Sleeping the Winter Away; Sorting Through Life; Testimonies and Issues

Platypus in Repose

Its that time of year again. I am going to bed. I mean that in the most literal sense. I am two weeks away from putting on the pjs, and curling up under my covers to sleep the winter away. When spring rolls around, well, somebody wake me up. But, not until the last possible cold snap is past.

I actually get to do exactly that because of my job. I don’t work Jan-March. I sleep. Horticultural is a great career, but it’s seasonal, at least where I live. As hard as that is on the finances, its not a bad way to live. Everyone should take the winter off and sleep. No catching up on projects or starting an exercise regime, just sleep. We’re all sleep deprived anyway, according to the Huffington Post. (Seriously, every other article is on sleep deprivation, check it out.)

I will also sort. When not dreaming through the wintry days, I will sort. First, through all the papers that were stacked carelessly on my desk while I worked, and then through boxes of who knows what, and finally my life. Every now and then I have to still myself and put my life in chronological order. I have to place the events of my life into a time-space continuum, or I get lost in my own life. I can only run on auto-pilot for so long, before I start to fear that I am living my life without living my life. Do you know what I mean?

I’ve already started sorting and sleeping (lots of naps of late) though two weeks of work are still ahead of me. Tonight, I ate my wild-rice/chicken soup (made in my new red crock pot, no less) for dinner while reading last November’s journal.

Two things stood out:

1. Everything has changed.

2. Everything has stayed the same.

My surroundings may be very different now, but it seems my issues are still well, my ISSUES, hence point number two. (I realize this is not breaking news for some of you.)

I was very unhappy about point number 2, kicking myself under the table (ha), and wondering when in the heck? But then, I remembered this pastor at my old church. He was young and fresh out of school. He was hired as like an assistant pastor. Nobody liked him because he fumbled over his words, forgot what was next, and generally stumbled through worship services. I thought he was awesome. A kindred spirit. Someone who messed up as much as I did. Anyway, I remember once he talked about how if your testimony about Christ was only about how you’ve changed, i.e. you’re such a better person now, you’re on the right track now, you’re so over all your addictions now, your marriage is awesome now, your kids perfect now, and so forth, that perhaps you’d missed the whole point. The point being Christ, of course, the perfect loveliness and holiness of Christ. No one liked that sermon but it made tremendous sense to me, even though I instantly forgot it until tonight.

So, I’m eating my soup, and wondering, am I trying for perfection? Is that why my issues are still my issues? Am I trying to be that person whose testimony is all so sanctimonious? Am I trying to have a testimony for Cinthia or for Christ? Well, that thought was a spoon stopper.

What if my issues are for the glory of God? Like the guy in John 9 who was born blind and the disciples asked Jesus if was blind because his parents had sinned or he had. Jesus told them he was that way for the glory of God. Now, there’s a thought. What if my issues somehow bring glory to God? My weakness revealing his strength?

This is not a way out of bettering myself, but it might be a way of placing my issues at the cross, where God is free to free me of them, or use them for his purposes. I am getting sort of mystical and hardly understand myself here, but in some far off way, it makes sense to me.

The good thing is, I have the winter to sleep on it and sort it out.

Exclusion/Inclusion: What to do with the Other Woman?

The new buzz word for families these days is inclusion. Everyone gets to be included in the family. No tossing people out into the wilderness as in days of yore when one (and there is always one) starts acting up. Family is about inclusion, making sure everyone feels welcome at the table. Being a mom, I understand this. It makes for a family that lacks dysfunction.

This concept actually epitomizes Christianity too. All are welcome, and no one has to work for it, or change for it. Christ welcomes us all into his family exactly as we are, and there are no exceptions to this. Being a Christian, I follow this teaching too.

But. There’s always a but.

What about the other woman?

Yeah. Her.

The one who left her husband for my husband.

The one who gave my husband an open invitation to her house whenever her husband was away from the homestead. The one that now sleeps in my house, eats at my dinner table, pets my dog, and enjoys the viburnum the boys gave me for Mother’s Day along with all my other flowers.

