Thursday, April 21, 2016

One year...

A year ago I was, unbeknownst to me, in the final week of my career at Wells Fargo Insurance.  I would spend the coming weekend in the hospital, and eventually be diagnosed with an illness that would change everything about how I did life.  Everything.  I never saw it coming. 

As I look back at the past year, it is with some sadness, still, over what was lost, but also with great hope and anticipation.  Really!   As I look back I see a rough road that I walked, a lot of stillness, God’s great faithfulness, and a lot of work and attitude adjustment on my part. 

I’m always amazed at the ways God connects what I’m experiencing with his Word.  I recently read a devotion about the Sabbath.  Not just the day of rest given every week, but the Sabbath year God gave to the Israelites as they were entering Canaan.   Take a look at this: 

Leviticus 25: 3-7

"When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD.  For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines.  The land is to have a year of rest.  Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you- for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.  Whatever the land produces may be eaten."

 After working hard in their fields for 6 years, they were to take a year to let their land lie fallow, not raising any crops, so the land could be more productive.  Just like taking a Sabbath day every week was designed to do for them.  They were to rest from their labor in the field- and allow the land to rest- to prepare for what was coming next. 

Did they request this year?  No.  God gave it to them in His wisdom.  I imagine the whole idea was pretty scary, not raising food for an entire year.  When given this rule they must have wondered what they would eat.  But they had to rely fully on His provision; His plan was to grow their faith and to show His faithfulness.  And He did provide.

This Sabbath year was probably (at least initially) uncomfortable, odd to them.  Out of their routine and their familiar rhythm.  Out of their self-sufficient comfort zone.  This was a "Sabbath unto the LORD," realigning their attention from themselves to what HE was doing.  Which is just where God wanted them.  

Well.  This has very clearly been my Sabbath year.  My illness and eventual diagnosis necessitated rest that I didn’t ask for but desperately needed, total change of lifestyle for my whole family, and learning a more complete dependence on God.  Being still and waiting is against my very nature and miles away from my comfort zone. But waiting is not wasted with God.  This waiting was designed, much like the Israelites’ Sabbath year, to grow my faith and show His faithfulness. 

Look back at the passage from Leviticus- “Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you.”  The things that have come through this time have definitely fed me.  I wasn’t out working, planting, sowing, tending, harvesting, and yet He has provided over and over again, physically, emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. And much like the experience of the Israelites, this has been a "Sabbath unto the LORD," realigning my attention from myself to what HE is doing.  I’ve felt so many times that I was accomplishing nothing (again SO not part of my nature!).  Now I can see that God has been accomplishing something.  He has been preparing the fields, after they’ve rested, for a new purpose, having now fed His wandering daughter on what "grew on its own."  

After this post, you will see my blog on a different site.  God is doing something here and I am eager to see what it looks like.  In this Sabbath year of preparation and rest He has led me to pursue writing and speaking (as health permits) in a more purposeful way, sharing what He is teaching me from the perspective of being a fellow traveler, not one who as arrived.   

Thank you for sticking with me and reading my blog this year, it has truly been a blessing to have this outlet.  After May 1 you can check out for my new blog posts, writing projects, and speaking dates!  God’s blessing on you all.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Adjusting My Lens

Have you ever flip-flopped between two extreme emotions in the space of a breath?  If you haven’t, I’m jealous and want to know your secret, but in the meantime I invite you to take a moment to peek into my crazy.  If you have, you should identify a bit with what I’m writing here. 
Often I love social media.  Sometimes I hate it.  And that can change in a heartbeat.  It’s a double-edged sword for me and, I suspect, many, many other women. 

I love the connections I have made and rekindled because of Facebook, the old friends from across the country I see almost daily, getting a glimpse into their lives and their families.  I am truly blessed by the encouragement I have received through this medium during this hard (and often very isolated) year of health issues and the loss of my dad.  I deeply appreciate the spiritual insights found in the posts of bloggers and ministries I follow.  I love that I can encourage and pray for friends and family members as they genuinely share their struggles or heartbreaks.  I look forward to the community interaction I have with women across the country who participate in an online Bible study I joined.  I love that it’s a platform on which I can share my random musings through my blog.  I love Facebook.

But.  This same source of encouragement and blessing can bring me to a place of unexpected, irrational knots in my stomach.  And that inexplicable dissatisfied feeling deep inside.  And occasionally tears.  I can be happily scrolling along and see freshly posted pictures of a group of people I know, all doing something fabulous together without me.  Or events I haven’t been invited to join.  Or pictures of holidays that look nothing like mine.  Or things they’re doing that I can’t do. And it all crashes down.  I hate Facebook.  And I hate that it brings this out in me.

Again, I was happy until I saw these things, but holding my life up to this lens, I find parts of it wanting.  I'm sure we've all been there.  But why?  Realizing this is an irrational response, I truly want to dig past the snarls of tangled emotion to the root, the cause of my gut reaction. 

Honestly, my life is pretty great.  More than great.  Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying people shouldn’t post pictures of these kinds of things, recording the fun events of life.  I do it myself.  This issue is not with the people OR the pictures.   It’s with my view of the world, my lens, not the fun my friends are having.  Here’s the core of it:  to quote my dear friend and prayer partner of nearly 12 years, Dana Phillips, “Comparison kills contentment.”  So. True.  I’m comparing what I have – and love- to what I see on Facebook.  Yep, maturity abounding here. 

However, (I am reminding myself, here, not just you) the lens of social media is a distorted one.  No one posts pictures of their messy laundry room, themselves sitting at home alone in yoga pants watching The Good Wife, or having a “spirited discussion” with one of their people who live with them.  

We often see the best and happiest moments, without the pain that is an inevitable part of life.  Without the mess, the frustration, the loneliness.  The perfection that is so prevalent on Facebook and Pinterest (my two sites of choice) is, like all “perfection,” an illusion at best and a toxic lie at worst. 
As I look at something a friend has or is doing, I have to ask myself, do I want everything that goes along with it?  Without even peeking behind the curtain of the smiles and beautiful pictures, I can say the answer is invariably, “No.”  I will take my own burdens, thank you very much, and my own joys. (There’s a glimpse of returning sanity!)  I am working on the contentment part.  And trying to see through the social media lens more realistically. 

The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about this, having a life that was far from photo-friendly.  He wrote from prison and in deep want, in loneliness and pain, and often under threat of injury or arrest.  

Here are just a couple of examples:

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  I Timothy 6:6

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11b

If he could find godly contentment in his circumstances, surely I can.  Finding that contentment can make me less prone to flip-flop, less likely to take a seat on that emotional roller coaster of mine.  Contentment will remind me that my messy-beautiful life is so much more than what someone would see on Facebook.  And so is everyone else’s.  I have really come a long way toward learning these lessons in the past year, being open and accepting of what God has for me, content with where I am. I will continue to adjust my lens, refocus and recognize the blessing that is everywhere. But I still clearly have a long way to go.