Thursday, June 27, 2013

Give a little... Get A lot

Giving gifts as inspired by the Holy Spirit is not like the giving as the world can gives in which the giver loses as he gives the gift and the taker is richer by the giver's loss. Such are not gifts but bargains made with guilt. To give as God gives we understand that whatever we give with a pure and cheerful heart we are giving to ourselves, and more. 

Giving is more than just about the stuff we give. Deep down I think we all know that. Even though we may offer an object or service... it's meaning is more. Giving can be a symbol to others of acceptance, affirmation and caring... and frequently, love. But stuff is not love, acceptance or caring so we must be sure not to confuse this or we may unknowingly settle for a shallow substitute!

We must always remember that these gifts cannot create love, but must come through love! True love cannot ever come from stuff but from the heart, or more accurately through the heart of God!

It is this Spiritual law that fulfills God's mission to bring us to Him... and bring Him to all in need. He blesses us for listening to His call of Love and we are rewarded for our efforts. Whatever we are able to give to the world through Him is multiplied. His supply of blessings is as unending as His Love.

We are all a vine with many branches. Through us He can reach others. Through us is shared many blessings and gifts to a broken, confused, and hurting World. By giving these gifts we then receive Him and his Love more and more.

God thereby gives to us by giving through us. Within this law true joy is found, although it contradicts our Earthly reasoning. Yet, His way is not the way of this world. With the greatest of love... God would not arrange this any other way.

  Acts 20:35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day For Love...

I wasn't feeling too good this morning, so I dropped the kiddos off at VBS and came home and went to bed. I set my phone nearby with the timer set so I wouldn't sleep through pick up time. I rested my head on the pillow and closed my eyes... I was out.

Then I heard my phone buzz... buzz... I awoke from my slumber, half out-of-it I automatically reached for my phone. It was a news text coming through... I rolled over and looked at the screen. I couldn't believe what I saw. DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court and deemed unconstitutional!

What is DOMA? Well, I wasn't 100% sure right away what that meant either... but when I clicked on the text and opened up the news article I realized what had just occurred... the Defense of Marriage Act defining a married couple as exclusively between a man and a woman had been deemed discriminatory.

My eyes began to fill with tears as it began to soak in what this moment meant. The tears welling up as I realized what this meant for those committed couples whose love to each is  just like mine is to my beloved! Now married LGBT's can have the same protection and rights under the law that my hetero-marriage provides. A loving door was opening... a door that could lead so many out of bigotries parlor and into the Grand Ballroom of acceptance and love. Finally, equal rights for equal love!

My watery eyes began to overflow, turning to tears of joy. Pure joy. The Earth just became a better place, right before my eyes. I feel more free, not because my life had changed... I am still able to live in a safe neighborhood in suburbia with my husband and children with all the social acceptance and legal rights  that come with it. It's just now my LGBT friends and neighbors are closer to living this dream as well.

I'm so happy! Happy! Happy! One big hurdle towards love equality has now been conquered. I believe, yes... truly believe, that one day everyone will accept each other for their differences, not despite them. I believe we will see gender preference no more defining than one's eye color. I believe our focus will instead how we can celebrate our uniqueness! I believe together we will combine our energies and our efforts to become even more accepting and loving... and make this world the better place that God knows it can be!

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. – Psalm 103:6

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where's the Joy in Giving?

I once gave a friend a gift. I was out of town and saw something I just knew she'd enjoy! It wasn't much... only costing around $10... but it's the thought that counts, right? So I bought it for her... for no reason but "just because". I was excited, and couldn't wait to give it to her.

Not too long after that she gave me something almost identical in return. Honestly, it was a bit confusing to me. I felt like the gift had been returned back to me! I couldn't help but think perhaps the gift was only offered to me in an attempt to keep things even. Sigh.

