As I have written before, God used recent physical therapy as a very loud way in which to communicate with me.  I was wary of His methods and wasn’t always prepared for what He had to say.

After shoulder surgery, I spent the last several weeks traveling to and from the p/t office.  This is a great thing, except one part – the dreaded arm bike.

Before surgery, I never knew there was such a thing as an arm bike.  A nifty piece of equipment, but they could not have put it in a worse spot in the p/t room.  Stuck in a corner!

I have the attention span of a gnat, and sitting and staring at a business-beige wall drives me to the brink of my ever-loving sanity! This cumbersome task is anticipated as much as dental work or repairing an ingrown toenail.

Here is a photo of the arm bike and the corner I was put in multiple times a week.

arm bike

The highlight was watching a squirrel run past the window – which looked out onto a parking lot of lonely cars.  Ug.

One day, I walked in wanting this “time out,” as it feels, to be over with as quick as possible.  I blew past my physical therapist and plopped myself down on the pleather seat.  He walked up and smiled.  I squeezed a half-grin out and said, Ten minutes, right?

Yep, he answered looking down at his clipboard.  He programmed the bike and off I went spinning my arms.

Knowing we’re both looking for results, that particular day I thought, Hey, he wants results?  I’ll give him results! I tucked my head down, shut my eyes tight and spun spun spun.  I pedaled with my arms as fast as I could.

Within no time at all my biceps were burning.  The whizzing and whirling of the arm bike revved high, and I bet my arms could have run a 10 minute mile at their speed.

My face grew red and hot and sweat quickly beaded on the nap of my neck, trickling down my back.  I was a madman on that thing.  Unstoppable. Huffing and puffing I flew (figuratively speaking on this stationary arm bike).  I really gave it my all-in-one giant moment of effort.

When I thought my heart would burst from beating, I opened my eyes and looked at the clock on the arm bike, just knowing I had to be almost done by the drama I produced.

One minute, seventeen seconds.

What!?!?!  That had to be wrong. There is absolutely no way I had only spun for one minute, seventeen seconds!  I was sweating profusely, short of breath, arms burning, heart pounding. Discouragement fell on me like a ton of bricks.

Just then, God spoke to me.  His words nearly made me topple off the arm bike.

He told me that this emotional episode is much like how I handle matters of the heart.  I am so results-oriented, I tend to blow through the exercise of walking through life to get to a particular finish line faster so I can move on to the next race.

I look obedient.  I do the “right” things like pray and practice behavior modification for my sinful ways.  But, my heart isn’t necessarily engaged all the time. Okay, it’s not engaged.

He showed me that, just like having to sit on that infuriating arm bike – shoved in the corner – for a full ten minutes, sometimes there are seasons in life that simply must be lived for the duration they are meant to take.  I want to fast forward what makes me miserable, like forgiving someone, waiting on God for an answer, and practicing self-control.  With those things, I simply want to go through the motions on the outside and make myself believe there has been change on the inside.

My recovering arm received no benefit from overworking it in a fraction of the time I was supposed to be exercising it.  The ten minutes have a reason for being there.  It’s to slowly, fully stretch the muscles, tendons and scar tissue in a healthy way that will lead to a full range of motion again.

The same goes for seasons when God puts us in the corner of life to sit through an uncomfortable, and even miserable season of growing, stretching, and perhaps discipline, so our hearts can have full range of motion and emotion so we will, in the end, be drawn closer to Him and look more like His Son.

When we blow through the five stages of grief, or the steps of forgiveness, or a season of His loving discipline, to simply check them off our list – we fool no one.  Not God.  Not ourselves.  Not others.  We just make a lot of unnecessary drama and hurt ourselves in the process.

The other day, my younger son said to me regarding the large, shedding oak trees in our yard during this season of weather’s change, Why can’t all the leaves just fall at once?  Why does it have to take so long, because then we have to keep coming out here over and over again raking them up?

Good question!  I answered, Because if the leaves all fell at once, it would be an overwhelming job.  I know it’s frustrating to have to do the same job again and again, but if they came down at once, they’d be so thick we wouldn’t even know where to begin.  It’s actually better to do this in phases, because then this huge task is manageable and the grass beneath them won’t be smothered and die.

I love the connection between the dreaded arm bike and the dreaded leaf-raking.  Both are big jobs overall, broken down into smaller, more manageable parts that don’t exasperate us – rather they leave us feeling like we actually accomplished something and are stronger for it as we stand back and survey the results.

