Sunday, March 12, 2017

A good reminder for those of us in the Marble Chasers Club










I'm still learning how to exchange my marbles for his pearls of peace~

     " Growing in the Lord is the progression from strength to weakness." ~ author unknown 

Christianity's goal is NOT to become sinless everyday (sin-free).
The goal is to live grounded in peace, knowing that it's not about our "doing" but in His "done".  And as such, living a life full of endearing gratitude and humility before (and for) the Doer himself.~

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The journey of Faith

  




  




      
     A middle-aged man called out to God through his tears. Hidden tears that dare not be exposed except in private. His words were more of a plea but for what he wasn't certain. He knew something was off, lacking, a hidden desire. In the morning quiet, with cup in hand, he more than whispered, his voice broke the deafening silence, despite the open window. "Help me God!"
The air was still, no wind gently blowing, no birds singing outside the window, and not even the roar of a car passing by. He listened. He waited. For what, he didn't know. Yet beneath the heaviness, he heard it, so quiet he almost missed it.  "What do you want Child. What is it your heart desires? His voice broke and to his surprise the words came freely. "I want to be whole, I want to be free, I don't want. . . I want to be sold out to YOU. No more excuses. . . I want? I want to be authentic, a man of GREAT faith."
He barely breathed as he recognized the depths of those desires. Would God, could God break through the chaos of his heart? Could He shatter the other "masters" he had placed in his life? Could God help him to love Him (God) more? Frankly, he was tired of trying to be what others expected and wanted from him. He wanted to want more. He wanted nothing but true living.
Stillness became loud. And then he heard the inaudible:
"Child what you ask shall come to pass, you will become a man of great faith and I will see you to the other side. I will produce that fruit in your life. But I must warn you that in order to grow into such faith you will walk a difficult path. Faith brings growing pains. But don't be afraid, I will be there with you, walking with you, encouraging you and showing you the way. You will pass through it to the other side and you will indeed see my glory in it."
Peace rained over him, though somehow he knew tough times lie ahead. Without skipping a beat, Doubt knocked at the door of his mind, but he dismissed it.
"Lord, why is it that sometimes it seems easier to let go and to have more faith in difficult times? Why do we seem to struggle more with the everyday trials?"
Quiet pause.
"Because in the everyday moments you think you can handle it all alone."
He held his breath and something within him KNEW the depth of that reality. He recognized how the darker moments of his life, the bankruptcy, the cancer scare, the rebellious teen and the stale marriage, could be considered gifts, instead of curses. They were opportunities to NEED Him, to desire Him, to walk WITH Him. And to grow in faith which gives way to the ability to see his Glory (in his life.) They were really days of new birth, with the ability to birth greater faith, greater joy, and greater peace. What he had seen as evil could instead become blessings of great faith.
He bowed his head and with an open heart gave thanks for the many blessings (both great and small) that he once thought as curses.
Today as we stand and face the world with all its wonders, both good and bad, let us choose to recognize the Hope to which we've been called and the blessing in every trial that comes our way.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chapter Two

 And so the trip continues. . .
                      *see my previous post for Chapter One

                                        
                                           
                                                                 GOOGLE IMAGE


                                         

It was late morning when the plane landed. I was exhausted from the swell of emotions I had been experiencing. My body ached from several nights of no rest and I could feel my energy quickly draining. I needed a good meal (and a nap). But knowing I had a lengthy drive ahead of me, I opted to grab fast food on the trip to the hotel. I had an hour drive to the hotel in Mesa where my sister and I would spend the next couple of days together; the last moments this side of eternity.

The sun nearly blinded me as I maneuvered the rental car from the dark parking lot onto the foreign roadway. As I reached for my sunglasses, I recognized my dependence on the rented G.P.S. and hoped it would not fail me. 

