Learning to let go of the things that hold you back and hold you down.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
My family and I moved to Oregon from northern Michigan, about 10 years ago, after almost a year of my husband and I being separated (but that is another story). After God brought us back together and healed much of the brokenness in my husband and I, it was time for a fresh start. I set the money from my taxes aside, set up a place for us to rent, and reserved a 24 foot moving truck; a few months in advance.
When the time came, we spent the day and night packing the moving truck, got a little sleep, got up finished packing, got ready, went to our friend’s wedding (my husband was in the wedding party), and then headed for Oregon, all within, approximately 36 hours.
We did some planning, we didn't pray about it, at all. We were just going about our merry way, doing things in our time, in our way, big mistake. This would be the longest journey we had traveled together and God had some interesting adventures in store for us.
For starters, our eldest son (who was sixteen at the time), was not at all happy about the move. We were taking him away from his home and his friends. The friends mind you that were being far from a good influence on him. Well, the two younger kids were just happy we were all a family again. This was a big new adventure, for them.
I had a cell phone that got no service for most of the trip from Michigan to Oregon, so I could not keep in touch with the new landlords. When we finally reached Oregon, days later, and I was finally able to call our new landlords, I found out, that due to some unforeseen problems they had rented the place to someone else. There we were, my husband, I and our three children (one of which was a very unhappy teenager), a twenty four foot moving truck and nowhere to go. We were now thousands of miles from what we had once called home. I can tell you that was a day I will never forget. I was scared and had no idea how we would get through this. God was making a little course correction for us; we of course had been heading down our own path. We had no idea what we would do or where we would go. Twenty six hundred miles from home (Michigan), 3 children, a 24 foot moving truck and nowhere to go. Time to panic yet?
Thank God, my husband's younger brother lived not too far from where we were and was gracious enough to let us stay with him and his family. One problem solved. We still had a twenty four foot moving truck that we needed to unload and return. The trip had taken longer than planned already, the truck needed to be unpacked and turned in to the company. We were on a time limit. We started searching through listings trying to find a place to rent, we checked out a few, to no avail. Then we found a listing about 50 miles away and decided to check it out. We looked at it and moved in the next day. We unloaded the truck and returned it, barely in time, thank you Jesus. Money was already going to be tight and neither of us even had lines on jobs yet. There we were, working on our plans, not even thinking to ask God for guidance or what His plans for us were. After quite few more trials and mishaps, (I can't imagine why, after all we were following our plans) we got work going and things finally seemed to start going right for us. We were working, the kids were in school, even my eldest seemed to be having a change of attitude, and all was right with the world. That's right, things were going my way.
Then, less than a year after moving to Oregon, I ended up in the hospital with meningitis, lost a week out of my life and almost died. Oh, did I forget to mention that my gallbladder almost exploded (it was so full of infection) and they had to do emergency surgery to remove it. I would love to say that I had some life changing near death experience, not just a total blank. An entire week of my life gone forever and my life had now turned upside down. I was sent home with I.V. Antibiotics and still very much disoriented. I could barely remember my own name. I was now completely deaf in my left ear and could barely walk across a room, just standing up was challenging. After a year of dealing with everything myself and being fairly independent, I was now almost, completely dependent on others and very afraid. I would answer the phone and after hearing nothing would get mad and frustrated and hang up the phone. I have no idea how many people I hung up on, before realizing I was putting the phone to my left ear. The one that was now totally deaf. I couldn't leave the house by myself, because of my balance problems, you lose inner ear it doesn't just affect your hearing it destroys your balance as well. I won't even go into all of the long term effects, of the (though seemingly minor) brain damage. I was a mess; I was scared and very frustrated. I was very weak and had no idea if I would ever feel anything close to normal again. I realize now as I am writing, that God was teaching me some very valuable lessons. Like how to trust and lean on Him. I got a cane and started pushing myself to get out of the house on my own. I was scared to death, but knew I had to do this. Once again I did not ask for help from Daddy, God. Oh and did I mention that I stopped driving, that's right, I took myself off the road. I felt my mind was too scrambled to drive safely. So I also had to depend on others to get anywhere I needed to go. We lived in a town of approximately nine hundred people, 30 miles away from the nearest city. We had a post office, a small store and a handful of other small businesses. We didn’t even have a stop light.
