Thankfulness – Giving credit where credit is due

1266101_10200645738778266_245754213_o

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
― Thomas Merton

Who are you thankful to?

On Thanksgiving, when you sit down to feast on the turkey and trimmings,do you bow your head for a moment of reverence and thank the bird for its sacrifice, the stuffing for its grain?
Who did the Pilgrims and Indians thank?

God, who provided the bird and the grain and the corn, and all the trimmings.

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday – a formal chance to be grateful for all of our blessings. How blessed are we – in America – that we have planned feasts of gratitude?

I wonder how many tables in America will be flocked by people giving a generic sentiment of gratefulness to no one in particular, mentioning what they are thankful for – but not to whom they are indebted for such favor.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful that I am not indebted to mere man-made provision for my blessings, but by a bless-or. I am thankful that our turkey and trimmings were provided by the same force that formed the earth and set the planets in motion. Grateful that the same Being who gave all of the opportunism to afford such a meal is also the being who cares deeply about the small details of my life. And of your life, too.

Thankful to God for our bounty and blessings, grateful to him that he, himself, is our portion and prize on this holiday and every other day. Honored to thank him by name.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Secret Keepers – Little Girls Lost

You are only as sick as your secrets.
We’ve all heard the platitude.

Yet buried deep inside each of us are two compartments…the one we hesitantly  dust off and open up when we get into recovery – full of skeletons –  but none so shameful as to mark us for life; and those that we bury just beneath the surface of the last dig. It’s this cache that is the most dangerous – it’s a trap door. We will keep falling into it until we rip the lid from it and explore what is underneath. Like an archeologist frightened by a supposed curse of the tomb, we just don’t go “there.”

What if we unleash the curse?

But what if the curse is in the “not going there?”

What if we are marking ourselves for life by keeping sick secrets? What if opening up our crypts brings fresh air to heal the curse?

What if healing the curse helps others to heal?

I very rarely re-blog here at The Beggar’s Bakery. But my friend and fellow writer Karen Perry just inspires the crypt-keeper in me, and this particular piece spoke to my spirit.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself, I applaud her candid transparency. I wrote about the subject on my own blog a while back (“Daddy’s Girls – the Healing”) but I am still actually doing a lot of healing. And a lot of trying to bury the site of excavation. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a process.

In my travels giving my testimony, I am astounded at the sheer number of women who have experienced this horror. Night terrors, anxiety, depression, substance abuse … can all be rooted in this abuse. It is a VERY BIG DEAL, it shapes who you are.

You are only as sick as your secrets, as Karen knows.You can read her awesome piece here: “Mended Musings – The Secret Keepers.”

GOD BLESS YOU, friend, for opening up. It has already helped this survivor by reading your story.

And by the way, here is my photo of the little me who kept secrets she should never have had to. It isn’t her fault.

It never was.

little me

Mustard Seeds and Mountains – Faith for the ordinary person

IMG_0833

“For if you had faith even as small as a tiny mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would go far away. Nothing would be impossible.” – Jesus (Matthew 17:20, Living translation)

For a short while in my career, it was my responsibility to edit incoming obituaries for a local newspaper. A good obituary gives you a mini biography of a person’s life – of who that person was while living out the “dash” in between the enter and exit dates on his or her tombstone.

I noticed a recurrent theme in submitted obituaries – the propensity to describe a departed loved one’s faith as such:
“A woman of great faith, Eula Mae Jones lived a righteous life. In all of her suffering, She never for a moment doubted her God.”

The same sentiment I read over and over  – a person’s absolute stead-fastness in faith described. I know it shouldn’t get under my flesh to hear faith described as such strong a thing! What a blessing! But  my flesh often allows things to get under it, even though it “knows” better….hings like Eula Mae’s never-wavering, rock-solid  faith.

Because I wish I were more Eula Mae and less like doubting Thomas. I don’t want to be Thomas, asking Jesus to prove his identity by the holes in his hands, but sometimes I ask him anyway.

The Eula Maes of the world are not prodigal-istic, but I am. Maybe you are, too. Maybe you – like me – have tried to take her heavenly inheritance and hit the road.

Although it happens less and less as I grow closer and closer to Christ, I’ve struggled with regular, run-of-the-mill doubt.  I love God with every fiber in my being, but I’m  just a regular human being with regular thoughts. I’m coming to believe it isn’t about knowing at all.

Yes, I know that I know that I know, but it’s not in the “knowing” that I grow. It’s in the trusting anyway that mountains get moved.  Trying to wrap my mind around what only my spirit was designed to understand leads to more doubt.

Here’s the thing about doubt – it does not diminish the God’s incredible, powerful love for us one single bit. I know that the Power of Love in the universe is not reduced by my doubting, nor anything else in my power. I know that His power can be magnified in my trusting him in doubtful times.

Here’s what account will be in my obituary, if it is an honest accounting of my faith:

Jana lived a life righteous in the eyes of God, despite her best efforts to screw her life up. Her righteousness had nothing whatsoever to do with her, and everything to do with the God she trusted anyway.

