The picture at the top of this page is of a wildfire that came within a mile of my family’s home in 2016. Fast forward, I began to pen this blog entry about a week before the news reported the tragedy of wildfires in California last year. I’ve always had this weird radar or intuition about things, but it seems kind of odd to me that I was thinking about Fire. I often lack clarity when it comes to what God is trying to tell me.
After the heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and devastation, in light of a tumultuous year of conflict and loss, the correlation made sense. Still, thinking about my own experience seemed selfish after so many had experienced serious pain and loss. I put the blog away in my drafts of unpublished blog entries. At least 85 were dead with 14,000 homes lost. It’s so hard to fathom. I had no more words.
When we think of fire or flame we often think of destruction or heartbreak and loss. Fire is scary stuff. Just a spark can ignite and quickly spread if the conditions are favorable.
🎶I’ve been sleepwalking, Been wondering all night. Trying to take what’s lost and broke, And make it right. I’ve been sleepwalking Too close to the fire…🎶
My experience in the first part of my life was exactly that. That fire I had inside me to find what I thought I was looking for caused me a considerable amount of heartbreak, and it came to the point where I looked back at my life and saw all the destruction, too. If I’m honest, that fire came with a price when I didn’t know how to properly channel my passion. An uncontrolled burn, if you will.
But God doesn’t want us to live a life devoid of passion either. Ask someone you don’t know well what they are passionate about, and watch that spark you see within them when they talk about what that passion is to them. It’s undeniable.
That kind of Fire is something we admire in others. I’ve always had an appreciation for people who get fired up; its convicting to everyone around them. To me it demonstrates courage and tenacity. That fire inside, although unchanneled, kept me going with hope through my darkest hour.
The song “Burning House” is a heavy song, but it also reminds me of how far I’ve come; there was a time when I avoided songs that triggered difficult memories. Now I’m learning to hear songs that evoke painful memories and use that as a kind of “exposure” therapy for myself.
Another place in scripture that talks about a flame is here.
I don’t know about you, but I am fascinated with genetics, and the idea of the legacy I’ll leave behind is very important to me. My work has exposed me to a concept that suggests that pieces of our DNA carry more than just our ancestors hair color, facial features or ethnicity, but other traits, as well as their ability to be altered by our experience. So, if you want to continue the metaphor, it’s like carrying a proverbial torch that my children carry on and then my grandchildren, continuing forward. That’s Legacy!
So, how do you manage being a passionate person and keep that fire going without letting it consume you? Or how do you exist in a world that might just rather you extinguish that flame all together? Spiritual warfare is a thing!
Something that stands out to me about my personal experience is echoed in many of my other blog entries. It’s Dangerous to go it alone. Even though our culture perpetuates the idea that individuality is “where it’s at”. It’s dangerous because it’s easy to elevate yourself to an unhealthy level and then to find yourself lacking after getting to where society told you you would be happy. Isolation is a dangerous thing. Surrounding yourself with other like minded individuals helps to fuel that flame, keep it healthy and strong.
The idea I love is that chances are the “fire” within you, your passion, is a spiritual gift. Whatever your talent is, it’s something God gave you to use, in my case, to help or reach others. When you use your skills this way, it’s for His glory!
There are lots of Spiritual Gift inventories out there. If you haven’t taken one to determine your spiritual gifts, I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about myself! The world might try to say you are lots of things but a Spiritual Inventory will tell you who He says you are!
I was that girl. I was always busy, busy busy, no time to stop and question, no time to be still. And honestly, I didn’t want to. Life is funny like that though; you’re just cruising along thinking “I got this!” or maybe even going at a breakneck speed, whispering “If I just drive fast enough through this spot, I’ll get through it and onto the next adventure.” I specifically remember telling myself on many occasions that “I can do it, I’ll be ok.”But what if, like me, you never pause for reflection? What if you never take the time to relax and examine yourself? What if like me you’re counting on yourself to make things happen and as long as everything goes as planned…….
True to form, God knew I’d never do that willingly. 2013 was a year of tumultuous events. It’s as if God was dialing up the volume to see if I was paying attention. May 20th is my birthday. Oddly enough several weeks before my birthday I told my best friend that I felt like something bad was going to happen on my birthday. She shrugged it off but I remember feeling uneasy. I’ve always had a strange gift of intuition that I usually second guess but at times has been strangely accurate.
