“A Soft Place to Fall”

I think it was Dr. Phil who coined that phrase in reference to the relationship between spouses.  His philosophy being that every person needs a soft place to fall andyhy, in a married couple, that should be your spouse.

Now, I am incredibly blessed to have that with David.  I can turn into a raving lunatic, I can break down in tears, I can drown myself in a sea of depression; it just doesn’t matter…he loves me in all ways, always.  If you have or have had that relationship with someone in your life them you know what I am talking about.  I have been blessed to live a life surrounded with love, from my parents to my spouse and children and my friends.  God has filled up my cup.

But maybe you don’t have that type of support in your life right now…

I think I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with my faith these past few weeks.  But as much as I have raged at God, as much as I have questioned His existence…in my heart I always know the truth.  In this struggle, in those moments when I feel like I can’t keep doing this, when I just want my life to go back to “normal”… in all those times…God is my soft place to fall, even when I don’t realize it.  God loves me in all ways…always.

We were recently on a trip with some friends and the boys and girls separated to do a little shopping.  No surprise that Dave found his way into an art gallery.  While the boys were perusing, our friend noticed some religious paintings that the artist had done on commission.  The artist’s comment about the pieces was that he really didn’t believe in God, but he has to pay the bills and he asked our friend (who just happens to be a priest) if that bothered him.  And our friend’s reply was ‘yes’ and I love this… our friend said… “If you knew that everyone you met had a treasure buried in their backyard, wouldn’t you want them to dig it up and find it?”  That’s what faith is like when you finally discover it…it’s a treasure, and you want everyone you know to go out and dig it up, and find it…there’s only one problem…they don’t believe you.

I have so many reasons to be grateful.  It makes me ashamed when I feel angry or frustrated…but I’m human.  God made us with emotions for a reason and he doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  In fact, when we fail, when we are angry, or tired, or scared…he wants us to turn to him…he wants to be our soft place to fall.

I’ll admit…I could be a lot better at that sometimes.  But life is a journey, and if I’m going to take this journey, then I’m pretty happy to have the maker of heaven and earth walking beside me, ready to catch me “softly” when I fall.

This song was speaking to me today…maybe God wants you to hear it too.

 

God bless,

Meredith

Just Leave Me Alone.

Have you every notice when someone else is struggling, or going through a difficult time, how easy it is to know that they need to lean on God, or to turn to God, or to trust in God? Have you also noticed that when YOU are going through a difficult or challenging time how difficult those very same things can be…even when your heart knows you should?

At times, during my recovery, it has been incredibly difficult for me to be patient and trust that this is part of God’s plan.  There have been times I have felt his hand on my heart, and instead of turning into that love I have begged for him to just leave me alone, that I can’t do this, that I’m not strong enough.  It’s been hard.

Of course God didn’t leave me alone, just as I wouldn’t walk away from one of my own children if they were suffering and in pain.  He just wraps me up in his love and waits for me.  Jesus used the image of a shepherd and his sheep often in his ministry.  And he reassured us that “no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of  my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:28-29  As a child of God, as one of Jesus’ sheep, I am always in his care, and no one, not even I have the power to make him go away.  He will always be there, watching over me, and caring for me, and protecting me.

It’s not always given to us to know why bad things happen.  What is given to us is to know that we can trust in our Father to make all things for our good.  Just as when your toddler is learning how to walk, you can’t always keep them from falling, so too will our Father in heaven be there to pick us up, dust us off and kiss away our pain.

And in case you were worried…I’m good.  That day, after telling God to leave me alone, I came home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on my kitchen counter.  They were bright, and lovely, and from my parents.  When I called to say thank you, my mom said that she just had a feeling I might need a pick me up.  GOD IS SO GOOD AND I AM SO BLESSED!  Thank you mom and dad! Thank you, Jesus!

God bless,

Meredith

It’s Awkward and Uncomfortable.

Things I can now do fairly well with my left hand…

  • crack an egg (surprisingly not as hard to do as I’d thought, I’ve only broken two yolks – the secret is to just go for it like you have no other option – which right now…I don’t)
  • use scissors – I understand the call for left-handed scissors now
  • brush my teeth
  • flat-iron my hair (no frizzy hair here please)

How many times in our lives are we forced to learn how to do something differently?  Initially most times it feels uncomfortable, weird, not right.  I certainly felt that way the night of my accident after I dragged my butt up the stairs and stood in front of my bathroom sink.  Everything I was doing didn’t just feel wrong, damn it…it hurt!

