He Can Lift the Fog

fog

This afternoon, my friend looked at my desk and asked me, “Do you want me to help you clean up your desk?” My first thought was, “No!” I thought it was hopeless. But I groaned and said, “Ok.” And sure enough, in a few minutes, she helped me to make order out of chaos!  There were things on my desk from just a few days ago to papers from a conference that I’d been to months before.

When we’re talking about discouragement, it’s not something that just shows up one day. It’s the little things that we gradually accumulate. Discouragement can seem like a foggy day that slowly, slowly clouds your vision, preventing you from seeing your next steps. I think we don’t pay attention to the little things that bug us, and then we wake up one day so bummed that it’s impossible to ignore any longer. Sometimes I don’t meet my own expectations and I don’t see any solutions to the problems that are eating away at me. However, each time I invite God into my messy circumstances, amazing things happen.

It stinks that we wait so long and let things pile up when we could so easily turn it over to the Lord. But sometimes, we don’t even see the need until life starts going sideways and we don’t know how to stop it. When we remember that, (Psalm 46:1) “The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” life goes much smoother.

Sharper Vision

 

Lyla's new glasses

(These are my new glasses that won the vote)

I was surprised to find out last week yet another thing that has improved with age…my vision! After examining my eyes, my eye doctor said, “Your prescription is too strong!” I said, “Really?!” He said, “Yes, sometimes that happens when we get older.” I thought the exact opposite happened!

I hadn’t been to the eye doctor for five years, and I was quite satisfied with how I was seeing, except my old glasses bit the dust, so I had to go in to see the doctor. I had no idea that my prescription was too strong because I had grown accustomed to the way that I saw over the last few years.  I think there are a lot of things in life that shock us when we first experience them, but then over time, they just become part of the norm.

Just like my vision had improved over time, sometimes we don’t notice when our perception changes because we are so stuck in our current way of seeing things. When we have secrets they limit our freedom and our growth. When we continue to minimize them, we might feel ok for awhile but we still know they are there. We don’t want to address the problem until it becomes so painful that we can’t stand it anymore.

God knows our hearts and he also knows the perfect time to reach down and address the issues that we may have become oblivious to overtime. This story in Mark 8 shows how God uses the natural, and sometimes mundane things to help us to see clearly.

Mark 8:22-25

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Summer treasures

book cover 1 book cover

Where did the summer go? The kids are back in school, and the souvenirs that the kids just HAD to have when they were on vacations may already be forgotten. They could be strewn across the playroom floor or tossed underneath the bed, never to be treasured again.

My mom never bought herself anything when we went away on vacation, so we were surprised when we went to Waterton in Alberta Canada and she bought herself a mole-hair blanket. I’ve kept it for many years but recently I felt the blanket and realized how scratchy it was and I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want to cover myself with this!’ It got me thinking, it’s not the quality of the blanket that made me keep it, but it’s my memories of that day.

Some of the treasures from my summer were two wonderful books by women that I connected with at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference a few weeks ago. I’ve read their work recently to get some inspiration. These two stories resonated with something other than just my head. Both of these books encouraged me by showing me that each of us have a story that can impact the people around us and help each of us to be overcomers.

The Iron Heart by Delilah Moore Leach is a memoir about her contracting polio as a child, and her efforts not to be restrained by her outward appearance. It reminded me a lot of my own story. Both of us went to college despite others’ expectations. We also both realized that we had to change our own self-image rather than expecting other people to change their perceptions of us.

Where Eagles Soar by Bonnie Leon is a riveting account of a woman whose courage and determination to survive helped her to overcome life-altering abuse at the hands of her dad. Her story will impact other people who feel stuck in their circumstances.

The treasures that I have from this summer won’t be tossed under the bed or slip away from my memory because they are stories that impacted me and will remain dear to my heart.

 

Get on that bus!

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For year I’d yearned to go to Joni and Friends Camp.  I’d see it advertised on the website and feel a tug on my heart.  The problem was, five years ago, the closest one was in Northern California.  Then I discovered that there was one to be held in Rockaway, Oregon at Twin Rocks Friends Camp and this new location was only an hour and a half from my house! 

It might as well have been 5,000 miles, because I couldn’t drive and I had a great, big scooter, which is difficult to transport.  But this time, I was determined not to let that stop me!  Two friends of mine, one of which was also in a scooter, and I decided to take the bus from Downtown to Tillamook, then transferred to another bus that would take us right to camp.  When we arrived I was overcome by the joy and excitement that greeted us!

