What Matters Most: Loving God & Living Simply…part one

It’s getting close to my birthday and there’s nothing like getting a year older to make me stop in my tracks and ponder life. There is no doubt in my mind I want to make changes. How will I go about it? What are my first steps? I ask myself questions:

  1. What matters most?
  2. What have I accomplished?
  3. What do I want to accomplish?
  4. What do I need to eliminate?
  5. What brings me joy?
  6. What needs changed?
  7. What needs to stay the same?
  8. What is God leading me to do?
  9. Are there people I need to distance myself from?
  10. What goals do I need to set right now?

Wow. That seems like a lot of questions. I’ll answer the first one first: What matters most? To love God and live simply. This is what is the most important to me and how I want to move forward with my life.

The next few weeks I will be answering these questions, and I will share my thoughts here. This is my way of taking steps to change my life and to recognize my priorities. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck, like my feet are trying to ice skate in mud. It just doesn’t work. And some things in my life don’t seem to be working, either.

OK, back to my answers of what matters most. This answer has two parts, so today I will address the first part. For me, loving God is where it all starts, where it all leads, and where it all ends. God comes first. Without him, I am nothing. So, how do I plan on loving God?

  • Through daily prayer. My conversations with God can be lengthy or short, complex or simple, tearful or happy. The important thing is to keep the relationship strong and active. I totally believe God understands my frustrations, anxieties, heartaches, sorrows, and joys and wants me to lay them all out to him. Part of the healing is in our communication.
  • With daily devotionals. One book of devotionals I’ve been reading is Jesus Calling. It’s written as though God is talking to me. I am his child, He loves me, and I am important. Most days it touches a part of my heart that needs healed. I will continue with this, and I will add in a variety of other readings from time to time.
  • By studying God’s Word. By not only reading the Bible, but actually studying thoughtfully what it says and gaining understanding, it draws me deeper into a relationship with him. I will read the Bible daily and continue my Wednesday night Bible Study at church.
  • Journaling. My journaling often turns into “Dear God” letters. What I cannot say with my tongue, I can usually write into words. It has been sporadic in the past, but I will strive to make this a daily practice now.
  • Worship. Oh boy…this is where things get really complex and uncomfortable. I haven’t been attending worship services for a multitude of reasons. My agoraphobic issues, for one. The rest I cannot disclose for risk of being fired from my job. Suffice to say things are uncomfortable. This week, I’m going to see if a pastor within another denomination would be willing to talk with me about my concerns and perhaps give me some guidance, or at the very least pray for me.

So there is step one. This step has been relatively easy, thus far, but I know there will be more challenges to come.

If you’d like to follow along with me on this journey toward a new life, subscribe.

Take care of you.

Trish

Night Thoughts

I once heard that the mind was a scary place….one should never go there alone. I’d like to add one should never go there alone at night.

Night time is when the heavy negativity hits, when problems invent and magnify themselves in seconds, and when speed bumps become mountains much too steep to climb. Every bad thing that has happened revisits and plays in slow motion. It’s when dreams become serpents chasing me in the darkness. I’d like to say it was caused by something I ate, but I didn’t eat anything. It’s just my mind playing cruel games in the dark. 

 To sleep deeply with the innocence of a child again, that would be amazing. To be free of stress and worry and wondering where the next blow is going to come from would be amazing, because it will. Someone will strike, it’s only a matter of when. And then someone will preach a mini sermon of how I’m not handing it over to God. Who are they to judge what they don’t know? They have no idea the conversations with God I have had, and know nothing about my faith, yet they judge swiftly and sharply.  They cut and stab with their words and feel righteous about doing it.

Maggie, my dog, sleeps beside me…deeply, innocently, with none of the troubles reserved for us humans.  Yet every so often even she will whimper in her sleep, and I wonder what she is dreaming.  Is a big dog chasing her?  Is she upset because I’ve gone to work? Is she fussing because she didn’t get a treat?

