All Posts By

Margaret Fleming

1 In Blog

All Are Welcome

My heart is heavy. I have pondered, prayed, cried out and sobbed. I have mourned, cursed and ached. I have asked why, I have asked when will it get better and how can I help? Friends, I see a dark cloud hanging above us in this time, a heavy cloud filled with fear, darkness and hatred. There was a time not too long ago that the world was filled with hope, I was filled with hope but that time has seemed to disappear and now we have been left in the cold wondering if the sun will ever reemerge. I have been silent for far too long and my heart and soul will not allow me to continue that silence any longer—it is time I address the unaccepting and hatefulness I see and can sense.

There is a beautiful quote I often see pop up on Pinterest and have repinned countless times. It reads: “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies how very different our ideals of beauty would be” (Anonymous). I would like to add my own flare to this quote: “If only our eyes saw souls and hearts instead of bodies how very different our ideals of beauty, our thoughts on humanness and our sense of the world would be.”  What if we lived in a world with eyes that only saw the humanness of others rather than the differences society continuously emphasizes?

Something that my mother often says to me when I am intimidated by someone is, “They put their pants on, one leg at a time, just like you and me.” Something as silly as remembering a person putting on their pants one leg at a time takes away the fear and instead places an image of a human being in my mind. Rather than continuing to be intimidated I see them as not that different from me. Ultimately, we are all human there is something we are all scared of, someone or something that has broken our heart, we all long to be accepted for exactly who we are and we all desire to love and be loved. So why is it that I cannot turn on my tv, go on Facebook or open my news app without seeing some sort of hatred being spewed and reported or some act of hatred having occurred? We are obsessed with labeling people, labeling what is right and what is wrong and labeling love. People no longer have names, scars, hearts and souls instead they have labels; Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Jew, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Male, Female, Transgender, Rich, Poor, Right, Wrong and the list goes on and on and on. When will the list stop? When will we stop locking people away in labeled boxes? When will people just be people?

It will stop when we make the decision to stop labeling people and instead see people as living breathing humans with hearts that love, hearts that have been broken and yet still beat, hearts that love and hope despite all the reasons not to. Instead of seeing the label let us see the soul.

One of the worst kinds of pain that you can experience is being rejected because of who you are, what you believe, what you look like, who you love and all the little and big bits that make up the essence of you. I too have felt this pain, I have been deemed not enough, wrong, too emotional, weird and the list goes on and on. But I have felt the incredible healing of learning to love myself, of recognizing the truth that I am part (and you too are part) of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:31). I have found people who have allowed me to be unapologetically myself. My hope and goal is to allow my heart and arms to be a place where people can find refuge and be allowed to be unapologetically themselves.

My faith has taught me to love people, not label them; to accept them, not reject them; to embrace them, not judge them. 1 John 4:18 reads:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

How can I or any of us do anything other than love and accept people? The commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10: 27). In addition to loving God we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. All we want is to be accepted by people, to be allowed the freedom to be who we are— so isn’t that what we should allow for others?

All are welcome at the table. Can we try to live our lives as Jesus? Jesus welcomed all to the table, Jesus offered living water to all, Jesus offered the bread of life to all. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I am told to love the people in this world, accept them as they come to me and allow them to be who they are. One of the most beautiful things in this world are the differences that make each of us uniquely beautiful and a rare treasure. I am tired of people being condemned for their differences and the things that make them a rare and beautiful treasure. We must learn the language of love and that the universal language of love crosses borders, overcomes differences in opinions, beliefs, appearances, nationalities, faiths etcetera. The universal language of love has the capacity to heal.

My friends, I am tired of fear and hatred always winning. Can we change the narrative together? Instead of the story being laced with hatred and fear let the story be laced with love and hope. So my brothers and sisters of this incredible world, know that I stand with you in love and I am praying that the story will no longer be about hate but instead about love. No matter how different we may seem I want you to know you are welcome at the table.

“We can reject every else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion…This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need. So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy” —Dalai Lama

God, I pray that we open our hearts to your love, that you open our hearts to others and that we practice love instead of hate. I pray for this world and I pray for all of your children. Help us to do as you commanded us, to love You and to love our neighbors.

My brothers and sisters in the family of humanity peace, joy, love and blessings be with you all. Your sister, Margaret.

1 In Blog

Mother’s Day

Anyone who knows me, knows how important the Fleming Women are to me and to my family. I have affectionally dubbed us the “Fleming Women/Ladies.” These women have shaped me into the woman I am today. They have been there every time something has gone wrong, no matter where I am in the world. They are my source of strength when I can no longer find the strength on my own. They are my biggest supporters–ready and willing to fight for me or to cheer me on as I tackle things on my own. Because of each of these beautiful, intelligent, strong and loving women I am capable of doing the crazy things that I dream up. This post is my thank you letter to them.