The Arizona skyline with it's mountains and cacti nearly took my breath away; a far cry from the flat lands and gray skies I had left behind.  Though it was late morning, the sun was already beating into the car's interior; a welcomed guest that lifted my spirits even if only for a moment. There was something about seeing the palm trees and beautiful horizon that moved me. Something stirred me. Perhaps it was the adventurer within me; a part of me that had grown dormant throughout the years. The once free spirited little girl was now replaced by a middle aged woman. (One who had grown to accept 'practicality' over adventure.) In all the years of living outside of Chicago, I had never attempted to make the drive alone to the city.  And yet here I was, driving alone in unknown territory and it was both exhilarating and terrifying.

Time to grow up Lori,” I whispered, taking in the  view. I flipped the radio dial, hoping I would find some relief for the deep sorrow that loomed. A sorrow that was longing to burst forth, yet I did everything I could to hold it down.

After about fifteen minutes and with each passing road sign there came a realization that Mesa was in the other direction. A sudden surge of adrenaline left me sweaty and panicked. The navigation system was shouting orders, “Turn left, turn right.” Over and over it barked, taking me in wide circles. I found myself praying and exited the highway. 
“Dear Jesus, help me find my way. Keep me safe on this     journey.” 
 I pulled over and tried unsuccessfully to reset the G.P.S.

Great. Just great,” I exhaled. “Now what?” Suddenly both my eyes and the air inside the car seemed to burn; it burned hot. I cracked a window, but dared not to drop it too low, resting my head on the seat.

This. This is why I never venture anywhere by myself. This is why I am such a wimp.”

Self pity had once again made a visit, and I could no longer hold back the ocean of tears that spilled forth from the recesses of my soul. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind as I felt helpless and ashamed of my inadequacies (and fears).

After tears had squeezed my soul nearly dry, I inhaled and once again reigned in my emotions, lowering my head for a prayer. Once again I felt the Lord's presence and was reminded of his words on the plane, “Fear not for I am with you. This will be a difficult journey for you but I will be with you. Do not be afraid.” Wiping the tears I knew what I needed to do. I needed to call my "big" sister.

 Knowing she would be at the hospital having another round of radiation to her brain, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her voice on the other end. Thankfully she was still in the waiting room and sounded rather chipper; more energetic than I had expected. During our phone conversations the weeks prior I noticed her breathing had become labored and her voice hoarse. But today she sounded much more alert and I could almost hear the sparkle in her eyes as she gave me directions to the hotel. It was a relief to my heavy heart.

Several months after Susan had been given a clean bill of health, she was told that the cancer had suddenly metastasized to her brain and lungs. This is often the case with this kind of breast cancer. It was devastating news for us all but she refused defeat and decided to count her blessings; and like so many given the same prognosis, she determined to live each day as a gift. (Something that came much easier for her than me.) Her free spirit had always allowed her to see the good, when I seemed to find the bad. (Its what attracted so many to her.)  And though the years of cancer treatment nearly took her life on several occasions, it did not stop her once again from accepting any hope that continued treatment could offer. A brave decision, one I'm not sure I could have made. The prognosis was not good and she was given an oxygen tank and short of a miracle, only a few months to live.

With the time she had left she hoped to redeem as much of her life as she could, giving love and receiving it. She began a Facebook page in celebration of her life, where family and friends could honor her and share happy memories with her. Quite clever when you think about it and what a blessing it was to everyone who participated. She also wanted to visit with those of us whom she had denied for so many years. The word, “denied” seems so strong, but in the end that is exactly what happens to many families of addicts. The drugs themselves become “family” and those who dare reach out to the addicts are denied access to their hearts and lives. This was the case for my dear sister and yet it was cancer, as awful as it was, that allowed us access once again into her life. Not long after the news, she called the family to come visit her while she still had the energy. While she fought with everything she had, I believe she knew deep within her that her days were short. 

What would take place in the hotel room, I wondered? Only God knew and I had to trust him, but I could not shake the darkness that felt so palpable, I could feel it's presence. There was one other than God who was also with me, and I knew there was more to the story than I could see.

