Yesterday was interesting as I had my first post-pandemic-start-up hair appointment.
In case you were wondering, we learned in the 15 week hair sabbatical that I actually only have a couple of little strands of gray on the sides, I definitely lean more towards brown and dishwater blonde without the benefit of highlights and my hair grows at a pace of about…
Not. At. All.
Since I was supposed to be with the littles all day long and given the facts I just shared above, Russ opted to take a day off and go up first thing in the morning until I could join him. In the three hours between his arrival and my joining up, they had donuts, several walks and a trip to the park.
Then we piled them in the car and drove about 45 minutes to another city who has opened up part of their zoo. Between that and the Bass Pro Shop, we burned off some energy and headed her on home so Papi and Lola could return to their place and crash.
Russ may have asked me a time or two how I do it by myself, to which I responded (as I always do when asked this)…not well, my friend…not well.
While I have gained some maturity and let go of some hyper-perfection when it comes to children, I continue to struggle with all the shortcomings I encountered as a mom.
As in most of my life, there is a nagging critic running color commentary on my shoulder most of the hours of the day.
So this morning, I was quite delighted to read for the umpteenth time these words from Oswald Chambers…and YES!! I do apply them…every year when I read them, I feel God shaving off some more layers of my dead self and breathing His thoughts, and words and life into my soul.
Oswald reminds me that we are not to judge.
Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting or wounding.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; June 17 Updated edition edited by James Reimann; 1992 Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd.
Besides the inner voice that is inbred in me to look for flaws and point them out – mine and everyone else’s, I live in a world where every thought, word and deed is being critiqued constantly.
The devotion in My Utmost for His Highest reminds me that my noting of things that are not as they should be is something that I am to take to God in prayer.
The fact that I see them is part of my human nature,BUT what I do with this knowledge and information should be different from what the world does.
Chambers reminds us that we do not know the whole story on anyone and so we must trust God to work in those around us and to guide us as we search our own hearts and lives for places that need correction and repentance.
I am regenerate – born again – and so when I become aware of imperfections in me or in others, that is my signal to pray and release them to the Holy Spirit, trusting in His work in me and in those around me, because…oh how I love this…He is able to show what is wrong without hurting or wounding.
When it comes to the negative thoughts I assign myself, I need to ask…is it true? If it is, I need to do my part to change…if it is not…I need God’s help to replace lies with the truth.
Do you need some growth and correction that doesn’t hurt or wound?
I sure do.
And I want to be an agent of change and growth in others WITHOUT hurting or wounding them!
There is healing in turning to God for all of us. He is about the business of making us whole and healthy. We who follow Christ should be markedly different from the rest of the world in our thoughts, words and attitudes but we daily need His help to be transformed.
Blessings on each of you this day as you turn to Him and allow His Spirit to work in you. Tomorrow I want to share some thoughts about what I find helpful to tame the voice of the critic inside me…
I am coming to you today with my real and transparent thoughts from the past week that has followed months of pandemic mayhem.
On Monday, I watched the sun set on a day that was one of the most unproductive and pointless days I have had in a long while. I had scrolled through posts and video feeds of various news items and commentaries all day.
I cried and prayed and cried and snacked and wandered aimlessly around our house, because I am overwhelmed feeling all the feelings around me right now.
I felt helpless and confused.
Every so often I walked to the door of Russ’s home office and told him I was not accomplishing anything. He would nod his head and go back to work and I would repeat my spiral downward.
The arena of social media that exists outside of posts by friends of their family gatherings or favorite verses or blog posts shared to encourage is a new playing field that I was unaware of.
The freedom of people to blast negativity onto a live video from someone else was something I have never encountered. The downright rude and thoughtless and ignorant barrage of unchecked thoughts spewing from every angle took me into a world that cannot be ignored, but also cannot rule over me.
I have been sheltered from the raw ugly of hate that flies around out there and I have to admit I prefer polite conversations and quiet “agreeing to disagree” more than the confrontational arguments and outright vitriol of comments that people slam others with through what has become our “third place” …. the internet.
My heart’s desire is to do what Scripture tells me which is to care for those who are oppressed and defend the fatherless and the widows, to use the blessings I have been given to bless others and to show justice and mercy to all.
But the rapid-fire words of anger and hate and retaliation that bombard the atmosphere rendered me incapacitated as I tried to separate out truth in the midst of so many loud voices.
