September Sunset

September Sunset

 

The sunsets of late have been spectacular as September makes her exit in style. Her departure comes as God bids me to end my old testament. It’s human nature to want to stay in the familiar, albeit painful, past; but staying there keeps me from writing my new story.

The lesson this week has been for me to put away the old songs and stories that no longer apply to my heart. I’ve been mired in the muddy mess of my childhood for over five decades, and God is ready for me to move on. He brought cleansing tears that opened my eyes and cleared my heart last night. I saw myself in the role a victim and began sinking into that muddy water that almost drowned me as a child.

My old story is my old story. It explains and enlightens, but it isn’t who I am anymore. Satan continues to dredge up past hurt, and I continue to find those in my path who will repeat old patterns. God made it clear that the difference between my old and new story is the fact that I had no choice as a child. I do have a choice now. I must make the conscious decision to learn from and leave my past behind me.

September has always been an important month in my life. School started in September, and I loved going to school. The summer before my first September in school, I almost drowned in the muddy water in Lake Hickory, and I’ve been struggling to get out ever since. My journey almost ended that summer, but school offered an escape. I still remember the thrill of walking home from school with my sister Linda my first week of school. I was only five and small for my age, so my teachers made quite a fuss over me. My sister and I had matching red plaid kilts, and I still remember how much I loved wearing mine. I was a big girl, and I was going to school! I also remember wearing the kilt my sister wore six years later in seventh grade.  I’m still wearing a kilt woven five decades ago, and it’s even more inappropriate than the hand-me-down one I wore in seventh grade. I’m ready for a change!

Kilt or no kilt, that same feeling of excitement accompanied me to school every fall for fifty years. A big part of my decision to go into teaching was my love for school and for fall. I got a new beginning every year, and I could escape the outside world within the walls of my safe haven. School was always place of escape for me, and September has been a time of endings and beginnings. It’s fitting for God to use this month as a backdrop for the change He has in mind for my heart.

Fall is a time of dying, and death accompanies both endings and beginnings. The victim in me died last night, and I know God will use her death as an important transition to His transformation. It’s time for a new story, one that is rooted in the past but routed in Christ’s precious love.

The Sound of a House Becoming a Home:)

As Mylah slept on my shoulder this afternoon, I listened to Lillyann playing Candy Land with Mere. The sound of her sweet little voice echoing down the stairway was music to my ears. Mylah’s sleepy breathing almost lulled me to sleep, but I stayed awake because I wanted to hear the sound of the house becoming a home. Love was all around, and I basked in it thinking it was a bright and beautiful day even with the steady rain.

Pepe and daddy came in with a load of furniture, and Pepe smiled his beautiful smile and closed the doors so she could sleep. I listened to all the activity and hugged Mylah while she slept. I decided not to put her down because I was afraid she’d wake up. Tyler came into the room to check something and didn’t see us there. He was asking Rita a question when he noticed us.

It was time for Mylah to wake up, and she had been stirring a little. She heard daddy’s voice and popped awake, and exclaimed DA!! She and Lillyann act as though it’s the first time they’ve seen mommy or daddy each time they see them. I love that about them! They love being surrounded by people they love, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Lillyann is so happy I’ll be down the hall from her and Mylah. She looked at the sweet nightlight Ethel gave me for Christmas and said, “Now I can find you if I wake up and want to come to your room.”

I told her that was exactly what the light was for. I can’t decide if the beautiful views or the sweet children are more distracting. Between the two of them, I may just play and stare out the window for the rest of my life. That would actually be okay with me because each time I see the girls or the views, I thank God.  Needless to say, I’ve been thanking Him a lot lately. That’s been a very positive thing, but it’s also why I’m a little behind on my unpacking:)

The kids stayed at the house tonight for the first time, and I will be completely in very soon. I love the new house. What a pleasure to witness it become a home this afternoon as happy voices and a sweet sleeping baby’s breath filled the entire space with love. The house breathed in the sounds and let out a sigh of relief, and so did I.  The sounds of love are what make a house a home, and I thank God for allowing me to witness the transition this afternoon. It was a privilege, a blessing, and a taste of what heaven must surely be like.

Sweet Simplicity:)

As I cleaned, packed, and unpacked yesterday, I thought of how much stuff I have. Ten years ago, I made an important step in the right direction. It was freeing to leave my stuff behind, but I wouldn’t have if given a choice. I have accumulated more stuff in the past decade, but I find it much easier to let go now. I have learned not to attach to stuff, and that’s a beautifully freeing feeling.

