Lessons from the Valley and the Mountaintop

Take control of me, Jesus. The current management is woefully incompetent.

Almost 6 years ago, I went back to school to change my career. To say I went back to school is incorrect, because I’ve been in school now for 52 years. The school of life is always in session. Life lessons are a moment by moment occurrence. If we’re aware, we’ll acknowledge the lesson, learn from it, and be changed for the better. If we go through life on autopilot, never recognizing what life is trying to teach us, we may IMG_8308someday regret our inattentiveness. Just as in school, there are some lessons we want to learn. We lap them up, like a parched dog slurping noisily at a water dish. We apply ourselves with every ounce of our time, concentration, and giftedness. Other lessons, we must push ourselves to learn. I have a friend who received a grade of 62% in one of his high school courses. Worried that this low mark would affect his chances of getting into university, he went to the trouble of taking the course again only to end up with 63%. I do find this humorous, but also baffling, because I get it. It’s true, some things we can only learn the hard way.

I learned a lesson recently. I’ve calculated that it took me roughly 40 years to learn this lesson. I know. Can my skull be any thicker? Life has been steadily knocking on my fortress of a forehead, but I’ve been disregarding, believing that this lesson didn’t apply to me. I’ve shared before that I struggle with self-care. You can read that post here. I blame the looming shadow of low self-esteem that I’ve allowed to hang around and cloud my judgement. For years, I’ve been going to bed without conducting any sort of self-care; just peel off the clothes, leave them where they fall, and fall into bed without another thought. In the morning, my makeup is smeared and scary, ground into the precious skin of my poor, undeserving face. I’ve been warned. My husband, in the last year, told me about a woman he read about who admitted to not taking her makeup off for 25 years (sadly, I have her beat). The reward for her negligence was tiny, hardened, jagged bits of mascara imbedded in her eyelids that were scraping her eyeballs! I was alarmed enough IMG_8311to take off my makeup for a few days, but, because it wasn’t my lesson to learn, it didn’t take and I went back to my slovenly ways. I’ve even had a number of eye infections over the years, but chalked it up to a strange occurence, like a UFO sighting, rather than identifying the problem which was me and my total disregard for my health. Then, a few months ago, I got a stye. If you don’t know what a stye is, according to Miriam Webster, it’s “an inflamed swelling of a sebaceous gland at the margin of an eyelid”. My eyelid went from slightly red and swollen to a ghastly, pus-filled tumor, the shade of expired Miracle Whip. It actually blocked my vision slightly. It didn’t seem to matter what I did with it, antibiotic ointment, hot compresses, lancing it myself at one point, it just wouldn’t get lost.

I’m vain. I like makeup. I look better with it on and, in turn, feel better with it on. This wretched stye hung on tenaciously for a grueling month, a month of naked eyelids and unenhanced lashes. Since my recovery, I’ve been meticulous in removing my makeup. I wish now that I had taken a picture of that purulent lesson at the height of its IMG_8315gruesomeness to remind me, because I hope I never forget. It concerns me that it took suffering to get me to change. I read a book that says so much of what we do is habitual. I have other unhelpful, damaging habits, yes, even perpetual pet sins, that I desperately need to ditch. Have I become a malfunctioning robot, glitching from one bad choice to another? Is there no way off this not-so-merry, merry-go-round? Am I doomed to mindlessly go through these detrimental motions till I seize up and die?

I have the same problem as Paul, as you, as every believer in the whole of history. I don’t do what I should do, what I need to do, what I wish and pray that I’d do. No, I do that which I shouldn’t do, which I loathe myself for doing. Paul has the only answer to this perplexing, vexing behavior in Romans 7:24.

“What a wretched man I am!” he says.”Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Jesus is the answer and rightly so. He shares his reason for coming  in John 10:10, that we might have a meaningful life, not an ineffectual, bitter existence marred by disappointment and failure, not a life where we toil and despair until we finally keel over. NO! A life blossoming, bursting with the ripe, luscious, life-giving fruit of his Spirit, a life so big and full of so much good, it can’t help but impact others.IMG_8320

If he came for this reason, surely we’re not left alone to put the puzzle together. 2 Peter 1:3, says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” This is why he sent his life, the Holy Spirit, to live in us. I read 1 Corinthians 6:19 and I’m sobered by the thought that my body is his temple, the place where he dwells in all his glory. I’m coming to the notion that neglecting myself is sin. My shoddy treatment of this extraordinary vessel supplied by my maker, meant for his abiding presence, is abominable. It’s like inviting the queen to live with you and not scrubbing your toilet, another thing I do only under great duress. The body we’ve been given is a blessing to be cherished and treated with respect and loving attention. If we don’t care for ourselves, how will we ever be capable of keeping the second greatest commandment, of loving our neighbor as ourselves? If I treat myself with indifference, what are the chances I’ll treat you any differently?

