Finding My Path

photo by Paul Gilmore on unsplash

 

From my earliest days I was taught to grow up and find something to do. As I grew I learned to see others and be seen based on what they and I did. Even now as an adult, one of the first things people ask when they meet is, “What do you do?”

This is our culture, defined by our accomplishments, visible actions and production over all else. And my own story is fraught with struggles and fears and failures.

I used to think everyone simply chose to do something which they wanted to do. Yet many people are dissatisfied and merely doing that which will hopefully earn enough income to subside on.

One day I wandered off into a wild wood beyond the known world. I found myself standing in a clearing surrounded by paths shooting off in every direction. At first I wondered if this were some kind of test to see which path I would choose, but soon enough I discerned it was not so much a test as it was a discovery into my experience.

The paths around me were comprised of all types. Some of the paths were paved and smooth and obvious. They looked the easiest to travel and so I chose one and stepped on it, only to be kicked back out by an invisible force. I tried similar paths only to experience the same thing. These paths then were obviously not meant for me to travel.

Another type of path was gravelly and narrow, yet welcoming in its own way. I tried to start down three of these paths only to feel the gravel slide out from under me, landing me repeatedly on my backside. Clearly not the path I was to go on.

The muddy, swampy paths did not appeal nor did ones reeking of skunk and rotting carcasses. There were dirt paths I thought for sure I would find my way on but the paths were overgrown in many places and some disappeared altogether.

After a time I identified all paths diverged in the wood and I chose none of them, regardless of more or less traveled.

One day near the base of a tree I came across a machete and attempted to travel one of the dirt paths, clearing out the overgrowth and hacking my way a bit farther in. Alas, it was too hard and so I abandoned the trail and returned to the start. I next chose a swampy, muddy path with the intent of using the machete to work my way around the pools of muck and mud. Unfortunately, I quickly landed myself in the midst of a huge muddy, sludgy puddle which nearly sucked me in before I managed to pull my feet to steady ground.

All of these paths and all of these opportunities closed off to me completely! It’s not fair, I thought. Why shouldn’t one of these paths work for me?

Frustrated, I tried more of them again and again, only to be rejected and returned to the clearing, dejected and hopeless.

One portion of the wood seemed to shimmer a bit and I advanced forward, only to discover a giant mirror hidden behind some bramble. I cleared the bramble away and peered into the mirror which strangely hid my reflection but reflected paths behind me which I was sure I hadn’t tried yet. I turned to these paths and had to look back to the mirror several times before I realized it was trickery. The paths didn’t exist, or if they did, I had not the slightest clue of where to access them.

I tried to wiggle behind the mirror under the assumption that perhaps the mirror itself was there to keep me from a path behind it. However, as soon as I slipped past the mirror, the undergrowth snagged on to me so tightly, my arms and legs under my torn shirt and pants were bloody and raw from multiple deep scratches and cuts.

Angry at the illusion and the reality of paths not meant for me, I ranted and raved, and swore and screamed and cried.

After a time I thought, Maybe I’m meant to forge my own path. I picked up the machete which I had thrown across the clearing and headed for an area lacking any path whatsoever. I swung and sweat for a long time, moving slowly forward. This is going to work, I thought, until I looked back to find I’d only slashed my way in a few feet.

By now the light in the clearing had shifted and shadows crept closer every moment. I curled up in the clearing hoping for better results the next day.

The next day I met with similar results. Several days later I was surprised to notice I could actually move farther along on several paths before they rejected me. Some days I found myself pretending to be someone else which resulted in my being able to take more steps down a given path. Still, it was inevitable I’d come across a place in the path where it was impossible to advance farther in.

Always I returned to the clearing to sleep. A growing sense of uselessness consumed me as I slept and dreamed of the known world where people did things. Everyone seemed to find something to do, except me. I remained in the clearing with multiple paths of rejection. I longed for purpose. I attacked new and old paths doing my best to make them work for me. Alas, even the ones where I could make it in the farthest left me with a sense of hopelessness deep in my soul.

