Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 30

This song played in my head all day on Friday. So I thought I'd share it as my post. It's called Secrets & Regrets by Pillar. Even if you don't like the song listen to it once and tell me what you think. The lyrics are amazing.

I will bold the part that really spoke to me. It feels good to not live in the dark.

No matter how hard you try to
You can't make the clock rewind to the moment that you lied to yourself
It never really mattered how they felt

Your secrets and regrets are keeping you from going very far
And you can't let all this get you down and keep you living in the dark
Cause all you're looking for
Is love
You're living in the dark
You just can't get enough
Your secrets and regrets

Your holding on to all this pain
Can't seem to leave it all behind you
Tomorrow it'll be today soon
Don't wait until it's too late to move

Your secrets and regrets are keeping you from going very far and you can't let this get you down and keep you living in the dark
You're living in the dark
You just can't get enough
Your secrets and regrets

How many times do you need second chances
Not everybody gets a another second chance
(how many times do you need second chances, not everybody gets another...)

Second chance

Your secrets and regrets are keeping you from going very far and you can't let all this get you down and keep you living in the dark cause all you're looking for
Is love
You're living in the dark
You just can't get enough
Your secrets and regrets

No more secrets
(no regrets)

No more secrets
(no regrets)

No living in the dark

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 29

For years I believed God forgave me. Yet I didn't walk in that forgiveness. I didn't rest in it. I walked in shame and guilt, never feeling the full extent of Christ's sacrifice and the joy it should have filled inside me to the point of overflowing. I cheated God out of the glory of my redemption.

How arrogant. Who am I to say God can’t or won’t forgive me? Or to act as if I was unworthy? Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who killed Him (Luke 23:24). Even though I never purposely meant to be arrogant - it was arrogant of me to think that I didn't deserve Christ's sacrifice. He loved me completely in the midst of my sin. He died for me. He deserved my complete surrender. I should have been rejoicing rather than stagnating in shame.

The same can be said of people who are self-righteous. In new testament days these were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They believed that God's grace and mercy was only for them as they were morally upright and followed the law. I see this at work in many Christians today. And really, it's just as arrogant to believe that you deserve redemption and God's favor more than someone else based on what you've done and what you're doing now. Either way, whether we struggle with with a specific sin or indulge in our own self righteousness, both are wrong and we need to come to God with a repentant heart.

Once you start examining your own life and repentance for anything enters, your spirit starts to become more intune with God and you realize how many other areas you need to work on. Another area that I am working on is unforgiveness. I tend to harbor these feelings down deep inside towards people. I work hard at forgiving, but I've been forgiving in my own strength. And even when I thought I had forgiven them, I picked the offense back up and walked forward in unforgiveness.

To be honest, I don't see the people I am referring to the way Christ sees them. This is hard for me to admit because I normally I love well. I over love if anything at all, which definitely isn't God's will either. Regardless, I don't tend to concentrate on weakness and flawed personality traits. I don't pick and choose who I love. I try my hardest to love even the unlovable. But occasionally I struggle. It's a quiet inner struggle but it's very destructive and it needs to be delivered from my life. I will probably never go to them and explain myself. Really, it's not even about them at all. It's about my own insecurities and why I won't let things go and why I develop walls to keep these people out rather than healthy boundaries. I can have firm boundaries and not sin. But walls separate me from God. They need to come down.

Today's Reflection: Father I repent before you. Please forgive my arrogance and my pride. Please forgive the unforgiveness in my heart. I want to step outside of these walls completely. I cannot do it in my own strength. Foolishly I have tried. I know that you can deliver this from my heart. Help me see people through Your eyes and walk in forgiveness. I choose this day to repent and forgive. (Matthew 5:7, Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 18:21-22, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:27-29, 36-37).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 28

I started off my bible study time today by listening to a Matt Chandler sermon from his Luke series. Basically he said there are 2 great temptations outlined in Luke Chapter 14. And to be honest I've been guilty of both.

In Luke chapter 14:26, Jesus says if anyone comes to him but doesn't hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters and even his own life - that he can't be his disciple. That sounds harsh but God isn't saying to literally hate your family. He is saying to make them ultimate in your life.

My husband and kids do not complete me. I never realized this before today but I put them in that position. I worked so hard to be super mom and super wife that I lost sight of who I was in Christ. At that point it becomes convoluted and haphazard at best. They cannot fulfill that in me and it bred frustration.

God does want me to be a wonderful wife and mom and to fulfill that calling, but not at the expense of having it become ultimate in my life. I find that hard to balance even for a mom of average kiddos but what about special needs kiddos? They tend to monopolize our lives. It's an excuse but I never even realized I did this to this degree before today.

The second temptation is the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of joy. Somehow as Christians may of us have decided that we deserve happiness. That it's a right. But think of Jesus before he went to the cross. He was distraught. He asked God to remove this suffering from him. God didn't so he obeyed. He certainly couldn't have been happy in that moment as described in the Garden of Gethsemane. But he endured it with joy. (Matthew 26:26-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:40-53 and John 18:1-11).

There is such a blatant difference between happiness and joy. They are not synonymous. Happiness isn't wrong. It's a pleasant emotion we feel when we are happy about our circumstances. But the key is it's based in circumstance. It only takes one moment to have a wonderful day shattered by something as simple running out of toilet paper or a waitress not getting our order right, much less something catastrophic. Happiness will never sustain us through difficult circumstance.

God didn't send Jesus to save me so I could be happy. To quote Matt Chandler, God sent Jesus to fill us with joy. Worship creating, dark day sustaining, God exalting joy.

God knows how temporarl and fleeting happiness is and He wants us to endure and chase joy as if it were the most important thing we could seek after.

I have been guilty of both of these temptations. I have made my family ultimate in my life. I have also sought happiness over joy. I thought that I deserved to be happy because of the crappy life I had prior to become a Christian. And it really is ok to be full of faith and expect good things and pray for these things. But life happens. And when those trials come my way the only thing that will sustain peace in my life is joy. Unexplicable joy.

I can transform my behavior without joy. I actually have. Prior to becoming saved in 1995, my behavior was erractic at best. I did crazy and cruel things in an effort to fill a God shaped void in my life. After I became a Christian I knew life had to be different but I never really understood how it was to happen. So somehow I transformed my behavior. And I did a good job at it. I became focused and less erratic and more easily pleased. But I never dealt with the issues that lead to the crazy, erratic behavior so eventually those issues grew back up in my heart until I was forced to deal with them.

Transforming my behavior didn't develop my relationship with God. I needed to engage my heart and let Him transform my soul. That's what I'm doing now, 14 years later. Sigh. I wish I had understand this many years ago.

Today's Reflection: What a hard day of reflection. Father forgive me for making my family and my happiness ultimate in my life. Help me stay balanced in this area and to be the wife and mother you have called me to be. I can only fulfill that calling through You Lord. Be ultimate in my life. You are already showing me how. Show me more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 27

Confession truly liberates the soul. I had such a relaxing day to day. I felt relief at having shared one of my secrets and I was pleased to receive a lot of positive feedback that really blessed me. As this journey progresses I will be sharing more,and eventually my entire story. The bit I shared yesterday isn't as terrifying in comparison. But the fear that used to come with the thought of people knowing about my past is ebbing away. God is truly bigger than my fear if I allow Him to be.

Fear has choked me for far too long. What happens when you fear? It debilitates you spiritually, physically and emotionally. It destroys your soul. I became my own worst enemy when I let shame and the fear that stems from shame rule my life.

Mahatma Gandhi was once asked about his greatest enemy. He spoke of the British and his struggle against imperialism. Then he reflected on his own people, and his struggles against untouchability, bigotry, and violence in India. Finally, he spoke of himself, and his own inner violence, selfishness, and imperfection. The last, he confessed, was his greatest opponent. “There I have very little say.”

