Smile

I spoke in a calm tone. My face made its natural gestures. Like a stern teacher, her eyes squinted glaring right at me. She shook her head in disappointment as she spoke. “You’re smiling!” she said in disapproval. Confused, I asked her to clarify. I didn’t think I was smiling. This was my natural appearance. “I think you’re afraid to feel anger.”

Silence.

I sat there shocked into very deep reflection and later walked away feeling frustrated for smiling. 

Was I afraid of anger? 

Chaos, yelling, screaming, closed-ears, tears, slamming doors and walking away from loved ones is how I see anger. To me, anger is the most unproductive way of handling a problem. This type of anger generates more problems and creates more of a disconnect between people. It is someone viciously trying to get his/her voice heard by someone not willing to hear them. Afraid of anger? I placed anger in the unproductive category long ago. 

Sure, I’ve felt anger. We all feel anger when we think we’ve been mistreated, over-looked or stressed out. My ‘kind’ of anger happens while I’m removed from what made me angry in the first place. It’s, “I can’t believe this happened. Why would anyone do that?” My ‘kind’ of anger is a civil conversation trying to re-iterate my reasoning in hopes to get the person to see something from my perspective. My ‘kind’ of anger is, ”Is this really worth getting angry over?”

Am I afraid of anger? Maybe. No one likes an angry person. Angry people are mean and hurtful and down right grumps. In my experience, angry people seem to be the ones with the most hurt. Anger is their fortress that keeps others from seeing their hurts. 

So how do I view anger as a normal emotion when my idea of anger is not so pretty? I like smiles and pretty things-not the ugly angry grumps. 

To me, anger is not a gentle feather emotion. It is a raging bear emotion. Anger is the ‘red flag’ emotion warning you that something is not right. Anger sounds its alarm when your dignity is trampled on, when you’ve been mistreated and when someone crosses a line. Anger is a motivator. It reminds me that I have rights, needs and worth. It’s a boarding call to move on. This ‘kind’ of anger I am not afraid of.

Anger is a warning sign for justice-not the seed you plant in your soul. 

Candle

 

Failed To Listen

The soul whispers, but I failed to listen. It’s ironic, naming my blog ‘The Soul Whispers’ when I forgot how to listen…maybe it’s not that I forgot so much as I wasn’t ready to hear what my soul had to say.

I like to think that I’m that tough, rugged, All-Terrain Vehicle that can plough through anything, all the while looking flawless. I pride myself in appearing to have it altogether. I thought that I could do it all and with grace, patience and success – not perfect, but pretty close to it! I thought I could take care of my loved one’s needs, be a good friend, manage a household and have endless amounts of patience, wisdom and achievement at work. I failed to recognize what I was working with. 

Over the past few years my ‘fuel’ was being used up at rapid rate. So much so that even when I stopped to ‘fill-up’ no amount could push the needle to ‘F’. With my engine perpetually running at near-full throttle, I quickly drained the fuel dry. I needed fuel to survive the demands placed on me. Needing to go on, I stripped away layers of my empty tank until it was rusted and unfit for fuel. I had nothing to work with. I was forced out of the race and sidelined.

I had given it all. Here, in the mud, I could finally listen to my soul…to be honest, even then I struggled to listen to my soul. I never realized how hard it was to give yourself permission to slow down and to let go. 

We pride ourselves in having it altogether because we think that somehow having it altogether bring us fulfillment. My tough, rugged All-Terrain Vehicle that flawlessly ploughed through everything is useless without its tank and fuel. It took me the hard way to learn that I don’t have to have it altogether. I forgot how to listen. I didn’t think it was okay to pay attention to my own needs. I am learning to tend to the whisper within. Its gentle sound repairs my soul. 

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My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion. Psalm 73:26

 

Cashed In

When I put myself last I suffered a great loss.