She  wondered if God were real on several occasions, but he was not angered by her questioning. Instead, He proved himself in a million ways if she took the time to seek Him –  in every gesture of love, in microcosm and macrocosm, in heaven, nature, and laughter.  He proved Himself with every sunrise and tide, and through the actions of others who love and trust Him too.

She didn’t understand why bad things happen to good people, or why bad things didn’t often happen to bad people. She didn’t understand many things, as  she saw through a glass darkly. But she  trusted God anyway. She believed like a child, open and in wonder.

She shook her fist at God on more than one occasion, but in the end, she  opened those fists to raise her hands high in worship.

She wanted badly to dis-believe a few times – periods when it would have been less painful to deny his existence than to believe he would allow her to experience such pain. But in those dark valleys, He always courted her gently back up the steep mountain. And she know that He was with her always, even to the ends of the earth.

She had faith the size of a mustard seed – no bigger – but she planted it anyway, small as it was. And God moved mountains by the deep roots that grew into a  sturdy, fruitful tree – from such a tiny thing. It only takes a little faith to move mountains.

She was a prodigal daughter, who took off with what God had given her,  determined that she could handle life all on her own. And when she returned home broken, Abba welcomed her with a ring for every finger, an embrace for every stubborn doubt.

In all of her suffering, she lived “the dash” honestly and authentically, and God was not diminished by her occasional doubts, but lifted high in her trusting.

And by her date of exit (and entrance into the arms of the God who courted her), she didn’t need to wrap her mind around what only my spirit was designed to understand. The mountain had been moved.

In the end, she believed nothing is impossible!

She was a woman of great faith, after all.

MORE

more

Father, Son and Holy Ghost
We’re the ones you love the most.
It’s only in You that we boast,
But Abba, we want more.

Over all and under none,
Not by our might, but what you’ve done
The battle has been fought and won,
But we want more of You.

When we worship and adore
In our pews (and on the floor)
Until our hearts can take no more,
We want more of You.

Your presence like a gentle breeze
Is a prompt, a holy tease
Of what will bring us to our knees,
More and more of You.

You made the earth, the moon, the stars,
And still make time to heal our scars
Freeing the prisoner from iron bars
But Abba, we want more.

Radical Savior, we seek your face
An avalanche of holy Grace
To overflow, fill every space
With more and more of You.

Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End,
Counsel, Provider, Redeemer and Friend
Calling out torn hearts to mend.
Give us more of You.

Drench us in your Spirit sweet
From the top of our heads to the soles of our feet,
Only then are we complete.
More and More of You.

 

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:13 (MSG)

EDGEWISE book givaway on Goodreads.com

Well, the summer is over, and it is book giveaway time again!

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win a copy of “EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God,” CLICK HERE.

The deadline is Sept. 7th. Feel free to spread the word, and the link.

God bless each of you, dear readers!

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

A Thousand Little Crests of Joy – balancing the blues

wave

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end —
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:2 (MSG)

The blues…

I’m not sure if it’s an addict thing, or a depression thing, or a human thing….I only know it’s a thing. And it can be a Christian thing, too. Why do I know that? Because I am one, and I struggle with it.

I live for the great swells of emotion … raw joy, good surprises, high energy spurts, times of health, romance. And that’s a problem because it isn’t an even equation.

In happiness numbers, the math doesn’t work. Wake up to the alarm clock + make coffee + go to work +  deal with parenting issues (kids are the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done) + get stuck in traffic + worry about the state of the world +  take a walk + weigh myself (gained three pounds) + pet the cats + load the dishwasher + fight chronic pain + admire my husband’s smile + pay bills + laugh at funny cats on the internet + read the news (the world is on fire!) + go to sleep ….only to do it all again the next day = a deficit.

In the less-than, greater-than schematic, it doesn’t balance.

Have you ever seen how tsunamis are formed? Forced? Before a great swell washes ashore, there is a disruption. There has to be some event – an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide – that causes the initial undulation. That emotional undulation is birthed of frustration.

But with every tsunami swell of the positive, there is a great sucking under to fuel it.

When there is too much sucking underneath and not enough swell, I despair. The waters get shallow, and a great, dark current takes my feet from under me. I’m not afraid anymore to present that honest emotional dilemma – and my pain – to my Creator.  I don’t have to play ‘perfect.’

I can’t.

Deliver me from that dark current, God. From the fear of disaster and of mediocrity!

It is a sign of maturity – in recovery and in my walk with Christ – that I don’t live for the great swells, but for the emotional undulation is birthed of redemption. I am working on remembering that great swells of raw joy, good surprises, pain-free times, and ease of mind are only a swell away, no matter what the circumstances. I live for Christ, in actuality. But I have to do it in this body on this planet awash in feelings, issues, and hormones – and I’m finding walking on top of the water a bit tricky.

I am His. I am not HIM.

In the force that is forming a great tsunami, there is a priming. And in the struggle against depression, there is a priming, too. A stirring up of sand, a washing-out of debris. And a chance to see things from the top of the crest – a new perspective. I am praying for that now. How many times have I felt stuck in the sucking vortex on the bottom – over my head! – only to enjoy the brand-new landscape that couldn’t have been formed any other way? So often I ask God to change my circumstances and he changes me instead. I welcome that, God. HELP me welcome it fully.

