Being thankful for what you didn’t ‘order’ – Even when the only constant is change

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By: Jana Greene

Life is just really weird and hard sometimes, isn’t it? Life with an autoimmune disorder is almost too weird to deal with.

I stayed relatively well all during our recent Trip to DC last weekend (PRAISE BE) but I am now battling a 101 degree fever and raging sinus infection. The Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is reacting with widespread inflammation and pain, because that’s how it reacts to damn near everything (weather changes, fighting the common cold, allergies, Tuesday … really, it ain’t picky.)  My post surgical shoulder is especially peeved right now.

So after a trip to the doctor this morning and a shot of antibiotics in the hip and a 10-day course of oral anti-b’s; ice on the shoulder and heating pad on my rear….it occurs to me that…

Thanksgiving is TOMORROW. And it’s the first year I won’t be manically cooking and cleaning, entertaining my loud daughters and playing inappropriate games like Cards Against Humanity with them and their bfs after supper. No raucious and noisy discussions or leftover pecan pie.

Things will be quiet tomorrow. We don’t have any turkey or trimmings, and I’m feeling too sick to even care. I guess I could pop open a canister of Salt & Vinegar Pringles, but that’s just not really the same.

Everything keeps CHANGING, you know? Kids grow up. Limitations hamper plans. Traditions change – and I dislike that especially. When I became a single mom years back, the girls and I made so many new traditions – it never occurred to me that those too would morph and change as the girls grew up and  became adults.

I’ve battled health issues since I was born – literally – but the older I get, the more intrusive and limiting it makes everything, and I’m NOT okay with that. I keep telling God that I’m not okay with it, and he just keeps reminding me that His grace is sufficient, and I know that to be true, so I’m trying to deal and tell myself ‘suck it up, buttercup!’ There are so many people with SUCH worse health issues, and they manage to stay chipper and accepting, and I’m over here being a whiny ass and honing my pity party skills.

So, I guess I’m going to try harder to flip the mindfulness script right now, because these things are true:
*Made it through a wonderful mini vacay to DC with My Beloved.
*Did not even ONCE have to wear my knee or ankle braces (a staple for EDS patients, as our joints tend to subluxate regularly) Minor miracle in and of itself!
*I can still practice thankfulness on this blessed Thanksgiving, even if the house is quiet and I’m in pain. I’m so proud of my girls and that they have their own lives and travels and loves. Cards Against Humanity can wait.
* Above all else – I have the right to be thankful. For heating pads and antibiotics. For being married to my best friend, who just keeps selflessly caring for his sickie wife all theses years…. he shows  o sign of stopping loving me.

*For big fat kitty cats who love to cuddle – especially when they know you aren’t feeling well.

*For these gorgeous, amazing daughters of ours who are paving their own lives with their own traditions.

*Im thankful for my faithful readers, who know I’m a little crazy and a lot in love with Jesus, and who read my musings and complaints and STILL keep coming back to read more.

I hope I can bless you, as you bless me.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every last one of you. I’m thankful none of us have to do this crazy life alone.
God bless us, every one.

The Ugliest Election Ever (or ‘The Sky is Falling but God is still in the Throne”)

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By: Jana Greene

What a time to be alive.
From Wikileaks to any-source-is-a-news-source, literally everyone can be an expert about any subject.

Distrust the media.
Distrust the ‘sources.’
Distrust the talking heads and their agenda-laden propaganda.
And trust God.

That’s right. Trust the invisible being whose name is Love, who manifests not in sound bites and slick campaign ads, but whose modus operandi is love and only love.

In a world where truth has to be mined from mass bullshit, trust only the One whose golden truth is not merely surface truth, but deep, permanent, abiding truth – tested through the ages.

“What a time to be alive,” we almost complain, inconvenienced by the glut of corruption and half-truths and non-truths that we are expected to wade through to convince the world we are people of faith.

But “What a time to be alive!” say I.

