A Father’s Heart For The Father-less Places

beach overcast january

A few days ago I withdrew to a place of solitude. It was much later that I recalled this was a habit of Jesus.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”(Luke 5:16 NIV). 

As his popularity grew among the people, the greater the crowds pressing against Him grew. The Bible records they came to “hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.” I don’t have a crowd of people pressing against me but I do have a crowd of responsibility in my current lifestyle. And there are days when I must withdraw to a lonely place so I might pray and hear from Heaven.

January on the beach is a good lonely. Only a few other souls have the time or the desire to walk along the tide’s edge under a gray sky, the wind driving across the water to whip exposed skin. 

I walked with hands stuffed in pockets, zipper broken and jacket flapping until my racing heart and mind slowed to a manageable jog. I focused on breathing. In through the nose on a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Release through the mouth on a count of eight. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I walked and watched the waves roll in forming foamy bubbles at the feet of seagulls on alert for lunch.

Somewhere at mile three, I sat with an empty page, pulled a pen from my pocket and waited. He spoke. I wrote.

I heard the word “separate.” You must separate yourself from one thing to be set apart for another. I scribbled away. An asterisk here and an arrow there.

He spoke to me about missing pieces. Where there are missing pieces, there is brokenness. Tears burned my eyes.

journal page from beach solitude

My Father spoke to me about my dad and soothed my soul with compassion. 

My Father’s heart is big. He has room there for every hurt his children hold. Because even those who grew up with fathers in the home have father-less places in their hearts. But God sees. God knows. Because He is a father, his heart is moved with compassion for the father-less places in our childhood. Those times our hearts needed something we did not get. We needed more but we got less

God, our Father, has a heart to redeem the past, to secure the future and to bless the present. But his children must make room in their hearts for those things. It means we might need to separate ourselves from past hurts and unmet expectations in order to live free in the present with hope for the future. We must make room for God to be the Father to the father-less places within us.

Do you want to make room?

I do.

 

Written by Melanie Dorsey - Visit Website photo Mysignature-1.png
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Whose Strength?

weightI’ve just about had it with the notion of “being strong.” It’s a description that some seem to take pride in – their strength.

For the record, I do not consider myself a strong woman. I have a set of weaknesses and at times I feel quite overwhelmed with the struggles and trials in this life. And I’ve had a few. So have you.

I am not a strong woman but I am an honest woman. Perhaps at times, I am too honest. Too open. Too forthcoming.

I am not a strong woman but I am not afraid to allow others to see my weaknesses. I used to be but when my son was diagnosed with cancer and died less than four months later, I could no longer manage the facade of personal strength and self-confidence. Matters of life and death tend to change a person.

Any strength you may perceive in me is not mine. It is the Divine Helper in me. I, like the Apostle Paul, have often pleaded with the Lord (far more than Brother Paul’s three times) to take away a thorn. To remove trial or temptation or to roll back the storm clouds and quiet the waves.

I’m sure that if I were to thoroughly examine the past, I would see where He has done those very things. But just as sure, I also see where He’s not removed the thorn, times He’s allowed the storm to rage much longer than I liked and left the temptation for me to resist.

But here’s the thing I know just as surely as I know that I am not a strong woman.

I. Don’t. Have. To. Be.

I don’t have to muster up strength or some kind of exterior hardness to show the world that I’m One Tough Mother.

Here’s something else. I occasionally get depressed. Does that make me weak? Does that mean the person who says, “I’m not prone to depression,” is STRONG?

I think not. However you’re welcome to your own opinion. As am I.

What I know for sure is this. Any good you see in me, any strength you perceive in me is not mine. It’s God’s grace in my life. I do not deserve it. I do not earn it. I cannot claim it as my own.

I am not a strong woman. But I don’t have to be. And I don’t want to pretend to be.

In my weakness, God’s strength is made visible in me. That means He gets the glory and not I. That means I know who I am – a woman in need of the divine grace that strengthens me.

That means that even in my weaknesses, I can depend upon God’s grace to strengthen me to rise up and be a woman who simply relies on His Spirit to overcome every trial, storm and temptation.

In other words, any good I do and any hardship I endure is not done in my own strength nor by my own power but by the Spirit of God who enables me, graces me and lavishes his love upon me.

