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Choices!

Back in July I wrote about going to see my spiritual counselor and what God showed me at that time. I also mentioned that my counselor made a second observation and I would share it in the next post, well, I didn’t….because honestly, I was truly grappling with it. I didn’t like her suggestion or observation. I didn’t want to look at it and to some degree I am still wrestling with it.

What she shared with me was the Serenity Prayer; the first part of it. If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous then you have encountered the Serenity Prayer. The prayer has worked its way into so many cultural outlets that many non-Christians know it, or at least the beginning, by heart:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.serenity 1

The rest of the prayer goes like this:

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

I admit I reacted to her strongly because deep down I was truly afraid to accept the things I could not change and feared I didn’t have the courage to change what I could…..and would I really know the difference??

Why did I struggle to “accept” things? Because I believed that accepting something was laziness. I was afraid that accepting that there are some things I could not change would make me complacent. But slowly (very slowly) I am beginning to realize instead that acceptance constitutes a leap of faith — an ability to trust, as the prayer goes on to say, “that He [God] will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.” I then make the choice to let go and have faith in the outcome.

acceptance

Accepting or surrendering takes courage…..for me the word “surrender” like acceptance, had mostly negative connotations. I associated it with resignation, failure and weakness. But the Serenity Prayer reframes the notion of surrender as an act of faith and trust. The wisdom of the prayer lies in exchanging a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trust in powers beyond ourselves. That changes my perspective!

Another thing I am coming to realize is that acceptance takes courage, it takes courage to change ourselves. And I didn’t want to be courageous anymore, it was too much work.

One of life’s greatest challenges is imagining how our lives could be different than they are now. Often, my own deeply-ingrained habits are my own worst enemies, and simply identifying them is half the battle. Since habits gain power through repetition, it takes real focus and perspective to take a look at ourselves and our habits and ask, “Is this how I really want to live?” As the prayer states, this act of self-investigation is nothing less than an act of “courage.”

And in my mind it also meant that I must accept “hardships as the pathway to peace.” What??? I didn’t want hardship, I wanted easy, painless even!!
Yet, every person confronts obstacles in the course of his or her life. Yet, it’s what I do with these obstacles. Do I view them as frustrations or failures, or as opportunities for growth and learning? If I choose the latter then I can transcend my circumstances.
courage
Accepting what I don’t like may be one of the most difficult aspects of life, because there will be people, situations, and events I don’t like and I am not able to change.

Yet, it is true, acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. I can continue to push forward despite accepting that there are things beyond my control. It is not passive when I lean into and trust God with my life, situations and relationships. It is not passive when I seek His wisdom and ask for His supernatural courage. It doesn’t take resignation it takes strength, perseverance, faith and trust.

Please understand what I am not saying….if you are in an abusive relationship or have been abused, I am not saying that you should just accept what is happening or what happened. I am not talking about abuse. I am talking about situations and circumstances that affect us and that we feel we have no control over, maybe in our workplace, our marriage or our relationships.
It truly takes supernatural wisdom to know the difference of what we can or cannot change.

serenity-quotes-7

As you can see I am still chewing on this, wrestling with it and walking this out…..to be continued!

What about you? How do you see “acceptance” or “surrender”?

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Two Streams

Two streams cut through the landscape of my life.  Two disparate paths in the fabric of time.  They begin in my infancy, intersect in my childhood, and push forward into my future.  The first stream is the sum of all my positive influences.  Every life lesson, every purposeful moment, and every encouraging word I received is recorded here.  This stream is my life as God intended me to live it.  

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

But I was prematurely expelled from this stream, having been cut off by an alternate timeline.  The place they cross is the nexus of my shame.  It’s the day in elementary school when my private problems first spilled out into my public life, forming a wet smelly puddle on the floor next to my desk.  That day I became an alien living among human beings. 

The bad stream, continuing unbounded, flows into the bowels of hell itself.  In this river, if followed to its natural end, I see all humanity as a seething mass of deformity, masked by a pathetic shell of hypocrisy.  I hate them all for hating me and teaching me to hate myself.  And in the end I will become exactly what I most despise.

For me, reality is somewhere in between.  Day by day, I strive to get back to the beautiful river.  I often spend time running in the green grass growing on its banks, its glories just beyond my grasp.  I occasionally fall in and enjoy the ride.  The sun shining on my face, I float along on my back like God’s favorite child.  In this timeline I know who I am and I know why I’m here. I’m not alone.  I’m surrounded by companions I meet and greet along the way.  I hail their courage because I recognize that they have two streams too.

