Embracing the Imperfect

“Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears in me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-9)

We all have things that we could boast about without looking foolish. Maybe you’re one of the most brilliant surgeons in the country and have helped heal countless other people…or animals, if a veterinary surgeon. Maybe you’re an awesome cook. Or have a beautiful singing voice. Our gifts are countless. And, yes, since He gave you these gifts in the first place, He also uses them to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring joy to many.

But, guess what?

That surgeon is also late to every appointment. The cook is nipping the cooking sherry while whipping up the filet mignon. And the singer is dyslexic. Sort of makes all of their accomplishments that much more awe-inspiring, doesn’t it?

And that’s the point.

God doesn’t just use our gifts. He uses our imperfections, too. If everything ran smoothly all of the time, would we notice His miracles? Would we understand that it’s all about Him and not about us? If we were all perfect in every way, would we even think to worship God? So He uses our imperfections. He uses them to further His Kingdom. When we, who are broken, are made whole through Christ, it forces the unbeliever to take notice. Sure, they may scoff and sneer, especially if we give the credit where it’s due for our success. But they notice the accomplishment. And are amazed at the adversities overcome to achieve that success. They may not suddenly become believers. But there’s a seed planted. And God will cause it to bloom in His own time.

Do you notice something though? Despite whatever He helps us to accomplish in our lives, those thorns never really go away. I may be a minister, a writer, an artist and a homesteader. But I am also a survivor of child molestation, an eternal procrastinator and I’m perpetually running late, running behind. I’m terrified of flying. I deal with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and confidence issues, acid reflux, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Psychological Disorder, and Chronic Epstein-Barr. I’m showing you my brokenness…and thanking Him for all of it: the gifts and the thorns. But especially the thorns. Because that’s what people need to see. Those thorns are blessings in disguise. And there are others with those same thorns in their sides who need to hear that they are not alone. So, whatever adversities you are working with, thank Him.

Because there’s a silver lining behind that cloud. There always is.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Manifesting my Dreams

“And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

I struggle to know His will for me versus my own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Did He put these dreams on my heart because this is where He wants me to go? Or am I hoping to super-impose my will over His simply because He provided the grace, the talent, the desire…whether we’re talking writing, art or homesteading? I guess, in some ways, I’m trying to read God’s mind. It’s almost as if I’m looking for permission to be a writer, artist and/or homesteader. And, in the long run, I don’t think He minds what avenue we choose to spread His word, to do His will. His will is that we love Him with our hearts, our minds, our souls–in short, every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Last Sunday this awful cold–which is turning into bronchitis, I suspect–kept me from church. Mom and I sat and watched some daily devotional videos with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am going to paraphrase him but we’re not writers. Or artists. Or bankers. Or whatever our profession. We’re Christians who write, draw/paint, or work in a bank. In other words, being Christian, serving Christ, should be first. That should be our identity. I like that because it puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all the same in God’s eyes.

So today I am a Christian who writes. And I finally finished the mural I blogged about many months’ ago. I’m also a Christian who paints:

The ultimate symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us shining down on all of my dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time in holistic health, which tends to have a crossover with New Age beliefs. There’s a lot of talk about manifesting your dreams. In short, in many ways, it is a feeble attempt to superimpose our own wills over God’s. But His plans are greater than any that you or I may have. And, if it is His will, His means of getting there are much more effective. Still, it was rather nice to pour all of my longing into this folk-art rendering of where I hope to be one day.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Hall, M. (n.d.). “Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall Daily Devotional”. YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9E60B7BC20898E21

A-a-a-Achoo!

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

Inevitable, I guess, that I should catch the same head cold as is floating around the museum. Also inevitable that it should be slowly evolving into laryngitis. “Inevitable” because laryngitis seems to be the plague of all singers.

You sing.

You get sick.

You lose your voice.

Granted, I’m not singing “pro” anymore. Or even semi-pro. So this doesn’t really affect me on any professional level. But the vox always takes the hit. Regardless. You’d think, given my voice doesn’t get the same routine workout it received when I sang in bands, that I might avoid the laryngitis once in a while. But, apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

And all of this nonsensical gibberish has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting here on the Sabbath using my “other” voice, the voice of a writer…and, technically, WORKING.

It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.

Does that count?

Probably not…

However, I am rejoicing to be back at the keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. And, while I lament this illness that keeps me away from serving Communion this morning (I am scheduled), I also appreciate that His plan is greater than mine. He knows I have a cold. He knows some part of me is rundown and has been ignoring that “rundown”, stressed out state for quite some time now. He also knows that my heart is rejoicing to be back serving Communion–and Lectoring–again but, I believe in my heart, He is reminding me what happens when we neglect our health–mental, emotional, physical and, yes, spiritual. We get hit with dis-EASE. (You can take the girl out of the holistic health sector but you can’t take the holistic health out of the girl…) Just as each of us is a part of the body of Christ, so, too, does our own physical body have many parts…parts that need care, rest, and respect. When we neglect any part of ourselves, it causes a breakdown on all of these levels. Time constraints, and the current compromises of some core values, have caused this breakdown. It is time to put it right. And come up fighting.

