Friday, March 24, 2017

Tug O War

I am currently reading in Romans; I just finished with chapter 7.  The Bible I use was a gift to me from my Mr. when we were dating - he gave it to me for my birthday. I haven't had it for too many years, but long enough that I have started to stumble upon verses I've highlighted and words I've jotted in the margins.  I do that, you know.  I write in the margins.  It is the #1 reason I cannot share books with others - not that I don't like to share, but that I don't want my interaction with the words to be seen by all.  I digress.

This morning as I was reading on the wages of sin and death - it sounds so harsh when put like that, don't you think - I started thinking on what the writer was saying.  Verse 14 begins this tug of war on what a person wants to do and what they don't want to do - the struggle between what is leading the cause and the direction they want to take.  If you are a slave to one, you are mastered by it...

In case you've never had the opportunity to meet me in person, I am strong-willed.  Call it what you want, it is what it is. I have always been self sufficient, independent, and the one to take care of things.  I won't elaborate on the history to this making, but sometimes we become what we have to in order to survive.  While many would say this personality type is good, it certainly has its limitations and most undeniably its drawbacks. The biggest of which is when to be in control and when not to be.

When I am not in control of a circumstance I tend to act out in ways that aren't always beneficial to myself or others - essentially 100% of the time I use my words - my voice - to express my thoughts and feelings on the subject. I'm going to tell you, while in the moment there is a great sense of justification, of correcting a wrong, of being right.  However, this only lasts for a little bit of time, because then remorse sets in, or something all the more inappropriate - the justifying of actions by talking the circumstance/situation out with another person. *shudder*

I've spent countless hours turning this over in my head - why I have the need to voice myself so adamantly; I think I have found the driving force.  For my entire life, thus far, I have always felt insignificant.  As a child I was told I wasn't wanted, I was a mistake, and that the reason I wasn't loved was because my mom simply didn't know how.  I can remember trying to gain favor in her eyes by being perfect (whatever that is) but I could never be - I wasn't my brother and years later I certainly wasn't my sister - I am, and always have been, me.  Despite this, I never stopped trying to be someone worthy of being noticed and wanted.

However, this constant struggle to be significant has put me in a battle - a tug of war - with what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I want to be significant, to be wanted, accepted, noticed, needed for more than fixing someones problem and then forgotten until the next one comes along, etc. I want to be loved. These are not bad things to want and they are not wrong in the least.  BUT...the approach and the motivation behind them can be. 

For the wages of sin is death...  I have to admit, in this game of tug of war I am finding where I try to strong arm the circumstance with things like - "look at me", "I have this", "I am this", and the list goes on.  It is when these bouts of self-recognition don't yield any results that the words start to really fly and during all of this I receive the direct opposite reaction from others than I want.  In fact, what I am doing is intensifying the discord and causing a greater distance, which creates in me a deeper need to pull that rope back in my direction with my "strong arm".  ...push...pull...push...pull...

The kicker of it all?  This game that has left more than calluses on my hands and a broken spirit within has shown me that I have had the answer all along.  I am not insignificant to the one who created me.  He wanted me before I was physically created.  He designed me on purpose and for a purpose.  While the pain and hurt of what is cannot be denied, it does not define me.  I am so much more than my circumstances - I am a child of the one true king. While the wages of sin is death, he is life everlasting.

How about you?  Is there an area in your life where it is time to drop the rope?

- M              

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 21: Dust Cover

I love books.  We've established this time and again.  However, one thing I don't like is the dust cover.  While its glossy finish affords the reader a little something to whet their appetite - be it a picture of the main character, a scene in the book, or the small blurb on the back that is meant to draw the reader into its clutches - there is scant else it is good for.  Perhaps you could use the flap for a bookmark; I don't recommend this, by the way. I have lost my place far too many times trying to make use of this feature. Other than that, gosh, I just cannot think of another thing it is good for. In fact, I usually take them off and put them somewhere I forget while I am reading and end up finding it long after I've finished the book. However, that isn't the reason for this post, despite the title.
I decided to do a random google search - you know so I can get on with this 30-day challenge and actually finish it before the second coming - on creative writing prompts.  The one I settled on (#24 for no other reason than it is the coolest number ever) is, "Imagine your life is now a book. In 100 words, write the blurb for it. It's what people will read on the back cover".  I took some creative liberty with the prompt, because, you know!  Ha!