Have you ever offered to do something for someone in need and yet they declined the favor or said to you "You shouldn't have!"... and they mean it? I've heard someone explain "I don't want to be beholden!" My mother-in-law Jean was the one who explained the meaning of that word to me. She saw someone giving to her as more of a loan than a true favor... something that would have to be repaid in the future... with interest. Before then I'd not considered anyone would feel that way when offered a gift or given a favor.

Perhaps you have been given a gift by surprise and responded "But I didn't get you anything!" or found yourself saying "No one said we were exchanging gifts!" We then immediately brain-storm ways to "pay back" any perceived generosity. Turning gift-giving into more pain than pleasure. Truth is, we often have quite a few road blocks in our hearts keeping us from experiencing anything but!

Gift-giving gets the most complicated (ironically) at Christmas-time. The expectations are at an all-time high... as is the potential for disappointment. Many families have strict rules for all family members to follow. Unfortunately, when a family member does not stick to the plan... resentment, anger, frustration,  or hurt often follows. This is not exactly how anyone wants to feel... especially during the Holiday Season!

This is NOT the cheerful giving that our God intended for us! Our Earthly version is more like a game in which we are all keeping score. "Suzy spent $25 dollars on me for my birthday, so I better get her something around that same price so I don't look cheap!" We place our happiness and worth in making sure it all stays equal.

Some feel driven to give gifts as if it is a competition. When giving they like to make sure their gift is bigger and better than the others. They seek acknowledgement and recognition for being generous and giving, when in reality they are self-seeking instead. They are most pleased if they outdo everybody else. Likely motivated by poor self-worth or identity they seek from others the value that should come from within. Fear of not measuring up themselves they over-compensate with giving, however often are left feeling more insecure than ever... as giving should be motivated not by fear, but by love.

Sometimes we may give too much and yet get little or nothing in return... we feel unloved and uncared for. We may even at times feel taken advantage of or taken for granted.We tell ourselves "I'm not going to give to them again! They don't deserve it!" We then cross them off our gift giving list... protecting ourselves from being hurt by them again. Hoping to collect from our offering the love we so desperately crave... only to feel bankrupted and alone.

We are equally stuck if we give too little... some feeling guilty and shamed at not quite keeping up. Perhaps we go to a party and our gift is much smaller or less admired than the others... leaving us embarrassed and eager just to go home. The present offered in an attempt to draw us closer, to show affection then  becomes the very thing that separates us from another.

Some may do well at receiving the gifts offered by others, but miss out on true blessings as they neglect to give. Receiving much from others they selfishly keep gifts for themselves. In time, these self-centered "users" and "takers" are often exposed. They end up feeling empty and unsatisfied in life without awareness that from taking advantage of other's generosity they take from themselves... and often end up anxious and paranoid as they hoard their treasures away.

There are those of us who feel unworthy of gifts from others. Not feeling "good enough" we dread birthdays and Christmas, completely missing out on the happiness that those days can bring! Some may even stop celebrating these days all together in an attempt to not be faced with their poor self-esteem. The sad truth being if we are unable to accept gifts we aren't open to God's blessings. In order to receive these we must believe we are worthy and open up a place in our hearts and in our lives for these gifts to come in!

When we give we must give with no strings attached knowing that with strings it is as if there was no gift given at all! I've often wondered if those who have a difficulty receiving from others aren't the same folks who give with the greatest expectations! Fearing others may give with similar demands they are hesitant to accept a gift, fearing the unspoken contract! They miss out on the joy to be had when giving willingly, openly, lovingly with no expectation for anything in return. 

We need to reverse our view of giving so we can receive the gifts that God has in store for us! God has a better way for us. Why do we choose to give any other way than the way than God has shown us? This request also comes with a promise that whatever we may give we will receive much much more in return! Its such a beautiful win/win, why would we settle for less? Perhaps we believe on a deep dark level in the law of scarctity... forgetting that this law does not apply to the Spiritual laws of God. Perhaps we forget that Jesus has described for us a much better way.

