Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Time for Balance

Hello Friends,

As age and I become more familiar, I find that I have difficulty maintaining my balance. I've been doing a rather funny ballet, usually on the down-hill slant, sort of like a marionette dancing on a string. I fall occasionally, just enough to alarm my family. Sometimes I get anxious about it, but mostly it merely gives me one more reason to laugh at myself. I tell my family, "don't worry; once you've hit the ground, you quit falling!"

I love to laugh, and nothing makes me laugh harder than to see myself mimicked by someone who loves me with a tender heart. There's no ridicule in our family. That's what I grew up with. But a good hearty laugh about one's eccentricities and foibles is definitely good for the soul. It's one of the ways that I maintain my balance in a tilting world.

Another thing that helps me keep my balance is prayer. Yes, God is the perfect balance for this thirsty soul. I talk to Him about hopes and dreams; my anxieties and fears; my marriage and my children. I try not to have a hardened heart; because I have never known a single hardened person, who was ever happy. I cannot believe that "Ah-Ha! Now, I've trapped you!" has ever helped anyone. Trapping people with words and accusations. This is not happiness, it is a self-fulfilling prophesy of "heart" failure (Pun, definitely intended).

Why is it that people hold onto anger and hurt? Sadly, my mother did that. She accumulated past hurts, like she was collecting stamps. Not only did her past hurts become a millstone around her happiness, but after awhile they took on a life of their own. Hurt, anger, and retaliation became her life achievement.

Doesn't it feel better to move on? Isn't it more fulfilling to let it go? I'm very aware that forgiveness often requires a closed door. There are some people who must be placed in the past and remain behind that door. I pray for that person and move on. There is no reason to lay down in the driveway and allow them to back the car over you. That's not forgiveness. It's sheer stupidity. I have had to close the door on destructive relationships, in order to let my heart heal. I have had to place the personally destructive person into God's hands, and move away, often literally. After awhile, by the grace of God, one can forgive, while also maintaining a perimeter of safety.

I probably never will understand why someone chooses to hate. Hatred in one's heart keeps that heart far from God. So, I do my best to approach God, telling Him how I feel; no matter how angry I am. He really is there, waiting with open arms, and He will dry your tears. So, keep God as your true friend, because He will be, if you let Him in.

There are many tortured souls who spend their entire lives choosing war against God. What is that? They write books, saying, "God is dead" or "Faith is dead." For whom? Themselves? How juvenile is that? If they do not believe in God, why are they always talking about Him? Why spend your entire life professing lack of belief, when you can be happier professing what you believe?

So, this day, I pray for your happiness. I pray for love and meaning in your life. I pray for your protection, and that of your children. I pray for balance in your life, as well as my own. May the God of peace grant you joyful rest from every hurt, and may He give you a tomorrow filled with hope.

Father in heaven, grant us the grace to desire no will of our own; and in failing that, as we all will do, I ask for Your forgiveness, and the peace that only You can give.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Time for Understanding

Hello friends,

At nearly sixty-two, I'm amazed at how far we have come, in my lifetime, technologically. I remember when a toaster was a really high-tech device. Hot and golden bread, there it was on my plate. If I moved fast enough, I could have the butter melting, and strawberry jam running, before the toast grew cold. Today, I wonder if anyone really stops to think about the blessings we have in this sometimes too modern world?

I remember a winter, not that long ago, when we were living in the country, in West Virginia. It was a particularly cold, snowy winter. It snowed on Halloween, and we didn't see the ground again until mid-spring. We had electricity, maybe one day a week. We cooked beans and cornbread on a wood stove, and frankly, I loved it, because I saw what I could do in the toughest of circumstances.

So, I'm wondering if you have thought about or experienced adversity that turned out to be a blessing in your lives? Adversity is tough, but it can also make us stronger, and it ought to make us more compassionate. We must not be callous, especially because we are stronger. If I have gone hungry, shouldn't I want to feed the hungry? If I have been cold, shouldn't I want to provide warmth? If I have been unloved, shouldn't I want to love?

