Thursday, December 31, 2015

just one word

2015 is about to roll into 2016.

I must admit, I rail against New Years Resolutions. Maybe it would be more honest to say I FAIL at New Years Resolutions. So I quit making them awhile ago. I mean a-while-ago. Partly because of the fail, yes, but also because I am a rebel at heart. (I know, that's not really cool, but it's the truth - I rebel at stuff in the "but everyone else is doing it" category. Maybe it's a carry over from that jumping off the cliff thing from my teenage years.)

To all of you who make them and keep them, kudos!

To the ones like me who try and fail, or quit trying altogether, I get you.

This year, though, in spite of the rebel in me, I am going to take the bait and choose just one word. Just one word to remember and carry with me throughout 2016.

I had to really, really, REALLY think about this. First, to get past the hurdle of doing it at all. But then, what to choose? There are so many good ones to pick from. So I've been pondering as I'm reading through the Bible and a couple of books (one being The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer ... if you haven't read it, stop reading this post and get it. I mean it.) and this one theme keeps smacking me right in the places that make me sit up and take notice - my heart, my head, even my gut.

Everywhere I look, I keep finding passages and chapters and sentences and paragraphs about this one word:


I want this word, this action, this state of mind to be the cry of my heart and the motivation for my thoughts and behavior and, well, just life this year.

The question is, then, obedience to what? Or who? It could be obedience to the law, to my boss (if I had one that is), to my desires, to my hopes and dreams. To the restrictions imposed on me because of all the frustrating health issues I've been dealing with. To my doctors. To my husband. And so on.

And while some of these are totally legit things to obey, they are not the targets of the obedience I believe I am being called to by choosing this one word to live by, to hopefully define me, as I move into the new year.

This obedience is to a specific Someone, not a something or an anyone who lives on the same earth and breathes the same air that I do.

It is to the God of the universe. The one who is forging a path for me. The one who is the lifter of my head, the one who is strongest when I am weak, the only one who is righteous and good and holy. The only one that has saved me for eternity and continues to save me from myself

I want to trust fully, have faith that transcends circumstances. I want to learn to be grateful and thankful and to be willing to take that solitary fork in the road knowing that he is going before me and that even though my destination is unclear, unknown, and scary I want to remember that he lights that path just enough to keep taking the next step. In obedience.

Sure I could list all the rules and regulations that I should follow to accomplish this obeying, but I don't think it's about rules. I think it's about listening. And it's about my attitude. And it's about where I'm looking for the path of my life. I can forge ahead on my own and it might even take me quite a ways but in the end, if it's not the path he's created me to follow it will be a dead end. I want to remember those fruitless journeys, yet I also want to forget them because my memory distorts the reality.

It's this:

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?

I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."

(Isaiah 43;18-19)

To be aware, I must believe that this is true. I must obey to believe. I must listen to be aware. I must obey to be aware.

I want that word to be a verb. I want to watch for the something new, to recognize it when it comes, to hear his still small voice and choose to obey even when it doesn't make sense and the path seems dark and the destination could be scary.

So yes, my word for this year will be obedience. And no, I don't really know what that will look like. But I'm promised that obedience leads to thanksgiving, and how could I not want that? I want my days to be framed by a visibly thankful, grateful life, and I believe that focusing on obedience is my first step.

Are you willing to choose a word, just one word, to occupy your thoughts and lead you through the next year? I'd love to know what it is, and how it could impact your life. Will you share with me and the other faithful readers?

Happy New Year, my friends!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

because I still wear a mask

So I'm reading this book.

It's hitting home. Big time. I highly recommend it.

But be forewarned: it will probably make you uncomfortable.

In the chapter I just finished, she quotes Sarah Young: "One of the worst consequences of the Fall is the elaborate barriers people erect between themselves and others." (From Jesus Calling, one of my favorite devotionals.)

Barriers like being the strong one. The responsible one. The always-on-time one. The one everyone can count on.

Instead of showing weakness. Instead of thinking failure is the end of the world, as is being late. Instead of being the one that never shares about themselves and their struggles but is only willing to be on the receiving end of others' brokenness.

Am I the only one who has lived this try-hard life? Striving for perfection, holding it all together, keeping all the broken messy stuff inside and I will never ever let you see the real me.

I will say this. Seven plus years of serious health problems have destroyed many of these masks of mine, because the perfection I've always strived for has simply not been possible. The outside messy I just can't hide, although I would have preferred it and lived it for umpteen years. Those masks are shattered. Not because I wanted them to be, mind you, but because I had no choice.

I can be a bit dense at times, and God has certainly used the hard things to break down some of the barriers to those important things. I am thankful, although I would never have chosen it.

But letting people in is not so easy. To the inside messy of me. I've kept the "I'm holding it all together" mask pretty firmly in place, although it slips once in awhile. I've learned to take it off temporarily, for just a few people, and I find I can breathe so much more easily when I do. That mask is hot, uncomfortable, and, well, stinky. (Remember trying to only breathe through your mouth because your Halloween mask was hot and stinky?) And the longer I wear it the sweatier I get; thus, the stinky.

I'm pretty weary of being hot and uncomfortable. It's really hard work to keep the I-can-only-give-to-you mask on, but to receive from you? Then I must admit I need. I need you, I need your compassion, kindness and love.

So why? Why in the world do I keep putting it on?

Simple. Fear.

I am afraid if you know the real messy broken me, you might not like me. Or you might see me as a failure. Or look down on me somehow. And I can't stand the thought of that.

But this book is helping me to realize that living behind this mask is all about what I do instead of who I am, and my perception of myself is all tied up in what others think of me. I let my identity be determined by whether I feel like I please other people.

That's a pretty heavy mask. Made of iron or something else unbearably weighty. And even though it's shiny, I am completely hidden and see that chain? Yeah.

What if you knew I struggle with self-image? What if you knew I fight depression, all.the.time? What if you know that I feel like a failure more of the time than not? What if you knew how often I cry? That I'm crying just writing this? What if you knew how desperately hard I have to work to feel like I please you? What do you think of me now?

My guess is, although I admit the fear seeping in, my guess is that you already know I'm messy on the inside. Because we all are, somehow. It's just that my own particular brokenness feels too dangerous to share. My own ridiculous impression of myself thinks my inner messy needs to stay hidden, while I welcome yours.

Yes, ridiculous.

Because God. He knows my messy and broken, yet he loves me anyway, and he doesn't want me to hide. The saddest thing about hiding behind masks is that I sometimes believe the lie that I can hide from him too.

Which prevents me from seeking him out to make me whole, from making myself vulnerable, from feeling his approval even, maybe especially, when I mess up. When I get it more wrong than right. That kind of thinking puts up a barrier that prevents me from accepting his acceptance, from believing that he loves me just the way he made me.

When I believe this lie, that I'm hiding well from God, there's no possible way to take down the barriers between you and me. But when I take that mask off before God, I'm learning that I can leave it on the floor. (It needs to go in the trash, I know, I know! I'm getting there, but at least it spends most of its time on the floor now and I'm not nearly as sweaty or uncomfortable (or stinky) as I used to be. That chain has been broken, at least.)

I will believe that because he takes me as I am, a lot of people will do the same. And I can admit that I need you. And I can invite you into my mess. And soon, soon, I will take that mask to the big trash can in the garage and wheel it out to the curb on trash day.

Do you have a mask? What does it look like? What might it be hiding?

Trying not to try so hard,