It’s a natural aspect of human nature…our need to resist change, even when it’s for our own good.  We like to stay in our zone, walk the easy path. That’s why sometimes we need a good shake up, why we need to be forced out of our comfort zones.  I’ve found that sometimes faith can be a little bit like that. You see people praying on TV, or in movies, and they have the perfect words, in the perfect, most natural, most earnest way.  But real life is often nothing like that, it can be ugly and weird.  How many of us felt really awkward and uncomfortable the first time we prayed or went to church after being away for a while?  Heck, there are lots of times I still don’t know what to say, (especially when I’m praying out loud – because I just don’t do it enough…kinda like brushing my teeth with my left hand).

Do you remember the first time you had a conversation with a toddler?  Their speech is often so rambling and garbled you have to constantly ask questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer just to figure out what they are saying.  The good news for me is that God doesn’t have to ask any questions when I reach out to him.  He already knows what’s in my heart…he just needs me to make an attempt.  And his willingness to answer my prayer depends not on any beautiful speech I could make, but on one thing, and one thing alone…faith.

Something I’ve been struggling with, and been been reading about lately, is the type of faith a person has, the type of faith I have.  It’s easy to start thinking that God is there to make your life better, richer, healthier through prayer.  But those things shouldn’t be the purpose, or focus of faith, rather I think they are a by-product of a life focused on God.  I have so many incredible blessings in my life, and I feel grateful for all of them, but what I yearn for more than anything is the feeling, the experience I have when I am filled with the overwhelming love and joy of the Spirit of God.  When tears well up and I am overcome with his love.  It’s what I imagine heaven must be like…experiencing that feeling all the time.

These days people want you to believe that you are going to have to give up something important to believe in God.  And I’m not going to tell you that you won’t.  You might even find your “new” life uncomfortable and scary at times (kinda like putting a 220°F flat-iron to your hair with an uncoordinated left hand).  But like so many things in life, you have to take a big risk to get a big reward.  We make choices of faith every day.  The great news is the more you practice the things that are uncomfortable for you, the better you get at them…like going to church or prayer.

In those times when I am struggling, when I am tired and frustrated and in pain and feeling broken in spirit, and these days, in body; in those moments when I don’t have the energy to find the right words to pray I am reminded that Jesus himself gave us the answer…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.   Matthew 6:9-13

And remember “Jesus did not give his disciples any instruction about standing, sitting, lying down, walking, running, or driving an automobile while one prays. Jesus did not talk about head coverings, kneeling, the position of one’s hands, or closed eyes. Why? God wants us to pray at all times (1 Thess. 5:17 ) and in every place, under any condition, and in various situations (1 Tim. 2:8).” https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/

God bless,

Meredith

Falling off a horse…literally!

The past few months have felt increasingly more and more hectic for me.  And as I have felt the responsibilities of home and work pressing in on me I have constantly prayed for God to help.  I felt that I had taken on the tasks He had requested of me and I had faith that He would help me to accomplish them.  I believe that He would give me what I needed.  What I could not have predicted was exactly how He would go about it.

Two weeks ago I had a fairly significant fall off of my horse.  I ended up in the emergency room with a fractured left clavicle and right thumb as well as a significant bruise on my left hip and damage to the ligaments and tendons in my right hip.  I wasn’t capable of supporting my own weight for more than two or three steps.  Now you might be thinking “poor Meredith”.  But all I saw here was a blessing.  Let me explain.

My clavicle fracture was severe enough to require surgery.  So here I am, two weeks after a break, with a left arm that is 80% functional – only because of the way that I broke it.  Since I’m  writing this blog, you can see that off all the things I am not able to do yet, work isn’t one of them.  For a few days it was literally the only thing I could do for myself, and that included getting dressed.

God heard my prayers and he knew that the only way to slow me down, to give me the time I needed, to do what I needed, was to break me.  And he broke me in ways that will heal.  Dave learned how to tie a pony tail.  The boys have been so helpful and friends and family have showered me with love and affection and meals.  My girlfriend even came over and washed my hair.  God gave me a blessing and then he surrounded me with love.

The name of my horse is “By Absolute Faith”.  That is the only way I know now to live my life.  To trust that God loves me, his child and that he will use all things to my benefit.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11. 

