Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why do I forget?

IMG_0699To worry is one antithesis of trusting God. Another is independence: self reliance, self-confidence, and all the other “self” centered words. I know that. Prayer is always a good answer to everything, and it’s usually closely followed by renewed trust in and obedience to a powerful, good and loving God. So why do I so quickly forget what I intellectually know to be true?

Whether I’m concerned for one of my adult children, my parents, a friend, or anything else, sometimes my emotional state is about like my Jack Russell,  Bandit in a Thunderstorm IMG_3414 (click on the link for a real time video taken as I’m writing this blog), rather than God’s peace.

A few nights back, I had an uneasy feeling that caused me to uncharacteristically recharge my dying phone  and remain fully dressed after dinner. Often when I have these gut feelings, nothing happens; this time it was justified. I got the late-night phone call that all fried pastrami slices dread… a family member needed to go to the ER (all is well now).

I rushed out the door and started the drive to get to them. I remained calm and drove at a reasonable speed (we didn’t need another accident). I left a note for Rob and called another family member to alert them as to what was happening. I was in control.

IMG_3209Finally, 2/3 of the way there (a 40 minute drive), it hit me. I hadn’t even thought of prayer or even Jesus. It wasn’t rebellion, but rather forgetfulness. In the heat of the moment, my well-worn tendency to act in my own strength jut took over.

I began to pray as I drove. My next thought was one of self condemnation. Why am I so slow to truly live from what I believe in my mind? Why is the path from my head to my heart so damn difficult for God’s Truth to travel in a way that sticks and becomes my new norm? Yep, profanity slips through at times too. My heart (what I truly believe, not just understand intellectually) has historically been way behind my head as far as knowledge of who God is, what He’s done for me, and all His promises. I desperately want the two to be congruent.

I know better than so much of the way I live my life. It makes me sad, and frustrated with myself.  I live from my heart…  where the authentic me comes out.  In reading my last blog, and looking at my life for the last 12 days, I would have to say, “Live as I say/ write, not as I do.” I know what it  means to trust God, to hold Him as the number one priority of my life. At times, I have lived it. But I am struggling in my current set of circumstances. My prayer life is still being squeezed out — I’m giving God a scant glance and a quick acknowledgement, not the devotion and adoration He deserves. I’m making life too much about me and my circumstances, and not enough about Him. I’m too busy, even with worthy things.

This mid-life, sandwich generation thing is proving to be harder than I ever knew it would be. In my stress and fatigue I am neglecting  and forgetting God.  Lord, I don’t want to be anything like the Pharisees! I want less of me and more of You!

IMG_2096Matthew 24:2-3  says “ The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses.  So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.”

And even worse, Matthew 7: 21-23 has always been a sobering verse to me. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

But Lord, you have saved me, and it is you who has changed my heart and given me a new life! Still I live in this flesh. Why do I forget? Why do I continue to sin, when I desperately want to live in You?

Dr. Ray Pritchard has this to say, “Struggle with sin is the common experience of Christians everywhere. James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways.” Romans 7:23 speaks of a “war” going on inside the believer, and Romans 8:13 commands us to “put to death” the deeds of the flesh. Galatians 5:17 tells us that the flesh and the Spirit are continually at war with each other. Christians traditionally have spoken of three great enemies they face: the world, the flesh and the devil. The world is “out there” and all around us. The “flesh” is inside and loves to answer the call of the world. And it seems like the devil is everywhere, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).

No wonder the Bible says that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And that’s why Paul told Timothy to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). ”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m reminded of a hymn I can’t sing without tears flowing: Amazing Grace.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

My struggle with sin will continue — with ebbs and flows, good times and worse ones — until I die. So will yours.  It’s a painful struggle, but take heart!  The angst and the pain are some of the best indicators that we are truly God’s children — adopted and loved. If I cease to worry about my sin, if I don’t recognize my independence and give control back to God, if I stop feeling righteous guilt, which leads to asking for His forgiveness and my repentance — then I will need to really worry.

Dear God, thank You for Your assurance that You will continue to discipline and transform me, as I daily surrender — because You love me.  As Paul says in Phillippians 1:6 (MSG) “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

IMG_4936Matthew 7:24-27 continues “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

You are my foundation, Lord. I will trust Your work in me and Your timing. I believe You! I trust You! Help my unbelief and my lack of trust. Fill me with Gratitude to YOU. Help me give you my first fruits of time and attention. Teach me to always be dependent on You and You alone.

photo-94I just noticed, even Bandit is sleeping at my feet — for now. Thank you Jesus, for your Peace! Amen.

