Tag Archives: journaling

Naked and (UN)ashamed

Don’t you hate naked dreams? You know the ones. You’re in a public place and suddenly IMAG3123realize you forgot to get dressed. You’re horrified and afraid of being seen.

I had one of those dreams the other night.

What’s really funny is that in my dream there was a young man who upset me. We were in a crowd of people, and he kept doing irritating things. Then he started stripping!

The next scene of my dream I ran upstairs, looking for my father to ask him to deal with the chaos this young man was causing. But before I could find my dad, I looked down and realized that I was naked! I ran and found a sheet to hide in and wrapped myself in it, weeping.

When I awoke from this dream I immediately equated it to my life, especially the stuff I’ve been processing the last few weeks. When I wrote my Tension Tummy post I spoke about how boxes and legalism have hurt me and a lot of other people. I ended with these words:

I’ve had ample opportunity to process legalism and judgment lately. . . My human self comes up with all kinds of wonderful ways to fight . . . Instead I ask God to shed Truth and Grace where it is needed.

Including in the ugly remnants of legalism and religiosity in me.

See, my heart is to be loving and grace-filled, but I never perform up to my own desires. When I am hurt, or worse yet when someone I love is hurt, judgement and legalism are right there, ready to take up space in my attitude.

I think my dream is a reminder that while I am passionate about speaking out against boxes and legalism, I can never do it without that voice inside reminding me that I, too, am not perfect.

I have not yet let go of judgment or stepped out of boxes to the extent I want to. My mind is ahead of me even in the progress I have made. Often my thoughts and emotions don’t keep up with what I believe to be true. Sometimes even my actions contradict the grace I believe in.

I’m a work in progress.

There’s something in the Bible that talks about Jesus giving us robes of righteousness. That is the only answer to my naked problem. My raw, naked faults will be exposed from time to time. Hopefully I’m processing forward and becoming more loving, not less. But no matter how I long to be perfect, I’m just not.

That’s when I remember Jesus never left me naked and exposed. Long ago He gave me that righteousness robe to cover all the humanity I wish the world never saw. So when I feel hurt by my own lack, I look to HIM, to HIS fullness. To the way He cares, forgives, and covers me with the Good that is Himself.

Then I grab hold of His hand and hope I can listen to His Voice in a way that helps me be more loving and less judgmental the next time.

It’s not my desire to take away from anything I said in that Tension Tummy post. I believe those words to be true. It just seems important to say that even in my passion for freedom and against religiosity I have to say, “Me, too.”

I too am trying to find my way out of legalism.

I too have boxes I wish I could step out of.

I too fail at this grace thing, no matter how much I wish I didn’t.

Thank God HE is always there to remind me that failure is not the end of the story. That my missteps are forgiven. That He will help me journey down that road to loving more like He does.

From My Journal ~ A Mother’s Heart

sunflower candleThe gentle glow of a candle graces my kitchen table. All clutter is cleared from my view. In the background is my beautiful sunflower gift from my friend Kim. Red wine flickers with a hint of purple, just a little in a stemmed glass. A single cheese biscuit awaits my nibbling, resting upon a sunflower saucer.

Today I’ve moved like honey–sweet, gentle, and slow. Restorative properties come from such a rhythm.

It’s a pouring into myself, really, a healing from an intensive 9 days of pouring out to others.

Sometime deep joy feels almost like grief. Passages are right and good. Perhaps tears lubricate transition, easing the forward movement. The exhaustion of this day, spawned by ignoring my own physical boundaries in the need to serve, helps me embrace this day of sipping from the cup of change.

The place I am in this tiny space of time is also a culmination of spiritual outpouring. A repetition of days and sleepless nights pouring a mother’s heart before God, asking for outpourings of HIS heart for my children. That they would know Love. His Love. That they would be shaped by this, not anything else, certainly not despair.

The days of children slip through my fingers like sand in an hourglass. I see how little is left before the top half is completely emptied. Maybe when there is only see-through glass, maybe then I will be willing to turn it upside down and discover a new life, but not now. Not yet.

I don’t try to hang on. It would do no good. It would harm. So my fingers are open. The goal is to experience the sensations of letting go. To rejoice in the passage. To cry when I need to. No going numb. No clinging to the past.

But the sand’s pace is furious. And my heart finds it difficult to learn that hurried rhythm.

What’s funny about today’s tears is I”m not sad even though I grieve.

