The Christmas Let Down

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I wonder if anyone else felt it… that anti-climactic feeling once all the gifts were opened and the paper was trashed. A feeling like that of all the air whooshing out of a balloon leaving nothing more than a limp, lifeless piece of rubber in its wake.

See, for weeks and weeks all this air gets pumped into the doings of Christmas. And like a balloon, Christmas, and all the expectations of Christmas, grows bigger and bigger…

Yes, anticipation looms large. So much hope. So much to look forward to.

But then something sticks a pin into all your thinness. And all too soon, the build up of Christmas gets expelled in one heaving rush leaving you motionless on the couch in a confused state wondering if it’s ever going to be different. Because it seems as if every year the wonder of the season gets lost in a crumple of tissue paper and cellophane. And inevitably, something will overshadow what should be a joyous occasion.

Or perhaps it’s just me.

Maybe I’m the only one who encounters the Christmas let down. The feeling of expectation being unmet…

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?” John 14:9

The gifts did it. Something about the presents this year just popped my bubble. Or my balloon.

It started the week before Christmas. That’s when my son had a taste of the let down. When my brother’s family and mine met for a meal and a gift exchange with my Dad.

See, I’d picked out something for Daddy to give to my son. And I knew it wasn’t stellar. Had a sense of doubt as Levi specifically told me he was outgrowing Lego’s. But I thought I knew better. No, we were going to try Lego Technics and surely he’d like those. They were a step up.

But he didn’t like them. Not at all.

Oh, he’d been so excited to open his bag. I watched his face intently the whole time and when I saw the flash of disappointment as his eyes met mine, I felt the same. Because I’d picked it. I chose a gift for my son but I’d failed.

Yes, I know… Christmas is not about the gifts. Not at all.

But this is my son. I’m his mother and I should know him. I should know him well enough to easily select a trinket that would bring him delight. Shouldn’t the parent know how to give good gifts?

Anyway, that’s where it began. Levi’s disappointment in his gift. And my husband and I knew we had another one just like it under the tree for Christmas morning. A big, expensive box of Lego’s that wouldn’t do. Because it was a larger version of the Lego’s Levi didn’t like. That he specifically told me he was outgrowing.

And so, we had him open it. We let him return those Lego’s along with the others. Furthermore, we allowed him to choose his own gifts at Wal-Mart days before Christmas. A LOT of Nerf stuff got shoved into a bag and stuck in the corner with instructions to not touch till December 25th.

To further compound things, I felt like Levi was getting the short end of the stick this year. I thought I’d lavished Annabelle with so much that I needed to do a little extra for him. The result was my son got more material items this year than he should have. His pile was HUGE.

I was so ashamed. Even thought we should return some but Jason told me we just couldn’t do that… that you don’t give gifts only to take them back.

So basically, I wasn’t feeling great come Christmas evening. Sad that too much effort and time had gone into toys and gifts. Guilty I purchased more items than I should. And that my son picked over half of them. Angry because I didn’t put enough emphasis on what really mattered.

But you know what? It was something I received that shed light on my general feeling of malaise. Yes, the root of the Christmas let down was revealed when I, like Levi, opened a bag. And surely when I peered inside, my eyes reflected the same disappointment he’d felt days earlier…

Because what I saw wasn’t me. Not at all. Not my color, not my style. And when I looked at it, I thought, “Don’t you know me? After all this time, don’t you know me by now?”

And this is what I stewed on Christmas night as I lay on the couch. This is what darkened my countenance and what caused my husband to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

Simply, I felt let down because my expectations had been high. And they were unmet. But mostly, I felt sad because I didn’t feel known by someone I love.

But He replied, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I do not know you [we have no relationship]. Matthew 25:12

I read the above words this morning and they moved me. They made me sad. Sad for the ones told this but also a bit sad for how I’ve handled Christmas. Because truth be known, I believe I may have been the cause of a let down a time or two. Even this year. I really think I could have done better.

With my son. The Lego’s. With my husband. The shirt he returned. And with others. I think I could have put more thought into what I wrapped up.

But the reality is the key to a good present is wrapped up in relationship. It hinges on intimacy. It’s really knowing who you’re giving the gift to. And on the first day of 2018, this becomes one of my goals. A resolution, if you will.

Yes, this is the year I want to make time for more intimate moments. I want to be a better listener, fully present, and more observant. I want to really know my people…

All of them.

The ones God’s blessed me with – near and far.

