Category Archives: God speaks

The Prodigal

I’m a little tired today, but it’s still early. There’s a chill in the air, so I’m out here enjoying the chirping of the birds while wrapped in a blanket.

The cool weather has me wishing I was running. With the breeze and the sun, it’s my favorite weather to run in. If I didn’t have neighbors so close on each side I would be doing my exercises out here on the deck. Maybe next year I’ll be old enough to not care, but I’m not there yet.

This morning I was reading Luke chapter 15, the story of the prodigal son, and it reminded me of the ridiculous choices I made way back when in my prodigal days. I also read as part of a devotional reading plan this morning about how we often relate to God in a similar way to how we relate with our earthly fathers. And this led to a strong desire to share my prodigal story with you kind readers. So, here goes.

I was a straight A student in high school, with the exception of that B in gym. I was a well behaved child, mostly. Not necessarily because I was good hearted, but more so that the other kids at school wouldn’t judge me and call me a hypocrite. So when I tossed that graduation cap in the air, I felt like I had been released from the judgment. I could experiment with the world. I wanted to explore. I started saying yes to the party invitations.

Prodigal: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”

That summer, while still living at home, I did a lot of heavy drinking. I discovered a lot of things, like how my friends were acquiring liquor, and also that my body does not like rum. Since I had turned 18 earlier that year, I was able to legally buy cigarettes, so I started smoking too. Menthols, because regular cigarettes were nasty. (Who was I kidding, right? They’re all nasty.) It was a fun summer, but it was mostly regrettable for all the lying I did to my parents.

When I went off to college that fall I thought I had gotten the rebellion out of my system and I could move forward. Famous last words.

I lived in the dorms, down in the valley. I had to walk quite a ways to get to class (up hill! Both ways! In three feet of snow!!). During this time period I was dressing like a dime store punk – greasy hair, long baggy bell-bottom pants, polyester shirts. I kind of wish I had pictures, but we didn’t have digital back then. My new look must have attracted the wrong people because I was befriended by John, who also lived in the dorms. I’ll never forget this conversation: we were walking to class and talking about music and I was telling him how much I liked Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and he asked me – “Oh, do you smoke?” I thought he meant cigarettes, so I quickly answered yes.

And that, my friends, is how easy it was to get started smoking marijuana. This was the beginning of the end of my college experience. I was introduced to pot and as it turns out, I loved it. So much so that I was smoking it all the time. I was sleeping too late, missing class, being a total jerk to my roommate, and doing questionable things I thankfully can’t remember. This went on for months. When our grades were posted and I saw that I was getting C’s, I gave up. I had never in my life gotten C’s, so I couldn’t see any way to come back from it. Without a word to anyone, I went to the registrar’s office and dropped out.

My mom lived in the same town, so I told her first. She graciously allowed me to move my stuff into her dining room and sleep on a cot until I could secure a more permanent space. I don’t remember how long before I told my dad, but I remember we were in a movie theater, waiting for a movie to start. I told him I had dropped out of school, and instead of being angry at me for throwing away my future, he told me he loved me and gave me a great big hug.

I still can’t really describe to you how much these gestures of grace and forgiveness mean to me, even to this day. I trusted I could count on my mom to accept me, but I had expected condemnation from my dad. I expected disappointment, yet I received unconditional love. I was the prodigal son, and he welcomed me home with open arms. He didn’t throw me a party, but he may as well have. That hug was something special. It was a gift that gave me the strength to move forward with my life. To pack up and move on.

Genesis 12:1 (NIV) “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

I spent several months living in an apartment with a couple of my brother’s friends from high school, and eventually (miraculously, perhaps) rededicated my life to following my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God met me on the kitchen floor with a dusty Bible one morning and called me to move to Lansing. It’s where I’ve built so many cherished friendships, and it’s where I met my husband and we are raising our family. It’s where I later learned that my great grandparents built a home and raised their children (my grandfather and great aunt). My grandmother even graduated from the same high school my husband did.

So the miracle that happened here, the end of this story, is that God saw that door I slammed shut with my stupidity and opened a window to a new life, a better life. He welcomed this prodigal daughter back home and threw her a party.