Stuff complicates and gets in the way of simplicity.  I plan to make sure that I don’t get buried by the desire to hang on to anything other than God’s love. Now is the perfect time to pass along those things I don’t need and find new uses for what I do have. There’s a sweetness to simplicity that I crave more and more.

At the heart of simplicity is knowing what’s important and letting go of all that isn’t. It has taken a long time for me to come to that place of understanding, but I suppose it’s all part of growing up. Christ knew what was important and lived a simple life, and so did John the Baptist. God’s message was, and always will be, a simple one that appeals to simple folks.

My lifestyle will change dramatically in the coming months, and I’m looking forward to the lessons and the love that God has in store. I pray I will remember that simplicity makes life much sweeter and allows God the space He needs. I’m finding that I literally have to stop what I’m doing and look at the view from time to time. As the sun set yesterday, I realized that I didn’t need to worry about hanging my pictures on the wall. God already painted an amazing landscape that changes by the second. I also don’t think I’ll worry about cable or internet service for a while:)

Psalm 116:6 says, “The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.” and Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” 

As I humbly look to God’s words for light and understanding, I will be brought low. It is a good low that puts me in the perfect position to learn  from and love Him. We are all “the simple;” we just don’t all know it. I’m learning that simple is a good thing, and simplicity is very sweet:)

Moving On:)

With all the moving preparations, I find myself between two homes. Both are bare and crying out for those things which make a house a home. The new house feels like home and is a beautifully blank canvas. I noticed a few sweet, pink strokes in the hallway downstairs yesterday, and they reminded me of my new little housemates. I smiled as I thought of Lillyann and Mylah running and squealing through the house.

The girls love the house and so do I. It’s filled with light, and I wonder each time I’m there which light I’ve left on. The skylights and windows bring in so much natural sunlight that you don’t need anything else on a sunny day.  The girls will take care of the sunshine on cloudy days:) They are, without a doubt, the best part of my new home.

Since I left my husband a decade ago, I’ve lived alone. The solitude provided a safe place and the necessary space for me to grow. I’m ready to live in the sweet community God has so graciously placed in my life. I’m sure there will be challenges for all of us, but I’m also sure that love will add to the glow that God has already provided in the beautiful home.

Being between the two homes is a little unnerving, and I find myself waking with thoughts of how, when, what, and where. I settle back down when I remember that the most important feature that makes this beautiful house a sweet home is who. I know who is going to be there, and that is all that matters.

The girls are coming over today while mommy and daddy move boxes and clean the carpet. I know they are wondering about the changes taking place at their house and at Gigi’s, so I decided to fill the empty spaces in my apartment with their toys. I’m sure they will like the new decor:)

Transitions are part of the transformation God has in mind, and I know He has wonderful plans when it comes to lessons in love. Love is about living together, and I’m ready to move on and love as God desires. We are designed for community, and I’m excited about the company I’ll be keeping because nobody teaches lessons in love more effectively than children. God knows that better than anyone. He knew a baby would satisfy the world’s longing to be loved.

Motivation to Change

Change is a difficult challenge because it involves choice. Security and pride have kept me from embracing the change God desires for me. Surrendering starts the transformation, but getting to the place of surrender is the hard part.  

Security is linked to safety, and I cling to what I know in a desperate attempt to remain safe and secure. The irony is that my tendency to stick with the known threatens the very safety I was try to protect. When I settle, I lose sight of change. I’m afraid I’m guilty of doing that far too often.

To give God the chance to change me, I must first be willing to step out of my comfort zone. Rearrangement, not change, occurs when I refuse to make that move. Stepping into the unknown puts me in a prayerful state of mind and requires faith in God and a willingness to admit that I am not Him. That is exactly where I need to be, but as in so much of life, it’s that first step that keeps me from growing and changing as God desires.

Moving away from the comfort of what I know is very difficult, even when I know is wrong and is hurting me. I stay in a bad situation simply because I worry that I may end up in a worse one if I attempt to change. More often, I am simply afraid to admit that I am wrong. Do I think Christ whined to God when He left heaven to be my change? Can I imagine Christ wondering why I couldn’t just follow the law set down before me. Did he think it unfair because He had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve to die for me? Would He have asked God to think of an easier way? I cannot imagine any of those scenarios. Christ knows better than I the difficulty of stepping out of a comfort zone. He left the beauty and security of God’s presence to make possible the single most powerful change ever. All the advancements made by man pale in comparison to the change that occurred when Christ returned to Heaven.

