Advent is for Losers…Like Me

By Lori Michelle

Advent seems to bring out the loser in me.

By “loser,” I don’t mean worthless deadbeat.  I mean someone who has suffered loss.  Someone who had been abandoned, forgotten, hurt, or ruined.

Advent Wreath courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Advent Wreath courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Sometimes during the Advent season, I am haunted by the “Ghost of Husband Past” and it makes me despair a little and lose sleep. Then I remember how blessed my new life is, and how Our God is a True Redeemer, and I begin to feel myself come back again.

Advent, which simply means “coming,” also means “waiting”.  Waiting for the Christ Child, yes, but also waiting for the Christ Child to be born again in me.  Waiting for All Things to be made new.  Waiting for the things I hope for to become tangible.

Advent is for those of us who have gone astray, been confused, suffered injustice.

Advent is for dreamers, for the afflicted, for the grieving.

We are all waiting.  Anticipating the time when the waiting is over.  But for now, we are just in limbo together.

Counting down the days…hours…moments.

“Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples,” Nadia Bolz-Weber tells us, “Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we are bearers of resurrection, we are made new.”

Yes, not just losers…but bearers of resurrection.

Before you have a resurrection, first you must die.

Before you are restored, first you must be ruined.

Before you have victory, first you must be defeated.

To a virgin woman the birth of the Son of God was announced.  Someone who was practicing the presence of God through the worship of waiting.  Maybe that is why the Babe in the Manger is such a meaningful message…The Blessed Child who we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.

That is how we experience the gratitude and joy at the revelation of His coming.  That is why we celebrate and sing…because we enjoy His appearing all the more after we have been longing for it for so many days.

Mother and Son courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Mother and Son courtesy of www.freeimages.com

For this Advent Season, I want to reflect on some losers.  Squandered, strayed, unfortunate ones who, through God’s abounding mercy and faithfulness, were able to experience the joy of redemption.  I hope you will wait along with me. Even better, I invite you to join the conversation.  Nobody likes waiting alone.

 

 

 

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Just Hang Upside-Down and Hold On!!

 I always wondered if caterpillars endure pain during their captivity in the chrysalis.   It seems that every growth or period of change is accompanied by pain and loss.  Do future butterflies ever just give up mid-metamorphosis?  Do they ever long for their caterpillar days?  Or do they instinctually know that the butterfly existence will be worth the arduous struggle? 

And yet, in every caterpillar’s life, there is a time to hang yourself upside-down and hold on!  The transformation will not simply glue wings to your existing torso; it will reduce your organs to soup, and then recreate them completely into a new creature who inhabits a different world. 

It seems God has a similar course of reconstruction for those He loves.  Consider Abraham being commanded to sacrifice the Son of Promise.  Consider Joseph being sold into slavery or Daniel taken into captivity.  Or even Lazarus who had to become sick and die, then lie in a tomb for four days.  All organs-to-soup tales before God shows up and explains the design He had all along. 

God’s plans are beautiful when you are looking in the rear-view mirror.  They don’t always look so attractive when your guts have been reduced to gumbo and you are peering headlong into an uncertain blackness.  Is that dim glow you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel or the beam of an oncoming train?

All those children’s songs that claim “the blessings come down as the prayer go up” are wrong.  All those seeming promises that life would work out if you only followed the rules.  It doesn’t work that way, Caterpillar.  The Bible never, ever promises its followers safe passage to the next life. Sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself hanging upside-down by your toenails and wondering what you’ve done to deserve this treatment. 

And that is what faith really is.  Faith is trusting that even when everything you have believed in and sacrificed for and built in your life is reduced to rubble and waste and lies, He reigns. God remains sovereign and mighty and good, even when we are in unending grief.  He doesn’t ask our permission to do His will; as inscrutable and frustrating as it may be.  You are not abandoned by God just because you hurt; in fact, when you hurt, He is closer than ever.

This is what Abraham learned on the mountain.  This is what Joseph and Daniel learned in Egypt and Babylon.  This is what Lazarus learned in the tomb.  That is what I learned through divorce.  That is what the caterpillar learns in the cocoon of becoming.  Faith does not equal clarity and certainty.  Faith is the CONVICTION OF THINGS UNSEEN.  Even when we feel abandoned and forgotten.  Even though we cannot see our way through, faith is making one slight movement forward anyway, believing that one day, somehow, your foot will fall onto the silver lining. 