Midlife – the sandwich generation

412547_3786080816928_317502952_oThe term  “Sandwich Generation” was officially added to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary back in 2006. The Sandwich generation is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting (financially and/ or emotionally) their own children. It’s me and possibly you?

There are many ways to build the sandwich…

  • Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
  • Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and possibly grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
  • Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.

And the definition doesn’t mentioned the fact that for women, aging parents and young adult children all hit just about the same time as menopause. Talk about a fried,  HOT mess!

IMG_1711As  “children” in our midlife season, it’s a joy and privilege for us to help our aging parents in any way we can. God thought it so important that honor your parents was the first commandment with a promise attached to it. “Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” It’s not hard to understand why, especially after you have children of your own. I know I am forever indebted to my wonderful mom and dad for all their sacrifices, love, and gifts for me. I would do anything in my power to make this stage of their lives better and more joyful for them. The problem is the “answers” to the big issues of the golden years aren’t always entirely obvious — and often the days don’t end up feeling so golden to our parents. We feel powerless to give back to the ones we owe the most, and this hurts us.

And then there’s our children — at any age, they are our very hearts, beating outside our bodies. There is nothing within our power we wouldn’t do for their good. We never thought it possible to love them more than when their chubby faces peeked out of smocked dresses and cute little overalls. But we do. We love who they have become and all the potential we see for them. We pray for them as they launch independent lives. But it’s a tough world out there, and like us, they have to learn a lot in the school of hard knocks. It’s so hard to watch your child struggle — at any age. We feel powerless to protect them anymore, and it hurts us.

Currently all 5 of our children are in a great place; I am so thankful. But I have also been around long enough to know how life works. We’re almost always heading out of a tough time or enjoying the good times before our next challenge. John 16:33 says it well, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

UnknownIt all adds up to this: being at the center of this complicated and tremendous sandwich is often one of the most difficult stages of our own lives. Our good hearts and willing hands can be rendered helpless against the perils of the “aging process,” whether we’re talking about men and women developing independence through the teens and 20s or the aging process of the 70s, 80s,  90s and sometimes beyond.

Do you ever feel like the middle slice of meat — definitely fried to a crisp — expected to hold together a whole tremendous Dagwood Sandwich? I know I do.

Sometimes from the center of my family sandwich, I feel incredibly overwhelmed and consumed. It seems I can’t really name the really “big” stressors in my life, but I am drowning in them collectively. My mind is cluttered. I have little time to take care of myself. I’m scattered, trying to manage my thoughts, feelings, and plans for myself and my family. I just can’t seem to do all that I feel I should accomplish for others or in my own life.

We eat out more, because I’m not managing the house or meals all that well. Exercise gets squeezed out, and the added pounds from both add stress. I miss events in my friend’s lives, and cringe when I hear myself apologize saying, “It’s been such a busy week.” Rob and I plan short little getaways to escape and hang on tight to our marriage as a priority.

IMG_1736Time passes and I realize with our travel and busy schedules, I’ve been to church once this month and woefully neglected my quiet times. I’m sporadic in both reading the Bible and prayer — both of which I know can be the very joy and fabric of my soul. My mind — filled with my own life plus the duties of being the all-important center in the family sandwich — is rarely still or quiet enough to listen for the Shepherd’s voice. I am conforming to the world and believing only in the circumstances around me, and what I must do to help those I love.

Webster’s definition of an idol is “the excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” In today’s language an idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. Looks like my well-meaning daughter and mother roles have developed into an idolatry problem. Another commandment in Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

IMG_1731Anything that consistently takes me away from my relationship with God is idolatry. I will be able to keep BOTH commandments I’ve mentioned, when I’m putting first things (God) first. Matthew 6:33 says “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I take a deep breath… exhale. I must guard and protect my intimate times with God above all else. Period. This is the best thing I can do for myself, my parents, my children, my marriage, my work, my life. Trust God and His plan. He has never failed me or led me astray. I have never been sorry I did things His way, even when the world didn’t understand.

