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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Failure and Dreams

I had a dream last night. One of those colorful, too real, cannot forget it when you wake up dreams.  I have them now and then. Usually when I  need to pay attention to something about myself. I've had them when I needed to change my attitude about a situation, or when I needed to recognize that situation was good, and right, or bad and wrong!

This dream was terrifying. Beyond terrifying. It was nightmarish. I woke in a sweat. I began praying immediately on waking, asking for clarity. I had nine babies, at the same time. NINE.

I was at home, there were several people around to help, the babies were growing rapidly from snuggly newborns to loud, running, challenging toddlers. The people that were helping with the babies, though, were dropping them, or not paying attention to them. They were showing up, they wanted to help me, but they weren't exactly helpful.

When I decided to write the dream down, I remembered that my partner in the dream, my husband, was comforting, supportive, and sweet with me. He stepped in every time I turned to him. He not only held my hand, but he held me. Even with all of these energetic, growing babies running around. I also noted that the 'people' that were trying to care for the babies were all me. Yep.

I'm no dream interpreter, but I've learned a couple of things about my dreams over the years. Someone that I have trusted in Spiritual matters has studied dream symbols through a biblical view.
I was taught that generally speaking, my husband in my dreams is a symbol for God.

I've also learned that babies in dreams usually signify good things like new beginnings. They can also signify innocence and vulnerability.  What happens with the babies can make a difference, too. It was harder to find information about having multiple babies running around.

I finally found something. *sigh* The indication was that my inability to care for all of those babies is reflective of my feeling inadequate to handle the many changes in my life.

I thought I was dealing with things pretty well. I haven't been spinning out of control. At least, not totally.

I put my kids into school instead of Homeschooling them in anticipation of finding a job. I was hired at a job within two weeks of school beginning. I started a writing course. I put my daughter in A.M. drivers ed (which means we're out the door before 5:30, Yikes!). I gave a commitment to another activity for myself, I signed two of my kids up for baseball (those schedules are wonky!). My husband's workplace is transitioning from one corporate owner, to another.

I've been dealing with anxiety, feelings of failure, and have been physically ill with different viruses and bacterial infections for months.

I believe that I am not performing optimally in any of the areas that I am responsible for. I believe that I am letting people down. I am letting myself down.

I know that "All things work together for the good of those that serve Him", and that I can "Cast all of my cares on Him for He cares for me". These are truths that I cling to. I haven't forgotten them. In fact, I rely on those truths. I cling to them.

I also believe that my emotions, my feelings are real, and should be acknowledged, because sometimes they are telling me that something needs to change, whether it is external or internal, or both.  I read a phrase recently, written by Lisa Tyrkurst (I'm sure I misspelled her name) that "My emotions should have a voice, but they shouldn't be my only voice.)

I've never believed that my emotions had much value. I've been told as much many times, buy as many people. It's best just to trust and forge ahead. This works until it doesn't. Until the moment when I find myself realizing that I cannot stand still for too many seconds in a row, else I'll be a mess of tears and will likely find myself face first on the floor, unable to get back up again.  Failure, though I've been taught through my growing up, isn't an option, it seems to be the thing that I'm the very best at. I know have failed countless times, at numerous things. I know how to confess to may failures, I know how to apologize for them. I know how to learn from failures, and I know very well how to feel guilty and beaten down by them. I know how to pile them up on shoulders and strengthen other parts of my self so that I appear to be walking around just fine, without a load on my back. I thought.

It turns out that it's hard to live that way. It catches up with you. It gives you weird dreams about having nine babies all at once, unable to care for them all.

It seems like the point, for me, is that I am not strong enough by myself. I need God to guide me through. I might drop some of my "babies", (it sounds like such an awful way to speak about the symbolism of babies this way, but it was a dream, so we're all in the same page I hope) but I can turn to God every time I mess up, and He'll help me with it.

I would love to say that He'll help me fix it, or get through it, or make it right and be all smiles. But I have to trust that anyone reading this knows that life on Earth doesn't always go that way. Sometimes our thoughts, dreams, and new beginnings suffer hardship and strain. Sometimes they just die. They weren't the right thing, or we didn't nurture them well.  Sometimes they grow into something unmanageable.

