Confessions of a Chocoholic Night Owl

I should have been in bed two hours ago.

But for some reason (maybe it’s all those mint flavored Dove dark chocolates I impulsively ate?), I can’t get to bed.

Maybe it’s the cyclothymia running rampant, or the sensory issues flaring up, or the numbness in my toes from sitting too long with my right ankle under my left thigh. Or maybe it’s the combination of an emotionally exhausting but fruitful and blessed day and a fulfilling evening giving way to a too quiet, too cold, and too messy house.

Or maybe it’s the loneliness of this place. Not my residence – I don’t mind living alone. But this spot in my life. It’s complicated.

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Redeeming the Detours

Well… that… did not go the way I planned it.

I’m still in the good ol’ US of A, and haven’t left since the last time I posted here. The job I was promised verbally was retracted, and nothing else realistic was forthcoming. Half of my belongings remain in India, and many are now being sold off to pay for debts incurred here both prior to my leaving and in the wake of my unexpected long-term return.

My kids in India still weigh heavy on my heart some days, and I wonder how they are doing. I would give anything to curl up in the dirt with my dupatta sticking to me in the Mumbai humidity, surrounded by all of those sweet faces, just for a moment. I miss Sonia, especially. I’d still adopt her in a heartbeat if I could.

For now, my time is spent tutoring, babysitting, and getting amazing books into little hands, along with memorizing the book of Ephesians, soaking in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and attempting to maintain relationships that mean so much to me. This in addition to picking up art again (I’m greatly enjoying that pursuit).

Speaking of hearts and relationships, while we still love each other dearly, Suri and I aren’t “together” anymore. A ring was on the table, but there were a number of things that came up for us, the distance notwithstanding, that caused us to take the subtle but life-altering step back from romance. I still ache for what was, but I also know that God has good in store for both of us. We are in touch often, and have no ill will toward one another. We just get to be friends and encourage one another as siblings in the Lord all the more.

I’ve stopped taking the antidepressants, and though there are days I struggle with feeling “down”, more often than not I can recognize it for what it is and speak truth and life into it. It’s not gone, by any means, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.

The global ministry the Lord has called me to seems to include the Kalamazoo area, so I’m doing my best to be still and be intentional.

I’ve learned recently that God redeems even the seeming detours… so much so, that they become part of the destination. 🙂

Detours

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Faithfulness

I find myself quite an unfaithful person far too often when it comes to my commitments.

I say I’ll pray, then forget and pray the minute someone thanks me for praying, hoping that God will allow my prayers to work retroactively, since He’s God and I think He can do that.

I say I’ll send that parcel tomorrow, and it takes another week.

I say I’m coming, and I stay home instead.

I say I love you, but I don’t love well.

These are just a few examples of my unfaithfulness.

And yet, I find God to be faithful. I don’t like admitting that I am unfaithful. I’ve always been the “good Christian”, the one that people said was a goody-two-shoes, who tried to follow things by the letter of the law. But through this season of feeling like an unfaithful wretch, I find myself receiving grace and standing in awe at the faithfulness of God in the midst of my disdain for myself and my behavior.

I need to learn to keep my mouth shut unless I MEAN IT and WILL DO MY BEST TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Saying no, or “maybe” might not be fun, but I need to be honest with myself, other people, and with God. If I make a promise, I need to make good on it, so that – just like with God – my word is my bond. I want to be faithful as He is faithful.

Grateful for HIS grace and HIS faithfulness today, even in the light of the worst of my failures.

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Dude.

Sitting here at the dining room table in my parents’ house in suburbia, I am amazed at how quickly time flies and how shamelessly it leaves you in the dust.

I’ve been back in the US for nearly three full weeks now… crazy.

For those of you who have kept up and still read these posts (thank you for your patience), please allow me to bring you all up to speed.

India: still intending to go back, having some issues with employment… God will sort it out.

Suraj: yes, we’re dating, and yes, we love each other, and yes, if God wills, he’ll put a ring on it.

Church: Lord willing, when I return, I’ll be able to be far more involved in events and activities and present during times of fellowship.

Ministry: SO MANY COOL THINGS! I’m hoping to get a newsletter out today or tomorrow… if you’re interested in the details, please send me an email at crcrewcontact1@gmail.com.

Employment: as aforementioned, a little, well, let’s just say it’s not yet finalized.

Family: LOVING spending time with my boys, for sure. Mom’s food and hugs are as good as ever, and – I confess – I’ve missed play-fighting with my dad. Christmas wrapping paper rolls are just not as fun as lone swords.

Health: Meds seem to be working well. Vitamin B and turmeric supplements also seem to be doing their respective jobs.

Alright. Out for now. Gotta get going on that newsletter.

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Love is Kind (Love – Part II)

I have to admit, I’m still not sure I have the patient part down yet.

But let’s move on to the second word: kind.

