The Detox Diaries, Five Minute Friday Edition: Lost

I love how this little one ponders.

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Gentle Reader,

It’s #fmfparty time! Linking up with Lisa-Jo and all the fabulous bloggers. This week we are: lost.

Go. 

I like to joke that I’ve failed at every formal church ministry that I’ve ever been part of. I’ve led Bible study groups, headed up a library project, hosted book discussion groups, taught Sunday School, helped with Wednesday night kid’s classes and even had a board position for a (very) brief period of time. The groups fizzled out, the library never got anywhere, the book group lasted about 4 months, the Sunday School job was never more than fill-in, I recently had to step aside from Wednesday nights and, yeah, boards are NOT for me.

I try to keep it lighthearted. I try to remember that there are seasons and times.

But behind the joking, there is frustration.

The truth is, I feel lost.

Belonging is a real soul craving. Every one of us feels it. This need is one of the reasons that God instituted the Church. We need community. We need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We need to contribute. We need a role and we need to fulfill that role.

Purpose, really, is what we’re after.

And when you don’t know what your contribution is supposed to be…

It’s not spiritual gifts. I know I’m a teacher, because I will absolutely tell anyone and everyone what I’ve been learning if given the chance. I also know that I’m an exhorter (Chris refers to this as bluntness, but whatever). Basically, I love the God’s truth and want to know all about it so I can tell other people. Pretty straightforward.

It’s how this is supposed to work out that gets me. How are these gifts to be used in His Body when my body keeps me at home so often? When I can’t promise that I’ll be at every class, every meeting? Should I even try anything when there’s a very real possibility that I’ll have to bow out?

I’m going over the five-minute limit here, but there are some deep questions that chronically ill people wrestle with. The Church hasn’t done a very good job in helping to answer those questions. It seems that if you’re not able to be on 6 committees and attend 3 services per Sunday, plus mid-week classes, don’t bother. If you’re in a wheelchair, don’t bother. If you’ve got cancer, don’t bother.

I don’t think that this attitude is intentional. I’m sure that many assume that ill people simply can’t or don’t want to be involved. And there are definitely limitations when you’re sick. But being sick sucks. It’s boring. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I get tired of myself. I want to be part of something and get my mind off of my belly-button. I want to be asked. To be included.

That’s all anyone wants.

Stop.

Grace and peace along the way.

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

The Detox Diaries, Five Minute Friday Edition: Hands

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Gentle Reader,

It’s Friday (kind of)! We link up with Lisa-Jo (but this week Tonya is guest-posting and it’s awesome)! We write about: hands.

Go. 

The Lord doesn’t speak to me in an audible voice. There are no burning bushes. No directions to build an ark. His voice is quiet. It is an impression on my soul. Yet it is authoritative. He says something, I respond. I have to. I’ve learned the hard way that ignoring Him leads to no good end.

Last night, as I was on the verge of breaking down, I opened my journal and began to pour out all my confused, twisted, rambling thoughts and feelings. I was ready to sob. Ready to scream.

Ready to cave in and give up.

“John Fifteen.”

Two words.

I flipped open my Bible and read:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. – vs. 1-8

God the Gardener. God the Tender of Tender Flowers.

In His hands, He holds the shears. He knows when and where to cut. He knows what needs to be gotten rid of and what needs to be delicately cut back so that it will produce more. Abundantly more. Flowers weeping rich fragrance. Fruit full of juicy goodness.

His hands, His beautiful, nail-scarred hands, hold each green, pulsing stalk. He considers them. He looks them over. And He cuts. Precisely. Significantly.

Never to dampen the plant. Never to break its spirit.

To make it grow.

Stop.

Pruning hurts. I won’t tell you that it doesn’t. But knowing that God, the Creator of all things, knows the plan backwards, forwards and inside out; that He knows exactly what to throw away and what to cherish; that He works within, around and through me to make me into exactly the person I am supposed to be…that gives me comfort.

Grace and peace along the way.

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

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.