I believe God show us a better way. Cheerfully. Openly. Lovingly. No longer giving for selfish reasons, we should ask Him for guidance in our gift-giving ways. We should trust Him to speak to us in our hearts for all matters... especially in the ways we give to others. When giving to others we will capture the joy if we always give cheerfully and eagerly with no expectation for even as much as a polite 'thank you' in return. 

We will find ourselves full of joy if we cut the strings of expectation and lead with love. With God as our giving guide He may at time direct us in ways unexpected. We will know His voice by the Peace in our hearts and the joy that follows. We are the messengers of His unending Love, being used every day as we are open and willing to share His Hope, His Love and His Grace to all who will accept it. Just as Jesus gave His life for us with no strings but that of acceptance, we should give our gifts to others with such love. There we will find our joy.

2 Corinthians 9:7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Proverbs 11:24One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Deuteronomy 15:10Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Confessions Of A Newbie Spiritual Blogger...

Have you ever paused for a moment in your spiritual journey and wonder how you got there? I guarantee if you would have told me where my walk with God would lead me I would have scoffed and believed you had lost touch with reality! I wouldn't believe I would find myself writing my 33rd post on a spiritually driven blog! Nor imagine I would be the administrator of a Facebook page devoted to Spiritual encouragement and inspiration!

Yet, here I am so willingly submitting to the Will of God... admittedly, at times not completely... but more than I ever dreamed I would or even could! Following God's Voice, listening to Him and then doing as He requests has been as enlightening as you might expect... and as humbling as you might hope. To be led to do things, share things, say things that to the world seem so strange, foreign and confusing at times is both gratifying and scary. Following this new path so unfamiliar, my dependence on the Holy Spirit growing every step of the way.

I'm being judged. That's been made clear. Not just by strangers, but also by some in my family and a few of the friends I love so dear. Some look upon me with a skeptical eye... especially if my questions and evolving beliefs go against the status quo or the accepted norm. My friends and family possibly questioning my motives or my "new" spiritual identity... withdrawing from the perceived unfamiliarity of my ways. 

I know I shouldn't care if some of my closest friends and family aren't interested in my blogging and spiritual pondering. After all, I'm not writing for others, but for God and for my own peace. Yet, even in my closest circle I've noted some seem totally uninterested in my blogging and the corresponding Not Just A Blonde Facebook page. I have come to be SO thankful to those who give me small words of encouragement or respond with a comment or simple 'like' to let me know they like what I've written. Many of those providing encouragement and feedback are people who have stumbled on my path who I don't even know! I'm thankful for those who I have connected with thus far... such as Tim Chastain who runs a Christian blog Jesus Without Baggage... who has consistently given me encouragement as I too lay my spiritual heart on-line for all to see.

Sigh. It just feels like rejection from some of those closest to me. Yet with this I am forced to remember to let go of the need for other's acceptance and approval... forgiving them for I am sure they are unaware of my earthly need to feel like they care. I need to move beyond this need anyway, so for this I should be grateful!

Talking about God and Spiritual things can immediately separate me from certain people... some just not interested in Spiritual matters. Strangers who don't know God may oft misjudge me. That is totally understanding. For starts, because of the Christian religion's bad rap. If one speaks of God, or worse, Jesus Christ, one can be pegged as one of those "religious people", a "Christian freak", or worse judgmental, haughty, elitist, or just totally un-relatable! Others see God as irrelevant and are just not that interested in me and my spiritual discussions.

Craving more Earthly spiritual companionship may be one of the reasons I considered writing this blog. Sharing my thoughts, observations and frustrations with the possibility of connecting with others about their thoughts, insights, and fears as well. Alas, I sometimes I feel isolated and lonely... yet I have become more and more grateful to those few loving souls who do choose walk and talk with me along the way.