One more thing comes to mind — what am I seeking in all my concern and efforts for my parents and children? What caused me to drift away from God? In a nutshell, don’t we want control of our lives? I used to be able to tend the little red wagon holding all my children without major disturbances. My parents were thriving and still available to advise me. I was “in control,” and had resources — but what about now? Everything seems out of MY control — even that which is going well! (Is this realization possibly called wisdom?)

Easter 1995
Easter 1995

There’s nothing wrong with doing all I can to give comfort and help to my family — and others for that matter. This falls under the Greatest commandment. We help in many practical ways, both our parents and adult children. Decisions must be made and actions taken — and at times, we are the ones called upon to make them. But motivations are always worth checking. Do I feel it is all up to me? Am I trusting that God loves all my family more than I ever dreamed of? Am I remembering that this life on earth is just a blip on God’s eternal timeline? Is God remaining #1?

And what about the anguish and guilt I feel around the way things are and all I can’t do? What of my need to influence my children’s choices or judge my parent’s decisions in the turmoil of these senior years?  What about when I risk relationships with my siblings, because I am well-intentioned and believe my way is best for my parents? What about when I preach instead of simply listening, loving and accepting. Can I really trust God’s plan for life and death? Can I live my life His way, and be thankful in all things? Even in this messy sandwich stage?

IMG_3207Well, I would design old age differently, if I were god. I wouldn’t allow illness, dementia, deterioration or degeneration (wrinkles and gray hair might be okay, but I would have everyone view them as badges of honor). I would want old age to be, well, golden. I would gladly give up some of my comfort for my parents to live out their lives on a wonderful, high note.

I wouldn’t let anyone treat my children unfairly or without kindness — at any age. I would want everyone to know and love them as I do. I want them to inherit, without pain, all that I have learned through the experiences of my life, so that they would never suffer. Wouldn’t my way make for a happier, if possibly more vanilla life? It feels like it at times — but it sounds ridiculous even to me when my way is spelled out.

It is Good Friday. “And on the night He was betrayed, He broke bread and lifted it up, and gave thanks.” (1 Corinthians 11: 23-24)  If Jesus can give thanks in that, knowing His crucifixion followed, can I not trust Him and give thanks in all that’s on my overflowing, sandwich-adorned plate? Or will I believe it’s all up to me, and squeeze him out — just for this season.

IMG_4958It all circles back to God… Ruthless trust in the One who loves me and all my family most. And putting Him first: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

Priorities. Trust. Love.  God’s got my whole Dagwood sandwich in His hands. I’m glad He’s in control, and I’m just a piece of beloved, fried pastrami in the middle.

Note: This may sound like nothing concrete and easier said than done… but, considering  yesterday’s post  when I was feeling pretty low in my prayer life — Abba is faithful and will show the way through prayer. Please read it, if you have a chance. 😉



Tears, Prayers and a Risen Lord!

At the top of the administrative page for this blog,  there’s a little comment icon to notify me when a reader has sent a message. I always acknowledge comments (public ones on the posts and in my personal email). I very much appreciate a reader’s time in encouraging me or asking questions, and consider it an honor and a privilege to have a more intimate “real life” encounter with a reader. It’s these one-to-one, written, or small group relationships that really energize me. It’s where I feel not only God’s presence, but that He takes over, and I step aside. Such a wonderful experience– it’s hard to explain.

Starfish! Alligator Point, FL
Starfish! Alligator Point, FL

Recently, I’ve commented on posts and emailed a few of the big names in the blogging world and an organization many belong to. No response. I think I let that get under my skin and hurt my feelings. But God is using them in a different way. Their gifts are His to bless, and these dear Christians are certainly glorifying Him and touching many people for His Kingdom.

My desire in blogging has never been to be results oriented; I felt God nudging me to write. I fight a tendency to want immediate personal affirmation (hearing that someone was impacted by my words), even if my greater motivation is for the good of others. I call this other more fleshly desire a glory hog. I don’t want to forget how unattractive it can be when I get my selfish needs mixed up with serving and obeying His leading.

