Strength Born of Weakness

I wish I felt stronger
As the day wears on longer,
But I’m weak in the knees,
So even the breeze
Feels like it’s knocking me over.

I’ll turn to the One
Who makes flowers hum,
Flooded with colors so bold,
Violet, green, blue and gold.

Love that is violent yet gentle,
His flowers adorning heart’s mantle.
In this weakness
I’ll learn His meekness;
And only then I’ll be stronger.

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Freedom in Friendship

love

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 116 has long been a favorite of mine. But more recently I came across the above quote by Adam Clarke. At first I found it difficult to hold both of these statements to be true. On first look they seem to be mutually exclusive, such opposing ideas that I feel my brain being tied into a knot. For my purposes I don’t speak of romantic love but of friendship (but I love my friends, so forgive me my broad interpretation). Here is my quandary: when does faithfulness in a friendship cross the line into lack of self-respect, by staying when things are terribly dysfunctional? On deeper inspection, I find these quotes to be quite complimentary.

Shakespeare is indeed right when he says “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Love is faithful and kind and patient and covers a multitude of sins.

Clarke is also right that “love requires love as its recompense,” for true friendship must be reciprocal in nature. Genuine friendship is not an exchange of goods, services, and presents; a “this for that” mentality does not make for a lasting friendship. The only thing required is the exchange of goodwill, kindness and truth spoken in love. A friendship without mutual respect and the permission to allow each other to grow and change creates shackles rather than freedom.

Maybe I should be reading these quotes the other way around. There can only be loyalty, love, and faithfulness in a friendship (love which does not alter) when friendship has been given freely (love begetting love) first. Love does not flee at the first sign of trouble; adversely, love does not require oneself to be bullied, manipulated and disrespected for the sake of loyalty.

As a Christian these quotes will only get me so far. Scripture is really my only compass to navigate the choppy waters of evaluating my relationships. I have found the following verses particularly helpful:

“friendships” to avoid

Proverbs 18:24
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 16:28
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 22:24–25
Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.

friendships to cherish and cultivate

Proverbs 27:9
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 18:24
A man [or woman] who has friends must show himself [or herself] friendly. And there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother [or sister].

Ecclesiastes 4:-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

The Pictures in My Head

Many writers say they write because they have to. I always rolled my eyes and felt that it was a terribly clichéd thing to say.

I don’t roll my eyes anymore.

I write because I have to.

When I was little I had aspirations to be an artist. I loved to draw. I drew all the time and carried a sketch pad with me everywhere. But I was a terrible artist. I would get so frustrated, because I had a picture in my head about what I felt, and I wanted to show everyone else. I had no way to accomplish it. I had no way to put down on paper, or in clay, or on canvas the things I saw in my head. So the pictures stayed locked away for almost 20 years.

A few years ago I was having a terribly hard time. Things at my job had been going downhill for about a year and a half. It was a slow and steady boiling of the water, and much like the frog, I was being scalded. I had been in the soup for a while before I realized I was being cooked. The situation deteriorated quickly and after months of manipulation and dodging, the decision was made to close our branch. Within a one week period of time I turned 30, was downsized from my job, said goodbye to my grandpa (he made it to 92 God bless him) and was dumped twice by text message. By the same doofus.

I also have underlying issues of clinical depression and anxiety. And a host of things in my life that, at the time, I was refusing to acknowledge. I was hurting. I was sad. I was lost about what I should do and where I should go. It was a bad time, and I have no wish to relive it, but looking back over those terrible weeks which stretched into terrible months, I can honestly see God’s mercy. Sounds naive. Sounds mad. Sounds…cliched. But it’s true. I am a master procrastinator (some slam poetry right there…booyah) and I had decades worth of garbage that I was pushing deep, deep, deep down. I hoarded everything, although somehow it was only the bad, grimy pieces I kept and not the bright shiny ones.

I began to see a therapist who happened to be a Christian. I’d seen therapists before, so this wasn’t a new process for me. However, most of my experience was with therapists who were condescending or openly hostile towards my beliefs; and the few who were sympathetic where only interested in pushing medication (side-note, I am all for medication if it helps you, and I reject the stigma in some Christian circles that depression is simply an issue of sin…but that’s a post for another day). Bob was my first  therapist who wanted to know about me. He wanted to know about my heart. He asked me questions about my motivations and aspirations. And he was not afraid to hand me my own ass if the situation required it.

