Reflections on The State of My Union

Reflections“The first year in any marriage can be tough. When two intrinsically selfish people suddenly become “one,” there are bound to be problems, even if both of them are Christians. During those first formative months, healthy boundaries must be established. Respect must be given. A foundation of honesty and trust must be firmly in place. Otherwise, that same enemy will come looking for any cracks in the “oneness” and will weasel his way into something that God has ordained as sacred.  In my opinion, humility, humor, forgiveness and communication are four keys that unlock the doors to marital bliss. God holds the ring that binds those keys together and keeps them from getting lost in the chaos of life. We must continually go to the Keeper of the Keys in order to have the tools we need to make a marriage work.” Excerpt from Same Dress Different Day, Chp. 4

As I press on toward the completion of this work, I continually review previous chapters so that my “voice” remains the same throughout the memoir. Because some of the memories have been difficult, it has taken me almost a year to get this far. In the course of this year, I’ve grown and changed. But I need for my writing style to remain constant. As I was reviewing Chapter 4, the above paragraph stood out to me. In rereading, I was reminded once more that it is only God’s grace working in and through each person in a marriage, that we can truly love another flawed human being as ourselves.

The keys of humility, humor, forgiveness and communication can easily get dropped along life’s pathway. It’s difficult to laugh when we sit down on an open toilet in the middle of the night. It’s hard to forgive when we don’t feel respected or our feelings have been wounded. It’s so easy to say, “I told you so!” when we were right all along, rather than quietly let the opportunity to “win” pass by. And somewhere between “Good morning” and “Zzzzzzzzzz,” it’s important to hear and be heard by the one human being whose heart matters most to us, because the state of his/her heart reflects that of our own. After all, we are one.

So, as I reflect tonight on the state of my marriage, I thank The Keeper of the Keys for keeping my heart soft today, for giving me grace when my shell of self-protection threatened to harden, and for My Honey’s whacky sense of humor that keeps me balanced.

Before I close my eyes, I will ask Him to reveal any “cracks in our oneness.” This kind of intentional reflection is healthy. It keeps small resentments from building up into fortresses. I believe if we regularly monitor the state of our union, we can move forward in confidence with the rest of our lives. I also know that every single area of life can be affected when our union is in disarray. And sometimes, that is not our fault. Those are times when we must become ONE with The Keeper of the Keys.

(Once again, Winter_can_wait, your image was perfect! Thank you.)

The Truth Shall Set You Free

bieber letter 660This post is a merging of generations – The back story is that while I was holed up this week at my friend Nancy’s, searching through my old journals and writer’s notebooks to find details for the chapters I was working on, I came across the following poem. It was written by me as a twenty something college student. I never shared it with anyone. It has been in a folder for more than two decades. I was afraid to speak out when I saw my friends making poor choices. As I read it I thought about my last post on silence and was again reminded how important it is that we speak the truth in love. Especially to those we see headed down a path of self-destruction.

So, yesterday my niece writes an open letter to Justin Bieber after his most recent shenanigans. It has gone on a mini-viral journey through cyberspace today and I am so proud of this kid. She “gets” something that in college, I did not understand. She spoke up when I did not. She understands the power of words at the tender age of 8. We can all learn something from this. She is not afraid to speak the truth to someone she cares about. (You can read the news articles on the links at the bottom of this post.)

Hindsight

 She met me at the door, glassy eyed, glass in hand.

Taking a breath I stepped inside – to no man’s land.

“Happy Holidays!” her voice rang hollow.

She raised her drink and gulped a swallow.

What to say? We’d weathered worse storms.

Or so I thought. She’d always ruffled norms.

Had turned before to Marlboros, Margs and Men.

We sat in semi-silence, then she rose and spoke again.

“I can’t find any answers to the questions in my head.

Can’t kick this scene that drags me down,” she said.

She looked so Vogue, so Virginia Slim…I eyed her enviously.

My mind was weak and wandering, my eyes too blind to see.

What I couldn’t see that night were the chains that bound my friend:

Ignored the signs of broken heart and life beyond her mend.

Yeah, I thought, “She’s half-lit and sort of lengthy winded.”