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is not just lazing around inside of us, binging and watching Netflix. God is in the business of transformation and no matter how hard or boring it may be, self-control is a virtue, a sign that this same Holy Spirit who lives within us is doing his work. Romans 9:11 says, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you”. Think about what this verse is saying! We have the power that raised Christ from death to life living inside of us! What a breathtaking, IMG_8307extraordinary reality! Knowing this, I’ve often wondered why my self control has always been in such short supply. I’ve come to the conclusion that God does not transform people against their will. I have to want to be transformed. I have to immerse myself in God, praise his name, bask in his presence, feed on his word, run hard at his will, confess my sin, and petition and thank him. I have to live out the greatest commandment and love God with every beat of my heart, every breath, every thought, word, and deed. Only then will I experience the lasting, positive change I long for. It seems ironic that in giving up control, I’ll gain some in the end, but that’s the way God works. He doesn’t do things the way I do and with my lacklustre record, I’m so grateful for that!

Last year, I climbed my first mountain. I’ve lived somewhere in Alberta, the land of the Canadian Rockies, for almost 40 years. I thought about hiking, I wanted to do it, but like so many things, I never got around to it. One year for my birthday or Christmas, my husband bought me books filled with awe-inspiring pictures of mountains that listed and described in great detail all the hiking trails in Alberta and British Columbia. We never used them, not even once. I don’t even know where they are. Last spring, I met some folks on Instagram, of all places. They chronicled their adventures hiking up mountains every weekend. Their tales were inspiring, their pictures, glorious, and that old itch resurfaced. I started training my body, mainly to improve my level of fitness, but also because I wanted to achieve that dream, to climb a mountain. These people were welcoming and last summer, I bagged my first peak. With their guidance and encouragement, my count is now up to six. Why am I telling you this? Because I believe God put this desire in me to show me he has something better, something far grander in store for me. He’s always wooing me into the light and the fresh air, onto the solid rock of his presence. He’s calling me to leave behind my weakness and the squalor of sin, my baser, destructive self which is only capable of causing harm and to venture onto a higher plane, to dwell with him in radiant Christ-likeness on the pristine mountaintop of his love and to share in the fullness of his joy. Oh, there will still be struggles, thigh-burning, lung-busting, lean in and cling to the rock kind of moments, but he promises never to leave me. Just like my friends who lead me up to some of the most incredible places I’ve ever experienced, God wants to lead me into a life of self-control, patience, and faithfulness, and a life brimming with gentleness, kindness, love, joy, and peace, the life he had planned for all of us from the beginning of time, the best life one can live. I leave you with these verses. First, Psalm 121:1. “I lift up my eyes to the IMG_8319mountains–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” And then the passages I chose to mark my wedding day, Hebrew 12:1-2a, as they are so appropriate here. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Now, I exhort both myself and you. Let us let go, my friends, look to the Lord, to the mountains, and run!

 

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Out of the Blind Side

Those of you who’ve been following my blog know that I’ve been running to improve my fitness level. The city I live in has two sides divided by a river and coulees or, if you’re not familiar with that term, ravines. I live a few blocks from the trails on top of the lightroad-815297_12802coulees, a pleasant place to exercise with a beautiful view of the river valley. Yesterday, I awoke at 5 am to get my run in, because I had to be somewhere to volunteer at 6:45. I know, an ungodly hour, but I work in healthcare. A 5 am start to the day isn’t unusual for me. What was unusual about this particular run is it was in the dark. I still opted to go out on top of the coulees, because running on trails is gentler on the body than smacking the pavement, but I didn’t consider how challenging it would be to run without being able to see. Continue reading “Out of the Blind Side”

There’s a World out There

There’s a kid picking through a garbage can

While I sit down to breakfastworldpoor-2382641__4802

There’s tired man in an unemployment line

While I head off to work

There’s an invalid struggling to use his limbs

While I climb on my bicycle

And there’s a world out there trying

While I’m watching my TV

 

There’s a girl, she’s been living in a cardboard box

worldchildren-of-war-1172016_12802While I’m warm and sheltered

There’s a child lying broken on a kitchen floor

While I have been embraced

There’s a boy dodging bullets in a civil war

While I take peace for granted

There’s a world out there crying

While I’m watching my TV

 

I live in a world where I can choose to stay

Will I venture out, will I look and really seeworldboy-529067_12802

That life is happening all around me?

I’ve been living in a fairytale

Some are living in a tragedy

What can I do?

Will I do anything?

 

There’s a lonely one pining in an empty room

worldalone-2666433_1280While I’m loved and wanted

There’s sickly soul looking for a lasting cure

While I’m whole and strong

There’s a muddled mind searching for the simple truth

While I’m clear and rested

There’s a world out there dying

While I’m watching my TV

 

I live in a world that I must choose to leave

I must venture out, I must look and really see

That life is happening all around meworlddrink-3021521_12802

Lord, I wanna be a living spring

Welling up to eternity

Where everyone can come and drink

There’s a world out there

 

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

Standing in the Storm

When most people think of Canada, they think of cold, ice, and snow. We specialize in winter up here. The province of British Columbia has milder temperatures the further south you go, but Canada is largely a chilly place for a substantial part of the year. I’mblizzard-91898_12802 from Alberta and winter can last close to six months with dumps of snow recorded even in the summertime.
Continue reading “Standing in the Storm”

Burn Away the Dross

Sometimes I wish I could pack up my feelings

Especially the ugly, hurtful ones

That scour my soul and leave me winded, raw, and wounded

I’d thrust them into the deepest trunkchest

And grunt and sweat to force their bulk

Into a forgotten place

I’d bury them under every meaningless piece of trash

I can’t bring myself to get rid of

 

headache-2058476_1280Sometimes I wish I could pinpoint those moments

The person, the voice, the scent that lingers

The triggers that slap my face and send me reeling

Pummeling me with those awful feelings

Those ugly, hurtful, persistent feelings

That scour my soul and leave me winded, raw, and wounded

I’d stay run away, move away, stay away if I had to

 

Sometimes I wish I could close up my being

And throw up a wall around my heart

To block the triggers, those stupid signals

That bring up the pain of those ugly, hurtful, persistent feelingsheart-1463424_1280

That scour my soul and leave me winded, raw, and wounded

But I simply cannot do it

Cannot lay down in the bitter cold

Cannot close up and get hard and old inside

So I writhe

In the flames

Alive and open

Complete the experience. Listen to for King & Country’s It’s not Over Yet.

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Pieces

I’m starting to piece my past together

                And at this point

I’m wondering

If my past should have been left in pieces

                                                   When I open up the wounds of my past

I suffer again

Having gained an understanding of why I suffered

It’s painful

But worth the pain

I think

    Understanding leads to forgiveness and healing

Healing is about wholeness

                                                                                      It’s about picking up the pieces

And putting them back together

One shard at a time

Fashioning something new

                     That glitters

When the light hits the jagged edges

 

Complete the experience. Listen to Gungor’s You Make Beautiful Things.

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

Keep on Dancing

I see you there

Your glossy, pale hair swaying to the music

You pose and leap and glide

With every movement comes the sweetest smile

Such visible enjoyment

You are graceful for your four young years

So new and innocent and free

Oh, little ballerina

Let me offer you a small piece of advice

Keep on dancing

As the years beat on in time

Be flexible, be fluid

When the spotlight shines

Take joy

Stretch out

Reach up from where you are

Become the shooting star that you were meant to be

But never soar so far that you will not be ready

For when the floodlights shut their eyes

And sure as death they will

And suffering strikes an errant chord

You must not fall

Do not give up, do not lay low

By all means, wrestle with your grief and take your rest

Then go

For life is in the movement

A waltz with pain produces beauty

Only if you

Keep

On

Dancing

Complete the experience. Listen to Mandisa’s Overcomer.

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