While driving up to our home this weekend after a trip to the store, I noticed our older son taking his turn with the leaves.  Our neighbor stopped to chat during his walk, and with a smile, he said to me, Don’t you just want to shake ’em?  Don’t you just want to give these trees a good shake so all the leaves will fall already?  I look at all you’ve done, but then I look up (glancing up at the trees) and see so much more still there.

Before the lesson on the arm bike, followed by a short, but metaphorically meaty, discussion about tending the seasons of our trees, I just smiled.  I understood his point, but no, I really don’t want to shake the trees.  Our family’s life can’t handle an enormous, overwhelming task right now. But, we can tackle this monster in steps over time.  Otherwise, and we’ve been here before with these trees when the kids were much younger and time was very limited, we’d look out on a yard knee-high in daunting leaves and be instantly discouraged to the point of quitting.

I’m learning that about seasons of life, too.  God sees the bigger picture of our lives, which our ultimate goal is to look more like His Son.  But, a feat that vast doesn’t happen in one fail swoop.  It happens over the course of moments, days, weeks, months and years.  It is lifelong.  Rather than Him being a God who sits on His throne with a long checklist of achievements we tirelessly try to accomplish, He breaks His purpose for us down into bite-sized pieces we can digest one at a time.

There is no possible way I could have accomplished the physical results of 7 weeks on that frustrating arm bike in one 10-minute stretch.  Our bodies simply don’t work that way.

Neither do our hearts.

God can, and has, healed my heart many times in a moment of His grace and mercy.  But, that has come from the culmination of Him growing, pruning and nurturing my heart to prepare it for a season where healing, forgiveness, tenderness, love, maturing, and strengthening are ready to be harvested.  It is a culmination of the same moments, days, weeks, months and sometimes years of letting Him in and allowing Him to stretch us, challenge us, push us to goals we never would be able to accomplish left to our own human nature.  Our hearts simply don’t work that way.

I’m in a few seasons of discomfort – but’s that’s good!  I feel His hand of grace and mercy, but I also feel Him pressing me on to new places – an adventure that doesn’t allow any baggage.  He’s teaching me the important things to carry with me, and what needs to be left behind.  And for the first time in my life, I’m okay with that.

I’ve tossed the to-do list of the intangibles of the heart, as well as what I define as success in the effort.  Instead of resisting His work in my life, I can settle into seasons that before would have left me in a puddle of tears or frustrated beyond measure.  I would have fought Him all the way and tried relentlessly to change the path – hoping it would still lead me to where He wants me to be.

Now, after many, many sessions on the arm bike (which I still can’t stand) and the ever-present reminder of falling leaves outside my window, dare I say I welcome the seasons that make me wait on God and His timing.  After all, only He truly knows our hearts and when their harvest is ready.

He is such a good God.  He waits patiently on us, understanding our frailty, and sets His watch by His perfect timing – not our earthly clocks.  He knows if He pushes results too soon, our harvest will be unripe – tasteless, hardened and unusable.  If He waits too long, our harvest becomes too ripe and begins to rot by way of discouragement and doubt if God is ever going to finish the task of the season.  He comes at just the right time and gives us a nod and says Now you’re ready.

There are some areas of my life I am desperate to hear those words.  But, if I’m gut-wrenchingly honest with myself, I know I’m not yet ready. That doesn’t mean small steps of progress aren’t being made.  And every time one is taken in the right direction, so small I don’t even notice it, like the slow increasing of my range of motion in my shoulder, God is so kind to point it out.  It’s like He taps me on the shoulder and says with a smile, I see progress – and it’s good.

However patiently we feel we must wait on God, who is holy and faithful, He is infinitely more patient with us in our human nature.  I am embracing the idea of avoiding a massive shakedown like our trees, or a superficial burnout like my shoulder on the arm bike, and I rest in Truth that God is working all things good for me.

Here are Scriptures that help me embrace seasons of life:

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. ~ Psalm 46:10

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

… (We) will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. ~ Isaiah 61:3

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart for all generations. ~Psalm 33:11

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! ~ Isaiah 30: 18

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~ Psalm 51:10

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.  ~ Psalm 27:13-14

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  ~ God, Isaiah 43:18-19

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ Ephesians 2:10

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:14

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:6

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

New Shoes

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

This morning was a milestone for my recovery…I got to take a shower without having my foot being wrapped up and kept dry.  Yeah!  That may seem like a trivial thing, but I’ve waited 2 weeks for water to flow over, and soap to clean, my surgical foot.

