Sunday, July 31, 2011

Live the Journey

I have been enjoying the most freedom-filled's almost beyond words!  It's the annual Grandkids' Weekend at my parents' place, where they are currently playing hosts to 5 wonderful children, ages 2 to 10.  My sister and I wanted to be near in case the little ones needed us, so we decided to take a room in a lovely retreat centre about 20 minutes away from all the fun in Avondale.  And what a place!  We're the only guests here, and have been served and pampered and fed to our hearts' content - it's been wonderful!  And the talking!  My sister and I have not had more than an hour together, sans children, in 10 years!  A sister is like a best friend, only better because of all the shared history. :)  We've been enjoying a weekend of reminiscing down various memory lanes, as well as thoroughly discussing our present joys and struggles, and sharing our hopes for the future.  My sister is a very wise woman, and I can't begin to describe all that I've learned from her, this weekend alone!  But as we've been talking, a few patterns have emerged that I think relate to this quest for (the) real joy that I'm on...

Forgiveness and release: Everyone and their dog has issues that stem from childhood, it's unavoidable.  Unless we learn differently, we tend to persist in these patterns of behaviour right up into adulthood.  An important step on the great and glorious path to freedom is recognizing the roots of those issues, laying it all on the cross, forgiving those involved that need forgiving and releasing them from further blame/responsibility for our misery, habit, issue, etc...  There comes a time in each person's life when, regardless of our past, we need to assume responsibility for our own actions and reactions.  Forgiveness and release are beautiful things...

Life is a journey: This may be obvious, but a startling realization dawned on me the other day.  I discovered a lie that was affecting how I reacted to my circumstances, buried so deeply that I was practically unaware of it.  Particularly in my marriage, but also in many other areas, I'd subconsciously been working, praying, trying, striving to get to a point where I could breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Ahhhh, we've arrived...  From now on, this will be pure bliss!"  It's pretty clear to me now that this will never be the case and is actually not the goal at all!  I've constantly found myself working towards that, thinking we'd arrived, enjoying the few days/hours/moments of bliss, then being completely disillusioned when something happened (I think it's called life?) to interrupt the bliss and feeling slapped in the face when reality set in.  It's sort of like when Peter and James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  After Jesus had blazed glory, Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Him.  Peter, likely totally blown away, wanted to stay put there on the mountain top, offered to build shelters for Jesus and Moses and Elijah so they could all stay and soak in the splendour a while longer.  But that wasn't the plan; they were soon on their way back down the mountain, back to the realities of itinerant ministry.  Mountain top experiences are wonderful, necessary even, but not where the real journey takes place.  The real goal is growth, growing in grace and truth and trust and acceptance and love and understanding and perspective and patience. 

This has been a real revelation for me; a significant clue to changing the way I react to my circumstances.  And that's the goal, essentially what growth is; we very rarely can change either our circumstances or other people. (Believe me, I've tried!) :)   I'm so thankful for the gift that this weekend has been!  Thanks for letting me share it with you!  May you know real joy today!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Shaved My Head

10. I've always wanted to be a "hat person".
9. My hair was driving me crazy.
8. I wanted to make a statement. (What statement exactly? Read on...)
7. I suspected I might have a decently-shaped head. (I think I do,  head-dimple and all!)
6. I LOVE rubbing little boys' carpet heads. (Now I have my own!)
5. I've cut my showering time in half, as well as my towel useage.
4. I'd been considering doing it on-and-off for a couple of years now...
3. I was tired of trying to make my hair look ok, and constantly having the kids pull it or mess it up.
2. Long, thick hair is HOT! (not "smokin'-hot", but temperature "hot") AND...
1. It was a physical (drastic, obvious...) act that symbolizes my new beginning!

It's been a week since I took scissors and (10!) razors to my head to take it all off!  I know, most of you think I'm crazy, but that's ok.  I've discovered a lot of things about myself this week, and one is that I don't need any external confirmation to know that I'm ok.  In fact, I know that I'm loved beyond measure, cherished, treasured, and unconditionally accepted by my Father, and that is enough for me.  I have gone to great lengths in the past to try to please people and make them like me, and I hope I've taken another step toward being finished with that.  (Though I am happy if you do like me - I like you, too!)