Never had here been a time in which we reject the nastiness of politics-as-usual and to tell people what our God is really made of. Is He a man, that He should operate on the scum-sucking base-lines of the talking heads? Or a King whose victory had already been declared in the Heavenlies and manifest though us in the most glorious of trickle down economics – a grace so rich that no man should ever run a deficit?

What a time to be alive!

What an opportunity to take imperfect, humanistic agendas and turn them into truth tales of hope, because ALL WAS LOST, but just before it seemed too late, WE the People elected to trust God instead of the mere body politic.

If – in the tale of The Ugliest Election Ever – We the People stopped worshipping of the low-blow, bickering, blaming, smear campaign believing, two-party system Golden Calf, and lean into God instead of man.

Never had there been such a time as this, it’s true.

God, open our eyes. You are our only hope. Let we – your representation here on earth – not spend these hours running around like Chicken Little, shrieking in every Facebook post “The Sky is falling! the sky is falling!” But instead be a force of calm, reassured that no matter who sits in the highest platform on earth is still only earthly, and You are still, forever on The Throne.

I’m not saying it’s easy to stump for God. My Inner Chicken Little is very loud and persuasive. Maybe the sky needs to fall for a little while. Maybe Abba can use the falling sky to awaken His people to spread the Good News that all the pundits leave out of here doomsday news reports.

There has never been such an opportunity as this to tell the world that there is an antidote to lies, corruption, politics-as-usual.
I’m not sure what the world would know what to do with that – calm assuredness that Love Wins, but I’m ready to see what it would look like.

We are called to run on a platform of truth, confident and steadfast….to (coin a phrase) ‘act like we KNOW something. Because we DO.

Distrust the media.
Distrust the ‘sources.’
Distrust the talking heads and their agenda-laden propaganda.

And trust God.

what a time to be alive!

Tiaras and Mudpies (excerpt from “The Beggar Princess”)

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Good day, lovely readers!

I will likely be on hiatus for a while, as I am having shoulder surgery tomorrow morning (all prayers and warm fuzzy wishes welcome!)

But I did want to write a little post for you today (I don’t want you to forget me altogether!)

It is an excerpt from the book I am currently working on.

The book will explore our true identities as women who walk with Christ. Are you just a beggar, desperate for Him? Or are you legit royalty – the Daughter of the Most High King…..that sort of thing. This little snippet is from the 1st chapter. I hope you enjoy it, and I will be back writing the blog as soon as I’m able.

God bless us, every one!

As always, THANK YOU for your readership❤

….Years after the damage of fatherlessness left me feeling unworthy, God healed my heart. Actually, if I am honest, He  is still healing my heart, which has a tendency to hold on to things because they are familiar; and not because they are in my best interest.  I trust my Father daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.

Very soon after I seriously entertained the concept of being a daughter of the King, I had a really vivid dream.

 I was a little girl in full Ren Fair, Princess garb –  Tiara, sparkly pink plastic shoes, a dress with layers upon layers of taffeta and satin. I was indeed a princess! Anyone could see I was royalty.

And all around me is the perfection of nature I’ve loved all my life – clear, flowing waters, flowers surrounding me, lush, greenery and this incredible feeling of peace. It was the Garden of Eden!

I make my way to water’s edge to admire the tinkling creek,  taking care not to muss my gown or dirty my sparkly shoes. 

But oh, OH! MUD!

The mud by the river is so delightfully squishy. I cannot resist stepping in a puddle of it. And before I know it,  I’m making elaborate mud pies – all shapes and sizes, decorated with flowers from Eden’s own garden.

I was just lost in the muck, icing my cakes with more squishy mud, adding silken grass leaves and smooth pebbles as garnishes. Soon, I had enough mud pies to open a bakery.

“Look, Papa!” I remember saying.

And then – in one sick moment –  I realized that I was a mess. Nobody could tell I was a Princess, so caked in mud was I.  Mud encrusted my shoes, and my dress was filthy.  I’d dropped my tiara somewhere in the grasses while looking for cake decorations.