I walked all the time, down to the post office, the store; I walked my youngest to school and sometimes walked out to the high school/middle school, a mile or so away. I got to know that little town pretty well. A lot of people seemed to know me. I was the lady who walked everywhere. However if I needed to go anywhere beyond the city limits, with my husband now working full time, thank God, I had to find someone to drive me. That at time could be frustrating and very difficult. It is rather hard to plan things when you don't know how your going to get there. You think if you plan far enough ahead, it shouldn't be that difficult. The fact is some of the long term affects included memory loss. Like I said before I was lucky to remember my own name, let alone planning anything very far ahead.
I had started going to church and was starting to learn a little. I’m, still not sure of the exact time frame. Not sure if I started going to church first or had the meningitis first.
Anyway, I remember sitting and watching a graduation, a few months after coming home from the hospital. By this time I had begun to walk with a cane. I was watching this young lady walk up 3 steps, to receive her diploma, and I could not comprehend how she could walk up those 3 steps without a cane. It sounds silly, I know. That scared the daylights out of me. After all I had walked my whole life without a cane. Why now, could I not understand how someone could walk up three steps, without one? That was a life changing moment for me. I had to do something. This couldn’t be what the rest of my life would be like.
I started to push myself harder; walking at night and on surfaces that I knew I would have troubles balancing on. I talked with some dear friends. A husband and wife that went to my church and were also strong in there Christian beliefs. They agreed to help me with the balance issues and regaining some of my strength. She was inspiring and encouraging. They would guide me and pray for and with me. They however, would not let me slack and it would, however, be up to me to do the hard work. They also told me that I needed to be praying and talking to God, asking for His help, healing and patience. I would be working out with my husband and a group of guys that were in far better shape than me. That was pretty scary and intimidating. Working out with a bunch of big strong guys, when I could barely walk across a room with my cane. They were however, all very supportive and all good strong Christians. There was prayer before every work out (we all took turns praying) and a lot of emotional support during. The thing that wasn't there was pity; no one was going to let me slack or feel sorry for myself, including my husband. There was a lot of hard work, a few tears and of course some self-pity, but through this, God was with me, strengthening me, holding my hand and guiding me forward. I am so very thankful that my dear friends, my loving husband and of course most importantly God did not give up on me. When I was able to get back into the work force, I was still walking with my cane. Then, after months of hard work, one week before starting a new job, I was able to give up my cane, permanently. That, I can tell you was another very scary moment. The cane had been my security blank, my companion.
Approximately one week after giving up my cane I started a new job. I do not believe I could have worked there, with the cane, due to the nature of the work (the cane could have been used as a weapon against me). The place I would be working in, dealt with mental disorders and addicts, some of them straight off the street and going through withdrawals. This, eventually, lead me into working a full time job, in the field I had wanted to be in as long as I could remember the psychiatric field.
I loved my job, I loved my family, I loved my church and I loved living in a small town. These things were gifts from God, they were all wonderful, these things fed me in various ways, like the Manna God sent down to feed the children of Israel as they wondered in the desert. Manna is only meant to nourish for a time. We are not supposed to try to hold on to it. We are not supposed to try to save it. God wants us to show our faith by trusting that he will provide for us and letting go of even the most awesome gifts, that He may give us even better gifts.
Well needless to say, I was going to hold on to these gifts, tightly. I dug in my heels and was not going to budge. God graciously increased me in all areas of my life. I was growing spiritually, both as an individual and with my husband. God was showing me how miss informed I was and again I got a course correction and started seeing things more through the eyes of God, instead of the world view I had been looking through. The world would say yes, to hold on to that job, after all it was something I had wanted for such a long time. I was holding on to where I was, in a wonderful community, with great friends and an awesome church. Why should I let go of these things. Wow, was that an eye opening time. I grew much closer to my church family and grew to love each one of them deeply. I had come a long way and was putting down roots, deep roots. I loved most everything about my life and was getting very comfortable.
My husband had started talking about moving elsewhere; of course I was not willing to listen. I would change the subject; maybe just ignore the subject all together. Other things were starting to unravel. I was not going to move. I liked where I was at. Things were finally going the way I wanted them to go.
