Confessing my insufficiency and resting in Him

How do you do it all, people often ask. How do you balance everything?

I like to be busy, I usually respond, and I have a helpful husband.

But now, I am forced to sit on the sidelines as I wait for my voice to heal. This affects home-life, our non-profit, and my church work. Phone calls are left unmade, conversations are limited, quiet, and careful, contributions to group meetings and  church studies are weighed thoughtfully and shared only occasionally.

I’m becoming impatient. It has been seven months since this situation first presented itself, nearly two since the doctor ordered silence. The root of the underlying drive to do is emerging from the quiet. 

I self-diagnosed  an “insufficient identity.” 

Insufficient means, not enough; inadequate.

I have wrestled with an insufficient identity various times throughout my life.

As a child, I was certain if I had only done more, been more, tried harder, my family would not have been broken. No one ever spoke those words to me, it was a self-imposed notion that made me feel I had some responsibility in the matter and didn’t measure up. I struggled to handle some of the physical work expected of me and loathed when my siblings made it look easy. I was disinterested, and frankly quite terrible, at most of the recreational games we played, and math was an other-worldly language I was incapable of grasping.

Regina 1 Regina 12

 

Never mind that I was a great cook, an engaging writer, and had a gift for memorization at an early age. I was focused on what I wasn’t and how I didn’t measure up to my siblings and peers. I had an insufficient identity.

 

The older I got, the more I overcompensated for the insufficient syndrome that plagued me. My façade became the girl who could do anything. I thrived on doing. I hated the thought of letting people down, of revealing my insufficiency. I cooked here, baked there, volunteered many places, and often as a young single adult I held two or three jobs at one time, because I didn’t want my insufficiency to show.

And still. I was. Insufficient. By human standards I was unbearably so and I knew it more than anyone. 

But then I began to grasp my identity as a child of God. I wasn’t loved based on what I could or couldn’t do, how well I did or didn’t follow the rules. I was loved because I was created in God’s image. Loved because the God of the universe created me for a unique and specific purpose. Loved because of amazing grace. 

It didn’t matter if I was insufficient to myself or others, HE became my sufficiency. There were no games and no façade in this new-found relationship. Just broken messed-up me finding unconditional love and acceptance in a merciful and gracious God. A God who knew my insufficiency full-well and was crazy about me in spite of it.

Rest-in-the-Lord

 

I spent years building my new identity in Christ. I reveled in his goodness and rested in his sufficiency. When my old identity tried to reemerge, I told that voice where to go and how to get there.

 

In the meantime, I continued doing. I continued my much-ness and busy-ness. Only this time, not because it was my identity, but because I can’t help but care for others from whatever platforms I am given. I absolutely love and believe in the ways I have been called to serve.

It is not that (I) think (I am) qualified to do anything on (my) own. (My) qualification (my sufficiency) comes from God. 2 Corinthians 2:5 (Parenthesis mine)

 

rest in god Now here I am, forced to be “not doing,” and the insufficient identity is trying to tell me I’m letting people down; letting my family down, letting my non-profit down, letting my church down.

Resting doesn’t mean not serving. 

 

Rest_0

 

I believe this quiet time is supposed to be a respite for my soul, a realignment of my faith, meant for good and not evil. But once again this insufficient identity is weighing on me and once again I am acknowledging my insufficiency so I can rest completely and confidently in His. 

If you have ever struggled with an insufficient identity, if you are struggling with it now, I invite you to rest with me in the sufficiency of God, knowing that HE is more than enough. Let’s find our identity and completeness in HIM.

Souls are restless quote

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Amen and Amen.

 


The discipline of silence with a singing soul

I was born singing. It’s what I do. Here’s a little rhyme I just made up about it. 
I sing when I’m happy, I sing when I’m sad. 

I sing when I’m angry, and when things go bad. 

The songs and tunes change for each situation. 

But singing is always my soul’s proclamation. 
Since late November, I’ve had a hoarseness to my voice. Overuse makes it worse. Last month, the ear, nose, and throat doctor put a scope through my nose and down my throat and said I have a hemorrhagic nodule on my left vocal chord. (The doctor described it as a callous with a blood blister.) If it worsens, he said, he wants to do a biopsy. He left me with the following orders: “Minimal talking and when talking is necessary, whisper. For at least a month.”

I laughed. 

“I’m serious,” he said, “Totally serious.”

