Faithful One

Faithful One

I find no hope within to call my own

For I am frail of heart, my strength is gone

But deep within is rising up a song

Here in the comfort of the faithful one

-Selah
Lyrics of the songs by Selah seem to cut straight through to the matter, deep down into the roots of my lifetime’s journey to find peace. And it is true, when I focus completely on Christ and God’s Love Letter to us – his explanation of how it was all laid out, how humans got in the way because he gave us free will, we choose to follow him or to walk our own path, this love is not forced… how he sent us a solution in his one and only son Jesus, how in fully embracing and believing in his son we have unwarranted, undeserved full love and grace and mercy, no matter what is in our past and present and it is a continuing gift throughout our lives through to the end, and this gift is given not by any of our own actions but by his love… then, when my consciousness takes this in and is fully aware and alert to this truth, then … yes, only then- it seems the full breath of life fills my lungs and brings me calm.

Seeking belonging in others, in society, in social living, in work and even in play- only leads me to loneliness and disappointment. In my strengthening through Christ, it is now a matter of setting my feet on the path confidently towards delivering  his sweet sense of belonging and purpose to others – and not merely seeking to find it for myself. For me, when I need that refreshment and reassurance, I must sit quietly as Christ did on that fateful night, and I will seek God’s presence, seek His gentleness, his love, his nourishment for my soul. Because in this action, He is faithful. All the heartbreak on this planet has taught me that when I seek Him with my whole heart, soul and everything that I am – well then, and only then, does the peace come. And then, the true guidance that brings clarity to all that I need to focus on. And, blessings follow.
Thank you Selah for your album: God Bless The Broken Road. This album has been on the top of my list for about ten years- since it came out. And, sometimes, it sits unheard- but, now- it is brought out once again- a reminder of the most important thing in the world- Christ and his love and his friendship. Praise God for your gifts, his guidance in your lives and for my discovery of your music. And most of all, for God taking away the veil which prevented me from seeing clearly who He is and who I am – his daughter. He knew me before time. He is with me always and he does not leave me nor forsake me. The arms raised in praise in worship centers – waiving in the air, are waiving and reaching for his pure love and thanking Him for they too had the veil lifted.

Amazing Grace. How Sweet The Sound. That Saved A Wretch Like Me. I Once Was Lost. But Now I Am Found. Was Blind. But Now. I See.

I didn’t go to church on Sunday because I still struggle with the organized church ..but it will come. This barrier will break down and I will find my way into fellowship because I know that fellowship is important and the path to this fellowship lies in my healing, my getting myself out of myself, and my focus shifting completely to Christ. Yesterday, I watched In Touch with Charles Stanley on TV. The sermon couldn’t have been more suited. God knows what we need.. and boy did he deliver yesterday. Pastor Charles comes out and his first question to the congregation is; Do You Love God? Of course a church full of believers would nod and bob their heads and a few would call out “Hallelujah and Amen” …and he goes on, of course you would say that and you might think you mean it. His sermon in twenty minutes brings to life the truth of the matter- and that is that needing God is not loving God, Fearing (having reverence) God is not Loving God. Serving God is not loving God. It does not mean that all these things can’t come out of loving God but in and of themselves they are not an indicator of loving God.

Matthew 22:37 describes what loving God means. And I wrap myself in this scripture and thank God for talking to me. For showing me his faithfulness.

Later that night, I open Jesus Calling, my current daily devotional. And, I find that August 31st addresses my weakness- his gift to me is my weakness. That in my weakness he will strengthen me as I bring my focus fully to Him. And in this, I breath a sigh. Yes.

This Jesus Calling devotion on August 31st – gives me some scriptures.

Proverbs 3:5

Isaiah 40:31

And I call out to God- thank you. Thank you so much- for speaking to me today. For reaching through your servants to quell my trembling, for giving me hope- for reminding me who I am. And reinforcing to me who you are: Faithful One.

