Seasons (that suck) are followed by Seasons (that ROCK!)

fall

By: Jana Greene

This whole post could easily be about hating summer.  Because I really hate summer, and frankly don’t understand why any temperature over 90 degrees exists. That’s what I want to talk about today – hating summer because it’s hot.

In the literal heat of the moment, I can decide the whole damn season just sucks.

Heat is oppressive. My body doesn’t like it. Easily eighty percent of my health woes are directly impacted by temperature, although I hate admitting that because it’s such an old lady complaint. (Spoiler alert: You really CAN feel the storm coming in your bones!)

Something about sweating really brings out my flair for the dramatic. In the foyer of my house – as I am exiting my home – I am woman, hear me RAWR! And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me! I’m having a great hair day!

Two seconds later, I’m walking to the driveway awash in the oven-like conditions of the great outdoors (yes, the stretch between my front door and driveway IS considered the ‘great outdoors,’ especially in the summer.) Within moments, I have dissolved into a sweaty, ruddy, giant two year old who needs a nap. The air feels too damp to breathe. Ew.

When I get over-heated, all of the sudden, I feel fat and ugly.

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

All of the sudden, I hate everything about living on planet Earth.

Oh my goodness, what first world problems! But during the experience of segueing between Hearth and Home and Habitat Hell, I become extremely grumpy. What possible purpose could 100 degree weather serve? I mean, sorry about the Ozone, God, but could you hook a sister up with some nice 80 degree days between May and September?

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

The inevitable truth is that summer is only a season – one season – and as such, will turn into Fall. Things turn; it’s the nature of things to turn.

Now, I LOVE everything about Fall, ya’ll. The whole shebang!

Autumn leaves changing colors, and hot apple cider. Snuggly sweaters and crisp, cool air. October is my favorite color, and I can’t wait for it to come around! At the slightest whiff of cool air, my attitude changes. Witnessing the falling of one orange leaf means all of the bounty of my favorite season is in view. It’s coming! It really is!

That seasons change is a fact. Better times are coming. After this season comes another, better one. I will not need gills to breathe outside then. I will be able to exhale, and inhale again, with little to no drama about leaving the house.

So I suppose this whole post is kind of all about hating summer. But even this wretched season has it’s charms – like going to the beach. And….going to the beach. (I got nothin’ else here.)

No matter what we are hating right now – it will change. Seasons always do. Whatever is stifling us and strangling us, making us grumpy.  Knowing that it’s nearly September and October inevitably follows is a great comfort to me right now!

If you are going through some awful season right now, I pray you will just be encouraged. I’m not going to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason; that’s not helpful at all. But I am reminding you that it is temporary.

It helps to remember that in all of the other seasons, too – the ones that make heat strokes look like a walk in the park. Like the Big Three – health, money, and relationships. There’s a season for everything, including huge life changes.

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

Mom, Re-purposed

birbs

By: Jana Greene

On my youngest daughter’s last high school theater performance, I sat in the front row to watch her take her last bow and had the sharpest pang in my heart. My husband and I had sat in that same theater through the band, chorus and theater productions of our three daughters seemingly hundreds of times through the years. On this last event, I had come by myself. As the crowd filed out of the theater, I just sat in the chair and felt tears well up in my eyes. The Drama teacher and her troupe of performers were packing up the last prop in the darkened room when I finally stood up and – much to my own surprise – loudly questioned to the empty theater, “What’s a helicopter mom supposed to do NOW!?”

It was a very sincere question, one that I would wrangle with for the next few years as the kids left the ‘nest’ one by one to pursue their own lives. Just as they should.

Being a Mom is a full identity, right? RIGHT!?

Except that it really isn’t and never should have been in total. When God created us and poured the emotions and and love into us, I’m not sure anymore that he expected us to pour every drop of it back out without leaving anything for our own spirits. I don’t think ‘wife’ and ‘mom’ is our only identity, even those roles are a huge part of who we are.

