Monday, March 29, 2010

Charged and Ready to ROLL

In my last blog “The Climb,” I referred to a time in my life when I worked with a personal trainer to obtain my best physical body. God is now my personal trainer- working in, on, and through me to build my best spiritual body. Once again, I’ve become aware of some incredible analogies.

When we train with weights, we are actually tearing the muscle down. The recovery that follows builds it into something stronger. Life throws us some pretty intense work outs. It tears us down, but in the end, can build us into someone stronger . Just as with a workout in the gym, the more we ‘show up‘ and apply ourselves with focus, intensity to push through the pain, and a continual reach toward becoming stronger, the more strength we create, the better our results, and the better our life experience.

There is a type of work out called “working the muscle to failure”. The idea here is to do a set of an exercise until you have nothing left. You reach a point of burnout where you “fail” even if you try to do a single rep.

Sometimes we are pushed to “failure” by our Heavenly Trainer. “When we are down to nothing, He is up to something.” It’s extremely important to focus, push through the pain, and trust we are being built into something stronger….better.

My trainer would sometimes set the weight on a machine or hand me a large dumbell, to which I would look at him like he was insane. He would help me with the initial push it took to get me going, I would amaze myself with the strength I had on my own and continue to push through until I hit “failure” All the while, my trainer would be there to “spot” me. His presence was assuring and I knew he wouldn’t let me injure myself. God does the same. He may start us down a path that we think is too difficult for us to navigate, but if we tap into the power we have within, we can amaze ourselves at how far we can go. We may even “fail” along the way, but Our Father is always there to “spot” us. Recovery may be longer than we’d like, but if we trust the process, the experience will result in us having a stronger body - could be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The formula for the workout is all the same.

Mother Nature gifted us with a week of sunshine. Father God gifted me with a week of SONshine. The dulldrums my eyes experienced as they looked out the window of our home or my car through the winter, have been replaced with Spring’s colorful images and signs of new life. As my spiritual eyes gaze through the window of my soul, they are dancing as they witness the signs of new life, evident in so many ways.

A metaphor presented itself to me early in the week that gave me clarity about the dreary, frustrating season I was stuck in for so long. A car is stuck and can‘t go anywhere if the battery goes dead. It’s dangerous to allow the positive handle to touch a negative one when you try to get a jump start and you certainly won’t get the results you want, if you’re hooking your cables up to the wrong source of energy.

My battery went dead because it was hooked to a negative source. Even after I detached myself from it, I kept “crossing” paths with it.

Once the battery has been successfully charging, the engine will sound like it’s about to turn over. If too anxious to get the car running and to your destination, you can flood the engine by trying to give it gas too soon. I was doing the same. Even after I plugged into the right source, I was not giving my spiritual battery enough time to recharge before trying to drive on into the future. I did not sit idle with patience or be gentle in giving the gas. The false starts frustrated me to no end. Instead of letting off and giving the battery time to charge, I kept putting the pedal to the metal.

I can now see with great clarity how conscious I need to be of steering away from the wrong source and utilizing the right one. I can also see if I get the handles crossed, how important it is to allow the battery to recover.

It’s important to realize energy requires positive with negative. It’s simply a matter of paying attention to what is what and using it the right way. I thought it interesting that the cross is actually made up of the positive and negative symbols. The crucifixion itself was negative, but the result very positive. That's a new awareness that initiates a WOW from me!

Spring is here. With it’s new life it brings a fully charged spirit. With a fully charged battery, God‘s also given me a full tank of spiritual fuel. My engine is purring like a kitten. When God gives me the green light, no longer stuck, I’m ready to ROLL.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Climb

What time in your life were words so profound that you needed to sit down just to allow yourself to absorb the power of them? Not because of the words themselves, but by what the underlying meaning of them was. I wouldn’t be able to answer that question easily myself, for I could write an entire book of incredible examples. I’m about to share with you one such experience.

Although I feel like I’m about to resurrect into a brighter season, one full of Light and Sonshine, days are still a bit more gray than I’d like. I’m blessed with periods of empowerment and signs of beautiful growth, but what I see when I look through my spiritual window isn’t as beautiful as what I know is on it’s way.

When Jonnae was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, I had been working with a personal trainer to prepare for a figure competition (a feminine class of body building). When first hit with the news of her illness, I was ready to drop the goal of building my best body, but quickly I realized that would be quitting…..letting go. Something I didn’t want Jonnae to do, so I used what I concluded was an opportunity to lead her.

I woke up at whatever hour necessary to get my workouts in. If that meant rising at 4:30am and working out in the stairwell of the hospital so I didn’t miss the doctors when they came in for their morning round, that’s exactly what I did. At the time, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. For a mom who lost herself in food every time she was confronted with stress or overwhelmed by emotion, to choose a hard road instead of an easy one, was extremely difficult. I saw the extreme challenge and what seemed like an impossible goal, as THE best way to inspire my daughter to do the same. In extremely different ways, we were both fighting for our lives.