God started talking to me; I had learned about the Holy Spirit and had started listening to Him. He was telling me to start getting rid of some of the junk (material possessions) in my life. I didn’t know why. Certainly, I had no intentions of moving any time soon. I started going through our stuff, getting rid of some things. Things I felt I didn't need. I wasn’t really trusting God to take care of my needs. I can tell you I had gathered a lot of manna. You know that stuff God tells us not to hold on to. Over the next year or so I got rid of a lot of stuff. I did not know why. I certainly had absolutely no intention of moving any time soon, I was comfortable. It didn't matter if the house I was in fell down around me. I wasn't going to move!
My husband had been talking about moving, the Holy Spirit had been nudging me and the house itself was making me sick. Black mold, multiple leaks, etc., etc. I was strong willed, stubborn and like a small child having a temper tantrum, I absolutely was not going to budge. Then it happened. We got the call from our land lord that we would have to move and she would be sending us the written notice. They were going to move into the house, so we had to vacate. OK God, you win.
I through my hands up and we started looking for a new place. I still wanted to stay in the area. Close to my kids schools, driving distance from my work and close to my church. Do you see a pattern here? ME, mine, all about me, me, me. I wasn't really thinking about my husband’s wants or needs, I wasn't really thinking about my children wants or needs and I certainly was not thinking or asking God what He wanted for me and my family. Once again, God was gently nudging me in the right direction, His direction. We found another house, God again provided for us. The house was better, the neighborhood was better, the neighbors were awesome. I was still advancing in my work, but other things were starting to fall apart. Remember what happens to Manna when you try to hold on to it. “Notwithstanding, they did not hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left it until morning, and it bred worms and stank”. Exodus 16:20. I can tell you, my life was starting to get pretty stinky.
God, being patient and loving, as He is, continued to nudge me. He stepped back and let me take my time, to learn the lessons I needed to learn. He sat back keeping an eye on me while I stumbled through doing things my way. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want things to change. I liked things just the way they were. After all, change is never easy. In fact, sometimes change can be done right painful. It feels good living in that comfort zone. There, everything is familiar. There I didn’t have to trust in anyone or anything else.
I mean who am I but one among billions (or more). Why should I bother God with my petty problems? I knew if I started really listening, that God was going to tell me things were about to change. Maybe if I just ignored Him, maybe I could hold on to things just the way they were for a while longer. Maybe God would forget about me and I could stay right where I was, all warm and comfortable.
Yet God takes the time to speak to me. He does this with me a lot, as He does with all his children, if only we choose to listen. That’s the key, we have to be willing to listen and then follow His guidance. He after all, has nothing but good in store for us. “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV. Wow, think of it, the Creator of the universe has personally made a plan for you. He has given attention to every detail. He has not left out anything. He has tailor made this plan for you and nobody else. He has worked out all the fine details and taken great care that all the provisions are in place, every little detail. That my dear ones is how very much He loves and cares for you.
God gave us free will and He continues to let us make our own choices, even when we mess up. He can use even those mess ups to teach us new lessons. It's not that He wants us to stumble; He really would prefer to save us all the pain and suffering from all of our mistakes. He knows that the only way we can learn to truly love and trust Him, is if we have the right to choose of our own free will. He allows us to make our own mistakes. Love can never be forced or coerced. Real love, which is what God truly wants, has to be our choice.
A WALK THRU THE DESERT
“And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness”. Exodus 16:2. Well I know we all tend to complain when our bellies are empty. We just cannot stand being hungry. When we ask God "Fill us oh Lord", He loves us and does not wish us to remain hungry and complaining. It is truly difficult to think about much else when you’re wondering around the desert with an empty belly. God already had a plan to feed his children, they only had to ask. God knew that His children would get hungry. He knew they start to whine and complain. God would not bring His precious children out into the desert without a plan in place to take care of all of their needs. I mean what loving parent would toss the kids out in the middle of know where, with no food or provisions and expect them to wing it on their own. God is loving and had everything planned out. We as children cannot always see what lies ahead. We have to question everything. We have a hard time just believing that Gods got our backs and know what’s best. We are stubborn, strong willed children. Fortunately for us, we have a loving thoughtful father, who has already made plans for us to prosper.
