Are You a Box-aholic?

BOXES!!

BOXES!!

I am a box-aholic. I admit it, so now the healing can begin. Right?

I discovered the depth of my problem last weekend as we cleaned out closets. More than 26 boxes were broken down and sent to the recycle bin (as I breathed deeply into a paper sack!) And that number, 26, didn’t include the boxes my husband allowed me to keep (lots of them—Just in case one is needed to ship something, or to protect a gift, or…)

I hate wasting a good box. I define a “good box” as one that has little damage, is not marked up or overly labeled (and will fit nicely inside the other boxes my husband allowed me to keep!) 😉 😉

As my disorder was unfolding before me (breathing in my paper bag, watching my husband break down the boxes for the recycle bin) my husband asked, “Do you have enough other boxes for your needs?”

I heaved in a breath, “Yes. I think so.”

“Okay, then this is okay. This clears up space…” He looks at me with his patient and understanding eyes. Yet, a little question was hiding behind them.

I guess I just love the order of a box. It’s nice shape, its ability to wrap and protect things. I also love having them when I need them and I always have the perfect size available to me! (Or at least I used to!) 😉

And let’s get deeper and more honest, I love receiving boxes. Care packages, Amazon.com orders, birthday presents all bundled up, even the cat-foot order or shipments for my husband’s business…

Opening them up with the wonderment and (sometimes) surprise usually reserved for Christmas morning.

All these things add to my unhealthy attachment to this lightweight, mauve-colored item of little worth.

So what is it with the boxes?

ORDERING –This goes to a deeper issue that I will tackle after I get through this one. But the ordering of items on-line is so great! Just the press of a few buttons, a little plastic card entered, and a few days later…gratification! AND A BOX!2011-03-23_20-39-12_841

My cats understand this—they love the boxes also! Rubbing on them, jumping in and out of them, playing hide and seek, lazing the day away in them. They totally get me.

And isn’t recycling a good thing? I always try to re-use them for good purpose (and hold onto the good ones for a special occasion!)  <–And that right there is called “Justification!”

As I write through this problem (and realize I have it deeply as evidenced by my joy and wonderment as the cyber-Monday packages arrive daily), I discovered the root.

ORDER

Not so much the ordering (on-line) but the ORDER. There is symmetry to boxes; the shape alone. There is the challenge of fitting the maximum amount of boxes inside one another, so my husband will allow me to keep more! There is control in placing an order and receiving a box. I find it magical!

But life is not like this; all packaged up perfectly, with symmetry, control, and ORDER.

Life is born out of chaos and this broken world rarely hand-delivers exactly what we asked for.

How often have I prayed for one thing, and received something entirely different?

When my father’s cancer arrived, packaged up with a 6 month sentence on his life, I tried to return it.

As I mourned and then watch several friends suffer through heartbreaking losses of loved ones, one after the other, I know they didn’t order that—ABSOLUTELY NO RETURNS.

What kind of customer service is that?

Yet, as I look back on all these “un-ordered” things that I have been through; the messiness of life, the reality of life, — I can honestly say that it has been during these times– the intense helplessness and in the darkest of moments that the free-fall of faith has been the sustaining and strengthening of my soul.

“DECEMBER 10

MAKE ME THE FOCAL POINT of your search for security. In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe. Not only is this an impossible goal, but it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth. When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me.

Instead of yearning for a problem-free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence…”  Sarah Young in “JESUS CALLING”

Did God somehow know that I would need to hear that answer today, as I am delving into my box-aholism?

Now that’s customer service!

And it’s not that I rejoice in this world’s troubles; there are simply things that are so awful, like Alzheimer’s, cancer, Ebola, child abuse, riots, etc., but I rejoice that there is One at work in all of it. He’s working through each of us to make a difference, to bring a courageous face, to bring hope to shine His light through these circumstances.

I rejoice that I know the One who gave his life up so that I could live without the shackles and bondage that sin and death are wreaking in our broken world.

As I give up on trying to make order out of things that show up on my door-step and just figure out what to keep and what to let go, I grow in grace and maturity and dependence.

As I prepare another bin of recycling and let go of the desire to wrap things up nicely in one of my “good boxes,” and instead I grip the hand of the One who put order into the universe, I find peace.