For all this to be accomplished (her living in my home) the first thing that had to happen was exclusion. My ex had to exclude me from his life. A wife and a mistress don’t mix. He had to choose. I was out. She was in.

Just that phrase, out and in, brings us right back to the premise of inclusion and exclusion again.

If I listen to the ladies on The View, evidently I am supposed to welcome the other woman with open arms. If I listen to the women who live in the real world, I should chop off her head. I would prefer neither. Can’t we just ignore her, and hope he dies of poor diet and over-drinking at an early age? Then, I get my family all to myself? Not that I’m trying to exclude anyone. It would just be so much easier that way.

Well, for me, obviously. But, it is my blog post, so I can be narcissistic and focus only on me, right?

Family, on its own, without strangers inserting themselves into the middle of it (uninvited) is hard enough. It takes years to work out the dynamics between everyone. It is no easy task to learn the nuances of one another, or figure out the road to take with each family member to reach the most productive end. And trust me when I say, it is the mothers who do all that work. Ain’t no dads out there figuring that stuff out.

So, now there’s this stranger to everyone except the ex, and, she’s to be included, according to the experts, if everyone is going to survive this insanity they call divorce.

So, what are the options?

Go into mom mode? Make everything alright for everyone, and just be so sweet? Or hightail it to the hinterlands, and let the natives sort it out for themselves?

I’m leaning toward the latter because I notice in the buzz words of inclusion and exclusion there’s no mention of abandoning ship. Not sure what the catch-all word for that is, but presently, it sounds pretty darn good. I’m thinking someplace tropical because I love tropical plants and really would love to grow them. I can’t here.

So, inclusion/exclusion, or hit the road Jack and don’t you look back no more, no more, no more, no more. Hit the road Jack and don’t you look back no more?

Indulge, Repent, Repeat

Indulge, repent, repeat. I saw these three words on a t-shirt today and found it rather humorous, if a bit close to home. It was a t-shirt advertising mustard, of all things. Of course, I want one. And, of course, I want to wear it to church. But, of course, I won’t.  We Christians aren’t very good at laughing at ourselves. I blame Paul. He wrote all those letters and never included even the hint of humor. Come on, Paul. Not even one joke?

Of course, repentance is not a laughing matter, and Biblically speaking, it is not something we can even do ourselves. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We cannot drum up repentance no matter how much we flog ourselves. But, the advertisers weren’t talking about that kind of repentance. They were talking about the sort of thing we promise ourselves we will start doing tomorrow but never do, hence the repeat part.

Here’s my list of what I promise myself I will stop indulging in, and repent of beginning tomorrow.

1. Eating.

2. Shopping.

3. Finances (refer to number 2, please)

4. Starbucks (refer to number 3 please).

5. Keeping vampire hours.

6. Rising early to have time for a healthy breakfast (refer to number 1 and 5 please).

7. Exercise. (Who am I kidding?)

8. Call my mother. (There is no reference for this one, I just need to do it.)

And, that is the superficial stuff (except for Mom). If I included a list of major things, well then, true repentance would be needed. For instance, who can take care of my bitter heart, or judgmental thoughts? Will a half-hearted promise to myself before drifting off to sleep change my sharp tongue? Or is determination enough to forgive what I believe is unforgivable?

The clever t-shirt not-withstanding, the dilemma, whether superficial or deep, is that we need Jesus either way. We can’t repent and not indulge without his help. He is the willpower or determination we need. Oh, I know. It is not cool to say that. It is okay to say God, but nobody likes it when you bring Jesus into the dialogue, because honestly, that is where repentance rears its head in the truest definition of the word. That is the place where the conviction of the Holy Spirit shows up, and each time we deny Jesus his rightful place, we feel the dishonesty in that. Repentance is turning away from our rejection of Christ, and acknowledging him as Lord of all, even ourselves.

Repentance over all the little things in life, yes, but repentance over thinking we’re our own god and rejecting Jesus as God, well, start there. The rest will come, including calling your mother. I know because I called mine tonight.