I don't know if I'll have to drop something out, or if I just need to re-evaluate my time and methods. Probably that. Time and Methods. Ugh. I'm always teaching my kids about time management, but I'm terrible at it in my personal life. I can get tasks done, but beyond that, I want to do what's fun! Or maybe not do what isn't.

So many mornings and evenings, I put my head in my hands and think about the ways that I failed in the previous 24 hours, determined not to fail the same way again. Not only does my mind find new ways to fail, it's memory is going, and likes to repeat some of the already tried ways, too.

Being flesh inherently means that I am going to fail, repeatedly. I hope and pray that these are learning experiences, and that I grow through at least some of them!  I hope that tonight, or tomorrow morning, when my head and my hands meet, that when I pour out the grief of my failures, I will come back up to face some of my successes. Remember some of my wins. Remind myself that there is hope that my failure will somehow have some positive outcome somewhere for someone.

I hope that you will share your struggles with the people around you, too. If we always appear as strong and in control, then how can we ever share the hope and change of the Gospel?

I know there's a way to be strong and vulnerable in the right places and the right ways. Tell me if you've learned it. I'm still in the trenches!

~ The ZooMama

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spilled Pancake Batter

This morning, after getting up two hours before the children do, so that I can do things like use the bathroom and get dressed without interruption, I had a second awakening.

I had my bible and prayer time, sang a hymn that had been running through my mind, and decided to make pancakes for breakfast.

For some reason, the thoughts that began swirling around my mind were not a continuous loop of that hymn, anymore. They were negative thoughts about my husband. At first it was remembering something hurtful, then the string of similarly hurtful things began to play. And then it became a rant in there! I was actually silently exclaiming, with facial expression, my outrage! I was "You, know, he did this, too, and here's the negative effect it has had on my life!" and I would even reply to myself, "Yes! That's awful! He'll just keep on doing these things, too!"

I was mixing the pancake batter during this heated, silent conversation. I went to scrape the side of the rubber spatula on the edge of the bowl, and the bowl tipped over sideways, spilling pancake batter all over the counter.

I admit that my usual response would be frustration over having to clean up another mess, and anger with myself for causing it.

But, something weird (for me) happened instead. I know this wasn't my own doing, unless, maybe, there is maturity and wisdom happening, and I just hadn't noticed it, yet.

As I was calmly (!) cleaning up the mess, my mind immediately stopped it's diatribe about my husbands shortcomings, and switched gears. "Thank you, God, for redirecting my thoughts. Thank you for getting my mind out of the mire and back on you!"

Those thoughts weren't going to solve any problems. They weren't going to contribute to a positive mood in the house when children needed to wake for school. They weren't going to create any goodwill in myself toward my husband.

I know that it is my responsibility to gauge my thoughts, and redirect them when necessary.  It's nice, though, to have help from time to time. It's never bad to reminded that I can think more positively, and that those thoughts have a major bearing, not only on my day, but to some degree, on those that are around me throughout the day.

I do find myself wondering, now, how many inconvenient messes I have righted that were perfect opportunities for changing my thought process.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Natty Chatty

Over the last month and a half, I have begun to write up several articles that I didn't finish.

They started up nicely, and had a bit of a flow in the beginning. Perfectly dry one liners, sharp hooks to grab the intended audience, clever quips and enchanting descriptions were all there. But not for long.

I would stop, read back, and realize it was all garbage. The idea was a good one, but where ever the thing was going, it was just a wad of knotted up fishing line. A reader wouldn't ever get from beginning to end with any idea of what was going on in the middle.

What was going on? Why couldn't I quit winding ideas around one another until they were a useless mass of words that didn't join together?

I began to have another thought about some great article while I was washing up the supper dishes this evening.  It sounded smashing as the sentences spun themselves out in my mind. I began to smile while spinning out this essay. It would be brilliant!

And that's when I realized.

My mind's narrator has a British accent. Everything it says sounds top drawer.

Until I put it down in my own voice. Then it doesn't work.

So, dear readers, you've been exposed to my sad inner dialogue, who believes herself to be quite the natty gal.


Here's hoping I find my voice again, and soon!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Burden Bearer

Have you heard the term 'Burden Bearer'?