In seeking Truth I wonder why is there so much fear and skepticism from others as we follow our God directed path? And more, when others don't understand us, judge us, and pull away from us... why does it hurt so much? To some I'm either a believer or a deceiver, religious or a pagan, I'm either good or I'm evil, I'm right or I'm wrong, I'm IN or I'm OUT, either saved... or damned to Hell. 

I sometimes feel misunderstood and can sense their judgment. Some may simply fear I am veering away from the well trodden path. If it weren't for the Peaceful, Loving Voice of God and His Presence I too might question what the heck I am doing! Sometimes I question myself why He leads me to do certain things, but with Faith I listen with curiosity on where He might lead me.

I've realized so much of all of this "God-talk" can make others totally uncomfortable, at times literally scaring people... even those who know me well. One or two even questioning if the Voice might be something other than our Living Holy God. I'm not sure where this comes from. Perhaps they are not in agreement with some of my stated beliefs.  Perhaps I don't seem good enough, loving enough, or worthy to engage in these discussions... and with this I totally agree!

I know I am no better and no more deserving of God's favor than anyone else. I'm not any more special or valuable to God than any other. I am loved the same by God as the atheist... and the atheist is loved no less than Billy Graham. Yes, it's true... I'm a mess! At times I indulge in pity parties... this post being a small example of that! Yet, faults, imperfections, and all I've been chosen, as are you, to fulfill a purpose. I'm just an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life... with an extraordinary God leading the way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Together We Can Create A Masterpiece...

Last night I was invited to join a friend for a group art class gathering as part of a birthday celebration. Five of us ladies each enjoyed creating our own masterpieces working side by side with the instructor as our guide... giving us encouragement, feedback and more paint as needed along the way.

I found it most interesting that even though we were each given the same instruction... each of our paintings were different and yet they shared a similar anchor, pattern and color palate. Similar... yet different. Beautiful and unique. Just like each of us.

Feeling very inspired I asked the instructor if she had ever met anyone that desired to be an artist yet despite their desire to do so, just wasn't able to create art. How much of being an artist is pure gift and how much could be taught... 60/40? 50/50? I suppose I was inquiring in part to see if there was any hope for me to improve in my ability... creatively energized as I gazed upon her beautiful paintings hanging on the gallery walls... teasing my artistic fantasy.

She answered "I have rarely met someone who could not create art. If they are not successful I've found they just need to try a different medium!" So with sincere desire anyone can become an artist... through glasswork, photography, sculpture, textiles or painting... multiple different methods to express whatever is in our heart!

I realized in that moment that a spiritual question had been answered that had been stirring in my mind. I wondered if God supported us in the desires of out heart. I questioned does God support our dreams? Does He want us to use our talents? If God gave each of a gift... are we supposed to use it?

The answer to these questions seemed to be yes... and no. Our gifts lead us to our Purpose as do our hopes and dreams... but the medium God choses for our expression may not be what we would ever expect or choose for ourselves. The desire in our hearts is ours and by opening up to His perfect guidance we can be led to the medium that will fulfill our dreams and potential!

If I love art, perhaps I'm not a painter... but a sculptor. If my heart soars with music perhaps I'm not meant to be a rock star... but will thrive as a Christian speaker/performer. If I love writing perhaps I am not going to write the next best selling novel... but I will feel deep satisfaction in writing a blog that can inspire others! Many talents with many unique expressions... each one as different as each of us. 

His direction will always satisfy our greatest desires... but we must be willing to trust the Voice of God as He speaks to us and guides us. Desiring to use our gifts will lead us towards the path God has for us... If we follow His direction. God, the giver of all our gifts, knows our full potential! Each one of us with unique abilities if aligned with the Will of God can heal this broken world.

In this journey of life there are many artists...but one canvas. Together we can create a masterpiece with God as our Guide, as the body of Christ... bringing Heaven to Earth for all... as God has eternally intended.

A special thank you to Becky for inviting me to her birthday gathering 
and to Something Special Gallery  for hosting the wonderful paint and party experience! 