I want to be intimate with my people. Available. And when Christmas rolls around in 2018, I want to be ready to give gifts they will like. No, I want to give gifts they will love.

Because I’ll know them – inside and out.

For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him… Philippians 3:10

I did get some good presents this year. Yes, there were a few items I simply loved. And I believe that’s because the givers know me. They really do. They understand me. And I swear, it was almost as if the hand of God directed them in what they gave…

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One was from my mom. It was this picture of me and my kids. It says happy. Did she know how appropriate it was? That it’s where God has led me in my journey with Him thus far… leading me to be happy right where I am in my motherhood. His urging me to stop pressing forward too quickly looking to the next thing.

The busy thing…

Instead, He gently holds me still with my children. Because this time is fleeting. It’s important. Later, I can do that other stuff. For now, be happy where I am.

And my husband gave me some Rodan & Fields product I wanted. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t specify, “I want this…” Jason simply listened and secretly purchased what I wanted. He bought me something He knew I would like…

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He also gave me a Bible. It’s purple. The Amplified version. I was thrilled because my last one fell apart. I literally wore out my Bible. The funny thing is, Jason gave me another 21 years ago. Inside he penned, “The keys of life – and beyond – can be found in this Book.” Turns out he was right. I can’t wait to delve into this new one to see where God leads me…

And finally, I got this sign.

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Oh, there were other gifts, but these are just a few of my favorites. And my friend who brought the above knew I’d like it. She told me once before she doesn’t give gifts just because there’s an occasion – she gives only if she finds the right thing for the right person. And I like that…

Anyway, she can’t know how much the present means to me. Because it confirms my “word” for 2018. The word I feel certain God gave to me. And I’m so grateful to see it…

Because I didn’t receive a word last year. In 2015, it was “rally” and 2016 was “battle.” But this past year, nothing. Finally, in October, I felt a stirring in my spirit as I kept seeing strengthen.

Then my friend brought me this sign.

Oh, I knew strengthen was confirmed by the word established.  Yes, I truly believe God will do this for me in the coming days…

I’ll even be able to carry a sign. One that says, “Pam Anderson, established 2018.” Just like the signs I see on the beautiful estates that dot our countryside.

I believe this because of what I read in the 5th chapter of 1 Peter. What promises I find there… but first, Peter warns of an enemy who roars around like a lion, fiercely hungry, seeking someone to devour. A picture of what took place with me.

Because I’d rallied and I’d battled but I ran away in defeat. Retreated in the face of attack. And it appears I allowed my enemy to gobble up all God’s promises. Because I just forgot about them.

Unfortunately, I allowed that enemy to shake me. I lost my confidence and became unstable. I swear, every weakness I ever had was sifted to the surface. But you know, that ended up being the best place to be. Because that’s exactly where Christ’s strength is made perfect… in all my weakness.

Further, I’m encouraged that if I resist the devil, firm in my faith, God will perfect me. He will stablish me (make me stable). Yes, God will strengthen (make strong) and settle me (establish).

God’s promises. I will be established and strengthened.

And so, as I usher in this New Year, I am highly expectant. For this is the year! And I know where to start. It begins with the foundation of knowing Him.

I mean really knowing Him. Relationship and intimacy.

So I make Christ my aim. I purpose anew to know Him and I do this by pulling out my new Bible. I soak in His words. And while I do this, I comprehend what a pure gift it is… each word from God so perfect because He knows me that well.

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Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Yes, it’s true I ended the holiday season with a Christmas let down. But I didn’t stay down for long. Because there are those who know me so well. They lifted my spirits. And these, among others, are the ones I want to be more intimate with. Because I want to love them as well as they’ve loved me. I want to give good gifts as they’ve given me.

It begins with intimacy. Attentiveness. And listening well. That’s why they knew how to pamper me with loving gifts. And it’s their very gifts that point the way to go this year.

A Bible, a picture and a sign.

One contains words of life – the keys to life and beyond. One gives a gentle reminder, to find happiness where I am. And the last confirms His promise to me. His gift of stability and strength. Oh, it’s coming.

And what amazing hope this is for the year to come…

Hope for me, Pam Anderson, a woman established by God.

And with that, the Christmas let down diminishes altogether as a puff of air fills my balloon. And it’s all Him. For all Scripture is God-breathed. It’s the very breath of God that inflates my balloon…

But not just my balloon. Because as His breath enters my body, my whole spirit soars with Him. And I am filled with anticipation. Buoyant with expectancy…

It’s a New Year lift up, is what it is.