I believe my God-given gifts are best used in a more intimate setting. My blog is a starting point. I am most fully alive face-to-face or in a small circle where I can share with others.  I’ve been thinking the last few days about this, repenting again the glory hog tendency — and letting go of visions of being a mega-blogger! 😉 I want to be available to respond personally to those who relate to my story. In this light, I covet your comments. IMG_3144

Back to those tears — This morning I had 36 Spam messages associated with Pink Reflections, an annoyance common to many blogs. Robot generated “messages” from Vintage Mulberry bags, Tory Burch bags, Louis Vuitton, etc. all trying to sell me their goods — probably cheap, imitation knock offs of the real designers.

My eyes quickly welled up. I believe tears (especially when they come on the heels of time with God) are well worth investigating and listening to. What is behind mine this morning? I’ve deleted similar messages almost every day since my November launch of Pink Reflections. Why do I have burning tears today?

I haven’t written a post in a month. I haven’t felt inspired, or more accurately, nothing I have written has felt worthy of pressing the ominous “Publish” button. Could it be that I feel like a cheap, imitation knock off trying to schlep my words when what people really want and need is more sophisticated “designer” thoughts? There are plenty of women writing who are more insightful and more impactful than I. What can I offer that is real?

Yes, I think that’s part of it. I know myself and how much I struggle to surrender and live as God leads me in my real life. Lately, my prayer life has been somewhat lackluster, labored, distracted — as opposed to joyful and the best and most anticipated part of my day. The circumstances of life have been overpowering the Truths of God. I’m mired down — conforming to the world instead of giving God ample time and opportunity to renew my mind and transform me to more Christ-likeness. IMG_5918

Added to that, I feel compelled to pray for our business — something I have always found difficult to do — and in this I am “failing.” If anything is worth doing at all, it is worth praying about, right? God cares about our work. Intellectually, I don’t believe in a life segregated into the secular and the sacred. I want  ALL I do and all I am to be about Jesus. But what does this look like? I get distracted and my prayers about our business quickly trail off into random thoughts…

What is God’s will in all our work decisions? We sought Him and His will in this; sometimes His outcomes don’t look good on the bottom line, right? Maybe there are other “lessons” we need to learn to deepen our faith? Certainly we have grown in faith in the last two years.  I try to “spiritualize” our technology business. To justify its existence by acknowledging we enjoy giving away some of what’s earned.

While it’s true that God uses all circumstances for His purposes and good, the idea that our business is only about these “lessons” seems a little like a cop out on my part — a small-minded prayer with a healthy portion of unbelief in a good God and a lack of confidence in the fact that He would desire our financial success. I am not a proponent of the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel, but am I also afraid to even mention financial success? Could it be there is merit simply in what we offer — that God sees the good in our services and has ideas he wants to share with us about our business?

DSC00313His specific purposes and goals for our business are not obvious to me. Why is prayer so difficult in this area of my life? With my overall prayer life distracted by life’s circumstances and a sense of failure around praying for work — how can  I write something that might touch another? I feel a little like the sketchy vendor of the fake $10 designer bags sold in the streets of NYC.

Lately, I’m scatter-brained in daily tasks as well as my prayer life. Fragmented in my roles as wife, business owner, daughter, mother, friend, writer, painter, gardener, operations manager of the home and kitchen — I have lost sight of my true identity as adopted heir, daughter of the King — my Abba who desires me to know Him intimately.

DSC00329What I offer today is simply what He is saying to me in the midst of my messy life. And that He longs to be preeminent and intimate in all our lives. An honest admission of my struggles but also my faith that He is in control  of my life and my faith. Lately — I’ve been most aware of my struggles. My prayer life needs a transfusion. A refocus on Him. In the coming months, as He grows my  prayer life, I’ll share with you all I trust the great Healer will do along the way.

In a leap of faith that He desires my authenticity and transparency, today I’ll push “Publish,” and sheepishly let you in on the honest condition of my soul, as we approach Good Friday and Easter.  I’ll commit to trusting Him and continuing to pray in all things, even when it feels somewhat empty. I’ll do something else that’s hard for me — I’ll ask for your prayers for me as you read. I don’t understand exactly how prayer works, but I know that the prayers of others give me peace and please God.

IMG_5681My post is not a “downer” but a reminder that God has a plan and I can trust Him in it — all the time! He WILL respond to my prayers — even when they are weak. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! He is risen and all things are made new in Him! I will trust Him to finish the good work He has begun in me and in you! As always, you have my feeble prayers to a strong and loving God.

10150520_10152403992293674_6524963299613995081_nHappy Easter — He is Risen!