Nestled in a small Indiana town was a simple girl.  Well, quite complex really but she likes to think of herself as simple.  Most passers-by don't notice her as she goes about her day to day life yet inside of her is a power waiting to let loose.

Having grown up in a home where her voice was squelched long before it ever got a chance to take off she struggled to find the right way to use the words she had welling up inside her.   The words were as real to her as any tangible object.  They floated around her constantly, like those little tweety birds in the cartoons.  No one else could see the words, only her.  Some were small and soft, others big and scary. The words, they had a presence of their own and sometimes when no one was really watching, they came to life.

Her words came to life.  On the days she couldn't control them they sought to destroy others.  Yet, people didn't see it was the words doing the harm, they only saw her so she was always left to bare the full weight of their agony. Then she discovered something when the words weren't looking.  A secret weapon she could tame them with, destroy them with, and she couldn't wait for the right time to do it.

Ok, so I wasn't able to get the blurb out in 100 words or less, but I think it has a little something to it; don't you?

Here's to a little dust on the cover.  (And for those who are good with their country music circa early 90's - you're welcome for the earworm!)

- M

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

These are the Words I Should Say

I think one of the hardest things to do in life is accepting when you are wrong, most especially when another person is too.  Hear me out on this.  I am quite adept at standing my ground - with some people.  I have a hard time being walked on, talked down to, and treated like I don't matter/exist. When this type of action is taken against me I tend to lash out - mostly with my words and the tone of my voice.  While it is never good to be walked on, it is also never good to stoop to the other person's level. This is altogether harder when the person is someone you desperately want a relationship with.

The Bible has a whole lot to say about our words, our tongues, and anger.  In some ways - meaning if you feel justified in your actions - it feels like the Lord doesn't want you to have a voice.  But this is oh so very wrong.  He does want you to have a voice.  He just wants you to have the right voice and to use it in the right way.  There is a mountain of scripture which speaks to this. A few are listed below, you know, to save you some time on your own search.

Proverbs 21:23 - "Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity."
Psalm 141:3 - "Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."
Ephesians 4:29 - "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Proverbs 13:3 - "Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin."
Ephesians 4:31 - "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."

But, you know me well enough to know I'm not just writing this to give you a scripture lesson, there is always something behind the need to share.  Have you ever wanted to be included, accepted, loved, or heaven's even just liked?  Sure you have - it is human nature.  It is how we are built. But in this need, have you ever tried forcing the issue?  By forcing the issue I mean constantly reminding others who you are, where you came from, and what you do and don't like?  In addition to this, also expected them to love and accept your people?  (In my case, my people are my children.)

Here's the thing the Lord has been impressing upon me in the last few days.  (Disclaimer: this post has been in the making for a really, really long time because this isn't the first time this has been impressed upon me!) How others treat me or view me is NOT - now really hear me on this - it is NOT about me.  And because it is not about me, it is not for me to defend.  It simply isn't.  HOWEVER.  (Now, you knew that was coming - Ha!) What IS about me is how I respond to them. *Lightbulb* or *Facepalm* whichever works best for you...

You see, no amount of trying is going to change a person's want and desire to have you in their lives - it just isn't.  I mean, look at how people treated our Savior.  Now, I'm not trying to put myself up there with Him in the least, what I am saying is that if He was treated like that, what on Earth makes me think I should deserve never to be?  This doesn't mean I purposely set out to ruffle tail feathers and create animosity, no, I genuinely want to to be liked, loved, cared for, wanted, etc.  But my basis for living, for being, should not be consumed by this need.  Because when it is - well - that is when the words and the anger trump the living and the being. 

When I was little, my grandma taught me the little saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  That is about as far from the truth as it gets. You can heal from being hit with sticks and stones, but you cannot heal (entirely) from words that are spoken. Go on, think of something negative, harsh, or mean, someone has said to you and how it made you feel.  Now, think about if YOU were the person who said it to another person.  If it hurt you, don't you think it would hurt someone else too?  While it is also true, "hurt people, hurt people", it is never right to set out to do that.  It just isn't.  Yes, even when you feel justified in your actions.  Even when you have been blatantly wronged.  Even when it is hurtful to you and your people.