Yep, that’s what I encounter as I welcome 2018.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights… James 1:17

 

 

The other side of motherhood.

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This picture makes me smile. Because she’s just like me. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Seinfeld and the crazy characters the show portrayed over the years, but this girl sticks with me. I refer to her as the “frankfurter girl.” Because that was her ultimate breakdown. She would cry at the drop of a hat. Literally. And when she dropped her hot dog, tears ensued. She cried over just about everything. Another episode that hasn’t left me is the one where Jerry, the comedian, tried to be utterly serious and dark at his friend’s request. And it’s these two, the frankfurter girl and serious Jerry, of which I cannot help but see a resemblance to me. Way too serious and too much waterworks. Not enough joy and laughter. And I so miss my laughter. It used to burst forth from the depths of my belly. My mom even had to tell me to stop once. She thought I was choking. Often, I’d laugh so hard tears sprung from my eyes. But now, it’s another kind. Frankfurter girl tears. Evidently, I’m not as dry as I thought. But rather than springs of living water flowing from within, it’s wellsprings of tears that spew forth.

But you know, I already know why the tears. And I’ve known for quite some time now. Basically, I cry because dying is hard. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Die to self. But it hurts. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. And despite progress here and there, pieces of me still hold to what I consider my own. And as I read in the book of Luke, I find this is a killer. For whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Holding too tightly to my wants, my agenda, is killing me. I’m snuffing the life right out of me and quenching the Spirit. And the fight has been lengthy. In truth, the battle began in earnest over seven years ago. Coincidentally, that’s when I had my son.

I love my child, it’s true. I ache over his own struggles. I long for him. And I’d do anything for him. At least I think I would. But in consideration of doing anything for him, I have to honestly say that I don’t think I have. Not completely. Because the truth is that at the birth of my child, someone else was birthed too. For an incredibly self-seeking woman drew breath the moment my precious, baby boy first drew his own. That’s when selfishness rudely inserted itself into my heart and soul. Which is so surprising. I always thought I was generous at heart, but the truth began to emerge in 2006. That’s when the very real battle of self began. It was then, when I had my son.

Before my child, I had no cares in the world, really. It was just me and my husband, and we did whatever we wanted. But then, there was a baby. And my son needed me unlike anyone had ever ever needed me before. And I just have to say, this was a bit overwhelming to me. For I’m not a natural. I didn’t slide gracefully into motherhood. I was terrified and couldn’t sleep for fear that he would stop breathing. And I was never sure of what he really needed. Never. I believe I spent that first year guessing. And juggling because I began to work from home. God blessed me with both a baby and a new home-based job within months but these gifts also became my biggest trials. It was hard to balance a new baby with work because it was always there in front of me. And being the type-A person that I am, I had my own ideas about how and when I should work. But nothing ever went according to plan. Every day was different as the cries of my hungry infant rivaled the blip of incoming work emails. And this is where darkness began to fall.

Those first years were hard and now I have so much regret. Because my little boy learned way to early what it means to be happy and sad. This was evidenced by a visit to my hometown when he was about two or so. I felt happy, so I called him to me for a kiss. Afterwards, he waddled over to his me-maw and pulled out his pacifier to say, “Mama’s happy.” Even at that tender age, he could tell when I was up. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could go back there to get my priorities straight. How often I’ve wished I could undo things I’ve done. Or not done. Because now I see it clearly. Despite love for my baby, there was also the love for myself. And so, I began to cling. I began to construct, but walls consisted of agenda and structure and rigidity and organization. These flimsy walls never lasted. And because my wants seemed to fall by the wayside, I became stingy with my time. I began the game of comparison… my list of to-do’s seemed more lengthy than my dear husbands (at least through the inward glasses I wore). And resentment deposited its seed. Bitterness flourished while I diminished. As I said, I have regret. So much I wish I could un-do. Or re-do.

So many moments that started off like this…

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Turned to moments like this…

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And sadly, there’s no turning back time. But I do have today. Not surprisingly, I find myself in pretty much the same place. Almost eight years later, I’m still fighting the same fight… building flimsy walls made of agenda and structure and rigidity and organization. The only difference is the ping of an incoming work email is rivaled by the wail of a seven year old. But you know, there is knowledge. You do learn as you go. For I know that I’m the very one who boxes myself in. Today, I see that the self-imposed rules and timelines I’ve surrounded myself with will not hold me up. This semblance of a schedule I try to maintain actually contributes to my downfall. For the foundation and structure I’ve so carefully laid out is in fact unsteady. And clinging to these unsound walls paves the way to instability.

