Tuesday, May 31, 2016

At His Feet

She wasted it all
This woman who sat at the feet of Jesus
Who suffered the rebuke of her sister for leaving duties undone
This same one would be called Beautiful
because of what Jesus saw in her Act of Worship
Pouring our her costly perfume
Just for Him


Last week, as I read a beautiful post, "God's Treasures in Clay Vessels" from Wendy at "Widows Manna," her words took me back to a day several years ago before my RA/Fibro journey had begun. (Thank you, Wendy for encouraging me to share my story here.) I was that Woman in a dramatic portrayal Jesus had put on my heart.  I had portrayed The Woman at the Well many years before, but after a time of brokenness in a relationship, the Lord stretched my heart to write one final drama that would combine the stories of three women whose brokenness had been turned into worship.  And the final segment belonged to Mary, as she broke open her alabaster box, anointing Jesus with her costly perfume.  

Oh what a freeing time of expression the Lord gave to me through that portrayal.  For you see the main thought that I expressed through Mary's Worship was in the Joy that she felt to be at Jesus' feet.  Joy to be allowed to sit and glean from His speaking, Joy to find her grief turned inside out when Jesus raised her brother Lazarus, and finally, Joy to have her Love be fully accepted when she poured out her worship on his feet.  That portrayal was a kind of culmination for me: an expression of what Jesus had worked in my own heart through the years of letting go of pain and embracing His healing.

But it turns out the culmination was actually a beginning. (Isn't that just like our God?  He seems to delight in re-telling our stories!)  One day last year, as I faithfully massaged my daily essential oils onto my sore and tired feet, my vision clouded and I saw myself going through the motions of pouring that oil out as Mary did.  And I heard the whisper of God saying to remember that anointing every night as I poured out the oil onto my own feet, because Jesus was now anointing me.  My act of worship to portray Mary, had now become my own act of prayer as I waited for the healing that was in His hand to provide.  

But as sweet as that was, the days moved on, and my feet continued to ache.  The inflammation continued to wax and wane.  Even as I found myself shut-in with Jesus, I chafed at the restrictions.  But He has been fulfilling my heart's desire:  to be at His feet.

In the night when my soul aches with anxiety, my words are few, and I have come to a new place of being poured out.  Even as healing comes to joints long stiffened with pain, my silent love is spilling out, Worshiping at HIS FEET.

My dear friend sang this song at the conclusion of the Drama, when we offered it for our Church's Women's Retreat.  I hope this version by Clint Brown blesses you as much as it continues to bless me.





Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Remnants

Awakening
  --by Joy Lenton, 
from her book,  Seeking Solace

In the quiet morning hour
I press my ear to earth
And listen with intent,

Because in the stillness
I can hear soft breath
Of Holy Spirit sighs

Awakening all around
And as the world stirs
It heeds the call to arise,

As sun's slanting rays are
Beckoning us forth
With silent sounds


To surrender our lives
To Love's gentle power
Poured out for these days.


I awoke early this morning with the words of this poem echoing in my heart. I had fallen to sleep with these same words resting in my heart. So I hobbled down the stairs before my feet were ready to tackle the steps, and took my camera out into the sunshine. Would the sunrise still be glowing over the new garden? I had to know.



It was this "Garden of Remnants" that drew me out, because the word "Remnant" has become a sort of theme for me. Last year, a dear friend gave me a journal for my Birthday and wrote this note in the flyleaf, "Maybe the Lord will allow you to journal about His Remnant from end to beginning," with this Scripture reference added:

"I have reserved for myself ... a remnant chosen by grace."  Romans 11:4-5

So when the Lord touched my heart with a poem about "Awakening" I knew that He was speaking something important that needed my listening:

He is awakening the Remnants of Himself in my heart that have lain covered up beneath my service.


Last week the Landscapers came and stripped away the old Butterfly Garden that I wrote about here: "The Garden That Was"  Then this past weekend, the time was urgent for rescuing the remnants saved from the old.  But I was in no condition for the gardening marathon that was required, as I limped around with the bruising and pain of yet another steroid shot given into the locked-up tendons in my foot. So my husband, who is definitely NOT a gardener, gave me the gift of transplanting, and cleaning, and carting, and making this new Garden of Remnants from the strippings of the old. 

As I soaked in the warmth of the sun's rising over this humble little plot, there was a beating in my heart for the new that is really very old.  A remnant from long ago.  As a child, my heart was stirred to be with Jesus and soak in HIS warmth at a very young age.  But as with all of us, life moves on, and duties begin to shape the way that we process our days. I learned early on to be the caregiver before the care became too heavy--that meant I was always on alert, ready to jump and take care of things at a moment's notice.  My Mom required much care as she herself suffered with various sicknesses, some very real, but all of them overburdened by anxiety. There were many years that I thought she demanded more of me than was fair. But actually, she taught me how to give a good gift: I gave her the gift of serving, and in turn learned how to bless others with that same gift.  In the process I laid aside my own heart.  ...  Or so I thought ....


