be enough to ponder for an entire twelve-month cycle?

And then I read this:

“Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” – Luke 7:50 (NKJV)

These are the ending words in a fantastic scene involving a self-righteous man, a woman with a bad reputation and an ever-wise Savior. They ring around the corners of my heart. I am often guilty of worrying about whether or not I’m really saved; whether or not God could truly forgive someone like me. I know my failings all too well. And you, dear reader, know all about my incessant anxiety regarding…everything. So, what a pronouncement! “Marie, your faith in Me has saved you. That issue is settled. Walk with Me in peace.”

What this new year holds, I don’t know, but I’m already intrigued by the intersecting of silence, faith and peace. And I have a sense of power, of being uniquely and specifically equipped for the battle I face. Any time fear comes up, I can recall those words. I can remember that Jesus assured that “wicked woman” of her place in Him. I can be sure that the same applies to me.

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re glad to see 2013 roll away or if you’re dreading the turning of the calendar. I don’t know if you’re feeling lonely or elated, sad or blessed. But there is one sure thing as we step into 365 sparkling days: God is. God is there. God is good. God is faithful.

God loves you.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

 

 


10 Comments

The Promise

* I don’t know why some of the words in this post are linked to ads. I don’t endorse any product/service. *

{ source }

Gentle Reader,

My mom asked me yesterday if there was anything in this world that doesn’t stress me out after I got nervous over a partially-consumed glass of milk sitting on the dining room table.

“Not really,” I replied. “That’s why I’m on medication, remember?”

She rolled her eyes and I smiled, because there is humor in that answer. Sock seams. Glasses of milk. Dishes that need to be returned to their owners. Laundry. I recognize the ridiculous nature of many of my compulsions and worries.

I am also thankful for them.

The hubby and I had our first official shift at the women’s and children’s shelter last Friday evening. We were introduced to all sorts of things, from operating the security cameras to locking the facility to evening med calls. We helped check in the residents for the evening, read case notes and started the process of matching names with faces. Chris played with some of the kids.  When 9 o’clock rolled around, we were both surprised at how quickly the time had passed.

I expected to be overwhelmed at the prospect of interacting with women who have lived extremely difficult lives, but I felt strangely comfortable. I don’t understand addiction and I’ve never experienced the kind of violence that might lead a woman and her children to the streets. But I do have a pill schedule. I do know what it is to feel so afraid that the emotion translates into numbness. I do battle the drive to push things down, to shove them aside, to soothe the pain. Each woman at the shelter, if she really commits to the program, comes in with all of this as her reality. She’s at the end of herself. She has nowhere else to go.

There is a rawness, a realness, to a community made up of those who have no time for bull. I don’t know their stories yet, but I can already sense, even in my limited time among them, that these ladies hunger for what is true. They’ve seen every face. They’ve been every face. They still struggle with playing the game. But they want out of it. They want something more. Something better.

In that, I find the promise of Advent.

There is hope to be found in every bad decision. There is grace to be had in every fear. We surely do live in the consequences, but even there, we do not have to be alone. Consider:

Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. – Genesis 3:14b-15

Even as the Lord enacted the Curse, the just results of the actions of Adam, Eve and all subsequent generations, He offered salvation. He promised that One would come who would bring righteousness, peace and hope. Scripture is liberally doused with reminders of this promise:

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

The people who walked in darkness. The women who walked the streets. Those who dwelt in the shadow of death. The women who spent their last dime on a fix. They have seen a great light. Upon them a light has shined.

Marie, who walked in darkness. Who nearly drowned in a sea of fear. Who crawled near the cliff of oblivion. I have seen a great light. Upon me a light has shined.

I thank God that He has saved me from myself, but I also thank Him that He has allowed me to identify, in some small measure, with the rough roads these beautiful women have walked. That is the promise of Advent. He came to save and in the saving, leaves the scars that enable us to reach out to others.

Whoever and wherever you are, there is a light. It pierces the darkness of your bad choices, your irresponsibility and the things that were forced on you. It bathes every wound and every secret place in tenderness. The light beckons you.

Jesus beckons you.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2


3 Comments

Sock Seams

IMG_20131125_191853Gentle Reader,

I’ve been in a funk.

A multiple-year funk.