My mother was a Fleming and married a Fleming (no relation of course!) so I have been fortunate to be a double Fleming and that is why the Fleming Women  works to include both sides of my family. I remember when I was in college and was having an absolutely terrible time with the sorority I joined I would think about the Fleming Women and boast that I was a member of one of the most exclusive sororities you could be a part of, one you had to be born into. To this day I am just as proud. These women have such a huge part of my heart and couldn’t imagine being anyone else’s daughter, granddaughter or niece. So let me take the time to thank each one of them for all the lessons they have taught me, the love they have freely given me, the laughter they have shared with me, the tears they have wiped from my face and the endless amounts of love and joy.

To my Mother, you are one of the strongest women I have ever met. I love you more than you could ever imagine. You, without a doubt, are my best friend. Since being in Scotland I have realized even more how much I need you and miss you. Thank you for eating Chick-Fil-A breakfast with me, even though we don’t like to get up early. Thank you for always answering your phone (even if it is 5AM), even though you know 9 times out of 10 I will be crying. Thank you for loving me and comforting me. Thank you for listening to me sob on the phone. For giving me tough love when I need it. Thank you for supporting my dreams, no matter how crazy they may be. Thank you for loving me despite my unlovable moments. I pray to God that I am as patient, kind and giving as you are. I have been blessed abundantly with you as my mother and no matter where I go in this world I will always need you and look up to you. You have held my hand through some of the hardest times and I will forever cherish our relationship. I pray to God that I have a relationship with my daughter like the relationship I have with you. Thank you for all the love you have given, the laughter we have shared, for wiping away the tears, for the joy we have experienced and for the tough love that I so often need. I know everyone says it, but I know for a fact that you are the best mom in the world.

To my Grandmomma, you are the matriarch of one side of the Fleming Clan, the glue that sticks us together. Thank you for putting up with me, for reading countless essays and listening to me cry too many times to count. The countless Saturdays that I have spent with you and Mom are some of my most treasured memories. I am incredibly thankful for all the love and support you have given me throughout my life. I never worry too much because I know that I always have you just a FaceTime away. I have been blessed by having a non-traditional relationship with you and mom–the two of you are my best friends. I truly look forward to the moments we three get together to laugh, pick at one another and shop! I know that I am capable of doing so much because you have encouraged me and loved me. Thank you for all you do for me, thank you for listening to me, encouraging me and helping me–I would never be able to do what I am doing without you. Thank you for giving me your gift of baking and cooking, I have turned into you–feeding those that I love. I love you very much.

To my Bonnie Anne, you are the truest Southern Belle I have ever met. Thank you for teaching me the importance of a handwritten note and sending me all the handwritten notes. Your letters this semester, while I have been in Scotland, have touched my heart over and over again, and have proven the power of a handwritten note. Thank you for loving me despite the mess that I am. Thank you for supporting me, encouraging me and teaching me the definition of strength. I am in awe of the strength that you possess and I look up to you in so many ways, I will forever try to emulate the dignity and grace that you possess. I cherish the moments we spend together, talking, laughing and eating fried chicken.

To my Aunt Caroline, thank you for understanding me. Truly having you home in Charleston has been a gift. It has been such a blessing to have someone who understands my weird sensitive nature. I am so thankful for our chats over Barnes and Noble cheesecake and PF Changs (especially since you’re the only one who will go there with me). Also, thank you so much for often being my fashion twin, we have too many of the same outfits. I am so thankful to have you in my life and to have someone who simply understands my weird nature.

To my Aunt Linda, thank you for always including me. Thank you for always inviting me to tag along with you, Caroline and Robert. I treasure all of our trips and the memories that we have made together. Thank you for taking me to my first ever concert, the Jonas Brothers, thank you for (not knowingly) teaching me how to shave my legs and thank you for giving me great life advice. I always think fondly of spending countless Saturdays with you in Monks Corner. I love you dearly and am so grateful for all I have learned from you.

To each of these special women, thank you so much. All of your hard work and unconditional love has not gone unnoticed. We are meant to treasure our mothers and the special women in our life everyday, but on this day y’all deserve a bit more recognition–so thank you. I would have been a very different woman if I had not had you all in my life. Your love and support has given me the courage to take chances I never imagined I would take. Thank you for showing me what it means to be a caring, giving and loving mother. I look up to each of you and am so grateful to call you family.

Today is a day that is for the very special ladies in our life. I have been blessed abundantly with the Fleming Ladies, they have provided me with a sisterhood that I wouldn’t change for anything. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! Happy Mother’s Day to the beautiful, strong and loving mothers, aunts and grandmothers that I am so fortunate to have in my life.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, Love, Joy and Blessings–Margaret

Happy Mother’s Day!

