The Sabbath Rest

Church in Bodie, CA

I can still see her in my mind’s eye, a young woman…perhaps even still a teenager…holding a newborn wrapped in a blanket.  She was wearing sandals and a sun dress.  Her chin was pointed slightly downward, and her long golden hair hid part of her face as she walked out on stage

Humility.  Brokenness.  Maybe even shame.

I could feel it all over her.  My heart immediately shattered in pieces for her.

Surrounded by a few family members and church staff, she began to gently weep as Pastor Danny began to pray.   With the hands of those close by on she and the baby, and the hands of those of us in the congregation stretched outward towards them,  we entered all into a holy moment together.  A moment when this young mother, having been forsaken by the man who fathered the child, was there to offer herself up as she  dedicated her baby and herself to Christ.

If ever there was a singular moment over the last 8 months that made me glad we joined this little community church, it was this one.  Not a shred of judgement was anywhere to be found.  None.  And I know for a fact others there, like my husband and I, didn’t know jack about this girl or her family.   We didn’t need to know anything except what was happening in that present moment.   Compassion compelled us, all over that room, to join as One to seek the face of God on behalf of this young person. We were with her.

And with tears streaming down our faces, we asked God for strength and courage for this new little mama, and His hand of protection on the child.   Men committed themselves to step up and offer to be fathers to this fatherless child.   The women offered themselves as well.  We would be additional mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters to this family, there with our love and support whenever and however they needed it.

By the end of the dedication, as everyone left the stage glowing with peace, I felt connected to “the church” and everyone there in a new way.  A deeper way.  It’s been since 2002 since we’ve been members of a church, and I had forgotten how good it felt when it’s done “right”.   Having a spiritual community, even as new as it is, provides us a level of comfort, connection and commonality that’s been missing.   I, particularly, feel ‘safer’.   A feeling that is hard to come by in a world that feels exceedingly unsafe. The Pastor, 42 years old, is down to earth, funny and wise.  The congregation, made up of every age group and every color, displays the diverse nature of God.

I am so happy….so grateful…that we found Bridge. That’s what it’s called.  Bridge Community Church.  Even the name rings deep within me.  Bridges have always held special meaning to me….sacred symbols of joining, connection, and a way to get from one place to another.

Not everyone likes going to church, and I understand that.  We didn’t go for a very long time.  We don’t do denominations or religion.   But we do love Jesus.  Having a place to go where we can worship God with other like-minded folk is a huge blessing that has brought tremendous healing with it.  Not only a “spiritual” healing, but  positive changes in other areas of our lives as well, from our marriage to our finances.

I think that is what happens when you are where you are supposed to be.

This morning we’ll be celebrating the (re)opening of the main sanctuary.  It’s been undergoing renovations since last year while we met elsewhere on property.  The “new” interior us lovely with an understated, peaceful and intimate feeling.  I think the pews  will hold about 500 – not too big, not too small.  A large rustic wooden cross, against whitewashed brick, is the only adornment on the stage, but the worship team has all sorts of great lighting and technology to use now.   Most importantly about this space, I literally feel God as I walk in.

I navigate life through my feelings, and this building is filled with positive intention and good vibes.   It  radiates a warm welcome to all who enter. A place where faith is strengthened, hope is rekindled and love is made manifest.  A place to belong.

PSALM 84:1-4

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

True Confessions of a Terrible Blogger

20150613_112004_resizedI’m a terrible blogger.

Long gone are the days when I would write a daily post, and then go around checking on all my blog “friends”, commenting here and there and interacting along the way.

When I first started blogging back in 2004 or so, it was a whole ‘nuther world.  Blogging itself was a relatively new phenom.  This was in the days before “Smart Phones” and tablets, social media and “monetizing”.

Before the “Like” button.

Sure, the platforms themselves were pretty rustic compared to all the bells and whistles available today.  We had a small handful of options for templates and such.  Corporate websites weren’t yet using a blog as a generic marketing tool.  “Click bait” would’ve been mistaken for some sort of fishing apparatus. But oh, those were great blog times.  I sometimes miss them in the middle of the night.

These days, I “think” about writing here far more often than I actually do.  One reason (the main reason) is, I’ve lost the plot. I don’t know what my motivation is….the whole “WHY” of it.

