Practice – Practice – Practice

IMG_1063I started following along with Stepahnie Ackerman’s Documented Faith in late June.  I love the concept!  I know I’ve shared I for before, but here’s my take: it’s an effort to focus on God’s Word in manageable, bite-sized chunks…one word each month accompanied by weekly scripture relating to that word.  Simple, manageable, memorable.

So I’ve been practicing… practicing by writing consistently… something I haven’t been successful with in the past.  And writing in bite-size pieces versus the entire buffet of my life.  When I committed to #write31days, something I wasn’t aware of was that I limited myself to two handwritten pages per day…bite-sized pieces…manageable vulnerability.  Usually I make things more complicated, but it seems this decision is actually turning out well!

My focus is on God and how He is consistently working in my life, through me…to reveal Himself to me.  When I slow down to take one step at a time, the mountain isn’t so big, the task at hand isn’t so overwhelming and Matthew 6:32-34 takes on a deeper meaning.

32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Shattered

So often when I visualize the impact of witnessing, I see shattered glass. I find myself mesmerized by the beauty and intricacy of the design….how one act can have such a far-reaching impact.

 

Picture with me:

  • Zoom in – our perfect model is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins…His crucifixion, burial and resurrection is at the center; you can literally see the impact of those closest to Him!
  • Zoom out – not only can you can see impact from the initial act of sacrifice, look at how every one and every thing is connected…even the furthest shard (person) is connected to another shard (person) and yet still connected to the center (Christ)! I envision the bursts as willing vessels allowing God to work thru them to reach others…can you just imagine Paul?????

Now…picture your life….what kind of glass does it represent? Regular run of the mill glass that shatters with minimal pressure or heavy duty safety glass?  With Christ, we have security.  Although broken, we are held steady at the center…the Holy Spirit in us…with the ability to work thru us to reach others. The thing is, for God to work thru us, we have to act! Does it have to be some grand gesture? Absolutely not.  Every little act of faith exercised has a far reaching impact when used by the Holy Spirit.

What holds you back from exercising faith?  We all have struggles of one sort or another.  Me? I’ve often struggled with validation – acceptance – whatever you want to call it….doubt creeps in….ususally when I’m trying really hard to carry out God’s call on my life to share a journey of faith through writing.  My head knows Truth, but pieces of my heart faulter and stumble.  In retrospect it’s also clear to see that’s when I’m relying on my own strength – see how easily the glass can shatter without Christ as the center?! Thankfully God is so merciful to provide encouragement when confidence wanes by sharing a glimpse of how authentic obedience can impact another life.  The thing is, we rarely get to see how God uses our acts of obedience.  What to do? Choose to rest in His Word for guidance, assurance and affirmation

5 I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor come from God alone.  – Psalm 62:5-7

What about God’s call on your life? The big and small – how do you choose to respond?

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Pick up Your Cross

Courtesy posting by my boomerang gal and all-time AWESOME sister – I couldn’t have written it better!

IMG_0224Today as I sit drinking my coffee and reflecting today is Good Friday and what that means to me as a Christian, I see the crosses which decorate a wall in our living room. I wonder what a non-Christian thinks when they see those crosses and then I thought about what it should mean to me. It should be a reminder as a Christian that I die daily to myself (my selfish thoughts and wants) to follow a risen Savior who died for my sins. And truthfully, I fail….again and again. I chastise myself, but I press on.

For I’m encouraged to pick up His cross again because I serve a risen Christ who is loving and forgiving. I am an imperfect person following a perfect loving Christ striving to be more like Him.

Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins!

 

It’s all about the Pace…

Lookie what I found!!! A post I started almost SEVEN months ago!

As I’ve been focused on Embracing a New Norm and now reading back over the draft, I’m not sure what I thought needed to change…maybe it was me…maybe I wasn’t ready (or willing) to pace myself and enjoy this new norm!

There’s a popular song out…not sure of the exact name or the artist, but the chorus goes something like, “it’s all about the bass, ’bout the bass…” – while I may be naïve to the meaning of the lyrics, they are catchy and the phrasing stuck with me.

image found on Google - since I'm not sure who owns image I kept the link!

image found on Google – since I’m not sure who owns image I kept the link!

