Metamorphosis

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Philippians 3:13-14

Life is a funny thing. It can change so fast. I became a new person when I was saved last summer, for instance. Every aspect of my life was impacted.

I recently started the wheels turning on another significant change in my life, related to being born again. Last month, I started making a huge course-correction to bring my life in line with His plan for me. While such a massive change should be scary, it has not been. In fact, my overall reaction has been joyful – which tells me I am on the right path at last.

As part of closing the book on one part of my life and starting a new one, I am currently in the process of de-cluttering. This is no small undertaking for me. For years, I tried to fill holes in my soul and heart with stuff. Books I never have time to read. Movies and TV series I never have time to watch. Collectibles I never have time to dust.

Oh, collectibles. What a dangerous foe you are to an obsessive person such as myself. “Collect all 96!” is a command, not a suggestion. Completing the collection becomes more important than enjoying it. “I don’t really like this piece, but it is for the collection” is a way to justify spending money on something that is not only unnecessary but also unwanted.

No matter what I bought, though, and no matter how much debt I took on to expand my collection of things, my soul and heart were never quite fulfilled.

Sure, it would feel good for a little bit. Then I would realize I still felt empty inside.

So empty.

So alone.

What finally fulfilled my soul and heart?

Love, of course.

Mutual love with Jesus.

Mutual love with my true love.

Stuff means nothing. Love means everything.

Now, literally surrounded by stuff, I seek to dig out. My original goal was to get rid of at least half of it by donating, selling, or trashing. I have tried to purge before, but things are different this time.

It is difficult. So far, I am failing in my goal. I have purged so much stuff – more than I ever have in my adult life – yet I am keeping more than I am giving up.

Three things are holding me back. The first is the sheer volume of stuff. Only when attempting to sort through and pack everything have I started to realize and acknowledge that I am a hoarder. Not a collector. A hoarder. Oh, I am not bad enough to be on one of those TV shows, but I am certainly on that path. Had I not accepted Jesus in my heart, I probably would have been at that level within ten years – other than the fact that I probably would have been dead by even now. And it would be up to someone else to sort through my mountain of worthless junk.

The second thing holding me back is time. It takes time to makes such decisions, and time is something I currently lack.

Finally, sentimentality causes me to think and re-think about the fate of each item.

Are these just excuses? I hope not. I do feel I have made much progress. Yet, there are far more boxes to be kept for now than I would have ever anticipated. Perhaps I am failing. I am, after all, only human.

I now realize it will take multiple rounds of purging to reach and exceed my original goal. All of this is temporary and will eventually be solved, I remind myself as to not get overwhelmed.

What really matters is that I want a simpler life. I want to focus on Him. I don’t want a television set for awhile, for instance. I am going from a 74-inch widescreen set with a full surround sound system to nothing.

I just want peace, quiet, and time.

Time to study His Word. Time to spend with my true love. Time to spend in nature experiencing His creations.

I want to focus on becoming financially responsible and on paying off the massive debt accumulated to collect so much completely useless stuff. Yes, I am finally learning to be a responsible adult. Twenty-six years late, but who is counting?

In the midst of these changes, I have neglected my writing – including this blog. Effective today, I am going to attempt to carve out time to return to a weekly posting schedule. Writing is something else I want to focus on during and beyond my time of metamorphosis – which can’t come soon enough.

Yes, my entire life is changing, but Jesus and my true love are holding my hands the whole way. I may be surrounded by stuff, but this is only temporary. I will be surrounded by love for all eternity.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you with the same blessings of love that have filled me.

Flower
Credit: JC

Opening the clouds of insight

Clouds
Credit: JC

Life can sometimes be thought of as a series of changes. I have been undergoing a number of transformations since I was saved eight months ago.

The impacts to my life of accepting Jesus in my heart have been tremendous. As I have talked about before, my entire inner dialogue is different. Whereas I used to be constantly filled with dark thoughts of “I wish I was dead” repeated constantly throughout the day, I now very often have calm.

Calm. With the noise removed, I now have a better chance of hearing God’s whispers.

The darkness does sometimes attempt to return, though. There is the stray “I wish I was dead” that will pop into my head. Such thoughts I am able to capture and control now. I know what they are. I know their source, and I pray them away.

A second way the darkness returns I am still in the process of defeating. While I have made great progress in working to overcome it, anxiety still occasionally strikes me. The darkness uses this tool to attempt to control me and prevent me from realizing God’s plan for me.

There is a major change coming in my life that I want to occur. It is inevitable, yet the timing has been slower than I would prefer. I have been struggling with the degree to which I want to initiate that change versus “riding the wave” and letting events take their course.