Love is kind.

According to Strong’s, “kind” means “to show oneself useful; act benevolently”.

So God, in His Love, shows Himself useful to us, and acts benevolently toward us.

Always?

Even when I mess up? Even if I’m stuck in the middle of sin? Even if I’m completely undeserving?

I guess we go back to the initial thought: this kind of love is only love if the recipient is undeserving. That’s not mind blowing at all.

So how does God show kindness to me? How does He make Himself useful to me, or act benevolently toward me? How has He served me?

As a Christian who was born in the South and carried her Baptist roots Up North and over yonder, I know the obvious answer is that He gave His only begotten Son to save me from eternal damnation, and that He doesn’t smite me with lightning when I sin. But I’m guessing there’s more to it than that. So I’m going to try to come up with some examples from Scripture and from my own life.

1 – God clothes Adam and Eve after they have discovered their nakedness and He has found them in the garden.

Intermittent thought: how can a person be kind who has an agenda? I wanted to say that God was kind to Sarah and Abraham to give them a son, but the whole point of that blessing was to show Himself great and to provide a precursor and illustration of Christ – who is the greatest kindness, I suppose, but where does that leave Abraham and Sarah?

2 – David: again and again, David defeats his enemies with the Lord’s help, and finds himself basking in the delight of the Lord, even after depressive episodes.

3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walk arm in arm with Jesus, even in the midst of a fire.

4 – God closes the mouths of the lions in the lion’s den for Daniel.

Intermittent thought: this also has to do with the Lord demonstrating His glory so that the king would get a grip and lead the people back to God.

Weaving thought: kindness has to do with pushing or pulling someone toward God. Is that accurate? If so, why?

5 – God uses Moses and Aaron to lead the people out of Egypt.

6 – Isaac marries a beautiful bride through the kindness and concern of his father Abraham, who follows God’s Old Testament commandments about marriage.

In most of these examples, it seems that in order for God to be kind, His people have to be deserving of it. But I suppose I am looking at the Old Testament, and not the New.

When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Definitely didn’t deserve that one.

We are imputed His righteousness. That’s pretty nice of God – He covers the righteous with favor as with a shield. The righteous are brothers and sisters of Christ, and receive His inheritance – no work done to get that one.

And in my life… God has given me amazing moments with friends, loved ones, and children. He gave me Toms once. And a beautiful ring… but gifts aren’t necessarily the only demonstrations of kindness, right? Hugs from friends?

I’m a little confused at this point. I know that what I’m wrestling with is more or less the bedrock of the Christian faith, but I struggle with the idea that, even in my sinfulness and/or willful disobedience/pride toward God, He still loves me with kindness. How is that possible? Isn’t it sacrilege to believe that one of God’s purposes in creating me was to serve me? Doesn’t that put me above Him? And what does it look like to receive His service with joy? Isn’t that too much freedom? Doesn’t that negate His justice? And how does God feel when He disciplines? Is it the “it hurts me more than it hurts you” thing, or is it “I know what’s best for you, and this is it, so deal with it”? His goodness is meant to lead to repentance… so once again, there’s an agenda of repentance at the end of the day.

Before, I would have said that yes, repentance is the only way out, because otherwise you are under the dead weight of your sin. I still agree with that, but what is true repentance? What does that Christianese word really mean, and how do you do it without changing your circumstances in a way that injures others? Is that possible? Right? It has to be… a mom who idolizes her children can’t just decide to walk away from her children (because that would be neglect and also sin). Someone who struggles with pride and arrogance can’t just decide not to exist (well, they could, but that would also be sin, right?).

Really not clear on this.

Thoughts, anyone?

big deal.jpg

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LOVE – PART 1

Given the recent diagnosis of bipolar (either type 2 or cyclothymia, I’m guessing – my clinical psychologist doesn’t like labels) in addition to several other diagnoses I’ve received over the years, I’ve realized that I don’t really know what it means to love myself.

Jesus gave just two commandments: Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. These encompass both the law and the prophets.

But what, exactly, is love?

In the Greek, the word used in these statements of the Lord is “agapao”. Not “agape” as I thought, though “agape” is clearly related and taken from the former. Agapao, however, indicates an intimacy, an intense relationship between two individuals. So that’s my starting point.

There’s a lot I want to get into here, but let’s dive into intimacy for a minute. You can check out the primary definitions of “intimate” here:

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intimate

but I’m not going to address official definitions, really – which is strange for me because usually that’s my first recourse when I want to know about something. But I’m learning that definitions only go so far. Especially when it comes to intimacy.

Intimacy isn’t just defined. It means something. It means letting someone else in. It means sharing your world with them. Sharing your secrets, your fears, your shame, your confusion, your tears, your smiles, your excitement. In the context of a marriage, it means sharing your body, your comforts, your likes and dislikes, your furniture (I know, that’s deep).