 Contrary to my plan, the first round of chemo (4 2-week cycles) from late October to early December knocked me for a loop and landed me in the hospital, so the second round was postponed to allow my system time to recover. Pride and lack of patience tends to get the best of me far too often! I wanted to drive myself places… I wanted to go grocery shopping by myself… I wanted to change the linens myself!  The list of wants were stacked high and perceived accomplishments were non-existent. The problem? Unrealistic expectations.

And like a boomerang, the words I’d spoken a gazillion times to my daughter and others were being echoed back to me from every direction: pace yourself.  

 I was so focused on what I wanted…when I wanted it…sound familiar?

The thing is…our spiritual journeys aren’t so different…at least that’s been my experience.  Again pride and a lack of patience gets the best of me…being patient with God’s timing…not just knowing His timing is perfect, but believing God knows what He’s doing and not allowing doubt and fear to creep in while I’m waiting… oh, and then there’s the dilemma  of not getting so caught up in the doing that pride rears its ugly head and the once clear sight of true motives get muddled.  So what does pace have to do with it? Everything.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Finding balance through consistency…a spiritual pace where I’m not running so far ahead focused on my plans and goals – and not frozen in fear to the point I do nothing at all. You see, both tend to have the same result: God gets squeezed out of the equation. 

 So exactly how do I do that? Well, for me it starts with simple obedience…start by ending my day with God.  Ideally, I’d do that through prayer and/or journaling….but since I’m really getting back to basics, I’ve made it even simpler! I go to bed with a pocket cross – I absolutely adore this cross! It’s small and smooth and comforting…God naturally comes to mind and my spirit is soothed in a way that’s difficult for me to explain.  Once I settle down (that still thing again!), I’m drawn to pray, read devotionals, and jot thoughts.  Since I’m still dealing with a good bit of bone pain, I usually awake during the night – the cross is still in my hand…I chat with God a bit and off to sleep I go.  When I wake up in the morning, the cross is still in my hand! As I rub my fingertips across the smooth surface, I can’t help but think of Christ on the cross…dying for me…encouraging me to begin my day with prayers of thanksgiving.

For me, it’s a pocket cross….for you, it may be something totally different.  I encourage you to find something tangible that draws you into a quiet place to enjoy God’s presence – perhaps scripture cards by your bed, going to sleep & waking to instrumental Christian/gospel music – whatever works for you…just keep it simple….and remember….it’s all about the pace.

Lookin’ for Love

Interesting…I completely forgot I’d written this post (APR’14) and never published…

Talk about an oldie but a goodie!  The song was made popular with the hit movie Urban Cowboy and the lyrics ring true on more than an emotional level – with this part of my journey – inviting you Behind the Mask, looking for love is at the crux of my barriers – physical, emotional, and spiritual.

heartsI was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of

While the song may be speaking of finding that special someone, the pattern I seem to repeat in different ways is seeking to fill a void reserved for God alone. Quizzed, intellect dictates my response.  Carefully observed, my beliefs – rather unbeliefs shout an opposing view far louder than any intellectual response.  My guess is quite a few folks can readily identify with this conundrum.

A couple of years ago, God revealed a pattern of me seeking affirmation from a potential life partner – talk about a painful realization! While the root cause was obvious and I truly desired a change – time revealed the truth: A: I didn’t permanently give it to God.  B: I’m powerless to change myself.  Of course, now that I’ve journeyed through some pretty rough pitfalls, it’s easier to recognize certain behaviors – in the moment though? I didn’t have  a clue – I was too busy trying to drive the direction of my life!  You see, masks have a tendency to limit the view – a broader perspective – and as a result, I often missed diligently looking to God for the answers.

Oh how easily & seamlessly I push God out of the driver’s seat! The places we look for human love to fill what only God can…not just in a life partner, but in a job, friendships…you name it! I wonder if I wrote this last year just after I realized I’d been searching to fill that void with my job…affirmation…yes…circling again and again around worthiness.

Is my mask more transparent today compared to this time last year? Definitely.  Is there still work to be done? Absolutely. God so gentle – so merciful…the closer He draws us to Him (light) we always see much clearer than before.