Perhaps I was ultimately useless and worthless, cursed and wounded beyond recovery. After all, I obviously couldn’t contribute or help if I couldn’t stay on a path.

Years after I entered the clearing of paths not meant for me, I sat in the clearing, dejected as always and despairing of ever finding my way out of the clearing of paths, when I felt a presence. I turned in a circle and met with the Man of Light. His skin glowed brightly, muting His features. As I studied Him, I felt no fear, for I knew Him as surely as I knew myself. This was the One Who Had Gone Before. This was the Ancient of Days, El Elyon.

He looked at me with such compassion my knees wobbled and I felt a couple of tears trail down my cheeks. He knows me, I thought. He understands my difficulties and struggles in this place of paths not meant for me.

He approached and I hung my head, ashamed of my ongoing failures in this place. I felt stupid for not being able to find the path meant for me to travel.

He wiped the tears now dribbling down my chin and raised my face until our eyes met. “Come,” He said, “your path is now ready for you.”

I picked up the machete. He held His hand out for it and as I placed the handle in His hand, relief flooded me. I’m not alone anymore.

We crossed the clearing to the side opposite the mirror where before I’d only met with dense, overgrown, resistant and stubborn flora. He swiped some ivy out of the way and I fell to my knees in shock for in front of me was a new path which soon left the wood altogether and entered into fields of wildflowers. The path eventually meandered toward a tower in the far distance.

I stepped onto the path, surprised and relieved at a new feeling of rightness. Hope surged through me, for I knew my purpose lay on this path. The Ancient of Days stepped on the path and I suddenly realized all along what my biggest problem had been. I had been measuring my worth by how far along a path of my own choosing I could make it instead of seeking Him to find my worth and asking Him to reveal my path.

The path before me is long, I’m probably going to run into danger, delay, resistance and mishaps, but I am no longer wandering alone. I’m moving forward, hopeful, purposeful and worthy in His eyes. I am doing what I have longed to do. And these words set to page are a step down my right path.

Photo by Joel Holland on Unsplash

 

Mordor Living

Yes. This is an entry about Lord of the Rings of which I recently watched the extended version. For those of you ignorant of the series, please feel free to go off and read the books and or go watch the extended version. Then come back here in a month, or however long it takes.

I was thinking this morning about living according to Mordor. Mordor is darkness, enemy habitat, offensive and hateful living. A person living a Mordor life prefers to take over all territory around them and darken it with their presence. They will constantly try and recruit anyone to their side/opinions/mindset. They are willing to sacrifice any and all for more power. They constantly have their eye tuned to others in order to control or manipulate others under or against them.

The problem is that I am a Mordorian at times. How often do I dwell in enemy territory, taking in his lies and stewing in darkness? How many times have I sought to make everyone miserable around me? (Of course it’s subconscious.) As for darkening the world around me, on my worst days, I don’t even want to be around myself. I’m great at persuasion when it comes to me looking good over others.

The alternatives are many. A Shire existence is preferred, some might even consider it heavenly. A simple outlook on life with plenty of cheer and consumption. Still, there are hobbits who annoy.

Rohanians keep an eye on the enemy and attack, yet they are reliant on horses for strength and the Bible says in Isaiah 31:1 “…woe to those who rely on horses..”.

People of Gondor have to climb too many stinking stairs and they white wash everything. Rivendale, well, um, we can’t really be elves. Sorry. I see them more as angelic than human.

I’m sure there exists some massive volume of symbolism for J.R.R. Tolkien’s world. I’m just skimming the surface and trying to figure out where I should exist.

Hmm. Maybe where I am now, but maybe looking up first instead of out first. Of course every morning I eat two breakfasts, so perhaps I’m part hobbit after all.

The point is that I need to stop living like a Mordorian on any given day. By the grace of Christ I can.

