My Love

The best stories contain both impeccable moments as well as moments of complete disaster. First there must be a hook, something that draws you in and makes you want to stick around to see what is to come. Then the disaster hits only for redemption to rise up in a glorious finale. This is the kind of story I have been given. We love to love a love story, particularly the beginning and the end. The initial excitement that draws two people together is intoxicating. Then life flits by until we see the amazing beauty of an elderly couple holding onto one another while letting life itself slip away. 

Those are the bookends of the best love stories, but what occurs between the bookends is more significant. Love cannot be proven authentic until it fills years that turn into decades. 

I am blessed and honored by a love that if written, would capture the heart of all who see it. 

First, the hook: two adults, in their young twenties, from opposite ends of rural America. One day, the girl is stopped in her tracks by love at first sight. Like every great couple, despite the power of the initial moment, there is struggle. A realignment must occur and at one point the couple isn’t sure whether or not such a significant alignment could or should occur. In a flurry of emotion, one day they push through the past and are in an instant bound together with a singular purpose. 

As soon as they are married, the wife is injured in a car wreck that nearly takes her life. The couple must rise through the fear and trauma to heal and bond and learn that love and marriage is more than simple choices. 

They travel the world simply for the purpose of coming home smarter and well fed. They leave family and friends for the sake of adventure, more than once. They create three beauties as reminders that action is an integral part of loving. They see dreams come true. They endured severe sickness. They see the best in each other and become better because of how they are seen. 

They serve one another to the point of exhaustion. They see the wonders of the Earth. They live in trust, peace, and love. And no matter what has occurred in the day, they hold one another in the night.

This is what happens between the bookends of a love story. These moments hold the substance. A beginning and end are meaningless without hundreds of thousands of choices in between. 

A relationship with God is structured the same way, your final day is not as significant as everyday before. In relationship with God, the treasure of life is not found in the bookends but in the unraveling story that is formed. Each day, each moment, can be filled to overflowing with the love and provision of God, despite circumstances of heartache and struggle. This is the key to truly amazing love. 

Thank you, My Love, the gift of my life. I am eternally grateful for all that you are to me. Happy Valentine’s, dear. 

The Experience of Renewal

I am not the first person to cry out in the darkness. To not see an enemy, but yet be overwhelmed by the desire for one who will remember me. 

I do not remember myself, and cannot resolve the issues inside. 

When I try to recall, I cannot identify what is missing, I simply do not recognize my reflection. 

I was a wife, mother, teacher, friend but weren’t there other pieces? And these pieces, weren’t they good? Didn’t I love and live above reproach? I simply can’t recall. 

It is interesting that the body isn’t simply made up of pieces that can be removed and returned. It is also a whole. Any part removed, for any amount of time, leaves an ache, a need. The whole must be redefined in its absence, for there is no whole without each and every piece. And is it the same with life?

I have felt the whole of who I am, or who I will be. I have seen shadows of it in dreams and whispers of it in song. Still, I must wait for the pieces to be revealed. In order to experience this “who I will be,” old versions of myself must be washed away. 

Washed, such a passive word: scrubbed, scoured, and scraped away is more accurate. 

If we must use the word “washed” then this washing is the kind that occurs when the tide has pulled you under. Tumbling with the sand and shell, washing, the water taking hold and not letting go. Washing by thrashing, until your mind finds itself incapable of escape. It is by this means that I have been washed. 

Grasping for air, listening for the light, hoping for freedom, desperate to be released. For there is nothing in turmoil but to hope. So I hope that when I break through the wall of washing water I may rise to find myself full of life giving breath. 

This hope lifts my eyes. My strength reaches upward. Hope yearns toward the breakthrough. 

Then the moment comes. It happens, the turmoil subsides and, rising, I find my feet, firm and ready. 

Finding their path they move away from the abrading wash. Walking quickens because the old burdens were pulled away in receding water. Who I was, has fallen behind. To turn back or search for it in the depths, is not a choice. 

Hope raised me from the water. Now, on dry land, hope stirs my eyes to search for a new path, a new piece and renewal inside this freedom. 

