Prayer for Freedom and Fullness

“O God, for another day, for another morning, for another hour, for another minute, for another chance to live and serve Thee, I am truly grateful.

Do Thou this day free me from
all fear of the future,
all anxiety about tomorrow,
all bitterness towards anyone,
all cowardice in the face of danger,
all laziness in the face of work,
all failure before opportunity,
all weakness when Thy power is at hand.

But fill me with
Love that knows no barriers,
Sympathy that reaches to all,
Courage that cannot be shaken,
Faith strong enough for the darkness,
Strength sufficient for my tasks,
Loyalty to Thy Kingdom’s goal,
Wisdom to meet life’s complexities,
Power to lift me to Thee.

Be Thou with me for another day, and use me as Thou wilt.
For Christ’s sake I pray.
Amen.”

(Wallace Friday)

The Ugly Side of Truth

What I say, “I would write even if I only had one person reading.”
What I mean, “I love when I hear that someone has connected with my writing. I hope I have 10,000 more just like them.

What I say, “The number of followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my blog…doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m reaching the person who needs to be reached.
What I mean, “I love affirmation! When I see the number of followers steadily rise it gives me a rush. When I see the number go down it makes me wonder what those people didn’t like about my message.

What I say, “I write as an expression, never paying mind to what people might think when they read my thoughts.” (I literally just laughed out loud at the absurdity of this comment while typing it.)
What I mean, “I hope this changes someone’s life and makes me the hero.

The more “followers” I have, the more I want.social-media
The more you “confirm” my value, the more I want to hear.
The more “likes” clicked on my status, the more validated I appear.
I want you to think I’m a wonderful person with an endless capacity for charity.
Truth be told, was it not for grace, you would see the wretched person I am.

I realize I’ve just completely sold myself out and admitted that I’m an affirmation junkie, a seeker of self, a slave to ego…then I add Jesus to the equation. I open my hands and ask him to strip away those things that entangle me. I beg him to remove everything hindering my spirit from walking closely with him. I cry out in frustration that I would allow myself to be the one thing standing in the way of complete freedom in my Savior. It’s exhausting!

And then He whispers to my heart, “Worthy, precious, child, if you did everything perfectly, what need would you have for forgiveness? If your every decision was selfless and pure, what need would you have for grace? If when you stand before the mirror, you are without blemish, why did I give my life to set you free? Some days I will give you moments while others will be hours, but not a day will pass where I will not give you the realization that everything good comes from me. Never a day will go by that I don’t show you that the breath you’re breathing and the next breath and the next are not possible without my willing them to be. It does something for your soul to approach me, recognizing your absolute dependence on me.

My journey has been one of gut wrenching pain, inexplicable happiness, bountiful blessing and tragic loss. I know the superficial feeling of superiority when surrounded by people of earthly importance and I know the sacred peace of weeping with a mother whose baby just took her last breath. I am both a woman in recovery who has seen addiction at its ugliest and a wife, mother and business woman striving to make a difference in the short time given on this earth.

I am learning that when my mind attempts to steer me toward self, I choose Jesus. Sometimes it’s just in the nick of time. I don’t say long, elaborate prayers. I don’t always drop to my knees or fall on my face (though at times that’s the only way to find reverence.) There’s no formal monologue. Most of the time it is a word or sentence. It’s simple enough for a child to recite yet powerful enough to calm my anxious heart, “Jesus. My Jesus. Not my will. Not my way. Yours. You are able to do far more than I could ever ask or think. You created me with great purpose and I trust Your plan. You have never deceived me and will never lead me into a place where You are not there waiting for me. Please drowned out all the noise that attempts to distract me from my real purpose. Unshackle me from the bondage of self.

Maybe you can relate to the confessions in this post or maybe you now view me as a lying, Jesus freak. I cannot concern myself with your interpretation, only with my delivery. I can only hope that by sharing my struggle, you will feel less alone in yours.

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. You don’t ever have to be alone again.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Critical Community

jcp-4203I’m not sure as women if we always realize the importance of surrounding ourselves with other women who will speak truth in love. For me, I realize it when I’m in it.

