Monday, January 17, 2011

I am finally starting to feel better and recover from the head cold that I have had all weekend. Yay! Don't you just hate that? We have a rash of cold weather, here in South West Florida, and then just as the weather begins to warm up and the weekend gets here,...a cold takes over and totally destroys the plans that were made for the weekend. Grrr! Well, oh well!

I have this thinking about when I get sick, it seems to be play time for Satan. Really, I am at my weakest and it never fails that I go through a cycle of darkness, we'll call it, when I am down with a cold. First, I get really irrational and start to overreact to situations that I would otherwise be much more composed in. Then I get tremendously emotional which leads into a depressive state, followed by the absolute in ability to stand up against sinful desires! So I imagine by now you are asking your self, "What exactly happened this weekend?" I won't go into detail, but I totally fell on my face and failed. In the midst of it I was kinda appalled at my own behavior and how quickly I succumbed; however, after some time I have come to a few thoughts that I will share.

First of all, I want to say that I did manage to advert some troubles or at least postpone them with praise. You see, being single is really quite difficult! I get lonely, really lonely and even though I have children, and they do help a bit, it is not the same as adult interaction. I was feeling particularly depressive the other day due to the oncoming cold and considering how I just moved, I was missing my friends in Pensacola/Gulf Breeze tremendously! So as I started to feel myself come unraveled at the seams I grabbed my guitar and sat down and thought, "I will not stop playing till I feel better!" It took a little while, and my fingers were a little sore but it had worked! I just kept repeating in my thoughts how I would praise my way through it, and I did. Yay!!!

The second thought I had was from a devotional entry by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest. It mentioned that, God doesn't make us give up stuff for the sake of giving up stuff. I got stuck on this because I'm in the middle of the fast right now. I felt that this was a motive check. First, I got caught on that phrase, "God doesn't make us give up stuff". I just found that interesting. You see I decided to do this fast and year with God and have my preconceived ideas about what exactly that meant. I am a planner, some times, well especially when it comes to things I'm gonna do for God. LOL!!! Even as I just typed that, it sounds soooooo ridiculous!!! I know God is just smiling and chuckling about how silly His little girl is in assuming to know anything about what He is doing or what is best for her! I guess it brings me a certain false security to think that I have control over some part of my life! So, I am thinking that this was taking the temperature of my motivation in doing the fast and giving a year to Him. I also think it was to check my motivation for this blog and sharing with you all my struggles. I am not looking for any praise, or anyone to look at my life as anything more that seeing what God can do with taking a truly messed up individual and changing her life into what He desires. If you can look at my life and the things that I write here, and be encouraged in your walk then that is all I desire. I do not profess to be an expert on anything but feel that through taking an honest look at myself, the good, bad and ugly, God will be glorified! Especially in my weakness!
You see, I believe that when I am weak that allows room for God's glory to shine. So yes, in all I do I honor God, especially in my weakness!

Now since failing so miserably this past weekend I am confronted with the question, once again, "If this is truly all about grace, then why am I so concerned with what I am doing?" I believe that sometimes God lets us fall so that we look up and reach up and refocus on Him. Perhaps I was getting too focused on the what I was doing instead of the who I was doing it for. Maybe I was too concerned about what I was doing instead of whom I am seeking.
You see this whole God thing, this whole Bible and Jesus dying on the cross thing, is all about RECONCILIATION, in reality. It is about reconciling people to God and people to each other. Which means that some relationship was broken due to a wrong and through the process of humility, repentance, and forgiveness, restoration can happen. The end result and the achievable goal is just that, restoring what was once lost!

"Lord let my seek you and you alone. Restore the years the locust have eaten in my life and in my relationship with you. Be my strength, all the time, as I explore this weakness called humanity and venture to rest in your arms. My heart longs for the day when I can lay against you and feel your heartbeat as one with mine. Thank you for your love and mercy, for how you protect me and provide for me. Thank you for being willing to say no when I whine and kick against the goads. Thank you for giving me life and my identity as your beloved. Thank you for teaching me what real love is, each and every day. Thank you for not abandoning me and always loving me through my craziness, pain, and sorrow. You are my refuge! I couldn't make it one step without you and I am so sorry for the times when I think I can! You are my life! You are my breath! You are my everything!"