Have you slammed any doors shut in your life? Is God trying to show you a window to something better? Maybe it’s time to dust off that Bible, grab a cup of coffee, and search for it. Pull up a chair and sit with Him for awhile, He’s waiting to show you. If nothing else, He wants to give you a big party-sized hug.

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Just let it go

From Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, “Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic – jealousy especially so – but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it then to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”

This excerpt from the book really resonated with me, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not about jealousy really, but the slimy and pathetic stuff. This is personal, so bear with me. It’s kind of like ripping off a band-aid to find your wound is still all oozy and gross.

I am a sort of passive-aggressive person. I tend to walk around with my issues held close to my chest, with a smile on my face so nobody will know anything is bothering me. The problem comes when the issues start festering, and it’s hard to contain the angst. It starts spilling out here and there, like when you’re eating popcorn and you think you’re getting it all in your mouth only to find out later you have some stuck in your cowlneck sweater (not that that’s ever happened to me, *wink wink*). No, you can’t hide or ignore your issues. Especially with your family. They live with you, they know you best. They know something’s up.

So lately I’ve been walking around with this resentment in my heart. Ugly, nasty resentment aimed indirectly at my dear, loving, hardworking husband. And it seeps out in nasty ways when tensions are high, or the kids are being more challenging than usual. I just get grumpy and mean and downright nasty. So at church last Sunday I had some extra time to sit and really pray about this. I told God what I was feeling, as if He didn’t already know, and asked Him to help me let it go. I seriously struggle with the letting go. I asked a couple friends to also pray that God would help me let go of this ugliness I was clinging to.

I left church that morning still feeling rather conflicted and icky but I had hope that God would come through on my request, eventually. I had no idea how quickly He would answer my prayer! I went to a baby shower that afternoon and had a conversation with a woman I had not seen in years, and while we talked she was expressing some of the same things my husband has and yet I wasn’t judging her for it the way I had with my husband. The realization came fast and clear, and that’s when something opened up in my heart and I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew bigger. I went home that evening and confessed to my husband why I had been such a grump lately and why I had been so cold towards him on so many occasions. I told him I knew how hard he worked to be the best dad and husband he could be, and that I appreciated it and I was working at becoming more grateful. Guess what? He didn’t look at me with contempt and tell me I could sleep on the couch from now on. Nope. He looked at me with a look of understanding and love and he reached out to hold my hand. Because that’s what marriage is. For better or worse, always.

So, my friends, I share this because I want to encourage you to be brave enough to be humble and gracious, and don’t make friends with your grudges. Call them out for what they are: ugly pieces of garbage. Just let them go. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, let Him handle it. It’s kind of His specialty.

I’m excited about some things

So I’ve been making some pretty casual prayers for the last couple months about wanting direction from God, where does He want to use me, that kind of thing. But then this past week I made a much more intentional prayer, telling Him I really had a strong desire to be an encouragement to other people and to share with them how I got through such rough times, with God’s help, and how they can too. So I told Him that’s what I was feeling, and asked that He show me where He wants me, where He can use me for His glory. How can I be an encouragement to others when I’m “stuck” here at home most days?

Then I was at my weekly Bible study on Wednesday morning and the leader of the program approached me and asked if I would consider being a group leader next year. What?! I mean, YES! She said I should go home and pray about it, but I explained to her what I had already been praying for, and that this sounded like it was the answer to my prayer. And God is just so cool like that. She and I talked again today, more in depth about what the responsibility entails, and I have to say I’m even more excited. This is going to open up so many more opportunities to build relationships with other women and I get to share my heart, my Jesus, with them.