Today I have realization. I have clarity. And often, revelation comes through the face of the little boy who stares back at me. In him, I see me. Oh, he loves to laugh. He loves to be silly and his laughter wells up from deep within. Wellsprings of mirth. But also, there’s another side to him. There are frowns and creased brow. There are sighs. And my fear is that I’m turning him into a mini-me. Because I box him in. I impose my agenda and rigidity and organization upon him. And rightfully so, as I’m his mother. But see, I’m a type-A personality. And as I tend to do, I go over-board. This past Sunday the perfect example…

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8

It was picture day. Little league baseball boys all in a row having their picture snapped. But, oh, the wind. It was so gusty. They laughed and giggled as the wind made their eyes tear. They grabbed to their hats to keep them from blowing away. They were delighted. And sure enough, the wind blew hats half way across the field. I could hear my son’s laughter floating on the air as he sank down to his knees, grabbing the rolling hat. I went after him. I didn’t enter his euphoria, though. Instead, I focused on his grass stained pants. See, rather than embrace the moment and cling to the joy that was set before me, I saw only what had to be done. I saw how another load of wash would affect my carefully laid out plans. And so, I utterly missed the moment. What could have been a blessed memory becomes a dark spot in my past. Yet one more regret… one more time I wish I could have a do-over. Why, oh why, didn’t I just laugh with him?

You know, structure is a good thing. But if it controls you, it can have the opposite effect. If rigidity boxes you in, then it’s time to tear down the walls. And if life is snuffed out and the Spirit is quenched because things just don’t go your way, then priorities need to be evaluated. At least this is true for me. I know I am not meant to be boxed in. God wants me to be fluid, malleable, and yielding. It’s almost as if what God said to King David, He says to me:

Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 2 Samuel 7:5-7

God moves. His Spirit moves. And I’m supposed to be the same. He did not order me to construct my rigid walls. He did not tell me to box myself in by unattainable goals. And He did not say to chain myself to self-imposed rules and regulations. Because He knows that will be the death of me. The wrong kind of death… Spirit quenched. And because I hold to the wants and desires that drive my laid out plans, I am still holding to my life. I’m still battling myself. This is me putting myself first. Not my son. And if I say I would do anything for him, wouldn’t I do this one thing? Why can’t I just surrender? God help me.

Yes, it’s true. Dying is hard. It’s been a seven year battle. And there have been tears and failure… skirmishes lost. But the battle is not yet over. I still have today. Despite more regrets than I can count, it’s not too late. But rather than dwell on days gone by, I can live in the moment and look to the future. Because as my son wisely put it, “There’s no reset button.” And he’s so right. I may not be able to un-do or re-do what’s done, but I can surely redeem the time that’s left. For life remains within my son. The Spirit bubbles up alongside giggles of delight. Oh, he may frown from time to time, but he hasn’t lost his smile, or his laugh, yet. And the good news is, through him, I think I’ll find my own. I shall laugh again. A spring of living water flowing from within…

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So, what have you got?

If you’re alive and walking God’s green earth, then He has a plan for you… His thoughts are of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And sometimes, that’s just hard to imagine. We look at our small lives, and wonder how in the world the God of all creation could possibly have a custom-made plan for each of us. Because we simply cannot fathom how we can be of any use to Him. We may even think, “I have positively nothing to offer.” Because times are hard, right? And the cost of living is rising. And because we’re so busy, time has become a commodity. Since we feel constraint, perhaps we hold back. But I know in my bones that holding back cannot be part of God’s custom-made plan. And as such, with regard to contributing to God’s kingdom and His plan, I just have to ask myself a question. I’ll pose the same to you. “So, what have you got?”

I can speak only for myself here, but at the basest level, I have me. And I have a pulse. And because I am living and breathing, I have God-given life. At the very least, I have that, right? And so, indeed, I possess life. And God has placed me strategically on this earth… for His purpose and His plan. He wants me to use what I have, which is life.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness”- He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may be revealed in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:6-12

So I see. I am but a clay jar housing life, but also, so much more. Because inside, there is light and knowledge of God’s glory, and the face of Jesus through His death and His life, and God’s power. And I have spirit… the Spirit. All of this is contained within me, an earthen vessel, to be used for God’s glory. But He doesn’t want me to keep this treasure to myself, for it’s to be shared.