Shame and self-loathing started sinking in. The more I focused on my muck, the more everything around me started fading darker and dimmer.

It was then that I started to cry, avoiding the glare of the King, but when I peeped through my muddy fingers, King Jesus smiled widely at me! He scooped me up in wild embrace and held me there until I stopped crying.

He wasn’t about to let a little mud get in between Him and His Daughter!

I can still conjure the feelings I experienced in that amazing, tangible dream. It really made me consider if I believed (deep, deep down) that I am just a little more royal when I get things right and please the father; and a muddy beggar urchin, when I make a big mess. And the truth is – Papa sees through the mud and muck. It is I who focuses too much on the dirt and not enough on the divine.

Do you ever feel unworthy? Have you ever made a mess of your life?

The mud doesn’t get in the way of His love for you, either.

Anyone can see you are Royalty, Daughter.

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High Anxiety – Affliction, not sin

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“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ” – C.S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

Oh, C.S. Lewis. How I would love to go back (or forward) in time and pick you brain. Your thoughts so messy, yet austere. I just want to smoke a pipe (vanilla tobacco, please) beside a lit fireplace at a table for two – the kind of table that’s too small to eat a meal on, but too big to be a nightstand. And I want to say, “THANK YOU!” Thank you, that you did not regard anxiety as SIN (which seems to be, unfortunately, a consideration of the modern church proper.)

Dear readers, if you don’t already know, I suffer from anxiety, depression, ADD and OCD, and it’s been a life long issue.

I think I was born anxious.

When I was a five-year old frozen in fear just walking into the kindergarten class, I wasn’t sinning.

When I display compulsive behaviors, I have no evil intent. (Oh, and being diagnosed OCD was SUCH a shock – not because I knew it was true, but because I thought I hid it from the world so WELL.)

When my heart will simply not beating 125 beats per minute, it’s not a demon makin’ it tick.

When I cannot focus on one thing for 10 seconds, God is not disappointed in me.

When my brain confuses being chased by a T-Rex with emailing a resume, it’s not sin – it’s out of my control – fight or flight.

Anxiety is what led to my alcoholism. It took the edge off, eventually it took me past the edge.

I thought it was a wonderful thing because all of my mom friends drank wine – I just drank mine out of a Big Gulp cup. With a lid. And a straw. I do not suggest this method of anxiety quelling, it’s highly non-sustainable. I didn’t know when to stop, and that’s why I don’t do that anymore. Haven’t for 15 years, hallelujah!

But I still contend with depression/anxiety/ADD/OCD. I just do it sober now. And it can be very difficult. I really don’t care who knows it because it is what it is and I try to write authentically.

What does anxiety feel like to me?

It feels involuntary. SO involuntary.

It feels like asking Jesus to take the wheel, but being sure the steering fluid is low.

It feels like you are the only kid in class who forgot to get her permission slip signed, and now you can’t go to the museum.

My body reacts to a crowded aisle in Walmart as if I were a wolf willing to chew my own leg off to escape the trap. (For some reason, Walmart just does me in.)

It feels like I am too awkward to inhabit a planet with normal people who don’t have panic attacks on the regular. Plus, I forget what to do with my face a lot.

It feels like a stutter in your soul.

It feels like abandonment. Remember a time when someone walked away from you for good? That feeling. The first five minutes after it occurred to you that the person was never coming back. Now replay those 5 minutes in an endless loop.

It feels like I’m sorry for being this way!

It feels overwhelming. Worry, doubt, pray. Or is it pray, doubt, worry? See? I just can’t get it straight.

It feels like DOOM. Not just regular doom, but DOOOOOOOOOOM.

It’s being certain nobody likes you, because you are, well, weird.

I have been prayed over, prayed for, where two or more are gathered or two dozen are gathered. I have felt like a sub-par Christian because my healing didn’t ‘stick’ – and that’s a really crappy feeling, ya’ll. It is pouring gasoline on a fire.

So now, I’m anxiety-ridden AND my faith is too puny to do any good?