Thursday, January 13, 2011

What an Interesting day!

Today was a day I would call, Interesting! Interesting is one of those words that can have various connotations. One may use the word interesting to mean, intriguing, thought provoking, and an all around positive set of circumstances. It can be used to mean odd, undesirable, inadequate, challenging, or and overall sense of disappointment. A third way that interesting can be used is in describing a day that maybe indifferent, indescribable, and outwardly neutral.

When I use the term interesting to describe today I am referring to the third definition, meaning that there were times where it was interesting according to meaning one and times when it was interesting  according to meaning two, but I really can not discern whether either one was predominant!

There were some challenges today on many fronts. I wasn’t sure if it was the first hurdle of the fast, that my back is still hurting pretty bad after three weeks, or if it was because I woke up to a freezing house today? No matter what the reason, I faced some pretty big challenges.

The back pain that I have been dealing with is some sort of sciatic problem. You see when I moved back to Bradenton, I decided to get my life in shape, not just my spiritual life but my physical life as well! In the last few months I have become what I would call a beer connoisseur. I ventured years ago in the world of wine and felt I had a pretty good handle on that so I merge into beers this past summer and fall. Needless to say when one of my friends says he works out so as to eat cheeseburgers and drink beer, he wasn’t kidding! If you are not working out and you start to drink a few beers, boy do you put on the pounds!!! So I decided to work on my physical body as God works on my spiritual body. Well I have a tendency to really jump into things with both feet, and wouldn’t you know it I injured my back or sciatic nerve, so of course, no more working out! I prayed and asked God to please heal me and help me loose the weight that I have gained because I’m struggling with getting rid of it! Living in constant pain for weeks and taking ibuprofen every day just to function is really wearing on me. Then yesterday I remember back to when I did Pilates how they always talked about flexibility, so I thought perhaps that would help? So I signed up for a class and went tonight. It was great and afterwards I felt wonderful! I thought about how perhaps I would not have thought of going to Pilates if my back had not been hurting me this much. Sometimes God will use pain to push us in the right direction. I thought about the gym and the personal trainer and how it never felt quite right, but I wanted results, now! Then God said, “Lori, some things, take time, and it’s going to take a little time to get to where you want to be.” “You always want to rush things and most of the time that just doesn’t work,” He continued. “Just be patient with things and with you. I know what you and your body can handle!” He quickly reminded me that this is a physical representation of what is happening in my spiritual life! I need to be patient and learn the lessons that come in the in between times, in between beginnings and endings.

One friend and I were speaking one evening about how being a Christian is like having a part in the orchestra. We are in such a hurry because we want to learn our instrument and our part and do it well to please the conductor. But then it occurred to me, what if the symphony, the masterpiece, is not in the ending, but in the along the way? Just a thought!

Praise God that the heat is working!! Thanks to my Dad and Brother who spent most of the day here fixing it so that we could be warm tonight! And I really wanted to stop for a beer and a real nice meal after my Pilates class but I didn’t. There was one challenge that I simply had to run from today, but I think that is okay. I stumbled a little before I ran, but I think when you can’t stand up against a challenge it’s okay to run, because God has got your back! He’s got mine! And I know He’s got yours!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Checking in!

Have you ever had one of those days in which you felt you were exactly in the right place and doing exactly what you should be doing? The peace and the joy floods your soul, the fulfillment leads your spirit to soar, and everything is right in your world! Well that is how I felt home schooling…yesterday! LOL! Today? Not so much!

It was a little stressful today; perhaps it was the pain in my back? Maybe pms? Lack of caffeine? Whatever it is, the memory of the goodness of yesterday lingered long enough for me to realize that, “yes, there will be days like this!” On the grand scale it really was not that bad of a day, I mean no tragedy struck so I guess I am extremely grateful and thinking it was a great day after all.