When I’m out of it and not connected to a support system that will readily and willingly pray for me in my hour of desperation, it becomes quite obvious that something crucial is missing. In my life it looks a bit like my trying to swim the Atlantic…with arm floaties, a backpack and a helmet…alone. What do I mean? Let me review the last 48 hours in the life of my family.

I have been incredibly short tempered, quick to lash out, quick to anger. Everything has annoyed me. The sound of chewing at the dinner table, the heavy footsteps of boys stomping up the stairs, a stranger’s phone buzzing in a quiet coffee shop, the person in front of me on 285 driving like they’ve nowhere to be…

Are you getting the picture? Are you completely disgusted by my lack of tolerance and understanding? I don’t blame you. My husband has been living under the same roof with me, enduring my teenage like behavior and temper tantrums, wondering what in the world is going on with me.

Thankfully, my foundation is solid. I’ve worked hard to recognize when I’m willingly dancing into crisis mode.

I reached out to a group of women who I love and trust with my life, though we’ve never met. I was honest with them. I told them exactly how I felt, all the ugly details. Fully expecting them to respond with bible verses and reprimand, I braced myself for the response I knew I deserved, but never came.

Instead they responded with compassion and understanding. They shared encouragement and experience. They spoke of strength and hope. There was no tongue lashing or discarding. Not one of them said, “Well if you were a better Christian…

They came around me as a wall of protection from the darkness trying to penetrate my peace. One thing became very clear. Something I’ve known, but haven’t prevented. I only act when in it’s midst.

Loneliness.

It sets in quietly and under false pretenses. Many times it is not until we have completely isolated ourselves that we realize we have been the victim of the evil ones most powerful tool, especially for us women. It begins as discouragement and grows like a cancer from there. By the time we are able to identify it, we feel utterly useless.

Ladies, I beg you, find community. A place of honest rest. A place of support. A place of freedom. You are worthy of this place and this time. You are way too valuable to retract from living life to the fullest. The life that God handpicked for you before you were designed.

If you have an experience you would like to share, we would love to hear it. Talk to us in the comments below.

~ I am meeting these incredible women for the first time next week at re:treat I cannot wait to see each of their beautiful faces. Stay tuned for a follow-up post!

To my Son’s Wife

3F9B1096Dear Daughter-in-law,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I know that sounds strange since my boys are only 5 and 7, but I can’t help thinking about their future. After all, I am the one who has been with them from the moment their past began.

I hear horror stories about mother-in-laws. It’s easy for me to say, “That’s ridiculous! She’s crazy! I’ll never act like that!” Truth be told, I don’t know how I will act when he falls head over heels for you. I would hope I will be supportive and not overbearing, loving and not smothering, wise counsel and not unsolicited advice.

Here’s the thing…I think I understand a little better why mother-in-laws get the “Crazy Lady” label. Some of us have trouble letting go of being the primary girl in his life. Some of us aren’t sure how to transition from being the last to wish him sweet dreams before sleep and the first to greet him in the morning, to the one you have to remind him to call.

There’s just something about a mother and son that is too precious to wrap words around. There is something about the space in a mother’s heart for the baby she raises into a man. There is a meshing of sorts that cannot be undone. And I’m not so sure it should have to be.

Please understand, I do not, nor have I ever, lived for my boys. I believe that to live is Christ. Everything else is a futile attempt at purpose. I’m not going to tell you that I gave up everything and sacrificed my life for them. We all make sacrifices. It comes down to what we are willing to sacrifice for. That looks different for everyone. Honestly, my life is so much fuller, richer and exciting because of my children. I cannot imagine what I would be doing were I not their mother.

I want to ask that you see one thing very clearly. That is, I have made every effort to instill in my children that there is only one opinion that matters. God’s. He is the great Creator. He chose exactly how they would be put together and how their mind, heart and spirit would work together and sometimes against each other. No one knows them better than He. Not me, not their earthly father, not even you, though I know that’s hard to hear.