Birthday Reflections

As I consider my birthday, another year behind me another year before me, I think about the unpredictability of life. This coming year, I am not sure of who I should be or what I should expect. Cancer survivors say it is a common mental struggle that gets better as time ticks forward. But here I sit, today, and I realize my doctors have never declared me “cancer free” or even stated that I am in remission. There is no clear line to distinguish that yesterday I was fighting, today I have overcome. My conversations with doctors leave me feeling that cancer is inside of me hiding, silently waiting. So a sense of insecurity hangs over me. 
When I stop and consider life, this sense of insecurity should not come as a surprise. In college a friend died of an aneurysm. Another childhood friend was told from birth that he would not live past 18, yet lives productively into his 30’s. Another friend died in his 20’s in a car crash, only to find his body had unknowingly been eaten by cancer. On and on I could reflect on unexpected tragedies and physical triumphs that I have witnessed. Experience shows me that our bodies are not reliable, the medical community is still learning, and without any security in our future, we all move forward. Some people move forward because they have faith in a doctor saying “you are cancer free.” Some people place their hopes in diet and exercise. 

The only response that makes sense to me is placing my faith in my God. Since I was a child, I accepted that only my God knew the path of my life. It was for me to understand one step at a time. It was His job to reveal and create the foothold that would carry me forward. Truly, forward motion is the goal. I have never wrestled with the “why”. My heart remains steadfast on the job that is mine: to step forward on the path that is revealed. 

This year taught me that pain is a great motivator. Difficult times push you to reach out to family, neighbors and even society. Pain creates a platform of interconnectedness. As I reached out in need, I was able to observe the web of love that had been built throughout my life. A web that seemed invisible in certain moments of life, but as tears dripped onto the web, it began to glisten and the most beautiful accomplishment of my life was revealed. 

Once observed, this web of love has become motivating. No matter where my path turns or climbs, whether my journey lasts five years or forty, it is this web of love that hangs before me, glistening in the light of my life. I want to see its strands grow and reach to the farthest corners of my view, including as many others in my interconnected masterpiece. 

No matter what I choose to do in the coming year, how I spend my time, or where I invest my talents, all that will truly matter is how well I have loved. This revelation, learned through pain, will carry me forward. 

A Problem With The Heart

I came out of a ten hour surgery. The worst over, the recovery beginning. Everyone was optimistic. I settled into my hospital room, vitals, wound care, doplar search for a strong heartbeat in my newly relocated blood vessels, medications. A nurse check-in every hour, if you were lucky. I had sent Clifton home to rest. While I had slept on the operating table, he had worried, fretted and paced, like any good husband. 

At one in the morning, the nurse came in on the hour. She took her data and by 1:10 I was back asleep. I heard an alarm going off. I must have overslept and now the girls were late for school! Lights flashed on, I opened my eyes and two nurses came running toward me. My steady heartbeat of 82 had jumped to 160 at 1:15 in the morning. Doctors must be paged, paged again and pulled from the beds they had barely made warm. Cardiologists and surgeons, if possible, must come to my bedside and make recommendations. An hour went by and no doctor had emerged. Another thirty minutes and one responded. My nurses were adamant regarding the care I needed but when looking at me they smiled and reassured me all was well. I did deep breathing and deep praying but really was not alarmed. I could watch my chest bounce as it pounded but I did not feel sick, I could breathe, and I was in no (new) pain. My roommate was removed from the room and doctors began flooding in. Two older nurses from critical care and a doctor from ICU. A tall young surgeon who spoke on the phone to a cardiologist, I would not meet tonight. My two nurses set up their computer while the critical care nurses piled shots and medicine on my bed. The charge nurse came in to hold my hand. Between 10-12 doctors and nurses stood around me and at 3 AM they were ready to go. My surgeon insisted that an AED be placed on my back. In the instance that it would be needed, every second would matter. On the other hand, if he was forced to use it, the pressure and pulse would negate his 10 hours with me in surgery. The critical care nurses questioned every decision of the young surgeon. He continued to speak to the cardiologist and repeat instructions. He did not want to be woken and in the middle of the night make life or death decisions in a medical area out of his specialty, but that was exactly what he must do despite the fact that there were plenty of people in the room who trusted his decisions less than he did. 