But He says rest for right now. We’ll fight this together…whatever “this” is..in His time.

Not mine.

I think He’s trying to tell me to stop chasing my own tail. Give it all to Him: the financial burdens; the looming debts; the dreams and desires that always seem to get further away instead of closer; the feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unworthiness; the perpetual square-peg-in-a-round-hole existence. Give it all to Him. Because, without Him, none of it matters. Those dreams just keep getting further away. And it is more important that He not be pushed further and further away by the pressures of the world.

Because I’ve neglected to put Him first in my day.

Letting go, giving control to anyone–even God–has always been my biggest struggle in life. I grew up in an abusive home–not beaten physically but verbally, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Staying tight-fisted, and playing it “safe”, has given me a very false sense of security. Every time I decide to step into the waters of life, take a step out of line, I expect fire and brimstone to rain down upon my head. Such stinking thinking is probably my biggest burden of all. And yet, I let the Adversary lure me with it. I stop just before making that final leap of faith, not trusting that Jesus is there to catch me. Each and every time.

I’m tired of that “standard of living” that “somehow got stuck on survive” (Kilcher, 1998). “We were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns, 2014). And, the only way to do that, is to let go…and trust in Him. All of my own efforts just keep burying me deeper.

These last two months, besides being somewhat of a tedious task in re-reading and editing past posts, have also been a time of reflection. I can almost trace the path of how I got into this human survival mode…instead of a spiritual thriving. I also see where I’ve often shared mostly the positive, the upbeat, the hopes and dreams, but seldom the failures. And He uses the failures, the imperfections. It is the down-trodden that He uses; He lifts them up, performs small (and some not so small) miracles through them. And in them.

To further His kingdom.

I keep chasing my tail, doing the same thing over and again…and expecting a different outcome. They say that’s a definition of insanity. I invite God to take control. Then, when everything is going smoothly, I push away from Him and try to take hold of the reins again. “I’ve got this now.” As if I can do a better job this time than He can. When has that ever proved true?

Definitely a definition of insanity.

He really does work in mysterious ways. I set out on what I thought would be a tedious task, intent only on removing any and all specific mentions of my current employer, so that their brand may not be compromised by anything written in this blog. I’ll confess even to some rebellion in the act: a refusal to give free advertising to that brand as well. More stinking thinking, of course, but He uses even that…and brings it around to more right thinking. No one person, or entity, is right or wrong…or perfect. It is our imperfections that make us whole…and beautiful. That doesn’t mean we quit trying to do right, to make right, or perfect; to alleviate suffering; feed the hungry, etc. But if we take that right or wrong, that imperfection, that suffering and hunger, and place it in His hands, the fight is already won. Sort of appropriate that I should finally complete this “tedious” task, this unexpected reflection and awakening, on New Year’s Eve day. I may have laryngitis but my fingers are singing across this keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

What a great way to start a new year.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2014). “Thrive.” Thrive. Beach Street/Reunion.

Kilcher, J. (1998). “Deep Water.” Spirit. EMI Music Publishing.

3:30 Woman Returns

“They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)

Very early morning seems to be the sweet spot for me. So, it has taken some careful rearranging of my days, especially now that I am working a full-time job + the two hours’ commute round trip but, I think I have arrived. And it is good to be back at the keyboard.

So, where have I been?

Sedulously going through each and every blog post that I have ever written and removing any and all mention of the name of the museum where I am currently employed. I’m not sure why I didn’t extend this courtesy to my current employer; I’ve always been careful not to mention any past employer out of respect for the fact that my views and theirs may not jive. This is particularly important now with my occasional “Wednesday Weed Walks” and “Friday’s Flora and Fauna”. As their herb garden lead, even including an FDA disclaimer that what I write is meant for “educational purposes only” and not meant to “treat, diagnose” etc., the museum could potentially be held liable if someone were to, for example, gargle with sage to treat a sore throat and have an allergic reaction. If I had to analyze this lax, my tenure as a volunteer cast them in a different light than past museums I may have worked at or even the car dealership…which was usually referred to as simply “the car dealership”. So now they are simply “the museum” or I refer to myself as working in “living history”.

And, yes, there is more to the story than this. What I just wrote is absolutely true and valid, just not “all”.

There have also been a couple of posts removed…by request, but done so willingly. In short, they cast the museum in an unfavorable light. What I wrote back in November (Wow! Has it really been that long???) was also true and valid but, in reflection, it would have been more prudent to call a meeting with my supervisor and tell what I saw…instead of going public with it immediately. I haven’t given up, given in, but, as a writer, though I can tout our First Amendment with freedom of speech, press, etc, being a writer also carries with it a certain responsibility. And, if I want to mitigate something, there are always proper channels to follow…before blasting someone in public. By going public immediately, I actually hurt the cause more than I helped it. And I did lower myself to calling some fellow employees “barbarians”. I let myself get carried away with my emotions; understandably, maybe, but to lower myself to such standards, well, I may have also cast myself in an unfavorable light. And, no matter what the situation, calling names is never acceptable.

