Turtle Like Tendencies

7 Jan

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I get the heart of this message and agree with it, truly this world does not need another voice joining the chorus of negativity, whining, complaining or insult throwing.  Beyond that, I try to be a person that if I am speaking I am hoping it is to add to the equation and not subtract. 

A couple of months of dealing with serious family health struggles left me physically and emotionally tired, dealing with my own feelings of shame for failing at making desired progress in my life, for not being able to do everything well, add in my own physical crisis and all the issues that can make one consider left me in a place that I’d been before, back in my shell.  It’s dark and lonely there and deceptively “safe”.

What happens when life overwhelms and you’re trying to survive and feel a bit like an empty shell hoping that if you keep hanging on, the winds will shift and you’ll be able to sail again?  I can tell you what happens to me.  I don’t want to but I will.  I follow my inclination to become turtle like, I tuck inside my shell.  Radio silence. 

I mean, what is there to say?  What do I have to offer at this juncture?  Nothing you probably want.  So I go with my propensity for solitary confinement.  There’s nothing cute to talk about and I’m out of wise tips and quips so I’m quiet.  No need to meet up for coffee, I’m not good company these days.  I even stop writing so I don’t have to deal with my own internal conversations.  It’s rough when you annoy yourself!

Maybe, I’m the only one that follows this custom, but I kinda doubt it.  It seems there is likely to be a few who will read this and admit at least to themselves that they go with the train of thought that “I’ll get through this on my own”, “No one’s knocking down my door anyway”, “If they really knew what was going on with me, I’d be even more alone”, “I don’t want to be a pain or a drain”….on and on, it’s easy to believe lies when you’ve pushed anyone away who could speak truth.

My shell-like tendencies that I have often struggled with have not served me or others well.  They ensure that I stay in the pain and shame.  They cut me off from life and whisper the same old sad song. 

I want to be the kind of person who can listen to others when it’s not convenient or fun.  I want to be a person who talks with Jesus even when I don’t feel like He is answering because I hold tightly to the truth that He is for me even when my faith is faltering.  I want to be vulnerable enough to say something when it’s not cute or clever.  I want to be humble enough to admit my need and accept help.  I want to be brave enough to speak, even if it makes me feel weak and needy, because truth be told I am.  Truth is we all are. 

I’m peeking out from the shell and don’t want to retreat any longer.  If I cling to my turtle like tendencies I am fighting against the very way God intended me to operate.  He created you and I to share life, to do life together.  Sorry, but I need you and you need me!  I have recently placed some on purpose accountability in my life in different areas.  I have asked people to check in with me and check up on me.  To knock on the shell and drag me out if necessary. 

I pray that anyone reading this who may also struggle with turtle like tendencies will also choose to stick their neck out and invite others to walk this journey with them.  I’ll admit it, it’s a little scary coming out from under that shell but what is scarier is not living the lives we were meant to live because we are too busy hunkered down trying to survive. 

Be encouraged my friend!

Bonus Time

12 Aug

June 27th I was sitting in the hospital with my dad who had been admitted days before, while my sister was taking my mom to the emergency room as she was not feeling right.  What we assumed would be a quick trip turned into a wild & scary ride! Hold onto your seats.

I will never forget entering her room in the critical care unit for the first time and seeing her hooked up to all these wires and monitors with a tube down her throat.  I don’t do hospital’s well to begin with so seeing my mom like this was rough.  I observed from a few feet away at first, I had been told she could likely hear us and know we were there and I wanted to get myself together so I didn’t reveal to her how I was feeling inside at that moment.  It took me a bit to compose myself, I approached the bed, rubbed her hand and said, “Hi Mama”.  That was all I could do before my throat started to constrict and tears came.  In another 10 minutes, I tried again, “Hey Mama, it’s me Denise, I’m here” and I was done again.  A few more deep breaths and I made another approach, “Hey Mama, it’s Denise, you’re in the hospital and they’re taking really good care of you, all of your family has been here, Dad’s feeling better and we all sure love you.”  That was all I could do before my voice starting to give me away again.  I worked my way up to scooting a chair by her bedside, holding her hand and singing some of her favorites to her.  Cherished time with my mom.

The roller coaster ride continued day-to-day, hopes were dashed as the Doctor talked with my sis-n-love and I about the seriousness of mom’s condition and prognosis.  We cried, we prayed, others prayed and we continued to take turns sitting by mom’s side telling her how loved she was.  Mom would start to get a little restless as sedation would wear off and I was so concerned that she would become uncomfortable or frightened.  So, I was getting the nurse when mom opened her pretty blues and made direct eye contact with me.  I gave myself a split second pep talk so I’d appear calm, looked her in the eyes and said “I love you mama” and she mouthed back “I love you”.  It was the best I love you ever!