Paying it Forward – the Liebster Blog Award Nomination

liebsterHow cool is this! I received a notification on my last post from another blogger at Life as I interpret it about this thing called the Liebster Award and they felt led to nominate my blog (along with others) in connection with their interest in Cancer.

So… Mr Google and I were curious- hoax? or a genuine avenue to connect bloggers with like interests.  I vote for the latter.

My take on the Liebster Award? It’s sort of like a Pay it Forward for the blogging community to encourage connections sprinkled with a condensed insight to what each blogger is about on a particular subject of interest…sounds pretty cool to me!  If you’d like to learn more, just ask Mr Google

Oh yeah….and apparently there are the rules, which I sorta followed – not exactly sure how many followers each blogger has and since I ask questions with a bit of meat on them, I stopped at 5.  The most exciting part? I seized the opportunity to explore and expand blog readings!

Rules:

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers and link them.
4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

—————————————————————————————————–

For this award, I have chosen to nominate the following bloggers, who share their faith openly and authentically…as a gal on the journey of faith, I enjoy reading how mightily God works in and through the lives of willing vessels.

I nominate the following bloggers/websites – I pray they are each open to the idea of a nomination and willing to share their thoughts.

Nominees:

  1. New Life
  2. The Devotion Cafe’
  3. A Way With Words
  4. Susan Irene Fox
  5. Full of Roses Inspirationals
  6. caterpillardays
  7. Where Grace Abounds
  8. faith, “sigh”, and diy
  9. The Mark
  10. Headed for Home
  11. stones from the quarry

Questions to nominees:

  1. What prompted you to start writing/blogging/journaling?
  2. Tell me about an influential person in your journey of faith.
  3. What is one (or more!) example of how God has shown His faithfulness to you?
  4. Tell me how a prophet in the Old Testament dramatically impacted your relationship with God.
  5. What is your take on the decline of religious freedom in the US?

 

Answers to questions by Life as I interpret it  are:

1. How do you feel about connecting to others going through cancer in the social media?  I think it’s an excellent way to encourage/minister to others.

2. Do you think connecting to other cancer patients would be useful in supporting you and them while going through the disease? Yes.  Now that I’m past the initial numb phase.

3. What are the words, sentences, or questions you think are appropriate to hear from others when they first learn one has cancer? Gosh…that’s tough! Honestly, I think listening is key – the one thing I’d say is definitely is not a great comment?  “If there’s anything I can do, let me know” – I realize it comes from a good place (I’ve said the same thing countless times!), but RARELY will the individual ask for help.

4. Do you have care-givers? or Are you a care-giver? My two primary go-to gals are my daughter and my oldest sister – they are AWESOME!  I’ve been a care-giver in the past so it’s easier to be aware of compassion fatigue in those providing care! 

5. What kind of support would you like from cancer-related organizations and the government? It really does take a village in these situations, so family – friends – neighbors – churches, etc. is critical.

6. Do you think you sharing your experiences in the social media help others going through similar experiences?  It’s quite possible – it’s easy to feel alone with cancer and any type of life altering diagnosis can be overwhelming.

7. What is your favourite book? TV show?  Each book I read is my current favorite – right now? Kyle Idelman’s “Not a Fan” is rocking my world!

8. What is your favourite season?  Fall in East Texas – humidity is low, fires are burning, and the air is crisp!

9. What is your favourite breakfast?  My indulgent breakfast (once every few years) is coffee & pumpkin cheesecake – yum!

10. Do you have artistic creations, such as poems, stories, drawings, paintings, and hand-crafting? I like to doodle Scripture and I LOVE taking photos of trees!

11. Is there something you would like to share about your experience with cancer?  Yes! It’s deepened my relationship with God – He is the answer to cancer – He is my Healer!

