Your Song, His Song

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a couple days.  Don’t feel bad for me because the song is pretty epic-ly awesome.  It’s 80’s, it’s melodramatic and not a bad song to have stuck in your head.

I think the only way to get it unstuck is just to go with it.  I found it on youtube and decided to play it to wake my husband from his sweet slumber this morning.  Two birds, one stone.

I sashayed into the bedroom and dramatically belted out, “Take…these broken wings!  And learn to fly again!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1M80Z7zTjo  You’re welcome.

I think he appreciated it.

He’s used to this sort of thing because I love music and I love singing (and dancing) and my home is my stage.  I didn’t say I sing well but whatever I lack in talent I make up for in gusto.

Seriously though, music can touch us like nothing else.  I recently read the book “Finding God in the Ruins” by Matt Bays and he talks about the song, the music of our lives.  Jarrod Drawbaugh also speaks beautifully of letting out the song of our lives in this blog- http://www.infjwriters.com/dear-infj-advice-recently-deceased-philosopher-author/ and as a person of faith this got me thinking of how my song is inextricably connected with His song.

As a follower of Christ there have been many times where I’ve felt utterly defeated.  Times where; I fell hard into an old sin pattern.  I fell hard into depression.  I fell hard into feeling worthless.  As an INFJ, I see things very symbolically and the image I had of these times was that of being cast down into the dust while the enemy of my soul sneered triumphantly over me.  While he hurled insults and accusations.  Many of which had more than an element of truth to them.

But at times like that when I felt the darkness closing in, I would hear something else.  Quiet but unmistakable.  An ancient song, the kind that leaved you with goosebumps as it awakens pangs of hope and images of Heaven.

His song.

My song.

I think of the women caught in the act of adultery, recorded in the book of John, verse 8.  She had been humiliated and thrown into the dirt.  Surrounded by her accusers.  Too ashamed to lift her head.  I can imagine her accusers in breathless anticipation awaiting Jesus’ verdict, as their eyes darted from the woman to the Christ…The Bible says that Jesus stooped down and began to write in the dust.  Theologians argue about what he was writing and why.  But I wonder if maybe he was tracing out the lyrics to an ancient melody.  Maybe he hummed quietly a song that only that woman could hear.  The same fingers that set the stars in place wrote out this lowly women’s redemption. “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support… You give me your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:17-18 & 35

There are two voices, two messages we can listen to.  The ceaseless voice of the accuser or the quiet hum of God.  We can sing along with the voice of defeat or belt out the song of triumph.

I find in my own life that God is always speaking.  It is up to me to have my internal settings tuned to his frequency.  Whether I’m bopping through life to an upbeat 80’s tune (ah yiss) or immobilized in the dirt, God is always singing over my life.  He always has and He always will.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My God is the God that stoops down in the dirt with us, to lift our tear-stained faces.  This is the God that rejoices over us with singing.  This is the God that puts a song of hope in our hearts, a song unique to each and every one of us.

Woman Singing
Woman Singing 2003

Unredeemed Brokenness

I happened to hear Pastor Matt Bays on my favorite radio show yesterday (Live the Promise with Susie Larson) and was really taken with what he had to say.  He spoke with shocking honesty about the wretched pain of his past and his turbulent path of faith- fraught with doubts and addiction.

His pain spoke so much to my pain.  I (being the impulsive sort that I am) bought his book, Finding God in the Ruins, with amazon one click.

Tonight I sat down and read through a third of it in one sitting.

It really speaks to where I am, the dilemma I face.

I’ve loved and followed God (not always well, but I’m still here) for ten years and yet I still feel broken in so many ways.  My son still deals with daily pain as we struggle to keep the eczema and resulting staph infections at bay.  I still deal with so much internally that never sees the light of day.

I, like Pastor Matt, got to a point where I just couldn’t pray and believe anymore.  How could I tell people about a Great God that loves them and has a great plan for them- when I found those promises so lacking in my own life?

The truth is that so many of us struggle with a disproportionate amount of pain.  A quick, pretty verse isn’t going to bandage wounded hearts sufficiently. The faith formulas don’t always add up as they should.

I went to a MOPS meeting recently and… felt awful the whole time.  The women there were really nice, they were genuine believers.  But I got the sense that these were the type of women that came from great families.  Women that have never labored under the shame of utter brokenness.  Women that knew how to match boot socks to their purses.  I felt so horribly out of place.

See, there are those of us who don’t come from the best families.  Those of us who deal with the anguish of shame.  Those of us who need much more than an inspirational service or two to get us out of our funk.