If Tim Cook came along and offered me a great deal on a new Mac or Donald Trump had insider information about a real estate deal, I would be all ears and willing to do whatever they suggested. Christ offers change that ensures more security than I can imagine, but I think it sounds too good to be true. Besides, I don’t deserve it. I am right on both counts, and that’s what makes His change so amazing.

God asks me to surrender and trust Him. I have to let go of what I know in order to do that. Giving up control requires faith. I would rather go in circles for decades than admit to God that I need His help. I find legitimate excuses for not changing, but God answers each with His patient love and His fervent desire for me to love Him.

When I stop struggling and surrender, God is faithful to lift my burden and lighten my spirit. What a beautiful release it is to let go and trust Him with my transformation.  I would never step off a plane in Hong Kong, signal a taxi, and tell the driver to move over and let me drive. That would be ridiculous, but I do worse each time I set out on my own and leave God on the passenger side.

Several years ago, I was in San Francisco and went to Chinatown. It was Chinese New Year, and I got caught up in a group of revelers dressed in a large red dragon costume. They were setting off firecrackers in front of each store so the owners would have good luck in the coming year. I began to panic as the firecrackers got closer and the dragon cut me off from my friends. I lost sight of my colleagues in a sea of foreign faces and began to panic. When faced with danger or lost, I cry out for help. When in a ditch, I am much more open to help or advice. The challenge of change is to have that attitude before I become lost or in a ditch. Successful people know the importance of change, but Christ asks for surrender, something successful people do not find as comfortable. Pride must go before a change, and that’s the problem.

Like a child in the backseat, I bombard God with questions as I surrender. When will I get there? How much longer before I can stop? Do you know where I am? Am I there yet? I’m hungry! I’m lonely! I’ve done a great deal of backseat driving during my life and am amazed God hasn’t pulled over and thrown me out. The good news is that He has infinite patience and will wait for me to accept the changes He has in mind. The incredible thing about God is that He could very easily take control, but He loves me too much to do that. If I think of the second ‘c’ in chance as my need to control and change that ‘c’ to a ‘g’ which represents God, then I’ll find that giving up control is not as hard as I thought. When I take a chance, God will make a change.

Pride keeps me from giving God the chance to change me. The Israelites were moaning and groaning about how good things used to be and worrying about their problems. Boy, does that sound familiar. Memory is an odd thing, and studies tell me that I have selective memory when it comes to my past. What I remember is very often not the way it actually happened. If I am looking for excuses, I remember the bad and blame others. If I fear change, I remember the good and leave well enough alone. Pride hides itself in words like tradition and esteem if I am not careful, and fear forces me to forget my faith in God.

Six years ago, one of my third grade Sunday School students taught an important lesson. We were studying God’s power to protect, and they were making little shields to demonstrate that God can protect us from everything. I ended the lesson with a question that would allow the students to recount what they had learned. I asked, “Is there anything that God cannot protect us from?” I knew the answer to that question and waited for them to respond. I looked at the sweet faces sitting around the table and waited for the long, enthusiastic “NOOOOO!!!” I knew was coming.

When Salina’s serious little yes came unexpectedly from my left, I did what any master teacher would do in that situation. I asked her to explain so I could quickly reassure her that God could protect her from whatever it was that concerned her. She very quietly and seriously said that God would not protect us from saying no to Him. You could hear a pin drop in the room as the students and I pondered her response. All eyes were focused on me at that moment, and I did what a teacher who is willing to learn from her students but wanted to save face would do, I pretended her answer was just the one I was looking for:) I said, “EXACTLY!”

My need for security, my inability to give up control, and my pride will cause me to say no to God, and He will allow  me to do just that. Whatever my reasons and however right they may seem to me at the time, I can choose to say no to God. Transformation will only occur if I choose to give God the chance to make me who He created me to be.  I am so thankful He reminded me of that six years ago and more thankful He is still willing to remind me of that today. Lessons learned have to be revisited because change is ongoing, and I am learning that relearning is a big part of giving God the chance to change me:)