For that, I beg pardon. Sometimes, even ministers have to eat some humble pie.

May God bless you & keep you!

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

We Are the Body

“For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-28

I am the only person who can do the work that He has assigned to me. Oh, sure, there are other writers out there. But only I can write the stories, articles, etc. that He hath given me. It is the imagination…and the integrity of truth, depending on whether we are talking a fictional or non-fictional piece…that He has blessed me with when I write.

When I ignore it, or allow the busy-ness of life to keep me away from writing, I reject His gifts.

I will be 51 years old next week. No more procrastinating! No more allowing myself to be distracted from this dream He has put on my heart. And, anything that doesn’t fall in line with this dream, either needs to be eliminated, or receive a lesser focus in the overall scheme of things.

Because anything less is simply UNACCEPTABLE.

My writing and blogging has become “spotty” at best as I have struggled to find the time to write. Though I sometimes wish otherwise, there are only 24 hours in a day. And I got spoiled in some ways with having only part-time employment for 4 years.

The last two days have been busy here at The Herbal Hare Homestead. Another rearranging project has transformed what I usually refer to as the “Rabbit Room” into a combination Rabbit Room and home office. This gives me a few hours each night, while the rabbits are outside of their cages playing, to write fiction. To blog. To honor those gifts.

To be the “me” that He intended me to be.

As for the former home office? My bedroom will be moving into it. And the living room is moving upstairs so that the current living room (which is really a Florida room that was enclosed to be a family room of sorts by previous homeowners but never really well-insulated…) can become home to racks of wheat grass, sprouts and micro-greens. It may take some time to develop a business selling the aforementioned commodities but we do have some interest from one of the local restaurants…and, the best part of it is, Mom is wholly interested in this as well. (It really helps to have all family members living under the same roof on board with any changes…) So, with a little luck, and a lot of hard work, we may have at least a little cottage industry happening here soon.

And, in the meantime, these happy fingers will be dancing across the keyboard again…doing the work that only they can do.

May God bless you & keep you!

Time…A Precious Commodity

“He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength.” Isaiah 26:3-4

I am bound and determined to create a new blog post this morning. Since going to work off-site full-time rather than part-time, and the two-hour round-trip commute to get to said full-time position, time has become so precious! I spend half my day with various blog posts running through my head, hoping against all reason for the chance to sit down and actually write and post them!

And finding that either I’m so dog-tired after work that I can’t string two words together to make sense, or the alarm clock has become the enemy next morning. I’ve always been an active person but, in some ways, it is like having two homesteads to care for.

Not lamenting.

Loving it.

So this a.m. I nixed my yoga practice so I could at least type a quick post. Faithful readers deserve faithful content.

There is joy in this new venture, this retreat into an earlier time period, 5 out of 7 days each week. And retreat is the operative word. It’s been over two months’ now and it still doesn’t feel like “work”, like a “job”…even a “career”. Despite working for someone else, there is little to no drudgery or routine to this gig. I am getting paid to garden, cook, bake and knit. And to talk to people about history and gardening…instead of being told to stop talking and get back to work! Every day is varied and something new. Maybe at some point in the future this will change. Maybe at some point in the future I will have learned everything it is possible to learn and the wonder will fade away.

At that point, if such a point is obtainable, it will be time to switch gigs. But, I think there is something in the air or in the water at this museum; retirees still come in a couple of days each week, either on a part-time payroll or even as a volunteer, and many who have been let go in an economic downsizing have also remained as volunteers. This living history gets under your skin, into your blood.

And doesn’t leave.

And yet, it is not all paradise…

I have made it to only one Sunday morning Mass since I started this position. That seriously bothers me. I need Mass. I need my parish. I need God.

Yes, I can talk to God anytime I want. And I DO. I spend my commute in praying the rosary, or the chaplet, and then listening to contemporary Christian music…or simply driving and allowing His love to fill my heart for the remainder of the commute. But it’s not the same as participating in Mass. I miss lectoring. I miss serving Communion. I was both Lector and Eucharistic Minister at my church. I miss singing in the choir. I miss serving Him. The perfect scenario would either allow me to go in late on a Sunday, as I did as a volunteer, or else, a few more Sundays off so that I can attend services more often.

Or else, with a heavy sigh, find another worship community.

Maybe that’s what He’s nudging me to do. Maybe He has a plan for me elsewhere…

In the meantime, I will continue to praise Him for the joy that He has brought to all of my days, to the myriad skills He is allowing me to learn. And for the new yearning for a hearth in my kitchen…along with one of those beehive ovens for baking.

Not sure how that one’s going to pan out…(chuckle)

May God bless you & keep you!