More of a Mess than a Manuscript

As the New Year arrives and it seems everyone is thinking resolutions,lightstock_142968_small_helena_ I am doing something completely different.  A few days ago I decided to go back and read my prayer journal for 2015.  The journal is nothing fancy… an old fashioned college rule COMPOSITION BOOK.  When I write in it I use one writing instrument exclusively… an extra fine mechanical pencil and only one brand of those is acceptable.  I guess that is part of my quirky nature that makes me a writer.  God doesn’t care what I write with or what my handwriting looks like… He is oblivious to spelling and grammar and punctuation?  But He does like it that I actually focus my attention on what I’m writing to Him… the cell phone is put down, the TV is turned off, even the dogs have to make their nests somewhere besides my lap.

Reading the journal confirmed that I do not spend time with God everyday… perfectly; never missing a day 365 days each year.  In fact it exposed a haphazard, inconsistent totally unscheduled pattern of prayer entries.  4 days, skip 1, 1 day, skip 3, 7 days, skip 2 yeah… pretty much like that all year long.  In fact I had one month that had not a single prayer entry… my silent absence screamed off the page to me when I realized that.

In the midst of my unfaithfulness I experienced His grace for me… that He wanted me to return no matter how long it had been, no matter how far I had strayed, no matter the condition I was in when I finally turned back.  Those entries began by thanking Him for always being there.  Eventually I realized that I had wandered but I was never alone in my wanderings for He would never leave me or forsake me.  Where I went, Christ went also; gently and persistently reminding me of His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  As the year progressed the absences grew shorter and less frequent.

The prayer entries varied in length as well.  A paragraph or two; four pages of anxious, scribbled slashing; two sheets of calm, neat penmanship; a page of joyful, loopy words with underlines, hearts, smiley faces and exclamation points for emphasis!  I just lay it all out there… my frustrations, my hopes, my fears all tumble onto the page in an attempt to reach His heart.  I never follow a format… at times praise happened, thankfulness happened, joy was expressed.  But my prayer journal is more of a mess than a manuscript… and in 2015 God used it tremendously in my life!

I rarely read my journal entries after I write them.  I’m usually afraid to read it… afraid of it in the same way a close look in the mirror can cause great discomfort.  All the extra pounds, gray hair, wrinkles; every imperfection shows up… how will I go on in life after seeing myself like that?  Reading my prayer journal exposed it all!

On those pages…

I trembled in anxiety and fear… for my family, my finances, my future!

God listened.

I railed at God… my heart full of anger, doubt and questioning.

God listened.

I wept in self-pity.

God listened.

I approached God as almighty, all knowing, all powerful… basically seeing Him through the eyes of an abandoned, frightened, wide-eyed little girl who crept into the room with God and hid behind a chair whispering her prayers.

God listened.

I sat before him buried in shame from my past.

God listened.

Several months into my 2015 prayer journal my focus shifted… it was less about me and more about Him.  I sampled different names for God… Almighty, Heavenly Father, Father God, Daddy God… then one day I called him Papa and our hearts connected.  I told Him all about stuff… the hurts, failures and the forgiveness I craved.  I spewed out all the lies I hear in my head, the accusations and condemnation, my vulnerability showed and so did my pride and critical spirit.  Papa came through with His truth!

I began to write a while… and then listen… write some more.

I poured out my love, concerns and desires for my family, my friends, other women I knew were hurting, confused, suffering from loss and destruction in their lives.  I searched the Word for just the right words to pray… I began to forget about me for a time and focus on them.  Breathing got easier and time seemed to fly by whenever I sat with that composition book and bible in my lap.

Flair-ups came, emotions got triggered, and old habits reappeared that are difficult to stop… it’s all there on the pages of my prayer journal.  But inside me… fear and anxiety are being replaced with peace and assurance; lies are replaced with truth; bitterness and rejection are being replaced with forgiveness and concern for others; sadness and loss are replaced with comfort and love.

Because God listened… and I listened to Him.

2016… I’m a few days into the year and I’ve missed a day or two with my prayer journal.  But it’s there… waiting for me.  And as I pour my heart out onto the pages God listens.

A Prayer

Almighty God… Heavenly Father… Papa,

In the midst of all that is happening in this world today, billions of people, political, economic and social upheaval and destruction; monumental needs… still you listen to me, Your child.  Personal, present and compassionate You sit with me every time I return to You.  You nurture, counsel, comfort and guide me with all wisdom and grace.  Your patience for me is boundless… Your love for me is everlasting! Thank you that in 2016 You will draw me… beckon me… wait for me to return to You in prayer and then You will listen. 

In Jesus Name,  Amen

 

Are You Always Motivated?

