Eyes Wide Open

This is the final day of 2014 I have a few things I want to say and as I’m taking time off social media, decided this blog is the way I’ll go about it. First, let me just say that 2014 will not go down on a list as one of my favorite years. Just thinking back on it wears me out. Honestly, I’m glad it’s over.

Tumultuous. That’s the word that comes to mind. Not totally terrible as there were some redeeming moments. But, all in all, absolutely tumultuous. So many changes, big changes, life altering changes. I couldn’t seem to get my bearings from one change before the next was upon me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the new year to come. Mostly I’ve been hoping it would be one of those stellar years where life settled down and we can coast along for a while and catch our breath since 2014 was more like pedaling an old bike up hill (both ways). But, I’ve lived long enough to know that those years don’t really exist. Life is constantly happening around us and to us and it intends to be dealt with.

Oh, we can try to refuse and stubbornly ignore what needs doing but, it doesn’t go away, it just sits and simmers and seethes. No, that’s no solution. We may as well go into 2015 with our eyes wide open. That’s one of my favorite words of wisdom. I say it often to friends and family. “Make your choice,” I’ll say. “But do it with your eyes wide open.”

Too often we just can’t see the truth clearly or perhaps we refuse to. Sometimes I feel like squeezing my eyes closed tight so I don’t see what I don’t want to see. Sometimes I just squint so that the bright light of revelation doesn’t out right blind me.

A while back I was driving and came to a point where I was to turn onto another road but when I tried to look for oncoming traffic I was absolutely blinded by the sun. I could not see a thing. I kept inching forward and adjusting my position trying to see if it was safe to proceed.

That’s a pretty good picture of how this year has ended for me. I feel like I am straining to see what lies ahead and I know that The Lord has indeed opened my eyes to hidden matters but, sometimes I’m just blinded by the light. Sometimes I feel like I’m inching forward when I need to be moving on. Sometimes I’m terrified because I can’t see what is coming next.

You know, if I was in this alone, on my own, relying on myself and my own limited abilities, I don’t think I could be courageous enough to proceed with my eyes wide open. I imagine I’d be leaning more towards the ‘ignorance is bliss’ line of thinking.

But, I’m not alone and I’m going to enter into 2015 the same way I step out of 2014, with my eyes wide open. I’ll see some startling things. I’ll sometimes be blinded by the light. I’ll sometimes be tempted to squeeze my eyes shut and refuse to look at what seems too awful to bear. Other times my vision may be blurred by tears over what I’ve seen. But, I will not look away, I will not pretend I didn’t notice, I will not succumb to the less demanding path of shadows.

For the first time in my life, I think this will be a one resolution year. I think that I will focus my energies and my prayers and my planning in one direction, keeping my eyes wide open.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!”
Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭22-23‬ MSG

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Let it Go

It’s a wonderful thing to have hopes and dreams. We are encouraged and given the strength to press on during times of hardship many times by reminding ourselves that we don’t plan to be where we are forever. If you are a planner, then you have likely plotted the manner in which you intend to get to that destination. As for me, I’m always happiest with a plan in place.

The thing about hopes and dreams and even plans is they usually involve other people. Other people can sure mess the plans up! Have you ever noticed? Just when you’ve got it all worked out, neat and tidy, another person, with their own choices (sometimes stubborn and foolish) derails your train of thought.

To add insult to injury, if these people were in a position to derail us, they are likely people we care deeply about. We’re talking your own children, your closest friends, family members that matter to you. We’re talking people whom you love, whom you want to provide for, whom you want only the best for.

Sometimes we refuse to walk away from the spot where it all went wrong. We may spend all of our energy trying to get that train going again, determined it will get back on track and arrive where we are sure it was destined to arrive. Finally, we realize, this messed up dream just isn’t going anywhere and we can dissolve into discouragement or turn our gaze in a new direction.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18, 19 NIV)

With the holidays upon us, we find ourselves placing lots of importance on TRAYditions, as my sweet grandma called them. It can be a good thing to treasure precious moments and memories. But, if we aren’t cautious we won’t have enough room in our hearts for the present, the new moments, the new direction that the Lord has placed before us.

One of the hardest train wrecks to walk away from is the horrific point of a wrecked relationship. Whatever the cause of the derailment, you find yourself bewildered, hurt, angry, confused, perhaps even bitter. These people you trusted have betrayed you. They weren’t who you thought they were. If you’re their momma you might even say you didn’t raise them that way. If you loved them deeply, now that they are gone, you hurt deeply. That’s the thing with love.

Don’t spend the holidays thinking of what could have been or should have been. Don’t be as stubborn as the people that have disappointed you by refusing to do what you said you would never do. Don’t miss a chance to hop on board a new train of opportunity, headed a new direction. The same verse above reads this way in The Message.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

So when the family gathers and in the days to come we enter this holiday season, things may not look just like you always hoped and dreamed. Let it go. Turn your gaze in a new direction. Anticipate something brand spanking new!