Once back on the road my eyes drank in the beauty and soon my mind began to wander to old memories, forgotten chapters. And I was taken back to the early years when Susan was my rock, my protector against the “bogeyman,” but little did I know that it was she whom needed protection.

The Bible says that the enemy roams like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour. . .

Sadly, I soon learned that early in Susan's life the bogeyman had made a visit.



To be continued. . .


Monday, January 26, 2015

A New Chapter Begins


                                                                     





I sat staring out the plane's tiny window into the darkness. I'm not sure if it was the uneven rhythm of my breathing or the closed air vent above me that caused the air to be so thick. My eyes darted quickly about the plane for exit signs and the strangers seated around me. Even with my short legs I was grateful for a bulkhead seat. A tall man with perfect splashes of gray at his temples took a seat in the isle across from me. His long and lanky legs barely missed the wall in front of him. I looked down at my own legs and felt a sense of guilt; as if I had stolen a covetous seat from someone much more deserving.


As the last few passengers filed past, a young mother with a little girl stood looking for their seats. The lines of her brow didn't seem to match her age. She looked my way and I offered a halfhearted smile, trying to mask my own insecurity. As if frightened that I may look into her eyes, she looked away and continued down the long narrow isle. After a few moments the flight attendant began speaking over the intercom. I focused on her explanation of what to do in case of lowered air pressure or a crash over water. She pointed to each exit and the instructions on how to open the door in case of an emergency. Though her smile was friendly it didn't calm the stirring inside of me. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, I felt a bit dizzy. Glancing at the empty seats next to me I was relieved. Conversation or small talk was not on my agenda, especially so early in the morning. I needed space. Space to think, to pray, and to consider the magnitude of the journey ahead of me. I needed space to breathe. Breathe, breathe. I inhaled deeply as the plane began to ascend. And as I closed my eyes I clutched the seat tighter and began to silently pray. 



Once we reached the desired altitude and began leveling out I opened my eyes and looked toward the tall man in the next isle. He held a newspaper to his face and was studying one of the headlines. I wondered about his story? Where was he going and where was he from? He looked calm and appeared to be a frequent traveler. Business or pleasure, I wondered? Business, definitely business. The young woman next to him appeared to be asleep, but maybe she too was praying, who knows? Her long blonde hair was in a pony tail, and she donned a ISU sweat shirt, jeans and a pair of UGGs. What took her out of class so early in the semester? Even with my own attempts to focus elsewhere, an unnerving restlessness continued to hover over me. As I reached for a piece of gum and the over priced book that I had purchased before boarding a baby began crying a few rows behind me. Poor thing,  I thought to myself, his ears are probably bothering him. I hoped the book would be a welcomed distraction from the unending stream of thoughts that had plagued me for weeks.

After ten minutes I realized I had read the same 5 sentences over and over again. I had no idea what I had just read. The racing thoughts demanded my attention and soon my focus was directed onto the visit awaiting me. Something deep inside of me gave a strong impression that I was on a “Holy” trip; that somehow this was going to be more than a visit with my dying sister. My palms were damp and my fingers felt icy, reminding me of the fear I had been trying desperately to ignore since making the reservations. Not only my fear of flying but an even greater fear of knowing I would be seeing my sister for the very last time. I didn't want to make the trip. I wanted to ignore her invitation and pretend it all away. But I couldn't, I wouldn't. And while it would be our last time together, it would also our first time alone together in over ten years. Both insecurity and anxiety poured over me. How was I going to bare this, saying Hello and goodbye all in the same trip? Life had been unfair, it had robbed us of precious time, opportunities to make memories as adults, memories I would always cherish if I had been given the opportunity.



I shifted in my seat, leaning closer to the window gasping at the beauty of the sunrise. A slice of brilliant orange was scarcely peeking over an unending layer of lavender clouds. Yellow fingers of light shot up, filling the whole sky with an awareness of something or someone much greater than mankind. And as I studied the wonder of it all, I wondered how many sunrises my sister had left.