So that’s going on, and I’m super geeked. Also, I’m still committed to working this ItWorks business even through some bumpy starts. I was replenishing some of my own products and ordering some advertising bling (blender bottle, new purse) and they sent me the wrong stuff and duplicate items and I was tempted to regret the whole decision to be a distributor. BUT, it gave me a chance to interact with their customer service, which was mostly awesome and extremely helpful. And while I’ll never be the gung-ho marketer trying to get you to buy stuff you don’t need, I think this is gonna work. Because I truly love all the products I’ve tried and I’ll be honest and open with anyone who shows interest. So when people come to me with questions – which they have! – I’m happy to point them in my direction. As in – wait for it, here’s my shameless plug – “You can check out my website at stillmindy.itworks.com! Some of my favorites are the Chocolate Greens and the Keto Energy. And I’m a huge fan of the loyal customer program!” – End of shameless plug, moving on…

The other thing I’m excited about is tomorrow I’m running another 5k race! It’s the Mason 5k, and this was my first ever race back in 2016. My son has run it with me every year, but this year he has a baseball tournament so I’m on my own this time. No worries! My friend Staci, who I believe has also run this race every year with me, is joining me again. So fun to run with friends. My 5k PR is 38:34 and I would like to beat that, but given the knee pain I’ve been having, I’m not sure if that’s realistic. I learned the other day that runners over 40 are called “masters athletes”, and that we need longer recovery times, which I haven’t been exactly doing, so I may have screwed my chances by pushing too hard. I’m just going to try and have fun and do my best.

And that, my friends, is your Thursday recap. Hug someone today!

Madam Sleepsalot

If you’re ever curious about my day to day routine, today is your lucky day. Now that kids are back in school and snow days are hopefully well behind us, I’ve settled into a daily routine. This time around I sort of just go with how my body is feeling, and it’s interesting to me how well this is working.

Every morning I get up at 5:30 with my son, and stay up until 8 when my daughter leaves for the bus stop (her school starts an hour later than his). While the kids are getting ready for school, I’m drinking coffee, reading my Bible, and sometimes eating breakfast (If my stomach is up for it). After the kids are off to school I go back to bed. I don’t set an alarm, I just sleep as long as my body needs to. Some days that’s only an hour or two, some days it’s more. Thursdays I generally sleep much longer because I’m recovering from a full day on Wednesdays, between Bible study in the morning and Financial Peace University at night.

After the morning nap I get up, eat a late breakfast or lunch, and then I get going with that day’s work. This usually includes dishes and laundry, and sometimes paying the bills and running. I’m usually done by 3:00, just before my son gets home from school, and then I can relax with a book or a tv show. Then I start thinking about what to make for dinner. The rest of the evening changes from day to day but in general I’m letting myself relax and enjoy time with family. I’m not stressing about my to do list because I’ve already done the day’s work. The rest can wait until tomorrow.

So you could say I work about 4 hours a day and sleep 10. This seems excessive to me, and the old me would think I was lazy. The new me is learning to understand this is just part of my disability and it’s what my body needs in order to heal and stay healthy.

It’s been really refreshing to be able to establish a routine that allows for a good work/rest balance. I’m getting things done, but I’m working WITH my fluctuating energy levels rather than fighting against them (or giving up altogether, as I have done in the past).

Much of this new attitude has resulted from consistent reminders of the grace God gives us. When I read in Scripture that He tells us to rest and to stop striving, or even to “strive to rest”, I am encouraged to know I’m doing the right thing. Amen? Amen.

You are enough

People like myself, who have been sort of thrust into permanent disability, use a phrase – “finding my new normal”. It refers to the process of acceptance of this new life, this new way of living, and embracing our new challenges and setbacks. For me, it refers to finding a space, figuratively speaking, that feels like home. I’m searching for comfort, for peace of mind, for a mental and emotional state where I can put up my feet and relax and be okay with just being who I am, HOW I am, as is.

This past weekend I was praying during my morning quiet time with Jesus, and I felt God speaking to me a very clear message. “You are enough. You are complete. As you are.” This blew my mind. I didn’t even know how much I needed to hear that, but boy was it a game changer. Up until now I think I’ve sort of been trying to be who I was – despite my limitations – and that’s very frustrating. Futile, in fact. What I believe God is saying to me is that I can be who I am now. That’s it. Warts and all! Just be who I am now. I am enough.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalms 139:13-14

I’m sharing this snippet from my personal journal because I want you to know this message is for you too. Wherever you are, however you are, you are enough. Right where you stand. You are enough. Your Creator knows where you are, how you got here, and He’s got you covered. He’s molding you like a potter molds the clay. It might be uncomfortable, painful even, this molding process, but the end result is a beautiful piece of work. You are enough.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

He hears me

Last night as I lay in bed I asked God for help. Nothing fancy. Just that – please help me. I’m feeling lost and unwell and discouraged, and I need your help. Thank you, amen.