But I never expected the next day’s news – of how her life she’d ended.

I could’ve helped her break the chains.

If only I’d listened to her pain.

I could’ve been a Christian there,

Instead of surface talking – clothes and hair.

Now it’s too late for “should’ve.”

Hindsight’s the worst way to see.

I could’ve taken her to The Word, John 8 verses thirty-two and three.

“Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

If you need help reaching out to someone who’s just putting on a brave face, maybe this song will inspire you: Just Cry by Mandisa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnpwzViqpMY

And now my niece’s piece:

“In an open letter that’s going viral, Serafina, a second-grader at Buckeye Central Elementary in New Washington, Ohio, tells her “idol” that she’s “very disappointed.” The girl’s mother, Ami, told FOX411 that Serafina began crying when she heard her talking about Bieber’s arrest for drunk driving.

So Ami used the opportunity to talk to her daughter about the importance of making good choices in life. Somehow, the mother hopes her daughter’s letter will somehow get through to Bieber.

Read Serafina’s open letter to Bieber here:”

Dear Justin Bieber,

I’m very disappointed. It breaks my heart that you were in jail for just one night. I loved most of your songs. I dance to them a lot! So many things have changed this year. This is the biggest one yet! Why did you do it? Why did you race cars? What made you do it? Didn’t you know it was a bad thing to do?

You had such a great life! I’ve read your books and watched your movies. You had something special. But you gave it up for drugs. My whole life I have been warned about drugs! And now my idol has started taking them! There are many drunk people in the world and you have become one of them. That’s sad to me! I think you should be disappointed in your self. Just take a minute to think about what you did.

Sincerely,
Serafina
Age 8
Ohio, USA

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/01/24/8-year-olds-open-letter-to-justin-bieber-may-make-you-actually-want-to-read-a-story-about-justin-bieber/

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/01/24/8-year-old-belieber-open-letter-to-justin-why-did-do-it/

Silence

lonely leafSilence isolates. Silence is never golden when deceit is involved. When we are silent to protect sin, we are an accomplice. Even when we are the victim. The following excerpt is from a chapter I was working on yesterday. Prayers for me are welcome as I bring painful things from my past to consciousness…

“It is a tricky thing to bring hidden sin to light. It is painfully difficult to speak the truth in love. It goes against the softness of our feminine nature to stand our ground when everything within us wants to protect (a.k.a. enable) the sinner, wants to bail them out, wants to help them, wants to believe their promises and even their lies. Sometimes we can see with our own eyes something that they can convince us did not really happen. And then we question our vision!”

Again, thank you Ami Novak, for inspiring me with your images. Silence keeps us in isolation. Like the leaf in your photograph. (You can enjoy more of Ami’s inspiring work here: http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait)

Reflections

IMG_6772If history were a diner menu and you could order anything you wanted, what would it be? Would you ask for two days of childhood – over easy with a side of laughter? Or a short stack of teenage glory days and a shot of puppy love? Maybe you’d long for a rerun of those crazy family reunions, “hold the Uncle Joe please,” or a lunch portion of one on one time with Grandma, when she still had that uncanny ability to see right through you and love you anyway. The possibilities seem endless, kind of like the menu at Cheesecake Factory. (I’m so overwhelmed by the choices I can hardly make up my mind when we go there!) But perhaps you crave something that just isn’t on the menu. Something that has left a nameless hunger that nothing in your past can fill.

Sometimes I crave things. Then I go to the refrigerator and stand there holding the door open, staring at the stuff I eyeballed just a few minutes ago. Nothing has moved. No new items have appeared. I’m disappointed. Then I’ll check the pantry, hoping to find the thing I long for, but I don’t know what it is. Occasionally I’ll just have a bowl of cereal and the craving will subside. But in my heart of hearts, I know it’s not cereal that I really wanted.

This is happening to me now. I’m craving something. And I know that if I go into the kitchen, the same foods I saw at breakfast time will greet me. But I’m bored with those. And I’m not really hungry anyway. I’ve avoiding.