At the start, I happily gave bits and pieces of myself away. The takers received them, unknowing that I was gradually emptying inside. Everyone knows you’re responsible for your own well-being. It’s assumed that if you ‘give’ you have the cash to spend. I had the cash to spend (and even replenished) as it was traded in for love, friendship, order and a “job well-done.” Life was good when I had cash flow…but somewhere along the way the demands increased. The cost of living became higher than my salary could afford. I was robbed of a fair deal, and my lenders took and took and took. I stayed. I let it happen. I thought I was smarter than that. I’ve always been wise with my money…but I still had to meet my demands.

Not realizing my infinite value, I was spending money I didn’t have. What is one to do when you have debt to pay and no cash to pay for it? I now understand that my well-being is costly to replace, and the debt I had incurred would take months to replace and take even more work than what it took when I first gave it away.

When someone requires more than you can afford, leave! Never give gold to the greedy.

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Unearthed

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My outer guard cracked as the inner voice intensified.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Demanding to be heard, the surface cracked once more.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Uprising in revolt, its current surged my body undoing all its working parts,

shaking my outer guard.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Accelerating in anger, the tremor from inside ruptures the outer guard.

Heard with an intense cry, the inner voice screamed, “Listen!”

Nothing, not even a little glue could fix.

 

Waiting For An Answer

As I laid in my bed with the covers pulled closely to my face, my body exhausted, my mind frantic, my thoughts mixed with everything from the daily to-do’s to intense emotions about life’s purpose. I’m not sure why at 12:00am on a work night my mind started to go there, but it did, and I had to deal with it regardless of the late hour. Life lesson # 101: If you don’t allow your mind the time to ‘deal with stuff’, it will make time with or without your permission, and it’s usually unexpected…12:00am happened to be when it needed to voice it’s concerns.

Frustrated and exhausted, I was taunted with negative thoughts around my sense of purpose. My insecurities were heightened and I began to feel sad. I focused on the pitfalls and rejections, the lack of control and ongoing lack of respect. One negative thought turned into another and another and another until my pillow was dampened with tears. My desperate desire to sleep turned into a cry for help. I knew that the lack of sleep heightened my feelings – inadequacy in particular. At the same time, I was fully aware that I didn’t have to soak in negativity. Despite my intense emotions and lack of sleep, I still believed that God could help. I whispered, “God, help me please…” Those few words gave me the courage to mutter my next prayer: “Remind me of my identity and calling and let me sense Your love for me.”

Silence.

My prayer had no reply. I waited with hope in my heart. I focused on the rising and falling of my chest with each breath.

Silence.

After an hour I finally fell asleep with no answer to my prayer.

The alarm rang sooner than I wanted it to and I was forced to return to my routine. That morning I left very little room for my emotions to surface, simply because I had to keep to a schedule which didn’t allow for it. With tired eyes and a humbled spirit I faced the day, and as fate would have it, it quickly turned into ‘one of those mornings’. One issue led into another, and I thought to myself, “If this is a sign of what’s to come, I may be in trouble.”

Annoyed and under-slept, I bent down to put a running shoe on a tiny foot. As I knelt down with the shoe in my hand, little did I know that my prayer was seconds away from being answered. I placed the running shoe on the tiny foot and as I was lacing it up I heard Jesus say to me, “I washed the disciples feet.” God knew exactly what I needed to hear and why. For months I had felt disrespected, looked down upon, dumb and undervalued, but in that moment I was reminded of my identity to serve. Jesus, having the greatest title in the whole Earth, ‘the Son of God’ bent down and washed His disciples feet. Feeling like I had a title but being placed in the least desired position I had carried feelings of disrespect for months. Jesus didn’t have to announce his title to others in order to show that He was important and respected. He knew deep within His being that He is the Son of God. Yet, He was not too important to bend down and wash feet. Jesus is completely sure of who He is and never shies away from His identity. He lived a recklessly bold and humble life.

God’s words to me, “I washed the disciples feet” echoed in my heart as a reminder of who I am and how I am to live.

I am His daughter and I am loved. I may have a title and the least desired position and feel like I spend most of my days tying shoes and zipping zippers, but if Jesus bent down to wash feet then who am I to say that tying shoes is above me. I am not what I do but the attitude in which I do what I do. I am not just ‘a shoe-tyer’, I am a servant. I have not come to be served but to serve.