I’m walking without a cane now, but it’s slow and still a bit painful. I can tie my own ponytail, wash my hair and dress myself and this weekend I was able to start driving again.  I can do minor household chores, but I still can’t lift anything much heavier than a kettle half-full of water and I get tired more easily.  But this too shall pass and my brain is at 100% which means I can work.  And there are lots of things I don’t have to feel guilty about, like not getting out for a run or working out, or having a perfectly clean house…because I literally can’t do those things yet.  God is good.

So the next time God knocks you off your horse (maybe not literally as in my case) trust that he knows what you need better than you do and that he will work all things for your good.

God bless,

Meredith

All you have to do is ask.

Today in my readings Paul talks about “…behaving decently, as in the daytime” Romans 13:13.  And I’m not going to say anything new here, but sometimes it bears repeating, it helps to be reminded.  How many of us exhibit behaviours in the privacy of our own homes, behind the closed doors of hotel rooms, or it the darkened anonymity of bars and night clubs, behaviours that we would never want our mothers, our children, our friends to see.  That’s what Paul is talking about. And he’s not just talking about our physical deeds, but our emotional ones as well, the ones we keep secret in our hearts, the jealousies, the coveting, the dissensions and grievances.

I will be the first one to admit that there are things I might say or do in my own house that I would never want other people to see or hear.  Losing my temper, slamming doors, speaking badly of someone.  I do them all.  I forget that someone is always watching.  That my actions never occur in a vacuum.  That’s why Paul’s words are so important.  In this letter to the Romans he is calling on them, on us, to “put aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light”.  Are you asking yourself how?  Or have you convinced yourself that your behaviours in those times were justified, or that they drove you to it.  That they deserved what they got or that’s just how you were made.

I won’t even tell you that those things aren’t true. But part of what Paul is telling us, part of the message of Jesus, and the reason he died for us and our sins is that we are called to be better.  To rise up against our own sinful nature, “the way we were made” and put aside the deeds of darkness.  If you’re like me, maybe you’ve tried this before, but feel as if you always slip back, you always fall down and maybe you’ve even reached the point of giving up. I can relate.  But today I’d like to tell you that we are supposed to fail, in fact we will fail every single time if we are trying to go it alone.  I have come to learn that the absolute only way I can be a different person is through Christ.  Time and time again the bible calls upon us to surrender ourselves to our Father in heaven.  But we are so stubborn, so determined to have our independence that we refuse, we protest the freedom and light that is offered to us freely.  But that’s okay.  Because our time here on earth is about that journey.  About gaining a gradual understanding of the power of the life and death and love of Jesus Christ and God our Father.

So if there is a darkness in your heart or a heaviness in your spirit, know that you don’t have to shine a light on it yourself, you don’t have to carry the burden, because there is someone greater than you who will happily do it for you.  Someone who wants to do it for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith

Called By God.

One of my favorite writers of the New Testament is Paul.  I don’t know why, but I just feel such a connection to him and a truth speaking to me in his writings.  And one of my favorite of his letters is Ephesians.  Today I started working on my reading and as a general rule, I tend start by copying my daily verse or psalm or chapter in a notebook.  I’m one of those people whose brain learns best by slowing down and writing something.  It also gives me a chance to go back and underline stuff that I find speaks to me.

So I had just finished writing out Ephesians 4:1-9 when I realized that the verses I was supposed to be reading were Ephesians 5:6-20 (also great btw).  But here’s where I thought, well I guess God really wanted to read this part of chapter 4 because I had to double take to even figure out how I could have possible mis-read what today’s reading was.  And since this was the part I felt compelled to blog about, one of you people reading this blog post also needed this verse today.

What was Ephesians 4:1-9 about you ask?  Unity in the Body of Christ.  And here are verses 1-7 for you to read and reflect on with me.

“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble, and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

That you know God is no accident.  He called you.  He chose you.  He loves you.  All you have to do is reach out and accept the grace that Christ has apportioned to you.

God bless,

Meredith

Giving Of Yourself.

Giving generously of your wealth.  It’s talked about often in the bible; by Jesus and Paul, in the Old Testament and in the New.  But so often we assume that the giving is simply referring to our financial wealth.  Perhaps that’s because money and physical riches have become so important in our consumer driven society.

But in many ways, giving money is one of the easiest ways of giving.  Politicians are constantly throwing money at problems, because it gives the appearance of something happening.  But what if giving of our financial wealth isn’t really what Jesus was talking about?  What if he meant for us to give generously of our truth wealth; our time, our hearts, our talents?  I know for myself, that becomes a much bigger hill to climb.