And then I got up this morning and read my morning devotional from Our Daily Bread: https://odb.org/2019/01/02/its-good-to-ask/

I don’t think this could have been any more relevant to how I’ve been feeling lately. The scripture alone spoke volumes to my heart. From Psalm 143:4-11: “Therefore my spirit faints within me”, “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” “I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!” (I love the Psalms. I feel like David and I would have been friends.)

To give you some specifics as to why I’ve been feeling down in the dumps – full disclosure is a strength of mine lol – my brain is foggy. My body hurts. I get random pains on my left side, both the sharp kind and the throbbing kind. I’m still sore from a long car ride two days ago, and I’m not sure how long that will last. I slept ten hours last night and I’m still tired. Even after coffee. I don’t remember what “feeling rested” feels like. Sure, part of this may be aging, but more likely all of this is exacerbated by the M.S. Multiple sclerosis has destroyed my nerves and while most days I look just fine, underneath everything is going haywire. And I can deal with the inconvenience, but the permanence scares me. There is no cure. It’s here to stay. But I can decide how I want to look at it. I can decide to live in fear of the unknown of the future, or I can decide to accept how it affects me today and find ways to enjoy life despite it.  I need to choose the latter.

But back to this morning’s message. What I’m learning here is that sometimes we don’t need concrete answers. Sometimes it’s enough comfort to know that we are not alone, and to know that God is listening to our prayers. I am encouraged today. Yes, I’m still in a gray sort of mood, and my body is still not cooperating like I want it to, but there is a light shining through the gray, and that is Jesus. So I’m just going to keep my eyes on Him and trust Him to guide me through to wherever it is He wants me to go. One. Day. At. A. Time.

Distraction

Can I just be honest right now? Because of course, everything else I’ve written on this blog is completely made up.  Just kidding. But seriously. I want to be lazy. I want to abandon my responsibilities and sit, curled up on the couch all day crocheting or reading or playing Farmville. But there’s this nagging voice, and my hunch is that it is the Holy Spirit and I don’t want to admit it, that says I was made for more, and that being lazy is not God’s purpose for me. I know that God places value in rest, that He commands it even, but how do I know when I’m taking it too far? I wish I had a cut and dried prescription that says you need ‘x’ amount of rest on these days, and ‘x’ amount of time you ought to be working. It’s probably true that I need more rest than the average 40 year old woman, since I have MS, but that doesn’t really make this dilemma any easier to solve. I’m in better health than your average woman with MS, so there’s no template for me to go by. Not that I think there should be one. I’m just thinking out loud here.

Journaling is very helpful. It helps me focus, and especially helps because I treat it like a prayer. All of my journaling is really just a conversation between me and God, and He often speaks to me through my journaling. He probably speaks to me a lot more often than that, of course, I just don’t hear it because I’m distracted by everything around me. But when I’m typing, there’s no distraction. I’m entirely focused on the conversation.

So what I feel like God has been whispering to me over the past several months (yes, I’m a slow learner) is that I am too distracted. So I asked for His help and guidance with life and time management and finding a balance between work and rest and all the other stuff I want to do, like writing my book, running, baking cookies and crocheting.

This is so silly, but the biggest distraction I’ve allowed into my life is a little game called Farmville 2. Heard of it? It’s super addictive because there are always things to do, missions to complete, challenges to meet. And it’s fun, but it sucks the life out of you. Or at least it does for me. I’m sure there are people who are able to balance games like this with real life, but I’m not one of them. I am the demographic they built this game for. I know they devote lots of money into research to know how to keep people addicted to their games in the hopes they will spend money, but I never spend money in the game. I am firm about that rule. So the joke’s on them, right? Wrong. Because I have still let it steal hours and hours, days even, of my life. I’ve decided I’m done with it. For good, I hope. Please.

Romans 7:15 ESV “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Hebrews 12:1 NIV “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I feel better, I think. Last time I uninstalled the game I think I made it a full three days. We’ll see if I can make it longer than that this time. The last time, I hope. Gee whiz.