 

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“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God  something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above ever name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                    

                                                                                                                            Philippians 2: 5-11

 

Set Free By A Glance

Overwhelmed with stress, I was set free by just one empathetic glance from a friend.

It was one of those days. Chaos was on the rise.  It wasn’t just my small world – it was all around me. With only a quick moment to spare I walked past my co-worker friend in the middle of her own chaos. We exchanged glances and only a few words, but in that moment there was a kind of empathetic understanding and a sense that ‘we’re in this together.’ Life’s load lifts when we are surrounded by those people who, with a glance, can shift our outlook and help us to ‘just breathe.’

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

There are a few magnificent people in my life whose very passing-by generates feelings of peace and love. They don’t even have to open their mouths and say a word. They truly are the peacemakers of this world. They are those people who grab ahold of what is good and positive. They don’t ignore the looming harsh reality of stress and pain but shine bright and bold beams of positivity into it. Where stress and pain dim your sparkle (all that makes you feel alive) they change your outlook and, even if it is just for a moment, refresh your spirit.

I want to be near people who with their entire being choose to listen without judgment and see the good even in chaos.  I also want to be one of those people.  Like the bright twinkling stars in the night sky I want to offer hope from the chaos.

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“Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.” Daniel 12:3 MSG

Thank God for people who kick you out of your reality, whether it be negative thoughts or life’s tough stuff.  Here’s to the radiant beams of light in my life.  Keep shining brilliantly!

You’re Not Alone

As I write this, I am alone. I have been alone for a good while. I wake up alone, eat alone and spend my evenings alone. Not to say I don’t make small chat with neighbours and have meaningful conversations with my co-workers…but I am currently without the company of a companion. I still text my friends and of course, my husband, who is away for a few weeks fulfilling a dream of his. Although I am not emotionally alone, I am physically alone without the company of a companion.

It’s alright though! I’m alone. I’m okay…but it seems as though the world prefers pairs. I’m positive that any person without a companion desires a loving partner to wake up to, eat meals with and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer. Sometimes we find ourselves alone and without a partner for whatever reason – break-up, divorce, death, or we just haven’t found that special someone. It’s okay!

My sister has learned how to embrace and overcome being without someone at different points in her life. I’m happy to say that she’s with a fun-loving Australian and is very content having a committed companion. She recently reminded me that while I was without my husband for Thanksgiving this year, last year at that time she was alone. Her advice, although it was given to only our family, was passionately directed at a larger audience, “Why should I stop my life just because I’m alone? If I want to do something, I’m going to do it!” She’s braved many holidays without a companion, gone to different events alone and has travelled all over the world on her own. While the world prefers pairs, my sister didn’t put her life on hold because she wasn’t ‘paired’. Instead, even with a broken heart that longed for genuine love, she boldly lived life. She’s a fighter in a world ‘paired off’ and sought adventure over being housebound. She sought opportunity and welcomed new friendships, and despite her wounds from past relationships trusted that love would come her way.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I, unlike my sister have only been alone a few times in my life. I have never travelled on my own. I did eat at a sit down restaurant alone. It felt weird but I braved it. When I found myself away from my loved one I wanted to embrace my sister’s determined attitude to do what you want to do even if you’re on your own. So I did! It was a Friday night after a long work week, and I had been invited to a surprise Birthday celebration. The friend that invited me worded the invitation “I know that your husband is on tour but wanted to see if you wanted to come to a little surprise party.” I did! I thought to myself, I have two options: sit at home, do some work and maybe watch a movie, or get dressed up and go to a party. I chose the second option. I purchased a gift, picked out an outfit, put some make-up on and headed over to the party. As I entered the house (alone) I heard these words spoken in a loud voice: “Where’s your husband?” She went on to say that she would never go anywhere on her own. As you can imagine, I’m standing awkwardly in the doorway at a party with a group of people I ‘kinda’ know and feeling like I was ‘no one’ without my husband. A rush of thoughts entered my mind: “Was it alright that I came on my own? Do I not have as much value unless he’s with me?” I know my friend had no intention of hurting my feelings, but it really made for an awkward evening where people needed to asked me, “How are you holding up?”