I am learning that fear cannot coexist with the experience of solitude that God is bringing me into. Only peace is there. Fear simply floats away.

I begin to walk in peace by showing mercy to myself and by not living in shame and rebuking God's compassion. It seems harsh to say that I rebuked God's compassion but by allowing my shame and fear to root inside of me in place of God's redemptive grace that is what I did.

As I learn to forgive myself, walk in peace and accept God's grace - then I accept and love myself. How I can love others if I truly cannot love myself? My goal is to love myself the way Jesus loves me. It seems impossible but with God all things are possible.

Walking in peace is a difficult journey full of what ifs. But who cares about the what ifs? I cannot change anything about the past. I can only do my best today and hope for the best for tomorrow. It doesn't mean life will be perfect. But it does mean I can rest in God's peace and have joy reigning in my life regardless of circumstances.

As I practice compassionate mercy towards my own self, I truly believe I will walk in peace. As I walk in peace right beside God, this difficult journey will become easier.

My daily challenge is to embrace myself - past and all. Even my present day faults. Embracing them doesn't mean giving in to it. It means seeing it for what is was. Seeing passed the outcome and determining what caused it so I can work towards not letting it happen again. As I embrace myself - past and all - I embrace God. It turns me toward Him fully. Spiritually naked and emotionally vulnerable, I am truly able to experience God as He has meant me to for so long.

In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

When I truly look at those words I realize I've been trying to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ without living out the gospel in my own life. How foolish. There is definitely a self-love that is corrupted. But the kind of love God is talking about here is based in grace. It is the only way I can be the woman of God I am called to be. It will enable me to be the wife and mom I want to be. It will help me become a true minister of the Gospel and through it I will be able to love others the way Christ does. Loving myself is not selfish. It's healthy and necessary to my spiritual development.

It is God's plan for my life.

Today's Reflection: God because of Your I exist. I am here today, healing and being made whole. Your love for me sustains me. Your grace fills my heart with gratitude and joy. Thank You Father for delivering me right into Your arms where I belong. No where else do I want to be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 26

This morning I stepped way outside my comfort zone and spoke at my local MOPS groups about depression and seeking help through therapy.

What led me to this? It started with never addressing my pain and the past. And by being too busy. For many years I thrived on staying busy. I took care of everyone besides myself. I became a Christian in 1995 during one of the worst times in my life. I truly didn't understand discipleship and no one really took me under their wing so if I felt it was my responsibility to fix my life. God could do anything but I felt He wanted me to do it. That was a mistake. He never meant for me to do it outside of Him.

Life was ok for a while, but progressing got harder. I dealt with infertility and years of treatment, eventually conceiving triplets and losing 2 of my 3 girls. Then things escalated into taking care of a special needs daughter. Life seemed to stabilize after a while and we had our now 4 year old and life became somewhat routine. I never really realized how far away from the gospel I was. Without even realizing it - I became works based. I would have said my salvation alone was in Christ. And I still do believe I thought that. But I somehow convinced myself that a Godly Christian woman was the woman who handled everything and did it well. So that was my goal. Everything else, including my spiritual development and emotional well-being, became secondary.

I took care of my husband and helped run our business. I had 2 special needs children and took my ailing grandmother in and helped care for her. During all of this I kept up with my regular wife and mom duties as well as serving as the coordinator of a thriving MOPS group. The girl's busy therapy schedules took what little time I had left. I seldom had a moment to breathe. Somehow I thought this was the life of a dedicated Christian mom. But I was completely out of balance with zero time for myself much less real one on one time with God. I was always doing. Simply doing - never being.

Eventually this life took it's toll on me. After years of doing and doing and doing, I found myself easily agitated. I yelled a lot and really just existed rather than lived. I didn't have a spiritual life to speak of. I did pray and read an occasional devotional. I also led my MOPS teams in devotionals, but something was missing.

Then in September of last year I came down with shingles. I was miserable and the medication I took had me sleeping 12-14 hours a day when I had previously existed on 5-6 for years. The bare minimum got done. I was completely debilitated.

Then when I started recovering, I actually started falling apart. I couldn't go back to doing everything I was doing. It was no longer possible. I just wasn't as functional as I had been before. I wasn't able to keep everything organized and going. I just fell apart. I think it scared my husband and I found myself getting angrier and even more easily frustrated. I didn't know what to do.

In complete despair I sought counseling. I called one place that really should have offered me a discount for being a pastor's wife but they didn't. And without a discount or insurance I couldn't afford their fees. Then I called a local university that had a counseling center where I would see a supervised graduate student. When I called they actually didn't have anyone to meet with me. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I needed to have a 2 hour slot for my first appointment. I was pretty much hysterically laughing when the receptionist said they might not could fit me in before the holidays.

Seriously? Seriously God? Here I am - where are you? I remember being SO angry. Incredibly angry and ready to give up. The receptionist must have sensed that I was at my breaking point and asked me to hold. It turns out she happened to ask a different student who was there if he could fit me in and after finagling my ridiculous schedule we found a 2 hour time slot that worked for us both. I remember thinking what on earth can a grad student do to help me. I had such a fatalistic view of the whole ordeal but there was nothing left to try.

Then I met "T" and the actual therapeutic healing process started. God had been planting seeds and working on me since September of 2007 but i just wasn't getting it. Thus He allowed an awful sickness to weaken me so I had to look outside myself for help.

Have you ever gone on vacation and left room in your suitcase for souvenirs, etc? But somehow you overbuy and can barely get your suitcase zipped? That was me. I had packed away years of stress and anxiety and hurt and pain and zipped it away thinking it would just go away if I never acknowledge it. I wanted to run from it - to pretend it never happened. And for a while this seemed to work. But that was a lie. Eventually I over packed and couldn't shut the suitcase completely. Yet I continued to try and cram more in. I could sometimes get it shut, but for the most part things started slipping out until the zipper broke and the suitcase exploded open and things went everywhere.

That suitcase was me. I exploded and became this person I never meant to become. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking who have I become? How did I get here? Who is this? Why me? Why now? Why God? That's when my self-reflection started.

Self-reflection is frightening. It's hard to look in the mirror and see someone you recognize but do not know. There is a fine line between allowing self-reflection to lead you closer to God and to let Him use it to heal you as opposed to letting it lead you to more shame and guilt. My fear of the unknown is almost greater than my fear of my current circumstances. Self-reflection is definitely humbling. But it's enlightening as well. It took a while for that reflection to turn to God but it did.

It's now been almost a year since that process started. I look back at myself this time last year and I am simply do not recognize the woman I was. I am a different Leah. I am becoming free in Christ. I am 85 pounds less in weight, I exercise, I eat right, I feed my soul and I work on dealing with my past. I still don't know where I am headed. Not exactly exactly anyway although I do have glimpses. But for the most part I am learning to embrace the process of healing and just being (yes "T" I said that).

I have been and am still learning to embrace even the ugliest parts of myself. The solace and complete acceptance I have found in therapy have been like balm to my soul. God is using that therapy now coupled with this journey of solitude to turn me completely towards Him. I no longer truly hate the process because even though it hurts like hell at times - God is using it to heal me. How can I hate that?

