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A small parallel to life that has brought me great peace lately…

GreyWhale-2As a grey whale goes through it’s life swimming, resting, gliding, and simply being a whale, there are parasites that attach itself to the whale that can cause disease and damage. The harm from these parasites is often passed onto the whale’s offspring causing pain for generations. Yet God, in his beautiful wisdom, didn’t leave the whale out in the ocean helpless to fight off these deadly leeches alone. Throughout the ocean are fish that feed off these parasites. All a whale has to do is simply swim and be and the fish will come, eat the parasites off the whale. Making it healthy, braking off drag and resistance, giving it an easier glide through the water.

It was this image I saw a few weeks ago in worship. God was telling me to rest, relax and let him take care of all those things in life I feel like I need to fix about me and about others. Swim through his presence. Rest in his great expanse. Enjoy the beauty of who he is and he will do the rest. He takes care of the great whales of the sea, he can definitely take care of me.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11.1

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Thank you God for taking care of all the things I can see as well as those I can’t. Thank you that I don’t have to focus on those things that I think need fixed. Thank you that I can rest in who you are, trust your guidance, and swim gracefully in your presence as I glide through this beautiful journey of life.

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. Ecclesiastes 5.20

Be still and know that I am God… Psalm 46.10

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“Perhaps I have been struggling with an illusory idea of freedom, as if I were not, to a great extent, bound by my own history, the history of Gethsemani, of the country where I have become a citizen, etc. There are only certain very limited and special avenues of freedom open to me now, and it is useless to fight my way along where no issue is possible. This is true not only exteriorly but even interiorly and spiritually. To say that God can open up new ways is perhaps, among other things, to admit only He has provided ways for me of which I cannot yet be aware, since I am too intent upon imaginary and experimental ones.” Thomas Merton –

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How do we know we’re on the right path? {Trust}

How do we know we’re trusting the right things? {Look}

How do we know we’re looking at the you?

{Open your eyes to see, I’m holding you close to me.

My grace overflows you; my love empowers you.

To hold true to the journey,

Simply Be.}

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hbx-holiday-1210-perfect-de-83980034I’m not really a holiday person. I don’t know if I ever have been. For me the holidays exhibit frustration, disappointment, and awkwardness of forced relationships. I’ve heard of stories and know people who love the holidays, embrace the joy of the season, see the beauty of peace on earth, and make cookies to help spread some of that overflowing festivity inside of them. I’m thankful for people like that, they help me come outside myself and make the holidays better for everyone. I just happen to not be one of those people.

To me the holidays are a season of stirring up emotions that I try to keep dormant. As a result, all I do during the holidays feels like a forced effort, similar to a child waking up for school, or choosing to go to for a run when it’s 36 degrees outside. Maybe if I did run more often these days I would feel better…  its just so stinking cold out!

In addition to not appreciating the holidays for all that they’re worth, my natural tendency for dealing with stress, pressure, and all that makes me feel uncomfortable is to run and hide. I don’t think it’s that uncommon to want to push away from something that hurts or is unfamiliar. I look at it like getting a shot; most children scream and try to run away from the needle. I don’t have a problem with needles, I tend to run from people, places, events, tasks, pretty much anything that causes me pain. Knowing full well that running away from everything that scares me, hurts me, or makes me feel inferior is extremely immature, cowardly, and will get me nowhere in in life, I push forward trying to do the best thing in each situation… that is until the holidays come around.

I can’t explain it; something happens inside of me, my insecurities overwhelm me. Tapes play in my head louder at this time of year than any other… “Everyone is better at this than you… people are tired of your weaknesses… why can’t you just get your act together and make some cookies… why is it four days from Christmas and you haven’t even put ornaments on the tree, you’re as pathetic as your tree… you really need to see someone about your issues, maybe a few days stay at an institution would help…” And the list goes on and on and on, intertwining truth and judgment. I don’t have ornaments on my tree, I haven’t made a single cookie, I haven’t even been able to bring myself to buy presents for those I love because the tapes in my head scream at me each time I think of what I’d want to get.

It’s during this time of year that I think back to when I was a child. Many nights when storms would rage, and the thunder and lightning would penetrate the house, my sister would come running into my room to save me. Along with her would be a blanket and her most comforting stuffed animal. I’d grab my “Ted-E-Bear” and run after her excited to find some solace in the storm. We’d clammer down the stairs into the center of the family room (away from all windows) and sit with blanket overhead, waiting out the storm. It was in those moments with the warmth of our breath comforting our souls that we would laugh and rest, knowing we were safe.

It is during this time of year that I long for that, long for the warmth and comfort of peace that comes with knowing there is one who takes you under their blanket, because they too understand the fear. To feel the comforting breath of one who loves unconditionally, without judgment or criticism, the breath of one who will just let you be and will be with you as you wait out the storm.

6121045132_dbcca8315d_zEven though 25 years have passed since those days of hiding from the storm with my sister, and 1,500 miles now separates us, I know that I can still find that comfort. I can sit by my fireplace, dog at my feet, kitty in my lap, coffee in hand, and simply rest. Feeling the warmth of breath refreshing my soul, I can breathe out the frustrations of the season, let go of all the unmet expectations, release the tension I’ve placed on myself, and simply be. Be with the one who doesn’t care about the commercialism, doesn’t care if I make cookies, or buy presents, doesn’t care if the ornaments on my tree are up, He just cares about me at this moment and at this time. So for now I will simply breath in, feel the warmth and be.

