I Choose the is …

I Choose the is …

Two of my children celebrated milestone birthdays this last week. The oldest clocked in at a whopping 18 years, and the middle hit his sweet spot of 16. I know every parent says it, but the time really has flown by. I look at the maturing faces of these young adults, and I’m just in awe. I thought we would never make it this far!

Raising three children as a single mom these last 13 years has been anything but a snooze fest. The days and years have been painted with action packed adventure, lots of trial and error, excruciating frustration and tears, priceless joy, painful seasons of growth, and lots and lots of me redefining what a successful parent is and who my children are supposed to be. Oh, if only you could peek inside my imagination and see the three tiny pilgrims I had envisioned my kiddos would become (and the nun I myself would be as I raised them up in this calling). In the words of Garth Brooks, “Some of  God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

Case in point, as I type this, my oldest is dancing, acting, and singing her heart out for the department heads of UCLA’s theatre program. For the last two years, Holland has stacked up her college courses, participated in productions, worked hard at a busy restaurant, paid for voice and monologue training, and started a savings account for her college education. Although any parent would be proud of all this hard work and dedication, this is a far cry from my earlier visions of her joining the ranks of Mother Theresa — as she vowed to a life of ministry and poverty and serving the poor and dieing. Don’t get me wrong, that is a noble vision and calling, priceless even. But it is not Holland’s. And had I persisted in the mentality that for her to do something else would be “less” worthy, I wouldn’t have this matchless joy of seeing her unfold into all that God created HER to be. When Holland is performing, she is ALIVE in the truest sense of the word, and as she radiates life, I get a glimpse into the unique and creative work of God.

How about that middle one, you ask?  Right now, he is a hard working teengager that doesn’t really want to think about tomorrow, let alone his future. The little boy who wanted to drive a tank in the army or build bridges as an engineer, just wants to survive high school! And although my dreams for him went from minister to  university graduate, he and I decided that junior college after high school is enough for now. This individual is still unfolding, and I want Jacob to thrive in whatever he finds purpose in and whatever makes HIM feel alive,

No, most things in my and my children’s lives doesn’t look anything like I expected. Few things in life ever do. But if I were given the choice between what I  thought  it should be, and what it is. I choose the is ❤

 

 

Matters of the heart…

Matters of the heart…

After a  much-needed deep and thought provoking conversation with a precious friend of mine, I went out to my little backyard to listen, reflect, and pray. As my heart stirred and ached with all the changes that have been occurring recently in my inner self – the deep places of my being, my heart and soul – I longed to rest in that place of peace where God and I commune together. So many questions. So much is changing. Such new and fresh peace mingled in with so many old questions and fears. After a time of prayer and asking myself some hard questions in the presence of God, my peace returned. Answers soaked my heart like a calming rain, and I knew it was time to write.

Over the last couple of years, I have been going through a significant turning point on my walk of faith. Looking back, I can truly say that it began  with my first trip to Haiti. When I left for Haiti, I had so many hopes and expectations traveling with me. I thought I knew the kind of agenda that God would lay out, one that included many saying the Sinner’s Prayer, biblical change for me, and healing for the sick. I looked for God in all my typical ways – very focused prayer time alone, passages of the bible leaping off the pages, and perhaps a prophetic word from a brother or sister.  But as the days went on, I was not to find God’s voice in any of these familiar ways. No, His voice did not pierce the hearing of my  heart through any of the avenues that were previously familiar to me, instead, his voice thundered through quiet, small acts of love.

As God and I began to commune via these moments through the following hours and days, a fresh perspective began to sweep a clearing in my mind. A perspective that included less religion and more relationship. So many of my days in faith had been clouded by fear and legalism. So many years had been spent scrutinizing and calculating every decision and move for fear that I might somehow land outside of God’s will. Miss the mark. Wander from the faith. This mindset was a product of my own cognitions and personality. This was not the fault of a person or a church. These were manifestations of my own inner struggles and it was so refreshing when those first fluxes of light began pouring in.

While Haiti marks the beginning of the change, it by no  means encompasses it all. Upon returning home, several events took place that contributed to me evaluating the way I viewed God, religion, and my response to both. Life events and letting go of the fear of questioning would become catalysts that contributed to this search. While the journey has been complex, painful, sometimes confusing and healing all at once, I am glad that it began, and I am glad that it has not ended. I still have many questions, but I do have a few answers for myself. At least right now.

