Breaking up the Unplowed Ground

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It’s been a long goodbye this week.  I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place.  It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.

My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once.  Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.

Letting go.  It’s hard.

I spent the last few months in my garden.  Weeding, working the soil, planting.  It’s therapy.  And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.

I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.

I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked.  Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking.  Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump.  I dug a little more and released its grip.  It was finally gone for good.

Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.

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My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.

It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.

It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways.  Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.

I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:

Do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?  Rumi

Ok, God.  I hear you.

I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.

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The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.

I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too.  I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.

Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…   Jeremiah 4: 3-4a

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

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I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety.  I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.

And you know what?  The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.

What do you need to uproot today?

Blessings!

Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

Sometimes We Need To Go Back Before We Can Move Forward

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We had a large lilac bush behind my childhood home.  Every spring when I fill a vase with lilacs, their fragrance transports my thoughts back to that house where many special memories were made.

Memories.  We all have them.  Some good, some not so good but they’re stored somewhere deep within our brains.  Just like a computer stores information on a hard drive, our brains also have some sort of storage system.

I have wonderful parents and I have wonderful memories from childhood too.

But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have some not so good memories whether from childhood, teenage years, young adult years or beyond.

Painful circumstances or trauma can occur at anytime or any age.

So what do we do with those nagging painful memories if they keep re-surfacing?

I don’t have a professional answer to that question but I can share a snippet from my own personal experience.

I believe that painful memories will hurt forever unless we find a way to release them and we can’t release them until they’re healed and there’s only one healer.

After I became a Christian, I took Jesus back with me to a painful time in my life.  A time period when I was too weak and consumed with circumstances to reach out to Him.

I talked to Him about it, showed Him the scene, the pain, the emotions, the heartache and relived it in His presence.  He knew all about it anyway but healing began when it came out of the darkness of my soul and into His light.

I emptied myself first by confessing my own sins–making myself a clean vessel ready to receive all the healing Jesus had for me–I prayed, pondered, journaled, talked to trusted friends, prayed with friends and even talked and prayed with a Christian therapist for 6 weeks when I got stuck at one point in the process.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Matthew 18:20

He is the God who heals, not only for today, but for the trauma of yesterday too.   What concerned me, concerned Him.

God is LOVE.  And Jesus is God.

Love is the balm that heals.

Emotional pain is just as hard to work through as physical pain.  Often it’s even harder because nobody sees it.

Others don’t always know when we’re suffering from emotional pain.  It’s easy to hide it but those hidden things are like razors cutting away at the fiber of our being.  It’s hard to keep it together when that’s going on so we may head into the safety zone of denial and just pretend it never happened.

Denial is a safeguard.  I truly believe that denial is a gift from God to guard us against the overwhelming rush of emotions that are too painful to deal with all at once.  But in the long run it’s not a healthy place to stay.   It’s a place to visit but not to live.  We weren’t meant to live in denial forever.  It will sideline us.  Stagnant us.  Bind us.  And it will keep us in chains if we pretend we’re okay when we’re not.

The buried hurt will come out eventually.  Most often through things like isolating ourselves from others, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, just to name a few.

We’re designed to go through life with God–allowing Him to help us through the valleys and the rough rocky places.  When we shut Him out, or if we were too young or weak to cope with the pain (when it occurred) we may try to soothe it through other methods.

There’s the obvious ones like over consumption of alcohol, drugs, risky sexual behavior.  Usually, it’s not the behavior that needs addressing first but the deeply rooted pain that causes the behavior.

But there’s less obvious ones too — excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive use of social media, busyness, workaholism, perfectionism, over-dependence on people to meet our needs, running here, there and everywhere, doing rather than being, trying to order our world outwardly because inwardly we’re bleeding.

I’m sure there’s more ways but you get the idea.

I’ve been there; done that.  I mean getting trapped in the mindset that things, other than Christ, would fill me up and set me free.  It may work but only temporarily.

Using the gifts of God to replace the holy presence of God is a bandage not a remedy and we will go through many bandages until the remedy is finally applied.