It was Spring in Oklahoma and the last couple of years had opened my eyes to some weather situations I’d never experienced in my life. Originally being from the East Coast where hurricanes are more of a thing, the unpredictability of the severe weather here was terrifying to me. The year before, I’d had my windshield and much of my car destroyed by baseball sized hail, but this year, there had been a pretty active tornado season.
Laying in my bathtub in my apartment with a twin mattress over me, I experienced a new kind of fear for the first time in my life, as a tornado touched down less than a block away. It pulled a roof off a house and then billowed East/North East to eventually hit other towns and cause more disruption and greater damage.
I woke up the next morning (my birthday) and the air was heavy with a sense of foreboding. I literally walked outside and drove to work with the lyrics of Jewels song like an anthem “I roll my window down feeling like I’m gonna drown in this strange town.” I’d been transplanted in Oklahoma by the military, and even after 4 years it didn’t feel like home. In this strange season of crazy weather, a girl who needed to feel control in her life was feeling very, very uncomfortable.
That was the day that May 20th was no longer just another day in May that happened to be my birthday. That day my coworkers and I sat in utter disbelief as we watched horrified at the surreal events play out live on the tv screen in our break room.
A huge tornado began to form near Moore Oklahoma just before 2 that afternoon.
Statistics from that day recall that this wasn’t just ANY tornado, it was an EF5, the biggest and baddest of all types of tornadoes, with wind speeds of 210 mph. It had a path of 14 miles that chugged along on the ground for 40 painstaking minutes with a wedge shape over ONE MILE WIDE . It was leveling everything in its path. This was the first time I had EVER heard a meteorologist say “If you aren’t below ground you aren’t safe.”
When all was said and done, 24 people had died and over 200 were injured. The area lay in ruin, looking like a bunch of rubble, where a housing community once existed. Most houses completely destroyed down to the slab; an estimated 2 billion dollars worth of damage.
When bad things happen, we have a tendency to wonder why or even think God has something to do with it, don’t we? We sometimes also don’t think about the enemy and his power to wage war upon the earth. It makes me think about this verse.
Looking back now at the May 20 tornado, I could question what was behind that tornado on my birthday, but at the time I really didn’t. It was only in retrospect that I began to ponder the connection.
Just a few weeks before my birthday, something had made me pick up the phone and call to make an appointment with a therapist at my church. The appointment happened to be for May 21st. In the aftermath of the tornado, I got a phone call asking if I still wanted to come in tomorrow for my appointment since a lot had happened on that day and the counselors were planning to do relief efforts. I still remember reciting the words “If I cancel this appointment I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to do it again” and hearing the receptionist tell me “then we will absolutely be here for you tomorrow.”
The next day I sat in the Counselor’s office, the same place I would sit every Wednesday afternoon for one hour, week after week.
Ironically, Mother Natural wasn’t done wreaking havoc. May 31st would prove to be another day of catastrophic weather. My best friend studied meteorology in college. A native Oklahoman, unlike me the prospect of seeing a tornado put a gleam of fascination and excitement in her eyes. The weather channel began warning people early in the day to get to a safe place, preferably below ground before 4 pm. Since I lived in an apartment, my bestie told me to come stay with her because she had a storm shelter.
I drove down the interstate scared because so many people were literally in their cars trying to drive away from the projected path of the tornado, that I feared that I’d be stuck in traffic when it hit. By the time I got there the news was already pinpointing a likely area. It wasn’t a matter of “if” today, it was just a matter of “when”.
When the news reported a tornado had split with 4 different vortices (something I didn’t even know was possible) I could see the concern spread across my bestie’s normally calm face. We went outside and looked up at the clouds; I’d never seen the sky look like that ANYWHERE I’d ever lived in the world. I remember her saying, “We’re getting in the shelter now!”
There’s nothing like the feeling of going underground, not knowing if you’re going to come up to a completely leveled home, or if rubble would prevent us from coming up. Neighbors crowded in with us and in their eyes you could see how terrified the children were. They were asking the questions us adults had in our heads also, but were perhaps in denial of. We hoped and prayed and sweated A LOT as we listed to the wind and the rain roar above us. Amazingly, we emerged and still had electricity, while the neighborhood around us was a grid of darkness. Another close call, the tornado had come within a half mile of our location and then turned.
After that day I remember thinking “Ok God, I am listening!” What did I hear him whisper after that?
Simply, “Be Still”.
Looking back now I’m so glad I continued to go see my therapist, because when October rolled around I would’ve been in a very bad place.