What about you? Where do you dwell?

Glory

Here I am six months since my last post with no excuses to offer except stubbornness, fear, and if I’m honest with myself, a bit of rebellion.

This week I went away from the world on a defining the writer retreat. What that means is that I actually went away by myself to discover who I am as a writer before God. And trust me, it was needed after five months of using writing coach services on my first manuscript. The process was grueling and ugly and all sorts of gross attitudes and yucky things surfaced, not to mention the overall rewrite that is still needed.

With writing heart wounded and yet hoping, I armed myself with writing projects, three songs (my phone had no signal and I couldn’t get wifi), a Bible and a cool book called “The Pilgrim Spirit”, and went to a secluded spot on the coast and wrote, read what I wrote, prayed, worshiped and hoped.

A quote from J.D. Salinger’s, “Catcher in the Rye”, came to mind. WARNING:  A SWEAR WORD FOLLOWS. Holden, the main character, says, “That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘F— you’ right under your nose. . .” [–‘s added by me] “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the BLEEPS [again added by me, Laura] signs in the world. It’s impossible. . .”

This world is all about writing you know what on every surface.

On the retreat, out in the midst of praising God and worshiping and praying over my writing at the same time, God spoke. He told me that my words, my blog, is me writing the word “glory” on a surface.

It makes me think about our lives too. Our lives will write one word or another on the surface of everything, person, place we encounter. I believe that as believers in Christ that we are to be glory writers. I don’t know what this looks like for you, and even for me. But this I know, at the end of my days I want to have more “glory’s” than the other.

What about you, what word are you currently writing on the surface of your current circumstances, relationships, even possessions? What could you do today to write “glory” for all to see?

Holden might be right, we can’t wipe out every single “F— you” in this world. But we can try to write at least as many, if not more, “Glory’s”. I’m starting today with this blog. Glory.

In the Ring Over Gifts

This year for Christmas I’ve been wrestling with God and myself on an issue that seems to keep popping up for me every year right around this time:  Gift Giving/Receiving.

I heard a sermon earlier this year about contribution versus expectation. I posted it up on a chalk board in my home and as I was decorating for Christmas, I ended up placing my nativity picture in the same space as it. I got to thinking, Christ’s birth was a contribution to fulfill our expectation. Christ contributed with His life to fulfill God’s expectation of righteousness in us.

I thought, “Cool God, that’s deep,” but then I made the mistake of asking God to change my heart this year about giving and receiving gifts. And of course, He was faithful. And unexpectedly, contribution versus expectation took on a whole new meaning.

I do not doubt that God has a sense of humor. In addition to my normal gift buying woes–gift giving is not my love language–the opportunity to purchase gifts for each of the forty-one kids at the school where I work, presented itself. I wrestled through the whole expectation of me giving them a gift versus contributing cheerfully.

To be honest, and this will come as no surprise, most of the time I am a reluctant gift giver. And as for receiving, well, let’s just say I’ve not been exactly gracious in the past. But I want to change. I truly do.

I long to be a generous, cheerful contributor instead of a reluctant giver bound up by expectations. And I want all of my expectations of incoming gifts to fall by the wayside and instead to embrace the spirit of the giver as I receive it with authentic joy.

More than these I want next Christmas to be void of this issue altogether.

And back to Christ. . . the world awaited the Messiah to come, but their expectations were inaccurate and many ended up rejecting His greatest contribution.  Hmm, still mulling over all the meanings of contribution versus expectation.

What about you? Are you a generous, cheerful contributor or do you get caught up in gift-giving expectations?

Post-Thanksgiving . . .

This is a post-Thanksgiving post. This is a post about Thanksgiving. This is a post of Thanksgiving. This is a post beyond the gluttonous holiday of turkey stuffing and stuffing yourself with turkey, beyond the great rush of scoring the perfect gift on sale on black Friday or the football team of choice’s game times and scores.

