Heart in the Clouds

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Hatching of a Heart - Rich Mullins

"The Hatching of a Heart" - Rich Mullins

Well the night was cold and my heart was
Hidden very safely in a shell
But I knew somehow I'd have to run that risk
Have to open up myself
Look at the stars on the face of the sky
They're the same ones Abraham saw
Come under my wings I will make you shine
Give you strength enough to love

Oh now I'm getting strong enough
You helped me chip my way out and open myself up
And for the snow that comes with winter
For the growth that comes from pain
For the joke I can't remember
Although the laughter long remains
For the faith that brought to finish
All I doubted at the start
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart

Well my face was smooth and featureless
Just like an egg
And if I was moved you would never guess it
By the look upon my face
But You said man looks without but I look within
I can see the love you hide
It's a matter of doubt it's a symptom of sin
It's a problem of too much pride

And I now I'm opening up wide
Wet feathers pulled out from beneath me
And You're teaching me to fly
For the strength that comes with friendship
For the warmth that comes with hope
And for the love time can't diminish
And for the time love takes to grow
And for the moonlight on the water
And for the bright and morning star
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart

And for the moonlight on the water
And for the bright and morning star
Lord I give you praise for all that makes
For the hatching of a heart

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grateful - August 24, 2010

As He often does, God has been speaking to me through a natural object lesson. In this case, it's the art of creating a bonsai tree. I know your mind probably springs immediately to Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid movies, but creating a bonsai is a work that a gardener does over a long period of time. Sometimes, the bonsai outlasts the gardener.

While we were in NC this past weekend, we took a little tour of the NC Arboretum (ie. GIGANTIC garden) in Asheville. As we were walking, we came to the bonsai exhibition and there were placards and photos posted on the walls detailing the process of creating a bonsai tree. These are the ones that stood out to me.

--Pruning is an essential ingredient in creating a bonsai. The gardener chooses which parts to remove or to leave, based on the mental image of the best shape possible for the subject plant.

--Repositioning various parts of the plant is often necessary to achieve the desired result.

--Root pruning allows the plant to grow indefinitely in a container without becoming pot-bound. Great care must be taken to do this work at the correct point in the growth cycle and to avoid aggressive pruning.

--While the initial work of the bonsai is now complete, it will never be considered "finished" as long as the plant is alive. The gardener will continue to maintain and develop the desired shape of the bonsai as it grows, always striving to refine the design while promoting excellent health in the living plant.

If you know me, you know I love a good object lesson. God likes to speak to me through things I can see and touch. In this case he hit me between the eyes, and he spoke to me about the truth of being patient and waiting for him to do the work. He has a picture in mind of what he wants my life to look like. He knows what's best. He knows what to keep and what to remove. He knows how to reshape me.

The key for me is to learn to have the patience to wait for him to work. As long as I'm alive, my journey will never be complete. God does big things in me, but he continues to maintain my growth in small ways. He is constantly refining me because he wants me to be as healthy as I can be.

You can't hurry a bonsai tree. It takes a lot of waiting and pruning and training to get a bonsai tree to go the way you want it to go. God is constantly at work in our lives, molding and shaping us and pruning from our lives the things that would take away from the full beauty that is the picture of what we CAN be. Trusting him and surrendering to the waiting is the hardest part.

If we were to surrender every area of our lives to "The Gardener", who knows what we could become? Try it. I'm going to try it myself. I am ready to quit my complaining and dragging my heels, and I am ready to begin to let him work and "make all things beautiful in his time."


Today, I'm grateful for...

Trying. Sometimes, to get things to be better we have to do our part. We often blame God for the outcomes of our OWN life choices, or we blame other people. There are other times when we don't see that we are the common denominator in all of our failed relationships. God promises to do his part, and what he wants for us is for us to be present in our lives and grateful for every moment. There are moments in life that are good, but that can be GREAT if we decide to try and to make better choices with God's guidance.

Peace. Despite life's circumstances, I have been having a peaceful, easy feeling...insert Eagles song here.

Object lessons. 'Nuff said.

Fresh basil. It's a summer thing. Put together with some fresh, garden tomatoes, some slices of fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sea salt, it's LOVELY.

Learning not to care. I am learning to care less and less about what other people think. Occasionally, I'll get hit with an insecurity that pops up in my heart or a fear of losing someone's approval. But God has been making me more and more secure in his love, to the point where I'm beginning to care less about what others think and to care more about the truths I feel God wants to speak into the lies I'm believing at a given moment. God is faithful to speak the truth if we listen.

Saving money. When we were getting married and going through pre-marital counseling, we felt like God wanted us to plan our lives living off of one income (Meaning, paying all of our bills, mortgage, car payments, etc. using one income, and whatever else came in would be used to pay for extras and fun things). It is an easy thing to do if you're willing to make a few sacrifices early on and to live within your means. We learned early on to be thrifty, but also to realize that money isn't everything and sometimes the occasional splurge is healthy if it doesn't break the bank. Life is too short to focus on what you do or do not have, so I am so grateful (though it can be annoying at times) that God directed us in that way at the beginning. Because of His direction, times like these where Sean is laid off and the income isn't as high as it could be, are easier to handle because we have experienced what it's like to tighten our financial belts.