So yesterday, I turned off social media and determined to live in the day and do what I could do right in front of me and ask God to remind me what only I can do and then give me strength and boldness to do THAT thing and not be anxious about how it is perceived or judged or received by anyone but Him.
That is not to say I am ignoring the pain around me. That is not to say I am not going to do better to find answers to my questions about how I can make a difference. That is not to say that I will now go back to burying my head in the sand and ignore what I see and hear happening on so many levels.
It is to say that I have to choose God’s righteousness first and then let Him lead me to the places where I can minister out of that in ways that bring His Kingdom here.
His Kingdom is best for all of us.
He is all about the dignity and sanctity of every human life.
He is all about justice and He is all about mercy.
He is all about every human being treated as valuable and precious.
He is all about tearing down world systems that do not support His plan of redemption, wholeness and healing.
This morning as I was doing my devotions, each one seemed tailor made for the current conditions of our world and my own struggle to stay focused on the tasks at hand. And so like God, they each supported one another and culminated in a time of prayer that was based on a prayer written by Stormie Omartian in one of her books that is so applicable for all of us.
I am sharing the prayer points and my thoughts here:
Show me how to express deep, unconditional love in a way that is clearly perceived and received.*
Lord, I confess that I tend to love conditionally. I don’t want to be that way, but I know that my love is more open and flowing towards others when they fulfill certain conditions. I tend to love people I like… people I prefer.
(I beg you…please readers, do not read race into this…we are walking on egg shells right now and I am compelled to say that I do not like and prefer based on anything except my gut response to human beings I encounter…they are all sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds…it is an enigma to me what draws me to certain people and makes them easy to love when I struggle with loving others….)
Even worse, I often find I withdraw love from people I like and prefer when their behavior or attitudes or decisions hurt me or go against what I desire for them or for me. This is not right. This is not righteous. I need Your help to love unconditionally. I need Your love poured into my heart so that I can truly LOVE..even when I don’t agree…even when I don’t understand.
To love does not require me to approve or prefer or be okay with someone’s choices or behavior or attitudes. Help me to grow in my understanding of YOUR love so I can just love people.
I also pray that my love will be perceived and received. I understand that others may have preconceived notions about me. I need Your help to break down the barriers of misunderstanding on all sides so that Your love is poured out of me and onto my family and friends and acquaintances and even those who I do not know, but share the road with in this life.
Remove any barriers that have been formed in me through disappointment and pain in my past*
Lord, this struck me deep in my spirit and soul. As I sit and just hold my heart out to You, I am aware that I have carried and buried some disappointment and pain from the distant and recent past deep down.
Because I have not let You heal me of those things, I am weak and useless in helping others who are experiencing disappointment and pain. I need to understand that You heal in layers and I will continue to need to bring my heart before You to receive Your next level of healing until I stand perfected before You.
Their pain reminds me of my unresolved hurts and so I am handicapped to offer the kind of love and support that is needed. Rather than recount these things, I am just acknowledging to you that I am a broken person in need of Your love and Your peace and Your healing.
I receive the ministry of Your Spirit searching out those places in me and I open my own self up to be healed by You. You are the only one who can completely heal me and equip me to become a minister of Your healing and reconciliation.
If there is a place in my heart where I feel rejected or unloved, I bring that to You for healing*
Lord, again I open up the deep places of my heart where I have experienced rejection and where I feel unloved. Search me and shine Your light into those hidden places that fuel my inability to hear the cry of others.
I cannot extend the fullness of Your bountiful love until I have allowed Your love to fill up the holes in my own heart.
I receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit again right now as You bind up my wounds so that I can extend that grace and mercy to others who expressing their pain and perceptions of being rejected and unloved.
If there is any unforgiveness in me toward anyone, show me and I will confess it. I do not want to carry unforgiveness in my heart because it separates me from You and my prayers will not be heard*
Lord, as I offer up myself for examination, You bring names and faces to mind. Very few hurt me intentionally.
The offense was usually because of the human condition of the offenders heart…like me they were more concerned with self and I got wounded as a result. Often they have not even been aware of how they have hurt me and so an apology is never going to take place.
The work of forgiveness and reconciliation falls on me and then I think of how I have also offended and wounded with no idea…and I would want to be forgiven by the ones I hurt….so Lord, thank You that by the power and work of the Holy Spirit in me, I can forgive and let go and hold nothing against my offender.