There’s actually new hope, new joy. Motherhood’s joy has extra validation today. The prayers cast like bread upon water have washed back to me, swollen with possibilities and wide, grand, newness.

I’m an old romantic. Time may prove me naive and mistaken in my musing of these saturated bread crumb dreams. Still this moment. For this fleeting sand of time, I feel dreams launched. Decades of prayer fulfilled. The tears fall, in part, because the dreams are worthy. the whispers of their fulfillment worthy, the life in process worthy.

After a week walking my friend through the valley of the shadow I sensed myself cloistered and safe. I experienced abundance, blessing, doors wide open. Amazed and breathless I felt HIS whispers of approval. Of Love.

My thoughts flow in a stream of bubbling gratitude, then meander in the awareness of the True FaithJournal and how His faithfulness flows for me.

Humbled by joy so deep I cry like one who mourns.

Who will ever understand a mother’s heart?

Only the One who gave it to her.

Epiphanies I

IMAG1753-1 (2)It all started on the side of that mountain. There I was minding my own business with my girlfriends minding theirs. I gazed at sloping green that opened into a valley surrounded by white-frosting-tipped peaks piercing a bright blue sky.

Beautiful.

My “baby” girl had just returned from a Mediterranean honeymoon cruise, and my sliver of travel, less than two hours from my home to Breckenridge, stirred longing. “Could I see the Mediterranean, someday, Lord? I want to cruise, to travel.”

The guilt came instantly. Starving children in Africa and all that. Me. Me. Me. Want. Want. Want. Thinking about my comfort. Fun. I have eternity to see good things. There are people who need HIM. Why am I thinking about myself?

“Why do you do that?”

His sudden appearance in my thoughts shocked me. Huh?

“Why do you feel guilty about wanting to experience the world I created for you to enjoy?”

That’s when the waterworks started. My friends clustered around asking what was wrong. It was too deep to share just then, on the side of a glorious mountain where just seconds before we’d been talking and laughing.

Anyway, I wasn’t ready. There was more to His Words and my reaction to them. It was time for another round of emotional weight loss.

Breck neighborhood 9After our hike we headed back to the cabin. I disappeared into my room with my journal and trusty pen. I often hear best with my pen in hand.

Seventeen journal pages of dialogue later I had an epiphany.

Or several.

Here’s the first: I was created to spread joy, created for delight, for celebration.

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~The Journal Conversation ~

Him: “I’ve asked you to do without in a culture where there is much. But that doesn’t mean it is more holy. It’s just been your process and Jerry’s. I’ve been teaching you to learn contentment in all things.”

I don’t think I’ve done very well with that . . .

“You have found joy in the small things. The real things–like relationship with Me, your family, and your friends. Small things like the fragrance of roses. The feel of a warm mug. The swirl of cream in coffee. The song of a bird.”

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I’m not sure those are so small.

(He Chuckles) “No. They are my gifts, more beautiful than you understand, but often overlooked . . . Even now you pause to enjoy My Aspen leaves dancing on the breeze outside the window. I like that about you.”

(Tears spring to think this pleases Him.) It’s simply how you wired me.

Us: It makes me/you more resilient.

“Can I not enjoy this trait even more knowing I gave it to you and that you have cared enough to develop it? My gift to you is your gift (our gift, really) to the world. Give them eyes to notice My beauty, Paula. And let me give you sweeping moments of beauty and joy so you can be continually refilled to pour out the celebration of the Good in Me and in My world.

“Receive My every gift with open abandon, arms stretching to Me, dancing in the falling joy-petals of My love-gifts.”

~

Of course there’s more to the seventeen pages of journaling, some of which I’ll share in the coming days. My epiphanies eventually circle back around to the curve ball post of a few days ago. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me as I drop emotional and mental weight.

For today I’m camping out here. In the joy of little things. Delighting in the idea that such simple notice of His gifts pleases Him. In letting go of the guilt barometer and learning to fully enjoy His gifts.

I’m wishing all of that for you, too, my friend. May today bring notice of the love-gifts of the Creator. My you dance in the falling joy-petals.

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Dancing in the Falling Joy-Petals

Glory

It’s silly really. I haven’t written a best seller. I don’t daily receive requests as a speaker.

playfulWhile I’ve won some friends and influenced some people, I’m mostly a mom. A wife. A lover of Jesus and Jerry.

