Pathway to a Richer Life

By: Jana Greene

God,

Your plans are perfect, holy, good.

Mine lead me in the wrong direction.

My plans don’t work out as they should,

Flawed and full of imperfection.

Your mercy, it endures forever.

Mine toward others? Not always so.

Depending on my mood and temper,

My mercy will often come and go.

Yours is the path to righteousness,

Of light and honor, love and grace.

Mine is the path of least resistance

My flesh seeks a faster pace.

Show me where to venture next

(My sense of direction? It’s off by a mile!)

And I will follow your inflection

Instead of the pulling of my own guile.

Not because I’m so deserving –

A member of this human race,

But because your love does no deserting,

You run towards those who seek your face.

God,

Your plans are perfect, holy, good.

Mine are often cause for strife.

Teach me to follow your will and way,

And mine will be a richer life.

 

As the Leaves Turn, Perfectly

 

Blue Ridge Mountains, October 2012

 

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” – Elizabeth Lawrence

By: Jana Greene

Last week, I watched the leaves turn with my husband.

Tired of waiting to be given the extra time to spend, we took it ourselves… stealing away to the mountains of North Carolina for a few days together.

We rented a tiny cabin, after choosing it on merit of standing far away from all other dwellings and people. When we arrived, the steps down the hill to the cabin were clear, and our little fortress surrounded by trees in every stage of turning – greens and yellows, but reds and oranges, too. Like a picture postcard.

He and I set up house in a hurry to sit on the back porch, which overlooked a short but steep mountain valley and wide creek at the bottom. All we could see from our balcony was leaves and water. All we could hear from our balcony was the rustling and rushing of leaves and water, and the occasional birdsong from the canopy above.

Decompressing from the stressors of being full-time grown-ups with concerns for jobs, kids and the political climate, we spent days reveling in the promise of cool autumn air instead. Together, my husband and I explored the creek and the hills nearby. For a few days, we fished and we feasted. We did nothing at all for great lengths of time on the back porch of our little cabin.

And we didn’t miss the grown-up world, because it didn’t occur to us to stress out about the jobs, kids or concerns for our country. It seems obvious enough – if you took the time to look at the trees – that God was still in control and didn’t need our help to work things out.

No internet. No television. No constant feedback and validation from the world-at-large. Political seasons are ugly and corrupt, but God’s seasons are perfect. Out there where creation is pure and heavenly, you would never know all “hell” was breaking loose.  I needed to be reminded that the harmony of nature is what the Creator intended for His world. It is the created that distort it.

By the time of our departure, the steps up the hill to our car were littered with color – crispy greens and yellows, and reds and oranges turned up at the corners. They crunched as we loaded up and readied ourselves for re-entry into the “real” world. As we drove away, we rolled down the windows to hear rustling leaves and rushing water, and the occasional birdsong from the canopy above.

God is not in a hurry for the leaves to fall, they break from the trees one at a time, floating to the ground in perfect order to that He can begin creating more abundance at just the right time.  And after stealing away to the reality He intended, I have a better sense of peace that He still has good and perfect plans for His children.

Even in this political climate (maybe especially during it) take the time to sit and watch the leaves turn wherever you are. It seems obvious enough – if you take the time to look at the trees – that God is still in control.

 

Going “Off the Grid” for awhile, Dear Readers

Good evening, dear readers. My husband and I will be going “off the grid” for several days to spend uninterruped  time together. We are leaving behind all of the technology that we “depend on” daily and will practice depending on one another instead! As a result, The Beggar’s Bakery will not showcase any new works until my return the week of October 23rd. Check back then for new pieces. Prayers for traveling mercies much appreciated!

Daddy’s Girls – The Healing

By: Jana Greene

Little girls….they are so full of themselves!

I never really got to know my father. He was disinterested in me when I was born.  As a very small girl, I remember jumping and dancing and shouting for him, wanting him to pick me up.

Look at me!

I can still see him now, coolly smoking a cigarette looking through me. How do I get my Daddy’s attention? Little girls crave that attention. They feel deficient if they cannot obtain it.

Then, I had a step-father. When he came into my life I was five years old. I was  both jealous of his attention for my mother and hopeful that he might show some for me. I became his adopted child, losing my identity as the daughter of one disinterested. But that didn’t really make me a beloved daughter. There are worse things than parental indifference, I would find out. There could be malevolence and maltreatment.

Years after the damage had been done, God healed my heart. He is still healing my heart. I trust Him daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.