I’m not such a ding dong (the word “ding dong” in the Greek means “ding dong”) that I don’t understand the concept and possitivity of “strong woman.” My One Word for 2014 was strength. I just know that for myself, “my” strength comes from God, otherwise I’d already be a goner.

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Behind A Locked Door

morning and coffeeMy husband came back in the bedroom this morning before leaving for work, kissed me and said, “I love you.”

“I love you,” I replied. He told me he was wearing the new sweater I got him for Christmas.

“Turn the light on so I can see,” I said.

He did and added, “It’s cold today. Not supposed to get out of the 50′s.”

(Don’t laugh! That is cold for us.)

With a “Have a good day,” he left.

“You, too.”

I sighed and burrowed deeper in the covers. I had been awake long before his alarm rang. Thinking. Because it’s what I do. Incessantly.

The front door squeaked closed and I slipped from the warmth of my bed. I opened my door and then breathed a sigh of relief. The door across the hallway was firmly shut. There was silence from the other side – unlike when I made my way to bed at eleven-thirty the night before. The TV was blaring and I worried that the noise would disturb my son who had to leave the house at 6:30 to make an 8:00 class. Around 1:00 a.m. a light shining through the edge of my bedroom door awakened me.

“Uh-oh.”

I got up and opened my door to the blinding light from the bedroom across the hall and no sign of my dad. The bathroom door further down the hall was open but the light was off. I hesitated a moment and hearing nothing alarming, I closed my door, retreated to bed, pulled the sheet over my eyes to shield them from the light and exhaled.

Now at nearly 8:00 I am loathe to start my day. Softly I steal from my room to the kitchen, the floor tiles cold under my bare feet. I make a cup of coffee and stealthily return to my bedroom, lock my door and wrap myself in a blanket. I sit propped against pillows, drink my coffee and try not to think. Behind a locked door, again I exhale. I lock the door not because I need to. No one will disturb me and walk in without knocking. I lock my door because it gives me a sense of sanctuary in my own home.

Behind a locked door, I can breathe…at least for a little while.

Behind a locked door, I can push away the responsibilities of care giving – the role of managing the life of another adult – at least for a little while.

Behind a locked door, I can put off the day…at least for a little while.

 

 

 

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My Super Power

Child loss and the ensuing grief has changed every relationship I have. Since losing my son five years ago, I’ve gained some friends. I’ve lost some friends. My marriage is stronger and the bond with my children is greater. Even when my faith has faltered, my trust in God’s plan and His love for me has grown deeper.

God’s grace is my strength. 

I guess when you go through the loss that a parent “can’t even imagine,” there is bound to be some fallout.

There has been.

Recently I’ve had some confusing and hurtful responses from family members and I don’t even know why.

When I think of them and feel the hurt, I breathe a prayer of grace over them.

In addition to the trauma of child loss and finding a new way of doing life, I am the primary caregiver for my dad whom we had to relocate from another state to our home on November 1st. This is a challenge you cannot understand unless you’ve been in this position – kind of like grieving over the loss of a child. Unless you’ve walked the path, you can sympathize but not empathize.

I am in an online support group for bereaved parents – a caring and understanding community. I am also in a support group for caregivers which helps me breathe on days when my stress is through the roof.  Support groups are invaluable because I have found it best to be very guarded about who you open up to regarding child loss and grief AND about care giving for a parent.

No one wants to be misunderstood or harshly judged when they are doing the best they know to do under their unique set of circumstances. Yet it happens. So what do you do when it does?

There is a time to reach out in reconciliation. At times that has been where my heart has led me. I reached out. There is also a time to do nothing. At this time, that is where my heart feels peace. I feel the Lord leading me to do nothing. 

Do nothing but pray and release the hurt, confusion and sadness to Him.

I can only conclude that friends and family who cut another off must be overwhelmed and stressed themselves and it is a protective move on their part. So be it.

I choose grace. Grace for others. Grace for myself. 

I am not strong enough on my own to do life in this broken world. But I don’t have to be. When I am weak, God’s divine strength is greater than my human weakness.

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12:9 MSG

 

god's grace is my superpower

In fact, God’s grace has become my super power!