A writer with little renown.

But I worry sometimes. About being successful. Receiving attention. Wanting a bigger career.

About glory.

My Benew Journey today isn’t about lugging around extra on the outside. It’s about inside weight loss, learning to let go of the stuff that bogs down my heart instead of my feet.

Lately the heaviness I’ve worked through has been a fear of myself and a twisted perspective on making sure God gets glory not me. (Like He needs my help. Ha!)

These questions surface, in part, because I will find out in a few days whether or not my first traditionally published story will win an award. And I don’t want to care whether or not I win.

But of course I do.

The big announcement won’t be a quiet email. Winners are applauded at a fancy gala where I’ll be making a fashion statement in my friend Megan’s dress.

Excitement. Bling. Bright lights.

One of those affairs where if I win I’ll pray I don’t trip over my own feet as I climb the stairs to the stage and give an acceptance speech in front of *gasp* peers, agents, and editors.

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The dress I plan to wear. Megan let me wear it to a wedding, then said I could hang onto it for the gala. (And this is my girl, of course!)

The thing is, though my hands will likely tremble and my mouth will surely get dry if I win and have to stand up in front of that crowd, I want to give that speech.

Is that self-serving?

Isn’t my life goal supposed to be about His glory, not mine?

I’ve looked inward at motives, upward to ask God’s perspective, and outward, processing with my hubby and friends. Jerry helped me think through it, then at prayer group my friend Deb said something that finally got truth from my head to my heart. Relief, followed by joy, whooshed through me.

Deb’s words were something like, “If God is glorified through His people, doesn’t that mean you share in the glory?”

gorgeous moon flashed into my my memory, big and glorious next to a Utah highway. The bright white orb had no energy of its own, but it reflected the light of the sun. As we drove beneath it, awed, I thought that’s how I should be, a beautiful reflection of the One who gave light.

With Deb’s words, with this moon memory, came sudden freedom. Freedom to light up with the joy of reflecting my Creator. Freedom to celebrate every good thing that comes my way, even if it includes winning or attention or applause.

Because every good thing I am, every good thing I’ve done is not of my own accord, but a gift of the Creator. Yes, I worked hard. Persevered. Learned. But He brought the teachers, the growth, the increase, the book contract, the recognition.

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If I win, the glory is still HIS, just shining in my smile, too.

If I get attention, and I am His kid, He gets attention, too.

So if “You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch,” wins a Carol Award, I’m going to grin real big without any self-consciousness.

That big ole smile will just be light, a little piece of HIS glory shining through me, reflecting His joy.

(And if the book doesn’t take first place, I’ll smile anyway.0smiley_winking)

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A glory reflection

To Remember

Reality check.

I came across an old blog post in my draft folder, one I never published. As I read through it I didn’t feel the angst I experienced when it was originally written, but it made me remember.

Let me share a snippet from that post, and then I’ll expound:

It’s a strange morning.

Usually I look at old pictures of me, when I was at least 50 pound heavier, and I just accept them for what they are.

Accept me for where I was.

Usually I feel a sense of accomplishment when I look at those pictures because I see how far I’ve come.

This morning they upset me. I don’t know why I hit a wall and didn’t want to see any more, but I turned away from the computer. “Shut it off.”weight loss beginning and end

I’ve put a lot of pictures up on this site of me at different sizes. Those pictures tell the story better than all the words in the world. I’ve swallowed hard when I post those old pictures. I spent years cropping out most of my body so it didn’t show before going live with a picture, but here I sought to be real. And I thought I was okay with it all.

But today I sit at my computer, a perfectly normal size, and I’m grieving and angry.

Angry I let the pounds creep on. Grieving the loss of energy and activity I put up with. Wondering why I placed myself so low on the priority list that I allowed the weight gain, the loss of quality of life. Thankful my husband loved and accepted me even at 210, but sad I didn’t take better care of my body for his sake. Wondering why I didn’t CARE enough to change.

It does no good to wallow in mistakes. To live in the past only inhibits the future. I’m not going to allow myself to hang out in grief or anger over how I treated my body.

But it is good to learn from the past.

To remember.

IMAG1877-1I’ve been “normal” for a few months now. I’ve hiked in the mountains, hopped out of chairs, gone swimming without the need to hide. I’ve offered myself to my husband in ways I couldn’t with all that weight between us and seen the delight in his eyes.