I’m not an “expert” on anything.  I haven’t any earth shattering wisdom to impart, a book to promote,  or a service or product to sell.

I have no interest in trying to be “someone”, or garner an adoring crowd (well, actually, that part sounds pretty good.  haha!)

So why write here?  What is it that keeps me coming back (albeit sporadically), year after year, even after weeks and months of being MIA?

It’s simple, really. I long to connect.  To reach out and touch someone and maybe, if I’m lucky, have them touch back.  To write something and have someone say, “Hey, me, too!” or “I totally get you!”

Being “get” cannot be rated highly enough.

One of the most unexpected developments of having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago was how it would impact my relationships.  I’ve written reams about it in my journal, and mentioned it briefly here (I think….)  And I suppose much of the changes stem from how the news – and the treatment journey itself – impacted me.

Unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who’s been told they have the Big C, it’s hard to understand, even if you are close to someone who has or is going through it.  See, you can’t be in their head.  You aren’t there in those dark, solitary, sleepless hours in the middle of the night with your thoughts running amuck.  Hell, even my own family doesn’t know some of the stuff I had to deal with – emotionally and physically – because I didn’t want to burden them any more than they already had to deal with.  I still don’t.

Long story short, and not surprisingly, I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago.  For example, I’ve essentially ditched the New Thought/New Age/Alternative spirituality stuff I had been practicing for a decade or so.  I found that 97% of it was pretty useless when it came to dealing with the diagnosis.  My beliefs were tried by fire.  I am, most assuredly, a Jesus person again.  NOT a fundamentalist.  You can’t “unknow” or “unexperience” certain things.  I love and support my gay friends and the LGBT community at large.  I still swear up a storm and I don’t go to church (although, if I could find one where I “fit in”, I would go in a heartbeat).  I still believe in the Feminine Face of God, and the Mystery of the spiritual realm.

Physically, I’ve changed, too.  I don’t have long dyed hair and acrylic nails any more.  My face is different….a little more battle-scarred and war-weary.  And my wardrobe.  Ugh!  After being away from the corporate environ for this long, and after going from 2 incomes to 1, well, the word “limited” comes to mind.

Hell, some days I don’t even put makeup on except maybe my eyebrows.  They are a MUST HAVE, if I want to avoid looking rather alien.  I didn’t have much before and, after chemo, things didn’t improve.  At least I got my lashes back.  Mostly.

Another big change is how I spend my days.  I am, by and large, living the life of a retiree – even with my part-time bookkeeping job (which, as it turns out, is VERY part-time).  My days are spent doing mundane “housewife” things like cooking and laundry and cleaning.  I actually don’t mind that, interestingly enough.  And I have plenty of time (if not money) to do the crafts and classes that I enjoy.

I never did relate to the “cancer survivor” meme, even though – technically – I am one.  Never joined a support group and don’t have a single piece of pink-ribboned paraphernalia.  Going through breast cancer was more like going through an ugly divorce or a death or some other trauma. I am doing what I can to put “that phase” of my life in the past as much as possible considering it was – well – cancer.

So I didn’t come out of that phase with a tribe of “sisters”, even though I was told I would.  In fact, some friends have drifted off into the sunset.  Why?  I dunno…Changing interests or lifestyles, maybe?  Some of that is to be expected, I suppose.  In July 2015, when my BFF broke up with me  after my 2nd round of chemo (and right after I shaved my head), I had a big wake up call.  Another one, I should say.  It was the understanding that some people can’t handle the tough times…the really tough times.  Times involving a drastic change in availability, or appearance or energy.

Times of facing one’s own mortality.

My friendships have undergone a serious pruning.  In spite of that, the relationships I have with myself, the God of my understanding, my husband and my children are all stronger than ever.  I’ve made a few new acquaintances and friends along the way, although no one (yet) to fill those BFF shoes. But I appreciate these women when we spend time together.  We laugh and have fun as we get to know each other better.