I’ve just been tired and the last two days not able to get up before . Right now I am reminded to be patient with myself and to really think of all that was done today. Home schooled two children, cleaned the living room, vacuumed the house, drove to the next town for a text book I was missing, bought a 7 by 10 rug for the living room and put it down, cancelled the cable, shopped for and cooked dinner, and now I’m putting in a blog entry before bed. Whew, it makes me tired just thinking about it!

I guess my thoughts take me to two places, one knowing what I still have yet to accomplish and that I didn’t take my devotional time with God. I realized that I absolutely love my cup of coffee with my devotional time! Absolutely love it! However, now I am joining with so many of you in that 21 day awakening Daniel fast so, I am not drinking coffee. I thought I could get away with tea but upon checking the acceptable food list I find herbal teas are a don’t! Today I was driving to the store and really missing my hot cup of coffee, I mean now is the time when it’s best, when it’s cold outside! I thought of possible alternatives, hot water with dried cherries?? Just doesn’t get the same response does it? I have to ask myself, if that is my association, a warm cup of coffee as I do my devotionals, and now on the fast I don’t have that, what am I supposed to be seeing here? Is it that the fast is interfering with my devotion, when it is supposed to do the exact opposite? Or is God changing His meeting time with me.

Years ago, after Dan died; I had the most wonderful devotion time with God, so wonderful that sometimes it lasted for hours! Lovingly I would sit in my Father’s lap while He taught and spoke with me. It was outstanding!! However, one day I went to meet Him at our usual spot and He didn’t seem to be there. I tried and tried, but got nothing. I asked for days what was going on. Then I tried to have my devotions at a different time, and God spoke to me saying, “You can not put me in a box! I will change what I want when I want to and I don’t have to consult you to do it Lori!” I remember thinking, wow, (gulp) okay and what an amazing adventure! It is like hide and seek! God is waiting for us to seek Him and find Him! But beware; He may just change the plans!

I’ll close with this, many of you are struggling to find work right now with the economy like it is. Well, I have a few friends who have been looking for work for a long time and one called me today. This friend called just to let me know he had a second interview for a job, and later I found out from his wife that he did indeed get the job. The thing that was interesting was that he said it was like that scripture, “God’s ways are not our ways and neither is His timing!” I can so agree to that! Praise be to God! The giver of all good gifts!! ;-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First day of the fast!

Today was the first day of my 21 day Daniel fast. Many of you may have begun this same type of fast to join your church in a concentration for direction and vision for your local body of believers as well. Individually, in my experience, I have received personal growth during times. I remember hearing a few years ago, that a person starting a fast should have clear cut plans of what they expect or desire from God for this time.

I tend to shutter at that thought because the longer I walk this earth I have realized two things. One thing is that I am totally incapable of making any sort of demands upon the God of the universe. I learned this when I prayed and prayed for my beloved Daniel to be healed from terminal lung cancer. I prayed to the point of making my self sick. Then again when I prayed for God to restore and reconcile my marriage after my second husband walked out. I asked, begged, and pleaded with God but He remained unmoved by my petitions. I am understanding of why He did things the way He did, and in a lot of the cases He was protecting and growing me. Which leads me to the other point, that is that I am a finite and totally unqualified to decide what is best for me. I mean if I had received the prayer of my second marriage being restored or with my husband returning instead of filing for divorce, I would not be me right now. I would be so doped up on antidepressants and constant drinking to anesthetize the fact that whom God created in me was not acceptable in that relationship. In short, it would have totally destroyed me by now if God had not allowed the end of that marriage, but He had to make it so that I would have no say in the matter. You see my ex husband walked out, never said goodbye to the children, just told me how it was, inconsistent with who he was as a person to remain in this marriage! Then he simply left, and refused to speak to me, go to counseling, speak to a pastor, all of it. Then five days before Christmas, I got the petition for divorce. It was one of the most horrific times of my life and I almost did not survive. I guess that is what I look back at now and realize what an unhealthy and immature relationship that truly was! Therefore, who am I to decide what is best for Lori? I have to totally rely upon God, even for the direction of the fast and every moment, really.   He knows it all and owns it all, so why not trust the Author?