It never feels as if there are enough hours in the day, days in the week or weeks in the year.  It’s hard to think about sacrificing the precious few minutes of peace I have.  It’s hard to think about giving more of myself than I already give to my family and friends.  But I think that is really what God is calling us to do.  Or what he is calling me to do.  Because giving generously is personal.  It’s about you finding the gift that God has given you that is hardest for you to share.  Maybe for you it is money.  Maybe it’s your time.  Maybe it’s your talent.  I think this is partly what Jesus meant when he said “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24  And I’m pretty sure that when Jesus is speaks of taking care of the poor, he isn’t just referring to those who are poor of wallet, but those who are poor of heart, and mind and spirit.

Where is God calling you to give generously in your life?  Who are the poor he is calling on you to take care of ?

God bless,

Meredith

Don’t Be One Of The Nine.

Times of crisis; when everything seems lost…these are most often the times we reach out to a power greater than ourselves.  These are the times we find ourselves on our knees, we find ourselves making bargins, begging, willing to consider miracles possible, if only they can be for us.  I’ve been there myself.

Luke Chapter 17:11-19 tells the story of Jesus healing no less than ten leapers at one time on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem.  As part of the process He sends them to a priest to be cleansed.  In the end, only one comes back to thank him and give praise to God for this miracle.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Because we are so often more like the nine who didn’t return, than the one who did.  We ask God to do something for us, we promise we will go back to church, start praying again, be better…but no sooner do we get what we want, then we are right back to our old ways.  We aren’t true to our word.  We take God’s gifts and we forget to say thank you.  We dull ourselves to the wonder of the miracle we have experienced.

Thankfully God is always faithful and he doesn’t hold a grudge.  He knows even as we say those words, as we make those promises and bargins if we are going to be true, and He is ever hopeful that we will choose Him.

For some people the only relationship they have with God is one of asking.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.  I think of it instead as simply a stop on their journey.  God would rather you ask him for things than have nothing to do with him.  And think about your children.  When they are young all they do is ask for things.  In fact when they are very young, when they are babies, they don’t just ask, they demand!  Sometimes loudly.  So if you are in a place where all you find yourself doing is asking God for things, that’s okay.  But as you grow in your relationship and your faith, you will find yourself more like a teenager or a young adult, able to give thanks, to appreciate your blessings.  And I think as you continue to grow you will eventually find yourself in a much more adult relationship, more like a parent or friend than a child.  Able to give and listen and wait upon the Lord. You will find yourself becoming a servant; grateful to be useful, wanting to be used.

Jesus says to the the one who returns, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Part of  faith is recognizing and giving thanks for our blessings, for the miracles God works in our lives.   I feel as if Natalie Grant sums up how we should approach this story and our faith perfectly in her song “More than Anything”  “Help me want the Healer more than the healing.  Help me want the Savior more than the saving.  Help me want the Giver more than the giving.  Help me want you Jesus more than anything.”

God bless,

Meredith

Making Your Own Luck.

Last night David and I were having a discussion about luck.  I was telling him how grateful I felt that a friend’s life was saved from what could have been a devastating and potentially fatal condition, and his response was that she was lucky.

Yesterday I wrote about giving up control of your life to Jesus, and I think that this idea of getting lucky is, in many ways, part of that.  Personally, I no longer believe in luck.  If I get a green light, that is a blessing from God; an amazing parking spot? Thank you, Jesus.  Why is it so much easier for us to believe that good things happen by random chance than it is to believe that something good happened because we have a Father in heaven who loves us and wants what’s best for us?

I think that part of the reason is something many struggle with, because good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people.  And it’s hard to understand how a loving Father could give a good mother cancer, or see a father killed in a car accident.  And bad things don’t just happen to good people, they happen to Christians and non-believers alike, they happen to innocent children.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers here and this was something that David and I discussed, and I’m sure we’ll have more discussions about.  But here’s what I know from my own life experience.  When my oldest son was born I was filled with so many hopes and joys and expectations for who and what he would become.  Never once could I have imagined the road God put me on with him.  We have been through multiple diagnoses, traumatic brain injuries, self-abuse, staff abuse, and so many tears.  For many, many years I couldn’t understand why God gave me a son with so many challenges. At times I thought it was a punishment, at others I simply turned my back on God.  What I couldn’t see, while I was down in the trenches, when I was walking through the valley, was God’s bigger plan.  I didn’t see how Hayden’s brain injury would result in his eventual transition to a community home where he would be given incredible support.  I didn’t see how this would result in our family actually becoming a family again, instead of a single parent household while the other parent managed and cared exclusively for Hayden.  I didn’t see how this would give me the chance to simply be Hayden’s mother again instead of constantly focusing on therapies and treatments and then being too exhausted for anything more.  God has a plan for each and every one of us and I believe that the more we thank Him for our blessings, the more we reach out and try to have a relationship with Him…the more we find ourselves able to trust in Him and his plan for us.