I have been very disturbed by the language of our American presidential campaign. Those without a voice, who have no means, are often ignored. And religion, how did where you sit on Sunday become a measure for a candidate? Why is that, I wonder? And if religion is the issue, doesn't the Bible teach us, in James 1:26-27, about what true religion is?

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

So, to my American friends, I do understand just how earth-shaking this ever-so-long election campaign is. There is just enough side-stepping to parade as truth, but there is little mercy. So, perhaps when we go to the polls, we could let go of our bias and pull the lever for the candidate who will not forget the widows and orphans. And to my friends across the world, please forgive us if we seem to walk on quick sand. We truly are searching for dry land.

Another Scripture that jumps out at me, for those of us who are Christians, are the words of Jesus in John 4:23:

"...The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."

WOW! That's what religion is. That's what worship is. If we can just try to understand what God is lovingly telling us, perhaps, in this, our American election, we will, not only, make an informed decision, but we will make a godly one. At least, that is my prayer for all of us.

Father in heaven, may you forgive us our useless vanities, and may you fill us with understanding, so that we will hear You in our hearts, and we will obey You, as we worship You in spirit and in truth.

With Love,
Jaye Lewis

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Time of Sorrow

Hello friends,

There is an empty place in our family...the loss of an old, dear friend. Her face and sweet spirit brought us through fifteen years of joy and sorrow. Always there to listen, never to judge, simply loving with an unconditional acceptance...that was Morgan, our daughter's adorable Standard Schnauzer. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was so small? Wasn't it just moments ago that she was running through fields, splashing in the river, and rolling in garbage? Such simple things that precious dogs do. I will miss her.

We cradled her as a puppy and carried her through middle age. Then, we cared for her, unconditionally, just as she did for us, in her frail old age. When her memory faltered and disappeared, we still found a reason to celebrate her life. Finally, she was in the dark, unknowing, and in constant pain. Her breathing came in gasps, and her understanding disappeared. And, then came that awful day, when we had to admit that we loved her enough to say good-by. We had to make the decision that no pet lover ever wants to make; yet we let her go with dignity, knowing that she would soon walk with God in the gardens of heaven.

Yes, I believe that Morgan lives on, running and barking in the fields of God. She has earned it, this little dog, who never met a stranger. Who never gave anything but love. Our other dogs know. They just know, and you can see the loss in their eyes. Our house is quiet today, and it feels as though there is a gaping hole where once was our loyal dog Morgan.

Through sunshine and shadow, Morgan loved our Jenny, and never left her side willingly. But we could not hold on, not really, if we loved her more than we loved ourselves. So, we let her go, peacefully for her, yet with raw emotion for us.

Good-by, Morgan. May we never forget that the Savior of the universe told us, not a sparrow falls to the ground that our Father in heaven does not know. I am certain that He knows you.

I believe that the God who has told us: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has been imagined by any man, all of the wonderful things that God has in store for those who love Him...must have been thinking of you. So, rest well, my love...stay and play, and wait for us, just as you always have.

Father in heaven, thank You for Morgan and her sweet spirit. Keep her in Your care, and grant us the grace to find peace in Your love.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Time for Blessing

Hello friends,

I know it's unusual for me to write so frequently, but I just feel an irresistible urge to share.

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was addressed from the publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Three books were enclosed, an unusual event, all with the same title:

Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference.

Inside this Chicken Soup book are two stories that I wrote quite a few years ago..."I'm Somebody" and "The Worth of a Soul." What is such a blessing to me, is not that I was published in a Chicken Soup book...every writer starts dancing when their story is published in this venue. The blessing for me, is that God listened. He listened to my heart. He listened to my dreams. And He listened to my stories.

When I imagine a face to face "sit-down" with God, I imagine, of course, Jesus. I can see Him across from me at a table. His elbows are on the edge, and His chin is resting on the palms of His hands. As I read my life to Him, He laughs at the funny parts, and He cries over the tender parts. He knows me...very well. He knows my traits, my fears, my sense of humor, and my urgent desires. There is nothing in my life that I don't discuss with Him. I talk to Him all day long...when I walk the dogs, when I do my chores, when I'm sick, and when I write.