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A Little Bit of Christmas – Coastal Style

Coastal Christmas Wreath

Yesterday I removed the fall wreath from my front door and decided with the heat wave (temps in the high 70′s), I was NOT going to pretend I live up north and hang an evergreen wreath. I pulled out my summer wreath I made and enjoyed so much and added some shiny ball ornaments in red, aqua and lime – my current favorite holiday colors – and that was that! I love it. It feels right at home for a home ten minutes from the beach.

Components:

grapevine wreath, chalk paint I custom mixed, shells from my beach, burlap, starfish, mini chalkboard and shiny ornaments

I’ve linked up with The Nester’s Wreath Party. Should you like to see more of my Coastal Christmas decor, see below. Otherwise, thanks for stopping by to see my coastal wreath.

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As you know I have an Etsy Shop with my watercolor prints as well as my Hope Brews items made from coffee bean bags. I thought I’d sew up a stocking made from one of my coffee bags. I lined it with a neutral fabric and attached one of my many sand dollars. I have a box full of imperfect sand dollars that a friend  gave me – YAY!

I really like this! I’m already busy cutting the pattern for a second one.

burlap stocking

I’ll be adding more photos to this post of my coastal style Christmas. Generally I’m a bit more traditional with the Christmas decor in my living room and dining room and add a bit of whimsy and a casual coastal feel to my kitchen and keeping room.

my watercolor

my watercolor – original in an 8 x 10 frame

plant Jesus is the gift

This plant is in my kitchen window. We’ve had this window open for three days. Its been rather warm. The red bird is a vintage piece that belonged to my mother. It has “Japan” stamped on the bottom.

noel canvas

This is on the side of my kitchen cabinets. I painted the Noel canvas last year.

blue ornament wc

I’ve been doing a lot of watercolors lately and the blue ornament is one I just painted and framed. Aqua is my favorite color and I’m happy to include it in my decor year round.

deer chalkboard

I have this chalkboard that I made from an old Home Interiors picture that a friend was going to put in her garage sale had I not snagged it! I chalk painted the frame and then used chalkboard paint on it. I keep this set up in my keeping room on a set of nesting tables. (I may paint the tables at some point.) Check out my Pinterest board for chalk art ideas. That’s where the idea for this deer came. I like it!

I’ve linked this post to The Shabby Creek Cottage DIY Christmas Link Party.

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Under His Feet

A few days ago I began to read through the book of Hebrews. Its writer is unknown though some scholars believe it was written by Paul or perhaps Barnabas or even Apollos – both associates of Paul. Its theme is the superiority of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant over the Old Covenant.

As I read along, I read aloud. I marveled at the words of chapter one about the angels who are God’s ministers and flames of fire!

V.7 And of the angels He says:

“Who makes His angels spirits

And His ministers a flame of fire.”

 

Still, Christ Jesus, God’s Son is the superior One who sits at the Father’s right hand. This is the place of His authority. I read along in chapter two verses seven and eight.

“You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

 

Excitement began to mount as I read that all things are in subjection to Jesus! All things. All. Every Last Thing. Every thing that concerns me is in subjection to Christ!  The passage continues, “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left Nothing that is not put under him.” (emphasis mine)

I paused there and thought of all the things I’m facing, what others are enduring and even the groaning of our world as it’s waiting for the Sons of God to be revealed. 

But we must continue on and read the remainder of verse 8, “For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.” Yes, we are witnesses to this reality in our world as we daily deal with trials and hardship. I know so many who are carrying such heavy loads. The news daily bombards us in a near deafening clamor of evil personified around the globe.   However we cannot stop at verse eight or we might begin to grow weary in the wait.

Verse nine has reverberated in my spirit since I read it a few days ago and it will not let me go. It reads, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” 

Did you catch that powerful phrase? It’s what has sounded within me until it feels every cell has taken hold of it! Here it is:

BUT WE SEE JESUS!!!

I can lay my weary head in that place. I gain renewed strength when I park my mind on that statement. My anxious heart beat slows as I refresh myself in that cool stream.

No matter what you and I are in the midst of. No matter what may come your way in the days ahead. No matter how evil rips and roars.

No matter what is on the outside, on the INSIDE where the Spirit of God lives within us, we have perfect vision and though we do not yet see all things put under the feet of Jesus…WE SEE JESUS! How do we see Him? With our spiritual eyes,  for the Spirit that lives in us is greater than the spirit that lives in the world. 

Many times this week, when anxiety or stress has threatened a choke hold on my peace, I’ve said aloud, “But I see Jesus!” 