“The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”       John 7:38

God wants for me to lavishly pour out these treasures, so that they splash onto and into the clay jars surrounding me. Because what I possess should be doled out freely… until everyone I come into contact with is drenched. I can be emptied, poured out as a drink offering, without the fear of drying up. Because the Spirit is endless. And I believe. And so, this is what I have… a river within me, and there are those who thirst.

There’s the story about a woman who lived long ago. We find her in the fourth chapter of 2 Kings. She was near the end of her rope. Her husband died, her debt had mounted, and finally, the creditors were coming to take away her two children as payment. And so, she did the only thing she knew to do… she approached the man of God. And Elisha asked her, “What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She said there was nothing… nothing, but a jar of oil. But whereas she saw only need, Elisha saw opportunity. He told her, “Go and borrow empty containers from everyone… from all your neighbors. Do not get just a few. Then go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour oil into all these containers. Set the full ones to one side.” And that’s what she did…

Long ago a woman filled empty jars with oil until there were none left. And that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do today. See, God fills us – His clay jars – with His own oil. We have the Holy Spirit. And He can fill us to the brim. He can pour into us until there’s no more room and we’re overflowing. Because the Holy Spirit is not a commodity… Its supply is limitless. And so, now, when we contemplate the question, “So, what have you got?” We can answer… We have a river. And it flows from deep within… streams of living water.

Yes, God has a purpose and a plan… for you, and for me. We are His earthen vessels, each one made to be filled. Until there are none left…

There’s a heartbeat…

Most of us have seen the dramatic scenes in movies… there’s a traumatic event, and someone ends up lying on the pavement. A person hurriedly approaches the lifeless form, and then drops to their knees to help. An ear is pressed to the chest in expectation… surely it will be there. And then yes, we hear the proclamation. We find there is hope, for “There’s a heartbeat.” And it was yesterday in Sunday School that I realized this happens in a spiritual sense, too. Because I felt the very same. I felt a quickening of my heart that made it’s way to my ears… the kind that thuds all the way through your body… the kind that lets you know that God is in deed there with you. It’s the kind of thudding that comforts you… because it lets you know, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

I don’t know who’s stuck with me for the duration of this blog, but if anyone has, they have seen a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey in just a few short months. In a minimal amount of time, my life has depicted both highs and lows. It’s a life that’s reflected fullness of faith. But then, perhaps some doubt peeked through. There have been mountaintop experiences where there is fullness of life. Only to be followed up most recently with a darker period. See, I had fallen deep into a pit of gloom… surrounded by sadness, loneliness, and well… just plain depressed, I guess. I felt silence on all fronts and couldn’t quite say why. And honestly, for a short while, I felt as if God were absent. It’s as if His presence were no where to be found. Until yesterday, that is.

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. The LORD will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:5-8

It was yesterday morning when I began reading the book of Esther, and something stood out. See, there was a king who issued a command to his queen. He commanded that she come before him, but she refused. And when he sought counsel from his wise men as to what he should do with his queen, the wise men said this, “Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus’ presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she.” This caught my attention as I glimpsed a nugget of truth here. But I had to tuck it away until later because it was time to get ready for church. It wasn’t even a half an hour later that I declared to my husband that I was through with something. There was a nagging feeling that had followed me for quite some time, but I always pushed it down deep. Perhaps down deep into that pit of gloom that I found myself. But yesterday, I made my decision. Enough.

And so, an hour later in Sunday School, I was surprised by a deafening thud in my chest. Because that roaring of my heart hadn’t made its appearance for so long. And oh, was it ever music to my ears. Because that bump, bump, bump was the Holy Spirit. He touched me yesterday morning. And I so needed to feel His touch. See, I’ve been sad and lonely. I’ve been feeling separated from everyone and everything, but most importantly, I’ve been feeling separated from God. I’ve been sulking in a deep pit of gloom… but thankfully, it doesn’t matter how deep I go, He can still reach me.