So in conclusion, I am trusting God for each step of the journey, and the strength to not only go the right directions but to also take the steps! Especially when due to this fast I could not have my cup of coffee this morning, ugh! But I realized that I only have to think about the fast today and in all actuality, what's 21 days? what's one year? Blessings to you all! Love! ;)

"just remember till you're home again, you belong to me!"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Challenging day!

I just had to write about today and the challenge I faced.

I have a certain friend, who is a man, whom I am attracted to. I'll tell you a bit about him. He is a christian, I mean he truely believes and relies upon God's grace and his relationship with him. He is strong and secure in himself. He has the wonderful gift of exhortation to the point that he will not let you say something negative about yourself. He has had a rough childhood and life so he appears to be very appreciative of little things. He is into details. He is honest, like me and sometimes quite blunt about things, but truth is hard to find! He is really quite helpful and one of those individuals whom, if you asked to do anything, would do it! A little southern gentleman, maybe somewhat redneck, big blue eyes and extremely funny(which you know is big points with me!). He has the ability to be a very intense individual; however, he lives a very simplistic lifestyle. He loves kids and my younger two children really enjoy his company. He is tremendously gifted musically and loves to worship the Lord with his guitar. An amazing child of God!

Well, we met when I moved here, some friends introduced us. He helped so much with organizing thoughts and helping put things together. He visited frequently and has expressed a desire to be a part of the children's lives, especially Nick's, as a male figure. I have felt total peace about this. Have you ever met someone who just seems to fit in? He does. He says he feels comfortable around us and we feel the same way in return. It's pretty amazing!

As you can tell by now I am attracted to this man. He now knows it. Previously he has expressed his interest in another woman whom he has be dating off and on for approximately two years. Up untill recently, I knew where he stood and that put me where I stood. Well, as of late he has been expressing interest in me and tonight he came over to hang out with the kids. After a little while, we went to the store to get some items for dinner and a conversation ensued. He said he got the feeling that I was not wanting to be around him and asked me what was going on. I assured him that it really had nothing to do with him and shared what God had laid upon my heart with dedicating a year to Him. This gentleman related that he totally understood and would respect my decision and what God and I agreed upon.

This was a HUGE deal for me and a growth opportunity! To look a man in the face, whom I am attracted to and would be interested in a relationship with, and tell him that I am focusing on God and Him only! Wow! I really, honestly felt empowered by the entire event and through it I was able to express my desire to be friends and continue to hang out since we do enjoy eachother's company so much. He agreed. I was also able to share a weakness, take responsibility for it and remain faithful to the commitment I have with God. This also led to an evening with me being more relaxed and enjoying his company as a fun brother in Christ. I am so blessed!

I am so thankful that I was able to stand. The bible talks about the devil attacking and how we should put on the armor of God, then it simply says for us to STAND. Honestly, I was so weak and starting to feel all those feelings of loneliness, but God was my strength and I was able to stand. I may not be strong enough to mount an offense but that's not what I am charged with doing. He will go before me; all I must do is stand!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Potter's hand!

Well as some of you know, I love making things, creating beauty. Whether it is painting a painting, planting a container garden, creating a fabulous gourmet dinner for friends, or some other type of art, I love to create. I guess you could say it's one way I can relate to God in His creative power and enjoy the process and end result! I recently purchased a pottery wheel from a wonderful woman in my town. This was a huge deal for me due to the fact that I have been wanting one for about three years. Many of my friends were able to share in my joy because they had heard me dream about this for quite a while! I was finally able to use it this evening and I was extremely excited! Three hours later I had created two, soon to be, coffee cups(one is slightly lopsided), and helped my youngest daughter throw her first piece of pottery, a bowl.

Now you may be saying to yourself, "Wow! That took her a very long time to just end up with two cups and a bowl!" While they are small and I am slow at it due to the fact that I haven't thrown in a while, that is not the reason that it took so long. Aside of getting everything ready, and changing the bats(round flat plastic pieces that you actually put the clay on) between throws, there is a very important step that can actually make or break your pottery throwing experience! This crucial step is the centering of the clay! Ahhhhhh, yes! Without having your clay perfectly centered, you can end up with a mess like the first piece I threw that is now sitting in the recycle bucket, or you can have a lopsided cup, like the second cup I threw!