The darkness of night brings me no calm.  My thoughts run rampant and free.  Some nights I worry about North Korea, and some nights I worry about our own country and wonder why some people still cannot see what they’ve done by electing someone so undeserving to lead our country.  And still other nights I imagine a new life, free of worry, free of stress, filled with peace, quiet, and happiness.

So I put these thoughts down in the hope of clearing my head for sleep, replacing them with thoughts of beautiful gardens and gentle waterfalls.  Or maybe just a different life, one in which the garbage disposal works.

Sweet dreams.

Trish

Pew Thoughts

My faith has been a long journey.  I was not always a Christian, though I tried to be a good person.  I was taught right from wrong and a good understanding of respect for others.  My grandmother gave me a Bible of my own and I read it often, though I didn’t always understand.  It wasn’t until later in life I fully gave my heart to Jesus and accepted him as my Lord and Savior.

I always wanted to belong to a church, and I finally joined one in the small community I grew up in.  It was not my first choice for a church, but it was close and I knew some of the folks there were really good Christians.  Soon, I learned that even in church all was not perfect.  Soon, I learned the difference between Christians and pew dwellers.

We all sin, we all fall short, we all struggle.  Some admit it, some don’t.  It was difficult for me to accept that even Christians had serious flaws.  But I also knew Jesus healed the sinners and made them want to sin no more.  I knew I had to keep my eyes on Jesus, but sometimes I faltered and didn’t.  I was a sinner who needed healing.

I moved out of that community to return to my home.  I gave up on churches for a while.  I visited some other denominations, but none of them felt right.  Then one Sunday morning, I walked into my present church and knew I was home.

I volunteered, I attended every Sunday, I went to a Sunday School class.  Going to church was something I loved.  I loved God and the people in the pews.  There was nothing I liked better than to serve the Lord, and eventually I was hired as the Office Manager.  It felt right.

Fast forward seven years.  A series of heart breaking experiences within the church have questioned my belief in the “church” itself.  Oddly enough, my faith has grown stronger into a relationship with God that keeps my hope renewed.  He is my Rock.  Without him I am nothing.  He has picked me back up every time I have fallen.  My faith stays strong.  In the midst of dissension, God has given me grace and a stronger, deeper love for him.

Yet, I am struggling.  I have once again seen how human nature and the devil can sneak into a church and play havoc.  The devil is a sneaky bastard, make no mistake.  He’s crafty and mean, and he likes getting into the pews every Sunday.  He likes getting into the people sitting there, getting into their heads and hearts.

In my eyes, I am seeing a slow motion movie play before me.  The characters look familiar, they look like Christians, they say they’re Christians, but the stones are flying and no one is safe.  Slowly, they stone each other to death, and at the end of this movie, no one is standing.  I’m watching it play out before me and I don’t know how to stop it.  My body is bruised and bloodied from the fresh wounds of stones against my own flesh.  And I just stand there, waiting for the stones to stop, but they don’t.  I don’t know how to stop others from getting hurt, either.  There are just too many stones.

Sometimes I think there are too many pew dwellers; they outnumber the Christians 2:1.  The devil dances with them during sermons, whispering in their ears so they won’t hear the message from God.  He promises them pride, power, and a religion of their own making.  

I also know the devil does not like prayer.  He seeks to destroy those who call on God, those who praise God’s name.  Yes, that devil is crafty and mean, and he makes the pew dwellers crafty and mean, but he is no match for the power of prayer and God’s saving grace.  

So I pray.  There’s nothing else I know to do but pray.  I will pray for the pew dwellers, and I will pray for God’s people.  I will pray for unity and love and for the stones to stop being thrown.  I will pray for kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to replace all the stones being thrown.  I will pray for that Christian love like Jesus gave to us.

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, people are people.  We mess up, we fall down, we get back up, we forgive, we love, we hate, we fight, we laugh, we cry, and we do it all over again.  It is so easy to point the finger at someone else and blame the troubles of the world, and the church, on them.  