It’s not that we didn’t want our kids to grow up. Oh how we did! During the teen years especially, God prepares you to let them go by allowing the obnoxiousness and rebellious quotient to replicate exponentially in your child. Yes, they ‘grow up so fast’ but NOT FAST ENOUGH when they are full of attitude and angst. But what they say about kids ‘coming back around’ on the other side of the teen years is SO true, I am happy to report.

I am not asking them to move back in. PLEASE LET ME BE CLEAR ABOUT THAT.

I am just asking God to re-purpose me as a 47-year old woman whose kids have become awesome and independent young women.

Mother Identity Crisis is also known in more polite circles as “Empty Nest Syndrome.” The subject doesn’t get a lot of play in the media because it isn’t a hot topic. It pertains to middle-aged women and the grunt work they did with hearts a-burst with love who have lost their some of their purpose as the children grow up and need them less.

It isn’t a subject that graces magazine covers. It’s not the subject of Lifetime Channel movies.

It isn’t ‘sexy.’

But it needs to be addressed because the women who make up this demographic are a huge part of society and are walking around like shells as they try to explore who they really ARE now. All we really hear about as we near our fifties is the message that we are past our prime, and too many of us believe that.

I flatly refuse to be past my ‘prime.’

I had many ‘jobs’ when my kids were growing up, but never a ‘career,’ and that was purposeful. I wanted to pour all of my emotional energies into my kids and did so as I do every other thing – obsessively. Who needs hobbies when your whole life is about making sure these offspring have dance lessons to chauffeur and field trips to chaperone? Who has time for exploring interests when the 2nd Grade classroom needs a “Room Mother” (now THERE’S a calling for you!)

I just kind of lost myself in fray, and it seemed a noble thing to do at the time.

It WAS the noble thing to do at the time. Nothing makes one feel successful like cutting peanut butter sandwiches with heart cookie-cutters and packing a lunchbox with a note that says “Your book report will go great! I love you!” I’m not being snarky…things like that did indeed make me feel successful. Making my kids happy was tantamount.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

But mothers of youngsters take note – you will need to remember who you are at your own core one day. Take that pottery class. Pursue that degree, if you wish. Read books that aren’t only about Very Hungry Caterpillars and the adventures of Junie B. Jones. Listen to music not sung exclusively by puppets and cartoon characters.

Super importantly, go on date night with your husband. Your relationship with him needs to stay fresh for the day your children take up residence in their own lives.

A dear friend of mine has four children, all of whom are peering over the edge of the nest – the nice, fluffy, safe nest their mother has feathered all of their lives.

“So here we are,” she says. “And my life is still revolving around planning my celebrations around the fleeting loyalties of my offspring.”

She and I often compare notes about MIC and the challenges of this new season. Mainly, figuring out who God created us to be outside of the “mom” role.

“God is doing a new thing in my life. GOD IS DOING A NEW THING,” She recently mused. “Maybe I need to stop doing the old things and expecting them to fit in my new life?”

I think she is on to something there. Our kids still need us, but in brand new ways. They need us to do the new things, and  to trust in who they grew up to be.

But Lord Jesus, help us with ALL OF THESE FEELS!

Letting go is HARD.

Lord, help me to consider things not from the perspective of an ‘Empty Nester’  (with the emphasis on loss and hollow space) to being FULL and purposeful.

I’m not sure what that fullness looks like yet, to be honest.

But I know that I want to set a precedent for my grown daughters to know what a fulfilled woman in mid-life can be, just in case they have daughters of their own to pour into, who will – as it should be – leave their own nests one day.

I know that the Lord wants abundant life for us in this season. He wants His daughter to know her own interests and ministries outside those of her children. He wants us to be able to enjoy our marriages, which were so often put on the back burner in the interest of feathering those nests.

Re-purpose me, God. My kids are grown but you are nowhere near done with using and blessing my life. Take the front row seat in my life.

In each new season, re-purpose me.