I don't know how He reaches into my heart and pours onto the page, every beautiful thing I have ever experienced. He totally amazes me. I often wonder why, knowing that so many of my stories, poems, and songs will never be read or sung. Will I sing to God in heaven? Will I recite my poems to Him? Will I tell Him as I do in my heart, every day, just how much He has done for me? I'm sure I will.

So, right now, I want to bless the One who made me. I want to bless the One who places songs in my heart. I want to bless Him, because He effortlessly brings out the best in me. And I want to bless Him, especially, because I don't deserve it.

Lord, my God and Savior, thank you for making me a rich woman, not as the world reasons, nor even as some in the Church declare. I want to thank You for enough, which is better than a feast, when shared with other seeking travelers on this earth. Bless You, God. Bless You. And thank You for life in You.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Time for a Gift

Hello friends,

I don't know why I love a bargain, but I just can't resist three types of signs: "sale," "clearance," and "final clearance." Yes, I am the one who is drooling over the left over fall flower bulbs and the pot-bound, never-going-to-make-it-through-winter perennials. I'm also the one who is two years behind current fashion, just hoping that a leopard skin coat will match my chartreuse high-top snow boots, or my marked- down purple snow hood. Yes, that's me in the kaleidoscope wardrobe, not giving a hoot what anyone else thinks.

I belong to every website that sells anything, and my taste is simply "closeout." If it costs more than twenty dollars, I drag my feet. If it costs over twenty-five dollars, I'm clawing the air. If it's five dollars or less, I'll buy any color, any shade, or any style. As a result, I have a lot of items that are lime-green and the orange that goes with Halloween!

I drive my family crazy, sometimes.

"Get something nice, Momma."
"Buy something pretty."
"Buy something that hasn't been on sale since 1972!"

If I bought groceries at the same rate that I buy my clothes, we'd all be dead! It's an idiosyncrasy that I have, that catapults me towards the "final markdown" section of every store in the Mall. I simply can't resist a bargain. I'm willing to buy left-over Thanksgiving decorations in February and Christmas decorations in July. My husband has absolutely put his foot down over the sale meat in the grocery store, preferring something guaranteed to keep us out of the Emergency Room. Bargains are my passion. And if it's free, boy, I am THERE!

When I raced from my church pew to my first altar call, I was flying! I suddenly understood that Salvation is free, at least for me. It took a few years longer for me to understand that it was very costly for God. I did not have a background that prepared me for the free gift of grace. I didn't understand that my "goodness" had nothing to do with it. I was raised in a religion that preached that I would go to hell, if I wasn't perfect. It was a terrifying way to grow up. Later, as an adult, I tried religion after religion. I never could find grace. Then, when I least expected it, grace found me.

I often ask the Lord, "why me?" Why did You do all of this for me? Why did Jesus remember me on the Cross? Why, after being beaten nearly to death, did He stagger under the weight of the Cross, for me? Why did He willingly go to a sinner's death, so that I wouldn't have to?

I finally shut up long enough one night, to hear God's reply:

The Race

"I've chased you down your empty life,
And I've washed away your tears.
"I've held you in each lonely night,
"And I've banished all your fears.

"I've heard your hopes reach out to me,
And I've seen your tear-streaked face;
I've seen you climbing over rocks,
And losing every race."

"But the victory I desired for you,
Is only Mine to give;
So I reached into your trembling heart,
And I taught you how to live."

So now I know I belong to Him.
I don't have to be alone.
He'll come for me when my life is through
And swiftly bring me home.

There is no other way for me.
I've made my stubborn choice.
With all my faults I'll run to Him,
And believe when I hear His voice.

Copyright, Jaye Lewis, 2008

So, here I am, friends, still an eccentric blend of faith, humor, and gratitude, knowing that I could never earn the salvation that Jesus has given me. I wasted many years running after other things. And, I've thought about this grace experience. Never cheap. Very costly for God. But free to all who desire it.