I’m alone. I’m okay.

When I find myself alone I know that I am not truly alone. God is near. He is that needed comfort that settles all the insecurity that comes from being alone. He is a comfort that embraces me with confidence to brave eating alone at a restaurant, going to a party alone and sitting alone in my house. He is a comfort that allows me to let go of the ‘presentable me.’ I wash off my make-up, put on my PJ’s and throw my hair back in a pony tail and simply let go. He is a comfort that welcomes my words without judgement and truly ‘gets it.’ In a world that prefers pairs I’ve found the finest partner. God is with me always. I am never alone.

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“In fact, God isn’t far away from us. In God we live, move, and exist.” Acts 17:27b-28a

 

Somewhere Between 23rd & Broad

I lost my voice along the way

Somewhere between 23rd and Broad.

A man walked away with it.

He tucked it in his wallet and carried it like cash.

One more voice ‘cashed in.’

 

My pace, somber and slow,

disappearing with each step.

I fade into the rest

Faces with no names

Branded to fit the masses

Lost in the crowd

 

I lost my voice somewhere between now and then.

Gone.       Not lost.      Paused.

Gradually it returns

somewhere between Broad and New.

I made my own cash

Bought my voice back

Held my head high

Looked everyone in the eyes

 

My voice returned

It beats with sound

A rhythm felt with no words

Robbed and returned

It’s my voice – quiet and bold.

Lost but found.

 

I lost my voice along the way

never to be taken again

shoes

 

 

 

Brighter and More Beautiful

 

From time to time I reassess my life’s purpose. I feel that I’ve gained some life experience – at least enough to have an idea of what’s most important in life. My life’s purpose has changed from the need to figure out my vocation (my 9-5) to a method/means in how I live my life. My focus has shifted from ‘calling’ to the ‘day-to-day’ mindset.

A friend commented on my last post by saying how Isaiah 43 has helped her understand God’s love. I thought I’d refresh my memory and read it for myself. There were many parts of the passage that brought me encouragement, one of them being that we are made for God’s glory. Those words kept repeating in my mind and yet I had no practical understanding of what that truly meant.

The initial image I had in my mind after reading “we are made for God’s glory” was that of a proud and loving father who takes tremendous pride in his children. I have yet to meet a parent that doesn’t think his/her child is the best. Even when a child misbehaves, there is this unrelentless love a parent has that doesn’t allow behaviour to outshine all the good in his/her child. Despite the ups and downs that come with parenting, Moms and Dads dearly love their children, and if given the opportunity will let you know exactly how proud they are of them. Despite all our short-comings God, too, views us as His pride and joy.

…so this was the initial picture I had in my mind after reading “I have made them for my glory.” Isaiah 43:7b My second thought was one that crosses a critic’s mind “Isn’t that selfish of God to create us for the soul purpose of giving Him glory? As if He needs an ego boost!” Our idea of glory includes wealth, power and influence. People step back in admiration (or jealousy) when someone steps out of an expensive car or a movie star walks a red carpeted event or CEO of multimillion dollar company talks about his/her success at a conference. Not that these individuals are necessarily looking for admiration but their ‘perceived’ status makes others want to be like them. God, unlike our idea of glory, doesn’t need us to make Him ‘look good!’ He is glory. …and we are made for His glory.

To think that we are created to make someone other than us greater is an ego downgrade. This is hard for us to grasp since we humans don’t have a great track record for making someone other than ourselves look good. We are very selfish, and on the severe end of the spectrum can be down right evil to each other. If my perception of God is distant, power-hungry and uninvolved, than of course I’d think that He is selfish in wanting glory. I’m thankful that my experience with God is loving, forgiving and near therefore I have no problem illuminating who He is.