I think my theology has been woefully inadequate to address my reality.

God is good but a significant part of our journey here, our walk of faith, is going to be hard and at times, agonizing.  Much more so than we’d prefer.

Early on in my faith journey I was a good faith-filled believer and believed 100% that God was going to quickly and miraculously deliver me from my emotional pain.  That definitely hasn’t happened.  For years I thought it was because I was falling short somewhere.  The teaching I listened to had me worried that there was some hidden sin or offense lurking in me that was keeping the tidal wave of healing and deliverance back.  Maybe that wasn’t it at all.

Maybe there are just things that got broken so badly and profoundly early on, that healed so wrong, that they only way to get it right again is to re-break it.  To wrench away what is wrong before it can be set right and begin to truly heal.  Not a bandaid but a surgery.

So I am embracing the pain in my life and looking for God’s purpose in it.  I still believe.

 

Golden Retrievers: The Good, the Bad, the Furry.

It’s been a year since we brought home our first family dog, a golden retriever puppy.  copperI had always wanted one.  It just took a little (lot) of convincing for my husband to get on board! I found a puppy on my son’s birthday and drove half way across the state to go get him and bring him home just as the kids were getting off the bus.

It’s been a learning curve ever since and I’ve done a lot of researching on the breed in the mean time.

If I had to sum up the personality of the breed in one word it’d be “friendly”.  These dogs are never happier than when they are right in the mix of things, with their people. copper7

Goldens are possibly the friendliest breed.  They love meeting new people, they love playing with other dogs.  They make ‘ok’ watch dogs.  They like to keep an eye on the neighborhood.  Mine will bark at anything he sees that looks suspicious, like a garbage bag that has blown into the yard.  But they are horrible guard dogs.  If someone breaks into your house your golden is likely to give them an enthusiastic greeting.  They also aren’t big barkers.  Mine rarely barks.  Which is 90% a good thing but can be a problem in that he quietly runs to the basement door when he has to relieve himself, which has gone unnoticed with messy results.

copper6
Little puppies?

These dogs are rarely aggressive.  This is hugely important to me, because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of small children.  Children that often come to the door to play with my children.  I can’t have an aggressive dog that see’s strangers as a threat.  But if you want an imposing guard dog, a golden is definitely not for you! bewaredogGoldens were bred in Scotland to be hunting dogs, retrieving fowl in swampy conditions.  In most lines the strong hunting genes have been muted in favor of looks and personality.  But they still have a relatively strong prey drive.  They will go crazy and drag you half way down the street in pursuit of a SQUIRREL!  squirrel

Mine inadvertently terrified a few of the neighborhood kids when they ran away and he gave chase.

We bought a gentle leader collar early on, to curb his pulling on walks.  These are very strong dogs so you really need to train them well and/or get a specialized collar to reduce pulling on walks.

Goldens are very enthusiastic eaters.  Mine wolfs down his food within 60 seconds and sniffs around for more.  If you have a golden you’ll have to be careful to not overfeed them.  Many will happily eat their way into a doggy-weight problem.  Mine is currently a good five pounds overweight, at 80 pounds.  It’s really hard to cut back on treats when they beg with the world’s cutest canine face.  copper3

So along with a careful diet, you’ll also need to provide a lot of exercise.  As hunting dogs, they were meant to spend a lot of time running and swimming though challenging conditions.

A dog that isn’t properly exercised is likely to become overweight, develop health problems, and exhibit destructive behavior like digging or chewing up your couch.

Goldens, as a large breed, can also develop problems with their hips.  So you don’t want to run them too hard until they are mature, about a year and a half.  I like taking mine to a local nature reserve where he can swim and run on soft grass. copper4But a brisk daily walk around town works too!

Goldens are very social dogs.  If you can’t provide a lot of interaction, a golden probably isn’t for you.  I jokingly call mine my “shadow” because he is almost never more than a foot away from me.  He wants to be near me, all the time.  When I leave he lays by the door until I come home. copper8If I’m sitting down he wants to be cuddled up to me.  This is not the type of dog that will take well to being an outdoor dog.  This is a family dog, that needs a lot of interaction.

Golden’s rank at the top as great family dogs.  They are very patient and gentle with young children.  copper9

So, we covered all the “good”.  Golden’s are extremely friendly, sweet, loyal, gentle and easy going.  They are highly trainable, among the most intelligent of the dog breeds.  They are also just gorgeous.  I may be biased but I think they are the most beautiful dog breed.  Not only that, but they have wonderfully soft fur that is pleasant to pet.

Now what about the bad?