He told me that my heart had an arrhythmia and the best way to return it to its typical pace was a medicine that would stop my heart for five seconds. Once the heart had paused it would pick back up a healthier rhythm. 

When the medicine was administered I would feel very anxious but it was absolutely necessary that I took deep breaths and simply wait for the sensation to pass. The critical care nurse was told more than once, the medicine MUST be given as quickly as possible. If the medicine did not reach my heart within the five seconds it would not be given the opportunity to work. My heart rate at this time was 180. The medicine was administered. I was the only one in the room not holding my breath. I breathed in as deeply as my body would allow. My heart dipped to 140, every medical professional began to breathe and then it jumped to 200 and was holding steady. The medicine had failed. The surgeon told the critical care nurse again, the medicine must be pushed into my system as quickly as possible. My fluids were already flowing as quickly as possible, everyone was simply looking for answers. The medicine didn’t work, so it must be administered again and there was no room for error. This time I knew what to expect, my body would tense and a hurting sensation would flow through my chest to abdomen down my thighs to my knees and ankles. I didn’t want this to happen. I was unable to protest because they were administering the medicine. This time there was no dip, instead my heart rate jumped directly to 240. 

Doctors placed their heads in their hands. Others rubbed their eyes in exhaustion. I did not want that medicine again. There was discussion. I didn’t listen, I wanted my husband. I had asked for him before we had begun this mess. Now I needed him. I told the doctors I needed my husband. If I was going to die right here I wasn’t going to do it without him beside me. I was pleading my case when they decided to administer another medicine. I didn’t hear the doctor tell me what it was or what the anticipated outcome would be. They gave it to me and nothing happened. Then they told me they were administering a double dose of the failed med. I told them what they already knew–so far this med has only made my situation worse, I don’t want a DOUBLE portion all at once. 

There were alarms blaring. The blood pressure machine was searching for my pulse every minute and every minute began to flash and scream because it could not find what it needed. More nurses held my hand, told me to breathe, my only job–don’t stop breathing. I don’t know if they were reminding me or saying a prayer, asking simply that I don’t stop breathing. 

A double dose was shot into my arm and my body seized. The lockdown occurring in my body ran like a horizontal line starting at my chest pushing down my body to my toes. My heart slowed. For five seconds my heart stopped. When it began again it picked up a slower pace around 100 beats a minute. The medicine did it’s job and everyone in the room remembered to breathe. 

The next morning everyone of the doctors and nurses in the room with me from 3-3:30 AM came to my room to tell me how well I had done. The cardiac doctor who had been on the phone came in to explain the situation to me and Clifton. As the heart begins to beat faster the rhythms are thrown off. The top chambers that should manage the speed become unable to systematically allow the lower chambers to push the blood through my body. The roles within the heart become mixed up until no part of the heart is doing the job it has been created to perform. 

His diagnosis, I have an extremely strong and healthy heart. Only a healthy heart could continue to function despite the unhealthy pace and arrhythmia. Later that day he ran some tests to confirm his suspicion and was confirmed in his diagnosis. 

This incident made me consider the patterns in each of our lives. Each of us have a life pulse of our own. If you took an EKG of our life, many of us may fall into a general “healthy range” but never an exact reflection of one another.

Yet there are numerous books to tell us how to be more efficient–how to increase our daily life pulse. There are books to tell us to simplify–how to slow our life pulse. 

My cardiac incident made me consider whether the natural rhythms of one’s life are by design. Sure, if you are strong in mind and stamina you can hype up your life pulse. You can double your productivity and even hold that pace for an extended period of time.

 Though you may be able to “get the job done” at a double pace, there will come a time when you will recognize failures in other regions of your life. The rapid life pulse is effectively keeping one section of life operational but not able to spread your life pulse, as it should, throughout the whole of who you are. As with my heart, a rapid pulse soon led to a decrease in pressure. Soon the heart was sputtering rather than pumping. The increase in pace decreased the heart’s effectiveness. 

