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

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

How Disposable Am I?

It’s no secret we live in a disposable world.  There’s not much we cannot replace with something newer and better.  Disposable plates, napkins, utensils, serving trays, and cups are used every day. Disposable diapers, bottles, gloves, and hygiene items are made by the millions.  Cheaply made cars built only to last a few years have been experimented with, remember the Yugo?  I have to ask myself, in such a disposable world, how disposable am I?


Early on in life, we learn that pretty much everything can be replaced.  A broken doll, a rusty bicycle, tattered socks.  Sometimes it hurt to lose the original item, but that pain was soon erased by the excitement of a newer one, maybe even a little fancier.  But then, we learn that friends can also be replaced.  Your best friend in first grade moves across the country, never to be seen again.  Then a new kid moves to town and the old friend’s memories begin to fade.  The dog you grew up with ages and dies, leaving a world of hurt and emptiness, but your parents say not to worry, they will replace the old Fido with a new puppy.  And they do, and soon the pain begins to lessen as the bond between you and puppy grows.

As a teenager, a boyfriend replaced me with someone who would have sex with him.  As a wife, I was replaced with someone skinnier and blonde.  

A few years ago, my boss told me that I could always be replaced in my job.  He was right, but I wanted to think I offered something special as an employee that no one else did.  I felt valuable, even if I wasn’t.  I didn’t like to think I was that disposable.

How many husbands and wives have you known that were replaced through divorce?  How many foster kids have gotten shuffled from family to family?  How many pets are in animal shelters because their owners thought a different pet would suit them better?   How many employees have quit their jobs in pursuit of one better?  How many employers have fired employees in the pursuit of one better?

I know I am disposable.  I know every day I go to work that I can be fired on a whim just because someone doesn’t like me, or they don’t like the disorganization of my desk, or the Christmas tree in my office.  I know I can be replaced in every Committee or team that I serve.  I know there is no one standing in the sidelines waiting to rescue me or to stand up for me.  I can be replaced in a heartbeat, and it feels kind of lonely.

I’d like to think my pets would miss me.  But the truth is, they would probably only miss me for a while, until someone else took over my roll as parent and caregiver and friend.  There is no “significant other” in my life who would miss me or feel I could not be replaced.  There is no family who would miss seeing me.  There is no need to replace someone who is already missing.

I cannot say I like knowing just how replaceable I am.  But in truth, I’ve done nothing in my life to make myself irreplaceable.  I’ve done nothing extraordinary.  Nothing unique.  I’m not lovable. I’m not beautiful, to be admired.  I’ve not devoted the time to cultivate relationships to a deeper level, always distancing myself before that closer bond develops.  Yes, I am replaceable.

And yet….as replaceable as I am in this world, I know I am worthy of God’s love and grace.  I know that Jesus died on that cross to save me from my sins.  And I know God will never leave me nor foresake me.  His love makes me feel valuable, worthy, and a little less disposable.  


May God’s undying love for you make you feel worthy and unique.

Take care of you….

Trish

The Power of Words

words1So many times I struggle with finding the right words for the right situation.  When someone has lost a spouse, a family member, a pet, a friend, it is very difficult to find the words to convey how sorry I am and how much I care.  Too many times, my day has been totally ruined by one word, or a series of words.  And then once in a while, much to my surprise and delight, just the right words find me at just the right time.

This week has been rough.  It has been an emotional roller coaster ride and believe me, I hate roller coasters.  My heart was shattered, my pride stripped and burned with a hot iron, and my spiritual life questioned.  I felt disrespected and abandoned.  The future looked bleak.  I was angry, confused, rebellious, and broken.  I felt like a fox with my leg caught in a trap and I was prepared to bite anyone who came close to me.

But then, an amazing thing happened.  On Thursday,  I entered the Fellowship Hall to attend a meeting and no one else had arrived but one pastor.  The first thing he said to me was that he had been reading over the notes from the last meeting, which I had written, and he told me how good he thought they were and how he appreciated me doing them.  Wow.  Talk about being knocked off my feet.  Not literally, but the appreciation was unexpected, nice, and boosted my feeling of self-worth a notch or two from the gutter it was laying in earlier.

That is not where the conversation stopped.  It was probably 3 or 4 minutes before another person arrived to the meeting and in that 3 or 4 minutes, that pastor said every word I needed to hear at that moment, on that day.  He was from another church and had not been in contact with me, so he had absolutely no idea of what I was struggling with.  But somehow, the brief conversation took a turn down the street I needed to travel.

You see, I was fully prepared to resign from that team.  My plan was to tell them that would be the last meeting I would be attending for this event..  And then, I was going to go back to my office and write my resignation from my job, having no other job lined up, and not knowing what I would do.

Within three minutes, I heard the right words, the words I needed to hear on that day, at that time.  God was alive and working through that pastor, and He was working in me.

A word can be tiny, but pack enormous power.  Simple words can mean the world to someone at any given moment, and complex words totally miss their mark.  Make no mistake, words can wound and maim.  They can bring the most powerful to their knees, and the weakest to destruction.  But they can also renew hope, bring understanding, and show caring.  We have the choice of choosing our words to either tear someone apart, or boost them up.  It’s important to choose wisely.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  For all of us, it is a constant struggle, if we really care.

The pastor was holding the door open when we were all leaving the meeting.  As I walked through, he shook my hand and said he would be praying for me.  Kind words spoken with meaning.   Knowing someone cared enough to pray, even though he still had no knowledge of what I was struggling with, only that I was struggling.  They were the right words for me on that day.  They were powerful.

words have power

How have words shaped your day?  Your emotions?  Your life?

Be kind to each other.

 

Blessings.