1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a god of disorder, but of peace…”

I DON’T UNDERSTAND…

“You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown

My feet may fail

And there I find you in the mystery”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Malignant Melanoma.

We helplessly watched as cancer swarmed in on our father’s organs and took his last breath of life, dying in the battle against this disease. Our family saw the terror of treatments that seemed worse than the cancer that overtook him. We were in shock from watching. Why does this disease even exist? Why does it shamelessly attack grandmas, fathers, aunts and…children?

I didn’t understand.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

“In oceans deep

My faith wears thin”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

One month later, still reeling from the loss of our father, we lost my grandfather to dementia and lung disease.

I found myself in the depths.

“And I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

That year I sunk deeper and deeper. I would be overcome in sorrow; brought to tears lying sleepless in bed every night, sitting at my desk at work, in line at the grocery store… Then, (it didn’t seem possible,) but things went from worse to worse.

The big “D” began visiting my house and he brought his other “D friend”.

These deaths, now divorce and depression—all in the same year; all as a faithful, praying, seeking Christian.

“Time heals all wounds…”

Really?! I wanted to just barf at the well-meaning people saying this to me.

It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t what I signed up for when I gave my heart to the Lord.

I didn’t understand.

But, I loved the Lord. I clung to him with everything I had. The Hope I had in Him, and His power to get me through, and to bring light into dark places, kept me holding on.

 “Your grace abounds in deepest waters”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways submit to Him,

And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

So, if I loved the Lord, and trusted in His grace to get me through the deepest of my despair, didn’t He also deserve my understanding?

“You’ve never failed and you won’t start now.

So I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

A couple of years into the depths of this dark time, my Pastor, Jason Daye was preaching on the story of Elijah. (1 Kings Chapters 17-18)  What struck me most in the story of this great prophet of God were the three years of drought that the Lord sent on the land he was in. He endured such fear, such total need, desperation and reliance on the Lord for every single second, of every single minute, of every single day, of every exhausting week for three long years.  Three years of threats against him. Three years of having nothing, being stuck out in the cracked, parched desert and the only thing he had left, for all of his trusting in the Lord, was his life. He survived solely on the Word of the Lord.

“Your sovereign hand will be my guide

My feet may fail and fear surrounds me…”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

God was so near to him for every one of those seconds, providing for him by day and by night.

Those days and nights when I was feeling so lost and emptied, I fixed my eyes on Jesus.

The truth is, in looking back, even as I endured the storms and felt like I was drowning in the engulfing waves–this raw, pure need of feeling so broken and so desperate is when I have, like never before, felt so unfathomably and intimately close to God.

He was my anchor.

As I approached my own three year mark, I felt a foundation beneath my feet. I more often found myself “on shore” and was less and less frequently taken over by the waves. I was blessed with friendships that helped me along, blessed with help from all around me. Blessed to see how God provided for each day and each night.

Maybe there was something to this whole “time healing all wounds” thing.

Three years gone by–I am changed.

I appreciate more. I breathe deeper. I laugh more. I enjoy the sunsets, flowers, and “little things” a lot more. At a different place now, I trust God more.

Just beyond those three years, I took on an additional job and was learning a totally different profession, I was struggling in this new place.  Even after all that I had been through; I still recognized my deep need for God in the ordinary stuff of life.

I distinctly remembered praying to Him for Help.

Then she showed up; the “new hire.” A chance convergence of life paths at this job–Was she my help?

As we navigated the job together, we bonded like we women can do when thrust together in the trenches of life. We shared our stories.

If, as Shakespeare says, “Life is but a stage…,” then I believe that friendships are the musical underscore of this life; two distinctly different instruments, coming together on the stage and creating harmony, melody and rhythms. Creating music that makes us smile and dance, moves us to tears and fills us with laughter. What a joyful tune a new friendship is! And this hand-delivered, divinely unique relationship has become such a spirit-filled one.

Pammy and me

We no longer work together in the trenches of that job, but we’ve kept our friendship flourishing across miles, through life events and all around this stage of life.

Trusting like Elijah.

Then it happened to her:

Her father was diagnosed with cancer, and then died unexpectedly.