Surprisingly, I really like my new haircut! :)   My only concern was that people would think I was sick.  I didn't want to make anyone worry, so I always wore a hat when I went out. (Another related concern was sunburn - you've never seen anything as white as my white head, with a lovely red line down the middle where my part had been!)   Well, last night I realized that I was acting like I was ashamed or embarassed by what I had done.  So, in the middle of my walk along one of Port Hawkesbury's busiest streets (which really isn't that busy, but nevertheless...) I whipped off my hat and walked home proudly with my (nearly bald) head held high! AND, I went to church today - hatless.  AND I was asked to lead part of the service, too...  Yes, I received a few shocked/horrified looks (hard to differentiate) and a few barely-holding-back-a-laugh smiles, but I felt really good.  It's part of what this is all about: freedom.  Freedom from my own judgements, freedom from being defined by what others think, freedom from peer pressure (yes, it still exists at my age)...  For me, shaving my head was a personal stance against conforming to the pattern of this world.  I feel that I'm beginning the journey of being transformed by the renewing of my mind, and that this act would always remind me of my choice to do just that. 

That being said, I'm not going to keep on shaving my head.  I may very well keep my hair short for awhile, but I don't need to remain bald to remember my fresh start.  A couple of startling joys: big fat rain pouring down on my head and my sons constantly rubbing it - it's been really fun!  Not to mention the fact that it took my husband 4 days to be able to look at me without laughing...)  I'm glad I did it.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (drumroll, please...):

The first day

The third day

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pressing on...

Hello?  Is anybody still there?  You may (or may not) be wondering where I've been for the past eight months...Well, to sum up, I've: almost lost my marriage, gained 15 pounds, quit 2 jobs, celebrated my 13th wedding anniversary, finished out our first year of homeschooling, rescued a kitten, bought a trampoline, claimed a home office space, started a ministry, felt a call to start another, seriously considered shaving my head (still may!), fallen more in love with my hubby and kids, been exposed to insane amounts of wisdom and knowledge (and possibly absorbed a bit) and been learning to lean more and more on God's grace.  It's been a wild ride, roller coaster-ish in the most cliche ways, up and down and up and down and around and around and around...

Fast-forward to today, July 16th, 2011.  I'm feeling brand new, ready to roll, anticipating the next steps of the journey.  (Yay!)  I was driving home the other night from a few hours out with myself (courtesy of my dear hubby) when I found myself crying out to God with an honesty I'd never dared before.  I confessed that I'd been trying to make it on my own for far too long, that to continue down the road I was on was going to kill me, spiritually and eventually, physically.  I told Him that I quit; that I was (finally) ready for Him to really take control, really be in charge of my days, my decisions, my body, mind and spirit.  "Body" is the real focus here; I'd never been actually willing to surrender my body to God.  Food and I have had a very dysfunctional, distorted relationship for many years.  I've recently come to realize that food has been my god, that I'd call on food for comfort, rejoice in food, reach for food in times of joy, sorrow, boredom, anger - you get the picture.  And I was never really willing to let that go, the power that food has over me, no matter how much I knew I would benefit from letting go, no matter how much weight I gained, no matter how crappy I felt...because it was so good, whatever it was, right there in that moment.  A couple of verses that I have known for 25 years have recently become my new inspiration:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  
Romans 12:1-2

These verses speak to me on so many levels, but what jumps out at me every time I read them is how connected the mind and body are.  How do we transform our bodies?  By the renewing of our minds!  The pattern of this world is self-indulgence, over-indulgence.  God has a different, better, plan for us!  And it's a plan that involves counter-cultural is that?!  And that is true worship, offering up to Him that which we'd give anything to hold on to.  But what do we receive as a result?  Knowledge, wisdom!  Who doesn't want to know God's will?  He's telling us here how to tap into His very heart for us!  It's all connected: body, mind and spirit. 

I'm so excited!  Excited to offer my body as a living sacrifice - can you believe it?  I can't!  For two days now (I know, it's not much, but it's a start!) I've been living according to this concept, and it has been transformational!  I'm hungry, I'll admit it, but (and this may sound weird) it feels like a holy hunger, not just physical but spiritual, a hungering after God Himself...It's making me aware of Him and His presence with me and how He wants to fill me...

My dear friends, thank you so much for allowing me to share my journey with you!  I'd appreciate your prayers, and I'd love to hear your stories and support you in prayer, too.  See you soon! (sooner than 8 months, I hope and pray!)   May you know real joy today!