Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy
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Handicapped ….For His Glory!

April23

I have struggled, over my lifetime, to find an answer to the recurring question of why I seemed so different; more emotional than others, more inclined to seek the truth, more concerned with people’s feelings than their bank accounts (or my own).
I have met so many people who seemed to find the right partner, the right job, to enjoy the pleasures of life so much more easily than I did.
For some odd reason, I often found my inner comfort zone to be right  where others saw discomfort. I was secure where they would feel lost. I was at ease where they were acutely distressed.
I am beginning to understand that while I appeared to have every basic body part and brain function in tact, I have apparently always been handicapped. In the same way that a blind person has extra perception when it comes to hearing than many of his sighted friends, I always seemed to pick up on heart waves that no one else noticed, or if they did, they could not describe them as easily as I seemed to be able to.
I know now that all those times that I had such a different experience than what appeared to be the normal response of those around me was precisely because I was indeed handicapped, with a sensitivity to the spirit God put in me at birth, made only more profound after I asked Jesus into my life at age 37.
As so many people with severe handicaps will testify, I appreciate things in life that others just don’t even seem to notice. I am aware of the kindness of people and the workings of God in ways that others can’t begin to comprehend, especially when they consider experiencing my circumstances. And in the end, those handicapped individuals almost always say they wouldn’t change a thing about their lives, because their experience of it has been so rich and so filled with awe and wonder. I have to say that from my vantage point, I would totally agree.

Way Wrong!

March31

I have to laugh at myself sometimes, a lot of times if the truth be known, and one of those times is when I approach a traffic symbol where the words to follow have been written on the pavement before it, telling me exactly what to do.
This morning while I walked Gypsy back from the beach, I walked over one and as usual, read it top to bottom, instead of the way they intended it to be read, bottom to top, the order in which you would roll over it in your car.

 
This one said Wrong Way with an arrow going toward the wrong way. I laughed because I couldn’t help but read it my usual way…..Way Wrong! I got thinking about how I used to be so much more easily led astray by not heeding the signs God intentionally left for me to see. I guess I am a bit obtuse or just easily adaptive toward pleasing others, so I naturally got off the path more frequently than I do these days. I would take jobs that were not in my gifted areas and then be in pain about them. I would get into relationships that were not good for my personality type or my heart and then be in pain about how to get out of them (without hurting the other person of course!)

 
Nowadays, I spend much more time praying for God’s purpose and jobs that He leads me to. I pray for relationships where he wants me to be involved, and they are always a benefit of some sort to both me and the other person in our growth as a Christian. Or He wants me to bless someone and it always feels like a service to Him, not something I would necessarily choose in my flesh.

 
So, when I looked at this signage on the road before me, I laughed because now I often am able to say at least to myself, “Way Wrong”, in terms of the direction I might choose on my own vs something I know to be the Lord’s leading. Staying anchored in His word also helps me to discern the difference more easily. Perhaps as I get older, I just don’t want to go the wrong way any more, as it takes so long to get back on His track sometimes. So I will keep looking for the ways He confirms my path, trying not to get ahead of Him but appreciating it even if he has to shout Way Wrong! before I detour out of His lane.

God’s Economy in Relationships

March28

He never wastes a connection. The longer I live and the more I observe His divine connections, the more I am convinced He always has something for each of us to learn in any connection He makes between people.

As I recently reviewed many past loves and attractions in a wonderful Beth Moore bible study called Breaking Free, I could see how God had lessons for me in every one of them, although they had only seemed like rejection, abandonment and disaster at the time. Although I also believe He had a lesson for the partner I had been with, or the date or the acquaintance, I could only show up and be accountable to learn the one He had for me. If I chose not to learn the lesson, I could also see where God took me back into a similar situation where I had yet another opportunity to learn it. Choosing not to learn may be called denial, or just plain stupidity, but I often found it was only the second time when I began to recognize a pattern, one that opened my heart to allow God to change it and to see what He wanted me to see. The pain the second time was usually twice as bad as the first, helping me to desire to change before a third opportunity had to arise.