 "But I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him."  
2 Timothy 1:12
 
Nothing is ever really lost when we belong to Jesus.  He is the perfect gatekeeper, and He watches over those childlike places in our hearts, just waiting for the right time to awaken and stir the embers of a passionate love.  Those remnants that I thought were long gone, have been in HIS care, as He has shaped and transformed them into beautiful reflections of HIS loving.  

I cannot see how my loving is meant to take shape and form in this new place.  But one thing I do knowJesus awakens the remnants of His Love when He calls the Garden of our hearts ready.  Ready for the new, that is actually very old. 


Thank you, Joy Lenton, for permitting me to copy your beautiful poem here!

I am linking with #TellHisStory  this week.  Won't you check out the wonderful bloggers who are also sharing there?

   

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sunrise in Vietnam

Sunrise over a small village in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

How did I get to be in that incredible place?  And why am I telling this story now, in the middle of this RA/Fibromyalgia Season of re-learning my place?

Another word-sharing-session with my counselor brought me to the place of remembering.  I told her that I still wanted to be up and doing and walking away my anxieties. I am not finding the PEACE here that I thought I should have attained by now.  So my Counselor asked if I could take a walk through the memory hall of my mind.  The same emotions that were triggered during the actual pleasant times can be triggered again, proven by studies, simply when we remember those times.

Shortly after she proposed a time of remembering, a new Blog-Friend of mine found out that I had taken a God-Planned-Adventure to Vietnam, and she stirred up these very memories when she shared her own Adventures.  Thank you Valerie, at gracewithsilk  for asking to hear about my story!  So today I am walking over the land that a healthier and stronger me was allowed to witness.

I was probably 17 or 18 years old when I had a vision while I was praying. I saw myself in an Asian Village, being so thankful to share in a love that was God-given.  I assumed I would be a Missionary. But my life took a different turn, and decades later, as a stay-at-home Mom, I found myself wrapped up in the story of my Pastor and his Wife, trying to adopt a baby from Cambodia.  I prayed and agonized with them through a very long and difficult adoption process.  When they returned with their beautiful baby boy, I sat amazed by the pictures in their slideshow.  It looked like the Asian Village in my vision from so long ago.  Tears rolled down my face, as I felt the Lord say that I had been in that village with them through my praying.  Ahh beautiful, I thought.  Now I know why I had that vision. End of Story.

But God's endings are not the same as ours.  Another decade later, and this time our oldest son took a trip to Vietnam with his new friend.  We didn't know that a possible marriage with his friend's sister was in the itinerary.  But again, Jesus finds ways to let a Mama know how to pray.  On the very night of the marriage, half-way around the world, my heart was burdened to pray for my children's spouses, with an urgency like never before.  So when our son came home and asked us to pray with him so that his new wife could get a VISA to come to America, my heart had already been prepared.

Years of praying, and crying, and waiting were finally answered in the spring of 2011, when her VISA was approved.  When we finally met our new daughter-in-law, loving her was easy because my heart had been captivated before she ever set foot in America.

So when she asked me to go with her back to Vietnam for a Family Reunion Party later that fall, I thought my heart would burst.



Breakfast time in Vietnam means noodle soup (not cereal) and tea (not coffee.)


A trip to the market across the street from the family's house happened daily. Even when I thought I would lose my way, my daughter-in-law held my hand and treated me with honor, so that I knew I was in the safest place I could be.


This Grandma, (51 at the time,) managed to stumble into the flat-bottomed boat for a ride down the river. When God calls out the Adventure, we never know where He will lead us.  As a 17 year old, looking for a future of purpose, I thought I knew what LOVE looked like.  I thought I would be the one teaching those around me what God's Love looks like.  But HE is the teacher, and HE knows how to plan the future that will bring about HIS Beauty in every place HE leads us.

Sometimes Beauty looks like a small table, child-sized by American standards, set with simple fruit, prepared by the hands of a family that speak a language you cannot understand, opening their hearts for LOVE to be shared.


My journeys now feel large when I can take a day-trip involving a 3 or 4 hour car ride.  But my times for Adventure are not finished.  When I let Jesus plan my journey, whether through chronic illness or healthy travels, HE will set my feet in the good place of HIS choosing: Finding BEAUTY and LOVE each step of the way.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus" Ephesians 3:20-21

I'm thankful to be sharing my remembering-story with a group of other great bloggers over at #TellHisStory.  Won't you check out their stories as well?


 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Garden That Was


Last week my husband helped to transplant this clematis before it succumbs to the shovel of the Landscapers tearing out its old home. And so,
the clematis has moved again. 

Yes, this is the same clematis, from  this post. 
 
