Friday, May 31, 2013

His Joy Is My Strength

I have learned the secret of having abundant health and living with chronic pain (a paraphrase of Paul's statement of contentment in Philippians 4:12.) At least I thought I had learned this.

That is until last Sunday.  It was Memorial Day weekend.  We had enjoyed a fun Saturday of drama practice, a movie, then dinner out.  All seemed to be promising a wonderful weekend even with the rain predictions.

But on Sunday I woke feeling, well, not myself.  It wasn't my normal tiredness and The Pain brought on by fibromyalgia and the past stress of a week watching 3 kids and welcoming a grandson into the world. It wasn't a cold or flu bug.  It was, literally, all in my head.  Dizziness.

I shrugged if off and we headed out to coffee at Starbucks then to worship our Lord and Savior.  And why would I shrug it off?  Because I have found that the Lord blesses me when I press on and head for that goal trusting Him to get me through it all. It WAS the last Sunday School class with our graduating 8th graders and I wanted badly to hug a few of them.

But into the 2nd or 3rd worship song, I felt that prickly warm feeling that I have experienced only a few times in my life.  It starts at my shoulders then creeps up my neck to my cheeks and into my scalp.  My vision grew tunnel-ly dark on the edges and bright in the center.  And I knew I would soon hit the floor.

So I sank down to my chair.  (I guess I must have really sank hard because later my hubby told me the guy behind me was ready to catch me!  Thanks Dwight!)

Needless to say, I begged to go home and we did.

I was so let down.  Had my faith failed me?  Was I not trusting as I normally do on Wednesday nights when God would bless me with His joy for my strength?  I had the remembrance that He would help me forget The Pain for those few hours I was loving on the middle school kids.

Now I realize that maybe I have not reached the place where I could stand with Paul and proclaim that I had learned the lesson, the lesson of contentment with pain, the lesson of submission to God's plan for me.

Maybe I needed to be humbled.

Wait!  That is exactly what I have been praying about lately.  Humility.

You see there is such a fine line between being gifted and used by God AND remaining humble.  I have been fearing that I was walking by sight lately, and not truly seeing faith. For over 20 years I have tread the path of encouraging young ladies between 6th and 12th grades.  Twenty years.  That's a long time.  Yet it seems to be so short.

And I think I know why it has not felt so long.  When you are in the center of God's will for your life, His joy covers everything.  Twenty years covered in God's joy is but a blink of the eye.

Twenty years doing the same type of thing with His joy CAN become a habit, something I can do without much preparation.  Something I've been trained to do.  And there lies the rub.  That thin line between relying on His joy as my strength verses relying on what I know I can do.

I have been burdened with these thoughts of late.  Am I walking by sight or by faith.  Sight says you've done this before, you can do it again and again.  Faith says I am nothing in light of my holy God and I can do nothing, No Thing without His strength.

Which do I prefer?  The first because it feels good to accomplish things on my own, feeling like I've learned something over these 20 something years.  Yet, doing it in God's strength is even better.  Before hand when I am preparing and praying it may not seem so easy.  And even during it can seem down right painful.  But afterward when I look back and can see that He worked through me!  Used me!  To accomplish this task, well, that is so much more better.

So I have prayed that God would keep me humble.  That He would empty me of me and make it all about Him.  Like the Toby Mac song, Steal My Show, I want it to be about Him and not me.

Was this His answer to my need to be humble, a physical weakness that kept me home?  Did it drive me to my knees?  I have to admit that it did not.  It is hard to admit weakness when your family is relying on you to be strong and help them out.  I did ignore some things, like the mission work I do on-line, but I couldn't let my girls down.  And I had no strength to enjoy my grandgirls any more than to pray.

Ann Voskamp wrote, "Giving thanks is only this:  making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God." (Ann Voskamp's blog, post How To Live Through the Really Hard Storms.)

So, this morning, I did what she suggested.  I thanked God for even this:  weakness and stillness.  I thanked Him, though deep down I probably didn't really feel thankful.  But I know with the obedience comes feelings.

I guess I'm still learning the lesson.  I plan to see the Doc tomorrow and see what's up.  In the mean time, I have to keep begging for His joy as my strength.  (Sinus infection: Yup.)

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Blessing of Forgetfulness

I have a symptom.  I'm not sure what disease or fact this symptom indicates.  It could be a brain tumor.  But then again, maybe its only old age.

Whatever the cause is, I am getting forgetful.  Make that more forgetful for I have been in LaLa Land most of my life.  (I think that's a symptom of creativity.)

Like in elementary school when I did not hear the music teacher say that I needed to learn the Star Spangled Banner for an all-school concert.  Truly, I do not, to this day, remember her saying I needed to know that.  And I was red-faced humbled to be silent as all the other violinists played!

Lately, though, it seems to create not just a humility in me, but a little concern.  Am I getting Alzheimer?

It happened the other day when hubby and I drove downtown to eat bar-b-q.  We finally found a parking spot after circling the block a few times and as we slowly parked, I looked up and saw the back end of a '57 Chevy mounted above the restaurant as if in a Back To The Future scene it flew right into the bricks.