The last major work I finished writing was for the Women of Faith contest a couple…actually, possibly three years ago. I forget. And reading? I pick up books only to discard them. The mojo just hasn’t been there, not for anything greater than the hammering out of a post or the quick run-through of a familiarly-plotted novel. Words, lovely black-faced words on fresh white pages or screens, haven’t been as friendly as they used to be.

I was only vaguely aware of this funk until last Monday, when the volunteer coordinator at the shelter I’m volunteering at asked me if I had any life-goals.

Cue panic, stage right.

The truth is, I’ve been focusing on getting through each day. Sometimes on surviving the day. Or the hour. I used to spend so much time berating myself for not having brought about the end of world hunger with a Pulitzer and Nobel winning piece of elegant prose. I used to feel ashamed for not having accomplished more at such-and-such an age. I used to think that it was necessary to have a five-year plan and that if I didn’t check every item off the list, I was a complete and total failure. Then the world caved in. Getting out of bed and taking a shower became the major milestones.

For someone who isn’t wildly expressive, I sure do live on the extremes. Plan out five years or plan out five minutes. No happy middle ground.

This simple question, coming from a place of completely innocent curiosity, settled on me like a thick, smelly blanket. What are my life-goals? Why can’t I think of any?

In the midst of this gloominess, I picked up Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson. The hubby had gotten the book for me over the summer, for my birthday. It had been sitting on my nightstand for weeks, untouched. I’m sure I sighed when I picked it up and thumbed through the crisp pages. Why not read? Nothing else to do.

While I’m not the heavy predestination-y sort, I do believe that God orchestrates things for our good (Rom. 8:28). I think there are times when we’ve been wandering around for long enough and He lights a spark under our rears. Where I could barely get through the introduction before, now I couldn’t stop reading. And, gloriously, I came to this sentence:

The problem is, many people can get treated for the rest of their lives and learn to manage an illness, but will never be “over it.” (p. 114)

This screamingly-apparent truth brought new light to the question of life-goals and the answering thereof. While I firmly believe that God can and does bring total healing to people if that is within His plan for them, I also firmly believe that it can be within His plan to withhold total healing. I know that this is true because of sock seams.

I’ve worn socks my whole life. I’ve never had a problem with them. For the last two weeks, I’ve had to turn my socks inside out. I can’t stand the seams. This isn’t just a “oh, seams are annoying” and you carry on kind of thing. No. I have to turn my socks inside out. I’m afraid that the seams will get between my toes and I won’t be able to fix it. If I am in a situation where I can’t fix my socks, then it must be a Very Important Situation. I don’t like Very Important Situations. If I turn my socks inside out, I can avoid the discomfort and, possibly, Very Important Situations.

Does that really make any sense?

No.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). – Mayo Clinic

I thank God that I have what you might term a “mild” case of OCD. My obsessions and compulsions usually revolve around little things, like sock seams and getting my tape dispensers at work lined up exactly. But I know what it is to feel a physical ache and a great, gnawing worry when things aren’t “just so.”

Life-goals and sock seams. And then this, in my Sunday school lesson:

There are other children of God who are hurting and need to be comforted. – Rob Prince

Amy Simpson put a lot of effort into her book. She surveyed pastors and congregations to get a feel for the prevalence of mental illness within the Christian community. My friend, it’s everywhere. The person you sit next to at church could very well be slogging through mirky depths of sadness. Could have chewed her nails to the quick out of fear. Could think that he’s getting special messages during the sermon. There are people in pain and confusion, from the new guy in the back row to, gasp!, the pulpit itself. And even though we’re learning to talk about it more, we still struggle. We still don’t have ministries that seek to serve the mentally ill; it’s no wonder that this is often referred to as the “no casserole” disease. We stigmatize. We fear. We label.

We think of victory in terms of completion. The Christian lives a victorious life if she is no longer struggling, no longer tempted. I think that’s an incomplete definition. Victory is found in turning your socks inside out and going about your day. It’s acknowledging that, yes, there is pain, but that pain will not defeat.

I don’t know if I will ever write a book that gets published. I don’t know that you’ll ever see me work the talk-show circuit. I’m sure I’ll have more days like today, when I wonder if I should really be adding my feeble voice to the cacophony. I do know what my life-goal is, though: Hope. I want to share hope with people. I want to comfort the hurting children of God.

Especially if they’re irritated by sock seams.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 242 other followers