One month later, her grandfather passed away.

Then her marriage crumbled and now divorce continually slaps its waves at her face as I watch her sinking into a deepening depression.

All in the same year; all as a faithful, praying, seeking Christian.

I watch her tears flow freely at lunch, at the movies, at the grocery store and spilling across the stages of her life.

She doesn’t understand.

She can’t see above the waves right now.

I hug her. I tell her she’s not alone.

I refrain from telling her that “time will heal all her wounds.”

Instead, I tell her that I don’t understand either.

But, I do know One who understands.

He is our ever-present Help, the Anchor in our storm, the Living Water to quench our thirst and the firm Foundation of this whole stage we play out our lives on.

And I secretly watch her with a twinge of envy because I can see how close the Lord is to her right now. The Hands of God are cradling her. He holds her tears in His hands and draws her into an embrace like the sea around the shores.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

Whether you are in a drought-scorched desert, a raging tempest, or if you may be cresting a mountaintop, May your trust in the Lord go beyond all the borders of our own understanding.

Are you a PRINCESS?

Princess

Are you a PRINCESS?

A dear friend of mine’s husband is the most amazing father. Although he coaches both of his sons’ little league teams and is consistently a #1 provider, husband and all-around fantastic guy, it’s the relationship with his young daughter that gets me the most. I love witnessing the affection and adoration he shows for his young and impressionable, but tough and sweet little girl.

“Who’s the most beautiful girl in the world?” He asks as she blushes and looks up at him.

“Emmie-loooo is the most beautiful girl in the world!” He gives her a squeeze. “Next to mommy, of course.” He winks at her and kisses his wife.

She is his little princess.

Does he realize the tremendous impact of his behavior? As this young lady matures, it morphs into what she believes about other male relationships and in how she expects to be treated.

When do we stop thinking we are worthy to be adored, respected and treated like a princess?

“There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you”  –Jonny Diaz

 

But, maybe you never learned it from your father.

And if we don’t learn these things from our parents, as a youth often times we are influenced by fairy tales. Disney has capitalized on this concept. Just admit it: Who didn’t have dreams of prince charming? Who else also wanted their personality to be so serene that all the animals of the forest would flock to you? Who didn’t want a prince to show up with perfect shoes and to rescue them from evil step-mothers and housework?

On some level we identify with these stories.

My favorite fairy tale was the “Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Anderson.

http://www.fairytalescollection.com/HansChristianAndersen/ThePrincessandthePea.aspx

Before I was even a teen, I was into makeup. I spent hours in front of a mirror playing with the color palettes attempting to reproduce looks like the girls in the magazines. I painted my fingers and toes a different color every night. (Yep—CRAY-CRAY!!)

Deep down, with my not-even-necessary training bra and my plain face, I thought people might mistake me for a boy. As I grew into my teens, I believed others wouldn’t see me as beautiful without the powders, liquids and gels. Accompanied by the hours spent feathering my hair and the latest Mary Kay cosmetics, I carried these false beliefs into my high school years.

I tried all the techniques, tricks and tips I had to be what I thought made up “beautiful.”

What I would’ve loved was to be like the “Princess and the Pea.” When the raging storm washed away all the outside trappings and evidence to the eyes that she was royalty, there was another test that would prove she was who she claimed.—Despite the other’s inability to see who she truly was, this test, if passed, would reveal her true identity!

No looks, no make-up, no perfect hair—Just a test! Even if the face and body that God created her with was washed away, this test would reveal her royalty!

I love this because –I am really good at tests!

But…

The thing about fairy tales is–they are not reality.

I am certain the prince doesn’t know how to do his own laundry.

Wild forest animals are NOT that friendly and, seriously—a GLASS SHOE?

That princely carriage turns into a pumpkin and the housework NEVER goes away!

Here’s the TRUTH:

God created you in His image (Genesis 1:27)

God knitted you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13)

You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

Embrace the YOU-niqueness of YOU!  As Jonny Diaz’s song tells us: There could NEVER be a more beautiful you–

“So turn around

you’re not too far
To back away

be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late, you can be saved

If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear, they can all be washed away

By the one who’s strong, can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears

dry, all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world

He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light, He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl”

–Jonny Diaz

With God as your father, you are adored. There is NOTHING you can do to change how beautiful you are to God.