Let’s start with challenge #1: Mothering 7 and 4 year olds and a 7 month old with a whisper is laughable. Impossible, really, but I’m trying. What I have noticed is those rare moments when it does work, it affects us all. Mom uses a softer tone, so do the children. 

Challenge #2: I’m the co-founder of a peer-support organization, all relational, walking with those grieving the death of a child. Surely there are times of silence as we process grief together, but so much of what I do involves conversation. Still, doc says, converse quietly. 

Challenge #3: I’m a minister. I speak, I sing, I lead worship. Nix all of that for now. There’s no way to do any of that quietly. In order to keep from belting out in corporate song during worship, I’ve been making great use of my “coloring Bible.” 


(More on that in an upcoming blog.)

Oddly enough, this very situation is the reason you are reading this blog. This is my voice. As much as I am a singer, I am that much more a writer. It is my catharsis. But mi vida loco takes precedence and my true voice gets lost in the chaos. 

I don’t know the final outcome of this nodule nor what steps will be required for full and complete healing. I know my voice is not any better today than when the doctor first diagnosed me, but it’s also not worse. Praise God. The doctor talked of voice therapy and even the possibility of surgery as a last resort. It feels big. Frustrating. Especially when my soul is bursting with song and there is no release. 

But lessons are emerging from the silence. My soul is growing and deepening, making space to hear and experience God and life in new and amazing ways. While I eagerly await and expect complete healing, I don’t want to miss the lessons in the silence. 

I’m sure you will read about them here. Thanks for spending time with me today.

Holy as the Day is Spent

Thanks to Carrie Newcomer for this delightful reminder…

Holy as a day is spent
Holy is the dish and drain
The soap and sink, and the cup and plate
And the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile
Shower heads and good dry towels
And frying eggs sound like psalms
With bits of salt measured in my palm
It’s all a part of a sacrament
As holy as a day is spent

Holy is the busy street
And cars that boom with passion’s beat
And the check out girl, counting change
And the hands that shook my hands today
And hymns of geese fly overhead
And spread their wings like their parents did
Blessed be the dog that runs in her sleep
To chase some wild and elusive thing

Holy is the familiar room
And quiet moments in the afternoon
And folding sheets like folding hands
To pray as only laundry can
I’m letting go of all my fear
Like autumn leaves made of earth and air
For the summer came and the summer went
As holy as a day is spent

Holy is the place I stand
To give whatever small good I can
And the empty page, and the open book
Redemption everywhere I look
Unknowingly we slow our pace
In the shade of unexpected grace
And with grateful smiles and sad lament
As holy as a day is spent
And morning light sings ‘providence’
As holy as a day is spent

Listen to this beautiful song here.

 

Unearthed Musings; a poem, a dare, and memories of my childhood school

I recently came across some writings I had collected throughout my youth. Some were letters, songs and poems I had written, while others were pieces that were given to me. An elderly Old Order Mennonite neighbor, Roy Rhodes, shared the following poem with me when I was starting a significant journey in my life. What makes it even more special to me was hearing him talk about how this poem and others prayers sustained him during imprisonment when he was incarcerated for the sake of allowing parochial schools. (See a more recent article I wrote about my childhood school below the poem.) I keep this handwritten note as a treasure from my childhood, a memory from the special neighbor, and a dare to do right.

Dare to be honest

Dare to be true

The failings of others can never save you

Stand by your conscience, your honor and faith

Stand like a hero and battle ’til death

The following article was published in the Shenandoah Journal and the North Fork Journal in Sept. 2011

 

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Memories of Hickory Hollow School

Memories of – Hick’ry Holler School – As Hickory Hollow Christian School raises funds for a new facility, former staff writer Regina Cyzick Harlow shares school-day memories after a summer reunion.

North Fork Journal (Broadway, VA) – Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DAYTON – Braided pigtails, plain homemade dresses, bare feet and the smell of musty books on the shelf; these memories flooded my mind as I pulled into the parking lot of my first-ever school reunion at Hickory Hollow School in Dayton. The once two-story chicken house had been converted into a parochial school to serve some of the Valley’s conservative Mennonites.

When I started first grade in 1984, there were 13 students enrolled in grades one through eight and five of those, including myself, were from my own family. High school was not yet offered. Aside from reading, writing and arithmetic, we were taught the foundation of our heritage and how to apply the commitment of our ancestors to our lives today. It was there I received a basic education in worldly terms, but gained values to build my life upon.