Why did I run to Him? Well, He made Himself irresistible, and my relationship with Him is worth more than gold. Beautiful. Costly. Glorious. Filled with the promise of an eternity with Him. A free gift, to totally unworthy me. How could I resist a God like that?

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Time to Love the Body I'm In

Hello friends,

Just two days ago, on January 10th, I passed a significant anniversary. Twenty years ago, I was in a psychiatric ward. I had a complete nervous breakdown. Not all breakdowns are alike. Some people get so depressed that they withdraw from life. Others sleep for days at a time. Then there are those who simply lose their minds, and they never recover. I was different. Although broken in spirit, and lost in a fog of doubt and anger, I wanted to get well.

I was one of the blessed ones. I had a loving husband and two devoted young daughters. I had every reason to live, and with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist, I was able to move on to recovery, and finally healing. Few psychiatric patients recover as I did, and I know I'm blessed.

Throughout the last twenty years, I've had my ups and downs, but God, and the love of my family, have kept me centered and sane. However, one cannot be on psychotropic drugs, as I was in the past, or prednisone for my asthma, along with medications for other health conditions, without developing weight problems. I take a host of weight promoting drugs (it seems to be the drug companies' favorite side affect), which have made my life more livable, but they also keep me above 150 pounds in a good month, and 170 pounds in a not so good month.

Thankfully, it has been years since I had to take medicine for depression, but, my-my, every other medication just waits to suck the calories from a piece of lettuce and slap me with another five pounds. So my battle with weight is a continuous one. It has not been easy looking back on younger, slimmer days. And, let's face it, I'm over sixty.

The miracle of all of this, is that not a day goes by, without my husband telling me how precious and beautiful I am to him. But what about me? What do I think of my own body? Well, I've had my ups and downs there, too. No, I don't look sixty, but then I don't look thirty, either. My self-esteem, like many people's, has plummeted from time to time. Lately, however, as medications have given me a more normal life, I'm beginning to like myself a lot more, and I am seeing my body in a whole knew light.

Perhaps the horrors of plastic surgery, that we have been seeing dancing across the TV screen, have given me a new outlook. Women my age are allowing themselves to be poked with needles and filled with botulism. Their lips are pumped up like automobile tires. And their foreheads have been lifted so high, they look continuously surprised. Their bodies have been tucked here and there with foreign objects, so that no one looks normal anymore. It's horrifying. And nothing lasts. Inside of two to five years, they no longer look stunning, and now it's time to stretch things out again. Yikes!

So, I've taken a new look at my body, exercising more, but no longer afraid that I no longer look young. And I've decided that looking weird is not an option. I've decided to be thankful for the body I'm in, and I am learning to thank God every day for my imperfect, yet walking, talking, breathing body, which He has given me.

Medical science has given me a new lease on life, and I'm pretty tickled about it. God has controlled discoveries in medicine, so that I am no longer the wheezing, coughing asthmatic. My blood pressure is under control; my cholesterol is looking good; and my heart arrhythmia is doing very well. All this is due to medicines that did not exist twenty or even ten years ago. How can I not be thankful? In fact, if my hips and feet would let me, I just might dance a jig, but I'll settle for a thankful heart.

So, now is the time to love the body I'm in. I get hugs and kisses every day. I have a life that many people long for. How can I not be thankful? My life was over (or so I thought) twenty years ago. But you see, it's not over until God calls us home. We can get well. We don't have to stay where we are. We can change our minds, our thoughts, our health, and through the grace of God and much effort, we can change our lives.

Here I am, Lord, imperfect but willing, loving the body I'm in. Thank you for healing, for new medicines, for love, hugs and puppy kisses. Thank you for laughter, and thank you that there is no one I'd rather laugh at, than myself. Thank you for hope, and new changes, and new ways to send your love, and mine, off to other searching souls, all over the world.