God's faithfulness. I can look back and see the miracles he's made in my life and I'm so incredibly grateful to be able to experience his love and his faithfulness toward me. No matter how I've turned my back on him or rejected the love he's tried to give, he has continued to be faithful. When God makes a promise, he keeps it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grateful - August 19, 2010

I have never been more grateful for "dire" circumstances...actually, our circumstances are by no means TRULY dire, but you know what I mean. The job situation that surrounds our family right now is no different than the situations of many other families in our country. Layoffs are becoming an everyday thing, sadly. But in the middle of it all, I'm finding a deeper reservoir of hope than I've ever seen in myself. I know it comes from God. I feel happier now than I did when things were (on the outside) appearing to be "good". Things still ARE good.

My friend, Mike Asquino, who has Multiple Sclerosis, said that he is grateful for the valley he's in because it's brought him closer to God. He has lost a lot of things and people in his life due to his disease, but he has maintained an upbeat attitude, a sense of humor and his faith in God. I have no excuse. He's become stronger in his faith and he has adapted to the position in which he finds himself. He has hope in God.

If we learn nothing else from the down turns in life, we MUST learn that most often the down turns pass. Sometimes they DON'T pass, but we have the choice to be changed for the better or for the worse, no matter where we find ourselves. Things will change. Life goes on and it's too short to spend focused on the smaller picture. In the grand scheme of life, the bad circumstances we endure will be what my mom calls (insert Southern accent), "just a blip on the screen". If we allow God to change US and do his work in us, it almost doesn't matter what happens on the periphery because we have surrendered to the current of his will.

I'm grateful for...

Beth. She is the one who inspired me to begin expressing my gratitude. I have watched her grow in her journey of gratitude and her growth has inspired me. She does a list every day. It's amazing to read her daily descriptions of the weaknesses in her life, but seeing the incredible strength she has found through thankfulness has been such a catalyst in my own life change.

The blessing of transparency. One thing I've begun learning over the past year and a half of finding my gratitude has been the ability to be transparent. I'm not "there" totally yet, but I'm FAR more open than I ever was prior to the beginnings of this journey. Gratitude has forced me to be open about my weaknesses because I've been so overwhelmed with the realization of the grace God has extended to me. If you focus on the good things around you, you can't help but be touched with the knowledge that you are so incredibly undeserving and yet loved wholly and completely. The ability to be transparent is a blessing. It means you can just be yourself. It means you can be free. It means that you can say what is in your heart. It means you don't have to be ashamed or embarassed because you are who you are by the grace of God. It also means that you give others the permission to not be ashamed. That is the true gift of transparency. It's passed on. It's inspiring to other people.

Cutting back. We've been thinking of ways to "tighten our belts" in order to accomodate our change in circumstances and it's actually been a good thing. It's fun to try to see who can think of the best ways to save or who can think of the cheapest family date. I think it's all in perspective.

Family time. I look forward to layoffs for that very reason. We have spent a lot more quality time together as a family because we have been given this opportunity.

Steelers training camp. It may seem like no big deal to someone else, but you know how much I love my Steelers. It was awesome. I am TOTALLY going again next year. :)

Sean. Today, (without me asking for his help) he not only cleaned the whole 2nd floor of the house, including the kids' play/school room, our bedroom, the bathroom and the kids' bedroom, but he also took the time to sit down and write a little poem for me which he posted on his FB page for me to find. I posted it earlier, but I'll put it here. He got very emotional while writing it...it made me feel loved. :)


If I could fall into your arms

And dream a dream that would never end

I would be invincible

Untouched from all that breaks and bends

If I could stare into your eyes

Till all that hurts just melts away

All I know would fill with light

This night would birth a brand new day

I'll watch you dance and sing tonight

I'll let you take my breath away

I'll see what's true, pure and right

You are all I want to know

You are all I want to know

If all the world would turn away

And everything I know to fade

The only life that I would need

Is your hand inside of mine

I'll tell the world to take its time

Mine is set and yours to spend

For all the love we make is right

Perfection never has an end


My hope is that you realize that the down turns in your life can truly change you for the better. The change involved is a choice, though. It's far easier to allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity. If I experience a rough patch, I do give myself a time frame for wallowing. Once the time period is up, though, I pick myself up, and I make the choice to move on. I have found that the more I've stuck to the time frame idea, the less I've needed the wallowing time. Most recently, I gave myself three days and I only ended up taking one. I got sick of myself after that day. Ha! If you're going through a hard time, give yourself a time frame to feel what you feel and then once it's up, move on. Grief and self-pity are a part of life, but we can't let our lives get stuck in the muck of sadness. We were meant to live full lives. Self-pity is the enemy of a full life.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grateful - August 9, 2010

I just watched this video of military members coming home to their families...a very happy, hopeful, tearful piece of something that happens every day. But there's nothing "every day" about the military and the things they endure. So I just want to say that I'm thankful for our military. They're a brave bunch of citizens who take their duty seriously. If you get a moment today, say a prayer for them and their safety.

