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.

On Being a Hobbit

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Gentle Reader,

We’re going through some changes in my department right now, due to the retirement of a coworker. And you know me – I just love change. I just love it when things are up in the air.

Please infuse those sentiments with appropriate sarcasm.

There’s been some back-and-forth over job description and qualifications. I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I sense that it’s been a frustrating process. We all feel the tension; it’s been an uphill battle to maintain the flow of materials, working constantly shorthanded. It’s important to get the right person for the position, I know, but I do wish the process would speed up.

Amid this discussion of candidates and what they need to know or possess, I find myself thankful that God doesn’t have a checklist. I’m glad that He doesn’t require a college degree or a certain amount of experience. He doesn’t turn anyone away. Any who fall under the shadow of the Cross are welcome into His family, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

Tonight, as The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey plays across the television, I reflect on this fact again. My husband and I joke that, if I were part of Tolkein’s universe, I would be a hobbit – living quietly, appreciating good food, enjoying the company of close friends and family. There are other, flashier characters – elves, dwarves, wizards, kings. But their glamour doesn’t mean that the hobbits are any less. Each one has an important place in the story.

Be encouraged tonight, my friend. Wherever you fall on the fickle yardstick of the world, there is One with whom you always measure up.

Grace and peace along the way.

 

31 Days of Brave: Closing

Gentle Reader,

How to put a bow on this?

I don’t know when fear became the marker of my life. I don’t know why I chose to buy into those screeching lies. Maybe they were easier to believe than the truth. Maybe I got tired of fighting. I guess the why and the when don’t really matter, difficult as that is for me to type. What matters is that my story doesn’t have to end the way it began.

Neither does yours.

The Enemy wants us to believe that bravery is impossible. The walk with Christ requires courage. We can’t make the choices we need to make, say the things we need to say or believe the things we need to believe without it. Take out courage, take out the person. Satan can’t take our salvation away from us, but he can certainly keep us from walking in victory and freedom.

If we let him.

That, I think, is my big take away. Bravery is all about choice. We forget that we have choices. I’m not usually emotionally demonstrative, but as I’m writing this I’m feeling the lump rise in my throat. The Cross and Resurrection did everything for us, and that everything includes restoring our power to choose. We’re not helpless. We’re not permanently inclined toward selfishness, brutality, fear or whatever else marked us before. Before the forgiveness of the Lord. Before the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

God Himself defines us. And He says that we are brave. He says that we have the power that raised a man from the dead within us (Rom. 8:9-11, Eph. 1:19-20). He says that we are not just conquerors – we are MORE than conquerors (Rom. 8:31-39).

So let’s end with this:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

- Psalm 27 (NKJV)

Grace and peace along the way.