I’ve celebrated the return of my long, slender legs and stood shocked at the mirror when necklaces are suddenly too long instead of so tight I have to add an extender to get them around my neck.

I taken bags and bags of too big clothes to Goodwill, even dumped shoes that no longer stay on my feet.

I’ve celebrated every 5 pound weight loss, settling in at 55 pounds gone.

Even with all that joy sometimes I forget how important it is. Just this week I returned home after a bad day, emotional and hungry.

I started my snacking with wisdom. Just a small cup of yogurt to tide me until dinner, please. But then emotion took over and self-control left, and suddenly while my hand was in a bag of chocolate tortilla chips this quiet, gentle voice inside begged me to STOP, to put away the snacks, to REMEMBER.

I rebelled at first, stuffing another handful, then another. But then I slowly returned to myself, to Him, to the journey.

My little binge was a lashing out at all that made me unhappy, but its allure paled as I identified it as self-sabotage instead of self-care.

It is time to stand. To remember.

But not return.

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Self-care or self-sabotage?

Journeying with God and Friends

Perhaps you’re out enjoying a camping trip or a day at the movies, celebrating summer’s end on Labor Day weekend. Since I have no real recreation plans, this weekend I’m re-living an earlier vacation.

This summer was a friend summer, with lots of good moments with folks I hold dear. I got away more than usual, first in Montrose, then Breckenridge, and later at the Broadmoor. I had one more mountain adventure I haven’t had time to blog about. My friends Heather and Niki provided this one. It included great food, amazing views, and late night conversations. (Also a bit of weight gain for the first time in 9 months, but I came home and dealt with that in short order!)

Buena Vista 4

The drive toward Buena Vista includes one of my husband’s favorite mountain plateaus. I usually prefer gurgling streams and lots of trees, but Jerry likes the open valley with peaks around the circumference no matter which way you look. I have to admit this trip through the high plain included some beautiful scenery, like this incredible sky.

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The view from the front door

Once we arrived at Niki’s in-laws beautiful home, the views again spoke peace and praise into my heart. This gorgeous home is over 4,000 square feet and built by its owners. I love the rustic feel, the rope trim, the natural wood, the personal touches that create an ambiance all its own. The space reminds me of my uncles’ homes back in Oklahoma, where much of the decor came from their own craftsmanship. It was the perfect place for our mountain get-away. (If you want to move to the Colorado Rockies, this home is for sale!)

Buena Vista 5

I started the weekend with high hopes for healthy eating. The three of us love good food, and Heather purchased several treats, the best Muscato I’ve ever had and my favorite dark chocolate (Lindt) were among them. Niki and I bought melons and I brought along my trusty salad and fixins.

Niki also treated me to my favorite flavors in a wonderful frozen yogurt with raspberries and dark chocolate. This would have all been well and good if I could have resisted second helpings and the bowls of popcorn.

But there’s something about midnight conversations that give way to snacking and another glass of wine.

It also gave way to a wonderful experience with the night sky. I’m a city girl now, but spent several years as a country girl. What I miss the very most about country living is the vibrancy of the stars. As we sat outside late at night, talking as good friends do, I was disappointed by some low-hanging wispy clouds that blocked a more complete view of God’s twinkle lights. I asked Him if He would please move the clouds on out so we could enjoy His handiwork. Smart people like my brother would give the scientific reasons behind what happened, but I’m audacious enough to think the Good Lord didn’t mind blowing those clouds out of the way just for our enjoyment. As the night lingered Niki and Heather continued chatting, but I curled up on the ground, wrapped in a soft blanket, and just stared at the sky, diamonds sparkling on rich, black velvet.

buena vista 7With the dawn of a new day came my determination to cut back on the portions and eat healthy. I even packed a wise lunch, some spinach, apples, pecans, and a small sandwich.

The problem is there was also a bag of my favorite chips: vinegar and sea salt. As I journaled beside a bounding mountain river later that day, the Lord pushed me to deal with an attitude He wanted changed. The angrier I grew, the more chips I ingested.

Sheesh. Will I ever learn?

You’d think after my amazing star experience the night before I’d be filled upon Love, but there I sat, atop a boulder, accusing my Savior and munching potato chips.

There with the sound of the rushing water filling our ears, peace prevailed for my friends, even as the rain sprinkled upon us. Niki held her face to the sky and as droplets of refreshment dusted her cheeks, she smiled.