When you know Jesus as your Savior, you are an heiress into His royal family.

You are always His princess.

No pea required.

Again and again and again

Image from crossfitmf.com

Image from crossfitmf.com


I just heard that the first Monday of the first week of the year is touted as “the most depressing day of the year.” The first Monday after all that holiday time off, celebrations and festivities and then**Ka-BLAM!**–Most “New Year Resolutions” are already broken, those Christmas pounds are pushing at your pants and it’s back to “the old grind.”

Depressing.

But–Congratulations to us all! We made it through the most depressing day of the year already.

Maybe.

No lies—I have no doubt that this year will hold a cornucopia of events for us all.

Some good. Some bad.

Life is tough. Divorce, dead end jobs, relentlessly cruel bosses, mean store clerks, jerky drivers, taxes, financial woes, health struggles, and so on and so on…
Yet nothing leaves a bigger void than the loss of a loved one. Whether it be a sudden, unsuspected loss, like the quick tearing off of a bandage, or whether it is a lengthy illness, stretching out a loved one’s pain. Both are equally painful and both resulting in a galaxy-sized hole in your life.

My “energizer bunny” father and my joke-telling, sweet grandfather passed away within a month of each other. And several of my friends have experienced similar losses. One after the other; again and again and again; leaving void upon void that aches like the ghost-like pain of an amputee.

Part of you gone forever.

How do you honor that? How do you honor them?

“Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”—Walt Disney

This quote is from Saving Mr. Banks. The story details how Walt Disney, struggling to keep a 20 year promise to his daughters, fought to get the rights from Pamela Travers to her book “Mary Poppins” so he could turn it into a musical movie. I am glad I saw this movie many years after my losses. For me, this story overflowed with the relationship of father-to-daughter, daughter-to-father and that complex, yet special bond.
“Pamela” didn’t want to give over the rights to “Mr. Disney” because the characters were family to her. And through the movie, we discover they truly are her family.

And Walt Disney’s musical movie wasn’t what she had in mind to honor them.

It would seem, giving up the rights of her story to him meant letting go of what illusions she created to honor her family.

And my illusions are that, even if this “based on the true story” movie didn’t contain all the facts, it did honor those it was about. For me, those two hours in the theater were spent endearing me to “Pamela” and the love she had for her father; of discovering the man behind Walt Disney (his father, Elias) and the tenacity of Walt in his promise to his daughters, as well as remembering my own father and weeping about loss with those who have had this same struggle of how to honor their memory.

Life stops for no one. I mean, how does one grieve in the three days of bereavement leave some jobs allow? Even the “moment of silence” offered up at memorials passes away and is too quickly replaced with the hustle and bustle of this supersonic paced world we must return to.

We need a place to lay things to rest.

“That is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace. And that is why we need God.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert from “Eat, Pray, Love.”

So, whether it’s for a divorce, a job loss or a freshly opened wound created by a death; and whether it’s in a movie theater, a church, or the tallest tower of an Ashram in India; I pray that you invite God in, and find peace in honoring the losses in your life.
Again and again and again.

Dedicated in Memoriam of Harry Herbert Hyde who left this life on 12-30-13

THANKSGIVING, FOOTBALL and THE GREATEST FAN!

Best Fans EVER!

Best Fans EVER!

Nothing says Thanksgiving like….FOOTBALL!!!!
(Except maybe Turkey, and Black Friday, and food coma, and family, and stuffing, and pumpkin pie…) But still, what better to do than to plop down in front of the t.v. after being stuffed with turkey, shopping ‘til you dropped and just “chillax” in front of a great football game?!
Love football?
I believe Denver Bronco’s fans are some of the VERY BEST FANS of all time.
Are you a fan? What does this look like?
How about:
You’ve had season tickets for 17 years.
You attend EVERY home game, rain, snow, sleet or shine (and sometimes all of the above on the same day—it is Colorado!.
You bleed orange and blue.
The original bronco emblem is tattooed on your left ankle.
The new bronco symbol is tattooed on your right shoulder.
Every game day you are fully decked out: the orange and blue jersey, orange face paint, foam finger, etc.
You cite Bronco’s stats like a wall street ticker.
Your dog’s name is Elway.
You serve only blue and orange foods at your house party for the away games.
You cried and fell into a depression for weeks after Dan Reeves was let go.
Game day you are cheering and screaming for each pass completion, touchdown, extra point and interception. You yell at the television like you were there. You have been known to invent words in your tirades against the ref’s poor calls.