Nobody judges the diabetic whose insulin will not bow at the feet of the cross, but people will drown you in holy water trying to get depression to go. (By the way, I do believe depression can be a spirit, but I also believe early childhood trauma, genetics, or just plain chemistry can rile up a good baseline anxiety.)

I really fail to see how mental illness is any different.

I would rather not battle mental illness, but if I must, I will try to consider it from your point of view, Mr. Lewis (‘May I call you C.S.?”)

My Abba circuited my brain just as He pleased, and did so for a reason. There were environmental events that tightened the screws. He allowed things to shape me, just as He is shaping YOU. I believe that all of it – the janky humanity in us – I believe Jesus walks with us and in us, and that’s what His heart really longs for. It isn’t the ‘alphabet soup’ disorder that defines me, it’s that I’m His.

So sometimes I freak out, and its scary because I don’t even totally understand it, but always, always I feel God’s presence, even when I can’t calm down. My anxiety doesn’t scare Him away.

He is less concerned in having a vast army of perfect people – a master race of Christians who pray away anxiety, and never say a potty word. Followers who have gotten it ‘all together.’

I believe He loves all His misfits right where they are.

How much more passionate might we be with the mentally ill if we considered their affliction as sharing in the Passion of the Christ?

Kind of flips things up, no?

Our share of the passion.

Thanks, C.S., for the reminder.

God bless us, every one.

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People over Positions (or ‘Jesus didn’t unfriend Judas because love got in the way’)

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By: Jana Greene

I never thought I’d see the day. As I grow older, I realize there are a lot of days I thought I’d never see. The hatred and offense and mud-slingery and seething anger – those things usually reserved for the political candidates themselves – somehow bequeathed to We the Constituents with ardent fervor. It’s never been uglier.

First, let me open with this:

I will not unfriend you on Facebook if you vote for Trump. I won’t even unfriend you if you vote for Hillary. I will not real-life break up a friendship with you if you lean left or right at an angle that offends me. I will not judge your worth as a human being by a ballot choice. I will really try not to browbeat people with my independent opinions. I will really, really make an effort to respect you no matter what.

Because you are a person my Jesus loves completely – beyond borders and elephants and donkeys. And truly we have more in common than we disagree on.

But I think we need to take a hard look at the fruits of our righteous passion as a result of the political climate:

Anger.…venomous, destructive hateful talk.

Unrest….racial, political, ideological.

Ugliness toward one another….even within families.

It’s (dare I say?) an implosion of Biblical proportions, what’s going on in our country – in the whole world.

But you have strong feelings, you say?

  • It’s OBVIOUS that Candidate X is an egotistical, misogynist, mean-spirited, blowhard.
  • It’s JUST as obvious that Candidate Y is murderous, deceptive, mercenary she-devil.

See? I have strong feelings TOO!

In years past, candidates got ugly with one another and it only hurt their efforts, whereas now we kind of expect vile, scandalous, and sometimes criminal flaws in our candidates. Worse, in a kind of trickle-down discontent, John Q. Public is drawn into the fray, tearing down others in his own community in the name of being right.

The question I pose – the question I have to keep asking myself – is this: Which is higher in value? Rightness or relationship? When I value being ‘right,’ more, it could lead me to take any number of drastic actions:

  • I could break relationship with those miscreants who don’t see life exactly the way I do. That’ll show ’em!
  • I could threaten to move to another country, a place where harmony reigns supreme and everyone treats everyone with respect and honor. Except such a place does not exist here on earth.
  • I could make the announcement in ALL CAPS on my Facebook wall that IF YOU ARE VOTING FOR (fill in the blank) JUST UNFRIEND ME NOW. But then I remember how diverse and varied my friends are and how very much I LOVE that diversity and value those friendships.

People are more than their political positions.

And that’s where this gets spiritual, because Jesus was so inclusive in His love. He was so good at seeing the PERSON underneath the dogma or circumstance.

People bring their baggage and their hopes and their priorities to the table every time they talk politics.