How about 'Empath'?

There is a spiritual gift of intercession. Generally people who have it aren't happy about it. It's challenge. It's painful. It's exhausting.

When people realize what it is, why they think and feel things on behalf of others, and take it to God, then it becomes a joy.

Feeling things for others is burdensome. It causes people to cry themselves to sleep at night, though they don't immediately know why. They often feel isolated, or seek to shut themselves away from people for a time. They sometimes feel rejected by God, even though they know the truth. They cry out to God in sorrow for pains in the world. They can read people, sometimes they can finish someone's question or sentence. Sometimes they seek to escape, because these things are painful.

This isn't an exhaustive list, to be sure. It's just some of it.

People that bear the burdens of others are often accused of being overly emotional, or too sensitive.

In the church it is eschewed. I've heard a few teachers go into detail about how to respond when emotions are overwhelming, but for the most part, I've heard that becoming overly emotional is useless.

The truth is that it's uncomfortable. When someone is crying, few people know how to respond. Even the person that is crying!

Let's teach each other.  If you are feeling some overwhelming emotion that doesn't seem connected to yourself in someway, PRAY!  Ask God what you need to know about this emotion.  The Holy Spirit will tell you what you need to know, and whether you need to speak to someone.

Often, the prompt is so that you will pray for a person in regard to whatever the emotion is.  Usually, you will keep it between yourself and God.  You will let the person know that you are praying for them, but usually you won't have a specific thing to tell them.

Sometimes, rarely, there will be a message for someone. The Holy Spirit will let you know.

If you are a burden bearer, you have been one all of your life.

If you didn't or don't have a relationship with God, you may believe that your gifts of prophecy and/or intercession, and burden bearing are spiritual in other ways. Often people with this gifting become fortune tellers, or seers, or witches. Really, those 'principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness' ' that Jesus people talk about (Ephesians 6:12) look to exploit and sully this gift with lies that sound good. Lies that allow people to convince themselves that they should profit, somehow from this gift, or that something that they do or practice gives them this gift. That they have power or control over it. It can seem like a psychic ability.

When I discovered that I could 'see' things, sometimes, I was spooked. I didn't like it. I asked God to take it from me. I didn't want to see what I could see. I didn't want to know what I was given to know. I didn't want to feel what I was feeling. Knowing I needed to tell someone something that they likely didn't want to hear, or that would be encouraging, but could cause skepticism about my sanity, made (still makes) me feel like vomiting. I've been physically ill over having to give a message. I'm willing, now, but glad it isn't often required.

I used to have deja vu often. Quite often. I could tell you exactly what the would happen or be said next. The location. I could have claimed to know future events. I could have called on gods and spirits to show me these things more often. I could have profited.

I have predicted small earthquakes. Just a few times. When you tell someone that there is about to be an earthquake, and then it happens within seconds, they tend to be pretty freaked out. What should I have done with that? Pray, perhaps for people that might sustain damage or injury. What I could have done is boast about it, and profit from it.

There is a responsibility to interact with the Holy Spirit in regard to our gifting. To do otherwise is irresponsible. To claim anything other than God in these situations is a lie. To pursue this gifting apart from God is a path to trouble for someone, if not yourself.

There is no mortal control over this gift! It comes on a person when the Spirit wills. It is the job of the gifted to commune with the Spirit

There is also this: Jesus is the ultimate burden bearer. People do pick up burdens for one another. But sometimes, even when it's gifted for intercession or prophecy, the burden must be laid back down.

Receiving this gift, and using it well is a deliberate acceptance. You are picking up someone's cross and bearing their burden with or for them. It's an enormous undertaking.

All of those who follow Jesus are spiritually gifted in some way. All of those gifts should bring the gifted closer to understanding the character of God, and to emulating it. It should also always point to Christ. Using any gift for personal gain and/or for profit is trouble.

Look at Ezekiel. He bore some heavy burdens. He bore them, and messages were delivered through them. Many people thought he was insane, but the people who knew God, who believed in his Sovereignty and his truth understood. He was pretty close to God. He heard directly from him! But he still learned. He still pointed people to truth.