However, afterwards I noticed something alarming.  It appears part of my stitches came open.  I won’t gross anyone out with more medical talk, but suffice it to say it led to texting my doctor for instructions.

Talk about deflating!  I went from riding a high one minute, to being consumed with worry the next.  Am I at risk for infection?  Sepsis?  Something I don’t know about?

I’ll admit that fear gripped my mind and soul, partly because I want to be thoroughly healed up, and partly because I’ve only allocated a certain amount of time for this surgical hiccup to interrupt our lives (like I have total control over it).

As I began my prayer time today, I said, God, I’m worried.  I’m worried about my foot.  This is all I’ve got to bring You today.

I continued by praying on the armor of God like I do every day (Ephesians 6:10-18).  When I reached the part of my prayer…I fit my feet with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace to go where, when and for how long You say…God interrupted me.

What did you just tell me, Kristi?

I told you I’m bringing you worry.

What did you just pray?

To fit my feet with my feet with peace.

That was my ah-ha moment!  How beautifully and creatively God works in our lives.  The same part of my body that I feel bound to with fear and worry, is the same part of the armor of God that is fitted for peace.

I understand that the peace Paul talked about was in regards to following God’s will, commands, and voice in life so closely that above our doubt, fears and our own agendas we can trust Him no matter where He leads us.

However, it was amazingly intertwined with how I am feeling, particularly about my foot, today.

In my prayer, I asked God to continue to heal my foot from the inside out.  It wasn’t until today I got a close look at the ramifications of surgery.  It’s taken a beating and I’ll leave it at that.

When I spoke of healing from the inside out, I know the benefit to waiting weeks and weeks for a solid, lasting recovery.  If everything looked great on the outside, but wasn’t healed properly on the inside, there would be future problems for sure.  Problems I can’t see from the outside, but would certainly feel on the inside.  The recovery process would be lengthened indefinitely.

God reminded me that this is the same with our hearts and lives.  He heals from the inside out.  Just as I sat down with my pc today, before any programs were even opened, my mother-in-law popped up on Ovoo.  Wow!  I didn’t expect that.  Neither did she.  She said her pc did the same thing.  We laughed that it was meant for us to chat.

She said, You look wonderful!

Thanks.  A shower always helps.

On the outside I am clean, dressed and accessorized.  On the inside, I am churning with worry about my foot.  This moment was a great reminder to me that God indeed heals from the inside out, and no matter how hard we try to put our best foot forward to the world, God sees what’s going on inside, and that is where He begins His work.

Is His work completed overnight?  Rarely.  So we wait.  We try to live the P word – patience.  Ug.  I have to keep coming back to a place where I am pliable in the Potter’s hands.  I have to remind myself to stop fighting against His healing hand.

My doctor says that some of his patients come in after the same foot surgery and their toe is frozen stiff because they didn’t  do their exercises at home.  I am determined to not be one of those patients, because I’ve learned from past experience that physical therapy hurts that much more when we don’t obey our instructions.

There is a time for us to surrender our souls and let God operate.  There is also a time that we are to sit still and simply recover.  There is still a time for us to do our exercises, so scar tissue won’t build up in our hearts – rendering them stiff, hardened and unmovable.

As believers, we have free will.  It is our choice to believe that God is working for our good (Romans 8:28), even in the tough times.  We have the choice to be patient and wait out the work He is completing in us from the inside out.  Waiting through the moments when no change is visible from the outside, rather small, subtle, lasting changes are weaving our broken hearts together again to make a new, stronger person both inside and out.

Oh, and about the timeline, I don’t know if you’ve ever given God a time frame in which to work, but I have.  Truly, this is preposterous because we simply cannot see the bigger picture of life.  When God looks at our lives, time constraints are of no matter from His side of heaven.  He sees it all – beginning to end – all at once and knows how the story ends.

We see merely snapshots of time.  Moments and blips on the radar.  I thought by now I had this one down pat.  That it is all about His timing, not mine, until I remind myself and God of plans we’ve made as a family once I am recovered – with little to no margin for extra time to recover.

Even my doctor cannot exactly tell me the day and time my foot will be 100% well.  God is the only one who knows all, and for that He has all my trust.

If you are like me, working on some inner and outer healing, take heart that God sees.  He knows.  He cares.  You and I are important to Him.  We matter.  Psalm 121 is a beautiful reminder that He is always present and working in our lives.