I had told the story about the unhealthy rose roots that had to be removed, so that the healthy clematis could then take hold and bloom profusely in My Butterfly Garden.  That Garden Bed was installed by the previous owners, and was one of my favorite (read prideful) parts of this home that we purchased back in 2004.  I labored over that Bed, added many more plants through the years, and enjoyed the hummingbirds, and butterflies, and even the hummingbird moths that sipped the nectar of the blooms.

But there came a day when my limitations and the garden's limitations collided.  

My husband is the one who pointed out the inevitable to me this spring:  That Garden Bed cannot continue.  The landscaping blocks cannot be shored up any longer. Certainly not by this limited gardener. It must be removed.  THE WHOLE BED HAS BECOME UNHEALTHY.

But I don't understand! How could I have learned such a beautiful lesson about "Unhealthy Roots," only now to learn that the WHOLE BED IS UNHEALTHY?
 
It reminds me of the words with my Counselor this week.  

There are ways of learning that serve us well for a Season. But when that Season is past, if we cling to those old ways of learning, then God has to dig up the whole foundation. I have had many such uprootings throughout my life.  Each uprooting brought with it a time of surrender and letting go.  I loosened my grasp and grieved at the partings, knowing that what is given to God is never truly lost.  Trusting that was the case, but never seeing the results of those surrenders, I pushed on to persevere in my walk with Jesus.

But here in this place of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, where I am learning a new way of being still with Jesus, some days it feels like my entire foundation is being torn out.  Spending time with Jesus, just to be with HIM; finding new ways to create, just to bring HIM pleasure; and resting my painful body just to preserve HIS Dwelling Place in me??  ...  Finishing the work, and working to be the giver served me well in the past.  But clinging to them now has become another form of Pridefulness.  AND THAT FOUNDATION IS CRUMBLING.

The NEW Garden Bed that will come after the old is torn out, will be much smaller and on level ground.  No more hillside tottering, and no more JungleBook plantings of excess.  And the NEW Garden in my Soul?  I will be content to wait and see what God brings, up from the QUIET.

I praise Thee while my days go on;
I love Thee while my days go on;
Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank Thee while my days go on.
                  --E.B.Browning

"The Lord knoweth the soul of His servants; and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate."
Psalm 34:22 KJV 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mercy


Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray at http://www.faithbarista.com



 As I continue my study of Bonnie Gray's Book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, I appreciated this week's chapter and the thought of listening for God in the everyday times of our lives, to hear just one word from Him.




Inhale ...

"Jesus, Son of David"

Exhale ...

"Have mercy on me."

 

It's the latest lesson I have been learning in this Season of Restoration.  Mercy.  Sometimes I feel like I should be swimming in Mercy, I've asked for it so often recently.  But this Season has wrung a NEW cry out of my heart that hadn't been expressed before.

My Doctor, and just about every website I've checked into, says that Fibromyalgia doesn't respond to many treatments except for one:  Exercise.  So I have been searching through You-tube Yoga Videos, trying to find a new and improved program to jumpstart my pain relief.

Over the years, I have "Sweated With The Oldies," "Walked Away the Pounds," and even bought my own copy of Stormie Omartian's '80's workout (remember neon-legwarmers?)  Just ask my Homeschooling Friends, we've run the gamut of pre-recorded Health & Fitness programs.  But my favorite workout was always an old-fashion Hike in the Woods.  My own goal is to get back to that ability.  I've dreamed about the day that I can do that again, and it's not coming fast enough to satisfy my own agenda.

Hence the push to "push myself."

I found a gentle yoga workout, designed specifically for those with RA and joint pain, several months ago.  And I've been faithfully using it most every day.  But last week I grew impatient when the results seemed so slow in showing themselves.  So I moved up to a more difficult workout. And there was not much sleep for 3 nights in a row.  The classic sign that my body was not happy with something.

In that night time silence, where I'm learning to quiet my thoughts, I heard Jesus whisper to me,

The pace belongs to me. I hold the number of your days.

So, I returned to the gentle yoga workout, and found myself inhaling and exhaling along with the routine, but new words were breathing their way into my soul:
  
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

If Jesus had mercy on the blind man who voiced that cry in Matthew 18, then surely there is MERCY waiting for us today also.  MERCY:  asking that the penalty Justice demands be held back.  Fibromyalgia demands a painful journey.  Rheumatoid Arthritis demands an immune system that is ruined.  And our chaotic world demands every moment of our time.
  
Jesus came to bring us a different path: MERCY.
Holding back the pain,
Holding back the ruin, 
& Holding back the chaos.

I want to trust His Timing, His Pacing.  But I know that all too soon, I'll become impatient again. So daily I stretch and breathe, and find, 

it is HIS breath in me now, stretching my SOUL, even as the pull on my muscles and joints moves to HIS rhythm.

I am linking up today over at The Faith Barista for her #OneWordCoffee series, where my word for this week is #Mercy.

OneWordCoffee Linkup