Maybe it is just a matter of control. Does riding the wave simply mean letting Jesus run my life? I am a product of our modern society. I want things fast. Now.

Amazon offers a service called Prime Now which features same day delivery on many items. Jesus does not offer an equivalent service when it comes to answering prayers. He answers them when it best suits His plan – whether instantly or a hundred years from now. (Side note to Jesus: Please not a hundred years from now on on this one. Thank You. Amen.)

Sometimes, it is hard to know whether I should directly act. My angst is, what if I am supposed to be taking action to initiate directly the change I want versus waiting for it to happen on its own? Even if I do decide to act, then it is still a question of to what degree.

With confusion in my heart, I sought nature and Him on Monday at the advice of my Bible Study Partner (BSP). I spent the afternoon alone in a park. Sitting. Listening. Walking. Observing.

While I was enjoying my time there, at first it did not seem to be working. I did not feel His presence, and I felt as confused as ever.

I found a new spot in the park that I had never explored before. I sat on a rock near a creek and looked at the water as I prayed to Jesus yet again for clarity and guidance.

Then, it happened. That first droplet of insight. Plop.

Then another. Plop.

And more. Plop. Plop.

Plop. Plop. Plop.

The clouds of insight opened.

Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop.

I struggled to keep up with noting the insights as they arrived faster and faster. For a moment, I doubted myself. Were these really from Him? Or just me talking to myself?

However, the underlying purpose of some of the insights was unclear to me. And one of the bigger insights was disappointing. I want to make a certain change fast, like flipping a switch. This insight slows my pace.

His will, not mine. He is all-knowing, while my knowledge is quite limited.

What to do now? My next step, according to my BSP, is to gather all of these insights and make action plans for them. I will be working on that this weekend. It is a blessing to hear from Him, and now I must obey.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Galatians 6:9

The phone call

Mom and I are sitting at the kitchen table of our new home. I am four-years-old. I am eating a grilled cheese and ham sandwich. It is so yummy.

Mom always butters the bread before putting it in the oven, and the grease marks show up on the ever-present white paper plates we use for our lunches. After I eat, Mom sometimes gives me a little felt-tip marker and lets me draw designs in black ink on the plate around the grease marks. I hope she will let me do that today.

The yellow phone on the wall starts ringing. Mom stands up and answers it. I keep eating. It is the best sandwich ever. She does not talk for long and comes back to the table.

There are tears in her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” I ask. “Who was that?”

Mom looks at me. “It was bad news, son. Julie died.”

Julie lived in our old neighborhood and had been battling cancer since before we moved. Not long ago, one of her legs was amputated in an attempt to fight off the disease.

She was courageous through all the challenges she faced, always smiling. Always nice to me, the little neighbor boy up the street. She was 13-years-old. Until now, I have never personally known anyone who died.

“Will she go to Heaven, Mom?” By the time I was born, my family had stopped attending church for various reasons. However, Mom had taught me about God, Jesus, and Heaven very early on.

“Yes, she will. Remember, no one ever hurts there. She is not sick anymore.”

“Does she have both of her legs again now?” I ask.

“Yes, she does, and she is running again up in Heaven. She is happy.”

I look back at my sandwich, which I had been so joyfully eating only a moment before. Now, my whole world is different. Julie is gone.

“Mom, I was hungry before. But now I am not hungry anymore. Why?”

“It’s because you’re sad about Julie,” she says. She holds me in her arms, and I cry.

I never finish the best sandwich ever.

* * *

Though our families unfortunately lost touch soon thereafter, I still remember Julie some forty years later because of how kind she always was to me.

I do not recall her family’s name, but today, I pray for them.

flowers
Credit: JC

Heavenly Father,

Please bless the surviving family of my childhood friend, Julie. I am sure, Father, they still feel the void of her absence every day. May You continue to lift them up and remind them that she is with You. May You lead any of them who are not yet saved to You, and may You walk even closer with those already saved. May You always provide them with happy memories when their hearts feel sad.

In the blessed name of Jesus I pray.

Amen

* * *

In retrospect, I know now in her own moment of sadness, my Mom had to make difficult decisions as far as how to answer the questions of four-year-old me. She chose right.

Though it was very upsetting, two of the comforts I had about the death of Julie when I was a child were that she would feel better and that she would be in Heaven.

Indeed, I will get to see Julie again in the Perfect Place. That still brings me comfort.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.”
Malachi 4:2

Holding on to my Heaven

Have you ever loved someone so much that the very thought of her or him filled you with absolute joy? I mean sheer joy. The kind of love that fulfills the dreams of not only your heart, but your very soul? Your very best dreams, those secret dreams that you never thought could become reality. The kind of person that inspires you to strive to better yourself? You would give up your very life to protect her or him.