Time for a New Year Revolution! (Part 1)

marlin

 

I am Marlin.  If I were to associate with an animated hero, I’d say Nemo’s overprotective father would typify my attitude toward life, spirituality and raising my kids.

All of my life, I’ve wanted calm, peace, harmony, and security.  I wanted safety.

I was willing to submit my will for it.

I was willing to adjust my expectations to maintain it.

I was willing to sacrifice to preserve it.

I’d heard of the nasty evils of the world.  I’d heard that some couples got divorced, that some people betrayed their friends, people embezzled money, some children got addicted to drugs and had children out of wedlock, that kids were abused, and women were raped.

And I wanted a guarantee that none of those things would ever happen to me or my family.  I wanted assurance that if I did enough good works, if we worshiped at the right church, if I followed the rules and homeschooled my children and sheltered them from the evil of the world, then like Marlin, I would never experience anything.

I truly believed that if I sacrificed enough in God’s name, My Heavenly Father would bless me and protect me from all harm.

The failure of my 20 year marriage was the wrecking ball that tore down my supporting walls.

Suddenly the roof of my straw house fell around my feet.

It was due to lack of faith that I readily gravitated to the illusion of safety my previous marriage and church body seemed to promise.  However, the paradox is, I actually thought that I was acting in faith!  My motivation was honorable.  Like Marlin, my motivation was love.  Love for my family; love for God.

And then I lost it all.  I lost that husband who made enough money to afford a comfortable home while I stayed at home and raised our children.  The following year I lost that home to bankruptcy and foreclosure.  And I lost my faith because I felt that because God had allowed me to lose my safety and security, He no longer loved me.

I began to think that since I couldn’t depend on my husband, or my church, or God, then all I had left was myself.  I had to provide for myself.  So I did the most logical thing I could do.  I went back to the profession I had left 17 years previously.  I renewed my teaching credential took a full time teaching position in the public school.

I thought that I had lost my faith in God, but now I realize I had never actually put faith in God.  My fearful heart craved security.  So I put my trust in a person, a job, money, a house, a church body, rules and works, status, and human wisdom.  But I had never actually trusted in Jesus only.  I’ve never actually stepped out in faith.  I’ve never put myself completely in The Heavenly Father’s Hands to provide and to lead.

So now, its time for a NEW YEAR REVOLUTION.

To revolutionize means to change a thing completely or fundamentally.  I can’t just resolve to work harder, to have a more positive attitude, to go back to church. I need a metamorphosis, a clean sweep, a coup d’ etat.

So with excitement, and courage, and even relief, I am committing my life and my future to you, Lord.  I will trust you to direct my footsteps from here on.

I don’t want to be Marlin anymore, Lord, I want life, abundant life.

Puzzles (Journal dated December 7, 2007 4:11am)

I picture my life as a puzzle where each event of my life makes up the individual pieces and then I stand back and try to look at the puzzle as a whole and try to decide if the image is beautiful and worthy or ugly and worthless.

For so long, I’ve tried to consciously remove those puzzle pieces that represent the ugly things that have happened to me. When I’ve moved, I sometimes thought I’d just lose those pieces and forget they existed and try to make the rest of the puzzle work.

Except, I lived my life pretending that my puzzle was whole and hoping no one noticed.  I tried to hold everything together.  I tried to fill in the missing pieces but always feeling or believing that I was irrevocably broken.

Like a ceramic pot that had been secretly smashed to pieces and glued back together.  Even though you try to hide the cracks, no matter how well you piece them back together, the cracks are there and the glue is weak and watery.

I hole in this theory is that without the ugly puzzle pieces, many of the other pieces don’t make sense.

So, I think that the divorce is teaching me that I’m strong enough, capable enough to put all the pieces back in place where they belong.  The ugly pieces don’t overtake the others, and now, when I look at the whole picture – it makes sense.

The pieces fit but I’m not sure I like what I see.

I lived like I could forget about the missing pieces, but now I see how those missing pieces determined or led to so many of the other pieces.  So many.

I mean, I was pretending they didn’t exist and therefore didn’t matter and had nothing to do with the rest of the picture and yet those events changed everything.  It was those events that formed my thoughts, my defenses, my emotional detachment, my ideas about sex and love, my belief about my own self worth as a human.