I was having a really difficult time even focusing on a coherent thought, let alone praying. It’s kind of hard to pray to God when you’re angry with Him. Bob suggested writing out my prayers. It would force me to acknowledge the bad feelings rather than pushing them down while putting on the brave Christian face. It would force me to take my time, to realize why I was mad, or sad, or even happy. His other suggestion was to model them after the Psalms. I had never noticed it before, but King David was pretty pissed in some of those Psalms. He’s mad and sad. But he usually ends happy, choosing to put his faith in his Maker.

You see, my brain is full of junk, piles of old newspapers stacked to the ceiling and garbage littering the floor. But it’s also full of treasures. I have pictures in my head. Words are the only medium I have found to get them out.

That’s why I write.

One Who Sees

steady weeping rain
drums against the window pane
mourning over agonies
that I’m too blind to see.

a God with power who doesn’t care
might as well not e’en be there.
a God who cares but doesn’t see
is not all that much good to me.

there must be One who sees all things
the fallen sparrow with broken wing
who cares enough to intercede
when I can’t even see.

Attack of the Zombabies

I often suffer from terrible dreams and insomnia. Last night I had a dream where I woke from sleep (waking from sleep inside of a dream is pretty trippy) and I was covered with toddler bites, which had become infected. Then I woke up for real and spent 15 minutes in half-sleep haze, cataloging my extremities to make certain that I was not indeed attacked by zombie-babies. Distressing, yes. Weird, yes. Insightful? Hmmmm…maybe?

I’ve realized lately that my dreams can be rather telling about the roots of my anxiety. This particular dream was no doubt due to some apprehension over my interview today for a nanny position. No worries, everything seemed to go well, and I was not bitten by any toddlers. I even wore my “you-can-trust-me with-your-children” interview glasses. It’s not yet a done deal, but the family does want to proceed with a “trial run,” which always makes me feel hopeful. It has been FAR too long since I have had full-time employment. Being unemployed or underemployed sucks. It’s discouraging and draining and often seems pointless after a failed interview, especially when I felt it had gone well. Yet, I feel like I have turned a corner. Maybe it’s the warmer weather and the flowers blooming. Maybe it’s my “trust-me-glasses.” Whatever it is, I feel full of hope, that even if this one doesn’t work out, I can trust in God and not fall into a spiral of cynicism and self-doubt.

So here’s to spring-time, flowers, warm breezes, new glasses, and endless opportunities.

Cheers 🙂

skull

“But you can trust me…I’m wearing glasses.”

In the end…

“I was just a boy when I sat down
To watch the news on TV
I saw some ordinary slaughter
I saw some routine atrocity
My father said, don’t look away
You got to be strong, you got to be bold, now
He said, that in the end it is beauty
That is going to save the world, now.”
Nick Cave

I hate watching the news. To give a general idea of how long it’s been since I’ve watched a nightly news program, I just found out today that OJ Simpson is in jail for a Las Vegas robbery which occurred in 2007. Yes, I’m embarrassed, and yes I know I need to know more about what’s going on around me. But I cannot stand Fox News or CNN or the multitude of other mega networks who feature screaming heads adding to the din and confusion of our cultural and political climate. I recently took to reading alternative news blogs but found the message boards even more depressing, filled with pithy little catch phrases like “Faux news, Obamacon, feminazis, mansplain, corpocrats, banksters (ok that one is funny),” and blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH. Recent events have left me sad and bewildered: the Newton massacre, the Steubenville rape case, the Gosnell trial, the Boston bombing, and just two days ago the fire and explosion in Waco, TX.  And none of it is beyond being politicized.  How can the rape of a minor in Steubenville be politicized? I learned quite easily when I read this exchange on one message board for an article titled The top 5 rape apologist reactions to the Steubenville rape verdict:

garbageamericaiscrumbling • a month ago
Unbelievable how fucked up some people are.
invictus2 -> garbageamericaiscrumbling • a month ago
At least they all flock together under one banner. Conservative hypocrites. The biggest group is in the GOP tent.
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
seriously, how is this article being used in the comments as a left vs right argument? rape and rape culture isn’t a partisan issue. it’s a HUMAN issue. attempting to paint the horrible reactions in the article as either “democrat” or “republican” is tacky and gross. clearly we all agree that this was rape, that this was bad, and that blaming the victim for even a second sucks ass. check the ideologies at the door and remember that not everyone who votes differently from you is a monster
invictus2 -> Guest • a month ago
They are what they are. It’s the right, and their christo fanatics that are raining a puritan rage on all things sexual. I don’t see a bill a week to control sexual process freedom or functions coming from democrats. They are all coming from the republicons in the house and republicon contolled state governments. It wasn’t a left leaning media outlet that outed the victim. It was the conservative republicon media arm Fox. It was republicons that made course and objectionable rape comments for most of the last election cycle
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
ok, even if your viewpoint is accurate, what in the world does that have to do with THIS case or THIS article?
invictus2 -> Guest • a month ago
It voices and perpetuates the rights disgusting memes as discussion, when they should be shunned by the media. The media should be the story, and that includes MSNBC, CNN, and FOX. We don’t have any NEWS media. I’ve been waiting all day for coverage of Rachels expose last night on Nixons treason
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
um…like I said, what does that have to do with a teenage girl getting raped?

Blecccchhhhhh. gross. And sad. But then I remember it’s not only my civic duty to be an informed citizen, it’s because I wholeheartedly agree with Nick Cave. At the risk of sounding like a neo-con religious fanatic (see, message boards are good for teaching me new terms) I also believe what Jesus said is true; and somehow I have hope to turn on the TV again tomorrow…because the end has not yet come.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”  Matthew 24:6

Embers

God who is in heaven.
Bathe my smokey heart.
Anger once was justified, but it has played its part.
What first was cleansing fire
Has left me brittle bones.
The flames have burned straight through me, searing all my soul.
Rain your mercy down now.
Subdue the smoldering rage.
Snuff out these embers raising smoke. Unlock this seething cage.

fire

Blessing and rewards?

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God promises so little in this life in terms of material comfort. He does not promise a spouse. He does not promise a high salary. He does not promise a life free of sickness and pain or hurt and disappointment. He does promise wisdom. He promises peace. He promises strength to be happy, trusting and joyful in even the hardest situations. And He promises Himself. This isn’t Candidian optimism. It’s faith in action.

     Proverbs 8:17 (ASV) “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.”

     James 4:8 (the Message – paraphrase) “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit.

I thoroughly reject the Gospel of Prosperity.  It is a disservice to tell Christians that if they perform well, or do X, Y, or Z, they will have all their wildest dreams come true.  Some Christians will never realize those successes in this life, through no fault of their own. Telling people that they will have monetary or professional success if they love God enough can only lead to depression and cynicism if those specific blessings never come through.

     John 9:1-3 (NIV) “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

     Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

All that said, go and make the life you’ve desired, as long as you can do it with a clear conscience that’s been enlightened by God’s word. Be BRAVE and may you be successful and joyful beyond even your wildest dreams.

Many Blessings this Easter

Serial sickness sucks

image

Pity party. Table for one.

Serial sickness sucks. Although, I imagine that cereal sickness probably sucks too. In three months, I have been sick five times. One case of influenza, two bouts with the stomach flu, one upper respiratory infection, and now a throat / sinus infection. I’ve been called a hypochondriac, a faker, a flake, a walking-petri-dish, a bummer to be around and a crappy friend (although I am glad to say anyone who says this is not my friend, crappy or otherwise). I’ve been told it’s because I sleep too much. Or I don’t sleep enough. Or I’m imagining it. My favorite has to be “You’re just letting your anxiety make you sick.” Oh wise one,  please tell me how anxiety causes germs, viruses, and/or bacterial infections? Granted much of this free and not-sought-after advice only comes from a select few armchair physicians with a higher degree in bullshit and condescension. By all means, invite me over and I’ll be happy to share my “hypochondria” with you.

However, this time has not been utterly fruitless. I have watched almost everything Netflix can offer on-demand. I have read four novels. I have grown in patience for others. I have developed sympathy for those who are chronically ill. I have learned that I don’t have it so bad. I have learned not to worry. I know that pain and frustration are temporary. Hope is eternal. I have learned Who to trust.

So to all of my friends who have loved me, shown me patience, understood when I’ve had to bail, encouraged me, and prayed for me….thank you and I love you.

And for those naysayers and know-it-alls….pfffftttthhhh, jog on.

  Matthew 6:25-27 NIV
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?    Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?    Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?

  Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

  Psalm 27:13 NIV
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”