My respite doesn’t last forever.  It’s never long before a sound, a smell, a circumstance that smacks too familiar sucks me as a vortex all the way back to the other place.  Falling into the malevolent torrent is not my fault.  It’s more physiology than philosophy.  But after a while, I come up for air.  The fog clears a little and I realize I am not where I belong.  God wants Better for me.  I’m faced with a choice.  I can sit back, give up and allow the current to push me along where I do not want to go, or I can choose to fight.  I can claw my way out and pull myself back toward the life I was created to live. 

My life is a war.  And my future is not the only thing that hangs in the balance.  Just as bits and pieces of a thousand souls fighting on both sides have propelled me along the ebb and flow of the tide of my struggle, so too my fate will affect others in ways I cannot predict or imagine.  The truth is I matter.  The truth is we all do. 

 I am not in this fight alone.  Thus far I have come by the help of the Lord, and on this day and in this place, I stand and raise my sword to the captain of the guard.  I choose to fight!  I have come to believe in the future.  I believe in Hope.  I believe in Living.  I believe the sun has not yet risen on the noblest day.  I believe the most glorious battle has yet to be fought.  I believe the most beautiful song has yet to be sung.

My Daily Prayer

God,

You are my Dad.

You are my Real Dad.

You have always been my real Dad.

Thank you for being my Dad.

Thank you for being such a Great Dad.

God,

I want to Live today.

I want to Feel.

I want to Be.

God,

Thank you for the victories you will send me today.

Help me to recognize the stumbling blocks,

Both large and small,

For the fiery barbs they really are.

May I take the battle seriously,

But not take it personally.

Bring me home soon.

Love 

Lisa

The Gift

I had a dream.  In my dream there was a very steep hill.  Two people were struggling to climb up the hill at the same time.  One was climbing from the left.  One was climbing from the right.  The two people were each carrying a gift.  They were making their way up the hill so that they could meet each other for the first time and exchange their gifts.  When they finally reached the top, I noticed that both the people looked exactly alike.  The two identical people exchanged their gifts and opened them.  When they had unwrapped them, they held their gifts up next to each other and smiled.  Each gift looked exactly like the other one.

Both the people are me.  I am both the strong person who survived and the weak person who was ignored.  I am both capable and helpless.  I am both whole and broken.  I am both forgiving and angry.  I am both healed and deeply wounded.

The gift is that I know this.  Because I know, I feel both stronger and more vulnerable than I have ever been before.  Because I know, I feel both more courageous and more frightened than I used to be.  Because I know, I feel both more prepared and less ready to live out the rest of my life.  Because I know, I feel more truly myself than I even knew was possible.  The gift is knowing the truth.  The gift is being Me.

The Man With No Face

I am small in my bed.  I must be five or six.  I am on the bottom bunk.  I look up at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above me.  The glow-in-the-dark stars are there so I won’t be afraid.  There’s an amazing mural painted on the wall.  The Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball.  My mom painted it.  My mom is the best artist I know.  Two squares of light appear in the corner and move slowly across the wall, then disappear into the closet.  After a minute they appear again, this time starting from the closet and moving in the opposite direction.  The fading whine and rumble was louder that time.  Must have been a truck.

There is someone in my room.  It’s a man.  His hair is black.  He is over me.  I am being squished.  I am being pushed.  I can’t breathe right.  His hand is over my mouth.  His hand is on my mouth and I can’t scream.  My hips are being pushed down, down deep into the bed.  I struggle to get free, but I can’t.  I can’t move.  I am too small.  The man is too big.  Pain washes over me.  Waves of pain.  Wave after wave of unbearable, unimaginable pain.  Oh God, make it stop.  Please make it stop!  I am being punished.  I am being vivisected.  I am … BAD!

   In my memory, there is something strange about the man’s face.  It’s all gray.  It’s missing.  Somehow I took a giant pink eraser and rubbed it out from the picture.  The man’s identity was something I refused to see.  It was the truth I refused to know.

My Real Dad

Driving home in the dark.  Deep in thought.  Pulled back for the thousandth time to the scary room.  I am small in my bed.  I must be five or six.  I am on the bottom bunk.  I look up at the wooden slats supporting the mattress above me.  The glow-in-the-dark stars are there so I won’t be afraid.  There’s an amazing mural painted on the wall.  The Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball.  My mom painted it.  My mom is the best artist I know.  Two squares of light appear in the corner and move slowly across the wall, then disappear into the closet.  After a minute they appear again, this time starting from the closet and moving in the opposite direction.  The fading whine and rumble was louder that time.  Must have been a truck.

The memory fades out and disappears.  I can’t remember what comes next.  I can’t remember why it’s so important.  What happened in that room?