Now picture being that same Bronco fan (fully decked out and on one of your historic rants) in a stadium of the most avid, amped up (and also fully decked out) Raider’s fans (or Patriots!;)). Black and white tattooed arms thicker than tree trunks surround you. You are all by yourself. And the score is 52 to 3. Broncos are losing.

Still a fan?

I think this is where that saying about “where the rubber meets the road” comes from.
Will you roll up your sleeves to display your tattoo? Still ready to defend your team, even when they’ve left the stadium and you alone remain? Are you really ready to bleed and find out if it’s truly orange and blue?

Now Picture:
You love Jesus. You attend every Sunday service (unless there is a Bronco’s game-Thank GOD for Saturday services!) You tithe your 10%, volunteer at the homeless shelter, attend bible study and can recite specific bible verses at the drop of a hat. You raise your hands in praise during every worship song, pray for your enemies, love your neighbor and have that icthus (the fish) bumper sticker firmly affixed to your Ford.

Now, take away your comforts, your finances, your marriage of 50 years, your career, your health, your family.

Still His fan?

When you’ve lost it all, will your heart fill with doubts? When the nay-sayers and well-meaning friends ask what you’ve done to deserve this, will you question His sovereignty? Will your mind spill over with unanswerable questions: “Why?” “Why me?”

Why do bad things happen to good people?

For many a heartache and wound that I have survived, I am able to look back and thank God for His growing me in those times. It’s those very same rough times when my relationship with Jesus grew deeper and more intimate. I can often look back and see a purpose to those pains and, in that “20/20 hindsight,” I can find some answers.

When I can’t, I rely on Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

But why do innocent suffer? Why does evil often go unpunished?

Although I don’t have answers to many of these tough questions, I know One who does. I know that He will not waste a single tear and I rest my hope in the fact:
“…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

God can handle your questions. And it may not be until you see Him face to face that you will have your “20/20 vision” and answers. So, until then, know that nothing can separate you from the love of God–
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

In losses, in pain, in heartbreaks, in failures and disappointments, in any circumstance from the beginning until the end: His love endures.

He is your biggest Fan.

UNIQUE

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CREATING YOU UNIQUE

Cooking shows have been around for years (like Julia Childs) and continue to grow in their popularity. Now, not only can you find them on the Food Network and cable channels, but prime time has hosted Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Taste and many more!

I love watching a master create a fabulous feast by utilizing everyday kitchen ingredients — like my mom at Thanksgiving ;). Sometimes these Master Chefs use the kitchen tools and gadgets only found in specialty stores, or an ingredient I have never heard of, but my favorite is when the creation is crafted from the mundane.

Isn’t that what creativity is about? Picking and choosing from the ordinary and, by someone’s special talent, gift or touch, morphing it into the extraordinary?!

…….

I was amped up from a day of pumpkin spice lattes and couldn’t get to sleep. I got to thinking how cooking parallels writing. A good writer can utilize the everyday mundane events, filter it through their perception and out oozes one of two things:

1)     A sumptuous, smooth, creamy concoction worthy of topping William and Kate’s wedding cake

OR, quite possibly,

2)     A travesty to the taste buds worthy only of “decorating” the nearest lawn as the latest fertilizer! (Get my drift?) Pee-ee you!

You win some, you lose some.

Yet, both serve a purpose. And #2 -no pun intended- very likely could’ve turned out to be the most fabulous fertilizer known to man!

—–

Whether your creation is cooking, painting, writing, decorating, building, acting, speaking, dancing, singing, parenting, managing or whatever-ing—There is only ONE YOU.

Your filters: your past, your life events, your perceptions, experiences and what makes up you, are completely and utterly unique to YOU.

You are one of a kind.

