Joan Reynolds

Real Faith, Real Life & Real Joy

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.

 

Musical Chairs….In Church?

June30

I remember about twenty-five years ago, when I started a Welcoming Committee at a large Methodist church back in Florida.

We stood under red umbrellas and greeted people before and between services. There were several buildings and it was easy for newcomers to need help finding where age-appropriate child care was, or where to take their almost teen for Sunday School. More than that though, as a recent newcomer myself, I had noticed the most difficult part of being a newcomer was entering the sanctuary, for when you approached an empty seat you were often told it was ‘saved’. There was never a sign to that effect, as at a wedding or for the ushers, but there was often a quick scuffling around and tossing Bibles on empty seats, to help one see there was a person coming to occupy that seat. Seeing the rejected faces of the newcomer as they try to continue to ask about seats is really embarrassing for the other people around them, yet it never seems to change the fact that it happens every week.

Sometimes a person will enter a church only once, and possibly forever after use that rejection as a means of branding the church, that denomination, even their whole experience of God as being exclusive, not friendly or welcoming to newcomers; an exclusive club that really doesn’t want new members. That is so sad, since the church was called primarily to share ways to live our lives together, to be an example of inclusive love and acceptance  so more people would want to know Him, attracted by the loving and inclusive way we are  living our lives before them. To hear someone say “I went to church once, but I felt even lonelier than I stay home.” It certainly didn’t feel like God’s home was open to them, the very people we go out into the community to serve and invite to church. What a crazy Catch-22 that is!

The Welcoming Committee was a wonderful addition to that church and for years afterward, when I would run  into people I had known while there, they would smile and say “You were the lady under the red umbrella!” I chose red umbrellas thinking it an obvious way to identify ourselves (our being covered by the blood of Jesus and sheltered from the storms of life),  but then, I was  a visual person, so things like that always seem logical to me.  I remember being thrilled to find 6 red umbrellas at J. C. Penney to start the ministry. I wrote the different categories (Sunday School, Bible Studies, Home Groups, etc. ) on each of the triangle-shaped segments , to separate us from  regular umbrella users at first sight. Our covering led to many other conversations and I understand lasted quite a while, even after God had moved me on.

Today in church I was thrilled as the summer season meant many regulars were on vacation. No one around me was saving seats and new faces filled in around me. It was inspiring to hear the worship voice of the husband of one of my prayer partners next to me, and prompted me to join him in even more joyful praise. I was grateful for the mixing up all around me because it made me pay attention even more than usual.

I love the ladies I normally sit with, and since the first day I arrived they seemed to be saving a seat for me, so I always felt comfortable believing God had led me specifically to this church. But I realize now how many other people He wants to bring here, and they may only come that one time; saving a seat seems not as admirable a trait in church as it may be other places. He knows exactly where we should sit, and if we are told that empty seat is ‘taken’ perhaps we  may obstruct His plans not just for others, but also for ourselves, without even realizing it.

In almost every church I have been a member of, I have always wanted to ask the Pastor to stand at the podium one Sunday and say “Everyone on the right side of the church change places with everyone on the left!” and then wait til that was accomplished before beginning his sermon. The different perspective might change everything for some, who had held those spots through generations. I know it would initially have been unsettling, but how might that have opened their eyes to something or someone they had never before noticed .

God loves to mix things up and take us out of our comfort zones to help us to learn the lessons we are actually going to church to hear about. Unlike musical chairs, a chair isn’t physically removed so one person falls on the floor. But consider if Jesus was coming in the guise of a stranger to see His church, but because we did not recognize Him, we told Him the seat was ‘saved’ (for someone important to us).

It is possible He will do just that one day,  to see if we are really paying attention.

 

 

Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt…..

June24

We’ve all heard this one, and I found myself saying “been there, done that and got more t-shirts than I could ever wear in my lifetime” yesterday. I followed that with all of those t-shirts represent a circumstance or an event in my journey; divorced, foreclosed, bankrupt, lost job, etc. Yes, they were circumstances. Yes, they happened. However, I am not my circumstances.

All of the above and many, many more have contributed to a wealth of personal history that has given me a huge amount of empathy and sympathy for others experiencing major life changes. I have found through my faith journey that all of them and others are merely possible stumbling blocks on my path. We have a lesson to learn from all of our struggles, but once learned those events are easy to speak about briefly, and usually merely to give another permission to share their own pain in our presence.

There are so many people either living in denial of the events that have happened or possibly worse,they wear those t-shirts daily to remind themselves and others they have been a victim. Neither one is fruitful. Others, particularly those who have been there themselves, see through the disguise they are presenting before us. It is the overcoming and the new life ahead of us that is significant, and God’s sustenance and mercy on that journey.  That’s the only story worth telling, because it is the one that encourages others to move through those painful present circumstances to embrace the future without the bondage and baggage they bring along.

