Homeless

Over 500,000 people spend the night in shelters, cars, or on the street. A fourth of them are children. Numbers have decreased in some areas since 2015, but they are still far too high. There are many reasons for homelessness, but I tend to latch onto the ones that make me feel less guilty about the desperation they face. They are drug addicts; they are alcoholics; they brought it on themselves; they are lazy. All these are excuses help me sleep soundly in my nice, warm bed at night.

The truth is much deeper and more disturbing. The homeless are lost in a world that barely notices them. Most suffer from mental illness, have serious addictions, financial losses, or have a heart or body that is broken beyond their ability to heal. They are caught in vicious cycles that never seem to end. Most Americans are only three months away from being on the streets themselves, and a job loss or catastrophic illness shortens that time dramatically.

During this special time of the year, our attention is turned toward a young couple who found themselves searching for a place to sleep. Away from home and expecting a new baby any day, they desperately needed a place to rest after their long journey. The only place available was a cave where lambs were birthed. Appropriate in that Christ was, is, and will always be, the Lamb of God.

Mary and Joseph were not homeless, but they did experience the angst of being away from home and not able to find a place to sleep for the night. Christ was born out in the open where animals were sleeping, yet His humble beginning marked a turning point for this planet. When I see those forced to sleep out in the open with open arms and an open heart, God creates a new turning point in my own heart that puts both me and the planet a little closer in line with His heart. That vicious cycle begins to look more like the loving circle His heart desires.

Breathe…..

I’ve gotten back into yoga after decades away, and my body is both loving and hating it. I look like the tin man in most of the poses, but I’m beginning to feel my muscles let go as I make the connection between breathing and releasing tension. I’m thankful for a very patient teacher and a friendly group of supportive ladies who encourage me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

Comfort and breathing go hand in hand. I have the tendency to hold my breath during difficult poses, and that causes my muscles to contract and stiffen my body. My yoga teacher is a patient, wonderful woman who comes around and helps us ease into the proper alignment. Obviously, she spends a lot of time with me.

She came over last week, stood in front of me, smiled, and began to shake my hips. She used the image of the old vibrating exercise machines to get me to loosen up. We both laughed because it was working. She did the same with my shoulders which, like my hips, lock into place at the first sign of stress.

I’m a visual learner who loves laughing, so the teacher’s technique was perfect. She certainly helped me relax and breathe. Yesterday during class, I found myself shaking my hips and shoulders while imagining myself on a 1950’s exercise contraption. The best teachers find a way to get their students to learn. Jackie did just that. In fact, the image helps outside of class. When I feel a little tension building, I just think of that crazy machine, laugh, and give myself a little jiggle.

Modern day versions of the old exercise machine are available. It turns out the workout can be beneficial when used correctly. I don’t think I’ll purchase a machine because recalling the image and the remembering the laughter is enough to get me to relax and breathe. Turns out letting go works as well with breathing as it does with loving.

Namaste -_-

Make Room

Making room for God requires letting go of self. That doesn’t mean I can’t be me; it simply means I can’t keep all of my stuff. When I moved into my tiny apartment in town, I had to downsize considerably. The home I shared with my son and his family for two and a half years was over 5,000 square feet. My new place is 550 square feet. My bedroom and bath were larger than my apartment, so I had some serious downsizing to do.

Taking stock of my belongings wasn’t easy, do I did it while the kids were away on vacation. I made three piles: treasures to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. Two of the piles were easy, but the one in the middle brought me to tears. I love books and had hundreds of them, but I knew they would never fit into my apartment. The same was true for all I had accumulated over the years. After agonizing over each possession, the largest pile held treasures I wanted to keep. I decided to deal with the other two first because they were easier on my heart.

The pile to sell was easy. I felt great after taking several car loads to a nearby consignment shop because I was going to get paid for letting go. I was energized and ready to tackle the give away pile. It was fun to think about who would love and appreciate the stuff I no longer needed. I started with materials and books from my classroom. I had given away a ton of materials when I retired. I left most everything behind in my classroom when I retired, but I did take special books and units with me just in case I decided to teach again.

I knew several wonderful young teachers, one a former student I knew would put my things to good use. She was elated, and that encouraged me to press on. It was time to deal with that troubling treasure chest at home. I made a new pile of things for my son. That was fun and made a big dent in the pile, but there was still the treasures to keep pile!