My mind wanders to thoughts of my father.  I think about the prayer, the Big Prayer that went unanswered.  I prayed the Prayer for years with all the child-like faith, persistence, and courage I could muster.  I spent all my Hopes and Wishes on the one Big Prayer, the Prayer of my Life.  I laid it all down.  I bet the farm.  When God said no, things were never the same.

I asked God to make him Good.  I asked God to make him love Him.  I Needed a dad.  If God would just do this one thing, just this one small favor, I could live with the rest.  The Big Prayer was, ‘God, please make my dad Good’.  What I prayed in ignorance, I now know to be wrong.  God’s hands were tied.  He couldn’t answer my prayer.  God won’t force love.  It’s against His Religion.

  Focused on the road and the lights of the cars ahead of me, a thought comes to me.  It buzzes around like an annoying fly for some time before I even realize it’s there.  Here it comes again, a little louder this time… Let me be your Dad.  Hmm, I wonder.  What’s that supposed to mean?  Let me be your Dad. I think again, I’ll be your Dad. Now that’s just confusing.  Let me be your dad?  Whose dad?  And why dad?  Don’t I mean ‘let me be your mom’?  This just doesn’t make sense.  But here it comes again.  A thought so tender, so pained, so gentle.  Not controlling, not even urging.  Just a simple, quiet invitation, a patient, hopeful expectancy.  Let me be your Dad.  I want to be your Dad.  

 And then it dawns on me.  The source of the thought.  God is my Dad.  God has always been my Dad.  He’s the one who somehow kept me alive, kept me sane under impossible circumstances.  He’s the one, the only one, who has watched me and helped me build a life based on truth.  A life not free of mistakes, but always pressing on in the right direction.  He’s the one, the only one, who has always looked on with pride when I made the right decision, when I won success.  He’s the one, the only one, who has always cried with me when I suffered.  I bore up under the pain because of Him and only Him.  God is my Dad.

I struggle to keep the car on the road as my body begins to shake.  Tears flow freely from my eyes, turning the lights from the cars ahead of me into blurry X’s.  I’ve been given a gift.  A new Big Prayer.  The Prayer of my Life for the rest of my life.  God, you are my Dad.  You are my Real Dad.  You have always been my Real Dad.  Thank you for being my Dad.  Thank you for being such a Great Dad. 

The Train

We left Alabama for Michigan, but my dad never stopped looking for us.  He hired a private investigator to find us.  We moved a lot to throw my dad off our trail.  Sometimes we changed schools in the middle of a school year.  In sixth grade I changed schools in the middle of a school year twice.

When Hansel and Gretel were kidnapped by an evil witch, they secretly left a trail of bread crumbs so that their parents could find them.  Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t, that birds were coming along behind them and eating their bread crumbs as fast as they were throwing them down.  It must have made them feel better to drop those bread crumbs either way.

I left my own secret messages for my dad.  I’d write my name in big letters in the dirt by my house.  I knew the wind and rain would just come and wash the letters away, but I traced them over and over just the same.  Sometimes I’d find a big tree and climb as high as I could until the branches looked too thin and weak for me to climb any higher.  I’d look out from the tree and think about my dad.  I knew he was out there looking for me and I knew he wanted me back.

One day he almost got me.  We were driving to our friend’s house and he was there.  He had driven up from Alabama.  His car was parked in our friend’s driveway and he was at the front door, knocking.  When my mom saw that it was him, she drove away fast.  My dad heard our tires squeal and looked up.  He got into his car and chased us.  Mom led him out into the country, down a dirt road.  We kids were bouncing all over the back seat and looking out the window at my dad’s car, gaining on us, with a big cloud of dust billowing behind it.  We heard the whistle of a train and felt out tires skip and rumble as they rolled over some tracks.  After that we couldn’t see dad’s car anymore because a train was in the way.

Once I asked my mom about what had happened between my dad and her.  “Mom, why did you and Dad get divorced?” I asked.  Mom put her hand on my shoulder and said, sadly, “Lisa, your dad just never liked kids very much, especially you.  There was always just something about you that your dad couldn’t stand.”  I didn’t say anything, but I knew she was lying.  I knew my dad was out there looking for me.  I could feel deep down, all the way down to my toenails, that he loved me.  Nothing my mom could do or say could ever make me stop believing that.

Missing my dad is a lot like missing God.  I know God is out there, and I know He Loves me.  I can talk to Him, but I can’t feel Him holding me or see Him face to face.  God sends me presents so I won’t forget Him.  He sends big, medium, and little secret messages, saying here I am, are you still looking for Me?  No matter where I go, no matter what I do, God is always seeking me.  I know that if I turned my back on God and ran away from Him, He would come and find me.  He wouldn’t quit working until He’d done everything He could do to bring me back to be with Him again.  Not even a train could stop God.  And nothing anyone can do or say could ever make me stop believing that.