Today's Reflection: Today I am less scared. Thank You Lord for using me even in such a small way with a short snippet of my testimony. Thank You for using this turmoil for Your glory. You are faithful. Your word is true and doesn't return void (Isaiah 55:11). All things come together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His Purpose. (Romans 8:28). I feel so incredibly grateful and at peace. My story is long and sordid and to be honest on most days I still dislike thinking about the past and sharing it. But today I took a step forward. A baby step - but a step none-the-less. This time next year (hopefully sooner) I will no longer be fearful at all and without any hesitation will be willing to share my heart with whomever You lead me to.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Days 24 & 25

On many levels I feel hugely disconnected from those around me. I do know I love them and know they love me. I feel their support. I see it. I value it. But it's as if they can't really be a part of this journey I am on. At least not yet - as it's based in solitude. But I still feel lonely a lot lately.

I feel like this one part of my life can't be connected with those I love and respect outside of this blog - at least right now. I don't think I will ever be able to connect with people on a deep personal level until I am grounded and full connected to God. I think that's what I've been missing all these years. Striving to develop and maintain relationships and never really fully feeling successful at it because something was missing.

I get why the solitude is important. I am embracing that. But a part of me wonders if those around me get it. And perhaps they can't. But I also don't want to undervalue my relationships and take them for granted. I simply don't know how to incorporate every day life and relationships into this journey. When I try to share anything in regards to this journey, it sounds convoluted and a tad spacey even to me, so I tend to be quiet about it except here on this blog.

I am often asked what will happen at the end of ninety days. I can honestly say I have no clue how I will feel on January 1. I don't want to think of that actually. So I hope there aren't large expectations on the hearts of those who love me. This journey won't make me a super spiritual being. I am so very imperfect. Sometimes I feel more imperfect as it each day passes by.

But in a way I am embracing that imperfection. I am known for being controlling and wanting things done my way. And in this one thing especially, nothing is in my control. I have zero control.

But zero control actually feels very liberating. I worry about so many different things on a day to day basis that it's refreshing and peaceful not to worry about this. To not strive for perfection and wonder what people think. I simply want to "be" in this relationship with God and let Him guide and direct me. I hope some of that spills over into my day to day life and that I would relax and be less controlling there as well.

Baby Steps...

Today's Reflection: Lord I see you at work around me and in me constantly. I feel the shift of my thinking. I feel Your presence consoling me. Please overtake me. Flood me with Your being. Help me relax and be less of me and more of You. I long to give everything to You. Everything. Nourish me to spiritual health. I long to be strong and courageous in You.

As I give more and more of myself to You, develop in me the characteristics of the woman that you want me to be. While You do not want me to be controlling, there may be some way to use that strong will for Your glory. I am so thankful that You can do something glorious even out of my worst personality traits.

Make me glorious Lord. I am Yours. Not glorious for my benefit - but glorious for Yours.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 23

I just finished reading Henri J. M. Nouwen's book "The Way of the Heart". It's idea is to connect with God through prayer, wisdom and silence using ancient spiritual wisdom to heal our troubled modern souls.

On solitude Nouwen says:

"Solitude is the place of purification and transformation; the place of the great struggle and the great encounter...the place of our salvation."

One of the stories in the book reflects that of St. Anthony who was basically considered the father of monks. He was born around 251 and when he was around 18 he heard this scripture and felt these words were for him personally: "Go and sell all that you own and give it to the poor then come and follow me." Matthew 19:21.

After a while he withdrew to the desert and lived 20 years in complete solitude with God. During these years he endured many trials but he reigned victoriously through his unconditional surrender to Christ.

That makes me wonder have I surrendered everything? Have I truly surrended everything to Christ? As mom's especially do we want to believe we turn it all over to God but really don't because the idea of lack of control over our family's life is hard to stomach? I am sure that's the area I struggle most in. How to give it all to God and not take it back. Every time I hand it over to God I tend to try and grab it back. And then there is the question of my hidden past. Things that happened as a child or as a young adult I haven't surrended either. Well I have but I have been known to pick them back up. I am working on keeping them at the cross.

But then I realize how prideful this is. I think pride is one of my greatest downfalls. I am not talking about pride that puffs me up and gives me an air that thinks I am all that. But when I try to handle something that God told me to give Him that certainly is pride even if it's not premeditated. Even if that's not my motivation, if I give something to God and take it back - then the underlying motivation whether I acknowledge it or not is pride. I don't trust God to handle it, or I think I can handle it better or I think this one thing won't matter to God, etc. And perhaps besides pride this can also be unbelief. I would argue with you today that I believe but if I continue to battle with God over an area of my life is that truly faith or is somewhere in my heart a shadow of unbelief that He won't do something or can't?

I want to live a life completely sold out to Christ. I want His spirit guiding my every thought and step. To do that, I cannot take anything back. I have to completely surrender to God and not take anything back. It has to be His. I have trust God to handle it.

Today's Reflection: Lord as simple of a process as it seems, I tend to make things so convoluted and difficult. Forgive me for having a prideful and unbelieving heart and for stepping in and trying to take control. Help me step out. Transform me into the daughter of God you want me to be so You may be glorified. Help me see that You are here always - guiding each step as long as I turn towards You and pay attention. Please convict me when my flesh wants to step in and take control. You are the Author and Finisher of my faith. My complete all in all. I believe You can do all things. I believe. Please help my unbelief.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 22

Have you figured out that I am a pretty driven person? I tend to thrive on doing. Doing doing doing. And yet God is purposely slowing me down. I am finally feeling some comfort in giving myself over to it. Not fighting it or worrying against it. I know God has a purpose. But I have to admit I miss "doing" to a degree. I get the slowing down. I get focusing on Him. I truly do - but sometimes I still feel inadequate and lazy not doing.

How do I combat that? Well I start with scripture. In the height of Jesus' ministry he often escaped from the masses and sought solitude. (Luke 4:42). Did you know that solitary place in the Greek means a place where no one goes?

Where is my solitary place? Well for a mom of 2 teens (1 at home) and 2 small children (7 & 4) I don't think I truly have a physical solitary place. I am a wife and a mom and I have day to day responsibilities that have to be met. I don't literally have a prayer closet - especially right now with the girls taking turns being sick and thus not in school.

But I do have time each and every day where I can shut the computer down and turn off the phone and TV and concentrate on God. I can get away even if it's figuratively. Of course, the dog may interrupt with a yap or the door bell may ring or the broom may call my name. But isn't that the nature of life? Learning how to exist beautifully in the midst of whatever circumstances you're in? And I am finding that solitude brings peace and peace brings beauty to life.

It doesn't fit my life to literally escape, yet there is a way. It's just different than what I can understand through my mind. In seeking the heart of God, I must literally escape into God. I must turn from the things of the world, even good and beautiful things, and escape into the presence of God...As I escape into His presence I find myself in how He sees me. I see myself through the eyes of God.

Today's Reflection: Lord, I want to see into Your eyes and into Your heart and find Your will. Please help me be brave and face what I see. Please help me not look away in shame or fear. Shape me Lord. Remove my insecurities and my inadequacies. Fill me with Your presence. I want You to reflect in my words and actions. I want to be a part of Your plan to love and serve mankind. I want Your plan become my plan. I want to see the world through Your eyes. I want to love people through Your words and actions. As I get to know You on a deeper level, I feel confident that the lack of busyness will no longer matter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 21

First let me say it was a much better day today. Or rather, I had a much better attitude today. This morning I woke with this scripture on my heart:

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Amen. I am so glad yesterday is over. I didn't dwell on it endlessly today but I did thank God for the mercies that accompany a new day and wondered why I have struggled so much lately, especially when I have been trying so hard to do what I am called to do. I feel like the Holy Spirit guided me into a startling realization.

For those of you who know me - you know how much working out is important to me and my weight loss. (I've lost 85ish pounds - down from 232.6 to 146.) Working out fills me with strength and perseverance and a feeling that I can do ANYTHING. Gotta love those endorphins.