Getting my mom off the ventilator was not a smooth process, paddles were used on her chest 3x the day her tube was taken out to get her heart beating in rhythm.  How thrilling it was to walk into her hospital room after she was taken off the vent and see her alert and able to talk with us, even if her voice did have a new gravelly sound to it thanks to the whole ordeal.  Sadly, our celebration quickly turned to concern as she was not sustaining acceptable oxygen levels on her own.  Emotional rollercoaster.

The ride takes another twist later that day when the doctor talks with mom about the seriousness of her condition and that if she is not able to sustain proper oxygen levels on her own very soon, they may have to put her back on the ventilator.  If she goes back on the ventilator, there is less than 10% chance she’ll ever come off of it.  Tough news to process.

Doc came back on evening rounds and all 3 of us kiddos were there with mom so we could ask questions and have  a beyond difficult conversation.  The doctor was wonderful, informative, compassionate but it was hard, it stunk and none of us liked what we were being forced to deal with.  After the doc left the 3 of us stood around mom’s hospital bed and we asked mom about her life, if she was content and happy, if she had any questions for us, we reminded her how much we loved her and want her to stay with us and we made some tough decisions together, we tried to be strong and supportive but a few tears escaped anyway.  After all the talk, mom asks the 3 of us, “are you guys ok?”  There was a brief pause and then my brother took the lead with the honest answer and said, “No we’re not ok, this stinks, but we are ok with having you as our mom.”  Sweetness in the midst of pain.

The crazy ride continued, she was eventually released from critical care to another floor and just when we thought she was about to move into a nursing facility to gain some more strength, she was back in critical care with pneumonia.  Mom has been home now for almost three weeks and I’d say we’re still in the midst of a new adventure.  Thankful though for the opportunity.

My brother said in the hospital when things started looking up, “I think we got some bonus time with mom”.  I know many people wish they could have some bonus time with their loved one, so this blessing of more time together is something we want to cherish deeply, even when it’s hard and the ride feels a bit bumpy.

I reflect on the wild ride we’ve been on the past several weeks because today is my beautiful mom’s 65th birthday!  Only a month ago, as I was driving home from the hospital, I was literally crying out to God and begging Him to make a way that she could stay here with us longer.  Thankful that God answered that prayer and the prayers of family near and far, the prayers of church family and friends from all over.  So today, we’ve taken the day off work to celebrate a wonderful woman, whom we are blessed to call “mom” and soak up some of our “bonus time” with her.

Mom, on your birthday and every day, I want you to know and be confident in this, you are deeply LOVED and love NEVER fails!!!

 

 

 

 

Girls, It May Sound Nice, But It’s Hogwash!

5 Mar

I think my southern roots may be coming out in this blog post title 🙂  This post has probably been inside me for quite some time, but to be honest, I didn’t want to write it.  I guess I didn’t want to write it for a few reasons…1.)  I really don’t want to be the poster girl for Christian Single Women in America  2.)  I think most people that read my blog are NOT Christian singles.  3.)  It is such a personal area for me to write about that it takes a certain amount of courage to hit “publish” on this one.

If you are a Christian single woman, this blog post is definitely for you, but if you are a parent, a pastor, a ministry leader, a friend or a family member that has influence in the life of the next generation of females, then I would appreciate a couple minutes of your time as well.

I think I spent most of my life believing the cute cliché’s that are told to many young women who have grown up in church culture.  They sound nice…but, boy are they a set up for major disappointment and disillusionment.  I have heard hundreds, if not more over the years whether it be someone forwarding me an email, sharing their well intended feelings on my singleness, posting on Facebook, almost every single Christian young lady has a Pinterest board dedicated to this stuff!

Some examples, if you’re not quite sure, what I’m talking about…

“Dance with God and He will let the perfect man cut in.”  I say HOGWASH!!  It sounds nice and you could put it on a wall hanging in your college dorm room easy enough, but its wrong, wrong, wrong!  My wall plaque, is not nearly as catchy and would take a much larger piece of wood to fit it all on, but it would read something like this…”Dance with God and He may have an imperfect man (because that is the only type of human that exists) sent your way.  This imperfect, but godly man will have his own vibrant relationship with Jesus and therefore, loves and supports your dance time with your first love and doesn’t try to cut in on it.”  Get my point?

Oh, how about this one?  The things we say to make ourselves feel better.  I’ve had a couple friends that love me greatly send me this one…Don’t worry if you’re still single.  God is looking at you right now saying, I’m saving this girl for someone special.” 