Jesus said…

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   John 10:10

When I think of abundant living, I think of a surrendered and joyful relationship with our living Lord through worship, praise, prayer, with evidence of God’s Spirit growing in and through me like a harvest of blessings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23

The fruit associated with abundant life is hard to experience when we’re hiding behind a facade, pretending that everything is okay.

God wants us to toss out the band aids and expose our wounds.  He wants to set us free.  Once we’re set free, the memories will be there but they won’t have the sharp sting that they once had.  They’ll turn from a bleeding wound  into a beautiful scar.

If the process seems slow, His faithfulness is not.  He’s there in the struggle and will bring us to the point where we can finally say,  “That memory is there, but it isn’t painful anymore.”

It’s not easy but when we finally get to the end of our grieving process with accounts settled and forgiveness extended (forgiveness is an essential part of healing–whether toward ourselves or others) there will be freedom.

The path ahead will clear.  No more getting stuck in one spot.  We’ll keep moving forward authentically with Jesus and others.

We won’t hide pain anymore, because we know life is hard and it’s okay to grieve safely anytime, anywhere in the presence and comfort of Jesus.

That beautiful scar I mentioned above?  It’s a reminder of what Christ has done, it gives us our story.  The wound becomes recycled into something lovely and useful.  It becomes a gift.  God gives it purpose, meaning and none of it will be wasted.  The byproduct is wisdom and doors will open to help others.

I know this is a simple way to describe emotional healing and some may not find it helpful.

However, I think what’s most important is that we are not alone and Jesus is the healer of yesterday today and tomorrow.

The journey toward emotional healing begins when we take our first step with Jesus and if that means stepping back before we can move forward it’s worth the trip.

Blessings,

Nancy

PS:  Whew! This was a lengthy post.  If you read this to the end, thank you.  I try to keep my posts around 800 words or less but as hard as I tried I couldn’t shave this one down.

(Disclosure:  This is not a professional article.  The opinions in this piece are that of the author and aren’t meant to be used to diagnose or treat illness or psychological trauma or pain.  It is solely meant to be a thought provoking piece about faith, hope and love.  Every situation is different.  If you have memories that are severely painful (more than just nagging) It is up to you to decide what course of action to take whether seeking professional services or other avenues).

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

When Light Meets The Dark

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It was that time again–time to travel the 160 miles to the medical center for my husband’s cancer check-up with his oncologist/hematologist.

We left yesterday morning while it was still dark.

The darkness of uncertainty always covers us as we travel east for his appointments but the sun coming up yesterday was a reminder that God’s light would already be there to meet us when we got to the hospital.

Yesterday we received a great report from his doctor.  Bob is still responding well to the chemo drug without side effects.  He has another appointment in August and if the markers of the Leukemia in his blood reach a certain target level he will not need another bone marrow biopsy.

So we travel and trust and we know that no matter what the outcome will be in August the light of God’s presence always goes with us and before us.

We are never alone.

(This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge:  Early Bird)

Blessings,

Nancy

Hydrate!

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I never thought I’d be that woman.  The one dehydrated and hooked to an IV, EKG, blood pressure machine, and God only knows what else all those wires were.

My family would be the first to tell you that I’m a health nut when it comes to the foods I eat but they could also tell you that they have spoken these three words to me often, “Drink more water!”

It was just a few days of being active in the sun to deplete me.

My husband and I took a break from our snow-covered state and entered a warmer climate and I was ecstatic about shedding the parka’s and boots for tennis shoes and shorts.

Coffee in the morning, a sip of water (here and there), coffee in the afternoon, a sip of water (here and there) and wine with dinner didn’t add up to enough liquid to sustain me through the hikes and all of our outdoor activities in a warmer climate.

By the way, the nurse informed me that neither coffee nor wine counts!  They are diuretics.

So there I sat for half a day in the emergency room while the doctor on staff ordered tests to determine why I collapsed that morning.

Long story short, they hooked up a bag of fluids and pumped it through me.

I was back…ready to put my hiking shoes on and go…

I’ve gulped down water like crazy everyday since and I’m feeling great.  Infusing the water with citrus helps too.

I was a woman in need of water.  I was thirsty and didn’t even know it.

infused water 2x - Copy wdpThere’s another woman who was thirsty and didn’t know it.  Let me tell you about her.