Joni and Friends Family Camp is held across the U.S. and in several other nations.  Often neglected and ignored, people with disabilities are impacted by the thousands from this camp experience.  At Joni and Friends Camp each person is celebrated!  New friendships are formed, there are fun and games for everyone, as well as the opportunity to hear a message of hope that Christ offers.

A few years ago, one of my newer friends came to camp for the first time.  She heard of God’s love and the next year, when she returned, she accepted Him as her Lord and Savior.  She is now a powerful witness for Him, as well as a significant part of the Portland Chapter of Joni and Friends.

Getting to camp that first year was a challenge, but I’m sure glad I took it!  A whole new world opened up for me when I decided to get on that bus.  Don’t let life’s challenges stop you, but instead let them lead you to new opportunities. 

A Fresh Breeze

For some reason I’ve been thinking about dryer sheets and the fresh fragrance of the air after a rain shower in the middle of the hot summer day. These seem to be very random thoughts, especially after my wonderful week at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. So I thought, what do these two things have to do with anything? Then I realized the fresh scent is the encouragement from friends that are on the same journey as I am. It is the smiles, the victories, and the struggles we’ve shared together that bring encouragement to everyone along the path.

One of my dearest friends, April McGowan, was presented the Cascade Awards Writer of Promise Award. Besides enjoying her writing, she inspires me, because each day she struggles with an immunity disorder that could keep her from living life to the fullest. Instead, she lets her struggles bring a richness and depth to her writing, as well as her relationship with others. Receiving her encouragement, and the encouragement of others, seems like a breath of fresh air.

Before the conference I was excited, because this year I didn’t have an agenda other than to see friends and learn. The input I received from others gave me new hope and I appreciated how they looked at my writing with new eyes.

As I get ready to go to the Joni and Friend’s Family Camp it is my hope that I can encourage others the same way that I have been encouraged this past week.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15.

Searching for Significance

Sometimes we are filled with passion toward one cause or another and it directs our path and our decisions. Other times we just live moment-to-moment with a hunger in our hearts to do something that matters to someone.

Last night we were going around and sharing problems within my small group and trying to let the Lord re-frame our circumstances into positive experiences and I was just squirming in my seat. We’ve all been in a place where we don’t know where we belong or we can’t see the bigger purpose of why life is turning out the way that it is. Life is a continual journey, we are always on our way somewhere, but there are times that we feel stagnant and root-bound to a space that is too small for our growing desire to produce something great. There is something really satisfying about sharing our lives and our talents with others around us.

This past weekend, I met two men who were both in the prime of their lives when tragedy struck and changed their course forever. One man was involved in a diving accident more than thirty years ago and the other was diagnosed with ALS just a few years ago. They are both currently in a long-term care facility and I had the privilege of spending some time visiting with them. I was deeply impressed with how hopeful both of these men were given their circumstances. My visit with these men was like finding a quiet stream after having been hurried along on the highway of life with so many others who are rushing to get to where they want to go.

These two men accept service gracefully for their various physical needs, and also serve others with their friendly and welcoming attitudes. I’m sure they have struggled with finding their purpose and meaning like all of us have, but I can see that they have worked through their grief over what has happened in their lives and now they are profound instruments of grace and hope to others.

Psalm 104: 16 “The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.”

Pressure Cooker of Life

I can remember the yummy chicken dinners that my mother prepared in her pressure cooker; at the end of the process, the chicken was tenderized. A pressure cooker works using a combination of pressure and steam to cook food quickly.  There is a valve to control the steam and a certain amount of steam is let off to alleviate some of the pressure at different times in the cooking process.

A lot of us have different coping mechanisms to alleviate some of the stress that we feel, and sometimes one of those is Facebook. It connects us just enough to let off some steam and alleviate the pressure quickly. Even though we feel better when we let off steam,  it doesn’t last for long.  We need to have the courage to stay involved in the process of discovering why we’re upset and ‘stay on the burner.’

Yesterday, I was presented with some unexpected news and now I have to weigh the pros and cons about how to deal with this issue. I need to stay on the burner and deal with this, and there will be consequences either way, but in the end, I know that it will lead to my heart being tenderized.

We live in a society where sometimes we don’t share the important things; we would rather stay in safe conversations. Oddly enough, though we live in a society connected through cell phones and Facebook and so many other websites, we live in isolation. That disconnect is making us lonely as a society.

It is risky to share what is really going on because there is always a high probability that people are not going to understand; even your closest friends might not understand. That is why we make choices about whether or not to speak up and be authentic or just live lives on the surface. No matter which way you choose to go, there are always losses. It could be a loss in friendship or a loss of security. Telling the truth disrupts your life as it is now, but when we have the courage to go through the process of being tenderized, we gain strength and freedom.