Longing for a place to belong

It is a Sunday. I am meant to have gone to church. But each time I venture there I find myself fleeing to safer places. There is something terribly daunting about the prospect of walking through yet another set of doors as I attempt to find the place where community will be accessible to me. I made a great effort again today, walking through the halls of yet another big structure with steeple, coffee corner and narthex. The information wall was my retreat for a short while, a place I could linger with something to do, as I pulled leaflets from the racks to learn of the various ministries offered. A few hundred feet away I sense people watching me, wondering perhaps: who is she. I keep my focus. The brochures generally give me a good idea on whether the place is worth a nod or if I should cut my losses early. I suppose that says something of the importance of a church’s marketing strategies, as mundane and secular as that sounds. This one gave me a clear sign with its women’s ministry offerings: MOPS Mother’s of Preschoolers – they meet the second and fourth Friday of every month at 9:30am. Then there is the Mom’s Next Group providing fun and fellowship for mother’s of school aged children: 3rd Thursdays at 7:00pm. Out to lunch bunch, for women of all ages – an opportunity to get together and fellowship at local restaurants. A Stamping Group that while they gather once a month in the evenings, their focus is very likely scrap booking all of the wonderful life events they experience as mothers. The one group that may have been of interest, the knit and crochet group, meets 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 11:00am; obviously not geared to the working woman., likely seniors. There is a sprinkling of bible study and mission groups and these could work, although they run from September through May – it is now March so this season is about to end. I find myself walking down the hall as I hear the final hymns of traditional service wrapping up as I wait for the contemporary service which is set to start in 25 minutes. I find myself in front of a big cork board wall adorned with announcements and pictures of people having fun at a campground. The Annual Family Camp Retreat is coming up in May. A weekend away from the city to get to know one another better out in nature. As I read further I see that the format for the weekend is geared towards children’s activities. Probably not something I would be able to pursue and if I did, it would be awkward. The next wall down is an opportunity for the church to list the various missionaries assigned around the world that could use prayer. All of them are pictured as couples and couples with children. I find myself walking past the kitchen window where they are preparing the refreshments. I continue past the restrooms. I believe there is an exit door at the end of this hallway, that leads to the parking lot. It would make sense since I believe I saw this door on my way in earlier. I walk purposefully and find myself exiting the building, there is my car. Only a few more steps and I will be safe again within the confines of my familiar vehicle. I will go to a coffee house and read and write, that will be my church today.
Is it any wonder that I feel left behind in this world. And the guilt sets in. church is not about me. Church is about Christ. It is a place to worship God.  Read  a tweet the other day from a pastor- urging readers to go to church with the mindset to be of service and not as a consumer.    I know that church is meant to be a place to focus on Him and his love, grace, mercy and His plan for all of mankind. As a human, I still find myself sliding into a pathetic place of angst. I am here, in this state, as a result of my own poor choices during key years of my adulthood. Still, this fact doesn’t help me to pull myself together. Honestly, even if I wanted to be involved, it seems that all of the options that are made up of spiritual offerings are so family focused that someone like me just doesn’t fit in. I don’t want to be depressed about this, I don’t want to wallow. Truly. But I find myself on these Sundays with no place comfortable to go. And, I have tried too many and feel the same deeply lonely existence in every one of them. In a church, surrounded by people who belong to each other, and me- I sit alone. The other part is the feeling of being so conspicuous; a woman in middle age with no one beside her. To some women she can be seen as a threat, to others a bore.   In one church I actually received grim shooting looks of disdain.

This past Christmas, as I was trying to settle in before the Christmas services of yet another new church I was trying out, this one a mega church that draws thousands.  I was asked to move three times in order to make room for families that wanted to sit together. That was tremendously awkward. The last move that I made, I didn’t bother to fold up my coat to put it under the seat in front of me because I wanted to be prepared in case I was asked again to shift my place. Then, the sermon began, and it was about being present for God in this moment. It was calling us all out and asking us whether we were there, or if our minds were elsewhere. “Maybe” the pastor suggested “you are in the middle of that argument you had this morning with your spouse over getting out the door on time to avoid yet another late arrival to church and more importantly, preventing the family from getting a good parking spot for that quick escape after the service. Or, maybe you are sitting there overcome by loneliness, feeling completely alone and wondering what all this is about. Wondering if God has abandoned you. God has not abandoned you, he is right here with you. “So why are you lonely?” he asks, “when God is all you need.”. Easy for this pastor to say. And easy for all these people to take in this message, since most of them sit here with their families, or someone that is there… sitting beside them, they have families, children, spouses, community. Of course there are others just like me. Too bad there isn’t a way to meet them, to find them.