Well basically the Holy Spirit asked me how long it's been since I did a real work out. Crud. Seriously walking with my kiddos hasn't been enough. It's been over a month since I ran or did a powerful strength training session. I've done a tad bit of stuff here at home but it's been very minor. Over a month, five weeks actually. How on earth did that happen?

Oh I have valid excuses. I listed them out mentally. My friend Kathy was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer (and has 3 young children) and 3 days later my my friend Diana's 10 year old daughter died after a 5 year struggle with reoccurring cancer. These circumstances alone threw me for a loop spiritually and emotionally. Then my grandmother went into the hospital on September 29th, followed by Salem's birthday, homecoming, Salem's birthday party and then us getting the call that Nannie was being transferred to CCU. Within a day we were having her setup on hospice and she died less than two days later. All of this happened in less than a week. Then there was planning the visitation and service, having guests around and the actual service itself.

Sigh...excuses...and really they were all valid excuses. If I had been talking to a friend who had had such a month I would have edified her and loved on her and encouraged her to start fresh and get back on track. Definitely valid excuses - but excuses none-the-less. No wonder I've been so snappy. Seriously, for me working out is like taking Prozac. It's completely necessary. I stress less and it's easier to keep my emotions level.

I did it to myself. All via valid excuses. I wonder how often we all do that? Life gets hard, our kids get sick, our spouse gets laid off, we have a family problem and we stop spending time with God, or less time with Him, or stop eating well and working out cause it's easier in a rush just to grab something quick. We might get lazy about our responsibilities in general. And it all may have started from something valid going on in our life. But for me that time of rest that I needed turned into laziness. It can be such a fine line.

So I asked God when valid things come up that require our attention how do we find balance? How do I personally find that time to bless my body and keep myself physically and emotionally well when I am struggling to read my bible and pray and get all my "stuff" done.

Then as God tends to do, He gently revealed to me that regardless of commitments and tragedy, could I really have not found time at least three times a week to go run? A 30 minute run at the minimum? Sigh...I did ask Him and the answer was of course I could.

Weirdly enough being the perfectionist I am, I wanted to run 3 days a week and do strength training the other 3 days as usual and when I couldn't I didn't do anything. Yeah that makes sense. (Imagine me rolling my eyes here).

It's so blasted easy to get off track. I wasn't even trying and did it. I am almost 42 - and it's still so easy to slide away in certain areas. Hopefully I will overcome sooner rather than later as this area is crucial to my spiritual, physical and emotional development. When I work out I tend to listen to my Christian music or podcasts. I fill my spirit as I replenish my body. And afterwards I feel AMAZING.

Its ridiculously ironic to me after working out HARD CORE since early February, that it never occurred to me that not working out would give way to my anxious thoughts returning and to stress and frustration being harder to abate.

In light of my recent wreck and the pain I feel in my back and neck, I am not sure I can run yet but I will be in that gym tomorrow. I can guarantee that. Feel free to hold me accountable.

Today's Reflection: Lord how wonderful it is to waken to a bright new day and realize what a fresh start we have. Your compassion never fails. Your love never ends or gives up. You never let go. Thank You for opening my eyes to something that seems so minute, but is definitely of such major importance in my day to day life. As this journey into solitude unfolds I see so much more of You at work in my life even though it has gotten more difficult. I realize that solitude in and of itself seems so easy but it's actually very intricate and made up of so many different pieces - like pieces to a puzzle. If I lose even one piece or fit it incorrectly, the puzzle becomes misshaped or incomplete. Complete me Lord. You began this good work in me and I know You will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

(Note: Thank you all for the comments. I have to admit I love getting them. It's nice to have that validation.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 20

It's been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. Can I go to Australia? Seriously - if I thought it would help I'd pack us all up and run away and start over.

The thing is I didn't have to deal with hospice, no one died, there was no funeral to plan, I didn't have a friend diagnosed with cancer or a wreck or anything major. It was just regular every day crappy day stuff.

I felt frustrated and annoyed. I want a break from this emotional upheaval. It's been a month of this stuff. It's been 34 days of one thing after another. ALRIGHT ALREADY.

So you can imagine what happened next right? I simply didn't deal well today. To be honest - I sucked today. It was definitely not my best day.

I didn't find joy in cuddling my precious daughter as she slept. I concentrated on the fact that she was cranky and wouldn't sleep without me and I had work and bible study to do and time with alone God to spend. (Yes I see the irony in that now). Nor did I find joy or thanksgiving or gratefulness in several other situations. I chose to dwell on the negative. The sad thing is I might not have seen God today or heard His voice, but He was here. I was the one who moved out of the shadow of His wings.

Late in the evening as I rocked Raina to sleep and talked to Salem before she went to sleep with dad, I realized how I so completely missed God today. I am glad I had a moment at the end of the night to love on my kids. Tomorrow I will choose to have a better day, regardless what comes my way.

Today's Reflection: Today I was definitely not my best. I wasn't a good mom or a good wife or even a good person. I was tired and let my annoyance and frustration show. I didn't yell or scream or throw things...but I am sure my countenance showed how I really felt. Forgive me Lord. This day did really suck. But if I had stayed with You where I needed to be - it would have been better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 19

Why am I so willing to accept others and tell them how much God loves them right where they are, yet I find myself struggling to receive that and apply it in my own life? It's nothing I purposely set out to do. I don't wake up and say - wow what a wonderful day. But I suck. I don't deserve this life. It's just there. My constant companion whom I forget about at times but who loves to remind me that he's still there.

The presence of shame in my life has decreased dramatically the past 11 months. It's been hard work and I consider that a miracle as I am almost 42 and shame has filled a large portion of my life. But shame still rears it's ugly head and usually in unexpected settings. And as shame creeps in, I begin to feel unsure and unsettled even though I "know" different. I cognitively know that God loves me and that He sent Jesus to die for me. He loves me.

I know that Jesus spent His time with those who were not redeemable by the law's standards. He fellowshipped with sinners. He didn't cast a stone at the woman caught in the act of adultery. And he didn't debate her guilt. He simply loved her right then, in that moment and said, "Neither do I condemn you."

At that point I wonder how she felt. Can you imagine our Lord and Savior looking at us and saying I do not condemn you? At that moment I think she felt more than forgiveness. She had to have also felt an intense love and acceptance.

As I think this through I find that there is a major difference between guilt and shame. Guilt convicts me and lets me know that I've done something wrong but also give me consolation that there is a way out. Guilt is fixable - forgivable.

But shame says there is something wrong with me. Shame tells me I am broken, worthless and unlovable. Shame makes me feel unfixable - unforgivable.

I am tired of feeling ashamed. Most of the things I am ashamed of happened many years ago. When I look at it without emotion I know that the people who know and love me now would not judge me for things that happened at least 13 years ago. Some of it was not my fault and some of it was. But it's the past. I keep digging up the sin that Christ has redeemed me from. I imagine that's like throwing His gift in His face. I am sorry Lord.

Right now, right at this moment I choose something different. I know longer want shame to have a voice in my life. Even now as I type this I have said outloud, "I rebuke shame in the name of Jesus." I would probably scream it if my kids were not asleep. But saying it is enough. The enemy hears me. He will flee.

Before I reflect on today, let me tell you a short story. Salem, my 7 year old, tends to be a tad anxious. Almost every night at bedtime she cries a bit and says mommy what if I get scared, what if I hear something, what if...

We pray and talk and I always promise her that she can come to me with her fear and I will help her through it. Then we repeat the scripture 2 Timothy 1:7 - God didn't give me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Today's Reflection: Lord you see the real me. You know my faults and You still love me. My husband knows me and he loves me. I have friends and family who know me and they love me. My girls may not know details about my past, but they love me. I have more love than I could ever need to battle the shame in my life. You have redeemed me from my guilt and my shame. You do not condemn me. Therefore today I choose to no longer condemn myself. Tonight I choose to take this childlike step of faith that I encourage Salem to take each night. Lord you did not give me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I come to you with childlike faith and ask You to help me step forward in faith and courage and redemption and not stagnate in fear and shame.