In my case, the more jarring option was the false slowing of of my pulse. A withdrawal of one’s life pulse from friends, family, or a given purpose is a complete shock to everyone connected to you. A withdrawal of one’s life pulse creates anxiety throughout its entire social network. Just as our anatomical systems are interdependent, so are each of our individual life pulses. 

My conclusion, know yourself. It is an old wisdom many time repeated. Don’t allow a book or a boss tell you to alter your your natural life pulse. You are more effective and more uniquely able to play your role when living at your own pace. 

When my heart settled into its natural pace, many levels of anxiety, stress and physical pain melted away in an instant. Perhaps if we are able to embrace a lifestyle that supports our personal life pulse, we would find the same. 

December First

The winter winds have kicked up, right on cue.

Bits ooze through, growling, the sound of Halloween

already nearly forgotten.

I hide inside my cider and worn out songs.

The first of December.

Lights gleaming in the window are not perfect because twisted wire sometimes fails.

But, oh, it is perfect, perfect indeed.

The children wonder how something so ordinary could be transformed.

“How do you make it so. . . so beautiful.”

December first is a fight, tangled wire versus sheer delight.

Creative expressions are hung, boldly for all to see.

And the moon is jealous.

The ever present light plays second fiddle to momentary whims.

So it hangs low, close, so it can be reached.

A sliver of light purposed to reveal a promise, a coming.

A story of Survival: a wilderness misadventure

If you spoke to me or my family last week you probably already heard the story.  Ricky McCarthy was lost, in the wilderness of the foothills, for 20 hours.  A one hour hike turned into a nightmare for Ricky, his family and mine.  Ricky has written an account of his experience and given it to me to post.  It is an amazing account of survival. Once he is healed and the experience has faded into memory, it will be Ricky’s greatest story yet. Enjoy:

On Monday, September 12, I woke up in while it was still dark and ate a boiled egg, some sausage and piece of toast.  I washed it down with a swallow or two of water, took my medicine and away I drove.

I was heading to the Huffmaster Ranch. It is 3000 acres of foothill wilderness about an hour north of Sacramento. The Ranch is a contrast of long open valleys with large oak trees, and manzanita covered steep hills. It is rugged and dry. The Huffmaster Ranch is bordered by other large ranches that have never been tamed. In the Summer and Fall, there is little water to be found by plant or animal. The hills reflect the classic golden vastness found only in the American West.

My two hunting buddies have been driving this road to the ranch with me for 20 years. The road to the ranch from Maxwell takes about thirty minutes and this morning felt typical for a morning “hunt”. Everyone was in good spirits and full of stories and optimism.  Over the past twenty years I have listened to many hunting stories from the generations before me. The Ranch carries with it endless stories. Today I listened to a new story of how three men were trying to successfully shoot a deer without shooting one another. In seventy-five years of stories, the decisions of men on The Ranch continue to gather notoriety.

In my jeep I keep your typical survival supplies. I had a Long Range Green Dot laser, 2500 lumen flashlight, plastic bags, site glasses, snacks, water, cell phone, ammo pouch. I have been hiking and hunting for decades so everything I need comes with me. Today’s hunt would be no different.

We decided to start with a short hike at what we call Cultivator Canyon. There is a ridge on either side of the canyon and a road through the middle. As we arrived the canyon was still dark. The morning had not yet arrived to the west side of the hills. We decided to split up and Cliffy took the west hill. I took “The Divide” a final ridge that separates the canyon and foothills from Antelope Valley, a large valley on the next ranch. Franky was to drive the canyon road. It is a one to two hour hike and so we left all the supplies in the jeep. In an hour we would meet up and start the real hike. That is when the supplies might be needed. So we made our plans and I did not grab water or my cell phone. Just a little warm up jaunt in the early morning sun and I would be back at the jeep.

The plan was set and off we went.   I was told that when I see a place to go down into the canyon I should take it and meet up at the rendezvous.   I started my hunt keeping sight of Cliffy on the other ridge and all was good. It was 8 a.m. and the wilderness was bright and beautiful. As we began to climb, the darkness in the canyon was behind us. As I crested the ridge the sun shone bright. Looking south you could see other ridges stretching out, shrouded in mist and fog.