I’m praying for a church I can call home again.  Where I feel safe, loved, and respected.  I believe it can happen.  With God, all things are possible.

My faith journey has only begun.
Take care of you.

Trish

Five Days Later…

It’s been five days since I heard the words “You may have cancer.”  What have I been doing?  Thinking?

On occasion, I have wondered how I would react if I had to hear those words.  I pictured myself breaking down into hysterical sobbing, making out my will, writing my obituary, and planning my funeral.  I was certain I’d never be able to drag myself out of bed again and I’d be making arrangements for new parents of Maggie and Jonnie Katt.  I didn’t think I’d ever be able to stop crying, I’d drown in my own tears at night while sleeping.

In reality, none of those things have happened.  There is a peace within me, hope surrounds me, and I am finding strength in God’s promises and scripture.  I’m filled with optimism and feel certain all will be well and my body will heal itself of whatever is ailing.  I have surprised myself.   I still haven’t cried.

I’ve also learned a a few things about people.  There are people who are kind and tell me they are there for me if I need them.  Some of those people surprised me with their unexpected kind words.  Some people just want to be nosy…I expected that.  Some people don’t want to be around me, like maybe they don’t know what to say or they are afraid they might catch cancer from me.  The silence from some is deafening.  There are those who won’t say anything to me but are quick to talk about me and make speculations as to what is wrong with me and what type of cancer I may have.  And there are those who are reliving in their minds losing a loved one in the past and are very emotional.  They are still filled with pain.

I’ve also learned some things about myself.  I don’t want anyone around me crying and being sad, immediately thinking the worst.  If they cannot share in my faith of God’s healing, I’d like them to stay away from me.  I’m going to be quite selfish right now.  I believe in God’s healing power and prayer.  I believe God’s got this, that He will not leave me nor forsake me, and if I have faith as a grain of mustard seed, I can move mountains…and cancer.  It’s important that those around me believe right now, too.

I have learned that my trust has to be in God.  All of it.  I love the people around me, but when all is said and done and it’s the end of the day, it’s going to be God and me.  I cannot expect the world to stop for my friends, they have to live their lives.  God alone is my refuge and strength.

I’ve learned my faith is stronger than I knew, and my love of God is greater than I thought.

So what am I actually doing while I wait on my next doctor’s appointment?  I’m being kind to myself.  I’m resting, making time for things I enjoy doing, and smiling at strangers.  I’m hugging my pets every day and telling them I love them.  I’m reading the Bible down by the river, and praying.  Every morning on the way to work I thank God for another day, for all the shades of nature’s green, for sunshine, flowers, and a warm, gentle breeze.  I laugh at stupid things I read on Facebook, drink Diet Coke with wild abandon, watch The Golden Girls, and still wonder how Donald got elected President.  (Please…no backtalk from my Republican friends.  I listened to your whining for eight years; I’m entitled to my thoughts.) And I pray for others who are going through their own health scares and struggles.  I understand the journey.

One thing that has especially touched my heart is hearing from cancer survivors, those who have had the cancer scares, and those fighting the cancer battle right now.  Your strength, compassion, and kindness has touched my soul.  You are all in my prayers.  You are all amazing.

So if you see me out and about while we are going about our daily living, tell me a good joke and let’s laugh together.  Share a funny animal video with me on Facebook.  Sit down and drink a beverage with me.  Share your thoughts about life with me and tell me how I can pray for you.  Don’t be sad for me during this wait.  Rejoice in knowing we each can have a relationship with the greatest Healer.

God’s got this.


Take care of you…

Trish

So What Now?

May 30, 2017.  Today, I was told I may have cancer.  So…what do I do now?

I wasn’t expecting this.  This happens to women who have family histories of cancer.  This happens to other women.  Heart problems run in my family.  Diabetes runs in my family.  But not cancer.