Life continually reveals there’s so much more to learn in the experiences we are having than the obvious. I didn’t just learn how much better my body feels when it’s nourished the right way and active rather than dormant. I learned what victory feels like when it‘s taken literally everything within me to obtain it. I learned EVERY stumbling block can be transformed into a stepping stone if we choose to use it as such.

This morning, I was thinking about a conversation my husband Johnny and I had yesterday. With tears I told him how exhausted I am from climbing mountains. It seems everything requires me to dig deep and ‘climb‘. Where I used to climb with such strength, grace, and even speed, I find now I slip and maybe even lose ground rather than gain it. Things that were easy and once second nature, I struggle with anymore.

I sat down to write about it this morning and had a flash back to when my time was through with my personal trainer; not a very spiritual guy and certainly not one I would predict would be prophetic with his words. But I just recalled what he said to me and have absorbed the power of those words he spoke. He said, “So what’s next for you? You’ve done just about every sport there is.”

I answered him with an “I don‘t know. I definitely need to find something new to challenge me.”

To which he responded, “You have a really strong back. I was watching this rock climber the other day. It was incredible. She was climbing up the side of this huge mountain and I thought, ‘I could totally see Denise doing that. You would be great at it.”

So here I am five years later, hanging on to the ledge of a mountain I never thought I‘d be climbing. Exhausted, but working new muscles and trying to strengthen the ones I have. I haven’t climbed this last stretch with the strength and confidence I know is within me, but those will return. The top of the mountain isn’t within sight, but the view is changing…..and with it I know my strength will return also. I can see the climb becoming more enjoyable. Not necessarily easy, but one I’m up for. I have a strong back, as well as strong legs. God has blessed me with what I need to be a rock climber. My trainer saw it in me, God knows it’s in me, and I’m realizing more and more that I can and will continue to climb. Some day I’ll reach the peak and the celebration and reward will be better than anything I could fathom.

Better every day in every way,

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit (The Beatitudes #1) by loswl.

This weekend I was scheduled to speak during a breakout session at a young adult conference hosted by the local deanery of the Catholic church. I've been stuck for quite some time now, not able to maintain my mojo or groove for more than a couple of days at most (not where I like, or am used to being) I've been forgiving and forthcoming in understanding how this slump could have happened, but have struggles with why it's taking so long to get out of this rut.

I knew this spiritual retreat was going to be a different kind of event for me, for as timing would have it, I've never not been in my groove when the opportunity to inspire through a scheduled talk has presented itself. I didn't know what to expect, but moved forward in faith, expecting a God hug or two to be tucked into the experience. I was not disappointed, as a course of occurances and continued awareness have partially removed what's been blocking the consistant flow of positive energy. Again....I'll do my best to not lose you in my share and rambling of the gifts of God's grace I've experienced over the course of the last two days.

First, there were seven presenters for the breakout session of this first retreat of it's kind at St Augustine. (maybe 20) As the low number turnout was dispersed rather evenly amongst us presenters, I had two who sat in on my presentation. Afterwards, I followed the group into church for a presentation from the keynote speaker, Val Limar Jansen. I was grateful as I felt the healing power of the Holy Spirit move through me as she sang and spoke great words of wisdom and love that seemed directed specifically to me. The tears flowed and I felt the embrace of God holding me and comforting me.

As we sang The Servant Song, I knew, without a doubt, healing was happening. I could FEEL it as we were asked to partner with the person standing next to us and sing the words of the first verse,

Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

My soul was bittersweet as it rejoiced in the fact that I would forever be a servant to God's people, looking to Christ as my example yet I was being humbled by the fact that I too need the healing that comes from being served.

We grabbed the person on our other side to be our partner for the second verse. We were to stand shoulder to shoulder as we sung with our partner:

We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

My spirit was being lifted as only God can do with His Word and miraculous timing. As I was singing "help each other walk the mile and bear the load" I was thinking of Simeon bearing the load of the cross for Jesus. I've been praying for a Simeon. I need help on this journey. I'm tired and don't know when that help will come, but as we tipped our heads to one another before finding our new partner for the next verse, my new friend had tears in her eyes and she said, "I don't know what just happened, but must tell you you have the most beautful spirit". I can only imagine it was the Holy Spirit, healing her as it was healing me. And we looked for a third partner and sang:

I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow till we've seen this journey through.

Val Limar asked us to share with that last partner, a single prayer request. Mine simply said he prays for more people to pray the rosary. I promised him I would do as Jonnae and I did exactly two years ago and pray the Rosary daily for the remainder of Lent. I asked him to pray for my peace, for I'm tired of being weary and unable to find contentment with God's plan over my expectations. I want my daily commitment to God to be as a blank piece of paper. No limitations, conditions, or expectations, just my complete surrender to do my best at WHATEVER God's plan is for me EVERYDAY!

Val Limar's voice truly is that of an angel. After a skit she did about Mary and Martha serving Jesus and what he had to say about his body, being the "poor". She sang "The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor". Again, I could not contain my tears. My spirit has been running low and God has heard my cry. He knows, that NO MATTER WHAT, low tank or high tank, good times and bad, I will not cease in praising His name. He will not cease in wrapping me up in His sweet love. He is the ultimate healer, I came home feeling renewal of Spirit.