Additional Note: This is a great sermon from a local church regarding shame. If you have a few moments listen to it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Days 17 & 18

The weekends can be intense for me. I want to make sure and spend a ton of time with my family but I always have that endless to do list in my mind somewhere taunting me. Yet this weekend was different. It was wonderfully relaxing and spiritual and beautiful in many ways.

We had a great family day yesterday and last night as my beautiful family slept, I sat and read and prayed and realized that solitude comes in many forms and in unexpected places. Saturday I embraced solitude as I sat in the movie theater holding my babies and thanking God for allowing me to be their mom. Words weren't spoken, praise music wasn't played but the peaceful solitude in my heart was apparent. Nothing but thanksgiving. Solitude breeds thanksgiving. Thank you Lord for allowing me to find solitude in unexpected places.

Today was a busier day with church and lunch and getting the house picked up as we started getting ready to start a new week. But as I started contemplating how did I embrace solitude this weekend I literally began to wonder at the differences. During the week it's easier; my kids are at school and even though I have a business to run, errands to do, kids stuff to handle and a house to clean - with those 30 hours a week and I can fit it in. In the beginning it was more of why wasn't I fitting it in. Why was I struggling against it. But now I was questioning the difference. Was I missing something on the weekends by being unable to do as much prayer, praise and bible study time?

The weekends are different because it's about family time. There is balance. And my balance is not being so present in solitude that I miss the gift of my family in the current moment.

When I first thought of solitude I saw it as isolation. Now I think differently. I am not called to a monastery. I am called to LIFE. Solitude isn't how much time I spend with God alone - its an attitude of my heart and why I do or don't spend time with God or why I do or don't listen to Him.

At this moment in my life, I am definitely called to solitude. God is using it to quieten my mind and my soul so I may hear His voice. But ultimately my calling is that of a wife, mother and minister.

I only need to wait on the Lord, renew my strength and the time will come. A time to fly and soar. The time for what specifically? I am not sure...but something is coming. God is equipping me through my solitude.

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with the wings, as eagles. They shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31"

Hebrew Word Study Of This Scripture (Thank You My Sweet Husband For This)
1. They they that wait upon" - to twist together or be braided together with the
2. LORD - Existing One before time began
3. Shall renew" - cause to break through or pass through
4. Strength - to have power, might, vigor, force, capacity for production
5. They shall mount up with – rise up, excel, restore, to be taken up, to ascend
6. Wings – to soar
7. They shall run – move swiftly, dart to and fro
8. Not be weary – no toil, not tired, no labor, avoid exhaustion, to not gasp for air
9. They shall walk – proceed, carry, bear a load, to cause to walk
10. Not be faint – not fatigued, not weary as from a long journey

I am waiting on the Lord. Who is stronger? I need to let God can be the true source of my strength. Only God can quieten my mind and lead me into His presence so HE can guide and direct my steps. When I rush ahead or lag behind I fall down or miss something important. Thank you Lord for helping me balance this call to solitude. That as I tend to swing from one extreme to another you will help me slow down and be exactly where you want me to be.

Today's Reflection: I ask you Lord to braid your strength into my life replacing my weaknesses. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says a cord of three strands cannot be broken. For me this represents the truth and action of the Trinity in my life. I pray Lord God that less of me and more you would shine out in my life. That my life would never be about me but always about You. That my life as a wife and mother will glorify You. That my goals will only be Your goals. Braid Your will deep within my life so I may not miss it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 16

I've always been a self-described "Touch Me Not". That sounds harsh and most people don't realize it as I strive to be less awkward when people reach out to me. But inside I feel it in most social situations. It stems from some things in childhood and young adulthood and at times it still affects me as a wife and mom. Are there any other "Touch Me Nots" out there? Surely I can't be the only one.

As I've practiced this over the recent years I've found that it can become second nature. I've worked really hard in this area with my children. As a mom it's fairly natural to grab up my kids and hug and kiss them. I do that a lot. But other days, when the busyness of life creeps in (an attack of the enemy), I literally have to remind myself how much physical love and attention they need.I want them to feel safe and secure and loved and with children touch is paramount. And I don't want them to grow up as "Touch Me Nots" but I also don't want them to grow up seeking physical touch in inappropriate settings and relationships. So I practice when I find myself separating from those around me. Don't we all have areas in our lives that we have to practice being better at? This is one of mine. My hope is that eventually it will be second nature.

I remember a few years ago being quite upset about something and a friend unexpectedly stopped by. We talked at length and I remember her saying, "I think you need a hug." And without even thinking twice or tempering my words I said, "No I really don't." I disagree with that now. Touch is necessary. It's healing in all facets of my life - mentally, spiritually and emotionally as well as physically.

Did you know that our skin is our body's largest organ. While our other senses are located in specific parts of the body, our sense of touch is all over. Touch literally connects us with the external world. I believe that touch is crucial to our human experience. It's why with my kids it's become fairly second nature. It's necessary. It's healing. It's connecting. It's intimate.

But to a "Touch Me Not" it's terrifying. I think most of us self-diagnosed "Touch Me Nots" desire touch but the literal idea becomes too much. It's overwhelming. It feels so very out of control. But when I relax and give in to it - it's healing. I want that continued healing.

I also think that physical touch brings me closer to God. If I have these "touch me not" walls on the outside - could I have similar walls prohibiting me from fully experiencing God's love?

This is where my thoughts becomes more abstract. For a person who is fairly black and white, this can be a struggle. So why is it a struggle? As I think this through I think it has to do with how I view relationships. So in my effort to re-define how I view relationships, I decide that the best relationships are mutual. They are open and full of intimacy, sharing and respect. Relationships in general mean really knowing someone intimately - physical touch is apart of that intimacy.

My relationship God should be similar to those with my loved ones. I want to be as passionate with God as I am with my children. More so. I want it to be intimate and in order for it to be intimate somehow physical touch must be brought in. But here again is where it becomes abstract - how can I physically touch God?

For me solitude is bringing me face to face with God. It's been mere glimpses so far but I know He's here in a physical sense. One day I literally hit the floor in reverence as I felt God's presence flood the room. Then this past Monday when I was driving home on a 2 1/2 hour drive, I literally felt the presence of God with me and His spirit comforting me and giving me peace.

I FELT HIM! Yet I didn't literally see Him. But it couldn't have been more real. So I am completely convinced that there is a huge correlation between what we experience physically and spiritually.

Here are just a few scriptures that touch on this idea:

"I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you" (Isaiah 41:13).

God promised to “lift up” his people and “carry” them (Psalm 27:5; Isaiah 46:4).

Perhaps the most appropriate metaphor is God’s promise to transcend even a mother’s love: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).

Then there are images of God carrying, nursing, and playing with His children(Isaiah 66:12).

Therefore it's possible. Just "different" than what my black and white mind can understand. But I do not have to understand to feel.

I don't want to be a "Touch Me Not". Therefore I am committed to continually work on this. As I said previously, I do fairly well with my kids and am working on that with my husband. Eventually I'll branch out from there and hopefully find balance and wholeness.

Today's Reflection:
Raina, my four year old, has been sick the last two days with H1N1. Anyone who knows my youngest daughter knows she is seldom still. Yet she's amazingly lovable. She gives the most AWESOME drive-by kisses and hugs. And then takes back off to play and explore. She's literally been known to run inside from jumping on the trampoline and say mommy kiss. We kiss and hug and she takes off. But while being sick she's needed constant touch. And I mean constant. I've realized it's just as healing to her as my prayers and the medicine prescribed for her. God is using all three holistically to heal her.