What do I do now?  I hurry up and wait on an appointment with a specialist.  I patiently wait for the phone call that tells me when and where my biopsy will be.  Calmly, I go about my daily routine as if I never heard those words.  I go to work, I function, I act normal.  No one will know unless I tell them.  No one will know everything that’s going through my mind, how I’m making plans.  Who’s going to care for my pets?  How much recovery time should I expect?  What kind of treatments will they do?  Will I ever be able to sleep again?  Will I ever laugh again?

But nothing again will ever be normal, because I’ve heard those words telling me I may have cancer.

Part of my brain is numb.  This information is still processing and I can’t quite comprehend it all.  I don’t think I’ve fully accepted it.  I haven’t cried yet.

So what do I do now?  Today, I pray.  Today, I ask all my friends to pray for me, too.  I talk to God and somehow find peace with all this.  I ask Him for healing and strength and comfort and I don’t doubt for one second that He will get me through this, and HE WILL HEAL MY BODY.

Today, I was told I may have cancer.  Today, the earth shook a little, the sky darkened a little, and my life changed.  Today, I learned that four words, you may have cancer, would forever be implanted in my memory.

Today, I learn to praise God through the storms.
Take care of you….

Trish

Bible Study Benefits

Bible4We are all so busy.  There’s always some place we need to be, someone we need to see, or something we need to do in our daily life.  We stretch ourselves thin while pursuing the wants and needs we all have.  But what if we are neglecting one of our greatest needs during our busyness?   How do we keep it all together while at the same time increasing our faith?

 

I wish I had all the answers and could say I follow them daily.  But I will be the first to admit I fail to some extent each and every day.  For me, my faith is probably the most important aspect of my life I want to hold onto, and yet I am guilty of setting it aside at times.  I started off missing church because of illness, then it became a habit, and then a practice of not attending Sunday service.  Sometimes I’m uncomfortable in larger groups of people, but I haven’t even tried lately.  True, I’m at the church normally six days a week working, but it’s not quite the same.  Yet, if you were to ask me, I would probably tell you I go to church all the time.  And I do, but I’m not worshiping in a way that God deserves.

A few weeks ago, I began attending a new Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.  I thought maybe if I could do this a few times it will “make up” for missing Sunday mornings.  Well, it has not served that purpose; it has not given me a good out that clears my conscience of not attending Sunday morning worship, but it has given me a few unexpected benefits.

  1. Reading the Bible.  I wonder how many of us could honestly say we read the Bible every day, and be very honest about it.  I imagine not many of us.  It’s so easy to put the Bible on the backburner.  We’ll get to that later and then later never gets here.  Not only has a weekly Bible Study given me more Bible reading time at home, I’ve begun exploring different versions online.  I’ve even become very fond of a couple versions I had never heard of before.  It helps me have a clearer understanding, and it keeps me reading.
  2. Friendships.  Meeting in a small group, reading and studying the Bible together, sharing thoughts…it has created a bond amongst us I wasn’t really expecting.  It has brought together folks who were friendly, and made them friends.  When the pastor was out of town and we had no leader for the group, we went out to dinner together.  We prayed, we ate, we laughed.  We chose to spend that time together rather than go our separate ways.  That is God working a plan in our lives.
  3. Socializing.  I could very easily become a hermit.  Rather than force myself to go out with friends, I would much rather stay at home with my pets and watch a movie or read a book.  I’d rather make a To-Do List in my notebook than have conversations with people I enjoy.  It doesn’t make much sense, but it is what it is and that’s how I am.  Being an introvert isn’t a terrible thing, but there is much about life I sometimes miss because of my tendency to seclude myself.  Bible Study forces me out of the house and among friends.  The group is small enough I feel comfortable.  Granted, if it was a group larger than ten, I might not feel the same way.  Our group is cozy, but not overwhelming.
  4. Laughter.  With most small groups, there is going to be laughter at some point. And you may have heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  If it doesn’t cure you, it’s bound to make you feel a whole lot better!13938387_1114010325302730_9169913728093619050_n
  5. A stronger relationship with God.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  Studying God’s word, sharing thoughts, supporting each other.  It all adds together to bring us closer to each other and to God.  At the end of every study session, we pray.  We can pray silently or out loud, however the Spirit moves us.  It is a peaceful time, and I usually feel God’s presence in a strong way.