I am blessed to share a mutual love with such a person in my life. She loves me for me, unconditionally, and I feel the same for her. She means the world to me, and I cannot imagine a future without her. While I have conquered many fears in recent months since beginning my walk with Jesus, I still have a number of them that plague me.

The biggest fear I have is losing this person. Oh, I don’t mean due to an argument or a misunderstanding, as those kinds of situations would no doubt be temporary between us. I have complete confidence in the longevity of our relationship. No, my fear is losing her to the Perfect Place if she is called Home before me.

Oh, I try to reason through it. She belongs to Jesus, after all, not to me or anyone else. Heaven really is perfection, so I should be happy for her if she goes first.

While I would be happy for her, I would also be devastated for me. No, devastated is an understatement. I would be crushed. Destroyed. There would be nothing left of me. For she is my entire future. I was created to serve next to her, to hold her, and to love her.

I experience Heaven right here on the Earth when I am by her side. People seek true happiness all of their lives, and I have found mine in her. Were she to be ripped away from me, I know I would see her again, for we will have eternity together. Until then, however, this place would become my hell.

I am supposed to give her up to Jesus, to whom she already belongs anyway. She is not even mine to give, yet I hold on to her, I cling to her. Even a theoretical thought of losing her can bring me to tears.

fog
Credit: JC

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
James 4:14

Life is fleeting. The days seem to pass faster and faster. We only have so many days, and I love most of all the ones I share with her. The thought of having endless tomorrows without her is unbearable. We are supposed to be together. Why do I waste any of the limited days we have here on anything besides her?

The raw truth is that this is a trust issue between me and God. I know in my heart that He created this love, that He literally designed us for one another, and that He brought us together. So, why can’t I trust Him to give us enough tomorrows? While it feels as if there can never be sufficient time with her, this is the same God that created eternity, after all. Nothing is beyond His power.

Why can’t I trust that He will guide me through the pain should she go first? For He would be all I have left, the only hope I would have to continue my journey if she were gone.

I dislike even typing about losing her. I don’t even want to post this, but I always write what comes to mind here. No filters.

Some may say I love her too much, that I need to redirect that love to Jesus. No, I can never believe I love her too much. God is love. He created our infinite love. It is impossible to love too much. I love her more every day. When she says, “I love you,” I am filled with absolute joy. I am giddy. I refuse to believe there is anything wrong with that, either.

Of course I love Jesus, and He loves me unconditionally. He has literally given up His life for me, for all of us. The fact that I do not fully trust Him, particularly with her, is my fault. It is something I am working on. Jesus also fills me with joy. My love for her does not take anything away from my love for Jesus or my personal relationship with Him.

As is so often the case, I offer no real answers today. This is but a presentation of my heart, for all I can do is put my loved one in His arms, and let Him take us from there.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
Psalm 31:5

Searching for peace

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be at peace with myself. I make steps forward and then take steps back. Jesus lifted my chains when I was saved, and then I betray his love by putting some of them back on.

I still fight my anxiety. Every day. Yesterday morning, I was forced to attend a large meeting of about 400 people. I did not have to speak or really do anything at said meeting except be there and at least appear to listen.

From the time I sat down, I was anxious. I arrived with only a minute to spare, so I had to sit between two people I did not know. I still do not know them, for I was not in a good place. I was not able to shine the light and speak with them as I should have.

I reached out to my Bible Study Partner (BSP) for comfort via text, and that helped immensely for a time. However, I eventually reached a point where I stopped texting because I did not want to appear disrespectful to one of the speakers. As the anxiety flowed through my veins again, an extremely dark thought entered my mind, the kind of thought that used to plague me before I was saved, but since then has only cropped up two or three times.

“I wish I was dead,” I thought. That’s right, I wanted to die rather than attend this meeting filled with so many people. This, of course, makes no sense. I recognized the darkness for what it was this time, and I prayed it away. This worked, but the anxiety remained. I should have kept praying and just ignored the meeting all together.

After 82 grueling minutes, the meeting finally ended. Though I knew I would not be able to exit the over-capacity parking lot anytime soon, I immediately fled to the safe zone of my car. I hid there for a time, trying to calm down. Unfortunately, I had less than ten minutes to do so because I had to drive to another (thankfully much smaller) meeting across town.

I drank some water and had a snack. The calm never came. I should have read some verses and prayed, but I did not. Instead, it was back on the road with me. Driving is one thing I have improved on when it comes to my anxiety, and even yesterday I am happy to report I did okay, despite my anxious state.