The good news is the puzzle isn’t completed yet.  I can see that as I build away from those events, the new puzzle pieces I am adding are pretty ones.  They add color and variety to my picture.

All the events of my life are now covered by the blood of Jesus and I don’t have any reason to be ashamed.  My puzzle is whole, and the miracle is that I believe that in the end, my puzzle will be beautiful, worthy, one-of-a-kind, valuable piece of art.

 

 

 

 

 

She shouldn’t have been there

woman w hemm

She shouldn’t have been there.

It was against the law.

If the authorities found out, she’d surely be punished.

But she had to come.

She’s heard HE was coming and no rule, no threat of condemnation, no fear of failure would keep her from him.

She said to herself, “If only I could touch his garment, I will get well.”

I’m not sure why she thought this.  She had been suffering from a bleeding hemorrhage for 12 years.  She had visited doctors, spent all of her money on remedies, had the priest pray for her.  Yet it only got worse.

Therefore, according to the Law, she was an unclean woman.  She was required to live outside the city and was not allowed to touch anything sacred.

You see, she wasn’t supposed to be there.

Even though there was no evidence to support her faith in this Jesus, she believed that He alone had the power to heal her.  But first, she had to go into the city and touch him.

She had quite an imagination.

This woman imagined a future for herself that was different than what she had experienced in her past.  She wanted a life for herself that was full of hope and healing, not sickness and condemnation.

And she went for it.

And it worked!

The scriptures tell us that her faith made her well.

Divorce made me feel unclean.  I felt like an outcast, just like the woman with the hemorrhage.  And the danger is that I could have projected that feeling into my future.  Its hard to imagine a life for yourself that is good, happy, full of life and health after the devastating rejection of divorce.

But if we can’t imagine it, we can’t create it.

Unless we do.

Our faith can heal us, too.  We can imagine ourselves as healthy, whole single adults.  We can begin taking steps toward it when we believe that it is possible.

Begin to imagine and pray about what it will be like…what it will feel like when you touch His garment and you are made whole.  Your faith will make you well.

(Story can be found in Matthew 9:20; Mark 5:25, and Luke 8:43)

Breaking Down Depression

I used to get so mad when people shared scriptures with me.  Verses such as “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” seemed so impossible.  The words felt so empty.   It seemed like the Bible didn’t have anything to say to me that could speak to what I was going through.  

But I learned an exercise yesterday at Divorce Care that I think could have helped.

First, break down your feelings.  Instead of saying that you are depressed, try to break down those large concepts into their component parts.  Depression can be made up of fear, dread, grief, and brokenheartedness.  Naming these feelings can help you pinpoint and own exactly where you are.

Next, recognize that Satan is a liar and the Father of lies.  Satan will USE your depression and your negative feelings against you in order to accuse you and blame you and keep you feeling that way indefinitely.  Satan will lie and tell you that because you are going through a divorce, you are worthless, or used up, or so broken that you can never have a good future.  Satan will lie and tell you that God cannot be pleased with you because you are divorced.  Satan will try to convince you that you will ALWAYS feel this way.

Therefore, the next step is crucial.  Defeat the lies of Satan and of your depression with the Word of God.  It is with scripture that you will be able to hear the truth that will set you free from the lies of Satan.  The word depression may not be found in the Bible, but the Bible DOES speak to fear…

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalms 46: 1-2

And to grief…

“for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  Isaiah 61: 3

And to the brokenhearted…

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

Defeat the lies of Satan with the Words of Truth and Life. The LORD GOD says, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him,  creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”  Isaiah 57: 18-19

What Do You # ?

I reblog this post today because I feel she is sharing my very heart.  I have recently stopped taking the medication that helped me cope with my negative thoughts and emotions after the divorce, and have realized that although I was blocking the negative emotions, I was also blocking all of positive, lovely emotions, too.  I am not feeling a lot of stuff I haven’t felt in a while…I CARE about my messy house, my overweight body, and I now laugh heartily and cry easily.  I feel energetic and empowered to deal with my real life as it is…to love the real people who make my life wonderful and challenging…and to embody the true, authentic self I have always wanted to be.  Enjoy

What Do You # ?.