His protection of me, and especially of my heart, has been evident to me for  a very long time, ever since I first turned my life over to Him thirty years ago. He has a vested interest in protecting me and in keeping me safe as I continue to grow and learn about Him and as He continues to lead me where He can use the particular gifts He has given me.  I have come to lean on and appreciate that leading more and more every year. I now jump at the chance to learn the lessons He presents for me, rather than wait for a second or third opportunity. I know that doing that lessens, if not eliminates completely, the pain that I, or those I love, may suffer and prevents the awful cover ups and deception that the enemy thoroughly enjoys manipulating to his advantage.

I may never know if, or how, the Lord has used these same connections in the other person’s life, but that is not important for me to know. God has used it in mine and we will move on to another lesson and that is all that matters.

 

A Seat At Our Table

December19

My journey through this dating experience, and getting caught up on life with a man God has brought into my life at this moment in time, has uncovered many memories. Initially they seemed good, then not so good, then good again. Layers and layers of where we have been and how we got to the place we are right now. Water under the bridge in some ways, but information that a potential mate for life needs and expects to know. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God, as they used to swear in the witnesses in Perry Mason court cases!

After processing some of the negative ones again to see if they are still binding me in any way, there often surfaces a second memory of the same place and time where I could see that my heart was turned to God and the expectation of the good life He had ahead for me and my children. As a single Mom, I often missed the presence of a male at the head of our table, both to anchor our family and to be the covering and protector any family needs. I remember at a certain point that I would set the dining room table with our finest linens and silverware and china. These were former wedding gifts I rarely had occasion to use any longer, yet they looked pretty when I looked at the dining room we also rarely used, as though we were awaiting a special guest.

I remember setting the table for four, though we were a family of three at that time, and for most of the time I was raising the boys. I remember laying out the place settings, and thinking as I did that Jesus might show up any time, and in the guise of someone that I might not initially recognize. I wanted to be ready to welcome Him into our home, and to always let anyone know there was a place for them and for Him at our table.

As all of this looking back and remembering the places He has kept me grounded in an unsteady world, makes me smile when I think about the ways in which He was present at our table. I remember the blessing my grandfather on my Mom’s side always said before we ate. “Be present at this table Lord, be here and everywhere adored. Thy creatures bless and grant that we, may feast in Paradise with thee, Amen.” I always thought it odd he said the same blessing at every meal, but it was really a good one, as I reflect on it now.

God is Not a Proofreader!

December2

I  received a special gift this weekend, along with a book that Billy Graham has just written, The Reason For My Hope. It is probably the last one from this incredible man of God, and I am stuck by how each paragraph, each sentence contains so much truth , insight and yes, hope for all of mankind, in spite of everything we see going on in the world today. To me it would seem as though he would be discouraged at what he has seen over his lifetime, but because his hope is in our eternal salvation, in God not in man, he is every bit as passionate near the end of his life as he was in the beginning of his ministry. He is an amazing blessing to the decades of people whose lives he has touched and to the generations that will follow.

The part that struck me this morning even as I was being uplifted by his words, was that I hadn’t read thirty pages when I had noticed two mistakes. Not in his message, not in his work, but typos! Typos, can you believe it? He has a great publisher, probably hundreds of people who have read this before the publisher took it to print, and yet here are these common errors seemingly obvious to me, that no one caught.

At first I thought, should I call someone, write them that these were there so that future printings would be perfect? Then I realized God was just showing me, once again, how I struggle with the fact that regardless of being saved, in spite of spending thirty years safe in His protection and love, I still struggle with imperfection. And I always will. I am imperfect. We all are. Save one, Jesus Christ, who came so that we might have eternal life and be accepted, with all our imperfections, into His Kingdom when we leave this earthly body and return home.

I always thought it was a good thing to be a natural proofreader, but sometimes it isn’t,  unless it is your job. It makes me search words for the meaning that might be lost between the lines, a hanging participle that might cause someone to read something in a way other than what the author intended. Yet often this is just how God speaks to me in deeper ways, calling attention to the flaws I have asked Him to reveal in me that I might possibly improve on with some effort on my part and grace on His. I don’t want someone to read me wrong, so to speak. Or is it that I don’t want them to see my imperfections?

Today He has shown me that He doesn’t see my imperfections in the way I see them. He sees my heart. He sees the soul He gave me at birth and the life that I have lived trying to be true to Him and to myself. He does not proofread every moment of every day, every misstep that I have made, every wrong word that I have written or said. I sometimes can be so disheartened by getting something wrong that I miss His bigger picture for me. His love and compassion are always the meaning between the lines. His care for me goes far beyond my getting everything perfect. His joy in me is never undone by one wrong thought.