As I walked, I found myself at the end of the ridgeline and so I began to take the path down the canyon to the right.  This is where my story really begins. Turning to the right took me away from the rendezvous. Turning right took me off the land I knew. Turning right out me into a deep canyon that I could not climb out of and into land that was not known to me.

At this time I was unaware of my mistake. I hiked along enjoying the pleasures of God’s creation. I observed the trees and hillside. I heard buck bugle behind me. I absorbed the silence and the stirrings of creatures all around me and it was beautiful.

It did not take me long to realize I was lost. The land was unfamiliar. There was no sign of my friends. The directions I had received no longer fit this terrain.  My morning walk had turned into a hike.  I came across an ATV trail and I hoped it would lead me closer to my friends. It did not.  I fired the three of my five shots. I wanted my friends to know that I was officially lost.

The ATV trail took me to an old logging road and I decided to take this back to the ridgeline. I hoped it would lead back to the land I knew. What I found was very fresh bear and coyote scat and wild boar markings. There are plentiful opportunities during the day to see evidence of animals that live in the wilderness. During the day, typically the animals keep to themselves and are not seen. It is in the darkness of night that animals feel comfortable in their environment to roam and hunt.

As I walked the path, I saw rattlesnakes warming themselves on their rock homes on two occasions as I walked. Once I did not see the snake, but only heard the rattle.  I moved away from all signs of danger and kept walking. The logging trail that I was hoping would lead me to safety did not. I walked farther and farther away from my friends and the familiar terrain. Without a compass or phone, I had nothing to lead me out. My only hope was in putting one foot in front of another.  I was not aware of time. The day had slipped away but in my mind I was still on the one to two hour hike. I expected to turn a corner and find my hunting buddies eating lunch and laughing at my late arrival. I put one foot in front of the other, and with each step the day slipped away.

I only had two bullets left and I realized that I needed to keep them for protection. I walked, never stopping, climbing up the mountains and down the canyons until I came to a very high ridgeline road. The mountain was covered in brush on both sides.  The brush is terribly dense and extremely difficult to push through. Now in the clearing on top of the highest ridge, I fired my fourth shell in hopes that someone might see me.

My mental capacities were severely tainted at this time by exhaustion and dehydration. I tried to use a survival skill of estimating the time of day by the shadows. I estimated the sun was still rising, because the shadows were long. Soon I realized the sun was in fact setting.  It was almost 7:00 p.m. and beginning to become dark. I had walked the entire day and had yet to find any sign of help. I could not see a road, or a house or anything familiar. Soon it would be dark and I would be in this wilderness without a flashlight or any item to help me through. I could not accomplish finding my way in the light of day, and I was sure to fail in the darkness.

But with the setting sun I could see lights far in the distance. I had been unable, in the daylight, to see any sign to guide me, but here in the twilight I found hope.

With the coming dusk I needed to find any road.  It was getting dark and I needed to stay on a road lest I stumble into a mountain lion’s den and fall prey.  Any road would allow me some level of certainty and protection.

As I walked a 185 pound boar came out of the brush in front of me. He did not even acknowledge my presence. I debated using my last shell to get some protein and use the pelt for something to stay warm. At this point in the evening, my sweat soaked t-shirt was becoming a bit chilly. I decided to save the shell and instead yelled at the boar in hopes that it would move along.  The boar just stopped, continued to eat grass and minded its own business. So I waited until it went back into the brush. This was the first sign that in the coming darkness the animals were waking and on the move.

As I continued to walk the ridgeline in the setting sun, I heard the Search and Rescue Helicopter. I prayed that it was for me.  I prayed no one else was lost. The helicopter searched the mountain just to my right but they couldn’t see me. I was on top of the ridgeline waving my shirt and cap. Then the helicopter came directly over me. I was so relieved!  I was saved!  They had found me in this wilderness and I would not spend the dark night in this place! I fired my last shell to signal my location.  The helicopter paused and then turned around and was gone. No helicopter ride. No rescue. No hope of sleeping indoors tonight.