Love is the greatest. Period. At this time, I do not adhere to a specific religion or specified set of beliefs. I still believe in God, creator of heaven and earth, creator of all mankind, and sovereign over all. I do not believe that any one book or religious text has ALL of the infallible answers. I just don’t. Wars are fought and lives are lost over this. Several faiths believe that their scriptures and beliefs are THE ONLY WAY, that there is no other way. Love is lost and hate is propagated in defense of these beliefs. How can I say that this is the face of God? I just can’t anymore. I look at the things Jesus taught, and I see him pointing to the Samaritan (the one considered as unclean by the believing Jews) as the example of a good neighbor who manifested God’s love, not to the ones claiming their religious texts and beliefs were the only way. No, he pointed towards love as the evidence that God was working in a person. Over and over again I see the message of ,”love is the greatest”.

While I know that my journey and beliefs may cause pain to some of the people I love so very deeply, please know that this is not my intention. My intention is to be open, honest, and authentic; for love is manifested in these attributes. I know that I do not have all the answers. I know that I am still searching and learning. I know that God is still at work. I share these thoughts today because it is the truth of who I am and what I believe. I made a commitment to attempt to live life authentically and unveiled. This is my loving attempt ❤

Nothing Wasted…

Nothing Wasted…

We live in a significantly environmentally conscious time in the world’s history, and so it should be. Years of ignorance, neglect, greed, and consumerism have created a situation in which we have negatively impacted this earthly home we have been gifted with. As a result, our lives and health have become markedly impacted. From global warming to environmentally caused cancers, there is no denying that our choices have consequences – both good and bad. Emerging from our global problem, many new practices have been created and implemented. One such practice is recycling. We all know what recycling is. You take an old object – say plastic, metal, or glass- and you put it through a process that changes its structure and gives it a new purpose. The sweatshirt you are sporting right this very moment may actually be a reincarnation of Kim Kardashian’s water bottle! There is such a vast array of what even one single object can be repurposed into. Something that started off as frail and insignificant can be used to create something strong and useful. The possibilities appear endless! This whole practice of recycling got me thinking. Does not this principle hold true for all of life? Can we not take those experiences, situations, and circumstances that seem void of purpose and value, and “recycle” them into something useful?

For several years of my life, I didn’t understand this concept of situation recycling AT ALL! As a result, I wasted precious hours, days, months (and sadly, years) desperately trying to get back what I thought I had lost. Instead of taking the pieces that I did have and rebuilding with them, I continued to grasp for pieces that no longer existed. Little did I know, the pieces I had left were enough to recreate something even better than the original.

While it is true that we cannot control the people around us or all of what happens to us, we can control what we do with it all. Every setback is an opportunity not only to learn but to recreate. When we take this concept of recycling and apply  it to our everyday lives, just like material recycling… the possibilities are endless ❤

Dear Fear…

Dear Fear…

 