I thought I was not a perfectionist. I try to look for the good in people and in situations without judging the small mistakes, but I was wrong; being a proofreader is looking for perfection. I attributed this to a characteristic of God, but I was incorrect, as I so often am. We are made in His image, not He in ours. Nothing in His word says He is a proofreader, in fact much the opposite. We are flawed, imperfect, and we need Him to get through this life. He sent His perfect son to die on the cross for the mistakes we have made and will continue to make, just so that we can experience His love while we struggle through life on this earth and so we may one day join Him in eternity. End of story. I do not need to tell Billy Graham’s publisher there are flaws. If anyone knows that, it is Billy Graham. Perhaps God allowed those  just for me to see. He’s like that, you know.

 

 

Cleaning House….Holy Spirit Style!

November30

This has been the week of Thanksgiving, and as such a time when the children I care for weekdays have their parents home for much of the week. As a result I have some time off, and the thing I thought I would do with it was clean my apartment, getting rid of accumulated clutter and sorting through old paperwork no longer needed, to make room for more, I guess!

That was my plan, so I had absolutely no social events, save Thanksgiving dinner, to get in the way of that plan.  God had a different plan. I was close, as it definitely involved cleaning, but instead of my house, He seemed to have more interest in my heart.  This week, interestingly beginning on a Sunday,  has evolved into a thorough searching of the insides of my heart; examining the things in  residence there and the reasons behind them moving in. Many, it seemed, had actually already moved out, but left behind a few remnants of their stay and some cobwebs and dusty corners that needed a broom and a little elbow grease to remove. Cleaning up that space left a very beautiful peaceful new place for a future occupant.

All in all it has been a wonderful adventure, but emotionally and physically exhausting in the process. He has His reasons for this, and I believe He has been slowly revealing them as we do this together. I have given Him permission to bring someone into my life with whom I could share both my love for Him and a true and honest love and partnership here on earth. I believe all the hard work we have been doing this week will make perfect sense as He reveals the next part of this journey. At the very least, He has given me a clean bill of health and my heart seems to be ready to move forward! My heart, Christ’s home.  That in itself is wonderful news!

My apartment, however, looks exactly the same as it did a week ago.

I Like The Bible Because I Like The Truth

November30

These are seriously precarious times. All truth seems relative to what one wants to believe. The facts are secondary to feelings. Good and evil can be switched at a moment’s notice, depending on a person’s perspective. I never remember a time quite like this.

I am grateful for a book that never changes, and that always presents the same truths in many different ways, but always the same profound and simple principles. The precepts upon which these truths are based are unwavering. And they play out continually as I live out my life. I have never noticed a Biblical truth to be invalid or incorrect when chosen as a basis for an interaction. I have seen however, on countless occasions, the opposite to be true: where one chose to disregard a Biblical principle, it ultimately never came to a good end.

I guess this makes me old fashioned. Not a person of this time and place. If that is true, then I do not care to be identified with this time and place, because it is bizarre to me how strong moral foundations have been manipulated in every area of life. How they are condemned and laughed at, as though they have no place in this world anymore. I try less and less to convince others, as they try more and more to show me how correct their new assumptions seem to be.  While reality is changing all around us, our young do not see anything but good  coming from abandoning the moral principles of their forefathers, in exchange for a fair and just reality they are sure will magically happen overnight if we just say that we want it that way.  The Robin Hood government they think they are electing will somehow take from the rich and give to the poor and then balance in the utopian kingdom they envision will be restored.

I wish they knew the book I know,  as they are the ones who must live with the consequences of not knowing it, and my life will not last to see  the results they are setting in place now for future generations. They seem to be trying to demolish and abandon any allegiance to Christ and to a God they believe is a figment of old people’s imagination. I am saddened and dismayed, but as yet do not see what I am to do about it except continue to go forward with my own beliefs. Perhaps there will come a place and time I have to choose and I feel I will be ready for that, but it isn’t here just yet.

Footnote. I had this in Drafts, previously written July 16th. I think the time for me to choose what to do about it has come, and I find it interesting that I didn’t publish this then.

