Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Expanding My Spanish Circle of Friendship

               Do you ever have those moments in your life when you are just so full of gratitude and can’t believe how perfectly ordained an event could be?  I have had so many of those over the past year that I have started to document them in my writing.  They give me goose bumps or “God bumps” as I call them, every time I think of them.  Last week I had another one of those special moments.
                The story began a few months ago when I started to accept the fact that in order to really tell the story that God has put on my heart to write, that I would have to meet Rosa, the mother of the Spanish foreign exchange student we had in our home two summers ago.  I always knew I would meet Rosa face to face.  But now God was telling me that it wasn’t just my story to tell.  He wanted me to see this from Rosa’s perspective too.
                I had no idea how I was going to be able to do this or if Rosa would even be open to sharing that with me.  And after all, we do not speak the same language.  When I expressed my desire to Rosa, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was already learning English.  So our goals were totally in sync.  Now Rosa is learning English so that when we meet our communication will be unhampered.  And I am writing the story from my perspective in preparation to meet with her someday. 
                Someday ... writing a book is no small task though and I knew (know) that I would need a deadline to keep me moving on this major project.  And then there was also the concern about where to get the money.  When the sales of Pedro’s CD didn’t materialize like I had hoped, I asked God for an answer.  That is when he gave me the perfect response.
                One day when I was looking through my jewelry box, I came across my mother’s wedding ring.  It was a vintage style white-gold diamond ring from my step-father that she had given me several years ago.  I had forgotten I had it.  Immediately when I saw it, I felt God give me a nudge to sell the ring.  I initially wondered if I’d be able to part with it, but I totally sensed that my mother would be thrilled at the idea.  I felt her smiling at me from beyond.  She wanted me to go to Spain.  She knew how important this trip would be for me.  I also knew that selling the ring would be part of this story.
                Two months later and the ring still sat in my jewelry box.  I knew I would have to get the ring appraised and I started to wear it so that I could drop it off at a jeweler.  One day while on an outing with my friend Linda, she noticed the ring and asked me about it.  I told her I was selling it to get to Spain.  She immediately told me she wanted to buy the ring.  I was shocked and only took her half seriously.  But the ring fit perfectly on her finger.  She insisted that she really loved the ring and wanted to buy it.  Linda had just received her Washington State mental health license and wanted the ring to acknowledge this accomplishment.  As a single woman she also wanted this ring to signify that Jesus is her husband.
                This was just too coincidental to not be a sign from God.  The reason I need to go to Spain is because of the healing I received when my mother passed away.  The story of this healing is connected with Rosa and with Spain.  And now my best friend wanted to buy the ring.  I knew my mother would be so happy.  The ring wasn’t just going to be sold, it was going to be cherished and worn by my dear friend as a reminder of her love for Jesus.

                Now all that remained was the appraisal and selling of the ring.  I wanted enough to cover the airfare to Madrid during the peak summer season, but I had no idea of the value of the ring.  I prayed about it and released the outcome to God.  Last week I took the ring in to be appraised.  I was overwhelmed with delight and tears of joy when the ring appraisal covered the cost of my ticket to Spain!
                So I can confidently now say that I really am going to Spain.  I am planning a trip in the summer of 2013.  That gives me one year (that’s the deadline I needed) to write the manuscript—my detailed side of the story.  It gives Rosa one year to learn English—and with a little luck I can work on my Spanish a bit too. 
                What is so cool about this story is that it doesn’t really feel like I gave up my mother’s ring.  It feels more like I am investing in my Spanish circle of friendship.  My best friend received a ring she adores, she has a connection to my mother and is now a key player in this amazing story that God is weaving across 5300 miles to Spain.  And, just like my mother, Linda will be there in spirit with me next summer.
It gives me “God bumps” again just to think about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Building Teams For Life

Have you ever given any thought to the how’s and whys of the relationships you have around you?  As we go through life we connect with people and build relationships from a variety of sources.  We have blood relatives, marital ties, work relationships, school relationships, church or ministry relationships and special interest or hobby groups—to name a few. If you really take a look at the people in your relationship circles, you can start to see patterns in the people you have around you.  Those patterns can help you to determine your own areas of growth and pruning in your life.
Before I got into recovery, I didn’t pay any attention to the reasons people were in my life.  I just blindly went through life doing all I could to cope with each new circumstance that landed in my path.  When I started to realize that I had choices about who I could be in relationship with and what those relationships would look like, it was very freeing.  I had to go through a painful process of pruning some of those relationships.
One of the guiding principles I use to build new relationships is based on a definition from the book “Safe People” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  They define safe people as someone who:
1.    Draws us closer to God.
2.    Draws us closer to others.
3.    Helps us become the real person God created us to be.
As I recently began to lead a group of women through a Christian 12-step program, I was again faced with looking at the relationships I have around me.  While I’ve been blessed to have some amazing spiritual women mentor me and befriend me, I still needed to strengthen the team of recovery relationships I have around me.  That’s because as you work through the 12 steps you need to be connected with people who have walked this path before you.  You need their expertise and guidance and to offer hope as you progress through the 12 steps.
But that is not the only team I am building around me.  I am taking these same principles into my career and life goals as well.  For my writing, I attend monthly Christian writer’s meetings so I can meet other writers and glean from their wisdom.  For my scrapbooking and photography interests, I connect with others who have a love of those hobbies.  I also have a group of trusted friends who I can call on for prayer and comfort in my darker times. 
Building teams for life is a very rewarding process.  The harder part is discerning when to prune those relationships.  But if we go through life with the philosophy that there are seasons to our lives as Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, it is much easier to make decisions to prune our relationships or to let them go at the right time.
Whether you are working on a 12-step program or just dealing with life’s every day challenges, we all need a team of people around us to support us, encourage us and mentor us.  When you think about the teams of people around you, do you see gaps that need to be filled or areas to prune?  What’s your next step to cultivating the relationships you need in your life to achieve your goals?  What are you waiting for?  Just do it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Was The Sacrifice Worth It?

Last year I entered into the Lenten season with much anticipation and reverence as I started to explore Jesus from a more contemplative perspective.  I spent much time in prayer and meditation.  I also fasted from alcohol.  It ended up being the most amazing 40-day spiritual journey of my life.  And so I decided to make many of those changes a permanent part of my everyday life. 
As I entered into the Lenten season this year, I was expecting the same kind of holy ground type of experience.  That’s not exactly what I got though.  I fasted again this year, but this time it was from alcohol and sweets.  I increased my prayer and meditation time which had become a bit inconsistent over the past year.  That’s where the similarities ended. 
This year, Lent coincided with a period in my life when I was being called into a major leadership role in ministry.  After three years away from serving in ministry leadership, I had forgotten how prevalent and pervasive spiritual attacks can be.  (A friend told me today that is also why God doesn’t allow women to remember the pain from childbirth.) 
This has probably been the most difficult spiritual journey of my life.  I know that if I hadn’t been heavily investing in my time with God and seeking His will for my life as part of my Lenten practice, that I wouldn’t have fared so well during this trial.  I needed that quality time alone with God to give me His peace and to strengthen me each and every week.
Lent is technically over, but for me the spiritual disciplines of the last 40 days are not.  I did already have a few sweets and my body quickly told me it didn’t like that decision.  And at least for now, the alcohol is still on hold. 
So was the sacrifice and fasting worth it?  Absolutely.  As God continues to call me to serve Him in ways that stretch me outside of my comfort zone, I will continue to seek His wisdom and discernment on how to do it not on my own self-sufficiency, but according to His will.  It’s the best chance I have of living a worry-free life.
On to the next 40 days—and Pentecost!