Dear Diary – Journaling

Below is a blog entry from last December. As I read it this morning, I was reminded how therapeutic writing can be. If you are struggling with emotional upheaval or holiday stress or spiritual matters and need an outlet, write the stress away. Pour your feelings out so they aren’t bottled up. Find relief by letting it go.

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The New Year is fast approaching and as long as I can remember, even as a child, I have welcomed the New Year with a new journal or notebook or diary in hand. It brings me a special sense of delight to write January 1 on that first blank page and begin again. I can’t say I’ve ever been faithful to write every single day of any year, but I’ve written many days of most years. I usually write in conversational form, often as if I’m penning a letter to my Father. More likely than not these entries take on the form of a prayer as I ask the Lord to do what only He can do in the situation or struggle that I face.

I find such writing, journaling, to be healing and therapeutic. It seems that as the words leave my fingertips, they lessen my stress and the load I am carrying. Some things, once written, are saved and treasured as a remembrance of times past, victories won, struggles had. A few never see the light of day and are destroyed once they have been spilled out on paper. Others are shared in the hopes of encouraging another person traveling the same path I once traversed.

The impact of the written word is far reaching. Not only does it release the writer emotionally, it has the potential of inspiring the reader. Whether that reader is a friend, a stranger or a child of your own that will one day read your words years down the road, the written words has a unique strength.

At one time I had the opportunity to do some teaching at the women’s state prison here in Alabama and one of the messages stands out above all the others in my mind when I think of my time ministering there. I called it, “Being a Mother, Once Removed”. The vast majority of these women were mothers and every single one of them, behind bars, were removed from daily interaction with their children (and other family members).

As I taught them we considered the feelings of hopelessness that they experienced when it came to these relationships. Some of the children were in foster care and some were with relatives. Many times, they had so severely damaged the relationship with the caregiver of their children, they had no opportunity to maintain any contact. In small groups, women would weep with remorse that it was too late. They weren’t able to communicate with their children and they grieved to think their children would never know they cared.

This was the identified need that led me to my teaching mentioned above. How could they be a mother, once removed? They had no real authority, no consistent interaction, not even the foundation of trust to build upon. I introduced to them the concept of journaling. I offered them the hope that if they wrote regularly concerning their children, their thoughts, their prayers, their hopes, that one day they would possibly be able to share these journals with their loved ones as proof of their genuine care and concern.

This is exactly what I’d like to suggest to you today. I don’t know exactly why you may be ‘removed’ from a relationship. Whatever the situation is, consider writing your heart out on paper (or electronically if you desire) and lessen the emotional load you are carrying. Be brutally honest with yourself and your Lord. Tell Him all about it, burn it later if you need to. Allow the healing to begin. You don’t have to be eloquent or use perfect grammar. Record the moments of praise, the times of fear, the days of struggle, the seasons of rejoicing. One day you may be able to encourage somebody. That somebody may even be you as you read your own words at a later date.

I’ll be challenging my own children to start fresh diaries on January 1st with a new journal and a nice pen to make the experience fun. Ours will be a spiritual journal. Each day we will write a prayer or praise and possibly a scripture from our devotions. They won’t be elaborate but, they will be treasures.

There are books written on the subject if you need a little guidance. I saw many articles when I googled journaling. I saw 31 day challenges if the thought of a year is a bit much for you. Keeping a journal can be a meaningful spiritual experience, a safe place to record your most intimate of thoughts, a healing spring that you slip into when you’re feeling a bit battered and bruised.

I like to do my journaling first thing during my personal devotion time. It helps me get my thoughts straight and my priorities in order for the day. During tough times of emotional struggle, I will write at any time I can, even during the middle of the night. I don’t have to be concerned that I’ll be judged or misunderstood as I pour my heart out before the one who knows my heart better than any other.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 NIV)20131207-042951.jpg

The Prince of Peace and Peace-Thieves

Today is December 1st and I could think of no better post than to share this once again. Avoid the #peacethieves !

Stephanie Rodda

As December approached and all the activities that accompany it, my thoughts turned towards peace. Peace on Christmas cards! Peace in Christmas Carols! Peace on earth! It seems that there could be no better season to embrace peace, than this season that we are celebrating.

Unfortunately, like so many other words, peace can be misconstrued to mean something that it doesn’t. So what is peace? Peace can be defined as tranquility, harmony or security. Variations of the word peace are found in the KJV Bible 429 times. There are different sorts of peace. There is inner peace, false peace, peace with God, peace with man. There is perfect peace, perceived peace, peace offerings, peace covenants.

In the Old Testament the primary word for peace is shalom. That word applies strongly to relationships – relationships between people, between nations and with God. It is often tied to a covenant, a promise…

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