Suddenly, I sense my eyes completely filling with liquid and my nose instantly congests. I sit there with my huge winter coat billowing up off my lap, my arms gripping it in a sort of bear hug desperately needing it to not slip off and I sense that tears are quite possibly going to begin trailing down my face and I have no way to avoid this or brush them away without being less than subtle. My nose is now completely filled as well, and I am having trouble breathing through the fluids. And, now, rather than concentrating on the sermon, I am focused entirely on how I am going to get through the remaining twenty or so minutes of this lesson without being a smeared and blithering mess. I want so badly to stand up and make my escape, but I can’t seem to gather the courage. I won’t allow this to happen to me again. There will not be a next time.

A Quiet Source.

During her freshman year, Klara lands in the middle of Missouri to attend an all women’s private college, drawn there for their lauded theatre program, and she hooks up with a Cult Group through the encouragement of Lily, a new dorm friend who pleads with her to come and witness her own baptism. She gets sucked in initially by the purity of what seems to be the groups focus, which they say is Christ, obedience, discipline and devotion. The fact that for years in high school she had been self medicating with alcohol in order to quiet the voices of shame and pain allows her to consider attending a few evening sessions and she eventually agrees to sign up for the same baptism session as her friend.  Maybe this will be the right path, a way to straighten things out and get control back in her life.   To do something right.  

It becomes clear relatively soon that this group is very different and she is not that comfortable with the intensity of it, but wants to follow through because she harkens back to a time before her brother’s death when religion and Christianity and Jesus seemed like the only safe option. The night of the baptism event was scary and a bit weird- listening to gut instincts, tuning into discernment… trusting one’s own intuition, is important. And she knew this, her senses were on high alert. But when you are young, far away from home, sad most of the time and desperate for peace, you somehow turn off that inner compass and justify a more mature person’s voice that is saying to you: this is the path to that peace you are seeking.    
When it came to be her turn, she entered the bathroom on the lower level of the church’s house, small white candle flames flickered all around the tub and vanity amplified by their reflection in the large mirror. The electric lights were shut off. She was offered a hand for support and watched as if separate from her own body. Her legs moved and straddled the tub and then bare feet entered the water. She was fully clad in the requisite sweats. At first, they had her standing up, still supporting her frame as water danced around just below her knees. The leader then motioned her to kneel by gently pulling down on her elbow and she sat down in the tub with her legs bent upwards to help inch her frame close to the front of the tub and allow room for her upper body to eventually lie down towards the back. The sound of voices began to whisper words she could not understand, like in a different language of some kind. The person performing the baptism wrapped his arm around her back for support and lowered her backwards into the water submersing her completely into the waters. On entry into the waters, she could hear him saying something, prayers and supplications to God in English this time, but she does not remember his words. All she recalls was the overwhelming fear and sudden shuddering that coursed through her whole body. Her head and shoulders seemed to take on a life of their own and her mouth opened as if wanting to utter an important truth or to beg for help. She was confused and shaking and terrified as the people around her were now raising their voices higher and higher, louder and louder- begging for some entity to do something. This she sensed from their upward gaze and facial expressions that begged for attention. Evidently, what was happening was the spirit was attempting to enter into her and she was supposed to accept him and allow him to bring a new language to her. Her senses then brought her clarity and the only thing she desired was to get out. So, she pressed herself up while attempting to gain control of the shudders, someone wrapped her in a towel and helped our out of the tub. That was when she looked up and sought out the faces and saw that there was grave disappointment on everyone’s face- complete and utter rejection and a sense that she had blown it. This was explained to her later, she was informed the spirit couldn’t enter because evil resided within her. Somehow- evil had not been properly emptied out in order to make room for her soul to accept the spirit.  
For the next few weeks, she was followed around campus, stopped in the middle of the quad to be instructed on what was required of her next, she was often woken up at early hours by Jan, one of the leaders, because a word from God had been brought to her and she had to get to Klara right away. Her roommate was least appreciative of these disruptions and Klara found Stacy avoiding her during the days and weekends, absent from the room most hours. Calls to her mother netted little support, because her mother felt that God was the answer and if Klara was attending a church, any church, then maybe things would change for her. Towards the end of that first semester, her Dad called to let her know that he had another job transfer, this time from Illinois out to Southern California and they would be fully moved in by Thanksgiving. She begged him to let her move too. She didn’t want to be so far from them, please let her come. She could not bear any longer the harassment that was regularly thrust at her from these intense soldiers that were intent on instilling in her guilt, shame and control. Klara at one point approached her drama coach for guidance and he reassured her that it wasn’t her. He let her know that this had been an ongoing problem on campus and gave her the name of someone she should contact for support. Campus Crusade for Christ. That was an odd recommendation she felt, for here she only wanted out of the religious craziness, not necessarily wanting to move from one group to another. Still, she reached out to the connection and found more support and in the end, she cautioned her tormentors to leave her alone because college authorities had been alerted and actions would be taken if they did not cease and desist. And, Klara informed Jan that she too heard words from God, and those words were telling her to move to California. Jan told her they had connections in California and someone would get in touch.  
For the first full year in California, Klara fully expected to hear from someone – but no one ever contacted her. She wondered if they did, how would they even know how to reach her, as she hadn’t provided any forwarding details.
In the ensuing years, Klara slowly and completely cut out church. Anything resembling organized religion was of the list. She sought spiritual nourishment through the arts and literature instead. It would be fourteen years later and many other off-road explorations into untraditional concepts of spirit, for Klara to call out to God in desperation one solitary night and ask Him to show her if He was real. Because if He was, she needed to know who He was. And, He answered. And so began a personal journey into a relationship with Christ which builds and grows in a solitary way.  It is that quiet and peaceful source, the truest and best source, that allows her to move forward with hope.  