Laying it Down

He is the AnswerPraying I can focus the thoughts in my head (running at a ridiculous pace!) to make sense on cyber-paper… please be patient!  So that the real post will make sense, I’ll backfill a bit from the post last month where I put my big girl panties on and shared a medical diagnosis:

Stage IV NeuroEndocrine Breast Cancer

with widespread osseous metastasis…

In other words cancer run amok in the bones.  I haven’t spoken with others – perhaps it’s the same for everyone when they’re first diagnosed…life seems to move at a warp speed whirling around doctors, tests, more tests, medicines, more medicines…chemo and/or radiation. The past few months have been painful, emotional, overwhelming, and odd as it may sound…wonderful! Wonderful to rely on God’s faithfulness, and more wonderful in retrospect to see God consistently in action for His precious children – whether they act like defiant two-year olds… or not!

FAST FORWARD:

March 2015:  This is the meat of this post – sorry for the scenic route, folks!  My family started a bible-study a few weeks ago based on Not a Fan by Kyle Idelman.  I won’t bore you with details of the pitiful rationalization process, but needless to say I’m still on week one of the journaling process… now, if you noticed a trend…yes, hesitancy to write, you are absolutely correct.  Like the quiet riot tendencies I exhibit on a far too frequent basis, I was still resisting God by not completing the journal assignments for the study – after all, the journal is *optional* – sure…every other writer out there knows there’s nothing optional when it comes to the way God speaks to a writer’s spirit…the defiant two-year old…hiding…thinking…”if I don’t write, I’m not vulnerable…if I’m not vulnerable, that rug doesn’t need to be pulled back and swept…right…let me know how that works for you…

It’s not even as if I put my study material out of sight…there are the books…along with my journal, right out in the open…I LOOK AT THEM EVERY DAY! It’s not as if I don’t “have time” – and that’s where I painted myself into a corner… I picked up the book yesterday and guess where the discussion started?

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  – Rev 3:14-16

The verse was easy enough to gloss over UNTIL I read the author’s words: “If you are to be hot, then you must be sufficiently heated.  Every stimulus you allow in your life will heat or cool your love for Jesus.” which were followed by a series of exercises to examine a typical day.  Keep in mind:

  • I’m not working,
  • I’m off chemo right now (recovering from the first two months),
  • Due to physical restrictions, I’m not constantly on the go or spending time on house projects

Looking at my typical day, I was embarrassed and convicted.  The amount of time I dedicated to God dwindled at an astronomical rate.  I praise Him daily and profess His Mighty Goodness and pulling back all at the same time.  But why????? Hello. Circle the mountain again Celeta.  The incredibly painful lesson I haven’t revisited for almost a year came blasting into clarity: I’m still struggling with performance based worthiness.  As I looked over the pages, I kept thinking, “It’s so much easier being a giver and now I’m just a taker” – why yes, I was feeling sorry for myself…but the thoughts are deeply rooted and apparently I didn’t let the Gardner of my Soul clear out all the weeds in my heart – translation? Unbelief.

Ugh…my head knows His truths – the circuitry to my heart is still a little faulty…

And guess what?  That’s okay! God is faithful and persistent because He loves each and every one of us and will consistently meet us EXACTLY where we are – two year old attitudes and all.  We each have a choice EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of EVERY SINGLE DAY: will you choose Him? God will teach me whatever I’m willing to learn from Him.

Lay it at the CrossAt some point, most believers have experienced the opportunity to physically lay cares at the foot of a cross – for me, it was a very powerful experience – so powerful, my daughter made me something very special – a shadow box where I can write and leave cares at Jesus’ feet.  Now, take a moment and look closely at the box…granted, this is the original  photo, but it’s still looks pretty darn empty today – speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I look at the cross every single day and yet I hold onto so many cares troubling my heart.  A pattern of unbelief I didn’t recognize before.  Yesterday I pulled out the ONE item I wrote and placed at the foot of the cross – it was a prayer to God over my work situation last year – in the weeks that followed, I left my corporate job and God blessed my obedience and trust in Him more than ten-fold.  You see for me, I only know I’ve really laid it down (and left it there) when I experience perfect peace in the days and months (or years) following.

Sisters and brothers, God is waiting patiently to show up and show off in our lives!  The lesson I’m still learning? Give your cares to Him freely and let Him show off!  Lean into Him and HOLD ON! Claim His strength, His favor, His healing, His provision – even when we can’t see the way…HE IS THE WAY!

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