Just so you know, if you watch this video of military homecomings, you WILL cry. Get a Kleenex ready. Link below:

Today, I'm grateful for...

Sunshine. It's been a cloudy couple of days, which I have definitely enjoyed, but it's so nice to see the sun and blue sky again.

An impromptu vacation. While the circumstances surrounding the impromptu vacation, a work layoff, may be less than favorable in some people's minds, I am so thankful that we are having this opportunity. A job opportunity will come available, but the chance for my husband to be in his home country and see his family, even if just for a couple of weeks, is worth it all.

Naps. Yesterday, I took a long nap. It messed up my sleep schedule last night, but it felt so good to wake up from it and not be groggy and tired. I don't often have the opportunity to take naps, so I welcomed it and let it happen. :)

Being somewhere else. Sometimes you have to leave home for a little while to appreciate it more when you come back. I miss my big, messy house, but I am so grateful for this time away.

My kids arguing with each other...yes, that's exactly what I said. While it bothers me to no end and annoys the heck out of me when they fight, I am so glad that I have them and that they have each other. Someday, I'll miss the sound of them yelling at each other, so I'm choosing to be grateful for it. Being grateful for the annoyances makes me more patient.

BBC World News. They show the world events that CNN shows as a little typed line across the bottom of the screen. Sometimes you can't get a grasp of the tragedies and disasters and the magnitude of what's happening to the rest of the world if you don't actually see it. While every news organization has its own spin, I am grateful to be able to actually see and appreciate the things that are happening around the world.

My hope is that you appreciate the things that you may not normally appreciate. Life is fleeting and taking EVERYTHING, every moment of life, as a blessing is sometimes a struggle, but it's a worthwhile struggle. If you can't connect with the less-than-desirable moments of life, you certainly won't be able to connect with the "mountain top" moments. I've read that a truly humble person considers every moment a gift, good or bad, so I hope that I'm learning.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grateful - August 2, 2010

I can't believe it's August. It's been a beautiful summer, and even though I didn't enjoy all of it, I DID have a wake-up call and realized that I was disengaged from my own life. Some things changed, so it was good. It's not fun to realize you've wasted time, but it is what it is.

I have been learning to live simply. One of my favorite Scriptures (Micah 6:6-8) says that the only things God expects of me are to live justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. I notice how often I over-complicate everything, including faith. Thankfully, though, one of the things I learned fairly early on is that striving is futile. God wants nothing from me but to love. Any way that I'd try to strive would make God love me no more than he already does.

My hope is that, if you are disengaged from life like I was, you get your very own wake-up call. It can come in many forms, though mine came through someone's very tragic death. Life is too short to waste it on unimportant things. Be present in your life. Living either in the past or in the future is worthless because the life you have RIGHT NOW is a gift.


I'm grateful for...

A layoff. My husband got laid off last week. Instead of being worried or frightened, I was excited. My husband was happy, too, and is thinking of it as paid vacation and a chance to travel. Perspective is a good thing. We could look at the economy, and at the fact that union plumbing jobs are in short supply in some areas, and we could choose to be worried. But I, personally, don't want to waste time on worry. We have everything we need. We have our children. We have our big, old house. We have our two cars - they're not new, but they are both paid for. Life is good, whether we're on unemployment pay or not. We are blessed. Wasting one day on worry is futile and takes away from the quality of life.

Sunshiny summer days. It's been incredibly hot, but I don't care. As long as it's not snowing, I'm happy. Even if it is snowing, I remind myself each day that we're one day closer to Summer. Silver linings either way, people.

Art. While I don't always see the artistic value in what some people call "art" (air quotes), I love the creative expression of the individual. People's perspectives are all so different. It makes me appreciate how different we all are and how we weren't meant to conform to one way of looking at the world. Whether it's a photo or a painting or a sculpture or a piece of music...whatever it is, it's unique and it's the expression of someone's heart.

Dropping sugar. I feel a lot better since I've started to drop sugar from my diet. I still include it occasionally. I'm trying not to be religious about it, but it's more of an experiment. I adore sugar, but I am realizing it's just not that great for me. (*whispers* I still love my milk chocolate, though.)

Happy kids. As I've said before, they argue all the time and they have a constant power struggle going on, but they truly LOVE each other. If someone were to mess with the one, the other would come to his rescue. They are happy, loving boys, despite the fighting. I often feel like an UNglorified referee, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Opportunities. Whether it's opportunities for unexpected fun, opportunities for me to express myself through my photos or opportunities to practice random acts of kindness, I am grateful for any opportunity.

Random acts of kindness. Whether they're committed by me or for me, they make the world a little bit better. You don't have to believe in a particular religion to appreciate the kindness of another person, especially when it's unexpected.