It’s true that I went down for a time, but God didn’t let me sink too low. He called to me while I was in the deep, and so, I learn that He is really is faithful. Even when I’m not. Because He reached down and touched me. And as Psalm 42 proclaims, I find that He is in fact the God of my life. Because He spoke to me through His word and His touch. See, I made a decision before I left my home yesterday morning. It was a nagging thought I had carried with me for over a year now. But I kept pushing it down. And my realization yesterday morning was that God told me to do something over a year ago. But I procrastinated… why, I was just like Queen Vashti, who refused to do the bidding of King Ahaserus. My King gave me a command, and I rationalized it away for so long. And so the truth of the matter is, I’ve been living in sin. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin – James 4:17. All the silence… all the loneliness… all the depression… could this be the root of it?

There is no soundness in my body because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear. Lord, my every desire if known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart races, my strength leaves me, and even the light of my eyes has faded. My loved ones and friends stand back from my affliction, and my relatives stand at a distance. I am like a deaf person; I do not hear. I am like a speechless person who does not open his mouth… Psalm 38 (various verses)

I try to write out a Psalm a day. It doesn’t always happen, but when I do so, I pen them in order… one right after the other. And the above happens to be my Psalm for today. In my Bible, it’s referred to as a Prayer of a Suffering Sinner. And so, I see the truth about God & me. It’s my sin that weighed me down, it’s my sin that caused the separation from God, and it’s my sin that caused the silence. And sin that I carried for too long caused the light of my eye to fade. Why, it extinguished my very life. But He is the God of my life, so there is hope. Because although sin may have flooded over my head and pushed me down deep into a pit of gloom, God was right there with me. For His Spirit resides in me. And it was the breakers and billows of His living waters that swept over me. Deep called to deep in the roar of His waterfalls, and He spoke to me through His touch. And with His ear upon my lifeless chest, I heard Him as He proclaimed, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

You are not alone!

When I was nineteen, we were three. There was Shannon and Gracie and me, and we were always together. I loved them fully, and when they were with me… I was never lonely. Because I had my best friends. And I can’t remember if it was when I still lived at home, or when I joined the Air Force that we gave each other pet names. Shannon was pretty much the leader and was christened “Wise One.” Gracie, who was petite and quiet natured, became “Little One.” And me? For reasons I can’t recall, I was “Lonely One.” I had forgotten that till just this morning. Loneliness… it touched me then and it’s touched me now. And so I see, this must be a recurring pattern in my life.

I am convinced that there are no accidents or coincidences. I fully believe that we find ourselves in circumstances over and over again… until we get it. And so, rather than sweep this unwelcome feeling under the rug by filling my life with as much activity and business as I can possibly manage, I want to understand this feeling. Why should I be lonely? As I contemplate the last two blogs, it’s apparent that I am. I am once more that vulnerable young girl of nineteen… once more, I am “Lonely One.” God has brought me to a place where I am surrounded by silence. In more ways than one. I work from home, and rarely get out amongst people. And as time passes, the once frequent voices of old friends have almost completely hushed and stilled altogether. And then there’s God. I haven’t been hearing from Him lately. And so, loneliness has nestled down into my heart once more… I am utterly, “Lonely One.”

You know, I don’t think we’re made to be alone. God Himself is three in One. He is Father, and Son and Holy Spirit. He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” And after man was created, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is like him.” After Eve made an appearance, man said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken from man.” It’s Genesis 2:24 that says “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” And so, there was Adam and Eve… and God Himself chose to fellowship with them. He walked with them in the cool of the garden.. they were three.

I believe it was after I met my husband when I began to refer to myself as, “Lonely One No More.” See, we became one flesh, and for quite some time I was filled. But, as time wore on, I had bouts of loneliness. First, we moved away from family and it was just us. We did make friends at first, but when one moved turned into another, and then another… well, new friendships waned. My husband worked long hours and was away most evenings and weekends. My karaoke machine became my best friend, as I had a party for one just about every Friday night. My telephone was my other best friend because I made frequent calls to those I loved and missed. We were three, my Karaoke machine, my phone, and me.

Loneliness began to fill my soul as the years marched on. And so, today I’m surprised that I find myself here. Because I am in my homeland… surrounded by family members. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful child. I have been blessed. And yet, “Lonely One” is etched on my heart. And this time, I want to know why.

Here is truth. In all the years that I spent away from family and loved ones, I was never, ever alone. Because what Jesus told His followers holds true today… “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17. I have the Spirit with me and in me today, just as I did all those years ago. And all those years did not have to be forlorn. They could have been magical! There could have been so many special moments for just God and me. I could have shared hours of intimate fellowship… with God. But I chose not to. And I think that’s why I find myself here today. Thus the silence. I believe God wants me to know… I do not need to be lonely. He wants me to take the truth out of my head and let it seep deep into those lonely black holes of my heart. And it’s not just me that needs to know this. For we are not alone. That means you are not alone!