I have no idea the ripple effect my son Hayden has in the lives of those he meets, and interacts with on a daily basis at school, in the community, in his own home.  There are still many days when all I can do is give him to God, trust in God and his plan for Hayden, for our family, for me.   I do know that I no longer believe anything in my life is a result of chance.  If I choose to believe in a God who was capable of creating the heavens and the earth, who can bring the dead to life, how can I not believe in a creator who is capable of watching over me in my daily life.

And I guess that brings us back to where we started. In the end it always comes down to the same thing; the reason there is good and bad in this world…choice or free-will.  You can choose to believe that the good things that happen to you are good luck, and the bad things similarly, or you can choose to believe that the good things that happen to you are blessings from a loving Father and the bad things?  Challenges, opportunities for growth, doors opening to new chapters you couldn’t imagine were possible.  Sometimes to climb a mountain you have to walk through a valley.  Maybe the meaning of life is as simple as choice, and if it is, I know God wants you to choose Him.

God bless,

Meredith

Drop Everything!

The calling of the disciples.  Have you ever given much thought to exactly what those twelve men were called to do?  I mean sure they got to walk beside Jesus and perform miracles, but they were also called to walk away from everything, EVERYTHING in their lives…we are foolish if we don’t count the cost of what they were asked to give up;  wives and children, homes and security.  Could you imagine yourself doing the same?  Honestly I don’t know if I could.

Of course I could walk away from my house, and most of my possessions, but what about that ring my beloved grandmother gave me?  And don’t even get me started on my kids.  I mean I know I’ll eventually have to give them up, but on my terms, when they are old enough to leave the house and go to college.  Except that’s not really true is it?  I could lose everything tomorrow, today even.  We live our lives with such an illusion of control.  We put our kids in travel sports, Kumon, music, etc. all because we are determined to make them into their best selves… except anyone who’s ever had more than one child knows that you really don’t have much control over how athletic they are, how smart they are, how friendly, kind, caring they are.  Our children are born with their own personalities and while we can sand off some of the sharp edges, and we can love them unconditionally and teach them values and principles, they will ultimately be who and what they are going to be.  No parent of a murderer thinks that they are going to raise a killer.

So when Jesus called on his disciples to give up everything, he wasn’t really asking them to give up anything that was really theirs to begin with.  There are a lot of people, my husband included, who believe that we are successful in life because we work hard.  I don’t discount that.  I absolutely believe that hard work matters. But, I also think it’s important to remember how much of your success was simply because of who you were born to be, because you were born with an aptitude for something, or a gift?  I was born with a love of books and an aptitude for writing.  That was a gift.  How I choose to develop it, or what I choose to do with it is entirely up to me, but in the end, it will always be a gift from God, not something of my own creation.

So the question we have to ask ourselves instead, is what are we willing to give up when Jesus calls us to be disciples?  Websters defines a disciple as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as a Christianity.   In Luke 9:22-27 Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  I think that what he is calling on us to do here is give up the illusion of control and trust in him.

How many times have you found in your own life that the more you try to control a situation, the less control you actually have… the more you “lose” control?  When Jesus calls us to give up our families, to deny ourselves and to lose our lives to save them, he is calling on us to surrender our illusions, to trust in him completely. And it is in giving up our illusions that we find the peace and comfort and joy.  Today’s world is determined to convince you that you are in control, with your smart phone you can turn on your car, your lights, your furnace, all from across town.  But do those things really matter, or are they illusions to distract you from the fact that you aren’t really in control of anything important?  You can’t control if you are going to get cancer, or if you will be in a car accident, or even if your children will make it home safely from school today.  I guess if those things aren’t really under my control, then I find it a lot more comfortable knowing that they are under the control of the One who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow;  The Maker of the Heavens and the Earth.

What is Jesus calling you to do today?  To follow him?  To become a disciple? To give up your illusions?  I have personally found great comfort and peace giving up my life and family to Jesus.  I know he can and will do the same for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith