Cara Mia

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I have this beautiful friend. We delight in deep, spiritual and personal discussions. We also revel in pure joy when we are having our adventures, seeking how to bless others, or just speaking the love language of affirmation that we both share. But this friend displays another attribute which I value greatly. She has the ability to just be.

 

I am an affirmed introvert. Many of you say that I fool you because I am often displaying extroverted characteristics. I care deeply about people and I want them to feel loved, encouraged, and affirmed. That is what motivates me to reach out to you before you reach out to me. But when I am devoid of energy I don’t want to talk. Most people don’t know what to do with that and either stay away or endlessly continue to talk at me. Not my friend. She has the ability to just sit by me and let me be quiet. And in her presence, I know that I am loved and accepted, no matter what mood or state I am in. There is a beautiful quiet and loveliness about her friend presence.

 

I find this same peace in God. Sometimes I chatter and talk to Him about all the things I want Him to know and take care of and thank Him for. We plan our adventures, and how we’re going to to bless others, and speak our love language of affirmation. Other times, when I am devoid of words and animation, I just sit by Him quietly. He doesn’t talk at me. He doesn’t reject me. He doesn’t even mind that I am quiet. For you see, He made me this way, in His great wisdom and desire for diversity. He delights in us just being in each other’s presence and basking in each other’s love.

 

This relationship seems much like I’ve read about the Garden of Eden. Moment by moment, God looked down from the Heavens and saw what His beloved new creations were doing. But more often than not, He was found walking with His beloveds, Adam and Eve, in the Garden. Simply being. Side by side. Just delighting in each other’s presence.

 

So stop being driven to talk all the time. Just stop. Stop talking, stop doing, stop performing. Just be. Simply delight in being in the presence of our Great God. He wanted me to remind you.

 

Relentless Gratitude

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I sat outside on our deck absorbing the Autumn sunshine, watching the turkeys, and delighting in our beautiful view of mountains and woods. I enthusiastically thanked God for giving us such a soul-feeding view that infuses me with peace. My mind reverted back to thinking about the miracle that brought this blessing about. You see, we shouldn’t have this view…….or even this piece of land. We spent 2 years searching for land in TN while living in NY. Every school vacation we got, we would travel to Knoxville, look up our realtor, and have her show us the few tracts of land that she had sent via email and we could… maybe, afford. In November of 2014, we finally walked upon this beautiful acreage and Robert knew within minutes that it was “THE” parcel. How could he possibly know? I convinced him to look at another parcel of land just in case his instincts were wrong. Then we put in a purchase offer and found out within minutes that this desirable piece of land was in probate and there were at least a couple of people ahead of us who had also put in purchase offers. Even more potential buyers had also stood in line for the land but had lost patience with probate and dropped out. It was impossible. But we left our purchase offer in and waited for the Probate Court date and the Judge to release it for resale. Finally, in the Spring of 2015, it came upon the desirable status and should have easily passed into the hands of the people who had been patiently waiting for the last year for their purchase offer to be accepted. Yet, nothing happened. We sold our NY home and moved into our children’s house in the summer of that year and began looking at other properties. Nothing was remotely appropriate or within our price range. Finally, one sultry August day, we got a phone call from our realtor and it changed our lives. The people who were to purchase the 30 acres had dropped out and the property was ours to purchase. We were delirious with excitement! We resubmitted our purchase order and waited for the Judge to approve our offer. We didn’t dare offer anything less than the $89K that was asked for on 30.5 acres. However, when we later viewed the submitted purchase offer, we noticed that it had been submitted at $85K. Oh, no! We weren’t sure what had happened but we held our breaths wondering if the Judge would think we had some nerve proposing that we pay even less for a prime piece of land that was already priced less than it was worth. However, the Judge easily approved our offer! Later, as we spoke with our Realtor we mentioned how aghast we were at discovering the purchase price had been lowered by $5,000. Our realtor insisted that she put in the Purchase offer for the exact amount that had originally been offered. And then we showed her. She couldn’t believe that she made a mistake and put in the offer for $5,000 less than the asking price. We, however, were ecstatic, as we could hardly believe that we were to be the owners of 30.5 acres, let alone afford such a beautiful blessing.

And here I am now sitting on the front deck of our beautiful custom-made home, thanking God, as I survey the beauty of our land. I do that almost daily. But today there was an awareness that I was already forgetting the significant miracle that God put before me. My covetous little heart was grateful…….but I had begun to move on and forget the unexplainable details of our miracle and how significantly it impressed upon us the depth of love and grace God has for us. I’ve already begun asking God for new and more prodigious desires and needs. There is nothing wrong with that, is there? After all, we always have new challenges and needs that we are dependent upon God for.

My mind began switching tracks again and I began thinking of my second oldest child, a daughter named Kaitlyn. From the time she was a little girl, Kaitlyn was that child that asked for little but when you gave her anything, she thanked you in the sweetest way, over and over. Kaitlyn has demonstrated gratitude every day of her life. And to this day, any gift that you give her, any kindness bestowed upon her, any visit endowed to her, you will receive a text, a thank you note, or a specially made Kaitlyn card designed for you and full of specific attributes she appreciates about you. She has a distinct gift of verbally affirming your worth. She does this most expertly with her extraordinary gift of writing and expressing herself.

I desire to take my cues from Kaitlyn. When I experience a miracle, or even a small gift from God in my life, I want to sincerely express my gratitude to Him. I don’t want to be like the Israelites who seemed to forget monumental miracles, like being brought out of Egypt and having a huge sea part in the middle to allow them to walk to safety. I am human and it is hard not to be dulled to the effects of a momentous occasion by moving on into the future. Our moment to moment needs and small catastrophes require us to continually go before God’s throne to ask for His intervention and prevention. But let me not forget the old and precious gifts. Kaitlyn doesn’t let me forget. Randomly, I will get a text or a letter reminding me of a small thing that I said or a kindness we bestowed upon her and how it impacted her life. I need to revisit the miracles and graces that God has lavishly interjected into every aspect of my life. I need to revisit those moments, and tell Him very specifically, over and over what it meant to my life and how loved He made me feel. As a parent, Kaitlyn’s epistles and remembrances stir me to feel as though I raised her in a palace and bestowed every parental asset and luxury upon her. How does God deserve any less from me?

 

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Show Me How to Forgive, Child

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As her Counselor, I sat talking to a most troubled but beloved little girl about the fact that 3 other females had told a whopper of a story to their Physical Education teacher, accusing “Emily” of biting each of them. Our School Administrator did a marvelous job of unraveling this heinous little plot and vindicated my little scapegoated girl. Emily and I went on to discuss other topics and she excitedly began talking about one of her 3 little accusers and the fun times they were going to have. I marveled at her forgiving attitude! Minutes ago she was going to be suspended by this little backbiter and here Emily was talking about this child so positively that you would never know such treachery had occurred. “Emily,” I said “Something very unkind just happened to you and yet you have already forgiven the other little girl. I sometimes struggle with forgiving others. And yet you have done it! I’m so impressed with you!”

“Mrs Gnage,” Emily said………”you stick with me and I’ll show you how to forgive!”

“And so you have Emily…………so you have!”

 
How easy it is for a child to forgive, right? Their worlds are so simple and small. Oh, wait……….I struggle to forgive even the “simple and small” offenses sometimes. On occasion, I’ve angrily held onto a grievance against someone who hurt me and nursed the grudge until it shrieks from overuse. There is a certain attitude of pride in my lack of forgiveness. Deep in the ruminations of my mind, there is the single thought of, “How dare you treat me like that!” There is nothing wrong with asking and expecting to be treated with love and respect, but then again, there needs to be a healthy dose and understanding of my own human depravity. When I recognize how frail and sinful I am, then my, “How dare you treat me that way,” turns into, “How dare I treat God and His beloved children in such an unloving way!”

I will always remember, as a child, being with my favorite cousin, Amy, walking along the mounded edge of a fast-rushing, Pennsylvania river. As we meandered down the riverbank, I found a large and lethal-looking pricker. My immediate impulse was to reach out and stab Amy in the arm with it. She dodged my first few attempts but I was relentless. However, instead of getting angry with me and trying to hurt me either physically or emotionally, sweet Amy said in the most loving voice, “Deanna, sometimes I don’t think you realize it but you often try and hurt me.” Another grace-filled statement made by a child. The reality was that I didn’t realize I had consistently been doing it. And why? Some of it was misplaced humor; thinking it was a funny thing to do and not realizing the depth of pain it inflicted. The rest of the answer came from a place deep within my soul where I felt unloved and occasionally lashed out to make someone else feel hurt. What I learned from Amy that day was that I didn’t need to explode in anger when someone hurt me or took something from me. I needed to use my quiet, gracious voice, and say to the person, “You may not realize this, but you hurt me.” Because maybe they didn’t intend to hurt me or didn’t realize that their words and actions touched on my sensitivity. Or maybe they were being hurtful but my simple words may abruptly open their eyes to the fact that they were intentionally hurtful and that it impacted our relationship in a way that matters.

And then there are the times in life when we are hurt so deeply and grievously that we feel like forgiving a wrongdoer will wrench our souls in two. How can we possibly forgive? There was a time when I could not forgive another human being and held onto my disbelief, horror, and unforgiveness for 3 years. Three years isn’t long, you say, considering some transgressions we hold onto our whole lives? True. But any length of unforgiveness is too long and damaging to our psyches. The situation that had occurred was that my 4-year-old Goddaughter had revealed that a close teenaged family friend whom we had trusted had been molesting her and requiring her to touch him in inexcusable ways. “What kind of a sicko would do something like this?” I railed inside. I just could not forgive him. But that still, quiet voice of the Spirit kept reminding me that I had to. And it was accomplished. How was it done? In the act of praising God. I had gone to a famous local theme park for a 4 day experience of Christian singers, speakers, camping, and fun. I didn’t understand what praising God looked like at that juncture of my Christian experience. I was only used to uninspired religious dirges that had been sung from obedience and not from a deep and profound sense of gratitude and awe towards the sacrifice of my Lord and Savior! During that event, I sat and listened and allowed the lyrics of Christian contemporary, rap, rock, pop, and metal to wash over me as I watched other believers worship with their whole beings. And I realized that these people were ensconced in a beautiful embrace and tribute to who and what God is. It is there that I learned to worship. And when I worshiped, I was hoisted to a higher level. And when I asked God, He supernaturally gave me the ability to forgive my Goddaughter’s perpetrator.  It was still demanded that consequences be meted out and accountability taken by the young man. But I was no longer a slave to unforgiveness. And my Goddaughter? Was she able to forgive? Through a series of delicate and well-worded questions throughout her development, I realized that God had given her the beautiful gift of forgetting. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she didn’t suffer any trauma, and therefore, I didn’t need to carry it either.

Forgiveness will never be easy. It will always be a conscious decision to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the forgiveness we receive daily from our Savior and then extend that same forgiveness to others. There will be times that you bounce right back from an offense with Emily’s zest for getting on with life because it’s just too short. There will be times, that you will need to go to a friend, and say, “I don’t know if you realize this, but you hurt me.” Lastly, there will be the times when it seems as though nothing can take away that iron curtain of unforgiveness. Those are the times that you must go to God in praise and thanksgiving and ask Him for the miraculous gift of His forgiveness. In the words of Emily, God says, “Stick with me, my child, and I will teach you forgiveness.”

I’d Give Anything

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With exasperation, I pull the sopping wet shower curtain closed.

Again.

Why can’t he ever remember to close it? He always leaves it for me.

And then I think……

What if something happened to my beloved?

And he weren’t here anymore…..

I’d give anything to close that shower curtain one more time for him.

 

 

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As a young mother, I groggily awakened to the sound of my wailing infant.

Three times in the night I answered my baby’s call for comfort and food.

When will I ever get a full night’s rest again? The sacrifice is endless.

And yet, what if something happened to my child?

And she weren’t here anymore……

I’d give anything to roll out of bed and hear that sweet sound of life

whimpering for me in the darkness one more time.

 

 

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My adult child calls me from a Police Detention lockup with his first DUI.

I’ve raised that child to walk with the Lord, make wise decisions, and see

the pitfalls of alcohol.

When will this man child ever grow in wisdom and forego numbing himself?

And yet, what if he had died when his car rolled into the ditch?

And he weren’t here anymore…….

I’d give anything to see his endearing face, and to hug him again, whether it was

behind bars or not.

 

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In the presence of my aging parents, I still find myself feeling small, unimportant,

and without a voice.

They wanted sons, perfection, and for me to parent them.

Long ago, I forgave them and made peace with the incongruency.

And yet, what will I feel at the moment when their time comes?

And they aren’t here anymore………….

I’d give anything to see their beloved faces again, and to tell them it’s okay.

They did the best they knew how.

 

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Our lives are full of frustrations, annoyances, and discomfort.

In our human frailty, our relationships are fraught with error, omissions, and

disharmony.

When will I ever remember to give grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love?

And yet, what will I feel when my day comes?

And I stand before God………..

I’ll give anything to tell my beloveds that it was all so petty and insignificant.

This mortal life wasn’t what it was all about.

So thank goodness for a Savior who gave EVERYTHING for us to be with him forever!

 

 

***Deanna M. Gnage, LMSW, 2017.  

(Poetic license was taken with descriptions of the “adult child.”  My son never had this situation occur with him.  It was written to generalize the disappointments all parents encounter when their children make mistakes but still need grace and forgiveness.)

 

A Stranger….. and Yet, Belonging

Taking risks

 

It is a funny thing that you can be a part of a culture or group that adamantly proclaims that it is “you” and yet feel very ostracized because it doesn’t reflect the very “core” of who you are. And then life does a 180 degree turn and you find yourself in a new place and culture that could potentially be threatening and reject you. Now you are a minority in the workplace. You have different speech patterns, different ways of looking at things, and of course, you are different because your belief and walk with God shapes the very essence of who you are and where you are going. (Or at least your belief in God was the factor that always ostracized you in your previous culture since you weren’t allowed to talk about it in the workplace and at times got rejected by social groups for it). Shouldn’t you be so far out of your comfort zone that you long to go back to what you once knew and the precarious “acceptance’ in the former group you once had?

 
But what if instead, everywhere in your new culture there were affirmations that you belong and this is where you were meant to be until you had fulfilled your purpose there? What if the people in your workplace that look somewhat different from you and have a different culture from you say, “Stay, you are one of us?” What if new neighbors and workers stream through your new living place and tell you that they want you to stay and they’re so happy you came to live among them? And most of all, what if your supervisors, coworkers, and visiting agency workers all speak openly to you of their walk with God and how it determines why they serve other people with their whole hearts?

 
Would you stay? What is this crazy place and who are these people you’ve come to live among? By the world’s standards you shouldn’t be any more comfortable. But you’ve found freedom. You’ve found freedom to be who you are as a Christian and not feel pressure to hide it. You found freedom from heavy taxation and regulation burdens. You found freedom from a Governor who tells “all your kind” to leave the state. And you found diversity, which you longed for, because only in diversity can you truly appreciate the array of humanity and the array of characteristics in yourself.

 
Perhaps you will stay. After all……it was a huge risk that is seeming to pay off well. No, you will stay because God orchestrated every last detail of your move, right down to giving you and your family the idea to begin with. He spent time on the details, giving you a piece of land that was very specific to your needs, at a discounted price, and with even the soil laid out so specifically that it defies logic. The details extend to how he provided a job where you were given less stress, greater pay, diversity, more freedom, and very specific supervisors and coworkers.

 
This is how God works in our lives. His ways are so far above our own, that often the things we would pick for ourselves are not truly what we want or need. He knows us so well that He will provide the opposite of what we thought we needed and it turns out to open up a whole new world of interest and purpose. We are all sojourners on this earth, only here for a short time. But if we commit our lives to God, then we can rest assured that even though life will be tough and trying, we will find true purpose, freedom, and membership in a place that we belong.

Feeling Uncomfortably Alive

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I want to slip back. After an entire year of not living in permanency I was just given the news this morning that it will be many more months before I attain that desired status again. My heart became heavy with disappointment and I mentally began thinking about all the anticipated settling in and visitors that I had my heart set on. I slipped into the shower and began to bemoan my situation. As is often the case when I’m in the shower I hear God’s voice. You do too. Perhaps it’s the fact that the water shuts out the world and the steady patter of “head noise” is drowned out. “You’re okay,” God said, “you have everything you need.” “I suppose you’re right,” I reluctantly agreed, “but I need to be in my own space with my life and possessions nicely settled around me.” “Why?” God said.
Yes…..why?
You see my life has never been static and since I turned 40 a decade ago my life has been a steady series of somersaults. I began to embrace those changes and recognize that the more I took risks, pushed myself to try new things, went new places, and met new people, I was a more “alive” person. I also began to discover who I was created to be and what my purpose on earth was to be. And in doing so, I learned to put myself aside more and become insanely curious and empathetic towards others. Do not be fooled, however, into thinking that this was a beautiful, creative surge forward.  It was often stunted and ugly and marred by the nature of my humanity.
But I want to slip back. It feels so good nestled inside that warm hoodie that comforts me and feels the “same.” Why does my soul yearn for sameness? Because it means that things are constant, easy, and without much thought or intention. God does not want me there. It is “there” that I am useless to Him. Only when I am “outside of me” is He able to get my attention and begin piecing the fabric of me into a dynamic and beautiful quilt that can warm and inspire other human beings.
In a few months, I will be “nesting” in my new home. God will not deny me that because He loves me with an incomprehensible love. But my real home is being prepared now with Him in His heavens. I am never to get comfortable here on this earth. God will see to that. Just when I begin to slip back into sameness……He will send fireworks……..and I will become alert and useful again.

 

I Want My Name to Be Remembered…..

I went to a 3-hour ethics seminar and arrived to find that my name wasn’t on any of their rosters. They looked under “G” and they looked under “N” but it wasn’t there. This meant that I would not receive a professionally printed certificate of completion which I need to keep my licensure. This bothered me quite a bit more than I would have thought. I registered for the event; sent in all the right information; jumped through all the right hoops; completed all the right works. Why in the world did it irritate me when I still got the information I needed and received a handwritten, albeit messy, certificate with my name on it?

 
Later it dawned on me that I wanted my name and actions to matter. In the long term this event holds little importance. But what DOES matter is that my name is written in the Book of Life. Do I have to register for it, jump through hoops, send in money? No, my name is already written there for I accepted an invitation from a loving God. He will walk with me as I live my life and work with me to learn the things that are important for me to know. But it can’t be taken away. My name IS important and it is written in the most important of rosters. And this I can rest in.

 

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Shirking Responsibility

 

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If you are female….you are most likely carrying too much and especially at this time of year.

I walked into school the other day with a teacher that poured out her concerns and responsibilities all the way from our cars until we welcomed the children. I finally gently shared with her a secret that I had learned from a wonderful Christian lady many years ago. I haven’t learned to do this perfectly and sometimes when I’ve forgotten it for awhile it hits me like a cold snowball on my cheek and I can’t figure out why I lost my way. It takes faith. And it takes letting go. This is awfully hard for women to do. For you see we have a mental list going through our heads from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night. If we don’t accomplish what we think we need or “should” do then we can’t engage in relationships with our loved ones and often, we can’t sleep.

The simple technique that my sweet friend taught me was that each morning as I’m praying I need to commit my day into God’s hands. Too simple? Now it is His responsibility. It always was. But somehow I thought it was mine to accomplish a million tasks and save the world! No, it is His life I live and I walk in His desires for my life. After I’ve committed my day into His hands, then I know that I will talk and encourage the people He means for me to reach, I will accomplish the responsibilities that I need to be accountable for, and I will love on those that need my presence. Now, there are no more “shoulds.” If I don’t accomplish something…..”oh, well!” In the scheme of life it is all vanity anyway.

Now, go enjoy your day and be relieved of so many burdens!

Busy-ness

How often do we ask someone how they are and the reply is “busy!” This is usually said with a great deal of pride and anticipation that you will think they are very important people. “Busy” has become a status symbol in our culture. A couple of times I’ve responded to this with, “I’m sorry,” only to see their expression turn to confusion because I wasn’t validating their value for busyness. Slow down. Invest in relationships. At some point in your life all the frantic activity will cease and as you lay there reflecting back on your long life, you will not wish you had been busier…….but that you had spent more time with people you love and value. Now go be un-busy today!

Busyness

Overcoming Social Anxiety

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For many of us introverts, we once struggled with shyness and social interaction. However, introversion and shyness do NOT go hand-in-hand. They are 2 different personality traits. And yet, because of how we process social stimulation, introverts can more readily be given to social anxiety. Introverts also have less patience for small talk despite it’s necessity, and view it as a shallow endeavor. Social anxiety is really an expression of fear. God has been faithfully working for years to vanquish this stronghold out of my personality. I still say that I am “shyly motivated” but a desire to make sure that no one ever feels excluded or unloved drives me. My natural giftings take over when I take my mind off myself and focus on the well-being of others. Do I ever feel awkward? All the time. But you will hear me embrace my awkwardness and laugh at it. And what I have learned, and what this article admits is that the secret to engaging banter isn’t about a perfect conversational formula…….it’s about putting yourself out there; being sincere, open, and vulnerable in your desire to connect with others. Try it. It has opened up a whole new world.  

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/06/the-secret-to-small-talk.html