The Princess and the Plea: a Christ-follower explores true identity

 

Photo credit: Jana Greene
Photo credit: Jana Greene

I’ve been learning a lot about my identity in Christ lately. Through a series of events and sermons, experiences and words of knowledge – it has been presented to me that I am not, in fact, a sinner saved by grace, but a most-beloved daughter of Abba whose transgressions were nailed to the cross of my savior over 2,000 years ago.

It would behoove my spirit to believe that, to know it 100 percent. But I am really struggling with it. It took a long time for me – my sin-list dragging behind me everywhere I go like coattails – to accept that I am a sinner and a saint, both. …that there was any “saint” in me to be had.

I am, after all, a paradox. Like the Apostle Paul, I find myself doing what I do not want to, and not doing what I should. But I love Jesus with all my heart; it’s just I’m actually not Jesus; you would never in a million years mistake him for me.

My pastor just happens to be a man I respect very much – a man whose heart beats for God. He knocks around in the supernatural as if God had just poured it into his spirit to overflowing. That might be because God did – in fact – pour it into him. He is different; he is chosen – and humble and grateful. I want that supernatural walk, but my struggle with my identity in Christ is putting a damper on the manifestation of my faith.

I can believe – for 30 minutes in church – that I am an absolute princess, daughter of the most-high God; and as such, God sees me only through the filter of his son when he looks at me. He doesn’t see sin. God is – spiritually speaking – illiterate to my self-professed labeling. “Sinner,” “Alcoholic,” “Worrier,” “Selfish,” “Short-tempered,” “Moody,” “Judgmental.” All of these things about me are true, really. The truth is that I’d rather be all of these things, than to be “self righteous.”

For those 30 minutes in church, I will know that I am royalty – God’s own child – but I also know that – on my drive home from service that very day – I will curse at least a dozen other drivers in the ten minute drive home (under my breath if I’m really feeling holy.) I will have negative thoughts almost immediately, and ask Jesus to help me rein them in, and he will – but I will hesitate to let them go because I feel justified in thinking them. Because I have three young adult daughters (who sometimes make abysmal choices – where do they get that?)  I will worry about each of them, one at a time. Maybe I have had a lustful thought thrown in to the mix for some random reason, or entertained thoughts of how someone has wronged me, or beat myself up for a diet failure, or ….. Well, you get the picture. By the time I get home from church, I feel like a “Princess of God Gone Wild”  at the very least; certainly like a sinner, not so much like a saint. Like one of those princesses who cannot quite get the hang of it, or worse…makes the royal family look bad…brought shame upon the throne –  Apox opon ye!  That kind of thing. (My paparazzi of self-condemnation follows me everywhere, and catches every slip for the world to see…)

But what of the old adage I learned in recovery, “Feelings are not facts?” Am I living in regal-ity, or legality?

Hmmm.

What if the blood of Christ were powerful enough not only to save a wretch like me when I first believed, but cover all of the transgressions I am yet to be guilty of? What if I was royalty enough to cut off the coattails, leave the labels behind, and – and a daughter of the Most High God – accepted the supernatural to overflowing?

While these things sink into my spirit, and begin the (often long, treacherous) journey to my brain, I ask God to help me struggle less and trust more. And wear this crown that sits on my head ever-so-wonkily just now. And ask for him to see me through the filter of his son as I learn to be righteous in Him, and not in self. I want to knock around in the supernatural, overflowing with the same love and grace for others that has been given me.

Help me understand my birthright, God. And until I understand, hold the paparazzi at bay, in the name of your son, Jesus.

Amen.

Write, Wrong or Indifferent – Part 1

Write, Wrong or Indifferent

Joining a Writer’s Guild

Part 1

By:  Jana Greene

Joining a local writer’s guild almost kept me from writing.  I say “almost” because I have since come to love it and look forward to the monthly meetings.  It was because of fear – yeah, that old chestnut – that I nearly didn’t participate at all.