To be made for His glory frees me up from exhausting thoughts about my life’s purpose. To look beyond what I can get out of this life to how I might I illuminate God’s glory. “We weren’t meant to be somebody – we were meant to know Somebody.” – John Piper. Wealth, fame, glory, power and so on, are signs that we have somehow ‘arrived’ in life but have nothing to do with our life’s purpose. Our purpose isn’t to turn ourselves into a god (someone important or above others) but to reveal Him in our daily lives. “It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.” – John Piper. God was never made for us. We are made for God’s glory. Being made for God’s glory means we illuminate who God is – loving, faithful, kind, just and forgiving.

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Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1

Once again I feel like I am like a child trying to understand the complex truth and nature of God. Being made for God’s glory frees me from trying to figure out my life’s purpose. Instead, I know that in all things I need to embody who God is – kind, loving, forgiving, just and faithful. I know that God views me like a proud and loving parent, and hopes that I choose goodness, kindness, faith over selfish desires. When we welcome the living, personal presence of God we become “brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” 2 Corinthians 3:18

God’s Love Is Permanent

With one hand grasping an Americano and the other spreading open the pages of a recently purchased book, I read the words “God’s love is permanent” and the noise around me ceases. A calm comes over me. I’ve heard the words “God loves me” many times in my life and in many different ways, but to think that His love is permanent brought a new perspective to my beliefs. What struck me was how I don’t live like I believe that “God’s love is permanent.”

It’s hard for me to imagine anything in this life as being permanent. Tattoos aren’t forever thanks to laser technology. Marriage is meant to be a life-long commitment but love often doesn’t last forever. Even landscapes change over centuries. ‘Permanent’ in my experience is simply ‘a really really long time,’ or ‘until I get sick of it,’ but not necessarily forever. It’s no wonder I have a difficult time imagining God’s love as being permanent.

I’m happy to say that I’m not the only one who struggles to understand God’s love. Paul described God’s love as “too great to understand” but wants us to have the “power to understand” it:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19

My limited understanding of ‘permanent’ has made it difficult to believe that God’s love isn’t just a ‘really really long time’ or until He gets sick and tired of my roller coaster life. Our human ‘forever’ love is conditional on how we feel about the other person on any given day. If we get annoyed with them, we have no hesitation changing our relationship status. Even the degree in which we love family (the most ‘permanent’ relationship) is conditional on how we feel about them. Our experience with relationships makes it difficult to understand this idea that God’s love is permanent – it doesn’t change and it is always apart of us. God’s love is not constrained by our sense of time or limited to our good deeds or lack there of.

While I’ll be quick and sure to say “God loves me,” if I take an honest inventory of my life, I live as if God’s love has an expiration date. It’s found in very subtle ways: When I’m overwhelmed with life, I’m so busy trying to figure out things on my own that I don’t have time for God’s love (or to think that He actually wants to be apart of my busy schedule). When I’m exhausted and feeling low, I go into a survival mode and can’t feel God’s peace. When I’m immersed in selfish pursuit, I picture God sitting at a distance with His arms crossed waiting for me to ‘get it together.’

As I sat amongst a sea of laptops at the coffee shop where I was reading, I knew I needed to let those few words “God’s love is permanent” take ownership in my soul. I’m finding more and more often it is the obvious truths (the truths that I once knew so strongly in my early Christian life) that I need to return to. It’s like hearing the words “I love you” over and over again but longing for the intimacy behind those common words.

The delicious yet bitter taste of my Americano became more rich in flavour with the words “God’s love is permanent,” and it triggered a month long journey back to a place of letting God love me. I’ve been allowing the words to sink deep in my soul and change my outlook of who He is and who I am. I’m discovering love doesn’t look for faults, neither does it overlook them. Love is patient when I’m ignoring God or pursuing selfish desires. Love doesn’t sit in the judgement seat but in gentleness holds a mirror of truth to my face and gives me time to reassess my life. Love is more than a pat on the back or an inspirational quote like “Stay strong and keep going!” Love believes in me when doubts have clouded my judgment. Love befriends me in my loneliness. Love is forever imprinted in my heart. It never leaves me and the more I welcome it, the larger its influence becomes in my life.

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“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9