For years, I tried to fill up instead of give up. Fill up that space with attention from men. Fill up shame with alcohol. Fill up neediness with accolades. Fill up deficiency with a pouring into various meaningless pursuits. It’s a lot harder to give up expectations and surrender wholly. Giving up pain requires a kind of filling up faith…and trust.

It is said that we model our idea of who God is by our experience with our earthly fathers, and that is true, because we have no other measure to go by.  But then, what is a father? My maternal grandfather was a loving influence on my life, and my husband shows me what the most noble human fathering looks like in the way he cares for his daughter (and my daughters, too). But for the most accurate picture, I have to go to the Bible instead of looking to personal experience:

A father doesn’t ignore the needs of his child; he provides more than enough for her.

“Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17

A father isn’t irritated by the presence of his daughter, but delights in her with pride.

“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” – 1 Peter 4:3-6

A father doesn’t betray his daughter’s trust, but honors it.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

A father doesn’t abuse and neglect his girl, but protects her from harm.

“Every promise of God proves true; he protects everyone who runs to him for help.” – Proverbs 30:5-6 (MSG)

A father is not detached, but involved.

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” – Matthew 10:29-30 (MSG)

A  Father is not waiting to reject his child, but welcomes her with open arms regardless of her deeds.

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (MSG)

So, how do I get my Father’s attention? That pure adoration that little girls crave from their Fathers? I don’t have to jump and dance and shout Look at me! He is already looking, already getting a kick out me….just because I’m His kid.

In the spiritual realm, he is my Daddy by adoption because His son grafted me into his family.  He is my Creator, the one who used love to make me family.

Getting to know God for The Perfect Father is an adventure in loving and being loved. I wish I could say that I don’t ever struggle with abandonment, rejection or trust issues, but that wouldn’t be true. I am learning to accept that My True Father loves me even though sometimes I misbehave. He is teaching me to accept that he forgives me, even when it is difficult for me to forgive myself.  And He doesn’t instruct me with the iron fist or shaming ways of the fathers I have known on Earth, but with the gentlest correction reminding me to focus on His grace instead.

Maybe so many of us women are attention-seekers because we’re designed to be. Perhaps we are created that way  in order to seek our Father’s love. To  give up on being perfect to earn a Father’s love,  in order to fill up on the love of a Perfect Father.

To be Daddy’s Girls in the purest sense…not so much “full of ourselves”, but FULL of our Father.

Sinner’s Creed – Review of a Rock-and-Roll Frontman’s Redemption Tale

Sometimes happiness comes wrapped in an Amazon box!

Hello, dear readers.

I hope that you will follow this link to read my blog in Wilmington FAVS to check out my book review of Scott Stapp’s “Sinner’s Creed”, which came out October 2nd. The book combines three of my favorite things – faith, music and recovery – and if you are interested in any of those elements, I highly recommend it! God bless you and yours 🙂

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/sinners-creed-scott-stapps-rock-roll-and-redemption

Southern-Fried: Thoughts on Knowing Better

By: Jana Greene

Today, I reminded about showing compassion to those who may not “deserve” it.  I made a dumb mistake, you see.

It’s the blisters that are reminding me. Or maybe the skin on my nose and shoulders that has turned the deep crimson hue of a good Merlot. I have a bad sunburn, and all I want to do for the moment is wrap up in soft sheets and whine about the pain.  Maybe even moan a little. And eat chocolate.

What… You never heard that chocolate has healing properties?

I am nearly forty-four years of age. I know better. I’ve been a fair-skinned red-head all of my life, and this is not the first time I’ve been severely sunburned.

The other day, my Beloved and I took a day-trip to the beach and we only intended to stay for an hour or two.

But as if by some act of divine mercy, we found a spot on the shore that was nearly deserted (by at least twenty feet on either side) and the sky was a wide blue with nary a cloud to block the glorious rays of the sun! A breeze from the ocean blew gently and cool (but warm for October) against us, making us forget that…hey,  there are no clouds to block the sun.

We had even remembered to put up the beach umbrella!

Not that we stayed under it for very long.

When we did get warm-ish sitting under the wide blue sky, we walked down to the water – holding hands. And although the ocean was a bit chilly at first, the initial “yikes!” gave way to a cooling ahhhhhhh until we were neck deep and free-floating.

On an October day, no less!

We swam until we were tired and then walked back to the beach chairs in the sun, enjoying the sensation of water evaporating off of our skin. Conversation, laughter, sunshine, water. And then again. And then again.

Until we – satiated and out of cold beverages – headed home.