How often do we set out on our journeys totally unprepared, with no real for thought about what we may need along the way? We run out the door and half way into the journey, realize that we need something that we could have brought with. Then to make it worse we don't stop to ask the one who knows the way to get there. We're too proud to ask Daddy (Abba), to help us. We are to busy trying to prove to the world, how smart and independent we are. Father really does "know best". Not only has he already got the whole journey planned out, so that you can get to your destination on time, while enjoying the sights along the way. He has drawn you out a detailed map, with easy to follow instruction (including landmarks to help you find your way); he has highlighted the route for you and left you supplies and special gifts and presents to make the journey more fun. We're in such a hurry to get where we want to go, that we crumble up the instructions and map without even looking at them, toss them aside and off we go on our own journey. Heaven knows we don't need any help. We have taken trips before, doing it all our own way. Completely forgetting all the trials we had along the way. All the road blocks we ran into. Forgetting how many exciting things we wanted to do along the way, cool stops we planned to make, but we lost our way, and missed all the good stuff. We got off on the wrong road, which took us down a very tough bumpy road. It lead us into a very scary place and we had no idea how to find our way back. There we are stuck, alone and afraid and to darn proud to admit it.
Even well into our journey, if we would just stopped and said "God, please help me", then wait for Him to answer, God (Abba, Father, Daddy) would provide everything we need and set us carefully back on the right road. What God provides is not always what we expect or want, but it is what we need. More often then not if we look back on things from our past we realize what we wanted at the time would have only not have helped. Often times we would realize that in fact what we wanted, in the moment, would have actually made thing worse. Like the song says, “You don't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you'll get what you need.”
If asked, He would happily, send us a guide, to make sure we did not get lost and could enjoy the sights along the way. In fact he has already done that, in the form of 'Holy Spirit'. When Jesus went to be with his Father in heaven, He said “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you”. JOHN 16:7 KJV
The 'Holy Spirit”, lives inside you (after you except Jesus). He is that “still small voice”, you hear telling not to do something. It is what many refer to as their conscious. The one thing we should listen to, but only to often choose to ignore. You see the Holy Spirit will not force his will on you, even though He knows what is best. You and I have freedom of choice. Good or bad we have the right to ignore even the best advice. Unfortunately that also means we have to deal with the consequences of those choices, good or bad. Blaming God, other people or our circumstances will not change the out come of our choices. Yes, we need to fess up, ask forgiveness and own it. Remember, God is quick to forgive and may even help pick us up and dust us off, but that doesn't mean you get off scott free. Life is real, our choices are real and the consequences are real. The only way to learn, is to accept it, own it and move forward, lesson learned.
OK, now we are out there in the desert, all we can see for miles around is sand and more sand. We're tired, our feet are sore and we appear to be totally lost. Oh and did I forget to mention that our enemies are quickly riding up behind us on chariots and (it just gets better), there is a vast sea in front of us. Friends and family around us and we're trapped. Nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. What are we going to do? We really only have one choice, panic, freak out, yell and scream. God knows where we are. He knows about our enemies and their chariots being pulled by mighty steads and being led by a crazed mad man. He only wants you to believe in him, have faith and know he loves you dearly. If you were to realize how much He truly loves you, then you would know that He would never really let anything hurt you.
He already has your salvation planned out. All you have to do is believe and have faith and let Him do the rest.
Now that we're done yelling, screaming and totally freaking out, too tired to do anything, we turn our faces to God and say "Help, please save us. You are our only hope." God reaches down and parts the sea and you are able to walk across on dry land. Imagine that, you don't even have to walk on water; you don't even have to get your feet wet. All you had to do was 'be still and wait on the Lord' and you didn't even do that well. Still He comes through; still He saves us from the enemy. Then it gets even better, He brings the Red Sea down on them, totally demolishes the enemy and makes sure that you know your enemy cannot even follow. The sea that once blocked your path and seemed like such an impassable barrier is now between you and any remnant of the enemy. You are now completely safe and secure and you dance and sing praises of thanks.
Did I also forget to mention that even before the whole sea thing, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.” Exodus13:21, to guide and protect them? How cool is that. God is standing by watching over and protecting you 24/7, 365 days a year, forever.