To be honest, this next one, kinda ticks me off a little…”When God knows you’re ready for the responsibility of commitment, He’ll reveal the right person, under the right circumstances.”  Certainly relationships are a responsibility, especially if you intend to see them through, however, my lack of a relationship is not an indicator of my responsibility level. In addition, this message again affirms the dangerous mentality that if I behave in such a way, then God will do this or that.  Not how it works!  If you think it is, you are headed for disappointment big time!

I feel I would’ve been better served and many young women today would be better served by hearing these messages:

  • You are worth more than this world comprehends.
  • You are complete in Christ.  He makes you enough!  There is no waiting on a man, a certain a moment, a particular achievement.  He’s called you, He’s equipped you, so Fly!
  • Sometimes you don’t get what you want and it hurts!  God knows hurt, God knows loss, God knows sacrifice, run to Him with the pain not away from Him. This journey we are on with Him is one of faith of trust and ultimately that means, I say, “God I don’t understand why not me, but I know you love me and I trust you to do what’s best for me” and surrender and I pray that prayer as frequently as I need to.
  • I am loved!  Maybe not in the ways I imagined for my life with a husband and family, but I am loved and complete in Him.

Singleness is not what I would’ve picked for my life, it’s not what I wanted, but even the unwanted circumstances of life can be a gift when we surrender them to God.  I have a God who loves me beyond my ability to comprehend and friends and family that love and support me in countless ways.

The truth is this…there is no human on earth who can or will complete me (and all married people said “Amen”).  God has a plan for my life and it is GOOD.  He has equipped me and I am made complete in Him!  I am determined to pursue God wholeheartedly and if by chance a man who loves Jesus shows up on the scene, BONUS!  All that other stuff, shake it off, cause it’s just plain ole HOGWASH!!

 

 

Christmas Letter

22 Dec

Family & Friends,

It boggles my mind to think that God looked into the future, saw you and me and out of His great love for us, developed this mind bending plan to save us from ourselves. He has a big picture in mind and the way He goes about accomplishing His plans leaves me dumbfounded. His ways and thoughts are truly higher than mine!

2015 has been a perspective bringer for me! Starting a new job last December gave me a whole new vantage point to take a look at myself and this life God has given me. The transition in job has been difficult for me in several ways, difficult because it forced me (the positive spin would be enabled me) to take a look from a different vantage point at what kind of person, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, servant, leader that I am. God has also used people as He often does and new challenges to reveal Himself to me this past year. Much of what I’ve seen and realized has been a reminder that I desperately need a Savior and that is a good thing to remember.

I have spent most of my life in love with the Lord, desiring to serve Him, but I did have ideas of what that would look like. Guess what? It doesn’t look like what I thought and to be honest, I have wrestled with God about that.

I have struggled with what to do when life isn’t going how I want, when you keep waiting and hoping and there just doesn’t seem to be any give. What do you do with unanswered prayers, unfulfilled dreams or an ache in your heart that is always beneath the surface?

I am seeing a shift in my perspective with the Lord, it is changing the way I pray and the way I view my part of God’s big picture here on earth. With God’s help, I am learning to see beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with getting over myself daily, but I want my life here on this planet, however, long that may be, to matter beyond my designated time slot. That means, I must defer to the one with the big picture, that means that my life is God’s story to write, even when it has unforeseen plot twists. It means that when God appears, unfair, unjust or unloving, I am using my limited perspective and not His eternal one.

It is my prayer for both myself and you that we will have the strength it takes to surrender those things we don’t understand to the One who does, that we will have a vision of life that goes far beyond ourselves, that what matters to the heart of God would be foremost in ours.

I am thankful for a God who has gone to such great lengths to show His love for you and I, who consistently demonstrates kindness and patience with my many failings and He doesn’t ask that I do it alone, He continually comes close. He is Immanuel, God with us! He is with me and you too, right in the middle of life. Life…beautiful and messy, sweet yet difficult, wonderful and hard.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Denise

 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17&18

 

 

The Way He Came

12 Dec

Growing up, we always had beautiful packages under the tree.  My dad would spend hours, usually on Christmas Eve into the wee hours of Christmas morning, wrapping every gift, making the bows look just so.  I don’t think the man believes in gift bags!

While I enjoyed the beautiful wrapping and the effort my dad put into the pretty packages, the greatest gift I’ve ever received did not come in ornate wrapping.  The hands down, greatest gift I’ve ever received, was delivered in a dirty manger wrapped in rags.  The greatest gift of all time, in the plainest of wrapping.

The fact that He came is mind boggling to me.  The forethought and love demonstrated by God, that He saw you and me and knew we would need a Savior and went to such great lengths to make it happen.  It’s amazing!  He came which is such a gift, but the real kicker for me is the way He came!