I am thankful for so much. I could list off a bunch of items here from job to friends to possessions, etc. But I’m not going to. Being thankful for something is not the same thing as being thankful to someone. I heard a message last Sunday about Thanksgiving and how it should be intentional and also how true thanksgiving goes way beyond circumstances.

The Thanksgiving holiday should be a bridge of gratitude into the spiritual realm, into God country.

This Thanksgiving my husband and I hosted a pack of dogs. Ten dogs total in our house. My thanksgiving regarding this particular circumstance translates into praise to my Savior for providing me with endurance, but more so for my heart transformation about the ten dogs in our house. I thank God for the work He continues to do in me with love and grace and concern for my spiritual well-being.

This world is so temporary and transparent, if only we choose to look beyond and embrace the One who gives us eyes to see and hearts to know.

I know who I am thankful to, for the many things I am thankful for.

What about you, do you truly know whom you are thanking? Or are you absently listing off your thankfulness without considering the Source of your gratitude?

Leftovers

I work at a school where we sit together at meal times family style and pass the food around. By the end of the meal, depending on the food, there is either nothing left or lots of leftovers. But this really isn’t going to be about those kind of leftovers at all.

I’ve been reading in the gospels these days on my continuing journey of reading through the Bible chronologically in one year. I’ve now read the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000+ with five loaves of barley and two fish in every gospel. Today I read the final version found in John.

You would think that having read and heard about the miracle probably at least a couple dozen or so times in my life that nothing different would stand out to me. But God is an amazing God. I asked to be shown something new today in His word and sure enough, He supplied it.

John 6:12 (ESV) reads, “And when they had eaten their fill, He told His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.'”

I continued reading amazing, powerful verses that John 6 contained but by the end of it, I kept coming back to this verse. A question nagged at my heart, why bother collecting the leftovers?

Didn’t everyone just witness the incredible abundance and provision of God first hand? The crowd was full, no one was crying, “I didn’t get any,” which is something I hear on a regular basis these days from my young friends at work. No, everyone ate to their heart’s content; a huge miracle had occurred. Why gather up the leftovers, fragments at that?

I started wondering about the point of Jesus’ instructions, was it to continue showing the people and the disciples the abundance of God? How often in my own life have I witnessed the miraculous workings of Christ in my life and intentionally forgot to collect the leftovers? Was collecting the leftovers more about lingering in the presence of God and not rushing out to look for the next powerful Christ encounter?

Perhaps instead, the collection of leftover fragments is about lingering in amazement at the abounding _________ of God in the moment.

“‘. . . that nothing may be lost.'” Including amazement, speechlessness, awe, gratitude and praise for the miraculous.

Do you, like me, need to start gathering in the leftover fragments of God’s miracles in your life? How could you do this? Where is God calling you to?

Soul Victories

Today another delay in an area of my life where I want to move out of the stagnate pool I’ve been stuck in for so long. And of course, I am irritated. Exhausted with waiting.

It may sound strange, but I don’t know if this new delay is from God or Satan.  It doesn’t really matter. Either way, my attitude marks whose side it is used for.  And with this realization, my mind whirls with how often my attitudes, behaviors and reactions to life circumstances big and small generally tend to go against glorifying God and instead working for the cause of the enemy of my soul.

But even if just once I can stop in the moment, look past the questions and turn to my Shepherd to accept the circumstance, then I have a soul victory. It very well may be a tiny one. Still it is a soul victory.  Whereas our culture likes to focus on tangible victories, ones that can be seen and or measured, Christ watches for soul victories. Invisible to the eye. Yet incredibly visible to El Roi–the God who sees.

Soul victories are powerful. They are all about praising while the storm rages around you. They are moments of calm consideration amidst a torrent of emotions. They are choices made in the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. They are victories that come at the price of selfishness, pride and other iniquities grumbling and rumbling around in our hearts.

Who knows how many soul victories I’ve lost out on. As for the delay today, I declare a soul victory within it.