I decided to take a break and do some praying. God knew this was a hard process, and He knew that was more about letting go than sorting out. Not having room is convenient when it comes to homes and hearts. There is a certain safety in not having space because it keeps me from inviting in the new or stepping into the unknown. If I don’t have time or space, I don’t have to worry about growing. We all know that growing pains are very real and apply to more than teenage joints and muscles.

With God’s help, I was able to let go and grow into my tiny apartment with room to spare. I absolutely love my new home because it is filled, but not full. Simplifying was satisfying and opened the door for a similar transformation in my heart. My apartment and my heart are loving the openness. God is loving it too because His Holy Spirit has enough space to dance. That makes both of us very happy. My grand daughters are happy because they also have space to dance and play. Making room in a house or a heart isn’t an easy process; but once you create a little open space, you want more of it and will never be satisfied with crowded again.

Longing…..

Three years ago I had the privilege of watching the release of seven sea turtles on Topsail Island, North Carolina. The turtles varied in size, but their longing to get back to the sea was the same. I don’t remember the names of all of the turtles or what circumstances caused their journeys to be interrupted, but I do remember the last, and least, turtle because he was close enough for me to see the deep yearning in his eyes. I’m thankful for the image I was able to capture because it serves as a reminder of that miraculous moment.

Leonardo was the smallest turtle, and his flippers began flapping vigorously the moment he spotted the ocean. They did not stop beating until he was placed into the water. He was revving up his engine for a fast getaway and wanted to hit the ocean swimming. As I watched his handler trying to hold on to him, I understood the necessity of the restraints around the larger turtles. They needed four adults to carry them to the water. I’m sure ten strong men would not have been able to hold the largest turtle if his giant flippers were free to flap like little Leonardo’s.

This amazing pageant of healed turtles returning home humbled me in a powerful way. I was so happy for the turtles and so very thankful for volunteers, like the lady in line, who are willing to provide help and hope to injured travelers on their way home. I was watching a miracle and sharing the experience with those around me. It was a small crowd because the release took place the day after Labor Day. Tourists had returned home, and children were back in school.

I was standing near a woman deeply connected to this moment, but she was standing with the crowd and not with the volunteers. I could tell by the tone of her voice and her knowledge about the process that she was not just an observer. She told me the direction the turtles would swim and where they were headed. She also talked about the turtles as if she knew them well and loved them deeply. She represented the love that kept the hospital going. I wondered if she had known Karen Beasley, perhaps she was her mom. Whoever she was, she helped me see that more than turtles were being released that day.

I was on the beach that afternoon because God allowed my sister and I to overhear plans for the release as we waited in line for our afternoon coffee and smoothie. A lady who worked at the Turtle Hospital was telling her friend about it while we waited in line behind her. She was very gracious when we asked for details and told us when and where to be the following day. My sister was unable to go but insisted I go and tell her all about it.

Advent is a time of sweet longing as we await the arrival of Christ while remembering His birth. I can only imagine what those who witnessed that beautiful miracle first hand must have felt. I am still in awe when I think of those majestic turtles plunging into the ocean and making a sharp right turn as their built-in GPS directed them to the Gulf of Mexico. I got to see their longing satisfied, and it was amazing. Seeing the Messiah fulfill God’s promise is more than I can begin to fathom.

I long for the day when my spirit is released, and I am able to be with God; but I also long to be more aware of the miracles He places in my path each and every day. As I watched little Leonardo flap his wings in sweet anticipation, I found myself wanting to abandon all, jump in, and swim to the Gulf with him.

His longing was contagious! I pray mine will be too.

You can read more about Karen Beasley’s legacy at http://magazine.wfu.edu/2014/07/10/karen-beasleys-legacy-save-the-turtles/

Hope

Advent is a season of hope which takes my faith to new heights each year as I celebrate Christ’s birth and anticipate His second coming. Life is filled with ups and downs, but hope brings a beautiful place of balance. I wrote this poem years ago, but it still resonates with my heart. I look forward to all God has in store, and that is what hope is all about.

Hope is the spark that lingers

Long after the fire seems lost.

He remains to remind us

To go on, He paid the cost.

 

We are prone to forget Him

Until nothing else remains,

But He sits waiting patiently

To ease our heartaches and pains.

 

 

Drive or Driven?

There’s a world of difference between drive and being driven. My life has been one of being driven. Driven to succeed, driven to mend, driven to be good, driven to do good, driven to find answers. I lost my drive in the process of being driven…….