Our recent few phone conversations and Facebook chats played over and over again in my mind. Even the humming of the plane's engine could not drown out the memory of her words on that day four years prior. Six years had passed with only two or three phone calls from her, usually an attempt for money or something else she needed at the moment. That particular call caught me off guard. For years, in my own attempt to protect my heart, I expected to never hear from her again. Drugs have a way of stealing dreams, hopes and relationships. But here she was on the other end of the phone, her voice stoic and somewhat formal.



“Lori, it's Susan. How are you? Well, I'm calling because I wanted to let you know that I have Breast Cancer. . .” Her words raced on but I didn't hear a thing. With each word she spoke my legs became heavier. I listened and assured her I would be there for her as much as I could. I hung up the phone still stunned. It wasn't suppose to be this way, I thought. And yet something inside of me told me this was the providential hand of God.



It would take a diagnosis of Breast Cancer to reunite us after so many years. And as I sat alone on the plane contemplating how the conversations may go, old dormant hurt feelings were trying to resurface. Would we finally be able to clear the air? I had become proficient in glossing over the elephant in the room but could true reconciliation take place like that? Would she finally open up and let me into her world, as dark as it had been? Her world of addiction, heartache, and lies? Even with all the hurt, I still had a deep love for my older sister. Even with all her poor choices I still looked up to her, adored her. I stood at a crossroad wondering if I could ever fully express to her all my hurt while still conveying my love. Or would I once again tiptoe around it all without saying a word? Was I suppose to act as though nothing had happened? Was I suppose to skirt around all the questions of how she'd lived all these years? More importantly, I wondered if she could ever come to realize that her feelings of being a black sheep were merely lies she had told herself? Lies that directed many of her steps throughout her life. Could she come to understand how much she was truly loved, not only by me but by God? Could she see that it was time for her to stop her running, even at death's door? And if the conversation allowed for such things, could I do what was called of me and share with her all that laid upon my heart; would I have the words?



As the minutes skipped by, a new pain pulsated at the importance of our visit, this final journey to say good-bye; to share so much that had laid hidden for so long. Memories began washing over me, like a bittersweet balm. Tears stung hot and freely ran down my cheek. A lump formed deep within my throat. and I no longer cared who sat around me. I no longer worried who may see the tears, I let them run freely. I grabbed a tissue and in the next few moments as I sat watching the sun rise somehow there was a sudden awareness of God's presence with me. I was not to do this alone. This was not about me or about her, it was about Him. As clear as day, and yet inaudible, I felt him say, “Fear not, for I am with you. Fear NOT, I go before you. Your journey will not be an easy one, but I will be with you. Do not be afraid.” And in that moment I knew God was on a mission and I was privileged to be part of it. Little did I know that the journey He spoke of was not simply the few days spent with my sister, but one far longer than I could have ever imagined.




And so that was the beginning of a new chapter on my journey, one that opened secret places I didn't even know existed. . .



                                                                


Currently I am attempting to put to words this adventure in which I find myself. It seems I am on a treasure hunt with God leading the way. I don't promise to have all the answers in this life, nor to write a happily ever after fairy tale. Instead I will write about a true story, my story; one with honest struggles, fears, hopes and even in the darkest moments, faith. In the end I KNOW I will have my Happily Ever After. Yet it is on this journey, living in the here and now, that I find can be the most interesting, the moments when God reveals himself when we least expect it. Feel free to tag along with me as I share the secret places of my heart, my life and my struggles along the way. And I hope that in some small way it will bless those who have decided to come along for the ride.


~Lori

To be continued. . .


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Holy Distraction







We all know how dangerous the distractions of this life can be. They seem to be EVERYWHERE these days and they can easily draw us away from keeping our eyes on the Lord and his wonderful plan for us.




Yet there are other kinds of distractions as well.  I used to (oh who am I kidding, I hate to admit it but at times I still do) get  aggravated when things distract me from my "work."  If I am not careful, I find myself becoming easily offended.  And before I  know it, the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are anything but pleasing to the Lord. 