I pray that I use these gifts well, too. That I point to Jesus. That I don't mix my opinion with the Spirit's messages. That I recognize the Spirit moving and communicate right away. That I point to Jesus, that I allow my words to be God's, and not riddled with my own strife.

If you have this gifting, it's certainly in conjunction with other gifts. Read the scriptures, talk with God. Learn how about it. Be careful where you study. There's a lot of wonky stuff online. There are so many people and groups that quote the bible to support their own theories, rather than finding their truth because of the scriptures. Be discerning. Ask God. Seek accountability, and ask this person to pray for you, too.

This kind of gift is on that is little understood, because people don't talk about it. It's taboo.

I've stepped on many toes with this post. I've more than ruffles some feathers, I'm certain. But it wasn't my message. There are some of you reading this who needed to know that God is getting your attention, and wants you walk in a deep relationship with Him.

Pray! It's 'just' talking with God. No special vocabulary required.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Changing our Cravings

It's possible. To change our cravings.

We can do it by changing habits. Quitting some, beginning others.

We can do it on our own, for a time, too. It's possible.

Mostly, we need Jesus.

He has promised to transform our minds. This is where the decisions are made. It begins with a thought, then we dismiss it or entertain it. We decide what we'll do and what we won't.

God has changed cravings for many people. He has changed something for me. It's a physical thing. There is still work I must do, however.

I've heard people say "Wow, I had a problem with [substance], but when I trusted Jesus, he took my craving away!   I don't doubt that it is possible. I do wonder how long these people made it before having to choose not to indulge in [substance], and whether they blamed Jesus for allowing them to be challenged and giving in.

It's happened with me. I've struggled with my weight for years. I've talked about it here a few times over the past 8 years.

More recently it's been about health rather than vanity. I can't run. I can't walk far without hurting and becoming breathless. I can't read a book, animatedly, without wheezing. It took two weeks to work up from 3 mins to 15 mins on a low impact DVD workout routine.

I have had cellulitis infections in my legs several times in the recent past. Once I had the infection, the fluid in my lymphatic system remained infected, even after taking heavy antibiotics. A year ago, I had been on these antibiotics four times. I spent about 18 mos constantly trying to heal both from infections, and from the cure. I researched how to heal the lymphatic system. It's not that hard, but it is time consuming, and when movement at all has become difficult, then so is healing.

I was tired all of the time because the antibiotics messed up my digestive system. This compounded my problem.

So, I prayed. If I left my lymphatic system a mess, I was going to be in a health crisis. I wanted to hike and run soccer drills with my kids. I wanted to wake up refreshed in the morning, and go to bed tired from doing hard things in the evening.

I realized one day that I had been having major digestive issues for more than a few days. I wasn't able to eat more than a few bite of food at a time, and I was having major pain in my left side when I did eat. One Sunday afternoon, at a pot luck church meeting, I had pain in my chest. There happened to be an EMT sitting at the table with us that asked me a few questions, and gave me a little advice. On Monday, I set an appointment with my doctor to find out what was happening and how to fix it.

She ordered loads of lab tests, and we had results within a couple of days. Everything was in the normal range. There wasn't a single thing that was too high or too low. There was nothing wrong with me. By the end of that week, my digestive issue seemed to just go away.

But something was changed. My appetite has dwindled, and I am unable to eat too much.  Instead of having a meal, and waiting a bit for my stomach and brain to decide whether I'm full, my stomach just tells me.

I'll be eating, and my stomach will send a message of discomfort, telling me not to take another bite. This is after, perhaps, half to three fourths of a meal.

Over the course of parenting, I have learned to bolt my food down quickly, else I might not have the opportunity to eat all. There have been far too many occasions when I've finished my children's plates, though that job usually falls to Mr. TheZoo. And during a period when I was lonely and unfulfilled, food was a friend.

Learning to be fulfilled by God is a thing. And while it is a subject unto it's self, it has applications here.

God is a chain breaker.  He heals our wounds.  He sees us through our challenges.

It doesn't usually look the way we want it to, though.

We take our chains, and we try to attach them to God. We don't have the the capacity to imagine all of the mysterious of the universe. Our minds are more short term.  We have a limited number of scenarios that we know will bring us happiness or comfort. That will eliminate whatever pain or hardship we are currently enduring. God uses those things, when we are open to it, to build character, or to do some good thing that we might never see. God's good things are not the same as our good things. We limit 'goodness' to something that fulfills our flesh during our short stay on the earth.