I have several friends who have faced down cancer. While it has changed them, they are not their cancer diagnosis. In the same vein, I don’t know about others but twenty years after a divorce, I resent still having to check ‘divorced’ on every single form I fill out for the rest of my life. While it may indeed be the truth, that is not representative of me, and I always search in vain for another option. Single adult female, happily living on her own terms and providing for herself by God’s grace,  never appears. Worse, I always feel like I am breaking some law by not checking divorced and clicking single. It long ago ceased defining me, yet I am reminded each time how limited our forms are, compared to our ability to choose how we represent ourselves in real life.

I no longer say I am a single parent when introducing myself in a new group. It was true when I raised my sons, but they are now over thirty so it seems a bit ridiculous to use that unless I want sympathy at this point. I will refer to it when necessary, as it certainly was a challenge I met, and often it will bond me to others who have been through the same, much as surviving cancer does for others. But we relate to it now much as soldiers who have been in a war. It happened. I was there. I am here now.

Mostly I find I refer to past circumstances to show God’s grace and the way He was present in guiding and protecting me through those many circumstances and that is my favorite way to speak of them and to prepare me and others for those yet to come.

 

 

People Will Pay More Not To Pay Now!

June22

It struck me this morning, after enjoy lengthy conversations with my son last night about business, that the new technology has made looking like the professional you are very much easier for an artist than in the past.

I have had several businesses where taking credit cards was not essential, but made a difference in a consumer’s mind. As long as I only took cash, they often felt they could negotiate for less. Many may have been sincere and not had more than that amount at the time in their wallet. Most, however,  had found it a good way to get a deal, by assuming I was desperate. Often they were correct in their assumption and I caved, not wanting to wait for their  check, which often took days to clear.

Several times I purchased a machine and set up a merchant account with a bank so that I could accept credit payments.  When I was a  faux finishing artist working mainly in client’s homes and teaching classes at a community college nearby,  I had no storefront. I say purchase because while it appeared to be a rental, when the time came for me to purchase a big item like a home, that little rental company often had to be ‘satisfied’, even though I had returned the equipment and in one case only used it once. The cost of settling was @ $2500 as I recall. Ouch, that one purchase had been $275. Certainly not a great return on my money, hopelessly negative by any standard, but I did get the house.

I told my son that even as an artist, this new thing called a square was amazing! It works off my iPhone and it is free, without a credit check,  paperwork out the wazoo, or signing your future away. You get charged only when you use it, and there is no monthly fee. I wonder now how much more money I might have made had that been a viable option twenty years ago! No matter, water under the bridge.

The best thing is that even now, as a Notary Public, I can accept credit cards. I noticed on Craigslist that no one else advertising the same services does that in my area, even though it would be simple. It also makes me feel like a much larger operation, which I anticipate one day I will be. In the meantime, I can compete with the big guys without that little ‘rental’ with the big balloon payment!

It also occurred to me, being the woman of faith that I am and always noticing the parables of comparison to biblical teachings in current life, that many people prefer the pay later, pay more option to their spiritual walk with the Lord. They keep amassing wealth, possibly being unethical or mean to those around them at the moment,  assuming somehow they are able to buy time to get that all straightened out later. Hmmmm. Wonder how that will work for them if their balloon payment suddenly comes due?

 

 

 

 

Balance…Is It Possible?

August16

I am struck by the fact that at this point in my life it all comes down to that. I have found the right place to live, the right friends, family nearby, the right church (and when I say ‘right’ I mean only that it feels right for me), all contributing  to what feels like a very happy life.

The right work is the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place.

I have moved increasingly closer as I have tried some things and,  much like Goldilocks, found some too much or too little….either in amount of time spent for money earned,or in the way they made my life feel balanced and content….or not.

It is a puzzlement, that it is not all one thing or another, but so many things that make up the right amount of work. I know I am getting closer, merely by the way I am able to look at it without fear, without desperation, but with admiration for the person I am assisting in this search…

She is someone I have come to admire a great deal through this process.

Prayer…The Simplest Way To Change Things

April5

I was very aware this week that a family situation was incredibly emotionally complicated. I was not completely on the outside, but not on the inside of it either.  Trying to remain outside of it felt helpless, because the people involved all meant a great deal to me and I wanted very much for there to be breakthroughs that would result in new found freedoms enabling all to move forward in their lives.

This also required some meeting of the minds, with respect to the reality of the situation. Coming from a long line of dysfunctional family coping mechanisms, this had the added concern of triggering any number of knee jerk reactions, all of which could draw attention away from the situation at the forefront.

My mind became focused on what I could do that would be helpful but not add any additional drama to the problem. As much as I was concerned, I had not been asked in anyway for input or advice, so staying on the periphery seemed the best place to remain. I found that the only effort I needed to exert was one to keep my thoughts continually turned to prayer. Whenever I had the urge to get involved, I instead turned it into a request for God to get involved. As a result, I found that there was no mess to clean up, nothing was said  that needed to be apologized for or retracted, and truly the best possible outcome came about with the least amount of angst and anxiety.

When in doubt as to what you can do…pray. Not as simple to do as it sounds. It is definitely not the easy way out. Yet it remains the shortest and cleanest answer to “How can I help?” and it truly keeps the drama at bay. In many of our recovering dysfunctional family scenarios, though it may be highly underrated, to pray  is truly the most valuable way to make a difference.

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