Psalm 121 – A song of ascents

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Our job is to let Him work.  Sometimes that means surrendering the issue to Him.  Sometimes that means waiting in what feels like nothingness when He is working deep in our souls.  Sometimes it means doing our part of the healing, our home exercises if you will, including forgiving others and ourselves, trusting God in a new way, picking up our cross to follow Him, praying for the issue at hand, releasing the issue, moving as the Spirit prompts us to go, stop, wait, run, walk, make that phone call, write that letter, pack up or settle down.

Healing is miraculous in the long run, but can feel unbearable in the process.  Our faith is that we, as believers, never live a minute of it alone.  Jesus bore all of our illnesses and injuries on the cross.  It’s by His stripes we are healed (perhaps in ways we didn’t expect), and it is in Him that we have joy in the meantime.

Today, I am trading in my shoes of worry and angst, and fitting my feet with new shoes of peace.  One thing I know for sure, these shoes of peace are a lot more comfortable to wear.

<<Check out the companion song to this post on my Tunes page! >>

It’s All Good

I wrote the other day that I’ve had surgery recently.  Not to add insult to injury, but while my life has been temporarily upheveled, I decided to take care of some skin issues resulting from years of sun damage as a child because I figured I’d be home and out of public eye.  So in addition to my temporary disability, I now look horrible.  It’s one of those processes that gets worse before getting better.  I told the doctor, I’m just that vain enough to not want to go out in public until this is done.  Dignity is worth something, right?  It was the perfect plan to execute my makeover and no one would be the wiser.  I’d just show up in public one day with radiant skin and two legs that work just fine.  I’d make a subtle, yet grand, entrance like I’m some Hollywood star.  Ha!

On the morning after the skin procedure, my phone rang unexpectedly.  I must admit, with the surgery and life still blazing a trail at 100mph, I can’t keep everything straight.  Perhaps the anesthesia is still working its way out of me.  I don’t know.  I do know I’m fuzzy on details of the day.  When the phone rang, it was a precious mom from our Moms in Prayer group (I have only met these women once) saying she couldn’t find my house as she was en route for our prayer time.  I sat stunned.  I knew it was today, but in the midst of trying to get 3 kids out the door, 2 of them still finishing homework and one needing to be early to school, I just lost a grip on the day’s calendar.

I gave her directions to my home, knowing she was right around the corner, hung up and took a look around.  With Fall here, leaves are continually trekked into our house.  I usually vacuum several times a week to keep them out, but I can’t vacuum right now.  Opened birthday presents were on the fireplace, laundry was strewn about, and clutter was everywhere.

My family is trying hard to keep the ball rolling here, but with several unexpected things that seem to pop up every day, I know everyone is doing all they can. They are great helpers, but there is only 24 hours in a day – minus sleep.

I hobbled around the house in the few seconds I had to pick everything up.  There was just no way.  It was what it was.

Then there is me.  I’m a mess!  I really didn’t want anyone seeing me like this.  In fact, at the time the doorbell rang, I couldn’t remember if I had brushed my hair, much less had any make-up on.  Earlier, I chose an old, faded t-shirt to wear because of the high neckline to cover the skin procedure, and because of my surgical boot, I chose shorts that, although they are fairly new, the inside seam unraveled after the first wash, so there’s a big hole in my pants.  Not to mention my shoes.  One gigantic surgical boot and one brown sandal.  The doctor said I need to even out the height of the boot so my back doesn’t suffer from walking at two levels, so the only shoe that works is this old brown sandal (that in no way matched my shirts and shorts).

I met not one woman, but three ladies at the door and invited them in.  Welcome to my chaos! I said with a laugh.  I was SO embarrassed.

I’m not pretentious, nor do I feel I need to impress anyone.  But, at least let my house be clean when people come over.  At least let me have washed my face and put on decent clothes.

They were extremely gracious – even when one mom went into my kitchen and saw both sinks full of dirty dishes and some unknown sticky substance on the counter after the daily brigade of breakfasts and lunchboxes flew through like a tornado.

I just couldn’t get over being embarrassed.  Do I really care that much? I asked myself.  But, I never thought I did.  Why is this bothering me?  

Martha Stewart I am not.  We are a crazy house of 5 extroverts who use every square inch of its space.  Creative juices flow, and usually so does something my kids want to try to bake or a science experiment, or a string of our dog’s toys that makes it look like a preschooler lives here.

Mess.  This day, my house was a mess.  I was a mess. There was nothing I could do.

God met me in that moment and reminded me of something He told me a while back.  He said, This school year will be a year of healing for you.  But…it begins with brokenness.

He wasn’t kidding.  A broken foot it is.  At least, that all I thought He was talking about.