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

As a Christian, I was never taught it, but somehow I came to believe that God would never ask certain things of me. I assumed the Lord and I had an agreement worked out. For instance, I felt I could handle losing all my money, so if there was going to be a trial in my life, then the Lord knew that was a good one for me. It was a little game I had going with him. Lord, this trial is okay, but never THIS ONE (fill in the blank with your greatest fear).

Because of my assumed agreement with the Lord, when trial did come, as much as I should have seen it coming, I refused to believe the Lord would allow it to happen. I believed He would swoop in at some point and save the day. And He is certainly capable of that. So, as my ship was sinking, well, I was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I am assuming that I’m not alone here, Christian or not. I am assuming that most of us, whether we trust Jesus as Savior, or believe that humanity’s collective consciousness is God, we all are pretty much going to do the same when suffering comes knocking–duck our heads into the sand until we are forced to accept the circumstances.

Every step of my trial was one where I prayed that God would step in and change the outcome. He did not. And, here’s what I tell people now. I don’t want another trial, but I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world.

Here’s why.

1. I found out that God is faithful to get you through it, even if he chooses not to get you out of it.

2. I found out that while the ship is sinking, God is so very present in your life its as though you could touch him physically.

3. I found out that God will help you rearrange the deck chairs if that is what you need.

All the things I was taught as a Christian, that God is faithful to us, that he never abandons us, and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, well, I found out that all of that is true.

Once, in the middle of my big mess, my oldest son was home for Christmas. We had just picked him up at the airport, and he was expecting the holiday traditions he loved. We were going to decorate the tree first thing to get the festivities going, and I had everything ready to do it, but we couldn’t find my husband. When I did find him, he was in his office emailing his girlfriend, who he would later leave me for. I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and sat down. I said, “Lord, you promised you’d be here. Period. In your word, you promise you will be with us in every situation. I need you here now.”

No bright light shone into the bathroom. I didn’t see the Lord visibly (though many have). My husband didn’t end his conversation with his girlfriend or she with him. He eventually left for her and she left her husband for him. But, I came out of that bathroom able to cope, to make Christmas what it is, a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I came out filled with joy that Christ was born.

What grace.

I no longer assume that I am exempt from any trial. Instead, I know that when trial comes the Lord will be there helping me to rearrange my deck chairs until I am ready to let the ship go down.

 

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Lay On The Floor (epic failure)

I work hard, as in I never stop working. Literally. I work 7 days a week, and I start at 7 a.m. and finish up around midnight.

There are several reasons for that.

1. I can. I have no family or husband or lots of friends (I just moved) or a church or any organization I belong to. I truly have no other requirement of my time. So, work gets it.

2. I am on a steep learning curve. At 54 (that’s me) most people are pros at their jobs. They’re now the consultants. I am just starting my career as a horticulturalist and so, the learning curve is large. I have a lot of catching up to do.

3. It feels good. It gives me something to do. When I come home in the evening, I come home to an empty house. I could watch tv or work. I work. (Side note: the tv is currently broken so that makes the decision to work even more obvious.)

4. I am terrified I won’t be able to work in five years, or ten years or however many years. I know 60 is the new 40, and I am in good shape (well, all things considered), but I do know that 50 hit hard and it hasn’t stopped hitting. I don’t know if I’ll be able to work five years from now. Who knows what state of health I’ll be in? I know that sounds all grim, and like I have no control over my health, but seriously, aging is not for sissies, and you do gain a new respect for what your body can and cannot do. With that knowledge, I work hard now.

5. Money is a necessity for all of us and I am no exception.

But there is also this:

I want to succeed at something. I have had some epic fails in my life and honestly, I hate that word, but it fits here. (The hashtag phenomena has ruined some perfectly good words.) So, now I have this over-arching desire to succeed at ANYTHING. But mostly, I want to look back at my career and say, I did good.

Okay. So, no big news there. People want to succeed in life. But here’s the clincher.