Until the landscape changes, He gives me a thousand little crests of joy: Warm baths, my husband’s smiles, Nutella straight from the jar, Van Morrison music, friendships, romance, and funny pictures of cats on the internet. (Never underestimate the power of a cleverly captioned picture of a cat on the internet.)

Or a personal God for whom “deficit” is not an option….a God who isn’t mathematical – and who is always ‘greater than.’

Surf’s up.

Before His Miracle Arrived: Robin Williams and the specter depression

williams

These days, I feel I could re-wire my entire blog to write about celebrities ensnared in deadly addiction and depression (after writing about Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Skewer the Stigma” in February…) and that makes me really sad.

For every well-known person who takes his or her life – or dies from an overdose – there are mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends of “real” people who lose the battle every single day. And that makes me more sad.  They are your Hollywood icons and musical geniuses – yes…but they are also your family, community, coworkers and clergy.

God bless the brokenhearted, and let the awareness spread.

It could save a life.

The news of Robin Williams passing hit me hard. I was checking my texts while walking out of a 12-step meeting when my daughter messaged me. The tears were immediate.

It was only weeks ago that I offhandedly posted on Facebook about his latest stay in rehabilitation in June. “Go, Robin!” I think I wrote. “Go, Robin – get well!”
After all, I felt like I knew him. Didn’t you?

Didn’t he make you believe in interplanetary rapport, as an alien in “Mork and Mindy”?

Didn’t he inspire you as the wartime DJ in “Good Morning, Vietnam” who brought smiles to soldiers in the midst of misery?

Didn’t he make you secretly wish he was your father-slash-nanny, as Mrs. Doubtfire?

Didn’t you just swoon at his prose-loving, word-weaving portrayal of John Keating, in “Dead Poet’s Society”? (Okay, maybe that was just me…)

Even as he made flawless comedy, there was a sadness behind his laughing eyes. It was palpable. In the mind from which flowed such beautiful, authentic art,  he no doubt felt hopeless. The news sources say that “rehabilitation came too late for him.” And this breaks my heart anew. I am not sure I believe that.  It is never too late for hope to take hold, and I wish Mr. Williams  had been in a place to realize that.

Didn’t he know that things always, ALWAYS get better? It is a law of nature – things get bad. And then they get better. But his spirit just ran out of the patience for the better to come.

He was – by all accounts – a good person. Being a good person has precious little to do with suffering depression and addiction. If anything, sufferers of both struggle mightily, since they are generally sensitive to those around them, attuned to sadness and anger and joy – all of the empathetic humors. Addicts and alcoholics self-medicate with booze and/or drugs in a futile attempt to stop feeling hopeless. Of course, more hopelessness ensues as the addiction surges like dragon, breathing more fire on the already-scorched earth of your spirit.

I’ve never attempted to take my own life, but I have battled depression a few times deeply enough to consider it. At one point, I remember thinking – very nonchalantly – that I just didn’t want to exist anymore…that I would honestly be doing my family a favor if I just ceased existing. And the most terrifying thing about that thought was the aplomb with which these thoughts presented.

I was all cried out, all screamed out, all worn out. And really tired of being disappointed. I could not imagine ever being in a non-exhausted state and living with an ability to get up in the morning and dress myself without resentment for having to do so. It is a dark, lonely place.

I hated living in this flawed body, with chronic pain – both physically and emotionally. And Neverland is only a place where reality has been plundered and ravaged. The flat, casual tone of my suicidal thoughts alarmed me enough to seek help.

I cannot tell you what would/should/could have worked for Robin Williams. Or you.

I can only tell you what works for me. (Notice I didn’t say ‘worked’ – mental illness is often not a one-trick pony – depression can and does recur.)

When the demon of severe depression rears its fiery head, I work hard to employ the same 12 steps that saved my life when I got sober…particularly those that focus on faith, surrender, soul-searching, acceptance, and a willingness to get well – a willingness to press on for One More Day. Even though things seem pretty shitty in the moment. (I attend Celebrate Recovery. If you would like to see the 12 Steps and their Biblical comparisons, click here.)

Take one single day at a time, because the law of nature is that things do get better. You just have to ride out one more day and rely on the God who says he loves you even in those times (especially in those times.) No matter who you are, He has a plan for your life that would just blow you away. The old “don’t give up before your miracle arrives” platitude? It seems there is truth to it. I have lived it firsthand.

Hopelessness is an illusion. There is always hope.

The world needs me, and it needs you. It needs your message and your energy, the fingerprint of your love influence on the lives of those who love you. God knows we could have used more of Robin Williams on this earth.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. I feel like I knew you.

Rest in peace, knowing you brought joy to millions of people…knowing you endeared yourself to countless people in your 63 swashbuckling years here on earth. The world needed more of you – even so, rest now.

God be with you and give you shalom everlasting.

Go, Robin – and be well.

Be whole.