The curriculum was aligned with basic Mennonite doctrine. The art portrayed plainly dressed families and the stories centered on their practice of simple living and non-resistance. We were required to memorize and recite poems of great length such as John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy,” as well as chapters of Scripture.

A typical day began with devotions that included singing-four-part harmony, of course-Scripture reading and prayer. Along with hymns, we often sang from folders that included songs of Stephen Foster and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, spirituals and Native American tunes. Devotions were followed by social studies, science, language arts, lunch, recess, math and Bible.

Our annual assembly program took months of preparation, memorization and study. We worked hard to present our families with poems, readings and songs about the Native Americans, stars and galaxies, our ancestors who lived during the Civil War and other topics.

Hickory Hollow History

The privilege of administering parochial schools, or schools offering religious education, came at a great sacrifice to our ancestors. Some spent time in jail for the sake of the cause and in 1972 an Amish case, Wisconsin vs. Yoder, went to the Supreme Court . The court ruled that due to religious beliefs, the Amish were only required a basic eighth-grade education and one that aligned with their theological views.

Hickory Hollow Christian School began in 1968 as part of Bank School. In 1972, it began operating under its present name in a “temporary” location, the remodeled chicken house that has served as the school for nearly 40 years.

I grew up next door to the school, so many of my childhood memories involve that structure now so precious to my heart.

There, I attended singing school and learned to read shaped-note music.

The school also housed the Country Village Bakeshop for a time. Mom was the chief doughnut maker and would get up at 2:30 three mornings a week, so she had fresh doughnuts ready when the doors opened. She mixed, rolled out, fried and glazed them by hand. Some mornings, I would go with her and sleep on the flour sacks in the corner. On those mornings, I would down a bowl of cereal for breakfast as she quickly combed my hair. Then I walked from the bakery kitchen through the door into my classroom.

Changes

Returning to the building for the school reunion, it was obvious the years of wear and tear had taken its toll. The school enrolls almost 100 students and offers high school classes.

Every crook and cranny has been turned into functional space. Classrooms and storage have spilled into additional outbuildings that eat up playground areas. While the remodeled chicken house served the school well for many years, it’s once ample environment has been exhausted and the need for a new school was clear to me.

The school board has purchased land on Limestone Lane, less than a mile from the current location. Construction has started and plans are to move in by the 2012-2013 school year.

I learned the value of teamwork, perseverance, commitment, and the fundamentals of my faith at my school. Although I have chosen a different path for my life, the core of what I believe and who I have become was established in that old two-story chicken house endearingly referred to by our family as Hick’ry Hollar.

Interruptions

No less than 20 inches of snow have fallen outside our window throughout the past 16 hours and it is still coming down. The winter wonderland is beautiful, but it has interrupted our lives in that my husband’s flight was cancelled and now he is making the treacherous journey home in a rental car. He has already spent one more night away from us than planned because of this storm.

Thankfully, we use a wood stove for heat and have firewood stockpiled next to the stove, we have a nice cozy house and I planned ahead to make sure our refrigerator and cabinets had plenty of food. So while we wish for Lee to come home safely, the interruption could be much worse.

It seems we’ve had our share of interruptions lately. Unemployment, job changes and a chronically sick child have been some of the larger interruptions, and then there are the small, everyday inconveniences of running late, running behind, and everything in between. The death of our daughter five years ago was a most unwelcome interruption that nearly destroyed me.

Interruptions happen. Life happens. Death happens. Most often I can point to these life-altering interruptions and see that is seems like something terrible is always involved, and indeed, in many cases that is so. But how we respond to the interruptions can destroy us or make us stronger. Obviously, some take a lot more time, practice, and working through than others, but they can all be tools that change and shape us into more loving compassionate and empathetic human beings or can harden our hearts with bitterness and anger.

One of my favorite Scriptures says…

“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

These words have guided me, comforted me and sometimes were the only thing that carried me through my life’s interruptions. When I passed through the waters and felt I would drown in my tears, I was sustained and comforted by this ancient text written by another who knew about life’s interruptions. Although I can’t always see the other side of the river or I feel the heat of the flames consuming my flesh, I find refuge in the Holy One of Israel and know that if I live I live with God and if I die I die with God; either way, I am with God.