If I have been intentionally and purposefully wounded by someone, You will be my example as You said of those who crucified You..forgive them. I will rest in Your healing in all cases.
So there you have it…a little visit to my time with Jesus this morning.
I hope you are turning to Him first before you turn on the news, the social media feeds or your mouth.
I am doing better today at this then yesterday and the day before.
May He guide us through these times in ways that bring heaven to earth as we journey onward <3
* Power of a Praying Grandparent; Stormie Omartian, Harvest House Publishers, pg. 26
I saw a funny meme today that said something about this being a unique leap year. 29 days in February, 300 days in March and 5 years in April.
Can you relate?
For the most part we have done well.
Thankfully the falling head over heels back in college thing was spot on and we have remained quite happy to be together for the past 39 plus years so that’s a good thing.
We are painfully aware that others are not doing well and while we continue to shelter in place, there are multiple emotions and battles against despair as Russ and his team deal with the repercussions of what is happening. We think of all the businesses and jobs affected.
We hear of earthquakes, tornadoes, illnesses, accidents, births, deaths…on and on that others are dealing with on top of the pandemic and our prayers are lifting constantly.
Texts and FaceTime, Zoom and What’sApp and record amounts of time spent on social media keep us connected to friends and family. News is watched in small doses, enough to stay informed – yet not enough to induce panic.
And the grief, like all grief, comes in waves.
It pops up in unexpected places and catches me off guard and suddenly I am in a puddle of tears for what we have lost personally.
Please hear me.
I am sensitive to the truth that others have lost income, family, friends, businesses, investments, security. I also understand that the things I am missing are things some people never had nor never will have.
But my grief moments are mine and they need to be acknowledged and mourned in the way God wired me to be transparent before Him and then to feel His hand wipe the tears. To feel His understanding and yet His nudge to get up from where I am and move on and do whatever task is next as He heals the hurt inside.
Yesterday afternoon I was on a chat session involving a charge on our credit card that I needed to clarify. The customer service rep needed the VIN number for our car, so I ran out to the glove box and retrieved the paperwork.
Later in the evening I was putting the day away and took the document back out to the garage.
As I gathered up the owners manuals and insurance info I had pulled out earlier, I found the bright green cardboard sign bearing our Joel’s name that gave me the right to pick him up from preschool this year.
At least a couple times a month, his mommy and daddy’s work schedule called for me to be in the carpool lane when his cute self was being dismissed.
As I sat in the front seat holding that sign, I could picture him obediently walking alongside the teacher with eyes that were glued on me and a smile a mile wide. That gap toothed smile that melts my heart into pure goo.
When he got the okay, he would scurry into my arms and I can still envision him insisting he needed to take off his coat, unload his backpack and share with me all the papers and stories as we drove along while also convincing me we probably should go to McDonald’s for lunch because Cadawine really loves their french fries.
Here’s the raw and painful truth.
I will most likely never pick that little boy up from his first year of preschool again.
Right now, unless you have a heart made of stone…you are thinking about your own fill in the blank for what will never happen that you thought was going to happen.
You are identifying with the heartache of the “I won’t ever ____________” have this moment again. And it can cut deep because it ended before you had time to prepare for it.
And it’s not just Covid that steals time from us.
Death and sin and aging and loss are the pattern of life on planet earth.
Oh yes, I know ….so is birth and mercy and forgiveness and grace and youth and gain…but we cannot have one without the other in the cycle of days that make up the years.
And it is a delicate thing to balance acknowledging grief and mourning well and then embracing the new and the hope of tomorrow.
It is a matter of wisdom to sit for a few moments in a car and hold a little green piece of paper and mourn your grandson’s first year of preschool that he loved so very much and debate whether you should just pitch the thing, or slide it back in…just because it hurts too much right now to throw it away.
Because you know that little man and his family are also mourning the loss of things.
And yes, it is still resting on top of the owner’s manual…thank you very much.
I wiped the tears and headed back into the house and folded some more laundry. The regular routines bring me back to the present which is where I must live.
I cannot imagine doing this without the God of both comfort and hope walking it out with me.
May the Lord bless each one of you and meet you in all the seasons of life in real and personal ways as we …. you know…journey onward <3