Why?  Because the fight isn't yours.  The person's actions are for the Lord to judge and you, you are going to be judged for yours.  Now, I don't want to scare you, God isn't going to bring out a paddle and whoop your backside, but He is going to use His spirit to convict you and in some cases, He may just never make a path for that relationship you so desperately wish would come to life.  But again, that doesn't define you.  It doesn't.  What defines you is the integrity of your character and the person the Lord is creating in you.

Choose your words wisely my friends.

Love, M

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Day 20: Sunday's are for Reading

I'm reading a Stephen King book.  It is an older book of his, written and published nearly 20 years ago.  I have willingly picked up about a half dozen of his books; truthfully, the genre just isn't my cup of tea.  Did you know (at least at the time of the publication of the book I'm reading) he has only published two non-fiction works?  That is what I am reading, his book entitled, On Writing.  It is phenomenal. I wouldn't classify myself a writer any more than I would a runner.  However, just like with running I've given it a solid go and enjoy it like there is no tomorrow.  Why this book?  Well, besides the obvious - I like to read,  I want to take my writing up a notch and he is an undisputed master wordsmith and storyteller.  There are a lot of good takeaways, such as - don't use big words, don't write about what you don't know, and always take it seriously.  Sure, there is a lot more in the book I found useful, insightful, and downright necessary, but the bulk of it is this - if you don't try, you never will.

I think I told you all a couple months back I had an itch to write a book.  I do. In all honesty, I've had this itch for over 20 years.  I have it outlined, in my journal.  It is a subject I have a lot of experience with and one that I am gaining knowledge from daily.  I would never claim to be an authority, but I will gladly tell you I have had front-row tickets, and the show has not always been stellar!  Will it be non-fiction?  Perhaps.  Will it be fiction? Only if I can figure out the nuances of communication. Will it be original?  Undoubtedly.  After all, no one has the exact same story to tell - there are always differences.

Yes, this will be a big jump from this blog.  I mean, outside of the sheer word count, there are many more obvious things - like the content!   Ha!  I cannot say when this adventure will officially start, and I can no more tell you when there will be a workable first draft.  However, I can tell you it will be bound in hope and tears, truth and emotion, fact and grace, trial and error.  It will be what it is and if it gets up off the ground long enough to be coined a book, it will have done one thing and one thing only - shared the story of a girl.

(And for some of you who picked up on that - You're quite welcome for the earworm!)

Happy Sunday all,
- M

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fruit Bearing

Good morning lovelies. I seem to be in a rare frame of mind these days and while I have never withheld my raw emotion, my deep words, my truest thoughts from you,  I wonder if this has any effect?  Are these for naught?  Does it make a difference?  Do I make a difference?  In the past 24 hours I have thoroughly questioned my existence.  I simply cannot find peace. This is a thing that has plagued me time and again over the years - finding my place, my reason, my purpose.  I seriously feel like a rather large bag of bones that is doing nothing more than taking up space from someone who deserves it more than I do.

Now, there are some of you who, if you have read this post to this point, are shaking your head and thinking I need to just get over this and move on; that I am feeling sorry for myself, that a grown woman should have put away these pathetic nuances years ago - like in her teens. I won't deny you your thoughts and I won't justify me for having mine.  They are as much a part of me as any physical feature I have.  All of this brings me to today's reading.

Jesus tells us He is the true vine and we are the branches and that our Father in Heaven in the gardener.  That a branch, in order to bear fruit must be attached to the vine.  A dead branch cannot bear fruit and a good branch must be continuously pruned in order to grow and bear more fruit. Now, I'm not much of a landscape gardener.  In fact, I'm quite embarrassed by my lack of skill, which to be honest is evidence of my lack of care or desire to enhance it.  Essentially, I do not like it.  There is no joy for me, whatsoever, in this type of yard work.  Despite that, I do know in order to get the lovely roses, which were planted by a previous owner, to bloom I need to cut the dead bits away.  I also know, in order to keep anything of value coming up, I need to pull the weeds.  I do these things out of necessity more than desire and joy.