I remained off kilter for the next several hours. My BSP recognized this and read our daily devotional to me a little earlier than normal. Calm finally began to set in. His Word has that power. I already knew this, of course, yet I failed in the midst of a busy day to take even a minute or two to draw on this peace.

Will I ever find my peace? Yes, for I have already come a long way. Dark thoughts occasionally return, but I know how to fight them now. I have Jesus on my side. I am a child of God.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Trees
Credit: JC

Inside an anxious heart

I have experienced much change since writing my last post over two weeks ago. Yet, some of my more annoying aspects continue.

I suffer from anxiety, which can be a challenge not only for me, but for those around me as it can manifest in various ways. In public, it often means I start to shut down.

Though I rationally know it is probably not true, in the moment I feel as if everyone is looking at me and judging me. I am holding the line up. I don’t know what to do next. People are barking instructions at me, but I don’t understand. I begin to freeze up. I just want to crawl away and hide. Better yet, disappear. Forever.

Flee. That is my instinct. This is not always an option, though. I usually have to push through. I often try to avoid certain scenarios that I know feed my anxiety. I don’t arrive at the grocery store after 8 AM, for instance, as it is too crowded. People. Always in a hurry. And I am always in the way. Always.

Driving is another challenge. There was a time when I only drove my one route back and forth to work, and I avoided driving elsewhere as much as I could. I would let someone else drive. That was easier. Give in to the fear. I became dependent, though. I could only go somewhere out of the ordinary if I had someone to drive me. With the encouragement of my Bible Study Partner (BSP), I have started driving myself on different routes and to different places. It may sound silly, but these are actually accomplishments to someone that had essentially drove only on a few established routes for years and had no confidence to drive anywhere else.

One Way sign, pointing to Heaven
Credit: JC

I can still get worked up while driving, though. Again with the people. Always rushing. Always in a hurry. I dread right turns at stoplights, for instance, because if the light is red, I am very cautious before proceeding. But, if someone honks his horn at me in impatience, my mind goes blank. Everything goes white. I can’t see. I sometimes go ahead and pull into oncoming traffic such that the person behind me can be on his way. I wonder if he would care if he watched me get creamed and splattered across the intersection in front of him? I suspect not. He would probably drive on past, happy to be on his way to whatever important destination awaits him. He has to get that morning coffee, after all.

Anxiety often hits me at work. The nature of my job is such that I have to talk to and interact with people every day.

Some days are better than others. On bad days, my heart will start pounding: Thud. Thud. Thud.

“The candidate is here for you to interview.”

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She is over 15 minutes early. I am not ready. I try to explain this to the recruiter. But my words are inadequate. I can’t think.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I try to take a few minutes. I need time to think. To prepare. Before I can even take a breath, though.

“Here is the candidate!”

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I can’t breathe. I’m not ready. I should have made this more clear, but it is too late. I can’t think. I don’t know what to do.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Instead, I lash out. I am rude to the recruiter.

Now, I am not only suffering from anxiety, but I am being a jerk. This is not who I want to be. I am a child of God.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Interview has to start. The rest of the interview panel is looking at me.

The knowing stares. The thoughts I think I see in their eyes.

He is losing it again.

What is wrong with him?

He can’t handle his position.

The one person who understands me steps in, covers for me. Things begin, despite me.

I breathe and try to calm down.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a prayer stone that my BSP gave me for dealing with such situations. I hold it throughout the interview. I repeat over and over in my head, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Thud. Thud. Thud.

By the time it is my turn to question the candidate, I am at least functioning.

I still feel the eyes, though. The worried looks.

I make it through the experience, but at what cost?

After the interview, I retreat to my office and close the door. I need time alone or, ideally, with my BSP. I remain off-kilter and need to re-center. Read scripture. Pray.

Nope. No time for any of that. Within a minute, there is a knock at my door.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It is the recruiter. This would be a great time to apologize. Or I should just ask her to come back later.

That’s not what I do, though. Instead, I lash out even more. If it seemed like I might have been a jerk before, this solidifies it.

The recruiter leaves, and I finally get a chance to be alone with God. Why did I let all of this happen? What is wrong with me?

I wish this post had answers. It does not. All I can say is that I remain a work in progress. Incidentally, I did later apologize to the recruiter, and I asked forgiveness from both her and God.

My BSP helps me tremendously with my anxiety, finding ways to comfort and calm me. Suggesting things to try in the moment. Always trying to help. I am sad to report that I even occasionally lash out at this caring individual. Yes, I am that much of a jerk.

All I can say is that I am trying. Some suggest taking life a day at a time, but sometimes, I have to take it more like a moment at a time. Just get through this moment, and then the next. Then the next.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.