Avoidance is a great vehicle for getting nowhere. I’ve been riding it for several days now. January does this to me sometimes. I always begin the year with reflections and resolutions. I write them down. I compare them with other years. And I can become depressed because they are generally the same. Year after year my flaws appear unchanged. When will I get this right, God? What happens between January and January that keeps me from being the overcomer I long to be? So, this year I’ve managed to avoid the reflections and resolutions so far. Can you believe it’s already the 12th of January? Nor can I. Time flies when you fill your life with everything you can think of in order to avoid doing the thing you are called to do.

You see, I believe God calls me to reflect. But I resist because I feel that I’ve failed somehow. If I don’t think about it, it never happened, right? WRONG! If I don’t think about it, I’m in denial. Denial (as they say in AA) can be a very dangerous river.

Have you noticed how God’s timing is perfection? At this moment, our 12 Step group is working Step 4, which says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Writing that inventory is my “homework” for this month. As part of that group, as a leader, in fact, I’m expected to participate in working the program. And I even preached a whole sermon on Step 4 yesterday. (You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Xb7NHIUC0) So why am I avoiding the writing? And what am I hungry for?

In my search for answers, I landed upon a blog post by Bob Kelleman on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website.  He says, “Reflecting on our past is our admission to ourselves and God that we can’t handle our past on our own, that we desperately need Christ.” The rest of the post, entitled “Should I Try To Forget My Past?” can be found here: http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/blogs/2011/08/22/should-i-try-to-forget-my-past/

Writing this book has been both cathartic and painful. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the distant past. These next chapters are tough ones. I know I’ve been avoiding them. Putting them off. Making excuses. But doing an inventory of 2013 shouldn’t be that hard. Things have been good. So why am I stalling? I don’t know yet. But through prayerful reflection, I will find out. I will write. And God will fill the nameless hunger, just like he always does. It will be kind of like when I discover that one last square of dark salted caramel chocolate hidden in the basket on top of our refrigerator. I will say, “Ahhhhh, that’s just what I was looking for!” And be satisfied.

p.s. If you’d like to do your own New Year reflecting by conducting a 4th step inventory, you may want to check out this website: http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/steps/4?lang=eng. I happened upon it in preparation for our group and have found it very helpful.

*Self-portrait by my very talented sister, Ami Novak. You can see more of her amazing work at http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait

Where Hope Is Born

On the eve of The New Year, I bore witness to the birth of hope. Aching with the hurting as one by one they came to prayerfully pour out their stories, seeking refuge in the arms Jesus, I wondered at the catalyst of my own transparent testimony. It has not been easy to stand before an audience at year’s end and open the curtains of a painful past. But the ministry born of openness has paved the way for God’s healing Spirit to move among us, birthing hope in hurting hearts.Image

For those of us who, like Job, have ever cried, “Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” (Job 17:15) our answer lies in the heart of The One who sees it all. Even in the shadow of the shame of our pasts and the sorrow that lies just below the surface of so many smiles, there is a Father whose heart beats with our every unmet desire and who longs to give good gifts to His children.

May I invite you to just place your ear next to His heavenly heart tonight? To wrap your arms around him and LISTEN to the steady rhythm of love – a love for YOU that beat there before your birth and will continue to pulse through His being throughout eternity. If you’ve waffled or walked away in the past, may I invite you, at the beginning of 2014 to come home to Your Father’s arms? For it’s there where hope comes alive and there, where dreams are born. It is there in our Father’s arms where we learn to hold up our heads to begin to breathe again.

The brokenness of our human hearts must hurt Him so. I am only one daughter… so painfully far from His perfection, yet my own soul aches as I lay down my head tonight to process all the hurt I’ve heard over the past few days. If there is one thing I know. One thing. Which I KNOW to be true, it is this: God redeems. He redeems the things we thought were lost. He redeems the broken relationships. He redeems our guilty pasts. He redeems the heartache. He redeems the unanswered questions. He redeems. I cannot tell you how. I cannot tell you when. I can only tell you that I believe in a good and loving God who redeems those things we cannot seem to process. Will you choose, with me, to trust Him today? Just trust Him. He will do the rest. He will birth the hope that our hearts need for this year. I cannot imagine facing 364 more days without that hope, can you? Happy, happy New Year!

Image captured by Ami Novak, used with permission.