She still doesn’t thrive in a group church setting, she still resists control freaks, she doesn’t attend a formal church. She reads her bible, she talks to God and she tries to listen and watch for him in the sacred in daily life. 

Be Still And Know I Am God.   Psalm 46:10

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, assurance in what we can not see.   Hebrews 11:1

And, it’s enough for now.

Dalida

I was reflecting back on my youth as an expat child living in France and my mind drifted to Dalida, one of the many celebrities that adorned my walls.  Her hauntingly deep voice always seemed to have a trace of tragedy in it.   Now that I am an adult and I read back on her life, I find that she did in fact have a tremendous amount of tragedy in her life, including her own suicide.  Back when I was around 8 or 9, I was completely oblivious to Dalida’s personal life and the darkness she existed in as I danced around the vast expanse of our crimson oriental carpet bordered with gold and midnight blue to her lilting cadences.  I remember these sessions like they were yesterday; I would dance round this rug using the border like a beam which I was obligated to stay on – leaning off the border was not an option.  This rug provided the demarcation of our living room and dining room and den, which was an L shaped living space in our first floor apartment in Mary-Le-Roi.  We had three of these rugs – under the dining room table, under the living room furniture and one more in our den area where we watched TV and where I twirled around to the voices of Tom Jones, Joe Dassin, Engelbert Humperdink and Dalida.