So it is with intimacy with God. He knows it all anyway, but intimacy involves the act of sharing. God doesn’t usually take things by force from us, unless He knows it is for our benefit in the long run. And He doesn’t allow things to be taken from us unless He intends to redeem and restore those things. But I’m bunny-trailing. My point is that sharing things with God is part of the intimacy you have with Him. He wants you to share with Him, not just expect that He knows it all and you have a pass on engaging in the relationship.

That’s the first part.

Then: what is a heart,  a soul, and a mind?

You can do all the research you want in Strong’s concordance, which will – again – give you the proper definitions of these terms in the Greek (and it’s not like English… heart has many definitions). The overarching idea here, though, is that we are to love God with ALL that we are. Our thoughts, our emotions, our wills, our intentions, our actions, our everything. Nothing gets left out when you consider all three of these terms.

Okay, so we’re supposed to have an intimacy with God and share with him, and we’re supposed to do that using every faculty we have. And the term “agape” itself indicates a seeking, a searching out, a longing for, without receiving anything in return or finding something praiseworthy in the object of my affection (which is obviously not applicable to God, but sometimes it does feel like it). So with all that I am, I’m supposed to seek, search out, and long for Him, even when he doesn’t seem worthy of it.

Great.

So… practically… how do I do that? And how does that then reflect onto others? And before I can reflect that onto others, how do I reflect that onto myself?

Love is patient.

Patient means to be “longsuffering”. It means “long-tempered”. Love that definition. Tempered connotes something level. Not too hot, not too cold, but rather appropriately heated for the circumstances. Slow to anger, slow to punish.

So, item number 1 – love God.

Keeping in mind that I love because He first loved me (1 John 4:19), I’ve tried to think about times when God has clearly been patient with me. I know that my sin is a daily affair, and that there’s no time in my life when God hasn’t been demonstrated utter patience, but I mean times when He could have snapped, lightning-zapped me from Heaven. Times that I felt I deserved it, but He didn’t. Still asking for more clarity on that. I know the weight of my sin, but I guess I don’t understand the magnitude of it. Praying that He will reveal that. I hope it breaks my heart.

Item number 2 – love others as you love yourself.

This seems to imply that I need to love myself well before I can love others well.

So today’s question in tandem with the first: how can I become more patient with myself?

I think this might take a few days. So much for my Type A personality’s hope of getting through this study in a week or two…

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It’s Been A While

Dear Blogosphere,

Please do forgive my absence. I know there are a precious few of you who do read my posts on a consistent basis, and I’ve been MIA.

You see, Dear Reader, sometimes, life throws you not just one curve ball, or two, but five at once. Or maybe 10, just for good measure. You feel more or less safe in your cocoon, settled in (even if somewhat uncomfortably), and then suddenly – as if they had nothing better to do – anxieties, fears, and troubles come upon you like thieves, robbing you of every semblance of peace and joy you possess. The strangely unsteady strongholds of self-sufficiency and stability you carefully constructed with all you had come crashing down around you, and you forget who you are. Everything you thought was categorical and classifiable and cautiously captured in boxes stacked in the corner of your mind flies at you from the center of the room without warning. Nothing is as it seems and there is no plausible escape route which does not cross the lines of conscience.

It’s been a pretty difficult last little bit here in my small sphere on the Indian subcontinent. Not only were Suraj and I both sick from God-only-knows what illnesses (mold toxicity notwithstanding, we think viral fever and chikungunya are in the running, and Suraj is still technically on bed rest), but the clock is ticking down on Suraj’s thesis also (he presents to the jury on November 25th). In addition, I began visiting a clinical psychologist, who presented me with a couple of assessments – the results seem to indicate that I am suffering from both an anxiety and a bipolar disorder, which is at once a relief (there is a reason for all this crazy) and a blow (because, well, now what?). I’ve been working on completing assignments for the psychologist the past two weeks and have an appointment again on Thursday. My emotional health has taken its toll on my relationship with God and my relationship with Suraj (my two most intimate relationships), both of which for the past couple of months have seemed like a ride in a tire down a hill… at times thrilling and at others – or even at the same time – nauseating and uncertain and far too intense for my liking. Grateful that God never gives up on me, and that He’s given Suraj the strength not to either.

On the much more mellow side, I’ve made new friends with a few more geckos which have taken up residence in my home – Pepper and her cousin sisters, I presume, since they look alike aside from their length.

Additionally, I don’t have to travel to the south side of the state this week, as we are shifting offices and work is still being done on the new place. That’s a plus.

Met with another potential ministry partner. Yay!

Lord willing, my parents are coming to visit in January. Excited for that! It’s going to be an interesting experience for all of us, and I think we’ll have a grand time…

Lastly, I’m listening to Christmas music by PTX, featuring Tori Kelly and Bob Marley’s “Be Happy”. You can’t go wrong with that.

 

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