Taking God On A Date!

November6

It occurred to me over the past month or so that I know so many wonderful single women in their 50’s to 70’s,many of whom are devoted Christians, all of whom have never met a man with whom they have found that second chance at a good and solid relationship that suits this stage of their lives. I am one of them.

As is often the case for me, it was looking at their situations and how I could encourage them, that led me to realize none of us had really made any kind of commitment to looking for that special man. Nor had we thought very much about what he would be like, so that we would be sure to recognize him when we met him.

I came to see that ten years had pretty much gone by as all of us got more and more comfortable with our single state, and more and more isolated from anything that might  bring a single man into our path. We were content, yet still had a nagging little part of our souls that yearned for someone we could be sharing our lives with right now. Our kids are grown, many of us have grandchildren, but still there is that flicker of hope for a romantic love that most of us still haven’t really given up hope for, even as we approach the last quarter of our time here on earth.

Pushing through my own fears and uncomfortableness, I decided to go onto a christian website and see if the man I was looking for was there somewhere, just waiting for me to show up.

As I had done this experiment several times unsuccessfully in the past, I also looked at the reasons I gave up so easily before. First, I made no game plan. I didn’t really think about the qualities I wanted in the man I wanted to meet. I didn’t think about my deal breakers, so I would know how to recognize them when they appeared in writing or in person.  I realized that I was also finally ready to accept the fact that all the men my age and older were likely to remind me of my father or my grandfather at that age. Truthfully, it meant I had to realize I would be reminding them of their mother, more than the hot young gal they imagined they might still meet. I also thought about the men most of my friends were married to, who now looked very different from the man they had married. I decided to put looks, if not last, at least not first in my priorities, as it really was not the most important thing. Second, I had previously made no commitment; I went on, threw together a profile, and ran off the site after the first disastrous date that didn’t measure up to the picture I had allowed to creep into my head. This time I signed up for a year, making a commitment to a process rather than a person. I figured I had put more effort than that into finding a job many times, and yet never into something where the net result of my efforts might be life changing! Third, I had never before prayed about it. This time I am bringing God into every aspect of it, and trying to follow His clues.

I have no idea if this will be different than before in terms of the final outcome. But I do see major growth on my part as I take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and look to see what lessons God has for me to learn in the process.

A friend of mine at church was praying with me the other day and as I shared a bit of this with her, I realized I felt a kind of sadness that I didn’t understand. I think on some level I felt like I was somehow saying God was not all sufficient for my needs and that made me feel like I was being ungrateful in some way.  He and I have shared a 30 year relationship more intimate than any I have known with any man. He has filled in all the empty spaces where loneliness might have found a home. He has covered me and provided for me in ways no man might ever have thought to, in ways I could never even have expressed a need. To actively search for a partner seemed in some way like seeking a replacement, which is not the case at all, but it made me sad enough to cry at even the thought of it. The difference is that I have never before sought a man who also knew God in the way that I do, and so this would be a very different kind of relationship; a man not knowing Him intimately would be a deal breaker, and not one I would consider even for a second date.

In much the same way as God steps into the empty or hurt places when we have lost someone special, I believe He can also step in to help us find a counterpart who can cherish and care for  us as much as is humanly possible. For those who have lost, and for those of us who have yet to find, that person who feels to us “like God with skin on”, I believe He is right there with us and will be the first to shout for joy when our paths cross and we recognize it is He who brought us together. I have seen Him do this countless times in my life in other ‘chance’ meetings with people, I just never thought to ask Him to go on a date with me before!

So I begin yet another journey to see where He is leading. I am content to stay right where I am, and yet I feel as though I may need to step out in order for Him to lead me, so that perhaps I can be a light and a hope in the future to others. I know if it is a journey He is on with me, it can only be exciting and it can only lead me closer to home.

 

 

A Fun-eral….What A Great Idea!

July3

My previous post reminded me of a memory that floated back into my consciousness this weekend, as I was again telling life stories with family.My youngest son noticed, at the ripe age of eight or nine, that while our extended family was seemingly never able to plan re-unions, as other families he knew had, ours did make time to get to funerals.