No coincidence that the next morning I went to the gym for some cardio and the movie "Love Happens" was playing at our gym's cardio theater. I had just asked the two who attended my breakout session the day before if they had seen this very movie, for it was perfect in helping me communicate a few thoughts. (Lydia and I watched it a few weeks ago and although it was no block buster, the main character of the movie and I had a lot in common. He had lost a loved one (his wife) and had written a book about his experience. As a result, he was a highly sought after inspirational speaker (the book we have in common. I dream of inspiring masses of people through the share of my story, falls as well as victories, but it's the expectation of how I thought it would happen that's robbing me of my joy. That's why the visual of the blank piece of paper is so strong for me. I want to serve without getting hung up on what I thought would happen and what is) But one thing that I told Lydia and I knew God was reiterating to me, is that I never want to present myself as someone that I am not. This character in the movie was running out to greet his audiences with fake enthusiasm. (He was himself struggling, depressed, and trying to numb the pain with alcohol before he headed out to inspire) Over the course of the last year and a half, I've been hurt personally by someone who portrays himself to be loving and good, when in reality he is not. Through the pain of that experience, God has made it blatantly clear, He does not want me to become a hypocrite. I'm to ever mindful of my weaknesses as well as my strengths. My truths are to be shared, not camaflouged with a fake persona. God has used that personal pain to show me what not to become and now in this movie He was reminding me again.

I brought the movie up the previous day, to share with my group, although I'm an inspirational author and speaker and normally am full of spirit to be the 'lifter', honestly I was not feeling like the lifter this particular morning. I used the movie as an icebreaker to share that truth. I believe being transparent and honest is the key to true inspiration. None of us need put on masks or act our way through life. We need to hear each others stories, enriched by victory, but strengthened because of the battles.

I was only going to do a half hour of cardio, but I knew that movie was playing for me. I knew that there must have been somthing I missed the first time, that I would see this time, or something that I needed to hear again. I was right.

I hopped on a machine and watched eagerly and listened intentively. Within minutes I was watching a group session on the big screen. Some of the attendees of this seminar were in a circle and the focus was on a father who had lost his son in a tragic accident. He had suppressed his anger and was letting it out as a result of the main characters prompting him. The awareness that release needs to happen in order to move forward is important and took note of that yet again, for I've been mindful of making sure that I feel what I FEEL and acknowledge, work, and move through my emotions. However, I managed to break away from the focus that the movie director/producer had created with the camera during this scene, but rather was eyeing the "extra" that was sitting next to angry father. This was one of those gifts for me, that I knew would be revealed if I accepted the invitation to trust Divine timing and see what this movie had to share differently this time . I had not noticed this extra in the movie before....who would really, but as she was observing the conversation in her hands, she held and was praying the Rosary. (my reminder to not fall back on my promise and say it this first day after I had committed to do so)

I also heard again, to begin rebuilding, using what I know. To not look in the rear view mirror so much, that I can't move forward. To not fear, but to trust, I know what to do. .....and I DO! :)

That's what transpired yesterday. Today, I pulled up the site Jonnae and I used two years ago, because I love how the pictures and reflections keep me focused on the Mysteries of the Rosary as I'm saying the prayers. For those of you unfamiliar with this form of prayer who may be interested, there are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous. A weekly schedule guides us to say certain mysteries on certain days. Today is designated as the day to pray the Joyful Mysteries. There are 5 decades to each of the Mysteries. As you pray a decade you reflect on one of the 5 Mysteries. The Joyful Mysteries are The Annunciation (when the angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce she will conceive by the Holy Spirit, the Son of God) The Visitation (when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth to share her news and serve her cousin who is also pregnant) The Nativity (when Jesus is born in the manger) The Presentation (when Mary and Joseph present, as Jewish law commands, the baby to the Lord for purification) and The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (after a 3 day search to find him) With the praying of the Rosary and meditation on the Mysteries, you also reflect on the fruit of the Holy Spirit that was experienced through that event. The Annunciation -humility. The Visitation - love of thy neighbor. The Nativity - Poverty of the Spirit. The Presentation - Purity of Mind and Body, The Finding of Jesus - Obedience.

As I reflected on the Nativity and thought of Mary and Joseph's poverty in that manger and their willingness to trust and not get discouraged by lack of what they deserved as the parents of Jesus, but what they accepted with grace as their role in his life and God's plan, I'm encouraged to do the same. I sometimes feel like I deserve to be rewarded with an easier road, but realize, that's not how commitment and faith are displayed. I yearn to stay in this place of surrender and humility. I'm not poor, in material or spiritual wealth. Crazy how easy it is for me to forget. I am RICH in all that matters. God doesn't leave me wanting for anything, even when I feel poor, financially or in spirit, He provides what I NEED! My wants may temporarily get in the way, but because of faith, they will not be triumphant in robbing me of true wealth and joy.

Okay, so I may not have been able to keep it short and to the point as I aimed to. But as much as I want to share these revelations, I also want to capture their essence the best way I can. Hopefully, I'm able to do that, without losing you in the process, lol.

Better every day in every way!