Today I laid down with her for a nap. My goal was to lull her to sleep and eventually get up. We laid under the covers and I held her in my arms. She sucked on the fingers of her left hand and with her right hand she played with my ear. I have to admit at times this annoys me but today I realized how endearing it was. How connected we were. As her usual she wouldn't wear clothes to bed so she was laying right beside me in her undies and she wanted my shirt off. So I laid there beside her skin to skin. I felt her breath on my face, her sweet and tender touch and could literally feel her heart beat against mine. It was beautiful. It quietened my mind and my soul. I thanked God for this beautiful moment. I felt peaceful and at rest and without realizing it I fell asleep and didn't wake for 2 hours. It is so not my norm to rest and nap. Yet her I was resting in God's presence while my precious child was wrapped in my arms. We both were at rest.

God I long to continue to feel this connection with you. There glimpses of you I feel and see at work in my life sustain me. I know you love me even more than I can imagine. More than the love I feel for this beautiful sweet girl. As I lay there with her today, I realized you were at work even then. I felt Your presence - Your Touch - and it lulled me to rest as I lulled my sweet baby to rest.

Your Touch - What a beautiful gift.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 15

The enemy is really at work. Well, he probably was always at work in my life and I just didn't notice. Or perhaps he wasn't bothered by me so he left me alone. Ouch. Who knows. Either way he's at work now. He obviously has a plan but I am confident that God's plan is supreme. It always amazes me that the enemy doesn't realize that. He's fighting a losing battle.

My heavenly Father sees what the enemy is up to. He's allowed it but won't allow me to be destroyed. I will not be alienated from God. In my solitude I find serenity. When I think of serenity I automatically think of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

My peace will not be fractured by my circumstance or environment. It will not be fractured. I cannot change my current circumstances. They are what they are. All I can change is my reaction to them. And I choose to react in faith that God has a plan even if I can't see it yet.

I will NOT be destroyed by anxiety or fear. The word says that God didn't give me a spirit of fear but or power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Another version says: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Lord I discipline my thoughts and choose not to live in fear but to live in Your love and in Your power and with a sound mind.

I will be honest and say I am tired of it all. I am ready for literal rest. But I am finding that there is a different rest in God that completely sustains me even when my mind, body and soul are weary.

I am sustained in the knowledge that God has a purpose for me. A plan to prosper me and not to harm me. The devil may be at work but God's work is HUGE in comparison. I lean on the word that says no weapon formed against me shall prosper. (Isaiah 54:17).

Today's Reflection: It's a long journey Lord, but each new day with You is a gift. I am figuring out that life without conflict or problems isn't necessarily a life of peace. I've had that but still felt empty. But right now in the midst of amazing turmoil and stress, Your peace literally sustains me. It doesn't make my circumstances perfect but it does quieten and discipline my mind. It sustains me on such a great level that the chaos in the world around me no longer fractures my spirit. I am centered on a peace that comes from God alone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 14

I want to share a quote a friend recently commented about. It's from a book called The Way of The Heart by Henri Nouwen (which is on my list to read).

To borrow my friend's words the following quote helps me see that the initial sabotage that solitude brings to me is something that I do not face alone.

"In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me, naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken, nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude. A nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.

But that is not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive - or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation.

Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vain glory.

The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone......"

WOW. That so speaks to me. What are my seductive visitors? Shame, guilt, anxiety, stress, not saying no, wild fantasies about what I have or do not have, and I could go one.

Today's Reflection: Lord in my nothingness I reach out to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Protect my mind and my emotions. Use this time for Your glory. Help me persevere in my solitude. Help me stand firm and not let the enemy attack me with his labels of shame and guilty and anxiety and greed. In you I am clean and made righteous. Nothing I did or could do makes me clean before You. It's only by Your grace that I am saved through faith. Make me teachable Lord so I may not only hear Your voice, but obey it. That I reach out to Your voice and grab it and embrace it and hold it close to my heart.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 13

You know the beginning of the day was quite sweet and peaceful. I listened to praise and worship while cleaning and sorting out spring and summer clothes from my daughter's closets. I prayed and meditated and felt such peace and enjoyed a wonderful Bible study with friends.

Then my solitude was seemingly broken yet again. Its almost surreal how much I have been attacked since I began putting this blog together and started this journey. I feel that there must be something God is doing in my life that is of major importance because the enemy is really attacking me mentally and emotionally and now physically. (I do not say that with pride - I don't get it. I just know it's happening).

I do believe the enemy is very real and his attacks are planned and well-executed. The Word says he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His ultimate goal is to kill, steal and destroy me. (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10). It's his purpose. And I think at times I lose sight of that and feel insulated from the enemy but I should know better. I don't necessarily believe the enemy is behind every negative aspect in my life. Sometimes - crappy things just happen. But there is just too much right now for me to believe it's a coincidence. I think the enemy is personally trying to destroy me on multiple levels.

The recent attacks have been circumstantial. My peace disruptive by a dear friend's stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The death of another friend's 10 year old daughter. My grandmother's death - and although her passing was a blessing as she was so ill, the timing and the disruption of this solitude journey was intense. And there have been a lot of smaller things a long the way. The girls being sick, Brian being out of town, my endoscopy, etc.

Today the enemy showed his hand. I finally realized he was at work. I didn't realize I was living in a cloud and not able to see it. Today I was in a car accident. I was rear-ended while at a complete stop by a young man going about 40. Massive impact. My head connected with the steering well and still aches and now my neck hurts.

I was in shock and literally everything slowed down. It took me a few minutes to react. I remember instinctively looking behind me towards the girl's car-seats and then realizing thank God they are school. Then the police got there and I became the "normal" Leah and started problem solving, finding my insurance card and drivers license, calling to cancel the massage I was headed towards and calling Brian.

The guy who hit me was taken away in an ambulance. I felt the need to pray for him. It wasn't until about 2 hours later when the anxiety of the days events and the stress of all I now had to do to handle the claim crept in that I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. At that very moment, I realized the devil was at hard work in my life - trying to destroy my solitude and my peace and literally trying to hurt me.

ENOUGH. I prayed and I prayed hard and I will continue to do so. The enemy will NOT win this war. He will NOT.

Today's Reflection: Lord I thank you for your divine protection. Thank you for the Holy Spirit's comfort. I feel the peace that is sustaining me, miraculously sustaining me. I feel you beside me with each new step I take. I thank you Lord that in all things You are God. You have a plan and a purpose for me. A plan to prosper me and not to harm me, a plan to give me a hope and a future. I truly know You have chosen this time in my life for a reason. And in the recent past I've been intent on figuring that out. But right now I am content on just being on this journey with You. You will reveal Yourself to me in new ways daily. I am content knowing that You are guiding me. I am content knowing that You are comforting me. I am content knowing that You oh Lord reign in my life and I was created for Your purpose.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 12

Back to the plan...

Today was a wonderful day. I got up and went to my local MOPS group before I left to go to Lubbock to see my therapist. The past two times I've seen him my sister or my oldest daughter has gone with me. As I have said before I am not a big fan of being alone. Yet today I relished it. On the way I listed to Erwin McManus and on the way home I listed to 2 hours of Matt Chandler. They are amazing preachers with different speaking dynamics - and their churches are in separate states - I am not even sure if they know each other. But God sure does use them to confirm things He's trying to tell me.

I recently listened to a sermon from Matt Chandler's Luke Series on the Lord's Prayer and today I listed to Erwin's version of the same thing. I realized that while I haven't been completely selfish in my prayers - asking for this and asking for that (I don't believe in a 'gimme faith), I do believe God answers prayers and I do believe my prayers lacked relationship. I petitioned God but I didn't come to Him intimately with "my stuff". Prayer is basically a conversation with God - not just a request for something.