Since he also noticed that during the three or four days we were together we had a great time, sharing stories and crying and laughing together;  all the emotions he knew were sacred to his Mom and made her feel most a part of things….connection really, deep sharing, truth telling.  As he would later play a similar role in his own circle of friends, he was able to get right to the heart of the matter:

“Mom, when you get old and are about to die, I am going to call all your family and friends and tell them you died. Then they will all come for your funeral and we will have a big party and you will be there to hear all the nice things they say about you!”  That was one of the most poignant remarks he has ever made to me, and he has made many. There was a ton of insight into not just what matters to me, but I also believe what matters to God.

I struggled for years with feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, and sheer black-sheep-itis, as I seemed to be such a round peg in a square hole where my immediate family was concerned. This was probably because I took everything personally, what they called overly sensitive, and often it wasn’t meant to be taken that way; the same ability that is often helpful when being sensitive to the needs of children or wounded adults I may not even know very well. God made me this way for a reason, and I think it helps me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and it has taken me thirty years of God’s grace to let my own family off the hook and appreciate all they did, and tried to do, to assist me on my journey in this life.

So having a Fun-eral, a time where I got to receive all the gifts of acceptance, love, and I am sure, to notice their  gratefulness that my peculiar talents were not taken from the family mix just yet, that there was still time for them to enjoy my peculiar uniqueness for a little bit longer, sounded like a great idea! That sounded like something that would bring joy to my heart and, as my son noted, ‘you would have so much fun, Mom’!

I just noticed that if you take the word ‘funeral’ and merely move the r back a space and change the order of the two words formed you have Real Fun. And that is exactly how life seems to me when we affirm each other while we are still here living it!

I guess ever since then I have been trying to bring the fun in funeral to people’s everyday lives, by acknowledging, in the present, what they really bring to this party called life. I suggest that you tell your loved ones and friends now, while they can still hear what you are saying,  the things you want them to know and then it won’t be stuck inside you after they are gone. It will be a gift to them and a gift to you, but even more than that, an offering that I believe  is also a precious gift to God.

You Say What Others Are Thinking….

July1

I had a conversation with a beloved spiritual mentor after church today, bringing her up-to-date  on the things God has been doing in my life in the past two weeks. I am blessed to have a number of friends who get as excited as I do to hear what God is doing in each others lives. When I wondered aloud why I seem to talk about those things, she said “You say what others are thinking, but often don’t say.” Sometimes I think most people are only comfortable saying the good stuff about someone after they have lost someone close to them. It seems a shame we don’t tell them the little ways we see good (and God) in their lives more often while they are still with us.

I guess what I do could be the flip side of  gossiping. I was never fond of a gossip… someone who circulated tidbits of information into the consciousness of friends and family, seemingly only to see where it all ended up…. it always had such a negative connotation to me.  I seem compelled, however, to tell  the positive things, the little nuggets that most people might never say, except perhaps at someone’s  funeral. As another friend said to me this weekend, “you look for meaning in the little things” and usually I do and seem to find big meaning there.

I also feel compelled to write the note, send the email, make the phone call, just to tell someone how magical their words or actions were, either in a particular situation, or in general. I notice the little stuff that makes up the whole, but is  not often mentioned. To me the gift is in seeing the giver and the real gift they brought. It was not the gold, myrrh and frankincense that I remembered about Christ’s birth, but the incredibly long journey the three kings made to be present.

Sometimes the other side of this coin means I say something spontaneously that might sound off point, though hopefully not offensive; I notice this mostly around my sons (a subtle rolling of the eyes perhaps), who have had to hear me talk far too much over their lifetimes, while I struggled to make verbal sense of all going on around me. I have also embarrassed them by sharing things which included them without first getting their permission. My oldest started this blog for me four years ago and told me to practice writing these things down. He knew I had to get them out, and perhaps this keeps me more focused, as well as keeping me from telling my tale to someone who may not need to hear.

I do know at the dear age of 67, I find more people seem to be looking for that same type of meaning in their own lives, more people who are  appreciative of an affirmation of their best efforts and an acknowledgement of their time on this earth. That may be because we are getting closer to running out of it and we have all started losing friends and family whom we may have forgotten to tell how much we appreciated the amazing gifts they brought into our lives. Perhaps I am just pointing out the obvious, but I would rather err on that side, rather than assume they know what I’m thinking, or more to the point, what is in my heart.

 

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