One seemingly normal work day, we all were called into a meeting where we were handed our “pink slips”; our office location was being closed due to downsizing. My job was being terminated. As a single mom who thought she was holding it all together, that’s when I lost it.
The first person I called? My therapist, who managed to fit me in that very day. As I sat there with a tear streaked face she asked me what I planned to do. When I prayed about it later God whispered again,
Now as humans, especially a human soon to be without an income, our first tendency is definitely not to be still!
Are you familiar with the verse?
God knew I’d never be still on my own. So he gave me the opportunity to be still.
Something began to happen in those weekly visits in the office of a therapist who was only maybe the second person I’ve ever met who would listen to me and really hear me. Except for my best friend, whom I tended to not want to burden with my life that I saw as a “hot mess”. And it wasn’t just because my therapist was being paid to do so. I could tell she genuinely cared about me. No matter what I said, her face never looked at me in judgement, her voice remained at a reassuring tone and I just felt safe.
It was there in that environment I formed an alliance; at the end of every session she prayed with me. I’d never had a complete stranger pray with me like that. Sure I’d grown up saying Grace around the table but there wasn’t a connection with someone who wanted me to know the source of unconditional love, Jesus Christ.
The best thing about it was it wasn’t just a great relationship with my therapist that developed. It was the understanding that God didn’t just want me to believe in Him, He wanted me to seek Him. For the first time in my life I “got it”. There’s more to religion than just following a bunch of rules so maybe I can get into Heaven. Knowing Christ is believing that He cares for me and wants a relationship with me too. It’s a little mind boggling to think about, but the more I allowed myself to “Be Still” and seek God, the more things started to make sense. The journey was just beginning but it’s so ironic looking back now that it had to start with a complete halt!
Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!
I remember once being asked the question,”Would you like to know when and how you will die?” It’s one of those questions that I think most people would say “No!” to, but I didn’t answer immediately. You have to ponder whether knowing that you have x number of years to live would change anything about the way you are living now, but then there’s the flip side of knowing too much about your future, potentially resigning oneself to the outcome, or denying the notion that this sort of thing is predestined thereby removing a sense of control or choice in one’s life.
This past Sunday, a pastor challenged our congregation to consider this; what if you were told today you had 7 days til you died or Jesus returned? What would you change or stop doing? He said every person he asked all acknowledged they would sift through the junk and cut out the things that were distracting them from what was important. It definitely makes you think about the frivolous things we waste our time on. I’m pretty sure my smartphone won’t be there as I near the end saying, “I’m happy for all the time we spent together”!
In his song Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw tells the story of a 40 something man who went to the doctor and was told his days were numbered. He poignantly asked the man the very question the pastor posed to us about how he’d live differently. The man mentions several bucket list items and then sings “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…And he said “Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying.”
Isn’t it unfortunate that this man needed to be given a diagnosis to decide to do this? I’ve got to ask you, if you think you’ve got an unlimited number of days to finally get around to doing what is important, would a week be long enough to make things right in your life?
Mortality is one of life’s “givens”. Existentially, most people struggle with the idea that one day we’re all going to die. It’s the reason some people live in fear and attempt to fabricate a very “safe” life they hope will result in living to a ripe old age, but upon arriving having to consider how much they actually lived.
As a maturing Christian, I’m just started to embrace the idea that rather than fearing death, I need to ensure that I’m ready to go should my time come, even if it’s today or tomorrow.
I saw this feather floating through the air and when it landed at my feet, I had a “Forrest Gump moment”. If you’ve seen the movie, it begins and ends with a feather floating through the air, and for me it kind of reminded me of the circle of life. Since I have a toddler at home, but also a teenager and a tween, there are a lot of “aha moments” as of late. I think for a while when my two older kids were younger it seemed like they’d be that way forever. Fast forward to them talking about puberty and where they are growing body hair, the fact they are taller than me,and that I’m shopping for their clothes in the Men’s section of the store. I look at their baby sister and I can’t even imagine her being a teenager but I know it will come all too soon.
Besides that, there have been several events this year that have really resonated with me; the mass shootings in Vegas and recently at a church in Texas, a family from my church who were headed out of town for vacation when they were in a terrible car crash resulting in all 4 of them being seriously injured, and a friend of mine’s Uncle passing away with no will and the ramifications that left for the family he left behind.