As I struggled with the second blob of clay, trying to get it centered I was thinking of God being the potter and me as the clay. No matter how hard I tried, how much pressure I applied, the clay still refused to submit to my desire to center it! As it lobbed round and round on the wheel, like a bucking bronco trying to have it's own way, I wondered how many times this is how I have acted with God when He is simply trying to center me. How many times have I fought His steady hand and not heeded His firm pressure to get me into proper position to make beauty of my life? I thought of how frustrating it was for me with this little bit of clay, and how I stopped a few times out of this frustration. Then just when I was ready to give up, the clay was centered! How grateful I am that God does not get frustrated with me when I am fighting and trying to kick and push away His all knowing loving hands! I am so thankful that even when I am going about things my own way because I think my way of lobbing through life like drunken sailor is the right way, that He does not give up on me! He lovingly persists, knowing that if I am centered on Him I am exactly where I should be so that He can Gloria Gaither says, "make something beautiful of my life!"

I saw a prominent singer on a YouTube video singing Hallelujah and it almost brought tears to my eyes asking myself, "Does she even know what she was singing that day?" Hallelujah means Praise be to Yahweh! What a great word that says so much! Hallelujah!

Today was a little challenging, stresses of the day and one of the children acting like that lobbing clay, I was challenged in my focus today but was able to stand. Hallelujah! Here it is so very late and I'm wrapping this up with knowing no matter the stresses of the day, God is still God, and I don't want to be a lopsided cup!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In the Beginning!

I am about to embark on a new and exciting journey to a place where I have not chosen to go before. You see sometimes you find yourself in a familiar place; however, something is different, something has changed and you come to find the something that has changed,... is not a something at all but a someone, and that someone is you!

Just to give you a shortened and condensed history, I am a single Mom of four children, ages 20, 18, 13, and 8. I have been widowed for six years and divorced for two. Lost my approximately 10 family members in the last seven years. I became a child of God in 1995 but really didn't know Him that well till my first husband and absolute love of my life passed away in 2004. You may have heard people refer to their spouse as their everything and yes my husband was, in fact, my everything! So to say that I was lost after he passed away at the young age of 37 from cancer, and I was left to care for four young children on my own, is an understatement! I was 29 at the time of his passing. The thing is I was raised in an unstable, alcoholic home where yelling, screaming, and chaotic abuse was the way things were handled. I was forced to create my own sense of security from the young age of 4, when I was ripped out of my bed in the dead of night and thrown into a cop car in my pj's! How embarrassing! I was told when I was six years old, that I was not wanted; therefore, I didn't have that feeling of someone being for me. So how was I supposed to supply that to these children? I had no clue what I was doing!  I guess that is the way God wanted it! Aside of the fact that He told me so, I guess it was exemplifying all those scriptures that speak of me being weak and Him being my strength!

So here we are years later, I have two older children who are in college full time and working jobs. I am a proud mother of them both. It was a struggle to get this far, but I guess I'm admitting it was worth all the sleepless nights, no wait I didn't have sleepless nights! But what I did have was tons of struggle and frustration; hours upon hours of counseling and mentoring, aside of the normal mothering duties. Trying to play Mom and Dad is tough work! So far so good!

Recently, I moved back to my home that I have owned for the last 6years. It was an act of obedience pure and simple. You see I found a wonderful place to start a new life up in the panhandle of Florida. I moved there to remarry and that ended horribly in and unwanted divorce, on my part anyway; however, now I can see why it happened! After the divorce almost did me in, I managed to pick up the pieces, with the help of some wonderful people and a few counselors, plus a huge God, and move on with a new chapter. I was content, struggling for purpose and meaning at times but content for the most part. I was told, yes by God, to return to South Florida because my job in the panhandle was finished. Honestly, I didn't want to leave. I liked my life and simply didn't want to walk into the past; however, God made it clear through lack of peace, that I was not to stay. So after fighting for weeks, I obeyed Him and returned to South Florida.