But I am thankful that while Jesus walked the earth the "distractions" He faced drew him to people!? Love never fails.



We are his welcomed "distraction."  His "distraction" unto  to the cross!  


The blind man, the leper, the lame, the demon possessed all slowed him from quickly reaching the place in which he was headed that day. 

The journey became the destination and the "distractions" were not only a part of the journey . . .  they were the very reason for it.




So as we go about our day




Psalm 19:14
"May the words of my (our) mouth(s) and the meditations of my (our) heart(s) be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my (our) Rock and my(our) Redeemer." 

I'm glad the Lord wasn't easily offended or rushed, aren't you?

(Google images above)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Whisper in the Night


                                                
                                                 

  During the last two nights  I have woken  up to find myself whispering,                                                                         “Jesus, help me.”

 I must have woke up 5 times last night doing that. Each time my lids flew open; I noticed my heart was in my stomach as if I had just ridden a roller coaster. What on earth was I dreaming?? Thankfully, even though I woke anxious, after a quiet prayer, I was able to fall back to sleep each time. 
My heart has been heavy for my brothers and sisters in Iraq who are facing great terror. And I have to believe my waking is a result of that, so I prayed for them.

    (Or perhaps my family's viewing of  "Shark Week" was a bit too much.)


                  
  This morning with a good strong cup of coffee (Thank you Folgers) a memory from long ago came to mind. 

When one of our sons was a toddler he used to experience “night terrors” in his sleep. Sometimes he would have several in one night. 

 It was the scariest thing for a young mama to witness, and according to the pediatrician it was something he would outgrow (which thankfully he did.)

     Deep in the middle of the night, I would find him crying out in his sleep. As I ran to him I found him thrashing and clawing and climbing out of his crib. One night he even ran for the back door trying to escape whatever terror he was experiencing. Each time I would scoop him up in my arms and try to soothe him, however, the doctor told me the worst thing I could do was to wake him. If I did it could frighten him even more (which honestly  I didn't think possible.) The whole time he screamed, “I want my Mama, I want my Mama!”   While I held him tight, his sweet little eyes would open and he would look straight at me, but still dreaming he could not see me.  Terror would send him into kicking and screaming fits as I held him in my arms; all the while wishing I could take away his fears and wondering what on earth he was experiencing. I found that lightly rubbing his tummy, whispering a prayer over him and singing quietly would eventually calm him back into a peaceful slumber.  It broke my heart that he did not know that I was there holding him and comforting him even as his eyes looked up at me.

     I have to wonder when we are having our own times of terror, if our Lord becomes saddened when we too call out to him over and over again and do not recognize Him holding and comforting us.  And unlike that young mama so many years ago, He does see what we are experiencing. It is He who knows exactly how to calm our greatest fears when we whisper to him,

                                                                “ Jesus, help me .”

                                                                
(All images by Google)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

To Live the Life of a Treasure Hunter

You've heard it said, "Live as though today is the first and last day of your life." But how do we put it into practice? Why is it that people who are living with a terminal disease can appreciate life so much more than those of us who go through our usual day to day existence?  What reality snaps within them that allows them to appreciate the flight of a butterfly or the strength of an ant so much more than before their diagnosis? Is it because they are able to now appreciate the gift of life that they have been given; even if only for this moment?

 The butterfly has not changed its flight, nor has the ant its stride, yet simply the perception of them has become new. I long for that kind of vision, to appreciate LIFE, every bit of it. Of course I'd prefer not  to have to come face to face with death in order to do so. But if we are truly honest, we all are terminal; we only have this moment. The next moment is a mystery, and life can change in the blink of an eye.  Yes, what a gift to see the world with the awe of a child, to capture the beauty within the mundane, to give thanks for the pain, because even in the pain there is life. 


Lord, on our journey together, no matter how long or short it may be, please open my eyes. 
                                                                                I want to find it to be a beautiful view, every bit of it.