Dear Fear,

We seem to have been engaging in such a long relationship now. As far back as I can remember, I have been aware of your presence in my life. Sometimes it has been in a faint lingering or foreboding, and other times you have been fully tangible — palpable almost. You have manifested yourself in something as subtle as nagging anxiety, all the way to parading yourself around in the form of full blown panic and terror. I remember your visits as a child, the way you would cause me to withdrawal or hide away my thoughts and feelings for fear of being rejected– unheard. You would persuade me that I must be mistaken about my perceptions and convince me to keep a silent tongue. You caused me to remain quiet and doubt myself more times than I can remember. You would whisper the most horrifying thoughts into my ear, play the films that had the most desperate endings on the reel of my mind, and then whisper, “Hush, if you speak of such things people will think you are insane.” To add insult to injury, you often caused me to act in ways that I would rather I had not, then point your bloated finger in my direction — taunting my foolishness. For so long, you have managed to disguise yourself as a friend and protector; convincing me that the world is unsafe without you, that people are not to be easily trusted, that viewing life and reality is only safe through your lens. But instead of giving, you take. You have robbed me of relationships because I am too afraid of being hurt, you have pillaged my dreams because I fear I may not be good enough to see them come to pass. You have stolen precious moments because I was too preoccupied with you to embrace the blessing unfolding right before my eyes. In addition to presenting yourself as friend and protector, you have misrepresented yourself as being much greater in power than you actually are. Little did I know that your influence is only effective if I give consent. This was a clever tactic on your part. Well played, old friend. This maneuver allowed you to exert an impressive amount of power over my life. I wonder if at present you are the one that is shaking, trembling in fear as you realize that your charade is being exposed? Do not think for a moment that I am going to keep this telling piece of information to myself either. You must really think me an utter fool if you believe for even one second that I am unaware of your dealings with others. I see how you keep them confined, hiding away in the shadows pretending not to exist. But wait for someone to attempt to grow and reach past their boundaries — oh, you are all too eager at that moment for your voice and your presence to be heard.  You become rather menacing and cause some of the bravest of heart to consider retreat.  I think the worst thing about it all is the stories you convince us to tell ourselves about ourselves. You help us to build a reputation of acquiescing to your ways so that we no longer see ourselves as the powerful and brave images of God that He created us to be. You help us to paint a different picture — narrate a different story —  spin an entirely different tale so that we actually become the weaker ones that you have led us to believe we are. Touché. Another clever move. How is it that you who dwells in darkness and shadows has managed such exertion over children of light? Is it not through nothing more than deception? Smoke and mirrors? A magic act of sorts?  What will you do now that this previously trembling one has caused a beacon of light to shine on your folly and expose you for who you are? Do I appear to be afraid of you anymore? Do you see me huddled in the corner as you had previously left me? It seems to me that something has shifted and that which was a blind spot to me is now visible. It’s time to exert my God given authority over you and put you back in your place. You were created to be a tool for MY use, not the other way around. I am anticipating quite the reaction from you. But know this, swing as you may — even if contact is made — I will keep getting back up. Again. And again. And again. Greater is the One in me than you who are nothing more than a product of this world. I hope this brief memo has cleared up any confusion regarding our previous relationship. If you have any questions, you can take it up with my Creator or His son Jesus.

No longer faithfully yours,

Maria

What’s your hurry?…

What’s your hurry?…

 

Have you ever gotten so excited about a new prospect that you barrel forward faster than the speed of light? Your senses are so hyper-focused on the new prize, you scarcely notice anything else going on around you. The object of desire becomes crystal clear, the world around it a faint mist.

I wonder what treasures lie hidden amidst the fog? Sweetly wrapped packages unopened, not a crease or fingerprint to mar their perfectly untouched papers of gold.  Crimson ribbons atop, stiff and intact because you never took the time to gleefully tug them apart.

Oh, to slow down. To not abandon every other gift for the sake of one. To see it ALL as gift, ALL as worthy of your careful time and loving attention. To not lose sight of everything that is to the exclusivity of what could be.

Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Each day, moment, and circumstance is a new opportunity to try it another way. To expand the gaze. Peer into the fog. And unwrap gifts with the eager hands of a child ❤

Do No Harm…

Do No Harm…

(Image) netic.ca

I have to go on a rant, and I am sorry that I do…but I cannot help it. The whole reason I blog is because it helps me to process. I promised myself when I began this that I would be as vulnerable and honest as I could, because really, I have found that so many people are going through the same things I am– or you are– and if just one person is brave enough to talk about it, others won’t feel so trapped in and stuck.

As you can tell from my posts I am a Christian. One of those born again bible believing folks. I really do love God and believe in His son, Jesus. Since the day that I fist put my faith in Jesus a fire was sparked in me. I wanted to know the God who saved me through His son, and I so wanted to please the one who saved me. Anything I could find to read and enhance my growth, I read. If there was a commandment stated in a verse I tried my hardest to live it out. I wanted so badly to do this thing right! To be obedient, prove faithful, worthy of the price that was paid. I studied, worshiped, studied some more, prohibited myself from participating in anything that I interpreted as sin…and so it has gone for days, weeks, months, and years.

Now, before you just see me as a bound up religious nut, it hasn’t all been rigorous rule-based living. There has been MUCH in my walk of faith that has been a genuine heart seeking and experiencing a genuine relationship with the God who is FULL of grace and love. Much, but far from all.

The thing is, I can’t do the religious part of this anymore. My heart has become increasingly dissatisfied with everything that my Christianity has become, and not only mine but much of the Christianity I see around me. I don’t think that this was what is was intended to be.

Everywhere I look in the Gospels, I see Jesus living, preaching and teaching, “Do no harm.”.

To the tax collectors: Do not take more than what you are required. Quit robbing people. Don’t let greed lead you. Do no harm.

