Kisses To The Holy Spirit

I work for a nonprofit that provides helpers for adults with developmental disabilities. I cannot share any personal details of the ladies I work with, but something happened yesterday that really blessed me.

Out of the three ladies that I work with, I work with one the most – the other two are in day programs during the majority of my weekly shifts. Let’s call the woman that I work with the most Mary.

Mary has had a very hard life. Despite the difficulties she has faced, she loves God with all of her heart. She reads her Bible every day, and when she wants to talk to God, she talks out loud.

There are times during my shift that it is my job to spend time with her. Mostly we watch Gunsmoke together on TV Land, but we also put a Gaither playlist together on my Spotify account because that is the kind of music she loves. (I’m not crazy about country gospel, but I’m crazy about Mary, so it’s well worth the sacrifice.)

The other day I had had a particularly good devotional time, and I felt prompted to share some of the Scriptures I read with Mary. After reading each one, we talked about what it meant, and I could tell that Mary was really enjoying it. At one point we talked about the Holy Spirit (even though the Holy Spirit was not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures I was reading to her). Mary told me that she is so grateful for the Holy Spirit because He is always with her and keeps her company. As I continued to read from the Bible, Mary began to kiss the air. She had a look of such joy on her face as she did so. I asked her if she was kissing the Holy Spirit and she said yes. She said that no one can see Him but He never leaves her alone.

Today we had other things that needed done that prevented us from reading the Bible together, but multiple times I observed her giving kisses to the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to have a child-like faith. This woman is strong, wise, and smart despite the struggles of her past, and in spite of all these things – good and bad – she loves God and trusts in Him like a child trusts. Unwavering faith. She has told me before that there is a reason that God has allowed her to go through what she has. She doesn’t know what the reason is, but that doesn’t matter to her. All that matters is that she trusts God.

God, give me a faith like Mary’s.

When It Comes To Loss

He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”

Deuteronomy 32:10 ESV

I have a bonsai that I treasure. I started it from a seed, and although that was probably a year ago, it is still not very big. This bonsai is called a desert rose, and someday will have beautiful blooms when it is in season. Thus far, it has only grown leaves, but they are shiny and smooth, and very pleasant to the eye. Over the course of the last several months, it has dropped its leaves many times. At times I was fearful that I would lose this plant that is so special to me, but with the right care, I was able to bring it back to full health each time. After this happened many times, I found out that desert rose bonsais hibernate when the weather is bad – dropping their leaves in order to survive what would otherwise destroy them. But as soon as conditions became conducive again, it would put out more leaves.

Over the course of the last several months, I have experienced a lot of loss myself. At first it was devastating, reaching a point where a broken fan made me weep. It was when we were moving out of the shelter into our own apartment. We had very few belongings while living in the shelter, but I had purchased the fan for the room we shared because we lived above the kitchen, and it got very hot in our room once winter began and the building’s heaters were on full force. The night we left the shelter for the last time, I had the fan and a few other belongings stacked on a small cart and was pushing it out to my car. The fan was not balanced well enough and tumbled to the ground. When I realized that it was well and truly broken, I felt all of the loss of the three months before slam into me like a wave in a turbulent ocean. I put the few belongings from the cart in to the back of my car and then I sat down in the front seat and wept. To be honest, it was a full blown panic attack. Because it wasn’t really the fan I was weeping over. It was the loss of the life that I knew, the loss of the innocence I had maintained in my naivety of how the world works, the loss of nearly sixteen years of my life. It was a reminder that no matter how positive I tried to keep my attitude, no matter how determined I was to overcome every obstacle, no matter how hard I worked to make life as normal as possible, I was not in control of any of it. But being broken like that made so many things easier from that point on. Once I finally realized it was all out of my control, I was able to surrender and truly begin to trust in God and what He was making out of my life. I began to see my life as the beginnings of a stained glass window – in order to become a beautiful piece of art for His light to shine through, my life first had to be broken.