Such innocence existed in those twirls and movements of joy.  Much later in life, when the internet became part of our daily lives, I found myself curious about the singers that lived in the background of my life.  So I looked them up.    I was saddened by the heart attack that took the life of Joe Dassin- so young.  I had met him once when my family had picnicked at Bois de Boulogne for a special event – Joe Dassin was a celebrity guest and Dad brought us up to meet him and others.  I actually shook his hand and found my heart pounding and face flushed as only a nine year old puppy love induced girl’s can be in those moments.  In hindsight, it’s pretty incredible that I was so young and following all these stars the way that I was.   Dalida experienced a full decade or more of the death of friends and lovers.  It’s no wonder she went down that path herself.  In a way, that insurmountable wave of sadness, loss of joy and purpose landed on my shoulders.  It arrived about fifteen years ago and decided to stay midway through a second marriage marred with strife and emotional upheaval.  But the difference is that within the layers of sadness, disappointment and disconnection from the world, there also exists determination and something that I call the bounce factor.  No matter what seems to come my way, I bounce.  People have commented in wonder, saying things to me like: “it’s amazing you didn’t lose it, or no one would know about your past based on how you live.”  It’s my ability somehow to push on.   To live in the moment only and not look to hard at what is ahead.  To not place my life side by side with others, at least not scrutinizing it too much against what they have, what I don’t have.  What most people enjoy as part of normal, and what my life looks like in comparisson- well, let’s just say that in a way I gave up on normal.   Although a bit cliché, I  turn my mind off sometimes in order to put one foot in front of the other and I find ways to enjoy moments in my daily life; like working up amazing custom itineraries for people traveling through Europe, knitting up a pair of delicate lace socks, reading an interesting book, taking Sofie for a walk or just moving my hands through her silky fur, watching one of my favorite TV shows or a Netflix movie, having breakfast with a friend on a Saturday morning or spending time with my parents who are in their golden years and give me my purpose right now.    With that list and there is more I can add to it, it’s OK that I lived through two failed marriages by the age of 37 and that my first husband was physically abusive, my last husband’s first name is now Erika and that his male parts have been sexually reassigned, that I am approaching the marker birthday that is truly midlife without children, that I was raped at age 25, that I lost my brother in a car accident on Mother’s Day 1979 and that this event had been prompted by my refusal that night to any longer engage in his almost nightly attempts to explore my body under the breath of schnapps.

Life for some is harder than for others.   We all have our burdens, mine are so much less than others.  But to be clear, survival really has been my modus operandi for years.   Surviving each day, and as I have accepted in some ways- waiting to die.  I am solitary for the most part; I get together with an occasional friend- most of whom have kind husbands, lovely children, a house of their own and belong to a club called society.  I have not felt part of that society most of my life.  But I do manage.   And I don’t have a bound up vessel of anger living inside of me.  I don’t plan any actions against anyone else for I don’t blame anyone else.  Somehow, I was designed to tolerate disappointment, to press on in the face of adversity, loneliness and shame.   Part of it is my relationship to God… not a crutch, but a relationship.   The only one that feels real.  His book provides me with a compass, and Jesus offers me hope.  It is simple and in the simplicity – it reassures me.

Even in my solitude I find joy in my moments.  Pick up a good book, enjoy some Earl Grey tea and lay the palm of my hand on the softness of Sofie’s coat.    Just that moment is good and pure and has enough flourishes of joy to take me through to the next moment.  And for now, in this moment, it is good enough.    Tomorrow will take care of itself.

A Recurring Theme

It reassures me to know that others have walked the same path and that there are folks out there who didn’t get their real start until later in life.   In the past few months, I have encountered various souls on the page that have communicated a start to things that didn’t really get on track until middle age.  This brings me hope.  This is my fiftieth year on the planet and while I have filled many a journal with the words- this time it will be different, this time I am serious, this time I will be diligent, dedicated and disciplined- inevitably, I falter and then time lapses, and the next thing you know it is months later or even years later, and I have to pick up the pen again or open the blog again and find myself commenting that once again, a new page, a new journal – a new attempt at writing.   So, this weekend was once again, that moment.  Why is it that I have bursts of passion then … fizzle?  It’s not really a matter of avoiding writing or procrastination, it’s more a result of distraction and an over scheduled life.  Priorities must be managed.  And writing is a big priority for me, or at least in my deepest core it feels like it should be.

