Falling Down

Lately I have been struggling more than usual on this journey called life.  I have been finding myself filled with the bitterness of disappointments and wallowing in despair about life in general.  Last week all of that yuckiness built up to an all time high and situations at work allowed those feeling to implode leaving me an emotional and stressed out wreck.

Last night I attended the Winter Cluster meeting for the Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA for our region.  During the devotional time, Regional Pastor Ralph Reinford, talked about seasons and the different seasons of life.  He went on to say that no matter what the season is, it will always pass and change to another season.

That made me reflect on what I have been experiencing lately and it filled me with new hope.  I have been going through a season of frustrations, and it too shall pass.

At home we have been dealing with the changing moods and attitudes of our eleven year old son, Max.  I would voluntarily go back to the terrible twos!  In addition to the changing family dynamics, impatience with our finances has me chomping at the bit to FINALLY purchase our own home.  We are so very close!

On the church front there are the usual issues that come up while serving in a small congregation.  Changes are being made either too quickly or too slowly, depending upon who is asked.  Couple that with the polity issues that are happening around the larger Mennonite denomination as a whole, and there is a recipe for instant frustration.

Then there is the guilty frustrations that come when you have new dreams that you can’t quite seem to make happen.  I want to embrace this dream of writing and run with it.  Unfortunately reality doesn’t agree with my agenda at the moment.  It has been incredibly hard to find the time to write regular blog posts, let alone focus on other areas of this dream.  I would like to find the time to learn more about the craft of writing to improve my new-found skills.  There is also an impatience because I feel so strongly that God has been calling me to this but I don’t know what more I need to be doing with this gift.  Should I be focusing on magazine articles?  Is it a book that I need to write?  Fiction or Nonfiction?

However, it is the stresses I have been experiencing at work that were the final straws on the proverbial camel’s back that broke me last week and pushed my frustration level to the moon and back.  By Friday afternoon I felt utterly disrespected and disillusioned.  The sting of betrayal from a superior was more than I could bear and the blindness of the said supervisor that allowed the perceptions of another employee to take precedence over my proven track record of integrity and team work was like salt to the wounds.

I went home for the weekend belittled, indignant, and hurt.  Hard work should be the stick we are measured by, not whether we have a degree or what gender we are or what the opinions of other are, right?  Why is this happening?

Monday morning rolled around.  Leaving the safe shelter of my home to go to work was incredibly difficult.  The events of last week still plagued my troubled soul and The Dixie Chicks song Not Ready To Make Nice was playing in my head.  I quietly hid in my office for most of the day still seething internally.

I had heard a Proverbs 31 Ministry Moment on the radio on my way to work that said if I wanted God to fight my battles for me then I need to ask him to do that.  When I laid down my head to go to sleep Monday night that thought was bouncing around in my head.

I spent a very restless night and eventually woke up around 3:00 am.  By 4:30 am I gave up on trying to sleep and decided to get up and spend some extra time with God in his word.  I was looking for his comfort and some answers.

By the time I picked up my Bible I had concluded that I can’t change people’s perspectives about me.  I had also decided that if someone labels you as “difficult”  it is not because you actually are, but because they just don’t want to hear what you have to say.  And that is okay because it is their problem and not mine.  They must be insecure or stubborn, and they are afraid of what might happen if what you have to say brings about a change.

I was looking for a battle plan.  Something I could use to fix the injustices.  So I looked to a Psalm that has helped me in the past.  In Psalm 25, David is asking for guidance and deliverance from his enemies:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.  Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; Let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.  

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.  All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.  Who are they that fear the Lord?  He will teach them the way that they should choose.

They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land.  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.  My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.  O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. 

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles. (NRSV)

Revelation!  A flash of insight popped into my head — I am just as much to blame for difficulties I encounter and the frustrations that I am feeling if I don’t trust in the Lord with all my heart.  My reluctance to let go and let God lead me through my day has created an opening of bitterness that the Devil is waiting to use to thwart my purposes.  This impatience on my part is what is truly causing my unsettled mind!  I can’t help how others act  or change their perceptions and assumptions about me and I don’t need to.

 I need to humble myself and allow Yahweh to lead me.  He will guide me along the right paths and he will fight any battles for me.  I just need to ask him to be my defender.  Then I need to allow him to actually lead me gracefully from season to season.

Tuesday morning looked a lot different in comparison to Monday.  A humble Pixie left for work and I started off the day by reading again Psalm 25 out loud at my desk before beginning the days tasks.  For the first time in days I could feel a calm and peace descending over me.

Today I ran across Jeremiah 17:7-8 and I am convinced that it is Yahweh telling me that I am on the right path as long as I continue to trust EVERYTHING to him:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

These two pieces of scripture from the Old Testament are going to be my mantra, at work especially, going forward.  I have printed both passages out and they are now taped on my wall right next to my desk.  When I arrive each morning I will be using these passages as prayers to help me center myself for the day and to help set my tone and attitude.  It is also handy to have them right next to me as I work through the day.  I can quickly glance over and re-humble myself to continue on with strength, grace, and integrity.