From the time I could hold a crayon, I wrote about things.  I can remember forming “J”s first, and from there, looping and dotting kindergarten hieroglyphics to tell my story.  Because even then, I was a historian of sorts, not a fiction writer.  I felt the need to journal everything I experienced and observed, wanting to chronicle my own life story.  My name is Jana, and I am six was my first story.  And later, I wrote about the things that happened to me as a child – some of them traumatic – that I could not speak about aloud. Many times, in middle and high schools, I wrote angst-laden pieces about my social awkwardness, with titles like:  I don’t fit in anywhere .

What a strange little girl I was.  But writing things down helped me deal with things, big and small, that I couldn’t reconcile in my spirit any other way.

At forty-three years of age, I am still a strange bird.  If I am going to tell my story, I’d better start doing it now.  I am becoming annoyingly forgetful, and I don’t want to erroneously tell someone else’s story by mistake.  One of my dearest friends, a woman named Melissa, also finds comfort in the writing, and has her own story to tell.  We are forever vowing to write a book together about overcoming struggles and such, but we can’t seem to lasso one issue onto the page before another is bucking and rearing back, thus our tales never seem to get written.  This is why we joined a writer’s guild, a Christian writer’s guild.

I missed the first monthly meeting , which was kind of an orientation.  I was sick that day.  But the following afternoon, Melissa left a breathless voicemail on my phone about her experience.

“Jana!” She began.  “Guess what?  I know what we are supposed to DO with our lives!  Call me!”

I could not dial her number fast enough.  Our very purpose, made clear!  (Of course I would be absent on the day my life’s purpose was designated!)  Her line rang only twice.  When she picked it up, I could feel her warm energy burning through the line.

“Write,” she said, instead of ‘hello’.  “You and I, we are supposed to write!”  With her sweet, Georgian accent, she launched into a synopsis of her time at the meeting.  There were other women, she said, just like us, who dream to translate a tiny little fraction of what God whispers into our lives onto the page.

But of course!  We needed support!  Support from a group was the missing ingredient; it might even override the fear….the fear that still says that I don’t fit in anywhere.

That evening, I could hardly wait to write a piece for the next month’s meeting.  But what to write?  Whisper to me, Lord.  Please whisper.

                Nothing.  Like the proverbial author who sits down to his typewriter and taps out the word “The”.  And that’s all.

Oh NO!

I strained for ideas, for eloquence.  I longed to write as Helen Steiner Rice, the prolific Christian poet whose very prose rivals those of the Psalms.  I wanted to present something that would glorify God and really showcase my writing style, except that those two things are sometimes mutually inclusive.

Stalling, I logged onto the guild website and paid my dues (literally, with MasterCard).  No turning back now!  Surfing through the site, I noticed that one of the membership perks was a free critique.

Critique.  That sounded a lot like critic, the root word of criticism, which I am not a huge fan of, constructive or otherwise.  Immediately my concern went from channeling Helen Steiner Rice in order to glorify the Almighty, to how I would soothe my own bruised ego when the bruising commenced.  Ashamedly, I was licking my wounds before the whip was anywhere near.

It is those self-serving thoughts that result in articles titled “The”, wherein the main character – me – does nothing.  Writes nothing.  Glorifies no-one.

God, what do you want me to say?

And with that prayer, a pseudo-crisis appeared in my life just in time to become the subject of an actual story.  The issue was that my eldest daughter decided to make good on a lifetime threat to get a tattoo, and I was upset about it (hey, don’t judge me for judging her!) so I wrote about the experience from a mother’s point of view.  As usual, a serious bout of writer’s block was averted by the antics of one of my children (thanks, girls)!  The piece I wrote was raw and real, and more importantly, helped me heal from an event I couldn’t work through my mind and spirit any other way.  It was twice as long as the guild guidelines allowed for, and did not follow proper grammatical rules.  Also, it contained the word “damn”.  It was a rather rough “rough draft”.

I removed the naughty word, but left the rest alone.  With no idea what to expect (or who my fellow guilders were), Melissa and I agreed to meet at the front door of the church that hosted the meetings.  Still, I wondered…..what if I don’t fit in?

I drove there with my hands on the wheel at “9’o clock” and “3 o’clock”, just like they teach you in Driver’s Ed.  My hands were shaking that badly.