P.S. Yes! This IS the painting I created that night! 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Not Just A Blonde...

I've always been a blonde... at times a shade or two darker or "dirtier" but nonetheless blonde. Over the years I have come to realize this descriptive fact has permeated my identity. I especially enjoyed the time in my late teens and early twenties when I "enhanced" my natural blonde shade to a lighter and more golden hue. Life seemed to just be better as a blonde!

There was a time, however, when my lust for golden locks took a terrible turn.  I was nineteen and it was the early 1990's when long hair full of body and wave was highly desired. Being in college my budget for vanity was low so I "enhanced" my dishwater blonde with a spritz or two of Sun-In to return my "blah" into "beautiful" long blonde hair. But my hair seemed to be more limp and stringy as an old perm had grown out it's effectiveness. I wanted more bounce in my blonde... And on a large poster hanging on the wall of an in-home salon (owned by a close college friend's older sister) I discovered what I believed would bring my head of hair into blonde perfection... A spiral perm!

Well, I gathered my money. I'm pretty sure I got this perm for a great price as I was a poor college student and also dear friend of the stylist's sister, after all. I eagerly sat in her chair and awaited my enhancement. Except, when the rods came out and my hair was dry my hair wasn't exactly enhanced...  it was curly... too curly! I was immediately encouraged by my stylist that "after a couple of washes my hair would settle down". I relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief, internally counting the moments until I could get home and start the process ASAP.

I got home and got into the shower... and that's when I noticed something was terribly wrong! My bleached blonde hair had had enough and was falling out by the handful as I scrubbed away. That's when I panicked. I was told I had thick blonde hair while I got the perm (as it took longer than typical to roll me up) and I was glad about that. Perhaps no one would notice... perhaps it will still be all right.

Except... it wasn't! Not only did my hair continue to break off...but what was left was more frizzy than full and the texture was more straw-like than the shiny silky hair I had had just a few days before. I was devastated... and honestly depressed. It turned out, after consulting with other stylists as I questioned again and again "How could this have happened?!"  The Sun-In that left my hair so beautifully blonde and shiny... also stripped the hair of the needed protection needed for a perm. My blonde ambition set me up for this disaster!

My hair was the basis of my positive self concept and in my mind it made up for the many negative characteristics that I already suffered with and loathed! Now with the one thing I loved having  been stripped away... all that was left was the ugly. My big thighs, my small squinty eyes, my short legs, my bubble butt seemed to be all that was left. Who would ever date me? Who would ever love me?! My self-esteem plummeted as it was unfortunately tangled up with the color and quality of hair on my head.

I was at a sensitive age when most young ladies, myself included, were in a hunt for Mr. Right. I was convinced I would miss out getting married, having children, being happy unless I found him before he found somebody else. Fear, anxiety and sadness in the loss of my self-concept overtook me... pushing me over the edge with an already fragile psyche. I was lost. 

Sure, I knew my family loved me, I knew God loved me... but I was a young hopeless romantic that wanted to be perfect... to look perfect. My hair cut shorter and shorter in an attempt to salvage what was left... to no avail. It was then that I realized that my self-esteem was entangled with my hair... a superficial and unstable foundation for a solid self-concept to be built upon.

Another frustrating fact I live with is the slow pace in which my hair grows. My guess is at a pace of around 6 inches a year... although nice due to not needing frequent touchups of highlights... it is horrible if wanting to recover from a humiliating hair catastrophe! So, needless to say I had a loooooong time to recover and rebuild an identity other than one that depended on the color and quality of my hair to stay secure. My spiritual identity became more of my focus and the curse was transformed, in looking back, into an undeniable blessing!