To the religious leaders: Stop putting cumbersome rules on the people that don’t add any value to their relationship with God. Stop telling them to do things you won’t even do yourselves. Stop being so proud and thinking you are above others. Do no harm.

To the woman caught in adultery: Go and sin no more. Stop hurting yourself, this other man, his wife, and your husband. You are harming your relationship with these people. Do no harm.

To the rich young man: Give up all your wealth and follow me. Serve. Think of others. Don’t just acquire stuff for your own satisfaction. Don’t make it all about you. Do no harm.

To his own disciples: Quit worrying about who is the greatest. Learn to put others first. Learn to serve. Learn to be little. It’s all about loving others. Do no harm.

To the money changers at the temple: Stop extorting people. Stop using their desire to practice religion as a means for your gain. Stop looking out for number one. If you loved these people you wouldn’t take advantage of them. Do no harm.

To Peter when he lopped off the soldier’s ear: Put your sword away. Don’t take revenge. Show love even for your enemies. Do no harm.

Everywhere I look I see, “Do no harm.” What I DON’T see is…

Focus on politics and how evil the world is…

Spend endless amounts of time arguing doctrines and theologies…

Practice apologetics so you can win the argument…

Close yourself off from others so you can focus on your own holiness and not be corrupted…

Critique how others worship and correct them if it doesn’t match how you worship…

Spend oodles of time studying and arguing end times theories instead of just living right where you are, in the time where you are, and loving those around you right now…

Make someone praying the “sinner’s prayer” your goal. Forget about the relationship. Forget about the person. “Win souls”…

Please forgive me for being so critical. I truly criticize myself. This is not meant to represent any particular church or person, rather a mentality. If the finger points anywhere it is right to my own disillusioned and religious heart. That is the reason for the rant. That is the purpose. That is why I need to process. All these things have been in me. All these things drove my faith for far too long. I still see the lingering of these shadows as the light pours in. I feel the fear of severing the tie to religion because it feels safe and familiar. My faith won’t look like some of my friends anymore. People might not understand that nothing matters to me after this point besides, “Do no harm.”  I used to be the girl who wanted to teach the study. I was the girl who wanted to help others grow in “obedience”. But obedience to what? True obedience to God (which is “do no harm”) or obedience to a particular way of thinking?

Thank you for lending me your ear. Allowing me the time. I needed a public divorce to let this thing go. I just pray that in my attempt to get free from it, my words were not used to “do harm” to other Christians — only a mentality.

 

 

 

Bound or Bounding?

Bound or Bounding?

(Photo) leaping man- Thanking the Spoon (thankingthespoon.com)

There can be a vast difference between those two words. The former can mean to have limits set, to be blocked in by a boundary…constrained. The latter can mean  to walk or run with leaping strides. One is locked in, the other free. And whether you are bound or bounding is all up to you.

Freedom is a choice. At least it is when it comes to how we choose to view ourselves and our circumstances. By refusing to have a flexible and growth mindset, we will view ourselves and our circumstances as negative, limiting and doomed to a particular gloomy end. By choosing to reframe our thinking and open ourselves up to a positive and growth mindset, limitations become exciting challenges and opportunities to grow and learn. What previously shackled your feet to the dusty earth can be the very thing that sets you soaring high and free — above it all.

When we stay stuck in a fixed mindset, even something wonderful like our spiritual beliefs can keep us tied to the ground. I have often noticed that some people of faith tend to lean toward an almost fatalistic acceptance of negative circumstances that arise in their lives. I commonly hear people resign themselves to these challenging events by stating, “Oh well. It must be God’s will.” Now, before you call me out as being a nit-picking bully for throwing my own peeps under the bus, I openly confess that I have been one of these fatalists for years. The thing is, I’m just not buying it anymore. God has given me the choice to look with eyes of positive faith, or wallow in the shallows of negativity and powerlessness. He has also endowed me with free will to consider options and make choices. Ultimately, the decision is mine. Even when I sense His leading in a particular area, He is not going to force me to follow. If I stay tied up and limited it is my own doing, not His. I can’t blame it all on fate.

Knowing that you can change your whole experience just by changing the way you think is empowering. It may be tough in the beginning to train yourself to think in new ways, but keep it up! When you drift back into old mindsets, just pick yourself back up and remind yourself that you have chosen to grow, and growth takes time. You were created to be free…unbound…BOUNDING.