I didn’t realize that there may be other areas of my life that need to broken to be healed.  My foot needed to be broken so the problem could be fixed.  So does my heart.

God’s ways are different from mine, but His ways are right – every time.

This particular morning showed me that I want to be accepted and approved by people more than I should.  This was the first time these ladies were meeting at my home, to accommodate my surgery recovery, and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t create an atmosphere (or image) that everything is semi-perfect.

It’s not!  Life is not perfect!  The only bell and whistle I could do was light a cinnamon candle.  Whoopie.

I had to accept the fact that I look like a wreck, because physically I am one right now.  How humbling!

God brought me from a place of panic that they were on their way, to humility over what my house and myself looked like, to a place where I could see what was most important -prayer with other Christian moms for our kids and their schools.

To live like we are created in the image of God, we make choices to reflect Him in our words and deeds.  This requires a lot of dying to self.  Approval is an issue I’ve struggled with my whole life.  Every time God works with me on this, I feel His fingerprint on specific situations as a gentle reminder that He is not cruel or uncaring, aloof or oblivious.  He is acutely aware of our frailties and weaknesses, and He desires for each of us a life of victory.

Living in strength and victory means we are wise enough to discern a situation and respond (not react) to it according to what pleases God, not ourselves.  We can trust this process, because God promised He is working all thing good for His children.  It’s a precious circle of love.  When we break out of the circle and go our own way, we forfeit the blessing of having His workmanship revealed in our circumstance.

For me, I could barely concentrate on what we were praying about because of the state of my house and my body.  It really wasn’t pride, as much as it was me wanting these women’s approval that I am at least acceptable.

Truly, it’s only God’s acceptance that I need to crave.  When I have it from Him, I am full and satisfied.  Everything else is gravy.  When I fill my tank with people’s acceptance, I am constantly having to refill it because people, frankly, let each other down.  We don’t perform to each other’s expectations.  We love conditionally.  We forgive when we feel like it.  And we are selfish.  When we seek God’s favor first, He has freedom in our lives to set us up for success in other areas – like bringing good friends into our lives.  Friends who will come to us to pray, when we can’t go to them.

That morning was so uncomfortable for me.  But, the lesson I learned in it made me more pliable in the Potter’s hand.  A huge benefit to me was that I could scrap the embarrassment over my house and my body and welcome others into our home who have since brought us meals, and I’ve felt comfortable inviting them to sit and chat.  Even yesterday, a friend from church brought us dinner, and as we sat in the family room talking, 3 loads of laundry stared at us from the sofa just feet away.  Underwear and all!  I chose to embrace God’s acceptance of me and enjoy my visit with a dear friend who took the time to come see me.  I told her with a laugh, For a couple of weeks, this stuff really doesn’t matter.  It’ll get done eventually.

Also, I breached my own vow of solitude to attend my son’s football game yesterday.  I look like I have a plague, but who cares!  My son was playing football and my friends were going to be there.  Those two things were way more important to me.  Yes, I looked like a sports diva sitting in a chair with an overhead canopy AND an umbrella fastened to the chair to avoid all sun, and had another chair in front of me to prop my boot leg on.  I said to my friend, I wasn’t sure I was going to come, but I knew ya’ll would love me regardless of how I look.  She replied, Of course we do!  I wanted to show my son, the one who made the love note for me (in the photo above) and left it on my laptop as a surprise, that he was more important than my internal issues…because he is.

Today, between the endless, monotonous hours of icing and elevating my foot, I will shed more of my embarrassment as my family meets two of our favorite families for frozen yogurt to celebrate two birthdays between all of us. I love these families so much, and I know they love me back.  I can feel free to show up just like I am because they are family to us.  I wouldn’t miss the laughter, fun and memories we make every time we are together just so I can stay home and save face (literally!).  No way.  Life is too short.  People are too precious.  We have some very special girls who need to be sung Happy Birthday.  Memories are just waiting to be made. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  I’ll even let myself be in the pictures…how about that!  This is largely in part to an incredible bog post I read recently by Allison Tate on the subject of having moms photographed despite ourselves. 🙂 Take a look! click here.

Yes.  This whole experience has taught me a lesson I didn’t know I needed to learn.  When we fully release ourselves to God, even the secret places, untapped possibilities await.  Whatever we’re holding onto, whatever holds us back, whatever holds us down, let’s release it.  Then, with open hands and an eager heart, we are prepared to receive the abundant blessings God wants to give us.  And that, friends, is healing for the body and soul.