There have been a few times along life's path where my self-identity, as it is tied into my hair, has been tested. Having forever sworn off all perms... I have yet to let the blonde go! After self-coloring throughout my 20's I had to give it up that up the day I self-colored my hair into a shade of purple... after having it corrected at a salon I now leave it to the professionals. The well-intended professional that color-corrected me that day recommended I go darker due to the chemical harshness of bleaching. Although I went to her several times, after too much pressuring to go darker blonde... to me a light brown... I never went back. Blonde being part of my identity I didn't want to let go!

I then found a new stylist... being a colored blonde herself she understood my desire for blonde. Self- aware of my fragility I communicated clearly to her from the start how important my blonde hair was to me. After a flip-flop color job where she darkened the majority of my hair and highlighted minimally instead of the other way around... I began to cry, not recognizing myself in the mirror, she immediately went to work to correct what had occurred. Another reminded my identity was still linked with my locks.

My most recent wake-up call came a couple of years ago when the same stylist colored my hair as she usually did... this time with a very unusual result. I had already mentioned that I was noticing more damage lately, and was wondering why. This time, however, it happened again... only worse. After sitting under the warm dryer after an extended length of time... be it due to my thyroid, the dryer, new brand of hair product, or a mixture of all of the above... my highlighted hair turned white!

Large streaks of ash white hair framed my face. Thinking it was the lighting I left the salon only to be confronted with the unnatural shade at home in my bathroom mirror. After going to work the next day... without the usual "your hair looks nice!" that typically occurs after returning to work following a salon day... I knew. It wasn't just me. After asking a dependable, yet brutally honest co-worker, it was confirmed... my hair had been damaged and was "ash grey" as I had feared. I went back the next day to have the stylist add toner to remove the ash... but the damage was done. My hair was once again straw-like and breaking off... a repeated lesson following me into adulthood.

Once again, my lust for blonde hair left my happiness vulnerable to be taken away. Being older and wiser it didn't affect me (thankfully) to the depth of disparity I had suffered in my youth, but was a
reminder I needed to remember happiness does not come from healthy hair. I am not my hair. If I place my value and identity in things such as this... Earthly treasures of self-esteem, whether it be the quality and color of my hair, the clothes I wear, the car I drive, my fitness level, my weight, the side of town I live on, my house, my health... these are all things that can be taken away and mean nothing in Eternity's eyes!

I am not just a blonde! I'm also "not just" a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, an Auntie, a daughter, or a therapist! Although this may describe me in my Earthly life... eternally my identity and worth is based on something much greater than all these things combined! I am an eternal spirit of God's creation and Love! Why would I settle for my Earthly identity that I have created when a better one awaits? As soon as I let go of what I have placed over my True Identity I can see who I truly am...  a child of the Spirit, a sharer of Light, a daughter of the Living God! In this I find my true self-identity... one that offers me a secure self-concept that cannot be taken away or altered! "Not Just A Blonde" is an important reminder to me... and to others... that none of us are "just" what we seem to be... but much, much more!

Monday, June 3, 2013

What Is Love... And Why It Matters

What is Love? This is an important question... Perhaps one of the most important questions one may ask oneself in life... The answer leading us directly to God. The word love in itself has many connotations... lust, infatuation, desire, possession, craving, obsession, mastery, satisfaction, just to name an obvious few. But I am not asking the definition of that love, but the definition of Love as in God's love for us and the love we are called to offer each other in this life, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

The best definition of God's Love I've read is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV):
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

With this description we are offered a glimpse of God. He is patient, He is kind. God does not boast, nor is He proud. God will not dishonor us, nor is He self-seeking or easily angered! He keeps no record of wrongs! He rejoices in Truth. He will always protect us, trusts our best self, and is always full of hope. He will persevere forever. 

This Love describes the God of the Universe... one who I have come to know and have given my trust. He is my hope, my strength and is the only Truth there is. God is Love. To know God is to know Love... that's why "What is Love?" is such an important question. True happiness in this life and beyond rests entirely in the mastery of this... Love.

❤God is Love is God❤