I want to succeed to make up for the epic fails. Oh, that takes a turn, doesn’t it? Let’s follow that path and see where we get.

Here’s how I learned this tidbit about myself. This morning I did on-line church. The Pastor’s sermon was about finishing the race strong (the journey of faith in Christ, he meant, for my non-believing beloveds). My reaction to his sermon was an over-reaction in the biggest (can I say epic?) way. I wanted to call the man up, and scream at him, “What the heck do you think I’m doing over here?” I wanted to murder the man. I wanted him hung in the town square and spit on by passersby. It seemed he was saying, “Cinthia, you aren’t doing enough.” I jumped up, off my couch, and screamed at my IPAD, “For pete’s sake, what else do you want me to do?”

Then, I laid flat out on the floor because for me, my posture before God helps me to hear God better when I pray. I told God, “That man is MEAN. Strike him down hard, Lord. He is hateful and MEAN.” (I can be bossy with my prayers.)

And, here’s what God said. Nothing.

And, here’s what happened. My soul was restored, renewed, comforted, and quieted. And, in that quiet Sunday space, I realized why I was really working so hard. I was ashamed of the epic failures.

In my quest to succeed at the next thing I was doing (work vs. marriage and family), I hadn’t dealt with the failures. Or rather, I hadn’t taken them to God to deal with. Sometimes, all you can do is lay on the floor, and scream. And, that’s a good thing.

Final side note: I did apologize to God about the mean preacher man. 🙂

When Are you Going to Follow Jesus and Get Your Life Straightened Out?

Before I fell headlong for Jesus and became a Christian, I was not a calm woman. I did a bunch of ridiculous (and dangerous) stuff. I also had completely stupid ideas about life, which I won’t bore you with.

During this darling phase of my life there was one particular woman who drove me bonkers. Every time she saw me (a lot) she asked, “When are you going to start following Jesus and get your life straightened out?” She was relentless, and because she was my mom’s friend, I couldn’t find it in myself to tell her to bug off. I may have been an immoral hellion, but I was still a Southern girl with Southern manners. And by the way, her question is a particularly Baptist (and Southern) one.

Christians are always harping on you to get your life straightened out and of course, they have the answer for how to do that (and no, I don’t mean Jesus). Stop doing this. Stop doing that. Stop. Stop. Stop. Law. Law. Law. They care more about propriety than they do Jesus most of the time. She wanted me to get my life straightened out foremost and first of all.  There were several people rooting for that change of direction, including myself.

Its like my anxiety attacks. I’m told, “Well, just stop them. Just stay calm.”  Loved ones assume I have some measure of control and if I wanted to I could just quit the panic attack mid-stream. Like here I am refusing to stop a panic attack because feeling like I’ve got the stomach flu while having a heart attack is so much fun. Who would want to stop that?

Turns out I am quite literal. So, one day I piped up and said, “Which one of those do you want me to do? Follow Jesus or straighten out my life?”

I’ll give her props. She was dead honest. She said, “Well, I’m supposed to say follow Jesus, or both, or something like that, but really I’m just so sick of watching you make an idiot out of yourself that I want you to straighten out your life.”

Geez. And, I was worried about my Southern manners.

But then she dropped her guard and said, “But sweetie, if you never get yourself tidied up, you still need Jesus.” Truer words never spoken.

I am a bit tidier today–well, a lot actually–although I still have a lot of really insane ideas about life, but I did need Jesus. Not to straighten up my life, although he has helped me do that because I really couldn’t do it myself, but to be my friend, my confident, my comforter, my help and my Savior. Yes, my life needed all sorts of help, but my soul needed more. I needed someone to stand in my place before God and say, “She’s mine.”

Because ultimately her question was spot on. If I could not straighten out my life (and I could not) then how would I ever stand before a perfect, holy God? But, Jesus can. He can stand before God in all His perfection, and say, “She’s mine.” And that is good enough for God. So, by following Jesus I am given his righteousness. Which is Grace. Grace. Grace.