The process of breaking hurts. It is a stabbing, stinging, shattering thing that you are surprised to discover you’ve survived when you look back on it. And many times we try to find a way to patch ourselves up – to get ourselves back to “normal”. But God is not calling us to be normal. Normal doesn’t change the world.

The Scripture at the beginning of the post is beautiful to me. It was a promise God made to the Israelites – His chosen people – after they had left Egypt, but before they made it to the Promised Land. He promised His people that He would love them and take care of them, even though He knew they would behave like spoiled, demanding children. There were consequences for their bad decisions, and many even died as the result of their sins, but God was always faithful to them. He was always ready and waiting to bless them once they returned to Him. He was there for them when their enemies threatened and attacked, and He fed them when there was no food to be found. He guided their every step and protected them from enemies and elements.

“He found him…in the howling waste of the wilderness….”

I feel this phrase in the depths of my soul. I have been in the midst of the howling waste. I have been buffeted by winds and waves and lashed by flying debris. And every time, I felt God’s strong hands surrounding me, lifting me up. Not out. Up. He didn’t rescue me from every situation, but He held me steady as I made my way through.

Almost everything I have lost, He has replaced. And the things He has not yet replaced, I believe that He eventually will. I don’t have it all together, but I know He does, and I choose to trust in Him.

I visited a friend’s church this morning, and they sang a song that resonated within me. I had heard it before, but today, it was an anthem declared from every fiber of my being.

If you are facing loss, are in the midst of it, or are close with someone in either situation, please know that this is not the end. And even if it feels like God is far away, know that I have been in your shoes, and I can promise you from experience that God is right with you, He loves you, and He will continue to meet your needs. It may not look like what you expect, but it will be what is best for you in the long run. Like a great artist, God can see the finished product and knows what needs to happen in order for you to reach completion. If you don’t have enough faith right now, rest on mine until you can find yours again.

Planting Reality

Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.

Earl Nightingale

Many of us have heard the popular catchphrase “what you think about, you bring about.” It seems so trite to me – like a bossy older sibling talking down to you from their place of supposed superiority. Not that I know what that feels like from experience; I am the older sibling.

Regardless of my thoughts about the tone of the phrase, I find it to be valid in my life. If I believe it’s going to be a bad day, my brain will be constantly scanning for the negative. That said, I do not believe that it is true one hundred percent of the time. I can believe it’s going to be a good day and be proven wrong. This would be where a few radical people would step in and say that I could choose for it to be a good day anyway. I disagree.

I remember sitting in youth group one Wednesday night, listening to a guest speaker. She was beautiful, which made her message even more believable to an impressionable teenager like myself. She was sharing how after a certain point in her life (in which she had had some sort of Divine experience), she no longer had bad days. That she was able to continually choose that each day was a good day because Jesus was her best friend.

Whoa, wait a minute. I am about to say something that some of you might find controversial. But I politely request you continue reading with an open mind before you make a judgment. You might find that we do agree afterall.

Having Jesus as your best friend/Savior/Lord/Master, etc., does not make every day a good day.

Say what? It’s true. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt have a good day, everyday.” Nowhere does it proclaim that your glass must be half full (or half empty if it’s full of something nasty).

We are not called to be eternal optimists.

For some of you, this is probably hard to agree with. For others, the chains are loosening, and long-buried hope is struggling against the dark soil of your struggle.

But what about salvation? The promise of heaven? The end to our present suffering? Joy unspeakable?

I think the What Would Jesus Do? movement of the 90’s can help us figure this one out.

In John 11, Jesus received word that one of His dear friends (Lazarus) was dying. Scripture made it clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, very much. Despite this love, He chose to stay where He was for two more days, saying, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” After a few days, He told the disciples that it was time to go, that Lazarus was dead.

When they arrived, Jesus talked with Martha. Even though Lazarus had been dead four days, He told her that Lazarus would rise again. He then met with Mary, and was “deeply moved” at her weeping.

Let’s pause for just a second. Jesus knew from the beginning that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Okay, back to the story.

Jesus allowed his friends to lead Him to the tomb where Lazarus lay, and knowing He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead just moments later, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Read that again. “Jesus wept.”