But in my heart I believe there is one special woman out there.  One who is also looking for me, wanting the same sort of “sisterfriend” relationship I want.  Someone like-minded and enjoys the same things.  A woman who  makes the best of things and lives life  – every day – to the fullest.  She’ll be down to earth with a good head on her shoulders and a smartass remark on her lips. And we’ll laugh our asses off, A LOT, even when we’re crying.  It’s just a matter of time before we are connected.

CONNECTED.

Connection.  That feeling you get when you know someone is there for you, and you for them, during good times or bad, happy times or sad.  When the people involved experience the strength and comfort that comes from doing life together vs. going it alone.

I want more of that in my life. In real-time.  Because as wonderful as online friendships are, they aren’t the same as those where you actually DO stuff together, physically, in the same space.  Words written on a page (or in a text) are not the same as those spoken face to face, eye to eye.

Maybe even heart to heart, when someone needs a hug……

CONNECTION.

I may be a terrible blogger, but I give great hugs.

It’s just a matter of time.

Letters From Home

woman-writing-vintageEven after all these years, it never ceases to amaze me when – at just the right moment – I stumble upon the EXACT thing I need to read or hear.

That happened to me earlier today when I opened a little devotional booklet that I like to read in the mornings, and read these words:

“I AM trusting God with the desires of my heart.  He knows what’s best for my life, and I give Him complete control over all I am and all I have.  Any worry, fear or frustration, I turn over to Him.  I’m at peace knowing that He will get me to where He wants me to be, and I will never be disappointed.  This is my declaration of who I am.”  (From Joel Osteen’s work, “I AM”.)

I like to spend some time in contemplation and prayer at our little kitchen table in the mornings, journal and coffee at hand, with a candle burning.  It’s a time for seeking God’s Will and His Presence, and something I started doing 30 years ago as a new mother.  There have been seasons when I neglected this precious practice, or when the nature of that time was something other than it is now. I noticed that life doesn’t flow as smoothly, that my burdens seem heavier, and my attitude crapier when I miss these moments.  It is something I always come back to at some point.  My default position.

One of the blessings from the breast cancer journey I went through is a renewed commitment to my personal spiritual life – a Coming Home, if you will. I’ve winnowed out what works and what doesn’t work for me, what spiritual ideals and practices fit and which don’t.  Certainly, I don’t fit the mold of a typical fundamentalist Christian, and I’m good with that. I am a believer in, and a follower of, Jesus the Christ and look to the Bible for much of my inspiration and direction.  After all of the miracles I have experienced, after all the times when I literally felt the supernatural touch of God on me, I couldn’t be anything else.  And I’ve tried.

In this Season After the Fire, when my “New Normal” is being normalized, I spend even more time than usual thinking about, talking to, God.  For of all things that I desire – it is the desire to live out God’s Will that burns within me the hottest. Whatever that may look like, I am completely surrendered.

I think. (smile)

But deciphering God’s Will and plan for my life isn’t always easy for me.  Sure, there are times when divine direction is so obvious, I just want to slap my forehead and say, “Duh!”

Other times, however, the direction isn’t as clear, or doesn’t feel like it is showing up at all. and I am left contemplating the idea that what DOESN’T happen is the Will.  I am being led by what prayers AREN’T answered (or, perhaps, were answered with “No”.)

Times like when interviews prove fruitless, or the promises made to me by others don’t come to pass.  Other times I end up hitting brick walls, when the path I am on leads “nowhere”.

I’m in one of those times right now and it’s like trying to find my way out of a maze.  My view is obstructed and progress seems as at standstill.  It’s hard not to feel trapped.  Lost, even.

But I know – from experience – I am anything but.

This is a time when my faith is being stretched.  My desires, honed.  Growth often takes resistance, and I’ve learned that struggle isn’t a sign that I’ve blown it.  It could be that the struggle is producing the strength I need for the next part of my journey, much like a butterfly needs the struggle of exiting a cocoon if it is to be healthy and strong.

After months of Maze Walking, it was a real comfort to received a Word from the Lord this morning assuring me that His Hand is guiding me.  That His plans and purposes WILL prevail in my life.  It is important that I keep this in mind I can’t let discouragement weigh me down, or worry to steal my peace.

I just need to be patient and allow myself to be led through this season one step at a time, and trust that He is with me and that His plans for me are good.

The shift IS coming.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

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