When I start letting my very sincere perception of injustice allow me to hate other people, I am missing the mark. And, just so you know, I HAVE done just that on numerous occasions. My flesh rather favors this method of threshing the wheat from the chaff. I have to catch myself.

We all have strong feelings, and for some reason, this generation has determined that everyone MUST take his/her feelings into consideration.

Keep in mind that no-one’s mind has ever been changed by a Facebook post. No, not even the really witty ones, or the fact-laden ones, or the ones featuring the carnage of war or abortion.

Keep in mind that most people who are fervent supporters of either X or Y love their country, too, and really, truly believe that their guy (or gal) can fix what’s wrong with America. Again, I don’t get it, but hey – it’s okay that others disagree.

I am going on record as saying NONE of the candidates can “fix” America. That’s God’s job, but He will not interfere if uninvited to finding solutions. That being said, I think we are pretty much screwed politically, but God is still on the throne and I know the end of the story – the rest is just bullsh*t.

So. Much. Bullsh*t.

Each person with a strong opinion (however variant to mine) is a person Jesus deeply loves. Yes, EVEN the candidates – he loves them, too! Don’t ask me why – I do not find them lovable in the LEAST,  but He is pretty clear about the love thing. He doesn’t stutter.

Why? Because He recognized that people are more than their positions.

We are only visitors here. We’re here to learn to love God and learn how to love one another. This is an especially difficult season to do so.  If everyone were loving and lovable, we wouldn’t need to be students on this campus, so to speak.

In this benchmark high-vitriol election, maybe it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t even ‘unfriend’ Judas, knowing full well that his friend would betray him, leading Him to His very death.

Dude, that’s Love. That’s radical love.

I’m not inferring that we give every differently-minded friend a big, fake smile and a smackaroo on the cheek.  No need to be disingenuous. These are things we feel PASSIONATE about! There’s nothing wrong with passion. God loves a passionate heart.

I’m suggesting that when you are on social networks or having conversations and feel that hatred/anger roil up from your gut and spill over into your spirit, check yourself. I’ll try to check myself too.

Call a wrong out, there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t vilify the person holding on to that ‘wrong.’

Don’t give that nastiness a foothold in your life, it has a way of becoming cancerous. No matter who wins this crazy election, you don’t want that poison coursing through your veins. Even as justified as it may feel, it is not of Christ and will choke out the fruits of the Spirit all the way down to the roots, if you let it.

Don’t let it.

Oh, and God bless America.

We’re going to need it.

Galatians 5:22-24 (MSG)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”

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Breathe Joy into Me – a poem, a prayer, and a plea

The Beggar's Bakery

POEM

God,
I’ve been feeling so discouraged,
Two steps forward, one step back,
Feeling like my soul is tired,
Over extended, under attack.

Oh to have my joy back!
I know it is mine for the asking.
To gain it I must first surrender to you
The pain that my sadness is masking.
The tiredness, the sickness,
The constant striving,
On my own human power
It keeps me from thriving.
Oh, God, please be infused in me.
They way Holy Spirit desires to be.

I want to have my joy back –
That birthright you left in the empty tomb.
I want the peace – the good shalom –
You left me in that Upper Room.
The weary dark replaced instead with
Your open, welcoming arms,
The chronic illness bested by
Your protection from all harm.

Oh God, please inhabit me, my
Source of peace so close to me
That Holy…

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Sweeping up Eggshells – Life in the New Covenant

The Beggar's Bakery

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By: Jana Greene

“When people form their opinion about God from what they hear from contemporary legalistic religion, it’s no wonder they conclude that God is a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else. It would be easy to see how a god like that would be angry much of the time. Sadly, people who hold that view of God impose it on the Bible and interpret the Bible to present a God like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying that our God is a milquetoast, a mild-mannered god who can be managed. He’s no kitten, that for sure.”  —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Part 4 of The Seismic Seven Series

When I was a little girl, my father would often go into rages. I learned early how to walk on eggshells, as you…

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