So I have begun praying. For you, for him, for me…I’m praying that nothing will ever come between him and his relationship with the one who knows him best. I’m praying that you will encourage him to grow his relationship with Christ and always place it as highest priority. It may not seem like it now, but if that relationship is healthy, your relationship stands a much better chance of being strong and wildly fulfilling.

I could make a list of all the things I wish for you and him. All the things I want in a wife for my son. Honestly darling, I want nothing but God’s will. All else is fleeting and empty.

Please believe me when I say that I do not want to be regarded, by you or anyone, a monster-in-law. I am working on me. I have much to work on. I am also praying that God will guard my son’s heart, mind and spirit against confusion. That he will not mistake lust for love, manipulation for sincerity, ultimatums for resolution, insecurity for confidence, or persuasion for honesty.

I do, at times wonder if I have already met you. If I have looked into your eyes and seen your smile. Only time will tell. Just know that I do not take the responsibility of “Mother” lightly and I am doing the best I can to raise men of integrity. I hope that you will rest in the assurance that I am covering you with love and light, while praying God’s protection over your heart, soul, mind and body.

Gratefully Yours,
Signature

Five Minute Friday: Rest

RestAhhhhh. I take a deep breath in and slowly exhale preparing for a few tranquil moments of meditation. Rest.

Last night a beautiful young friend and I were discussing this very thing. I watched as tears ran down her checks and onto her blouse. She wiped them away with the sleeve of her sweater while saying, almost in a whisper, “I just don’t feel as close to God and I’m not sure how to get back.”

One thing I’ve learned in my years of running is that when I feel distance it is not He who creates it. It is I.

For me, I can’t always reconnect without meeting Him under the circumstances of rest. Being still. Opening my hands to the heavens. “Here I am, Lord. I just want to sit here a while…in your presence…where restoration can be found.”

Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Why is being still so difficult?

I looked into the eyes of this remarkable young woman who, though just out of her teens, has played the role of mother, provider, protector and spiritual leader for her siblings since a very young age and therefore doesn’t know what it feels like or even how to be still.

I encouraged her to open emptied hands to the heavens, fully expectant of the blessings He would flood down, filling not only her hands, but her heart, mind and body. Pour out her cares to the God who formed every detail of her being in the womb of the mother who would leave her soon after. Allow someone else to bear her burden. Even if only for a while. Renouncing the illusion of control.

 Surrender, to me, is the epitome of rest.

Do you find time for rest? Is it difficult to be still? Join Lisa-Jo and a community of participants over at Five Minute Friday and tell us your story.

The Mother is always to blame

Ri focusedI listen as his small, sweet voice sounds out the words to one of his favorite books, wishing I could bottle and save it for a day much later than this, when he has grown into a man and his voice is deep and strong.

The days are long but the years are short.” This is the epitome of that truth.

I spent the night before lying at the foot of his bed listening to his painful groans from the headache preventing his body from resting. I placed my hand on his little leg that now seems so big compared to the last time I was praying intense prayers for healing. “God, please…please lay your hand on his small frame and provide complete restoration. God, please…direct my steps to know how to properly care for him. Don’t let me miss one sign that he needs medical attention. You are the Great Physician, the Ultimate Healer. I believe you will do what you say you will do, so as I stand here with empty hands, open in reverence to you, I am thanking you for what you have already done.”

Throughout my prayer distracting thoughts are invading my mind. “What if the headache is something more? What if you don’t get to a hospital in time? What if it’s meningitis like the little boy had who passed away not long ago?” and on and on it goes.This may sound dramatic and I am a bit that.

To see such a shift in behavior from this energetic, almost 7-year-old, to this lifeless, sleepy, curled up child was shocking. Why does it take something like this to make me ask myself, Why don’t I enjoy every moment of his energy?! Why when my child is sick, does it make me question every motive I’ve had for the last 6 years of his life. Why does it make me feel like a horrible, neglectful mother?

This night, he is a little better. The fever has now set in and he shivers as the warmth from his body attempts to warm the cool sheets of his bed. I go to kiss his forehead and he says, “Mom, will you pray?”