This disappointment left me even more emotionally exhausted.  I could not keep going all night.  I decided to lay down. Unfortunately, I could not find rest on the ground because it was simply too cold. I needed to walk to stay warm.

As I was climbing, I fell down a mountain ridge. I fell head over heels, out of control. I slid down the shale rock face of the ridge on my backside and had a large wound from the fall. I did not want to go on. I did not have the strength. I did not have the will. I was ready to just hunker down in tall grass. So I did. Just as I laid down, I saw a small light in a window of a barn and a few cars going from my right to my left. I knew the lights of those cars, far off, were friends and family trying to find me.

I did not have it in me to get to the road and I was hoarse from yelling until could yell no more. I had nothing left.

I found a spot where I could lay down. There was an area with tall grass on the side of the mountain. I laid down and dreamt of feeling the heat of the first morning light. As I lay there I heard dogs barking and the sounds of coyotes returning the call. The nocturnal animals were coming out and on the move.  Then to my left about 10 yards, I heard a pack of coyotes and their pups. I saw a couple of pups pop out of the brush. I couldn’t stay, I had to move. I could not be found between a pack of coyote and their pups. I slid down the hill into a small canyon. I crossed into an open area. At this time, I was aware of every animal known to live in the wilderness come to life all around me.

I had no shells left. I had fired my last round at the rescue helicopter. I had only my pocket knife. I knew I couldn’t go toward the coyotes and pups. I knew I didn’t have much strength left.

I checked the area for anything. The sky was completely dark as the moon had also set. I got to the bottom of the canyon and saw what seemed to be a car. I told myself if I want to survive, if I don’t want to continue hearing animals around me all night, I must push through one last time. I must get to the road.

The sky was super clear and gorgeous. I mean gorgeous. The vastness of the stars in the heavens was inspiring. So I stumbled on. I tripped through a multiple sunken holes in a field hoping it would be my last ravine crossing. As I took a step into the ravine, a rattlesnake started to rattle. I slowly backed away in the opposite direction of the sound.  I climbed the ravine wall.

I saw a fence pole and figured there must be a fence attached.  I collapsed with my back against it. For a moment I felt safe. The moment passed quickly because two wild boar came out of the ravine toward me. I quickly climbed over the barbed wire fence and laid on the other side. Again I hoped I was safe, but the boar kept sniffing around and came closer to me. So, despite my exhaustion and desire to just lay down and give up, I kept moving.

I crossed a dirt road and laid in the grass again. While I rested I got bit by two spiders. I decided I had no choice but to get to the house that I saw from the ridgeline. I was on a dirt road. I could not see it but my feet felt the change in the land. I drug my feet to make sure I could still hear the dirt of the road as I walked. I kept an eye out to see an opening in the trees, a visual path signifying a road below.

I walked and walked, my sense of time completely gone. Then in the starlight I saw a telephone pole. There must be a home nearby! I walked a bit further and could see a driveway. I drug my feet to make sure I was on that driveway all the way to the house.

The house belongs to an older lady named “Lady Bug.”  I realized I needed to hide my rifle so she didn’t think I was there to hurt her. I knocked and knocked with no response. I heard a TV on.  I waited for a commercial and knocked again. This time a voice came back. It was not a welcoming voice, instead she yelled and asked if I was drunk. It was three in the morning, we were fourteen miles from anything. She was as startled by me as I was by her question.

I quickly explained my situation and she came to the door with her pistol loaded and in her hand. After a few clarifying questions, she let me in her home, gave me some water and a phone to call my family.

By the grace of God I drove to Maxwell at 3:30 a.m. with no broken bones and no open wounds.  My feet were blistered and I had deep bruising and scrapes from my falls but I walked to safety.

In the darkness I would not have blamed the animals for thinking of me as prey, as its their home, but they did not seem to not notice me. I received the following from my little buddy, Hope, who is five years old: “I was praying when Ricky was lost. In my mind I saw a tall Angel  over Ricky. The angel had a big shining sword. He was there to keep the animals from Ricky. His sword shined a light so the animals can’t see Ricky.”