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Did you know that every child is always motivated?  Now before you click this post shut, keep reading for just a moment.  Every child is motivated; all the time… they just aren’t always motivated to do what we as their parents would like them to do.  When my daughter was a child, instead of cleaning her bedroom she was often compelled to sleep among the mess of toys strewn across the floor.  I would find her cozy and content; wondering why I was so distraught at the mess that remained.  She had started to clean the room.  When I instructed her to do so she agreed and placed several dolls in the toy box.  But it wasn’t long and she abandoned the task.  The stuffed bear was soft and soon cleaning the room was abandoned.  Snuggly bear was comfortable and that desire for comfort became her motivation.  She only became sad when she was discovered and she still needed to clean the room.  Then she had to face the mess and the consequences.  Sound familiar?

This scenario happens in the life of all children at one time or another.  Personally, even as an adult, I see this pattern repeated in my own life.  The task is set before me, often it’s a task of my own choosing – like writing a blog; smart healthy eating; exercising to improve my fitness. They are the healthy, life enhancing activities that are part of God’s plan for us.  They all seem fine at first.  I enthusiastically begin… creating menus, setting schedules and I sign-up for a workshop.  I start to eat healthy but then give in to the sugar craving within a day or two.  Too soon I exercise less and less frequently… allowing myself to skip days… turning into weeks or months.  I’ll admit there are some writing classes I started and didn’t finish.  The effort to stay committed, to complete the task, to fight the cravings all seem huge and the rewards come too slowly or even stop for a time.  Then… the TV or a nap beckons and at that moment I don’t care about getting my blog post written.  Only later do I wish I had.  That is when I cry out, “Oh God… what have I gotten myself into?”  There are real, practical ways to experience God’s loving response to this question.

  • Remind your self what you really want and expect to accomplish…

It’s time to ask your self an uncomfortable yet real question.  Is it praise and attention you might be seeking?  In my case, not everyone will rave about what I am doing, or even notice.  I’ll probably never do American Ninja Warrior or even the Senior Olympics… but can I get a little stronger and healthier than I am right now?  I like to say I want 62 to be the new 50… but maybe just an energetic, comfortable 62 is a great accomplishment for today.

  • Say no to Huck Finn… the kid inside your self that wants you to play hooky and skip out on the work.

Who are you listening to?  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the busyness and responsibilities of life instead of seeking God for His direction and allowing him to prioritize our day.  Instead of writing, I fuss about the dirty dishes and having to feed the dogs; there’s so much to do I give up and slouch on the couch with a book instead.  The truth is the battle is not actually me against all the other activities I could get involved with.  The battle is inside me…. I need to say, “no” to my personal Huck Finn.

  • Take a break instead of stopping all together.

The reality is that keeping going is hard; fatigue, discouragement, even boredom sets in.  Inside, everything says, “Stop and you’ll feel better.”  And it doesn’t get whispered… it’s loud!  So… that’s the time to stop.  Just when you stop… stop smart!  Take a break before the pressure to stop gets going inside.  Set a time for a break soon enough you might even be tempted to skip the break.  Don’t!  Take the break and enjoy the rest.  Then set a timer for the break to end.  If I write for an hour (or sometimes sit and look at a blank computer screen) I stop and take a ten minute break… stretch, breath, eat a snack… but when the timer sounds to get back to the computer it’s time to start again

As a child of God, maturing in life is a matter of understanding motivation. I need to understand that I am always motivated and begin to ask myself what is motivating me toward God and what motivates me away from Him.  Acceptance, praise and value are great motivators.  God wired the need for these things into my DNA.  In my head I know that God gives me them freely… but sometimes in the midst of my daily struggles it doesn’t feel that way.  That’s when fear and pride motivate me away from God’s plan.  Fear and pride make it easy to allow other things to crowd in.  I am soon looking for an alternative… comfort in the form of reasons and excuses for my failure.

  • Stop imagining the negative outcomes and start seeing what God sees… His plan. Write it down!

God sees His child trying her best… full of imagination and never in doubt of her abilities… thrilled to be off on a new adventure. God sees His child with her own unique way of living life… the more crooked the path the more interesting the journey.  God sees His child standing in victory and glowing with enthusiasm.  It’s not what she has accomplished that impresses Him… it’s her trust and determination that bursts His heart with pride.

God’s love is our everlasting motivator and the source of all our strength.  His ways are real and practical, challenging and exhilarating; with Him all things are possible.  The joy is in taking on the task and seeing it through to completion.

A Prayer

 Father God I am so thankful for the awesome plans you have for me.  You have given me everything I need and I surrender my desires, gifts and talents back to you… you are faithful to guide me every step of the way.  Help me to stay motivated by your love for me instead of measuring myself by the praise and attention of others.  Fill me with a sense of purpose with every step I take… every small accomplishment.  Help me to not give up!   

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:4; Philippians 1:6