He is the vine, I am the branches. I can bear no fruit unless I am in Him and He is in me.  I need to be pruned and cultivated to bear good fruit.  Just like the roses need pruning for their beautiful pink petals to bloom, I need pruning to have something beautiful come from me. How does this fit with where I started?  Those feelings, those doubts, those words, they are nothing but dead bits that need pruning.  They are stunting my growth, they are preventing me from being fruitful.

What fruit am I talking about? In Galatians 5:22-23 we are given a list of the fruits of the spirit - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  I read this list and struggle to find a single fruit I exhibit, a single fruit one could think of me and identify.  This is why I feel the way I feel.  Do I truly have a proper attachment to the vine for my branches to bear fruit, and if I do, am I still just in a season of pruning.  (A horribly long season at that?!) 

It appears, at least to me, there is still much work to be done in me.  I pray continually for this to happen and can only hope that at the end of my days there is something to be shown for it. 

I have to run...apparently this writing before work thing isn't so good - I keep running out of time.  Pardon any grammar/spelling mistakes...I will have to proofread at a later time.

Stay connected!
- M

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In the Making

Good morning.  As my Mr. likes to say, "it's been a minute!"  I've been having a rough go of things as of late.  No, not with work or family or anything of that nature, but of a spiritual nature.   I'm not questioning the Lord's position or His unwavering love - praise Him for that, and grace...goodness the mess I'd be if it weren't for His grace - what I am questioning is where I fit in. Actually, this very thing has been the root of it all since I was young.  I have always wondered where and how I fit in.  In some way, I have expressed this a million times over and may have called it for what it was a time or two, but it was while reading my Bible this morning a Tetris piece, of sorts, fell perfectly into place and cleared a line.

I want to focus on one bit of what I read and hope, in so doing, it makes some sense. I'm in John.  I've really enjoyed being in the gospels these past weeks, the differences in writing style and the perspective gained from each disciple has been fascinating.  (This is a different post for a different time.) Anyhow,  this is what stuck out to me this morning from John chapter 14:
42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

A little backstory (condensed, of course) - Jesus had just rose Lazarus from the dead, Mary had poured out her expensive perfume on His feet, He had road into town on a donkey, the people were just shouting and praising His name, He has predicted His death, He has identified who would betray Him and why all of these things were going to happen. Despite all of the things He had done STILL there were those who didn't acknowledge their belief.  WHY?  Simply, others. 

Now work with me here on this. I don't deny my knowledge of Him or the fact I am a Christian.  In fact, I'd wager a bet if anyone were to ask me if I was a believer, I'd proudly say yes. HOWEVER..."they loved human praise more than praise from God."  Let me change one of those words - "Mandy loved human praise more than praise from God."  In this praise seeking lies sin making. You may be wondering how this fits if I'm willing to openly admit I'm a Christian, well, I think it comes down to self. Instead of letting He who is in me be greater, I want to be greater.  I want to be noticed for who I am so much more than whose I am on any given day.  Why? Because I am afraid I don't matter.

Sure, I can blame this on any number of factors - being ignored as a child - not wanted by my parents, being a burden to some of my family, but most undoubtedly because I am a wallflower.  I'm your quintessential nerd.  I don't understand anything trendy, anything having to do with pop-culture or even the logistics and implementation of social interaction and the graces therein. I'm a dork. Plain and simple.

What does one DO when this is the substance they form their being from?  Well, they strive to BECOME.  But in the becoming, I focus less on the whose I should become and force myself to BE what I think others need me to be in order to be liked, to stand out, to be someone or something to someone or something, to have a place, to be acknowledged. Simply put, to be accepted. ..."for they loved human praise more than praise from God." 

And, I am tired. All of this has made me tired. I cannot compete with the world and I surely cannot un-be who God designed me to be.  I can accept the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and embrace the work He is doing IN me.  Will I muck it up from time to time?  Oh, you can bet your bottom dollar I will.  I am human after all. I was never meant for perfection here on Earth.  

With that, while I am certainly not who I want to be and most undoubtedly still being molded into the woman God wants me to be - Praise be only to Him because I am, without a doubt, NOT who I USED to be.  

 Have a great Tuesday.

- M