In the wilderness I learned that it is ok to rely on God. It is ok if He is all you have. If you keep walking, if you never give up, you will be amazed at the outcome. You may be sore at the end of your journey, but God will lead you through. Similarly, I learned that when God is the only one you have to talk to He will be there, in the darkness and in the light. He is there and He is waiting to have a conversation.

I want to thank all those who prayed, searched, supported my family, and never gave up hope.

–Ricky

In Pursuit of: identity (2)

Today I am starting with the word “image.”  The Bible first uses this word when God says “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26).  It is used in this context five times.  The pursuit of identity, also begins in this story.  Humanity was created to carry a resemblance of God in our physical being.  Our natural state has an innate reflection of God.  Therefore, when we recognize our own characteristics, God is there, in the midst of every individual. We cannot escape His presence.

Despite the temptation of being defined by these attributes, identity should not be placed in the characteristics alone.  Identities crumble when the attributes of God become the pursuit of life, rather than God, himself.

An identity based on being a perfectionist, could be formed from a desire to be more like God. It could emerge from a longing for God in the day-to-day.  A life in pursuit of perfection will eventually turn a person from waiting on God’s perfection to be revealed, toward creating circumstantial perfection in the day-to-day.  An impossible task.  Perfection is a burden that was not meant to be carried on human shoulders.  An identity built on perfectionism will overpower any person and one day become too heavy and the identity will crumble.    So it will be with an identity built on any of the godly attributes: love, peace, relationship, justice, strength, and wisdom.  These attributes reflect God’s character.  Each of these are reflections of something greater that we are not able to fully acquire.  The pursuit of godly attributes for the sake of empowering a worldly identity, is a truth turned upside down.  The godly attributes are tools to lead us to God alone.  A dedication to one divine characteristic is a pale replacement for a life in pursuit of God.

The first biblical uses of the word “image” was when God placed a reflection of himself in humanity.  The rest of the Old Testament uses the word to describe how humanity created false reflections of God.  It is our responsibility to recognize the reflection of God in ourselves and to use what we find, to return to Him.

 

 

Poetry 312

A mirror is said to reflect, yet as I observe its gleam I understand ‘knowing in part’. I do not see anything familiar; whether dressed and drawn or bare and true, it is no reflection.

For each wisp and whimsy has left me.  Each follicle a traitor, deserting to escape death.  The haunting of every traitor.

My hand runs over the smooth surface.  Waiting. Watching. Like the eyes of an angler watching the sea.  Searching for some detectable change.

This uncovering does not manifest a true reflection. I am who I am.  Below the surface, my mind continues on its travels and my heart remembers how to yearn.

Yet the waters reveal no ripple.  The traitors were blown away leaving a smooth surface, for all to see.

 

In pursuit of: identity

When I began to recover from my surgery, my middle daughter wrote a story about me.  In the story she used words like scary, yuck, and weird.  Those words were all describing how she felt about me, specifically my looks.  I used her feelings to teach her, what seemed obvious, but didn’t come easily.  I may look different, weird, yucky or scary but who I am has not changed.  I said this over and over.  The person you know and love has not changed.  I am still here.  I look different. I act differently, but I am the same.

I am fortunate that I never built my identity around my body.  I have walked away from enough jobs to not have an identity in my occupation.  I have learned my identity cannot be in anything within my control.  Everything can be lost.  Everything can be taken away.  Everything can be left behind.

The problem with identity is that we create it for ourselves.  We have a thought, agree with that thought and begin to act upon the thought.  The thought grows into a philosophy and the philosophy becomes a way of life.  In difficult times, my thoughts are:  Why am I here?  Where are my friends? Will my family still love me? Will this last forever? And on and on my mind reels.  My answers to these questions can shape my philosophy about hardship and therefore, my identity.

If I am ever vigilant, my identity will remain secure in what God has declared about my life.  I am chosen. I have a family. I have a purpose. I am forgiven. I am blessed (Eph 1:4-10).  And this is just the beginning of who I am, the beginning of my true identity.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation, fill your heart with truth.  Do not align yourself with fear that comes with each new season.  Let the moments pass and the fear to pass with it.  Align yourself with truth and this truth will free you from fears, new and old.