I would encourage everyone to join a small group for Bible Study.  Not only has it strengthened my relationship with God, it is time well invested in making my life more balanced, more meaningful.  And maybe, just maybe, I will be a better person for it.

Blessings

 

My Favorite Book

Bible2From the earliest of my memories, books have been a fascination to me.  It first puzzled me how adults could sit for hours reading a book without pictures.  How could anyone enjoy something that didn’t have pictures?  I mean, in my four or five year old mind, pictures told the entire story.

My grandmother would read to me quite often.  Storybooks.  Faerie tales.  Books about Spot the dog and Harriet the goat, or something along those lines.  Thin books full of pictures I loved to look at.  Puppies, farm animals, kittens…books about animals were my favorite then.

Like all children, I started school and began to learn to read the words that went with the pictures in my books.  I learned a lot of words simply because I knew the stories by heart by then and I could put them both together.  I’m not sure how long at a time I would read, but the time was increasing.  Reading out loud was one of my favorite things to do.

One night, and I remember it clearly, my grandmother was reading her book silently to herself, but I was reading my book out loud, and it annoyed her.  She told me I was a big girl and I no longer had to read the words out loud, I could say them to myself.  This felt pretty odd at first, but I soon got the hang of it.  Grandma was a lot happier then and we could sit side by side for hours reading silently to ourselves.

I think I was about 12 when Grandma gave me my first Bible.  It was white, with gold lettering on the front.  I thought it was the most beautiful book I had ever seen and I dived right in reading it.  It was King James Version, so it wasn’t always the easiest to understand, but it seemed to have a poetry about it.  The words were beautiful even before I started paying attention to the meaning.  That Bible was the first of several over the years.  It’s the one that started it all.

When I was 13, my mother and I attended a little country church, nestled in the woods, for a little while.  It was during our Sunday School lessons at Joppa Methodist Church that I became aware that there were other versions of the Bible, versions I could understand better.  Who knew?

For Christmas when I was about 15, I asked my mother for a Bible called The Way, The 9780842378208-us-300Living Bible.  Amazingly enough, she got it for me.  I loved it!  It opened up a whole new world for me.  The words in the Bible took on more meaning.  My mind was reaching more understanding of God’s Word.  How could anyone not read the Bible?  It was a fantastic book, full of hope, war, hate, faith, and love.  There was sex, scandals, miracles, and sadness.   It had everything any bestseller on the market had, and a whole lot more.

As happens with many young people, I began drifting away some from reading the Bible.  There was the dating thing, the marriage thing, the working and going to college thing.  I worked most Sundays, or at least tried to, for the extra pay.  In my mind, I was way too busy to go to church.  But during those years, I kept my Bibles on the floor under my side of the bed.  When my husband was out of town during the week, I would read a little, at least a few verses.  There was just something about reading God’s Word that made me feel better.  It got me through some pretty rough times by giving me hope.  And it was through those words in those Bibles that made me want to pray, and I prayed a lot.  I felt like God and I were getting to know each other a little better.

Bible4Fast forward a few decades and I have collected several Bibles.  I like exploring different versions.  Some I can read like a novel, some take more time, like the King James Version.  Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for one version or the other.  Do I read my Bibles as often as I should?  No.  And I’m not proud of that.  But to this day, it is still my favorite book of all time.  It’s the one book that can give me hope, comfort my grief, celebrate my happiness, and make me believe in miracles.  It was that first white Bible my grandmother gave me that put me on the path to become a Christian later in life.  It helped plant a seed.

If you don’t have a Bible, I urge you to get one.  If you cannot afford one, stop in a church and ask them for one.  They will gladly give you a Bible of your own.  If you live in my neck of the woods, stop in at Rockland Church and I will make sure you have a Bible.  It’s an amazing story you don’t want to miss.

 

Blessings