She was trying to fill the empty places in her life with temporary solutions but the solutions weren’t quenching her deepest soul-thirst.

When the women in town went to collect water from the well in the morning, she stayed back.  Maybe they didn’t want to associate with her and she knew it.

Most likely an outcast and shunned by the people in her town, she waited until noon (the hottest part of the day) knowing others wouldn’t be around to fill their jars in the heat.  That way she could avoid their glaring stares.

She was, most likely, ashamed but didn’t know how to solve her problem.

But Jesus knew and He cared.  So one day at noon He met her at the well.

Jewish people would steer clear of Samaria and take the long way around to get to their destinations.  The Samaritans were not full-blooded Jewish.  They were a mixed race and considered unclean by the Jews but Jesus thought differently.

On His way to Galilee, Jesus went through Samaria and stopped at the well to rest.

He waited for the Samaritan woman and asked her for a drink.  What a surprise that was.  First of all she was a woman.  Men didn’t talk to women in public.  Secondly she was a Samaritan (considered a half-breed and despised by the Jews) and Jesus was asking her for a drink of water?  That was unheard of!

But Jesus always surprised people and went to places others refused to go and spoke to people whom others wouldn’t think of talking to.

Jesus reached out to her and ultimately offered her a drink from His Spiritual well–the well that never runs dry and even bubbles up to eternal life.

Jesus set up that divine appointment.  He knew she was coming and made sure He was there right on time.  Jesus never misses an appointment.

He confronted the woman with her lifestyle by simply saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.

Jesus tells her that she is right and goes on to reveal the truth about her life.

She was a woman who had 5 husbands and the man she was living with then wasn’t her husband and Jesus offered her the solution to escape her circumstances.  The solution was Him.  He offered her His Living Water so she would never be Spiritually thirsty again.

The thing is we don’t really know why she had five husbands or why she was living the way she was.  It could have been by choice.  Maybe there was abuse in her past and she didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.  It could have been that she was left by her first husband and then tossed from man to man.   Women were completely dependent on men to care for them, in those days, or they wouldn’t survive.  Maybe she held out hope that someday the right man would meet her deepest needs and solve her loneliness.

We don’t know the back story, but what we do know is that Jesus cared enough to go to Samaria to meet her and offer her true love and hope and the best part of the story is that she accepted it.

She not only accepted it but she left her earthly jar behind and ran into town with her Spiritual Living Water splashing joy on others and many believed because of her testimony.

It’s truly amazing and the story reveals the depth of Jesus’ love for everyone and His willingness to go out of His way to find one lost soul.

We can’t fill our lives with temporal things and think that it will satisfy our Spiritual thirst.  There’s no person, place or thing that can take the place of God.  As much as we try, our divine thirst cannot be quenched by anything but Living Water.  That Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit…   John 7: 37-39

I need water to survive physically and if I’m not hydrated my body lets me know.  Ignoring my physical thirst or thinking something else (like coffee or wine) will satisfy my thirst can result in a medical emergency.

But just as important, I need to quench my Spiritual thirst daily too.  If I don’t drink deeply from the well that never runs dry and ignore my need for the Living Water of Jesus, I will collapse Spiritually.

I’m staying hydrated physically now but my recent trip to the hospital reminds me that my Spiritual thirst is just as important and I need to have Spiritual Living Water running through me daily too.

And like the Samaritan woman I hope I will always be just as excited to lay down my earthly jars and run and tell others about the Living Water of Jesus that Spiritually hydrates me.

If you click this link:  John 4: 1-42 you can read the amazing story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ encounter with her.

Blessings!

Nancy

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

Daddy, Carry Me

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“Daddy, I can’t go.  I’m tired.”  Her hands reach up, “Daddy carry me. I’m scared.  It’s getting dark.  I can’t see.”

Like a good daddy he whisks her up into his arms and gently places her on his shoulders.

The evening is fading and the sun begins to withdraw behind the horizon.  Darkness isn’t far behind.

But she’s safe; secure in her father’s embrace and her fear subsides.

He sprints across the shore with confidence because he knows the way and she trusts him.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will         strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.            Isaiah 41:10

Blessings!  Nancy ❤