Me? I got madder.

As the rain splatters decorated the pages of my journal, I slammed it shut and went to the SUV Heather had buena vista 11rented for the weekend. My friends delighted in the gifts around them while I sulked.

Angry words poured onto the the pages of my journal as I sat, shut up in a dreary car.

The Lord had me right where He wanted me. I’d shoved down some stuff that needed dealing with, and He loved me too much to leave me walking around without acknowledging the crud invading my heart and mind.

Someday I’ll write about all that. But not much yet. Suffice it to say it had to do with feeling like I received only trickles of the blessings He’d promised.

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It was several days before He got it through my thick skull that He had a river of blessings He wanted to give, but I had shut down to the possibilities. For all my brave talk and determination, down deep inside I was on the floor expecting scraps when the Master had laid an abundant table. There’s so much more to all that. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to share more, but this post is already twice as long as I typically allow myself, and the subject matter is still too raw.

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Lest you think all my time was wasted at that gorgeous river, I must say I did take some time that day to enjoy the it and the companionship of the best of friends.

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And back at the house, I could still thank God for the beauty of the Columbine, Colorado’s stateBuena Vista 2 flower. I’d never seen yellow and pink before, and I love the way they combine my two favorite colors.

The drive back to Denver with Niki and Heather included some good processing of my river attitude as we splashed through rivulets made by pounding rain on I-70. It took me several hours before I would talk with them about my journaling experience and several more days of processing with other friends, including Jill and Kay, whose weird dream about me had started the probing in the first place. It was actually a couple of weeks later when I got alone again with my journal that all the anger simply disappeared. Funny how it happened. The Lord showed me He was proud of me.

Proud?

Crazy that in all my failure He is still applauding, cheering me on, seeing the good in me. It blows me away.

The wonderful Heather visit concluded with a few special times–overeating at Carrabas, Heather getting me hooked on Downton Abbey (which I had sworn I wouldn’t watch until all the crises were wrapped up with a real ending), and a wonderful time of coffee and chatter with friends.

coffee with friends

Journeying with God and Friends

Reminder: I DO Have a Life

I’ve had a life for a long time. And it doesn’t only revolve around the kids or even Jerry. As all of them are less home-centered and stretching to new places, I am reminded of two things: 1) It’s okay to cry 2)I DO have a life outside of my family.

Part of a BENew journey is embracing changes. In the last year I’ve processed lifestyle changes, thinking differently about food and movement. I’ve enjoyed (and sometimes struggled with) the changes that comes with having a different body. As my homeschooling family is growing up by leaps and bounds, I process change again. I hope to transition well, to give my loved ones wings to soar solo and to stretch new wings myself.

Today’s pictures are a celebration of this other part of my life, the world of writers, where I find community and stretch for new heights. Colorado has a lot of wonderful opportunities for writers. As Colorado Coordinator, I’m most involved with ACFW Colorado, but there’s a wonderful spirit of cooperation in our area with other writers groups, including Words for the Journey. A few weeks ago a bunch of writers, both WFTJ and ACFW members, gathered at the invitation of WFTJ to a “write-out” at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

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My thoughtful friend and fellow author, Megan DiMaria, makes sure I know about this event each summer and invites me to share it with her and the others.

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Megan used to be teased at her work because she brought a beautiful tablecloth to enjoy her sack lunch upon. She’s one of those rare people who truly savors beauty, and the Broadmoor is is a Megan kind of place.

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My Broadmoor day was so filled with magic, that I just had to dance in the empty ballroom.

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I pray I can dance into and through this latest transition of celebrating kids who do crazy things like get married and go to college.

And, because this blog started to process weight loss, I’ll admit it. I also pray I can ignore comfort food and seek comfort that makes a difference. This latest test of my new lifestyle is fierce and with it comes cravings I really should ignore. They only mask the real need, for me to recognize the passing season and give permission for mourning.

When Stephen drove away for his first day of “real” school away from me, I curled up in my old blue recliner and had a little talk with the Lord. I cried some, not sobs, but big bubbles of tears that slid silent and wet down my cheeks. But they are not just sad tears, they are proud tears, too.

This is how it should be, this transition, this quiet house. And I must remember to let the tears fall, take a walk, listen to music, or read a little, instead of reaching for some big cheesy mess.

How about you? What tempts you to run to the arms of comfort food? What do you do instead?

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Comfort or crash?