Getting Weepy~ Abundant Living

tulip fieldsRemember the “Coffee Talk” sketches on SNL when Mike Myers’ character would get verklempt?  I loved how they poked fun at the kind of women who always seemed to me to be overly-emotional– like my mother who used to cry at every episode of “The Waltons”.  See, that wasn’t me!  Since childhood I have been a fairly guarded, private person who has tended to stuff my tears.  There’s only one notable exception: I was able to cry freely when a role called for it in a play.  In fact, for years when friends first saw me perform they’d say things like, “I knew you’d make me laugh, but I never thought you’d make me cry.” So imagine my surprise over the past few years to find myself getting weepy…  First came the experience of sharing the depths of mourning (a topic for another day), and then came the tears of joy, wonder, awe, and gratitude!  And yes, the tulip fields pictured above brought on my own personal water works!! 🙂

For those of you who have been following my blog this year, (THANK YOU, BTW!), you know that I have been exploring ABUNDANCE.  “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full“~John 10:10.  While this could certainly include the physical realm– wealth, health, status, and all the perks that go with that, I’ve been learning that it mostly pertains to our emotional and spiritual lives– lives now lived in freedom, peace, and with joy, no matter our earthly physical circumstances!

I’ve written about how we often choose to operate out of LACK, and how our fears and our desire to control what’s up ahead often cripples our understanding and appreciation of kingdom living in the here and now.  In fact, the more I learn about fullness, the more I ache for the number of people who claim they practice Christianity, but who have missed the heart of it and are still trapped in a religious system.  There is no abundance in a life where rules trump love.

Then, along the way it finally hit me: What if tears and an awakened emotional life are a part of abundant living too?  When you can experience the awe of a newborn baby clutching your finger, when a sudden rain shower takes your breath away, and when you actually get choked up realizing that a barking dog has reminded you of how blessed you are to live in your neighborhood, you’re on the way to this full, rich life Jesus offers.  Nothing is taken for granted or considered ordinary. 🙂

One caution however, for others out there who also might be exploring formerly stuffed emotions in the quest for living abundantly: weepy is not the same as whiny.  The first signifies heart stirrings, opening oneself up to joy. The latter is about complaining and falling back under the misguided belief of being less than, or missing out on something. When we start feeling sorry for ourselves, or second-guessing ourselves, the enemy celebrates.  Think about it; if we’re focused on weaknesses and mistakes, we’re choosing to live in problems of the past, instead of being fully present now.

May you all enjoy all that life offers, with both laughter AND tears!!

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Expecting Light: Joy

three candlesThis was going to be a very different post. Then, this last week happened…  For those of you who have been reading my “Expecting Light” (Advent) Series, you already know that I’m looking at the practical– at the living out of faith, BELIEVING in God and truly celebrating Christmas, while surrounded by the darkness of our broken world. 

Today I am feeling compelled to share what I understand of God’s heart.  After all, isn’t the big question, “If God is so good, how could He allow such a senseless tragedy?”  And by the way– while the sickening slaughter in Connecticut has left our nation reeling, don’t forget that just a couple of days prior, some other loser went on a shooting spree in an Oregon mall, not to mention the countless losses that occur each day closer to home!  Surely I’m not the only one standing with loved ones who are grieving over a local teen suicide, or a young mom’s unexpected passing?  At any time of year, the impact of these events affect us, but at Christmas especially, don’t they seem all the more evil? That’s because they are!

Friends, as much as people might want to put on the blinders or deny the possibility, we do have a very real enemy.  Doesn’t it make sense that he would throw as much pain and garbage at us that he can, especially when he knows we’re talking about God’s rescue plan? However, it seems to me, the media in our world already devotes more than enough time to publicizing his acts, and pointing fingers at a variety of causes and society’s ills.  (Seriously, beyond the basic informational facts, do we REALLY think it’s good for us to fill our minds with images of destruction and an endless stream of speculations and divisive blame-filled speech for days on end?!)

For our own health and sanity, our focus needs to stay on God.  Why do you think He  instructs us to “Remember Me” so often in His Word?  He understands the struggles we face here!  When the days get dark and the future of mankind looks bleak, we need to remember God is with us.  We need to remember that He loves us.  We need to remember our Heavenly Father is in control, and that He is good!  This is not some distant, capricious, spirit-being far removed from our experience; Christmas is all about how Jesus–fully God– became fully man. I KNOW that He GRIEVES right along with us!  (In fact it may be that back in the earliest times when people were told to look away, that to see God’s face would kill them, it wasn’t only because of His radiant power, but because we wouldn’t be able to handle the depths of His broken heart.)

Just as light chases away ugliness found in the dark, so God brings joy from pain and trials.  Are any of us “happy” when such terrible tragedies occur?  Of course not.  But we can look ahead, trusting that somehow even these horrific examples will be redeemed by our gracious God.  This isn’t the voice of optimism based on circumstances and a wishful hope in humanity.  People Fail.  This is the voice of faith in our loving, heavenly Father.  Hold on, Friends– the light is real, and it’s coming 🙂

The Things I Don’t Have (for which I am still grateful)

Lately it seems I’m living in the land of whiners– Seriously Pacific Northwesterners, must you complain about every cloud and raindrop and temperature dip “below normal” for this time of year?  And what about all of the negative news the media bombards us with each day?  I think I remember reading a statistic that said if events in the world were proportionate to the way news is covered, (negative stories to positive stories) we would have destroyed the planet by now!  Is it any wonder people have a hard time with the concept of experiencing true joy?  I’m not just talking about “glass half-full” optimism, or happiness in fortunate circumstances, or even a giddy, childlike emotion; I’m talking about finding joy even at the bottom, & having a really tough time…

It so happens a couple of women’s book study groups at my church are reading Kay Warren’s book, “Choose Joy”, (I highly recommend it!!) and our discussions have got me thinking.  Many people will talk about creating a gratitude list of our blessings, and to add to it regularly. While this makes great sense, doesn’t it also add to the myth that joyful feelings follow positive thoughts and circumstances only? What if, I wondered, we created a list of the things we don’t have– traditionally the negative or painful things of life and chose to be grateful for them as well?  Well, I’ve started my list (below) and would love to hear your thoughts / additions in the comments! Feel free to forward it to your friends too!! Who knows?  Maybe together we can help inspire people to put a stop to their whining and begin celebrating all they have, and ALL THEY DON’T!!

I’ve lost my mom, wrecked my knee, struggled with depression, and battled chronic aches and pains –these make me compassionate

I’ve let go of lofty aspirations for myself and my children, owned my baggage, peeled away the cover of denial, and accepted trials as opportunities to grow– these build my character 

I’ve got a limited wardrobe, an 11 year old Subaru that I share with my son, and I am woefully lacking skills in gardening, housecleaning, and technology–these keep me humble

I’ve experienced rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and a long-held belief that I was unlovable–these drew me to seek Jesus

And now in the hard stuff, I have a life of joy I never imagined was possible.