“You knit me together in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13,14)

That always amazes me. The ultimate Craftsman, Creator and Master took the everyday ingredients of flesh and bone, hair, skin and cells and He creates a masterpiece each and every time. Something so diverse, there will never be another.

I work in the Identification Unit. Fingerprints are utilized to identify individuals because science has shown them to be unique and permanent.

Their genesis is in the womb and they persist past death.

They identify you as His unique creation.

Each and every fingerprint found on your hands (and feet) is absolutely unique. There never has been another with the same fingerprints and there never will be another, EVER, with the same.

That kind of creativity blows my mind.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle most nights with finding something new to throw together for dinner and often end up making the same old thing. Yet, our Creator never struggles. We are marked as His unique creation before we are born, created with grace and divinely unique through (and beyond) our death. A divine masterpiece each and every time!

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

So, whatever good works you were created for, my hope is that you recognize your uniqueness; you embrace YOU and all that went into you as a special creation.

And, like Kathryn Stockett from the movie The Help so beautifully put it, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

And, I would add, you is Unique!

 

 

What’s Your Worth?

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Envision the Capital One commercial with the Vikings stating, “What’s in your wallet?”–
WHAT’s YOUR WORTH?

Niki Lauda, the former Formula One race car driver from the Ron Howard movie RUSH (a great rivalry movie!) = $100 million

John Wayne = $50 million (Even after he’s dead!)

David Baldacci, the author = $45 million

Gisele Bundchen (the Brazilian model) = $250 million (I picked the wrong career!) *tongue in cheek*

J.K. Rowling, another author = $1 Billion (Okay—Maybe there’s hope!) 😉

Angelina Jolie= $27 million (Even without Brad Pitt!)

Howard Stern and Magic Johnson are tied with $500 million each
(Data gathered from http://www.celebritynetworth.com & Forbes)

A few curious findings:
Pam Anderson and Nicholas Cage= $0 (Apparently some tax issues tangled them up.)
Also mind-blowing to me, the following people all filed for bankruptcy (some more than once) and bounced back from it:
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and Henry Ford.
(www.moneyreign.com)

So, the question: What are you worth?

I was 17 and grappling with what college to attend and what to study to obtain this so-called “success.”

So I began questioning people.

“What does it mean to be successful?”

Most people answered by citing a famous person they aspired to be like (such as those above) and all answers described the visuals of success: a four car garage with each bay filled with an Italian performance car, the climbing of the corporate ladder, the growing amount of their investments, the lavish amounts of time off and money to travel, etc.

One person answered different. It stuck with me. I will summarize what this very wise individual said, “Success is different for each person. Mostly, I think it is to dream and achieve those dreams, while living a life that honors God with those dreams.”

This didn’t help me in deciding on my college (Go BUFFS!) or what major to declare (not surprisingly I chose sociology!), but it did help me years later, when I was in jeopardy of losing the career and title I’d worked to obtain.

My identity and value was tightly wrapped around my work and how well I did it. “Ten minutes early is ten minutes late” was one of my mottos. I dressed for a position higher than I was in and always took extra training classes and afterwards submitted reports of what I learned to my superiors. Intense study and exams, several interviews, a detailed background investigation, drug testing, and a polygraph took months before I was hired by the police department. Then the full year of “hands-on” training were required (all on night shift) before I was certified by the State of Arizona. I loved the meticulousness of my position. I felt I made a difference in my work when I became the lead trainer a year later and, when asked, I held my head high as I announced I was a fingerprint identification technician at Scottsdale’s crime lab.

And when my situation changed and this was all in jeopardy of evaporating away, the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me. My talents, skills, daily duties, position, pay check and performance all came crashing down around me. Couple this with some health issues and a loved one diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was spiraling out of control. To say I was on my knees was an understatement.

But sometimes, on our knees is just where we are supposed to be.

I didn’t know where to turn, what to do or how to do it, but I knew I still had dreams. I let go of my need to control, released my need to know and, as those wise words about success echoed forward into my consciousness, I laid my life at the feet of the One who planted those dreams in me and the One who is always in control.

With the recession stripping many of their positions, their homes and their identities, this question of WORTH is on a lot of people’s minds.

What is one life worth?