The royalty of Heaven left His home to fulfill His Father’s plan.  Born in the middle of the night, in a little town, in a cave and placed in a bed of straw, wrapped up in rags.

I don’t know about you, but it’s probably not how I would’ve thought to make my entrance on the scene.  I probably would’ve picked something with a little more pomp and circumstance, ok a lot more 🙂  I’m here to save the world, let’s party kinda thing.

The way Jesus came speaks VOLUMES to me.  The way He came, shows me that He came to serve, He came in humility, He came motivated by love.  The way Jesus came reminds me that I should do the same.  Show up ready to serve, in humility and motivated by love.

It may not be flashy or feel glamorous but it will make an impact that lasts far beyond some fancy wrapping or a grand party.  So thankful for the Gift of Jesus and the way He came!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Are We There Yet?

31 Oct

As a child growing up my family would make an annual road trip to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins. I always looked forward to our visits and time with them was the highlight of many of my summers.  Although, I loved being there and spending time together, I did not enjoy the 9 hour road trip! I was ready to be there before the family car left the driveway!  If teleportation was possible, I would’ve preferred that route.

I got bored in the car, tired of sitting, I could hang for a while by coming up with games to play with my brother and sister or sing some songs to entertain myself, but I just wanted to get to our destination already!  We didn’t stop when I wanted to and sometimes we stopped when I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t read because I would get car sick.  The car was too stuffy sometimes and other times I would convulse because of the frigid air coming through my dad’s rolled down window.  I didn’t really enjoy the process of getting to our destination.

I’ve come to realize that my attitude towards life has at times been fairly similar to my attitude towards my childhood summer road trips.  So little of life is spent at the finish line, a great deal of it is spent on the journey getting there.  What would be different if I learned to enjoy the process of getting there and didn’t wait to celebrate until I arrived at my intended destination?  Instead of being solely focused on the end goal, what if while heading that direction, I enjoyed the ride?

You see, most of life is the journey, very little time is spent at the finish line.  Daily life is spent preparing, working, failing, trying again, moving forward, taking two steps backwards, failing and trying again.  What a shame to not embrace the journey when it comprises most of my limited time here on earth, when it’s where I spend most time in relationship with others, when it’s where the growth happens.  If I only focus on the arrival, I’ve missed out on a lot of sweetness along the way.

Instead of asking, “Are we there yet?”  I want to learn to soak up the goodness on the way!  Anyone ready for a road trip?

A Small Piece of Yarn

3 Oct

I am thrilled to have a guess blogger on neeserisms, my very own AMAZING niece and her great insights…

I learned to knit when I was living in the orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It took me about one month to learn.  One teacher taught me the basics and I remember offering my food to friends in exchange for their help teaching me.  I have been knitting now for over 6 years. One thing I have learned through this skill is that one small piece of yarn, when put in the right person’s hands, can be transformed into something useful and beautiful.  This illustrates what it is like if I put my life in God’s hands.  No matter how small I may feel, He can use me to do great things.  

Yarn comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors.  Each one can be used for a different purpose.  When you start a knitting project it is important to select the size, shape and color for what you are wanting to create.  There is one type of yarn that is best to use to make a scarf and another type of yarn that would be best to make a bag.  As the artist I get to choose what I think is best.  God as the creator of this world and the controller of everything gets to decide who is best to use for his purpose.  He may use one person to help the poor and another to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time.  He as the artist knows which of us would be best to use for each of His plans.

When you begin knitting you start with one small piece of yarn.  You use your needles to knit it together into rows.  You knit back and forth adding rows until it gets to be the size and shape you want it to be.  A small piece of yarn turns into a scarf or a blanket or socks.  I can relate to that small piece of yarn.  I may be small but if I put myself in the Father’s hands and be patient, He will slowly and carefully knit the details of my life together to create something awesome and beautiful.  I just have to be a willing piece of yarn. 

Once in a while when knitting a scarf I have made a mistake and missed connecting the yarn to the right row.  Sometimes I do not realize my mistake until many rows later.  If you want the scarf to be beautiful, last a long time and serve its purpose you must go back and correct the mistake.  In order to correct this you have to undo all the rows until you get to the point where you missed the connection.  This is true to real life.  When we rush through life and do not connect deeply with God, we make mistakes and our life begins going off course.   Sometimes things start to unravel and we have to allow God to correct and restore us.

When you see a small piece of yarn I hope will remember its importance.  The same when you see people who may seem insignificant.  No matter what our size, shape or color we have great potential if we choose to put our lives in the hands of the Heavenly Father ­ the master artist.  He can take our small pieces, our brokenness, our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful, something big and something amazing. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” –  2 Corinthians 5:17  

Yeshi