I am making a new start and this time, I will not fizzle.  With the new commitment tied to the book by Susan M. Tiberghien and the revived writing group with Angela, I will press on and make time each day for the daily pages.  Is it realistic to schedule it in the mornings?  I already rise at 5:45am or so, I am fairly certain an attempt to get up earlier will fail   And, there are other tasks daily (or at least several times a week) that I must fit in- exercise and good eating is one.  So, the solution is that I really must chart this out- make a plan, a daily contract.   First thing in the morning I speak to God, I listen to God, I meditate on God- a relationship building new habit that I absolutely must prioritize.   Take care of Sofie’s needs- then, get ready for work and head in.    Usually, I leave for work by around 6:50am and I get there around 7:20am- a full hour before I am technically supposed to be there.   So- daily pages can fit from 7:30am until 8:25am on the third floor with a coffee thermos and breakfast (microwave on site).  It’s quiet up there- no on else to bother me.    Then, work my morning hours at my day job.  Lunch break:  3 times a week go for  a walk… at least a half hour.. move the blood.  Then work my afternoon hours of my day job.  Then commute home.  Take care of Sofie’s needs and eat dinner, clean-up.  Then time for creativity .. an important part of decompressing and nourishment for my soul.  Pick up the sticks and add loops to projects, make something beautiful, soothe the tension from the day.   Maybe elaborate on a theme from the morning pages.  It’s a good plan.

Ok- so there it is.  Let’s see if this week of August 24th – whether I can make it work. Both of those sentences suggest the possibility of failure, but   I am hopeful and energized by this approach.  Stay tuned!

A visceral common thread

The opening up of one’s viewpoint often comes from just a few key moments of finding common ground.  This can occur through a shared experience with another soul, finding that one feels a similar response in that shared experience, a way towards feeling less alone in the world.  When I am in the midst of a truly great piece of fiction, I reflect on the main characters reactions and feelings throughout the illustrated circumstances of the moment and ask myself questions:  does this feel familiar?  what would i have done differently?  It amazes me sometimes when I encounter a developed character that resonates so much with me.  I want to know more about the author.  How did this author pull it off?   How is this author able to unfold the depth and real voice and feel of this character to such an extent that I feel a connection to this fictitious individual? 

These are important questions for me for it helps propel me into a deeper meditation on how to create characters for my own pieces that will offer a consort for my future readers.   Why does someone get hooked on a TV series?  Generally, it’s a deep appreciation and fondness for a character.   And this occurs because the character is believable, relatable, vulnerable- even vulnerable in cases of heroism.  

So what does this mean as I push forward to a daily pages and future authoriship goal?  It means that first and foremost the goal must be to introduce someone to an audience that will be worthy of people’s attention.. whether that is worthiness of respect, of care, of honor and even of humility.

Someone that others would want to know and whose friendship they would never want to lose.

Who is this person?  What is this person made of?   What are the person’s vulnerabilities?  What are her dreams?   Where is she on the journey- at what stage in her life?  Has she missed out on some things?   and if so- why?   What were her obstacles?   Are these obstacles firm or can they be moved?   Is it too late for some dreams?  And can her dreams be changed?   What are her strengths?  Her weaknesses?  What are some things that she stands firm on?  And what strong opinions over the years have found a way towards bending and adjusting?

Where does she live?

Who is her tribe?

Does she even have a tribe?

 May 11, 2015 

A Lullaby For Sofie – a new melody begins

The intent of this blog is to provide a canvas – a space really, to explore all of those things that offer a salve for the soul.   Sofie is my inspiration.   Where she has been, what she has been through, where she is now and where she is headed. I think of Sofie with such tenderness.   I long to maintain a place of safety for her so she can continue to heal and grow stronger, as she learns the boundaries of safety in her new world.   Understanding who is safe and what is safe is a key aspect of her daily existence.   Bracing herself for potential turmoil and danger is always intricately woven into every cell of her tiny frame.  I imagine our lives running parallel to one another – hers in a short span mirroring my longer plight.   It is not an accident that I was selected to provide her with a safe place to find her own inner strength.  And in bringing her this peaceful environment, where she can truly run free without worry of unwelcome demands on her body or mind, I find myself learning from her.   I, too, am finding a new strength to move one foot in front of the other.   And in fact, I find myself looking to build a life of joy in a place that has been a bit murky this last decade.  Waiting to die is no way to live.   If I look honestly at my life these past twenty years or so it’s really been about passing the time, making it to the next morning.   It has not been about thriving or reaching for the good stuff.  It’s been primarily about existing and shielding myself from future pain.     I see with Sofie that the tension she has within her exists also in me and it has for a very long time.   And in this tension, I find myself tired… most days.   It is exhausting to live in a place of mere survival.    Something must change.

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