In this, I can know that these interruptions have a greater purpose than what my mind can conceive or understand.

If you are experiencing interruptions today, whether they are mere inconveniences or life-altering, I pray that you too experience the comfort of the Holy One of Israel.

Does God care about lent?

I wrestled with Lenten sacrifices this year. What to give up? What to take on? What is the purpose? Does God really care?

Before I married a Lutheran, I had not heard terms like Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent. Well, I might have heard them, but they carried no meaning.

Although we’ve attended a Shrove Tuesday supper since my husband and I married, last year was the first time I then followed through with a Lenten sacrifice.

I gave up coffee and fried foods. Although I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, I love them and well, coffee is an everyday companion of mine so both were significant to give up.

I stuck with my commitment and felt it was definitely a time of growing within myself. I found the Lenten season to be much more meaningful as I was reminded daily of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.

But this year, I couldn’t decide what to give up. I prayed about it and had lofty aspirations of incorporating a Daniel Fast, but I did not want to set myself up for failure. I thought about giving up coffee and fried foods again, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I decided that unless I got clear direction, I would not do anything specific for this year.

Then, this Ash Wednesday morning, it came to me. “Daily Sacrifice.” Listening daily to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Don’t eat that for now,” “do this,” or “go there.” My prayer is that my life will become totally directed by the promptings of the Spirit.

Is lent for us or for God? As with any ritual, I believe we can go through the motions of lent without it having much purpose or meaning, but I also know it can enrich and empower our faith. It can be for both us and God if it accomplishes the intended purpose of deepening our relationship with Him.

I am looking forward to experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life this season and pray that being guided by his presence becomes an automatic response. I am thankful for the exposure to this practice that has caused me to become more reflective of the power of Easter in my life.

My Pledge

This is my life-creed. It is original to me and therefore copyrighted to me, but feel free to use and post if you feel the reminders here would be helpful in your home or place of work.

“THIS IS MY PLEDGE”

I pledge to care for those around me as though they are my brother, my sister, my father, or mother, for indeed, they are that to someone. If perhaps, they are walking this journey alone, I pledge to demonstrate compassion and kindness with the reality that I might be the encouragement that makes their life worth living.

Continue reading “My Pledge”

Why Jesus Gets a Bad Rap

In a recent conversation, I found that someone I know didn’t have much love for another person I hold dear. I immediately got defensive because I knew that this person really didn’t know my loved one that well. If they could see past the exterior, I believed that they would have a whole new respect and care for the other person.

As with every situation that leaves me feeling unsettled or uncomfortable, I asked myself what I can learn from it.

From that perspective, I thought about how and why Jesus gets a bad rap.

Continue reading “Why Jesus Gets a Bad Rap”

He knows our name

Well, I have been so busy posting recipe on The Kitchen Chic Muse, that I haven’t posted here. But I’ve had many an inspired moment over the past few weeks. Amidst the chaos and monotony, Eli and Elsie never fail to entertain. As Lee was walking into the kitchen Saturday evening, he spotted this…

Eli wrote his name on the cabinet with permanent marker

Since Eli has learned to write his name, (he still gets it backwards sometimes,) we are finding it everywhere! Lee said, “Oh man, someone scribbled all over this cabinet with a permanent marker!” As I walked over to investigate, it was clear to me that this was much more than scribble, this was a signature. Every time I walk past that cabinet (multiple times daily), I see that name and I think of our precious 3-year-old.

Then the inspiration… I thought of the Scripture verse Isaiah 49:16 where God says, “See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand.” And I love to think that every time he sees my name, your name, engraved on his hand, he thinks of us. So while we are working, sleeping, playing, our name catches God’s eye and he remembers us. We are not alone; ever.

A few more pictures for fun.

Eli loves being daddy’s helper
Elsie enjoyed “chillin'” in Todd Lake
Elsie and her cousin, Cooper, share their first kiss
We have spent a lot of time around the firepit Lee and Eli built for me for Mother’s Day

Welcome

Well, I’ve “gone and done it” now. Welcome to my blog. The place where randomness meets contemplative-ness. (Excuse the home-made word there.)

Hopefully we’ll engage in “conversation” here and people will be inspired, encouraged and humored.

This blog has been a long time coming, now we’ll see where it goes. See the “About” page for my reasons for undertaking yet another project. This blog just might be the link that brings all my writings full-circle.

Cheers,

Regina