What circumstance in life is God inviting you to choose a soul victory? Whose side have your attitudes and reactions been supporting?

Peanuts’ Reflection

I recently discovered I have a mild food allergy to peanuts. But this post isn’t about that at all. I’m referring to the other Peanuts, you know, Snoopy and Charlie Brown and the gang.

I posted earlier on facebook that I was Pigpen today. I was sanding down the textured walls of my bedroom and it was a big, cloudy, dusty mess.

It got me thinking more about Pigpen. What was his deal? Why was he always so filthy? Was it because he had poor hygiene, or was it something else they never really talked about, at least to my knowledge?

What if the philosophy behind Pigpen was simply, “Get in there and have an adventure and to heck with cleanliness”? I think too often I have portrayed Lucy instead in my life, wanting to push my ideas on people and boss others around in my struggle to maintain a false control. I remember her best for her doctor’s booth, I think she was a psychologist. She loved to sit on the sidelines and give advice while others did the work.

That’s been my own philosophy many times in home ownership, tell my husband what needs done and try to tell him how to do it. Just for the record–that never goes over well.

I’m going to change and become Pigpen-ish. I am going to step up to the overloaded plate set before my husband and start taking on tasks, no matter how hard or unpleasant, to ease his burden and to live a life of action. After all, didn’t Christ call us to the action of service?

Which Peanuts character do you most identify with and why?

Selective Hearing

Our new house is nestled on a high bank beside a river of humanity called Highway 18. The sound of traffic is constant. Sometimes the river flows fast and furious–rush hour–and sometimes it slows to a near trickle–late at night, early mornings, etc.

Luckily a jungle lies in between our house and the river. Yes, I’m well aware that Washington state does not have jungles, although it does have rain forests. The property slopes into a valley of tangled vine maple, berry bramble times a million and in general a twisted mass of shrubbery. About an acre of our property is like this.

Last week I began to hear the jungle noises, mainly that of tropical bird calls. Hallelujah there have been no monkey sightings, although I am on the lookout for sasquatch. But back to the birds.

I have begun to hear bird calls I’ve never even begun to imagine emitting from the jungle most days. Your guess is as good as mine as to what bird is calling–unless of course you are a birder, in which case please come visit and help me identify the calls.

The traffic is still ongoing, the river is more likely to flood than hit drought, at least at current gas prices and commutes, but I am tuning into the birds. I am choosing to concentrate on them instead and be amazed by God’s creation. The birds are whistling, singing and warbling their praise, reminding me to praise my Creator as well.

As you flow along in your own river of humanity, are you just making noise, or are you contributing to the symphony of praise all around us on this great planet? If you find you are not, what is keeping you from it? What do you need to do differently?

Wall of Mirrors

Mirrors, mirrors on the wall, who’s the daringnest of them all to remove them off without a fall?

I have a wall of mirrors in my new house. Or I did have one. I removed around thirty one foot mirrors today in the smallest bedroom of our house. It was scary. They were taped on and I had to pry them off one at a time all the while hoping they wouldn’t crack or shatter.

Suprisingly, only one shattered, and that was because I dropped it. Several of them cracked but most came off without cracking up. I didn’t crack up much during the process either.

I slowly watched myself disappear as I removed each panel of mirror. So many reflections of myself visible, so many angles, so many different perspectives. One by one I was swallowed up. Behind the wall of mirrors was a yellow wall. Immediately the room seemed darker and smaller.

I kept waiting for some grand revelation through the mirror removal process. The only thing I came up with was this:  Christ calls us to die to self, to remove all of our own perceptions of who we are in order that we may be ready to embrace who He wants us to be.

At the end, the wall was a blank slate. Hopefully by my end, the selfish, sinful Laura parts will all disappear, replaced by the glory of God.

So, what would you do with a wall of mirrors?  And what do you think I should do with my blank slate (it’s in our office room)?