Is This God?

How many times have you agonized over “is this God”?

Some things are just easy to know … this is God … like beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Continue reading

The Mortar of What-Ifs

Life Is Change.001

It takes courage to walk into your freedom.

Courage does not depend on who we are.  Joshua tells us to be strong and of good courage.  How?  Because what God has done before to protect and provide for you He will do again (Joshua 10:25).  Courage finds its source, its strength and its power in God being who He says He is … Merciful, Gracious, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Loving Kindness and Truth (Exodus 34:6) and how He, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is present with us every moment of every day as our Comforter Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby (John 14:16)

My question to you is how much do you want to be free from whatever it is in your life that is hindering you?

Your experience, your current circumstances and the unknown tell you that either nothing can/will change or you could be destroyed.  How do they tell you that … by two simple words “what if”.

I’ve posted previously on grieving over what-ifs, but a recent dream brought revelation of the trap caused by the illusion of safety from the walls of what-ifs we erect around ourselves block by block mortared together by fear.

In my dream there was 4 women in a room.  I was one of the women; the second woman was a dear friend of mine however she was in a wheel-chair as her legs did not work but her upper body and arms were very strong. I did not really notice the 2 other women.  We were away on a trip somewhere but we just kept staying in this one room that was pretty sparsely finished.  The hosts seemed very nice.  I remember checking the locks on the doors as we were talking about going out.  When I looked at the locks they were very simple door handles that could easily be opened by sticking in a paperclip. From the scratches I could tell many people had done exactly that.  As I was trying to push the button on the lock one of the owners (a woman) showed up at the door trying to get in.  We laughed.  I told the owner we needed something like TP and we were going to leave to get it.  She said not to worry she would take care of it.  It felt like OK, now we are stuck here again with nowhere to go.  Scene changes and I say/ask “what about going swimming”? My friend in the wheel chair lights up.  The other women are quiet.  Scene changes and I see my friend lifting herself by her arms out of the wheel chair to support herself against the car to pack for the pool.  My alarm goes off and I wake up.

Over several days I have had continued revelation about this dream and I think the easiest way to share it with you is bullet points to translate the imagery:

  • The 4 women are all different parts of me.
  • Me in the dream is my consciousness, my intellect.
  • My dear friend who in real life is a very loving, giving, strong woman – represents my heart handicapped by past trauma
  • The 2 women I hardly noticed are:
    1.  my will which cannot make a choice and be heard because it is paralyzed by
    “what ifs” mortared with fear of living out a new paradigm I’m experiencing
    2.  some part of me that I have not yet even given a voice.  A part yet to be
    discovered that is as yet silent because of “what if”
  • The walls of the room are all the “what ifs” that keep the four of us in that sparsely furnished place rather than out enjoying all that is available to us on our trip/journey.
  • Going swimming is diving deeper with my heart and my intellect into the new paradigm I’m experiencing, but my will is silent in the dream, not sure about this choice because of being trapped by “what ifs” which keeps me stuck where I am
  • The owner is the Holy Spirit who is trying to get in to meet our every need!

The only thing I knew to do with all this revelation is pray “Jesus help me”.  Small prayer.  Big answer!

What I saw immediately was all the walls blow out and there was so much light everywhere.  It was like Jesus was there  but I couldn’t see Jesus because all I could see was light.  Hmmmm …. I guess I was seeing Him though since he is called the Light of the World (John 1:4).   What I could hear was “Just one step at a time; one step. One step at a time”.  I could see myself take this tiny little step.  I look up at Jesus like a kid would do and ask “Is this OK”?   I feel Jesus nod, feel His assurance and the warmth of His love.  So I bring the other foot up to meet the first.  Then I hear again, “one step at a time”.

But one step at time from where to where?  Any guesses?  

Here’s the revelation:  the locks in the dream – I thought they could keep me safe.  I thought I was safe staying in that sparse place behind those walls and with those locks but I wasn’t safe at all.  It was an illusion.  Anyone could get in and out.  I could see the evidence on the locks themselves.  That has been my experience in life as well, that all my what-if-ing over the years that has stemmed from fear has not been able to keep me safe.  If anything it has caused me more anguish.  The anguish of grieving before something even happens that I wrote about previously, plus what-ifs mortared together with fear are as useless as the locks in the dream to protect me me in any way, shape or form.  All they do is trap me, isolate me, paralyze me and steal yet to be discovered opportunities on my journey.

Like I said … small prayer …. big answer.

Remembering the many expressions of my Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and provision to me and combining that with drawing on the courage the Holy Spirit provides I’m taking one baby step at a time into freedom.  Freedom that is built on what-ifs mortared with the light of hope rather than fear (Ephesians 1:18).   I am curious and excited about what I will discover.  Care to join me?