Falling Down Picture 1Falling Down Picture 2

We all fall down.  It is up to us to choose to trust in the Lord and let him help us get back up, or to give a victory to the evil tempter by staying knocked down to dwell on things we can’t change and that are out of our control.  No matter what, though, the love and mercy of our heavenly Father is always available to us.  Whether we start over right now, tomorrow, or next month, it is never to late to get back up.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fall down either.  He will  always surround us with his love and help us pick up the pieces and start again. Every. Single. Time.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NRSV)

My Heart Is Hurting

The leaves have started to change.  It has not been a gradual change like when the trees slowly exchange their leaves from lush green foliage to red, orange, and golden Autumn splendor, but a sudden depressing event.  Indeed it is as if the leaves were surprised to find that September has almost ended and fall has officially begun and they grabbed the first things found in their closets, which ended up being  in drab, brown earth tones.  Perhaps that is why the past couple of days have made me reflect on what has been and what is happening in the now, without any glorious epiphanies, only an ache and even possibly a loneliness that is mourning the quickly passing days as another year is quickly flashing by.

My heart is hurting,  missing those who have gone on to glory ahead of me.  I am remembering them all, their quirks and their strengths, and all of the wonderful times spent with them.  Some helped me become the pixie I am today, patiently guiding me with their wisdom.  Others were school friends who left this earthly life too soon.  Still another was a much-loved brother.   Robbed of vitality and made weak and frail in this life by a ravaging disease, he was one of the strongest, and most courageous people I have ever known.  He graced us with his faith.  He brought us joy with his devilish sense of mischief and humor that brought twinkles to his eyes.  We will all be together again someday in the heavenly realms, and my life has been made the better just for having known them.  So until we meet again I will treasure the storehouse of memories they have left with me.

My heart is hurting for Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American who has been in an Iranian prison for two years because he refuses to renounce his Christian faith.  I can not even begin to comprehend the tortures he has endured.  Nor can I fathom the anguish his wife has been and is continuing to go through not knowing if she will ever see her beloved again.  I think of their two precious children who are being denied their father and grieve with him as he misses all of the daily moments of life with his family.   I am also thinking of all of the Christians around the world who are also being persecuted for their faith and just pray for them, the pain and suffering, the loss of innocent people, the utter abominations their children are witnessing that are stealing the joys of childhood from them.  I pray that these people all feel the compassionate, comforting, and loving hands of our God in the midst of all of the suffering and violence.  We know that God will always give us joy and peace in our hearts if we ask for it, but that doesn’t mean that on this Earth we won’t encounter unspeakable troubles and horrors.  Even in the midst of all of these atrocities God is present and he will help these people to overcome if that is their path, or to endure as the trials go on around them.  He will be with them, just like He is with all of us until our work is done.

My heart is hurting for the friends that have come into my life and have since moved on.  I am very grateful to have known all of these fantastic, talented, and lovely people and wish them all the best and that God will continue to shower them with blessings as they continue on their paths in life, even though their paths have now branched off from mine.  Some keep in touch, others do not, but either way they are all still in my prayers.  I am a firm believer in the “A Reason, A Season, and a Lifetime” philosophy which comes from a poem written by an unknown author.  There are a couple of different versions of it floating around out their but all basically say the same thing.  Some people come to us for a season and then move on.  Others come to us for a reason.  Either we are supposed to help them in some way, or they are here to help us with something, through something, etc, or possibly both, and then they too move on.  A few we are blessed with for a lifetime, they go with us through our entire life’s journey.  We never know if a new friend is here for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, but we can enjoy whatever time we do have together.  You never know when you may bump into one of these souls again.  Reuniting with old friends are joyous occasions, and make you appreciate each other that much more in my opinion.

Even though I have been feeling pensive, and a little sad, I realize that these times of sorrow and darkness are all part of living in a broken world.  The second musical ever written by Rodgers and Hammerstein was called Carousel.  It features a song called “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a poignant song of perseverance through all things:

  • When you walk through a storm
    Keep your chin up high
    And don’t be afraid of the dark.
    At he end of the storm
    Is a golden sky
    And the sweet silver song of a lark.
    Walk on through the wind,
    Walk on through the rain,
    Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.Walk on, walk on
    With hope in your heart
    And you’ll never walk alone,
    You’ll never walk alone.

Yahweh is always a present light in all darkness, leading me through it and giving me hope and comfort.  He will always walk with us, through the storms of life as well as the joys of life.  I believe this with all of my being, but I still fall into these dark traps of despair.  However I think that this is a good thing if it leads me to call out to Yahweh to help me, depending on him and surrendering all to him.  These times of reflection allow me to see all of the blessing I have received in my life.  God uses these times to cleanse my soul and refuels me with new purpose to go forward doing God’s kingdom work here on earth.

Even those trees will once again dress themselves in lush green leaves, just as soon as they have been cleansed by the white snows of winter.  Praise God!

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19 NRSV