Golden’s are notorious for health problems.  From allergies to cancer.  Mine has had chronic ear infections, as the long floppy ears trap moisture.  You’ll want to feed your dog a premium dog food.  We opt for grain free.  I’ve heard of golden’s living healthy lives of up to 17 years.  So take good care of your dog and hope for the best. copper2

The beautiful golden coat is very thick and sheds like crazy.  I vacuum 2-3 times and easily fill the canister with an insane amount of dog fur.  Their coat also produces an oil that helps makes them water repellant and it attributes to a strong “doggy” odor.  They aren’t the stinkiest dog, but they definitely need a regular bath.  Their long fur can also require regular brushing and the removal of matted fur.

They don’t have stinky breathe and they aren’t quite big enough to slobber, so that’s a plus!

Golden’s are very “mouthy”.  They love to chew so make sure you provide plenty of chews toys.  Ours will run off with our shoes, though he know better than to chew them up!  We really had to work with ours when he was a small puppy because he always wanted to chew on our hands with his sharp puppy teeth.  It’s something he grew out of, thankfully. 15940774_10158109670100074_8447059713771371583_n

Golden’s are wonderful dogs.  So much so that I don’t think I would ever get a different breed.  If you can deal with some of the challenges, you will truly find a wonderful companion and best friend.

 

 

 

 

Dealing With Holiday Weight Gain

I never know how to open (or close) a blog.  It always feels awkward.

Ok, so here goes- My name is Sierra and I am a recovering anorexic.  Bam.

I’ve been in recovery for a long time.  I’ve had babies.  Weight has been gained.  Weight has been lost.  Stretch marks have happened.  So has a lot of hard work and personal growth.

I was at a sweet spot, weight wise, for me.  Somewhere I can be comfortably, at which my body is happy and the crazy is generally kept at bay.

Well, I’ve been enjoying lots of good food and kicking back breve iced mochas at work and a couple extra pounds have appeared as extra insulation on my tummy and hinny.  I stepped on the scale and faced the music and indeed, it wasn’t bloat or my imagination.  Sadface.

Instead of going into pyscho- anorexic mode and beating myself up I’m handling it much differently.  I stared at my body in the mirror and saw all the things I do like.  I (man this sounds so cheesy, but go there with me) affirmed my body.  I bit bigger than I want to be, but it’s still my body and I love it.

However, I don’t want those couple extra pounds to gain long term squatter status so I do have a loose plan in place.  I’m going to hit my strength training workouts hard.  I’m going to cut back on sugar and empty carbs and focus my diet on high quality protein and fats.

I’m not going berserk or punishing my body.  I’m approaching it from the standpoint of treating my body as a temple to be treated with care and respect.

The scale will go back to normal and I’m not going to stress about it.

For many of us who have struggled with eating disorders- a lot of it stems from having an intense (obsessive) personality with a heavy dose of perfectionism.  I realize now that this can be a good thing.  I am probably always going to be obsessing about something.  I’m probably always going to have some discontent in my life, striving to be better.

The times in my life that I have been the happiest have been the times I’ve focused all that obsessiveness on the only one worthy of all my devotion- Jesus.  So while I strive to do well by my body, my main focus is keeping the focus firmly where it belongs.

 

Faithfulness

There is this middle-aged couple I really like that I talk to at work.  They first visited Caribou and now I see them frequently at Starbucks.  The are so cute together.  He brings her lunch and eats with her on her break.  I saw her leaving (she also works at Target) with a bouquet.  I asked how long they’ve been together (you know, expecting something like ’25 years!’) she said less than two.

That isn’t the first time I’ve asked (yes, I’m nosey, ok?!) a lovey-dovey, middle-aged couple how long they’ve been together, hoping that they are still that in love after decades- and been disappointed.  No, there isn’t anything wrong with a 2nd chance at love.  I’m happy for those couples, I am.  But we all know there is something so special about a couple that has been faithful over the course of decades and is still deeply in love.

I remember praying and seeking a couple years ago and the one word I got from God, over and over again, was just to be faithful.  I wanted a ministry.  I wanted to kick down some demonic doors.  I wanted the miraculous.

God wants all that too.  But do you know what is more important than zeal?  Perseverance.  What is more important that extraordinary miracles?  The every day miracle of being steadfast and faithful- not only to God but to the people he has called us to love.  The hearts that have been entrusted to our care.

I think God cares far more about the way we love the people close to us, than anything big and extravagant we could do for him on the public stage.

In a world where the divorce rate is 40-50%, we are called to be faithful.  When 1/3 of children are being raised by a single mother, God wants us to invest in our families.