“Yes, Darling. I just prayed. Did I miss something?”

“Will you pray for me to feel better and that Caden won’t get sick?”

I sat down on his bed and took his hand. “God, thank you. Thank you for Riley and his faith in you. Thank you for his energy and life. Thank you that he’s mine. Please heal him. Thank you for healing him. We know you are faithful to fulfill all promises made so we proclaim your goodness and thank you for his complete healing. Please keep Caden safe from sickness and pain. Father, we know all required of us is that we ask for what you will so willingly give. Thank you. You are strong and powerful God, Creator of the Universe, and yet you pause to meet us here. Thank you. We trust you. We believe you. We love you. In Jesus name, Amen.”

“I’ve never heard you pray like that before.” Ri says.
“Really?” I respond. Is that bad or good?”
Long pause…”It’s good!…I think? I don’t know yet?” He says as he turns on his left side and pulls the covers up to his ears.

“Okay buddy. Time for sleep.”

“Okay, mom. Night. Oh, hey, mom.”

“Yes, love?”

“Do you know how come I can run so fast?”

“How?”

“When I wanna get somewhere, I run, and there’s no slow down or off switch. I only know how to go fast.”

“I can definitely see that, Ri. You are a great runner.” I say in response.

“Yeah, I am.” he says sleepily.

“Goodnight boys. I love you.”

“Goodnight, mama.” Air kisses fly back and forth across the dark room before I start down the stairs.

“The days are long, but the years are short.” This statement made by a brilliant mom of 3 has never rung more true to me. There will be no bottling up of sweet voices, only memories and those are only as accurate as my mind portrays them to be.

I want to savor these moments of childhood before I look around and they’re gone.

What do you think? Does your mind immediately go to the worst scenario when your child(ren) is sick? Do you pray more when you feel desperate? Why is that? What can we do, especially as mothers, to relinquish control on a daily, sometimes hourly basis?

 

Prayer: It’s not what it used to be

DeadEndI make no secret of the fact that I go through seasons in the desert with my prayer life. There are times when all I can seem to utter is, “God, please help me.”

I am reading this book; “Still ~ Notes on a mid-faith crisis.” It has been difficult to put it down. So much of what the author, Lauren Winner writes, resonates with me.

The following is written word for word from her book.

“‘Without prayer,’ Catherine Doherty once wrote, ‘the life of the Christian dies.’ Her words scare me; I have edged closer to them than I like to admit. The problem is that your Christian life gets sick before it dies, and it is hard to keep praying when you are sick.

I can paint my walls with slogans about staying faithful to the spiritual disciplines, about formation and habits to carry you through, about how wonderful it is that we Episcopalians have this great incomparable liturgy that keeps us tethered to prayer when our own heart’s a-wandering, but the simple truth is when you don’t know what you believe and don’t know where you are or you think you’ve been deluded or abandoned or you’ve glutted yourself with busyness and you are hiding from yourself or the day has just been too long – if that is who and how you are, prayer sounds like a barefoot hike from Asheville to Paris: it would be nice if you got there, you are sure there is a nice glass of wine and a nice slice of brie waiting for you at some cafe somewhere, but there is really no way you can imagine actually making the walk.

In those instances it can be hard even to put your body in the posture of prayer…

Because it is easier to read about prayer than to pray, I have shelves of books: meditations on the Lord’s Prayer by a dozen different authors; scholarly accounts of prayer in the twelfth century, the eighteenth century; Hasidic wisdom on prayer; manuals for knitting a prayer rug, a prayer shawl, a prayer blanket, a prayer tree. (I don’t alas, know how to knit.) Sometimes I think that all this reading gets in the way, that the books become excuses, something to do in lieu of praying. Other days, I know that to read about prayer is at least to indulge my desire, to acknowledge that I want this thing, that I long for it…

…I can participate in prayer (or not), show up to pray (or not), but I am not the author of my prayers; when they come, they come from God.”

* Excerpts were taken from pages 67, 75 and 77.
To listen to the series on “Red-Letter Prayers,” click here