God's good things are timeless. That messes with us. We know what's best for us, so we pray for that, then we shake our fists when those requests are unfulfilled. We are impatient for the happiness we think we deserve. I wonder how often we miss a miracle because we are focused on whatever looks fulfilling in the moment.

So, God has changed my cravings. He has transformed my thought about some things already, so I wasn't shocked. I was, however, paying attention. I knew it had to be God, because I was sick. My body was not processing things the way it should have. I was going to have major problems unless this issue was resolved. And then it was. Resolved. And my system began to function differently. Or perhaps the way it used to function before.

I still choose. I choose what to eat and when. I can choose to ignore the slight discomfort and push on. I can choose whatever I want. But I was given a boost. A lift, A hand up. Why would I ignore that? I had already chosen the DVD workout, because that was going to help heal the lymphatic system. Eating less, and making better choices about food are things I need to think about daily, but God has given me a pass on obsessing over it.

My mind is full with kid things, appointments, chores, serving my community. It's full with bill paying, grocery shopping and meal planning. It's full with serving and loving my spouse. It's full with prayer and worship.

Now, I can pay attention to my body, because I'm given a clear signal. I suspect the signal has always been there. I suspect that I have long ignored that signal, and God made a way to get me to notice it again, recognize it, and pay attention to it.

This hasn't been going on very long, a little over two months, I suppose. I haven't lost a lot of weight, only about 20 lbs. I haven't lost many dress sizes yet, only two. But it's a change. It's one that I might have been able to do without God, but it wouldn't have lasted, as the past 20 years can attest. I would quit. I would decide I'd done enough, or that  I deserved something else.

I'm quite the expert on what I deserve. It's rarely what I actually need.

Weight loss, and physical fitness is hard in our USA. We've streamlined and leisure-ized our lives. We've filled our schedules, and left very little time for movement that used to be a natural part of living.

I needed a renewing in how I thought about healing myself, and in how I managed my time to do it.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, then you will get to know God's will for you which is good, pleasing, and perfect" Romans 12:2

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Sharp Women

I know some sharp women.

They are strong, joyful, serving, humble, kind people. Those aren't their only descriptors, of course. But they are true ones.

These women, they sharpen me. On occasion, when I remember to listen well, speak with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (or not at all!), and be available, I have the joy of sharpening them.

Being sharp is HOW we remember to listen well, and speak with wisdom. It's how we encourage one another to good things. It's how we raise our kids in love. It's how we press on in our personal relationships.

It isn't coddling, or gossipping. It isn't bad mouthing someone perceived to be in the wrong. It isn't propelling someone to make a decision that our own wisdom gives, or rooting someone on in destructive behavior.

When you meet people that say "I'd like to pray for you", and they do so on the spot, those are people you want to be around.

These are the people that want for you what God wants for you.

When you meet people that pray for you on the spot, and remind you of scriptures that reveal God's character, those are people you want to be around.

When you meet people that pray for you on the spot, that remind you of God's character through scripture, and whose council and encouragement points to Jesus, those are the people you want to be around.

When we are around those people, we become more like those people. While being like other people isn't the ultimate goal, if those people are like Jesus, the result is that you become more like Jesus.

When we are surround ourselves regularly with sharp women, we become sharp, too.

That "Iron Sharpens Iron" sentiment is real.

People were created for relationship. Ultimately with God, the Creator of the Universe. But on the earth, we also have one another.

Loneliness is hard. Friendlessness is crushing. Self-reliance is deadening.

Sharp women in our lives is a blessing.

Even sharp women become dull after a time. We work and serve. Life demands things of us, and we give it what it needs. Then we need to be resharpened. And we turn to our posse. The people we trust to speak truth.

Don't have sharp women around you? Become one, first. It's a hard journey. It's demanding. You might even sweat. Okay, you WILL sweat. You'll stretch, and change, and grow. It will be noticeable. You will begin to speak life in others. You will be put a seed on someone else's mind to become sharp.  It's possible.

Do it. Be sharp. Help others cut through the crap so they can help someone else.

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