And in that moment, peace prevails and the trust I place in God, despite all contrary conditions, is renewed and strengthened. Now I’ll be honest, I’ve had to say it over and again. But every time I do, there manifests a calm in my breathing, peace in my spirit and power in the pure name of Jesus Christ for as we read further along in Hebrews, Christ Jesus is the “captain of our salvation.” And no matter what else is happening around us, we keep our eyes on our captain and He will bring us to safety and rest where ALL THINGS are in subjection under His feet.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for Your Son, Jesus, who sits at Your right hand. Help us to see with spiritual eyes the resources You have given us to overcome every trial and hard situation. Thank You that one day – in Your timing – we will stand in awe at the beauty of Jesus crowned with glory and honor. Until that day, may we SEE JESUS at work in our lives where ALL things are in subjection under His feet. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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A Little Fall in My Florida Home

It’s the first day of October and it’s hot. But I’ve decided to ignore our tropical temps and bring a little change of the seasons into our home. Click on the pics to enlarge.

I primed a board and for good measure also added a coat of gesso. Then I used my acrylic paints to add a few Florida fall leaves to a goldish container. The gold highlights are from a Gold Leafing paint pen. I propped it on this thrift store sconce I got a couple of years ago and gave a makeover with chalk paint. This is on the narrow wall by my front door.

acrylic painted leaves on board Last week I stopped by my neighborhood thrift shop and spied this 60″ x 84″ tablecloth. I thought the colors and pattern were just lovely! I often stop by thrift stores to find a yard or two of fabric. So cheap! Today I cut the cloth lengthwise, sewed the edges and a channel for the rod then decided to add a burlap border.

panels with burlap border

With the border the panels puddle a bit which is okay but I may raise the rods. We’ll see. Sewing a simple border is a great way to add length to purchased panels that aren’t quite long enough. kw panel

Here’s a closer look at the border. I think the colors are perfect for fall and the bit of aqua (my favorite color) allows it to work perfectly with my existing decor. I have a lot of aqua touches in my home.

kw panel border

 

My simple fall wreath is a grapevine wreath with a vine of fall leaves, a scarecrow and some scrappy burlap for a bow. I may make something else later but this suits me for now.

fall wreath with scarecrow

This is my chalkboard I made from a framed picture. The chalkboard paint went right over the glass. :) I also painted the frame changing it from brown to this beachy distressed style. Where did I get the owl picture? Well, thank you for asking. :) That’s a print of my original watercolor. I printed it on a vintage hymn book page and framed it. Hoooo wouldn’t like that?!

chalkboard vignette

In my dining room -

I painted the 11 x 14 pumpkin canvas and it’s for sale in my Etsy Shop. The “M” initial is also a watercolor I framed.

dining room fall sideboard

On my kitchen table – Under the cloche is a little burlap pumpkin I fashioned with scrap burlap, twine, hot glue and a wine cork for the stem.

kitchen table cloche with burlap pumpkin

This little lady sits atop my piano. I added a pine cone to my shells. I figure our beach shells are just as fallish as acorns and pine cones. Since we live so near the beach, the shells are always in season and not limited to summer decor.

fall on the piano

 

One corner of my entertainment center -

pilgrims

The other corner of the entertainment center – pears and pine cones and my watercolor of pear tree leaves -

watercolor leaves

 With the advent of the fall season, I’ve sold some of my fall note cards in my Etsy Shop. I’ve sold the Pumpkin Patch cards as well as the Hello, Pumpkin cards. Yay! I’m glad to see there is a need for cards to continue the art of snail mail card sending.

Friends, to celebrate the first day of fall, here’s a recipe I used last fall and again just last week. It’s very similar to many other pumpkin muffin recipes but I always tweak recipes a bit based on what I have in the pantry. If you don’t bake with self-rising flour, you will need to adjust the recipe to add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. And you can use cinnamon if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice and you can use canola or vegetable oil if you don’t have coconut oil although the coconut oil added a mild coconut flavor which my family enjoyed. Another thing, next time I’l cut the sugar to 2 cups. I added a few chopped pecans to mine. We love pecans but you can also add walnuts. They were moist and delicious and made us feel like fall was right around the corner even though for us living in the “tropics of Florida” that’s a streeeeeetch.

pumpkin muffins

How are you adding fall to your home?

