Lessons Learned

Before Dorothy can leave the Land of Oz, Glinda asks what lessons she has learned:

I feel a little like Dorothy. This year has been quite a journey. Not all of it has been good. I didn’t reach many of the goals that I set for myself.

Part of me wants to stamp the file that holds this year with a big fat: FAILED!

But is it a failure? What did I accomplish?
1. I finished a job. The woman I provided care for died in November. I was with her right up to the end. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
2. I did some writing. But more importantly I put my book out there and have started the arduous process of editing and rewriting it. I have started a second book. I completed a daily devotional online for Advent and headed up a published Advent Devotional for my church.
3. I have connected with Word Weavers International and am involved in two online critique groups—one of which I’m leading. This has increased my vulnerability and accountability.
4. My husband and I did some major de-cluttering in our home, reclaiming space and rearranging things for better use.
5. I have made a major dietary change as the result of a major illness and subsequent chronic issues that developed. I have been gluten free for four months.
6. I spoke at three retreats and two speaking opportunities scheduled for next year already.

And that’s just a start. So perhaps not reaching my goals isn’t as much a failure as I initially supposed.

Perhaps God had other things planned for me. I can’t say I enjoyed being sick or the residual effects, but there has even been gain in that pain.

So what do I have to look forward to?

I’m not sure completely, but I know that there is much writing to do, a part time job to secure, a writers’ conference to attend, much Scrabble to play with my mother, and weight to be lost—for good!

The rest is grace and gravy…gluten free of course!


God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” Hebrews 4:7, NIV

I have been a procrastinator my whole life. I imagine if I checked with my mom she would tell me I was even late being born.
I wish I had a dollar for every time she would address my procrastinating with this bit of wisdom: Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today. I remembered this as I read this passage in Hebrews.

Several times in scripture we are reminded that God’s word is today, now, this day. Our strength is being renewed day by day. The Israelites were fed manna daily in the wilderness. Jesus taught his disciples to ask for the daily bread and not worry about tomorrow because it has its own particular problems.

Just as clearly we then learn that Satan’s word is tomorrow. Moses asked when he wanted relief from the plague of frogs to which he surprisingly replied, “tomorrow.” Why wait? God can take care of it now? Makes no sense to me. So whether by procrastination, putting off until later, or worry about what tomorrow holds, Satan’s job seems to be to get us off focus of the present and presence of God in this moment right now.

As a counselor I encouraged families frustrated by negative behavior to consider that all behavior serves a purpose. This is even true of procrastination. Two primary purposes jump quickly to mind. First, we procrastinate or put off doing something in order to maintain control. I’m sure we’ve all seen how a three year old can dig in her heels in defiance. She doesn’t want to do whatever Mom wants. Even at her young age and diminutive stature she fights for some semblance of control. Sometimes it’s cute on a toddler—not so much on an adult.

The other purpose that procrastination serves is fear. I don’t do what I need to do because I’m afraid. Afraid I’ll fail. Afraid I won’t be perfect. Afraid I’ll disappoint. The way the twisted thinking goes is that if I don’t do anything then I can fail or disappoint. The problem with that is we don’t realize how often this disappoints those who are expecting us to do something. Bosses are frustrated when the job doesn’t get done. Teachers have little option but to fail us for not completing the assignment (or science fair project). And if I wait to the last minute and don’t have all I need to complete the task (whether it’s poster board or ingredients for class treats), then I can put the blame outside of myself. ..or at least try to.

While I am quick to assure others of this, I’m a little more reluctant to own it for myself. That doesn’t however make it any less true. I’m working to release my fears and my insane need to control everything. My family will tell you it’s been a series of pain-filled baby steps. It’s just not natural for me to surrender, not initially anyway. I know I will get there, but it’s a process for me. Thankfully God gives the strength to work on it each day, day by day, starting Today!

Wondering and Wandering: Fear and Freedom

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.'” (Rom. 8:15).

It’s a lot easier to write when I don’t envision my friends’ smirking faces as they read what I’ve written. In particular, I can see Heidi’s grin as she scans over these words. I see her face because it’s her voice I hear in my head right now. I’ve been playing back a conversation we had on Friday as we ate ice cream and sucked down several cups of coffee. “What are you so afraid of?” she asked me.

I had no answer then. I don’t have one now. What I do have is a heavy weight sitting right on my chest, squashing me, squeezing all the air out. Fear is that weight, but I don’t know what it is fear of exactly. Failure. Rejection. Pointlessness. All of the above. None of the above.

Fear is not a new companion. I have lived most of my life afraid of something. I remember the physical frozenness when I was in hospital chaplaincy training and how hard it was to make myself walk through that door. I have been so afraid of driving in weather. Fear has affected my friendships, my relationship with my husband, my job performance.

So when I started researching for today’s word, I started by doing a keyword search on bound. Nothing jumped. I switched to bind. Nope. I googled “spiritual bondage.” Getting closer. Then I pulled out my Theological Dictionary and was directed to the above scripture reference. It wasn’t until I read it a few times that one word jumped up and bit me on the nose. Again.

Chapter 7 of Romans is one of the Bible’s great wrestling matches. My other favorite is Jacob and the Angel. Anyway, in Romans 7, Paul is describing the internal wrestling match he has between doing the good he wants to do and the not-good that he ends up doing. Near the end of the match, Paul asks the question, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Paul wants us to know that God has not set us free to be put into slavery, or bondage AGAIN.

In Christ Jesus we are not just set free, but we are adopted into the closest of relationships. To call God Abba is to refer to him in a dependent and loving way as would a child and with the respect that an adult has for his or her parent. It is a relationship that is completely secure and that’s what releases us from the bondage of fear.

As we wade even deeper into Advent, let us marvel at the freedom that Jesus came to offer. Let’s take time to identify and surrender our fears to him. I mean seriously, aren’t you getting tired of the wrestling match?
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

2. Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.


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