There’s nothing wrong with having drive, but there is something inherently wrong with being driven. Drive is a good thing. Encyclopedia.com defines drive as an”energizing force directed towards a particular goal or objective. Drives may be innate (physiological) or acquired (learned).” Simply put, we are born with some drives and we learn others. I believe, with some exceptions, it is our learned drives that cause the problems.

Being driven is defined as “motivated by or having a compulsive quality or need” according to Google. Need drives, and I go along for the ride. Nowhere has this been more evident than in my desire to serve God. I was driven by that need for forty-two years and found myself at the bottom of a huge pile of ashes when my need and I finally crashed. Being driven ends badly and the wreck that results is never pleasant. I’m just thankful my heart is still in one piece!

God is a god of restoration Who waits for me to come to Him. I first came to Him in 1964 when I realized He loved me. Knowing that brought me out of the deep darkness in which I was drowning. It was great to be on dry land, but I was in no condition to be driving. Instead of relying on His love to lead, I did what I did best. I did! I was driven to do and was determined to show God how much I loved Him by doing and doing and doing.

After forty-two years of doing, I finally came to a place of stopping that was more about giving up than resting. I reveled in the emptiness for almost a year before I was drawn to a little church across the street from my new apartment. God bid me to check it out because He knew I needed a community, and He knew the peace I was trying to create on my own was there if I would trust His love to lead and not fall back into old patterns.

After nine months of healing worship, I was ready to become part of the work of the body of believers God placed in my path. It wasn’t the first church I ever joined, but it was the first one where I didn’t feel driven to do so. I was drawn to the love they had for God and one another, and I was drawn to the work they were doing in the community.

I was driven into the desert in 1964 because I needed a desert. It took forty-two years for me to learn the lessons God had for me there. It took Israel almost as long, so I don’t feel bad about my time there. In fact, I cherish all that brought me to this place of peace.

Love is the innate, energizing, driving force I now feel, and it is bringing the sweet peace and holiness I need to move on to all God has in store. Levity is important when it comes to love and to drive. I hope to remember that as I move forward. God reminded me that being driven is part of the process of learning to drive a car, and the same is true for hearts.

 

 

 

You Better Let Somebody Not Love You…

I’ve struggled, in the past, with letting others love me. I’m not sure if that was because I felt unworthy or perhaps, I was simply afraid. Letting somebody love me isn’t easy; the Eagles make that clear in “Desperado.” The song cautions those afraid of love to “let somebody love you before it’s too late.”

I’ve loved the song for decades and could relate to its lyrics, but the lessons in love of late have been very different ones. God is helping me see that I must let somebody not love me if I want to love as He loves. God loves everyone, no matter who they are. That bothers some, but brings great peace to me. He loves completely and perfectly, but He never forces anyone to love Him back. He could, but He knows better than anyone that love isn’t love if it’s forced upon us.

I’ve always had the need to be liked, so it’s not surprising I would have difficulty letting someone not love me. I find myself trying to convince others to accept my love and to love me back. It hurts deeply when they don’t. I am learning I can only be a loving presence and choose whether to accept the love offered to me. Life and love are wrapped together beautifully in relationship, and I’m slowly learning to relax into relationships and not worry if they are not what I expect them to be.

Chasing love is pointless because it can never be caught. Pursuing it only distracts, disturbs, and deters the love already in my life. The notion of relaxing into obedience has brought powerful growth during the past year. I’m finding that relaxing into whatever God has in mind brings a sweet sense of peace. Relaxing is not easy for me; but when I remember it’s simply believing God is Who He says He is, it becomes much easier.

I’ve been getting deep tissue massages since April to correct some health issues I’ve had for years. I was groaning yesterday when I felt my tendons and muscles begin to relax. The difference in my body over the past few months is unbelievable, and I know it has to do with the fact that I’m learning to relax just like those stubborn, twisted muscles. I told Braden, as she massaged out the sore spots, that learning to let others not love me was having the same effect on my heart that her massage techniques were having on my body. Does it hurt when someone doesn’t love me? Absolutely!! Can I make them love me? Absolutely not! Does allowing them the space to not love me bring them closer? Sometimes 🙂

If love is meant to be, it will be. If it is not meant to be, it will not be. I can cajole or coerce with some success, but I will miss the kind of love God has in mind for my heart. Wasting time and effort trying to get someone to love me keeps me from enjoying the sweet love already in my path.

So, let somebody not love you before it’s too late.