I have a choice… I know when the dark times are coming. I can feel them hovering on the outer edges of my contentment. And I can do one of two things. I can invite loneliness to my pity party for one (and whether I acknowledge it or not – both God and my husband are in attendance anyway). Or, I can cancel the party. I can ignore what God is telling me, or, I can let the truth of what He says settle into my heart. See, my husband and I are one flesh. And I have the Spirit of the living God residing in me. And so, I am not alone. God, my husband, and me… we’re three. I can be “Lonely One No More” if I want to be. And you? Only you can answer that. But if you have God the Father through Jesus the Son, then the Spirit of the living God is in you, too. That makes you two, and two are better than one.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The Living Dead

Most everyone has heard John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came that we may have life… abundant life. So do we? Are we all living fully and abundantly? Or are we the living dead? I can only speak for myself here, but I have to say I fall into the latter category. I have been barely living. I have been existing. So many of my days consist of me longing for the evening to come. So often, I go through the motions of my day, doing just what I need to do to make it to nightfall. And then, I fall asleep on the couch, take myself to bed, and then wake up to do it all over again. This cannot be what Jesus meant when He said that He came so we may have life.

There’s another verse that comes to mind… “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). I’m sure this verse is about salvation through Jesus Christ, but when I ponder the first part of that verse, I wonder if it goes deeper than that. Because yes, God wants for all His creation to be saved and have eternal life in heaven. But, I think He also wants us to live here on this earth… fully and abundantly. For His purposes. But sin throws us off course. I feel my life is living proof of just that. I had two abortions when I was young. I cringe as I type that. But what’s done is done and I cannot go back and change it. But, I can change how I move forward in life. Because although I truly repented of that lifestyle years ago, I never brought my specific acts to God. I never really talked to Him about it till this past Fall. And I think that my holding on to those sins, even though I no longer agreed with what I did, has hindered me all these years. That old sin that I carried in the deep recesses of my heart slowly ate away at me. My life slowly ebbed away, until I was simply a shell of a woman. A woman who simply went through the motions in every sense of the word… in every aspect of my life. A woman who did her best to get through each day, so she could get to the evening… a woman who barely lived.

Do you know what God says in Ezekiel 18:32? He says, “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies… therefore turn and live!” Man, did this verse jump off the pages at me. Turn and live! Although God is talking to His chosen people of long ago, I’m sure He is also talking to His people of today. I’m sure He wants for us all to listen up, and “Turn and live!” But how do we do that? The preceding verse says, “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?” Cast away my sins… I’m in the process of doing that, you know. I began dealing with my past in the Fall, and it’s somehow carried over to now. Because I just made a huge confession on Friday. God’s word assures me that when we confess, and when we repent of our sins, we are forgiven! Because of the blood of Christ, my sins are covered. Can I truly receive His word? Can I trust Him in that, and really once and for all leave what’s past in the past? I pray I can.

I read Ezekiel 37 today. I was totally captivated by God’s word. I felt like each verse was written just for me. I couldn’t get enough of it. I just have to share what I read because God’s vision to Ezekiel still holds true… for all of us. Because you know what? With the exception of a few blessed souls who are really living life the way God intends, most of us are barely living at all. Most of us are going through the motions. Most of us are stagnating in a rut of routine. Most of us are completely hindered by our pasts, refusing to let go and just move forwad. So many of us are complacent… too many of us are comfortable in our bubbles of security. And for some of us, we are dead in our trespasses in every sense of the word. So listen and hear God’s word today…

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. God said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord, God, You know.” And He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Because He says, “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.” So I prophesied as I was commanded, and there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling… the bones came together… bone to bone. God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, say to the breath, ‘Thus says the LORD God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'” And breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet. (Portions of Scripture taken from Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Do you want to live? I do. I do not want to go through the motions one more day. I want to live fully and abundantly. I want God to breathe new breath into me, and pour out His Spirit upon me. I want it bad. And He wants it for me. And so all I have to do is turn to Him, and I’ll live. I’ll receive His word… I’ll receive His Spirit… and I’ll receive His promises. Because the gift of God through Christ Jesus our Lord is eternal life… and I’ll grab it with both hands.

Hush, listen… what’s that I hear? Is that the rattling of bones?