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My Sister, My Friend

There are those in life who are a gift, a treasure that holds a priceless place upon your heart. Those who have been there since your memories began, and you hope will be there until the end: laughing, crying, venting, processing. To find a person such as this is rare, and it’s the very gift I was given.

When I came into the world there was a little girl, almost three-years-old, waiting to greet me, love me, protect me and teach me all the things her little mind had already learned. That is the heart of a big sister. That heart never changed.

Growing up I remember looking at her, her beauty, her laugh, her intelligence, and thinking that there is no one who could measure up to her. Her heart to care for people, her love beyond herself, her determination in the face of adversity, serve the world in far greater ways than it may realize.

She has become more than a sister. She is a dear friend, an accountability partner, a voice of reason, a tender touch, and place of refuge on long walks.

Today is her day, the celebration of her birth.

Happy birthday to you, my sister, my friend.

The world is a better place because you are in it.

I love you.

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Doorway to the Soul

A while ago a friend of mine wrote a short piece on the journey I went through deciding whether or not to have my ‘lazy eye’ fixed. (You can read that here.) While we were processing the surgery and my journey through it, he asked me if I wanted to write my own story. Realizing I wasn’t quite ready to go there, I quickly declined. And on that day I promised him I would write, I would choose to go there, I would push through the fear and acknowledge the lessons learned, and the lessons still to learn. This is that promise being fulfilled.

My eyes have always been a sensitive subject for me. As a child when they realized there was an issue, I was forced to wear a patch on my right eye at home. The hope was that my brain would acknowledge the wanderer and lock it into place. After several months of trying, along many tears shed over cartoons missed because my ‘good eye’ couldn’t see the television, they suggested surgery. To a single mom living in government housing while trying to raise two children, the idea of an ‘elective ‘ surgery was an overwhelming and not attainable financially or emotionally. So I learned to adjust.

For the most part, my eye didn’t bother me growing up. It stayed in place unless I was really tired. There were times… like when my cat scratched me in my ‘good eye’ causing it to be patched on the same day my school was going to the local roller-skating rink. There’s not a whole lot a seven-year-old can do with one eye patched and the other one virtually blind. So there I sat on the circular, carpeted tables alone. Determined to be there. Waiting for it to be over.

As I grew older, the wandering of my eye was obvious only to those friends in high school who stayed up all hours of the night with me laughing, studying, crying. It was those friends who had learned to look past the eyes and love the soul. Yet to me it was a dominant feature every time I looked in a mirror, or saw a picture of myself. It was slowly becoming my identity.

The older I got the more my eye wandered. Having gotten married at 19 my husband married what he thought was a ‘normal’ person, but I knew better. Every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of my weakness. They say the eyes are the doorway to the soul and all mine seemed to lead me to was shame and embarrassment.

I got to the point where I’d avoid anyone from the past so I wouldn’t get questions like, ‘Has your eye always been like that?’ I’d close my ‘bad eye’ when looking at specific people in a crowd to avoid the awkward look of confusion on their face as they looked behind them to see if I was looking at them or not. I tried to embrace my eye by pointing it out to my students as I introduced myself as their new teacher for the year. And it was a bit endearing when one student said they were excited to get the crazy-eyed teacher. Little kids would ask about it, adults would ask about it. I felt like my words faded into the distance, consumed with thoughts of my eye. This thing that I wanted so badly to hide had become the thing that appeared like a scarlet letter with each new person I met.

Somehow I had created this, I deserved it. I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough or pure enough, were the words written for all to see on the doorway to my soul.

Having thought about surgery a couple of times, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Who was I to change the way God made me? What am I going to do next, want a boob job or liposuction? Vanity, this whole thing is about vanity! A good Christian wouldn’t do this surgery. You must not be close enough to God to feel like you need surgery to be fixed. Who was I to spend that much money on myself? There are people much more valuable with worthwhile causes who could use that money; how selfish! The lies continued in my head for years… I was being consumed.

Finally realizing I couldn’t live in the struggle of it all, I began to look into having my eye ‘fixed’. Telling myself if it didn’t cost too much money, I’d be willing to consider it. (In the back of my head thinking it wouldn’t be an option because insurance couldn’t cover a surgery that was pure vanity.) I was wrong, surgery, post-op, pre-op, medication – everything was completely covered. It was as if God was giving me a gift and all I needed to do was receive it.

There was a risk involved, my eye could turn in instead of out. I could have to get used to a whole new set of frustrations. Did I trust God? Did I believe this was a gift? Did I really want to change?

After much research and many talks with my family I decided it was worth the risk. That’s when I began to see all that I had wrapped up in this one thing. I began to imagine my eyes being straight. I imagined a life where I boldly walked up to old friends, confident of the person I was, sure of my value. I imagined looking in the mirror and enjoying the image staring back at me. I imagined feeling beautiful, secure, and lovey. Without shame.

Two surgeries and almost three years later I realize my insecurities went far deeper than the doorway. The lies that penetrated my soul remained long after the doctor bragged about how well the surgery had turned out. The feelings of ugliness, unworthiness, and pain did not go away when the questions about my eye stopped. The scarlet letter was still imprinted onto my very being.

There it lay deeply rooted – founded in the lies of my youth, stronger than any external force. And here I am: still too shy to go up to an old friend from high school, still on the brink of tears when I shop for jeans, and still having to remind myself daily that my beauty comes from within. That the gift I was given was a priceless one from my Daddy God, who sees me as his priceless daughter, beautiful, worthy and pure.

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