I realized my prayer time has lacked reverence and praise, conversation, intimacy and affection. I do love God but it all comes back to me feeling unworthy of His love. I admitted this to a friend during dinner tonight and realized I needed to repent. And I did. Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy and for forgiving me for getting in the way and for stepping around You in life.

After a wonderful dinner with my friend I headed home. I very clearly felt the Lord's presence the entire way. It enveloped me. I have never felt so loved, valued and comforted.

The idea of what solitude truly is came to me. I seem to find that it goes hand in hand with peace, serenity, joy and true intimacy with God. It's all-inclusive. A package deal. What a heck of a package. :) A true value worth finding. And it's not even hidden. It's right there in clean sight waiting for us. The Holy Spirit is beckoning us - wooing us to our Father, our Creator.

I also realized tonight that I really never knew God. I thought I did. I served God. I worshiped God. But it all seems so superficial now. You know how you see someone on a regular basis and share pleasantries and move on? That's what I was doing with God. Keeping Him at arms length - never really getting to know Him, even though He always longed for me to reach out to Him.

To be honest, I never really understood how to develop that relationship with God when I asked Jesus into my heart. I never really realized that was part of it. I wonder how many others have felt that? It's as if I didn't know what was next, no one ever showed me, so I got lost in serving. And while serving is good - it's not the key to a relationship with God.

I lacked discipleship. Now I am discipling myself. Rather the Holy Spirit is discipling me.

I am excited at what's to come. In 12 days God has revealed Himself to me in a way I've never known. It makes me anticipate the wonders to come with an even greater expectation.

Today's Reflection: Lord I have no idea what's coming my way and for the first time in years I am not anxious or fearful of that. Lord I give you full control and ask that you give me strength and courage as You guide my steps. Thank you for Your peace that sustains me. Thank you for Your complete love that changes me from the inside out. It sanctifies me.

Days 10 & 11

My grandmother's memorial service was Saturday and was beautiful. I will definitely miss her so much.

As the weekend has finally passed I finally have a few moments to process and think it through. I realized today that God called me to this 90 day journey and He knew the chaos I was about to face. He knew. Yet He called me to this. I feel inadequately equipped to be honest and then I remember that scripture that says He doesn't call the equipped, but He equips the called. Thus there is something in this journey, specifically at this time - that He is using in me. I am still not sure what it is but I long to know. There has to be a reason.

Today's Reflection: Father I am so thankful that in all this you are still God. You have not changed even though my emotions have been all over the place. You have walked through this sadness with me and will continue to do so. You love me and your comfort gives me peace. Give Nannie a kiss for me please.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 9

I think I am misunderstanding solitude. I think I am looking for literal solitude which is definitely important and necessary but missing the mental aspect. I tend to let circumstances after my peace. I was texting a good friend and telling her that I was just having a hard time staying mindful in the midst of all the chaos.

She said: "Don't be sucked into responding to the chaos. Once you don't feel responsible you will be able to not react and not be affected and that will result in a quiet mind."

I need to own confidence that I can do this. That the anxiety and stress that affect my spirit are not from God. I can handle this all. God has given me a gift. He's opened my eyes to the gift of solitude. I do need literal solitude at times. But many times I just need to be mindful and not get sucked into the chaos around me.

This is such a paradoxical experience. What I thought I was doing in starting this 90 day adventure is definitely apart of it all but the process is so much more fluid than my sometimes black and white thought process.

Today's Reflection: Be still and know that I am Lord - Psalms 46:10. Thank you Lord for your presence in my life. That in the midst of chaos and pain you are there leading and guiding me on this journey. You are there. You are the one constant in my life and I thank you for shaping me into the Woman of God you want me to be. Let me use these experiences for your glory.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 8

I am learning that solitude is not something to be afraid of. I've always been afraid of my thoughts and how crazy my mind spins out of control and have always filled my time with stuff to prevent that. But now I am learning to embrace it. It still feels still feels vulnerable. My emotions this week have been unbearable at times. To the point where I want to hide and not come out and stop all this "feeling stuff". Seriously - how can feeling this sad and desolate be helpful?

But somehow it is...when I figure that part out - the how it's helpful - I'll share. I just know God is calling me to this so there is a benefit to this solitude. Thus I am sure He will reveal it to me.

For me the benefits of solitude are numerous and I hope to experience each of these to more and more degrees. Right now they are still fleeting and somewhat illusive but I know they are there. I long for them to reach out and grab me and envelope me. An emotional hug of course. I can't handle physical hugs right now but I need the emotional ones.

Mindfulness - Solitude for me brings mindfulness. It helps me to be mindful of my emotions and thoughts and not push them away. To experience them - to embrace the process no matter how painful.

Relaxation - It seems impossible but it can be relaxing. The more I listen to my Bible studies and focus on prayer the more I relax. I've added listening to praise and worship throughout the day and it softens my spirit.

Concentration - When I concentrate on solitude - I don't concentrate - dwell or become anxious - on the stressors in my life.

Love of Self - Solitude helps me embrace myself - positive and negative characteristics. It helps me see what needs to be worked out and realize how positive my life is in many areas. Outside of my solitude I tend to see the negative. And while the negative still may be there, solitude brings out the good in me.

Spirituality - Solitude deepens my love for God and develops my relationship with God. You can't spend time in prayer and meditation and in the word and not grow. It's simply impossible. I wish for this area alone I had done this sooner. And I am in a difficult week and still feel the presence of God deeper than I ever have before. Amazing.

I found this quote today: What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In today's culture we see solitude as laziness. I think moms often fall into this trap. But I question that. What is lazy about developing your mind and your spirit? What is lazy about being mindful of your thoughts and emotions. I think it's the ultimate healthiness for our mind, spirit and body.

Today's Reflection: This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Lord this is your day. I am fairly sad today. I miss Nannie. I resent having to do all my regular stuff. But life is precious and I am SO thankful for every day I had with Nannie. I am thankful for Your creation and Your love and Your power. Every day is a precious gift. Remind me of that when I am complaining.

Note: If you are reading could you please follow me or comment so I will know.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 7

What is solitude? Wikipedia says solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation; i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, deliberate choice, contagious disease, disfiguring features, repulsive personal habits, mental illness, or circumstances of employment or situation (see castaway).

I don't like that definition.

It went on to say - Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.

A distinction can be made between physical and mental seclusion. People may seek physical seclusion to remove distractions and make it easier to concentrate, reflect, or meditate. However, this is not necessarily an end in and of itself. Once a certain capacity to resist distractions is achieved, people become less sensitive to distractions and more capable of maintaining mindfulness and staying inwardly absorbed and concentrated. Such people, unless on a mission of helping others, don't seek any interaction with the external physical world. Their mindfulness is their world, at least ostensibly.

I really agree with the part that I emphasized. It's about seeking mindfulness. I am so easily distracted so that is my goal. To be less distracted and more mindful and more seeking in finding out what God has for me in this soul seeking time. I simply don't know.

I do know that whether by simple coincidence or the enemy trying to get a foothold in - my life has grown extremely complicated since starting this journey. It makes me wonder what is so important about this journey that the enemy is attacking me so hard.

I still don't know the answer that. I still try to find solitude even with so many people around me for Nannie's viewing and upcoming funeral service. Even now I have family at my house. It's hard to "get away" and focus on God and pray and relax. But for me it really is being more mindful and even in the midst of all these "distractions - and I do not mean that disrespectful - I am still focusing on God and how I can be more mindful to my emotions and my surroundings. I can still pray and I can still worship.