Penny Chenery Run at Life.001

Fear or freedom?

We make the choice so many times each day and we don’t even realize it most of the time.

It became very clear to me last week during our vacation.  I had a choice.  Fear or freedom?

Being transparent … my first choice was fear.  It seemed a logical choice.  The tumble I took off the bike our first night on our dash to see the sunset was pretty significant and I still bear the bruises 12 days later.  So I rationalized that being afraid of riding the bike and avoiding riding the bike was the best way to keep myself safe.

The only problem with that … I was relying on fear rather than my Heavenly Father.  Not the best choice to make.

I wish I could say it was some “heroic” choice I made to get “back up on the horse that threw me”, but that would not be true.  I was really scared to try again, but the little kid in me didn’t want to get left behind while everyone else was out exploring.  Not exactly noble, but I’m glad I listened to the kid in me.  She helped me to discover the choice I was unknowingly making.

When I told my husband I wanted to try again he gave me his “are you sure about this look”?  I told him I was sure, but I didn’t want an audience this time.  He patiently reviewed everything about the gears on the bike with me and just the 2 of us set-off to explore.  First to the end of the wide street – so far so good.  Next we turn onto a flat, paved bike path – a little narrower but I’m still doing well.  And where did that path lead … to the beach and wide open spaces … wooo hooo!

Oh what I would have missed if I had continued to choose fear to protect myself.  I wish I could capture the feeling of the beach under the wheels of the bike just rolling along as you take in the beauty of the sand, water and sun but I am not that talented a photographer.  But I can share with you some of the other highlights of our exploring:

2 alligators sunning by the bike trail

A ghost crab hiding along the trail …

You can barely see him hiding in the sand

Coaxed out of his hiding place

A larger ghost crab enjoying low tide

Another ghost crab I think … but about 3 times as big as the first one we saw

I was thoroughly enjoying myself when I realized our exploring had brought us back to “the trail”.  You know …. the trail … the narrow, winding trail with tree roots crossing it and where the pavement and I had become very intimately acquainted.  

There it was again the choice … fear or freedom.  I chose freedom.  I told my husband to go ahead and let me take it at my own pace.  As I slowly rode along the trail as it snaked its 90+ degree turns I found myself praying a very familiar prayer.  “Thank You Lord that Your faithfulness that is my shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4).

In that moment I realized something; I truly trusted God’s faithfulness to keep me safer than fear could.   I knew that I knew He would both guide me (Ps 23) and protect me (Ps 91) VICTORY!  FREEDOM!

The child in me that didn’t want to get left behind knew she could trust her Daddy to keep her safe so she wanted to try again despite her fears.  I like her 🙂  I’m glad I followed her lead.

Look what was waiting for me at the end of the trail 

Blue Herron waiting for me as I emerged from “the trail”

If this were a TV show, here is where I would say “and they lived happily ever after”; but this is real life so being honest, I must confess I had to continue to choose fear or freedom every time I got back on the bike and the bruises would remind me of my poor choice the first night to not re-acclamate to bike-riding before hitting the trail.

Each time I chose the freedom that comes with trusting my Heavenly Father to guide and protect me rather than choosing fear to protect me.  Every time it was the best choice and with it came the discovery of new things … like marshlands.  I never knew they were so beautiful.

A whole new world for me – the marshlands

As you go through your day, what do you believe will keep you safest?

You know the expression “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Well … let’s prove “them” wrong.  What do you say?

I’d rather take the time to know what I have while I have it, wouldn’t you?

I was just reading a friend’s blog The View is Great . You’d think from the title of the post it’s about her birthday … but what I saw was a post about thankfulness.  She took the time to look around her and really see.  From that position of thankfulness this happened:

This is when it hit me…a huge ah ha birthday moment. Even though I’m getting older, there’s still so much left. There are places to go, friends to make, things to experience that I just can’t even imagine now. So much of life is still a mystery to me.

In this new stage of my life, with my mostly empty nest, and with the hype about middle age it would be easy to feel like my life is over. But, I don’t feel that way. As a matter of fact, I feel like things make more sense now. The tough times have taught me to wait on the good. The good times are to be treasured.

It a weapon you know … thankfulness.  It pushes back the things that try to steal life from us … like cynicism, criticism, jealousy, doubt, bitterness, being judgmental, hopelessness, and fear to name a few.

I was about to type “and it’s free”; but it’s not.  There is a cost to thankfulness because it involves a choice.  I wasn’t always aware of this, but each of us make our choices because in some place in our beings we believe we will gain from whatever it is we are choosing.

You’ll have to figure out what you gain by your choices.