He did not plaster a big smile on His face and act all cheery. There are two lessons in this: 1) Real friends grieve with their friends. They don’t pretend everything is peachy and tell their friends to “look on the bright side.” 2) It’s okay to weep, to be sad, to be angry. I won’t belabor this point because I wrote another post about this a while back.

As friends, we can usually see the bright side to someone else’s problem. As the person with the problem, sometimes we can see it too. Jesus didn’t just see the bright side, He was the bright side. But still He cried over the loss of His friend and the pain Lazarus’ friends and family members were experiencing.

So now that the pressure to be Positive Patty (no offense, Patty) all the time is invalid and unnecessary, what do we do with the whole thoughts become reality thing?

What are your dreams? What are you passionate about? What do you want to do that you are not sure you can do? (Realistically – even if we had the ability to fly, mythology makes it clear it’s probably a bad idea.)

We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. It’s been twenty years since you graduated from high school and you want to go back to school to pursue a degree in a field you are passionate about? You can do it. As Mr. Nightingale said above, “nourish with repetition and emotion.” Do things that promote that dream. Even if they are tiny things, like researching the differences between online and physical college classes. Find blogs, videos on YouTube, Pins on Pinterest that motivate you to step out of your comfort zone. And then keep building.

One other aspect I want to touch on quickly is when we do need to look on the bright side. That’s when we start to wallow. You know, the woe is me, my life is over, things will never get better pit that we all seem to get stuck in at least once or twice in our lives.

Feelings are healthy. Feelings are not choices. Our choices come in when we choose how we will respond to our feelings. And as I have written in the past, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and feeling our feelings. But we can’t just sit there forever.

Life is not easy. It’s time to stop pretending it is.

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Wesley, The Princess Bride (written by William Goldman)

Best Not To Assume

I had originally planned that my first blog post back would be about something else – and that post is still coming – but yesterday I learned an important lesson…again. It’s one I’ve learned many times before, but I seem to have difficulty getting it through my thick skull.

I had been corresponding by email with someone and I completely misunderstood something they said to me. Because of this misunderstanding, I thought the worst about them, even though the truth was the complete opposite of what I assumed.

The misunderstanding is not what I am ashamed of. Misunderstandings happen – especially when you are discussing something important with someone who is not physically before you. I am ashamed because I shared my assumptions with others as fact. This was wrong of me, and I have been sure to let everyone know that I was wrong. But it doesn’t change the fact that I should have known better.

I should have known better for three reasons – one, because this has happened to me before. Two, because I know that it is not a good idea to discuss important topics through a text-based conversation because so much gets misinterpreted when you can’t see facial expressions or hear tone of voice. Three, because this person has done so much good in my life.

I have difficulty trusting people these days. Many people that I thought I could trust have proven otherwise, and it makes me quick to believe that people are not who I thought they were. However, I still should not have jumped to conclusions. I should have given this person the benefit of the doubt – just like I want others to give me.

I am usually pretty good with words. I could write blog posts that make it look like I have it all together, that I make few mistakes, like I know exactly what I am doing all the time. But that is not real. First and foremost, I want to be real. Not throw my dirty laundry in your face and tell you to deal with it real. Not stand on my soapbox and tell you exactly what I think about everything real. Transparent real. As in, this is who I am, warts and all (I don’t actually have warts though). There is enough playing pretend on the internet already. You don’t need another feel good blog that actually makes you feel worse because you can’t figure out how to fix your life. I can’t fix my life either.

But I know who can. I know that every time I get the breath knocked out of me, there is someone there who helps me get back on my feet. This is the part that might sound cheesy, but it’s true. That someone is God. He keeps showing up in marvelous ways. He has yet to drop a few thousand dollars, a really nice house, or a brand new car in my lap, but He has met all my needs. And to be honest, at this stage in my life, I don’t want a really nice house or a brand new car. I have my hands contentedly full with the life that I currently have.

So if you get anything from this blog tonight (this morning?), get this. Don’t assume. Be real.

God bless!