This is where we pick up from what I started this blog with, returning to a familiar place; however, I had changed so much that I really wasn't sure what to do. All I knew was that I was to home school my younger two children and that maybe in the summer I would return to college to continue the work on my degree. That was all I knew! I started to get depressed because I so desperately missed all my friends whom I had left in order to obey God's directive. Christmas came and went in a whirlwind. I was drinking a lot to anesthetize the pain I felt, but I had been doing that for quite some time. What was I trying to ignore? What was causing the constant pain I felt? These and many other questions swirled as I felt more and more alone.

Then came New Year's Day! Hallelujah! A new start was just what I needed! Well that is what I tried to tell myself. I decided to start the day trying to read some scripture. It was kinda like going back to the basics. I had struggled with reading the Bible, because sometimes it just seemed boring to me! Ever been there? I have more times than I would like to admit, then I feel guilty because I should desire to read it, and so the cycle begins. But January first was different, perhaps it was just the right time.

I sat on my back patio, listening to the traffic of the morning and thought about what were the things I hoped for this year. I knew I desperately wanted things to be different! I wanted me to be different! If I had made this move to obey God then I wanted to expect Him to teach, show, or do something in my life. Right? Feasible expectation, don't you think? Well I started reading in 1 Peter chapter 2 about being chosen and called out of darkness. I read about suffering and how God Himself would perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish His called. (5:10) I really felt that I had no faith at this point. Perhaps I had been running from something for years, whatever that pain was that was bringing about my desire to drown it? Perhaps it was just disobedience? It took Jonah three days in the whale but it took me three years! I'm not saying that God did not work during the last three years, I'm saying that there was something that I was simply not willing to accept. Perhaps it was forgiving myself? For a failed marriage? No, surely not! But for thinking I needed a man to move forward in my life, and letting that man come between me and God...probably!

So that evening I go to a great service at a local church and there was great worship and I really can't tell you what the sermon was about, except for when the Pastor asked, "What is the one thing you want this year?" my answer was,... yes you guessed it, "a man!" I knew when I thought it that it wasn't the right answer. I logically concluded that the correct answer would be a better relationship with God and that all things flow out of that. So I prayed, "Lord, give me the desire to choose You and our relationship as my one thing! Create the desire within me." I felt a certain surrender that night, that led to a freedom the next morning!

I attended another service in another church, and the worship leader was speaking of the freedom we have, which God died to give us by giving His very life to live through us. I was instantly reminded of that morning, before service, reading in 1 Peter 2:16: "Act as freemen, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves to God". (NAS) I felt and overwhelming sense of the freedom that God has given to me and experienced that freedom in worship, and when I say I danced and spun around, like the song Marvelous Light, I DID!! It was awesome! To be free, like a child, His child!

Later on that day, I was thinking again about the new year and how I had again reached a place of contentment, courtesy of Holy Spirit. Then God spoke, yes spoke very non chalant saying, "How about giving me a year?" I replied, "Whaaaa?" He continued challenging, "See what I can do with a year?" I replied, "You know what that means don't ya?", "I could never do this alone! It's too big for me! We both know that is my weakest area" God says, "Yes, I know!" I continued, "I wouldn't want to start this and then quit and feel like a failure, so you'd have to do it for me!" He said as if you could see half a smile, "What's one year Lori?" I couldn't really argue with that. I'm sure I will try over the next year but it seemed somewhat adventurous, exciting even!

So here's the deal, I'm dedicating this year to the Lord, to my relationship with Him! What does this mean in reality? Well aside of the typical getting in the word, prayer, and worshipping consistently, the big thing, and anyone who knows me well knows this is a huge endeavor, is that I will not date or pursue any romantic relationship for the next year! Wow! There I said it! Whew! That was hard! Even as I write this I feel chills! Eeek! No dating for one year for Lori! Now that I have said that I would ask you to pray for me and if I call you in a weak moment, you have got to remind me of what God said above and how this is really what I want! I will try to blog every day, the good, the bad and the ugly, to let anyone who reads see exactly what God is doing through this, adventurous year!
So here we begin, in the beginning!
"Well it's just you and me kid!" ;)