Not everyone gets a chance to sit on their deathbed and reminisce or regret the life they’ve led. Not everyone gets to tell their loved ones goodbye before they pass away, either. This year I’m wildly aware when I leave my family, they need to know that if for some reason I don’t make it back to them alive that they feel loved and they can go on knowing one day they will see me again. I’m also not waiting to have those important conversations with them and having them now. My 11 year old and I decided to start doing devotionals together at bedtime. It’s a great way to connect and something we both look forward to. I definitely plan on adding more meaningful activities in, and clearing out the junk, so my family can see the things that really matter!
Every year I have a “word” the Lord impresses on me and this year it’s been “legacy”. Read more about legacy and the meaning of my blog tRUTHful, here: tRUTHful Inspiration
Something that I never thought to do when I was younger was take some time to get out there and figure out who I was. The reason why I never thought to do it is because I was so busy trying to be someone I thought I had to be; and that was an image of perfection that did not allow me the freedom to take time to make mistakes, explore different avenues, and decide which worldview I actually identified with. I think because it had been impressed in me that there was only one right way, and if I did not go that way, then I was wrong. Now, I am not blaming anyone for this. I just was not exposed to the idea that it’s a lot better to find yourself before you go out chasing things: like relationships, in particular.
Like many others I have met, I was the type of person that had to fill my life up with so much stuff to do that I really did not have time to truly process many things that I really needed to deal with. Now I know that was a defense that I had to protect myself from things that I thought were too painful to process. I feel like a lot of other people out there very innocently felt, as I did, that if something bothers you or you don’t like it, you should avoid it. I was a shy child and I did not get involved in lots of activities that involved social opportunities, for example, and I was not encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone so I could grow in this area. I really regret not choosing more opportunities like this before my brain pruned all those pathways.
So, I just kept going and going and going continually filling all my waking hours with stuff and things to do. I kept up this frantic pace for over 20 years, all the while not letting others in who perhaps wanted to help me, and basically feeling like I had to be in control of every aspect of my life. This approach was taking its toll, all the while I was in complete denial that it was going on. I had no idea how I looked to other people. Then one day at work, a co-worker came up to me and said “I know you are going to think this is really weird, but God told me to give you this book.” The book was a book about the Life of Mother Teresa.
Now, I knew who Mother Teresa was, kinda. But I didn’t really know much about her or why someone would be giving me a book. I took it home and looked at it and discovered that she was someone with a whole different way of looking at people than I had really ever experienced. She said simple things that were somehow very profound. Things like:
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, than feed just one.”
“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love”
She also talked about simple things like faith and trust. Mind you prior to receiving this book, I had not exactly been on a path looking for salvation. I suppose I felt like I believed in God and that was enough, even though the life I was living really did not reflect any of that. After my son was diagnosed with Autism I really felt like God must be punishing me or that I wasnt worthy, and that was the last straw for me pursuing my faith.
I’d like to say I got the book from my coworker and then “Ahhhhh” I saw the light and my life moved in a new direction. Basically it spoke to me that I must look pretty pathetic for someone I barely knew at the time to walk up to me and do that. Actually, it took over 2 more years of this same coworker constantly walking beside me and feeding into me before things really started to sink in. What can I say, I am hard-headed! I warmed up to the idea that there might be something to this whole Love thing Mother Teresa talked about but I was still trying to do it my way.
Then one day I walked in to work and we all discovered we were getting laid off. It was if God was saying “Oh, you don’t want to be still? Well here, I am going to give you that opportunity”. And just like that I suddenly had time. The next 3 years, even though I was pursuing my Masters in Counseling, I had considerably more time to think and just be. I examined myself from angles Id never even considered before, and re-evaluated who I am, where I’m going and how my behavior affects others.
The result is so striking its like I am not even the same person anymore. Its like I stepped into a clearing and suddenly things are crystal clear. I listen to songs that used to speak to me and I just think “Wow, I can cross that one off the soundtrack of my life now”! Kind of surreal, really, like I should be singing this song :I can see clearly now – Johnny Nash
Here’s what I discovered. I needed time to discover who I am. I spent over 20 years trying to fit myself into a mold that either did not fit, or denying the truth or things about me that made me who I am, because I either thought they were inferior or because I was in denial that they defined me. I was totally freaked out when I lost all control of the ability to keep that charade going. I found PEACE when I decided to let go and do the necessary work involved to become authentic. The peace I found involved me surrendering my role of playing God in my own life and required me to trust that I was incapable of doing many things myself but with God I can do anything.
I will definitely strive to teach my children to do this much earlier in life than I did! As they say, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The back story of this blog is all about TRUTH! Read about it here: tRUTHful Inspiration