Twenty years ago, I never dreamed how wonderful my life could be. So, hold on to God's hand. Reach out to yourself, and give "you" more time. When you are in the valleys of your life, it's not over. It's just beginning. You are a precious child of God, and you are one of His favorites. God bless and keep you!

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Time to Search Your Heart

Hello friends,

All around my house, I have bits of Scripture that I have printed out on little scraps of paper. These are personal scraps of God's Word that have a deep, personal meaning only for me. They remind me of the condition of the world, and that God knew what we would face long before I became the "apple of His eye." That was David's request of God: "Keep me as the apple of Your eye." The "apple of the eye" is the iris. Yours may be blue, or green or hazel. Mine is a kind of amber brown. So what David was saying, in his beautiful request, was "keep your eye on me, Lord." Like a child who cries, "Watch me, Daddy. I may need to hold your hand."

I grew up with a father, who not only failed to watch me, but he was one of those people whom I had to watch. He was not safe, and I never felt protected nor cherished. So, my journey to find my Father began very early. Much of my time was spent alone and in deep thought, wondering why I was not anyone's treasure. I don't say this so that I may receive anyone's pity. I know that I am blessed. I have a happy life, but this was not always so. As a result, I sought out God, in the dark stretches of the night, when I was awake and afraid.

It has taken me a half a century to come to the complete realization that I was never alone; that I have a Father, and He never takes His eyes off of me. This understanding fills my heart with joy and sorrow. So many people do not try to know Him. So many people shove Him away, much as I was shoved away as a child.

So, in the dark watches of the night, as I lay awake and am no longer afraid, I still seek Him, and I wonder about the great joy that He has given to me in my life. He has given me the love and devotion of a wonderful husband. And He has filled my life with the beautiful joy of two faithful daughters, who live for Him and for my husband and me. Why? Why me? Why am I happy? Why has He made me the apple of His eye? I wish I could answer these questions, but I simply don't know.

Perhaps it is because I sought Him. When I was most alone, I reached out to the only One who can bring true happiness to anyone. But to be quite honest, I don't think that I am the one who was faithful. He is, and always was. I wanted Him, and God knew it. I needed Him, and I knew it. I still do.

That is why each night, when I am in the dark, either sleepy or too much awake, I walk through my heart, holding God's hand. That is the time I take to search my heart each day. It is a joyful time. It is a tearful time. Only now, the sorrow is gone, so that thanksgiving and joy can creep in.

"Search me, oh God, and know my heart," sings David. "Keep me as the apple of Your eye." Don't take Your eyes off of me, Daddy! I may need to hold Your hand!

With love and gratitude,

Jaye Lewis

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Time to Be Thoughtful

Hello friends,

Here it is six days into the new year, and I have yet to write a New Year's message. Ever since I was a young teen, I've always written about my thoughts and feelings, usually on New Year's Eve. I'm a bit late, but then I have slowed down a lot, in my latter years.

This has been a strange two weeks, filled with many blessings. I'm on a new medication for my neurological problem, and low and behold, I was able to celebrate Christmas with my family, including a real tree and all the trimmings. I haven't been able to do that in many years.

Neurological problems can mimic many other symptoms, as well as exacerbate any other illness that you may have. Mine kept me from enjoying the celebration of Christmas. I've spent much of my latter years bedridden. Praise God for the wonders of modern medicine!

At the same time, while celebrating my liberation, I cannot forget many a troubled Christmas and the New Year. January, 1988, found me at the bottom of my life. I didn't even know if I believed in God, and I certainly did not believe that He believed in me. How things have changed in twenty years.

So, to be honest, I know that this time of year is not only difficult, but for some people this time can seem hopeless. Please believe that I understand. So do not give up. There is a new day dawning. You have a future that God is planning for you. He will carry you through the deep valleys of your life, and He will bring you into the light of His expectation. He has promised, and I believe Him.

May the peace and blessings of the One Who holds your breath in His hand fill your life with joy and happiness. May He guide your every step, and may He grant you more blessings than your heart can hold. He is worth waiting for, and He is worth waiting well.

God be with you, my friends, always.

With love,

Jaye Lewis

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