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The “M” Word

A few days ago I wrote about the flip side of focus. After second guessing myself, I removed the post – all but a link I had within it, that is. I’ve decided to re-post it but only part of it.

The Flip Side of Focus - 

Do you know what I wish? I wish my ability to what I call hyperfocus on a task – which can be a very good thing at times – I wish this ability did not have the flip side that is sooooo wearisome. When trouble comes, I have an overwhelming need to relieve myself of all extraneous responsibility and commitments.  My mind goes into overdrive focusing on how to manage the trouble as best I can. That management feels like removing every other thing that feels like a weight on me until the trouble has passed. Even when the weights are not weighty on a good day but good things I’ve chosen, on a bad day they can feel like bricks on my shoulders. It’s really an awful feeling. It makes me hold my breath and then let it out again in a huffy sigh.

I think I used to handle stress fairly well (before my son got sick). But maybe all those years I wasn’t dealing with it at all. I just kept doing the thing that needed to be done – staying on track, keeping the routine – and pushed down my emotions. I was so very good at covering my emotions. I was master of the no expression expression. But is that really handling the stress of a hard situation? Some would say that’s being strong. But I disagree. Stuffing your emotions and telling yourself that what is happening is not really happening is just a different kind of coping strategy – but not a healthy one.

(At this point I’m deleting a paragraph from my original post. I’ll talk more about that further down the page.)

I feel the responsibility to fix broken things that although I did not break, I feel I must fix. I admitted to my husband a few days ago that I have lived my entire life feeling that nothing I do is enough. Just under the surface of this 51 year old flesh is a girl with sweaty palms who lives in fear of being called to the PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE. Not because she did something so wrong but because she didn’t do enough right. She didn’t meet all those expectations that for some really dumb reason she thinks people have of her.

(Here’s where I should insert, “People don’t think about you half as much as you think they think about you.)

Maybe it’s because she’s actually heard some of those words through the years. Maybe it’s not dumb after all. Maybe it’s just remembering the real words. It’s a terrible burden to hold yourself to words like these.

She should…

She ought to…

She should have been there.

She should do more.

Maybe it’s revealing that the good little girl is not that good after all. I prayed for wisdom today because I just don’t know what to do in a present trouble. But I’m so tired of the wearisome mental and emotional focus.

After I originally wrote and published this today, I decided to google “hyperfocus.” Then I edited my post to link the article. This statement from the article sums up my feelings to a T.

“In short, positive hyperfocus feels good and makes you happy. Negative hyperfocus feels bad and makes you stressed.” 

End - 

 

Now for a little explanation on what I left out from the original post -

I wrote about something that, truth be told, represents a place of wounding in my life. The wounds left scars and those scars are very sensitive still. I’m talking about manipulation. 

Disclaimer: I have no problem with persuasion that is open and honest but that’s not what manipulation is. Persuasion is up front and comes from a sincere place. Manipulation is another ballgame altogether.

Manipulate - to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to  one’s own advantage (Merriam Webster online)

Insidious – causing harm in a way that is not easily noticed

By the way, “harm” does not have to be great harm to be harmful.

I have such an aversion to the feeling of being manipulated that my knee-jerk reaction is to escape the source. And I have considered that I may be so overly sensitive to it that I misinterpret it at times. But I also believe that often the people who do it do not even realize what they are doing. Manipulation can be so subtle. A person may not even recognize it for what it is. They may simply feel bad or have a sense of guilt (false guilt!) and not realize what’s just happened. Maybe the best thing I can do is, recognize it but refuse to get inwardly worked up about it – unless it has to do with my kids. Then that’s another scenario.

If I could sit with you face to face, I could speak more candidly about this and if manipulation is not a source of wounding for you, you may dismiss most of what I have to say. But…if your heart beat a bit faster when you read my words and a few past or present scenarios came to your mind, you might find some freedom in an open discussion in safe company.

I have more to share but it’ll keep. I had a conversation yesterday with an older woman – my aunt – that soothed my hurt and made me realize how much I miss being mothered by my own mother. We need one another. We need spiritual daughters, sisters and mothers in the faith. With just one term of endearment in that quick call yesterday, a weight rolled off my shoulders. But like I said, that’ll keep.

 

Written by Melanie Dorsey - Visit Website photo Mysignature-1.png
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