What follows is a list of my “gains” that upon further reflection I discovered were actually losses.

  • Cynicism – I gained self-protection from being disappointed but it closed the door to joys yet to be discovered.
  • Criticism – again I gained self-protection because if you’re wrong and I am right, I don’t have to change.  The world becomes a very small place from this vantage point.
  • Jealousy – I gained the right to feel sorry for myself but I opened the door to envy.  Envy can eat you up quicker than cancer.  It is a poison that makes it impossible to participate in the joy of those around you.  Personally I want to participate in as much joy as possible!
  • Doubt.  Ah, the great “what if”.  It masqueraded as “caution” in my life. Of course there is a place for caution in our lives … like look both ways before you cross the street (thanks Mom 🙂 ); but doubt can paralyze you like a slow toxin.  Rather than being thankful for the unknown and new opportunities you are paralyzed from moving forward by doubt.
  • Bitterness. I’ve talked about this one before.  Best way I can sum this up “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the person sitting next to you.”
  • Being judgmental.  BIG self-protection here.  We can rationalize a host of our actions by judging others/things.  But the kicker is you truly reap what you sew.  The example that comes immediately to mind for me is the experience I have had with acupuncture the last year.  For years I “judged” acupuncture as something eastern and dangerous that I had to guard myself against.  Why?  Because I did not understand it.  And, if I judged it as bad it meant I didn’t have to risk checking it out.  I was doing the “right” thing but not exposing myself to it.  Well, when I got desperate enough after a 12-week migraine to tell God “I’ll do anything” what I heard while my husband prayed for me was the word acupuncture.  Unexpected.  To make a long story short, God put the pieces in place for me to see an acupuncturist (referred by my pastor … gotta love God’s sense of humor) within 72 hours of that prayer.  It has changed my life in so many ways for the positive that will have to be an entirely separate post.  You better believe I repented of judging acupuncture as “dangerous and bad” and confessed that judgment as sin and asked God to put the complete work of the cross between me and all consequences of sewing and reaping that judgment.  That judgment had separated me for years from exactly what I needed.
  • Hopelessness.  Immediately I see a picture of quick-sand.  It gave me permission to lock that part of my heart away that felt hopeless.  Because hopelessness is a bad thing right?  So I’ll just lock it away.   But all that did was set-up a festering caldron within me.  Until I let my heart have a voice and express that hopelessness God could not show me the truth I needed to be freed from it.  Don’t get me wrong here.  I am NOT saying it easy to make the choice to be thankful when you feel hopeless, but it literally is the life-saver to pull you out of the mire.  When I am there, I am thankful that God still loves me (Rom 8:38-39), I am thankful that He will show me the truth I need to destroy the hopelessness if I will only let Him.  (Ps 32:5-8)
  • Fear.  I chose fear for a L-O-N-G time.  I thought it kept me safe — safe from getting my heart hurt, safe from what I did not understand, safe from trying and failing, safe from letting you see the real me and not like me.  Does anyone see a problem here?  What fear actually did was rob me from being fully alive.

So what are you gaining from your choices?

Would you like to choose thankfulness with me?  I’ll start:

  • I am thankful for my friend who blogged about her birthday and reminded me of the power of thankfulness.
  • I am thankful for the nurse practitioner who saw me last night at 7:00 PM to help me with the sudden extreme hip and leg pain I was having while she herself is within a week of delivering her child and was exhausted from her day.  I will not forget her kindness to me.
  • I am thankful for the medicine they gave me that has eased the pain.
  • I am thankful for my husband who has cared for me so diligently through this.
  • I am thankful for this day to rest and heal.
  • I am thankful for my “amazing grace” blanket that covers me given to me by 3 wonderful friends at the time of my mother’s passing. I just love being covered by amazing grace!
  • I am thankful that everywhere I look in my den I see where my husband has worked to make a home I love to be in; from the furniture he has built; to the french doors he put in that would be easier for me to open than sliding doors; to the HD TV and surround system he installed so I could enjoy my NFL football … not to mention the Olympics 🙂
  • I am thankful for VPN and the people I work with that have created a system that allows me to be home and heal and still have access to my office if needed.
  • I am thankful for comfy slippers and pj’s.
  • I am thankful for the fireplace across from me and the picture that hangs above it that reminds me of love in so many ways.
  • I am thankful for windows to look out and enjoy God’s creation even when I am indoors.
  • I am thankful that in 2 hours I get to see my acupuncturist!
  • I am thankful for this quote my husband just shared with me from John Lennon “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down “happy”.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop, take a look around, see anything for which to be thankful?  I’d love to hear your thankful list!

Together we’ll prove “them” wrong.  We will know what we have before it is gone … yup … that’s what I’m talking about.