God wants us to do big things.  But not to the neglect of the little things.  Our most important ministry is to our own family.

In a world where divorce is almost celebrated and affairs are glorified in secular entertainment- let’s stand out as the exception.  Let’s be steadfastly faithful.

Image result for wedding rings weathered

 

Answered Prayer

Hi all, I hope you are well.  I haven’t blogged in a while.  Might be a bit rusty but here I am.

I have blogged extensively about my son, Gabriel, and his battle with eczema.  Well, things got really (really!!!) bad over the summer.  So bad I was losing hope.  I got to the point where I couldn’t pray anymore.  I got to the point where I was just surviving.  ‘Backsliding’ would be an understatement.

But we’ve made a couple changes and he is doing amazingly well.  His skin is healing.  It’s nothing short of a miracle.  I just stopped using detergent for his clothes.  I just wash them in a simply soap nut detergent.  That has made a world of difference.

I also contacted a minister I knew from way back, who has a gift for healing- begging him to pray for Gabe.  I think that helped turn the tide, as well.  Some people just have a gift for prayer, you know?

In the midst of all this I started a new job.  I work at a Target Starbucks, near home.  Literally across the street.  I really love it but I was having problems with one co-worker in particular.  We’ll call her ‘Annie’.  She had worked there for over two years and had little patience for mistakes I made as a beginner.  She was rude and nasty towards me to the point that I was starting to hate my job.  I prayed… “God, please help this situation.  I pray that you would remove her from here and give her a humbling experience.”

I found out today that she quit.  She got a new job, so she’ll get to experience the anxiety and difficulty being the new girl.  I have no ill-will towards her at all, but was floored that God answered my prayer like that.

I don’t know about you, but when I feel like I’m not as close to God as I should be I just don’t really expect him to answer my prayers.  I am always surprised when he is faithful, even when I am anything but.

I have been getting back into prayer and reading my Bible again.  It is wonderful. Nothing compares to His presence, His peace.

We all go through trials and but up against our own weakness and fallen humanity.  I encourage you to not give up.  God is good.  He does love you.  He cares about all the details of your life.  If you’re going through a hard time, don’t run from him.  Run to him.

 

My Power Source

I haven’t written in a while.  Summer is always a busy and chaotic around here!

I also switched jobs.  Now I work part time as a barista at a Target Starbucks.  Honestly, the job I’ve wanted for a long time.  I love Target and I love Starbucks!  I also love getting a discount, yay!  13626415_10154249884502429_8547029261097152568_nMy friend snapped this on my first day.

My husband’s brother and his family visited for the first time from Virginia a little over a week ago.  It was incredibly special.  We had a blast, hanging out and doing tourist-ey things with them.

Tomorrow is a big milestone for me.  I’ll be turning 30.  I’m kind of sad to leave my 20’s behind, but older = wiser, right?

I watched the movie ‘Miracles from Heaven’ a few nights ago.  At about 20 minutes in I started crying and couldn’t stop.  It just touched so many nerves for me.  The child in pain, the mom losing hope- it’s definitely been where I’ve been at for a long time.

My 7 year old son, Gabriel, has had severe eczema for years now.  It has been so tough for him.  Lately we haven’t been letting him play outside because he reacts so strongly to the allergens.  His eyes are always bright red lately.  There’s times where he can’t sleep because the itching or pain is so intense.  And all of this with daily anti-histamines and steroids and expensive lotions.  It feels like a never ending nightmare.

Watching him suffer, day after day, had really hardened my heart towards God.  Gabe had asked me, “why did God let me get eczema?” and I’m at a loss for words.

No, it isn’t as serious as what the Mother was facing in the Miracles movie.  But his condition has been devastating for him.  To the point that when we went to meet his cousins (in 90 degree heat) he cried because he wanted to wear a sweatshirt to cover up all the redness, bumps, and open sores.  He is also limited in his daily ability to just be a kid because the itching and allergies make him so miserable.

We’re still going through it.  There’s no end in site.

I think most (if not all) Christians face a make or break trial.  Something devastatingly hard, something that never seems to end, something that hits home.  Those times test what we know to be true.

God was speaking to me through that movie.  I realized I’ve been ‘under’ the trial and the devil was running roughshod through my life.  In my pain and sadness I was distancing myself from God, my power source, and leaving myself very weak and vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.

“Now if we are children, we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17

I have resolved to hold tighter onto Christ through this.  I believe in miracles.  Especially the quiet ones, where God uses tough circumstances to do an incredible work in us.

My sweet boy, with his Daddy….

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