Is it just about the $$$’s above, or about a title attached or possessions obtained? Or what the person can offer? What if that person is sick or very old? Or, very, very young?

Strip people of their millions, their talents, their titles, power, possessions and what’s left?

Is what’s left a life worth dying for?

Take it ALL away and you find out what you are made of–

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

–You are dust.

The loss of these “things” is no small matter. They are big, and deep and wounding things to lose. But we have a God who is bigger, deeper, wider and so much more mind-blowing-ly powerful.

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
-Lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”

He makes good things from dust.

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)

God breathes in, taking in the common element of oxygen, and exhales, emitting the stars and galaxies into existence!

And the same God breathes into us.

The same God, regardless of our dusty title, dwindling possessions, meager abilities, lack of talent, unrealized dreams, stripped power or embarrassing net worth, believed we were worth dying for; worthy of sending His Son to die on a cross.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

So the next time you compare yourself to “the Jones’s,” stress out about your pay check, feel hopeless toward job prospects and the slippery success you sought after; remember you are valuable.

In spite of your efforts, regardless of your talents or where you find yourself, your life is worth the death of a King.

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)

FEAR

FEAR

I sleep on my left side. When I was a kid, I heard that vampires only bite on the left side of your neck. So when I lay down at night, I trained myself in this habit of curling upon that side, sometimes stuffing covers and pillow around me for even more “protection.” I never took it so far as to hang the garlic wreath or anything with holy water or a crucifix, but you can bet that is where I started the nighttime habit of praying the “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake…” Sound familiar?
One of my favorite books of all time is called, “The Monster at the end of this Book.” It is a real page turner (all twelve pages!) The original horror book – probably what started me liking Stephen King. When I was a kid, my mom would read it to me and I would keep requesting it. Night after night. My mom is the most patient woman I know. Night after night, after night, she would tell the tale. She laughs as she recounts those readings; even though she’d done it over a hundred times, I still acted like I didn’t know who the monster was at the end of the book (and she never gave it away.) I would start listening in bed, tucked in and curled up on my left side and about half-way through, I would be at the edge of my bed, hanging on every word, willing her to NOT turn that page for it would bring that monster one page closer!
SPOILER ALERT!!! The monster at the end, the very one he was fearing, turns out to be lovable, furry, little, blue Grover himself!
Besides loving a good story, what was it that kept me requesting that one?
The old saying “hindsight is 20/20” comes into play here. Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how things turn out? Would it make the ups and downs of life more fun knowing it all turns out okay in the end? Or is it just in the things we fear that makes us want to know the ending?

Figures from 2007 state that Americans spend more than $300 million a year on psychic hotlines alone. There are people who don’t do anything without consulting a psychic. The image I have of someone calling a hotline before they get out of bed, plan their day, order off the menu, apply for that job, go on that interview, accept that date or marry that spouse, isn’t an image of someone enjoying the crazy ride of life. Rather, it evokes an image of someone living in constant fear.

GAD – or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, phobias, fears that I cannot even pronounce, and with new terms popping up every day for all the new disorders and all the new medications for those disorders – it would seem this is a society-wide phenomenon.

When I was studying Natural Medicine, I remember reading about breathing. How deep breathing can calm the nervous system. How people under extreme duress and stress forget to breathe deep and that the lungs, the lower part that expands in deep breathing, actually atrophies and dies in those who don’t breathe deep.

I am not immune to fears, nor do I think I have it all figured out. Yet, as I have grown and learned from my hindsight, I find rest in a new place. As I face fears, whether they be real fears– seeing the solemn face of your doctor as he or she tells of the latest test results, or false fears – lying sleepless in bed on your left side, tucking in the covers a little tighter to ward off vampires – I trust that no matter what I face, I have a God who understands; a God who is with me – The 23rd Psalm reminds us that “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

I love how Joel Osteen’s “The Hope Bible” states Romans 8:38, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No doctors with their test results, no vampires with their fangs. Nothing can separate us from this love. NOTHING.

1 John 4:17-18 tells us “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.”

All fear is gone; nothing separating you from a God who loves you.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

No psychic needed. The end is known. Embrace God’s love – taking in a full deep breath – facing what it is you fear and enjoying the crazy ride that this world and life bring you!