And then, over the next few hours, our bodies turning burgundy, thought “Hmmm. Maybe we should have used sunblock.”  We did think about it a few times.

But it’s OCTOBER, my mind protested stubbornly. As  if one cannot possibly get sunburned in the fall, the way one cannot possibly wear white after Labor Day.  My mind, which felt increasingly  like an egg fried underneath my crimson scalp relented. Excuses, excuses…and then a painful consequence. And now the moaning.

You did this to yourself.

Wandering  through Wal-Mart later on a quest for aloe lotion, I see the stares from people thinking, Well, she should know better. Or worse…..Tourist!

Judging is easy….the smug realization that whatever painful, blistering circumstance a person might be in – they brought it on themselves.  I’m getting better at not judging, but sometimes it’s still a challenge. Because when we see homelessness, addiction, a pregnant teenager or even celebrities who struggle with consequences – sometimes our first thoughts are not of compassion:

You know, that could have been avoided.

Don’t you know better?

That was a dumb mistake.

And while all of these things are possibly true, the resulting pain is still pitiful. God may shake his head with frustration over us – the stubborn ones – but he still gathers us up in soft sheets of compassion. He expects us – as if by His divine mercy – to do the same. Even when one’s mistake is out there  for all the world to see. No excuses necessary….just love.

Ouch.

Yeah…..Especially then.

Playing the cards you’re dealt

By: Jana Greene

Seven UNO cards were spread out like a fan in my hand. There were four greens, two reds and one blue. The card facing upward on the table was yellow, emblazoned with the number “5”…just about the only number and color not represented in my hand.

Anyone who has ever played the card game could see that this was an unlucky grouping. My daughter, who was nine years old at the time, smiled like the cat that ate the canary. Never one to present a poker face, she picked the last of her own seven cards from the thick, worn pile.

“Hmmmm,” she said. “Another wild card.”

I looked down at my cards again, knowing I would have to pick yet another in a game that required losing all to win.

“Skip me?” I asked.

“You know the rules, Mom,” she chided. “You have to pick another card until you get a match for the yellow or the five.”

She was right, of course. So I picked the first card lying face down in the pile. It was a blue eight. The next was a green “skip” card and the one under it was another green three.

“Dos, tres, cuatro,” I counted, my hand becoming heavier with the losing cards.

“You will have catorce soon!” laughed my opponent. “Catorce” is the Spanish word for fourteen.

“I must not have shuffled them well,” I grumped.

“Maybe not,” she said. “But you have to play the cards you’re dealt.”  How many times had I told her that?

It was not, in fact, until I did have fourteen cards that I was able to get rid of even one of them. By the time I chose a winning card, there were too many to hold in fan formation so they fell about in a messy heap that allowed my opponent to see which colors and numbers I held.

Miraculously, though, I won the game that day. I kept choosing and she kept laying down her cards until she was forced to play a green one. She had been holding on to not one, but FOUR wild cards – pieces that entitled her to change-up the game in her own favor all along. Somehow, using all of her good cards had resulted in her ending up with green cards.

And green cards I had!

It seems to me that many people are dealt unfair cards in this life. Some are given wild cards in abundance, while others have a handful of “fives” without any apparent significance.

I didn’t mean to choose the hand of proverbial cards that I had to play in the darkest times in my life, but I did pick many of them myself.

I hadn’t wanted to grow up to be an alcoholic.

I don’t remember picking the card for divorce that showed up in my deck.

And single motherhood? I’d have just as soon left that one out, too.

Chronic pain, financial struggle, surviving abuse….I’d never have asked for them. So many issues  – more than catorce! – that my hand could not hold them all, spilling out of formation and into a messy heap.  And when you have a big enough pile, you can’t hold them close to your chest and they fall about you for all the world to see. For your opponent to see.

I didn’t ask for that messy pile. Even though I often contributed to the disorder with my own actions, it still seemed unfair. Sometimes I’d done all the right things – shuffled well. Still, bad things happened, things that made me hurt deeply.

“Skip me!” I’ve begged the Lord on numerous occasions. “God, please….”

But He had purpose all the while.  I found out that there is a huge difference between perceived unfairness and purposeless-ness.  All of the losing cards I’ve held have  played pivotal roles in making me understand what God’s grace is all about. I wouldn’t trade that card for anything.

We all have to play the cards we are dealt – in a game that often requires losing all of self to win.

Keep picking up the next card, believing that God will work it to the good. Believe it, and ask him to fill in the gaps where you do not believe it yet.

And lay them down; keep laying your cards on the table – on the altar.

At the cross.