"When did they put that car there?" I asked my hubby as I craned my neck to stare at the fins.  (Do fins make it a '56?  I can't remember.)  I turned to him as he laughed and demanded, "What?"  His words pierced my soul, "You ask me that every time we come for bar-b-q."  I instantly retorted, "No I don't!"  But I can see by his crooked smile and tilt of his head, that, yes, I have asked that question before.

I swear I do not remember EVER seeing that car end before!  Truly!  And that scares me.

I have put the skillet on the stove and began the slow warming of it (a requirement to these new pans and a necessity to glass-top stoves), then walked away forgetting it was there.  (Thank You, Lord, for nudging me back to reality before a disaster occurs. And now I make sure I set the timer, even for boiling water.)

It's not just the physical realm of forgetfulness that I worry about.  There is also the social aspect.

Sure, people understand when you forget a name, especially when there are over 60 middle school students to remember.  But they laugh when I voice my thinking process of trying to add to a conversation.

Like just yesterday as we watched TV, Gene Simmons came on the screen.  I made a comment about his hair (well, it is right up there with The Trump), and my husband asked, "Do you even know who that is?"  The announcer had said his name, so I knew that much.  And in my befuddled brain, I did know some things, but do you think I could pull out a swift answer?

"Sure," I said.  "He's friends with that guy who is married to that Brit on American Idol, no, wait, America's Got Talent.  You know which one I'm talking about."

Okay, there is some logic in all that muddle.  Truly.  I was trying to say that Mr. Simmons was friends with Ozzie, but you have to know me to understand how I was trying to connect the dots.

Finally, hubby said, "Do you even know what band he is from?"

Confidence grew.  "Kiss."  Score one for my old brain!  "And I was trying to say he was friends with Ozzie."  (And just now, as I write this, I've managed to pull out of my bag of brain cells Sharon Osborne, though I'm not sure I spelled it right!)

Now when you try to do this type of remembering with a group of middle schoolers it doesn't work.  I can't remember the name of movies or actors, but I can sing all the verses of "I Got You, Babe."  Needless to say they don't remember the actors I do, and Sonny and Cher??  Well, you get the idea.

I hope that this loss of memory is due to my age (57) and the fact that I have fibromyalgia, together causing an aged fibro fog. At least that is my excuse today.  By tomorrow I'll have forgotten it!

But being forgetful is not all bad.  Really.  I have learned that it has a wonderful blessing, this forgetfulness. When you can't remember what you had for lunch yesterday, then you can't remember if you have heard this sermon before or read that passage in Scripture.

Think of it!  It's like being a brand new baby Christian all over again!

Even my favorite verses have become brand new to me, speaking anew to my soul the truths that are there by grace.  Those tried and true verses, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4), a new every morning.  It can be awesome.

I may not be able to recap the sermon I just enjoyed, or remember where that verse is that I'd like to tuck into a note, but in my heart I know that God is working anew, renewing my soul.

Besides, I take notes for I'm a visual learner.  And if I truly need that nugget of gold-truth from last week's lesson, I can find it--eventually.

I have come to realize that all things are indeed brand new in Christ when you are blessed with forgetfulness.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Spiciness of Life--Change

(Sorry for the delay.  I wrote this a few weeks ago then forgot how to find my drafts!!  Beginning to think I am to old to learn new tricks--or at least to remember them for long.)

Weather Advisories for the First of May.

It's hard to believe that it is the beginning of May.  Oh, sure my tulips are budding ready to pop open with reds and yellows, black eyes like antannae reaching sun-ward.  And the daffodils are already beginning to droop.

But resting atop of both lovelies, like a mound of quilt batting, is a thick, icey white frozen frosting.  Snow.

Nebraska weather is a topic of discussion all across its flat plains.  The saying goes, and I've heard it used by other people in other states that belt the center of the United States, if you don't like the weather today, wait; for tomorrow it will change.

I am very aware of the fickleness of the plains.  It is historically documented in a mosaic in our state capitol building, The Blizzard of 1888.  That day the morning was sunny, bright and warm, and the prairie school  kids enjoyed playing outside.  But the afternoon brought such a howling wind with snow so thick that people lost their way and died. Or became heroes.

But in my 57 years here, well, minus 3 or 4 years spent in other locations, I cannot recall having snow in May!

It started on Tuesday when the summer-like temps climbed into the 70's, beckoning me outside.  Letting me stroll to the elementary school to retrieve my granddaughter.

But Wednesday was grey and so dark that my grandbaby was sleeping in night-like comfort in her cradle.  Lights were needed all day.  The rain dripped, the wind howled, and the tiny ice pellets we call sleet tinkled against the window panes.  (Was it only 1 day ago I opened those windows and allowed Spring breezes to blow?)

But variety and change truly are the spice to life on the plains.  For just when my soul has wearied of the grey days and impending storms, Spring will break forth in the 2-note love song of a bird searching for a mate.

And this is why I live here in Nebraska. Well, that, and this is where God has planted us for this time period. Who knows (God of course), tomorrow we may move!

(Note:  Instead of moving, God threw us some 100 degree temps!  And only 2 weeks past this post!  Crazy weather we're havin'!)