I am just not alone. I haven't been alone for long in almost a week. So obviously I believe there is more to this solitude gig than a state of seclusion or isolation. It's more.

Today's Reflection: I saw my beautiful grandmother for the last time today. I completely know that she's in heaven with Papa and my beautiful girls that I miss so much. I thank you Lord for giving me peace. For helping me find solitude even in chaotic/stressful circumstances. I thank you Lord for the peace that passes all understanding and for letting it sustain me on this journey.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 6

This day started with me heading to the Dr. for an endoscopy. I tend to be an anxious person at heart so I was trying to pray quietly and not worry. But I was worrying. So I prayed for peace (2 Timothy 1:7) and then I started praying for my grandmother to pass peacefully and quickly, prayed for my family to handle her passing well and then I started praying for Kathy - my friend with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. I fell asleep praying for her and woke up thinking of her. It was refreshing. It was as if my spirit kept praying even though my mind and body were asleep.

I was not awake very long before I found out that my dear sweet Nannie died right after my endoscopy was over. So my peace was temporarily set aside as I began to feel "rushed and anxious". I wanted to go home and hide and find literal solitude as I knew what lay ahead of me. Technically I am not the "matriarch" of the family but I tend to head things up - sometimes because I just do and sometimes because it's given to me. So I knew I had to center myself, put aside my grief for not and begin making decisions about the celebration service. I tend to think that most of the time I am in charge cause I am seen as the pushy take charge sister. And to be honest - I have been known to be bossy in the past.

But that is not a character trait I am proud of. I don't want to be seen that that way but I already wear that label. They say it's because I can get it done. I hope the latter is true. I don't want to be remembered for being bossy.

So I did what I do best. I went about and did it all. Do Do Do. We made phone calls, sent text messages, handled making arrangements for the service, coordinated food, shopping for a dress for Nannie, and more. All the time I wondered if I was handling it well and second guessing myself the entire time especially when my great aunt was frustrated with me over a decision or when I felt guilty for not socializing with everyone as I worked on compiling photos for the slide show.

I am still Martha in this parable. I want to be more like Mary. But I still get hung up on if I don't do it how will it all get done? Pride....forgive me Lord.

Tomorrow's plan - solitude (literal solitude) after I get the girls to school. My prayer life has greatly increased since Day 1 but I miss the word. It's an integral part of my solitude healing my soul I think.

Today's Reflection: I prayed that God would let Nannie's passing be quick and peaceful. It was. Thank you Lord. I miss my sweet Nan. Life will NOT be the same without her. But I know she's with you and my sweet babies Angel and Brynna and my Papa. That gives me so much peace, especially knowing that she's no longer in pain. I love you Nannie. You gave me more comfort and love than anyone in my life. You believed in me even when I was a rotten mess. You were amazing and I hope I can be half the woman you were. Thank you God for letting her be my grandmother.

Days 3 , 4 & 5

OK there is so much more to this solitude thing than literal solitude. I find that now that I know what God is wanting me to do I am longing for it yet I am facing stumbling block after stumbling block. Not all bad - just stumbling blocks.

Saturday was literally so busy. Korie came to town Friday night with her boyfriend Kent. We had family pics Sat morning, lunch with grandparents, Salem's birthday party and then dinner. I had planned to come home and spend my time in prayer and with God while everyone went to sleep but I was called to CCU as my grandmother wasn't doing well.

In the CCU I prayed. I meditated. I cried. I prayed some more. And was completely distracted by the beeps and how freezing CCU was.

We came home at 1:30 am as we couldn't sleep in CCU.

Sunday morning we had to make hard decisions and were back at the hospital. Oh how I longed to sit and pray with my face on the floor. Yet we went and made the hard decision to put Nannie on hospice.

More sitting and praying and thinking...that's when I began to think I am going about this all wrong. I still need the literal solitude but life is so much more fluid than I make it. I tend to be so rigid. That rigidity obviously doesn't fit. How can I practice the solitude that I obviously feel so called to when I can't even sit still?

But is it more a state of mind and spirit or a combination of literal solitude and a state of mind and soul?

I don't know anything other than I long for more.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 2

This is so much harder than I thought it would be. On hard days like today I just hope I can develop a spirit of solitude to carry me through especially when I can't get alone. I allowed myself to get frustrated that my plan didn't go according to plan. I tried to go with the flow but it didn't go well.

Then Salem came home from school early and we spent 3 hours together and it was nice and quiet and although I wasn't on my face on the floor it was a beautiful blessing.

Today's Reflection: Seek God in the unexpected moments when you're holding your child, talking to them and spending time with them. They are truly the innocent and see God on such a different level than we as adults do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 1

Well it was sort of an anti-climatic 1st day. I half expected/hoped for an epiphany of sorts I guess. The day just didn't go as planned.

I got up and got Salem ready for school. Today is her birthday. Brian took her to breakfast and I took Raina to school. I came home and started Matt Chandler's Luke Series (Sermon 22). I love that I am going through the entire book of Luke with him. It's as if it's for the first time. This thought keeps resonating with me from today's sermon.

If there is an area that’s dark and wicked & haunts you – the cross is for YOU! It’s what the cross is about. Whatever that thing is that’s haunting you – Christ died absorbing God’s wrath towards it. Don’t run from God in shame. Run towards Him repentance & accept grace.

Anyway...I got halfway through it and my sister called and needed help as her daughter's car had a blow out and thus needed to help. I did all that, then got Salem's lunch and took it to her for her birthday.

I got back home and finished my Luke study and then felt like what was next? I kinda hoped God would be more vocal in directing my steps. I like having a plan. I like knowing what's next. I am not fond of surprises.

He may have been whispering. I tend to think a 1000 thoughts at a time so perhaps I couldn't hear Him. Or perhaps He just wanted me to relax and be and go with it. Probably the latter.

I was listening to praise and worship music (the new David Crowder Band Church Music CD ROCKS by the way), praying and cleaning and decided to turn the music off and just lay on the floor and pray face down.

I did and it felt weird at first. There is something quite humbling about lying face down. Even uncomfortable. My dog Nina laid beside me and I started to pray. I prayed for myself and this journey and that God would direct my steps. I prayed for Salem and Raina and Brian and my friend Kathy for whom I am believing that she will be healed from cancer. I prayed for others - my friend Phoebe, the Tan family... It felt good to relax and calm my spirit and just pray.

It's very different from how I normally pray. I always have something to do so I tend to pray on the run - in the shower, while cleaning, driving somewhere, working out. But I think lying facedown enabled me to stop and focus and center my thoughts and pray differently. I still prayed the same prayers I would have prayed on the run but the thought process was different. I definitely felt more connected to the Holy Spirit and definitely less distracted.

Then the day went to heck with business problems. Major problems. Sigh. I know this kind of stuff will happen. I can't hibernate. I have to find a way for my solitude to coexist with my normal day to day life. God has to show me how to deal with that. But I have to admit I was quite annoyed by it all. It was day 1. I wanted something different. I definitely pictured something different. But it was as if God was quietly saying it would definitely be different than I pictured and encouraging me to be more of a "go with the flow" type. Ugh. I am SO not a go with the flow type.

Today's Reflection: All in all today wasn't what I envisioned as Day 1 of this 90 day journey. I kept rethinking what I wish had happened and what I would have changed. Then tonight the Holy Spirit put me in check when Salem told me this was the best day of her entire life. Ah my sweet girl - I wish I had that beautiful innocent gratitude. So my heart is yours God. Please forgive my impatience and my pride.

On to day 2. No expectations. God bring tomorrow what you will.

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My "other" blog is more about day to day life with my husband and kids and rants and raves about a variety of subjects. Hope on over.

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