2 In Blog

Water

I have thought about just letting this blog go—the brief moment of inspiration fled and I figured that the world could do without these words. Except apparently it actually cannot. I tampered with the idea of writing a post about water last week, feeling inspired by the post about wind and listening to the world around me. I didn’t write down the post immediately which tends to cause me to forget about it. However, a few nights ago my grandmother told me I think you should do a post about water. Just like Mia from Princess Diaries I cried “SHUT UP,” of course only meaning “Wow, gee whiz, golly wolly” (these quotes are from Princess diaries, I got the second one from the website linked   ). That is when I really knew that the water post wanted to be written and it wanted to be written by me.
Water is just as essential to our life as the air we breath and the food we eat. Despite the fact that as a small child I hated swimming (due to that fact that my brother dunked me in my baby pool when I was 1) I love the water, I love being next to the water and breathing the sea’s salty sweetness in. I have found that no matter how far I may roam I love the idea of being near the sea, or at least some body of water. I have been to Nice, swum in the Mediterranean and seen the incredible blue of the water. I have been to Turkey, smelled the familiar scent of mud that I am so accosted to from home. I have lived in Scotland and walked beaches that provide access to the North Sea. I grew up on the coast of South Carolina and grew to love the comfort of the salty air, the breeze and sea. I have felt that familiar embrace here in Scotland.
Out of all my encounters with water from my time abroad, Scotland’s has been most similar to my SC experience. The sand is a bit finer, the water a bit colder and the breeze a bit chiller but the color is the same dark green and the sound of waves crashing on the shore reminds me of being at home.
Water is not just limited to rivers, lakes and seas. Trust me, Scotland has no shortage of water, the country is known for massive amounts of rain. Actually, the sea and the rain is not what caused me to think about this post, no, it was a creek on a walking path I took last week. The weather was exceptional last week, clear blue skies and chilly air—perfect walking conditions. I went down a path that takes you behind houses in St. Andrews under the cloak of trees and beside a bubbling creek. As I walked I listened to the water tinkle like bells as it ran over stones, as it ebbed and flowed along its path, as it crashed down dips to form a mini waterfalls and as it roared a bit louder as it picked up speed. I listened and I thought—I thought of how central water is to life and how relevant it is to our faith.
We are baptized in water, some as small babies sprinkled with holy water, some dunked as children or young adults—in rivers, lakes, the sea or basins in a church. Though our baptisms may all be different the meaning is still the same: we become members of Church and the community of faith. In my case my parents and the Church made the promise to raise me in the church and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior. Water is at the center of this concept.

Matthew 3:13-17

“The Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Water is a powerful thing and something that is used throughout the Bible:

Proverbs 25:25:
“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country”

Nothing beats drinking cool water on a hot day or when you seem to be dying of thirst. Since living in Scotland I think I can relate to what this is saying, it soothes the soul to know that my family and friends are thinking about me and to hear from them is a wonderful blessing.

I think this next verse is one that I can also relate to, I was in a place where I turned my back on God and I ran and created plans for myself, assuming I knew best.

Jeremiah 2:13

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water”.

I find that if I run from God, ignore God or halfheartedly seek God I am thirsty—not physically but spiritually. I find that the wellspring of my strength is dried up and I am left in a dessert desperately seeking water, living water. This concept of living water is found in the above passages, but also in one of my favorite passages from John. John 4, Jesus and the Woman of Samaria. When I was in undergrad I did what is called an exegesis on this passage and I dug in and discovered some truly amazing things about this passage, and I have never looked at the concept of living water the same.

I believe that the Samaritan Woman and her interaction with Jesus can teach us about who Jesus was/is and how Jesus meets us right where we are. No matter the sins that we have committed, no matter the dirt that covers us Jesus meets us there and invites us to drink of the living water. Now there is a bit of a back story to go with this passage, I will try to make it short. This passage is significant because Jesus crosses the boundaries of many different challenges: Samaritans and Jews were at odds with one another, and this woman was a Samaritan; she was a woman and she was a woman at the fringe of her own society (she was what one could call “loose”). Jesus crossed these boundaries and met her in the midst of her messy life, our messes may look different than this woman’s but I know for certain my life is no less messy than hers. Jesus reached across societal lines and met her right where she was:

John 4: 7-15

“A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirst or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

How many times have I not understood the living water that Jesus is offering me? The life Jesus has offered me? Too many times to count I have refused the living water Jesus has offered me to instead drink of the water that will not cure my thirst. Too many times I have not understood what my Savior has told me. I love the Samaritan Woman for many reasons, she reminds me that my Savior is not scared of messiness and will always meet me in the midst of my mess. She reminds me that there are times that I cannot grasp who God is and what God offers me (she does later in the passage realize who she has met and preaches the good news to the people in her community, a powerful woman who brings many to Jesus). She is a real and sinful human, she serves as a reminder that Jesus does not exclude but instead embraces us all as we are—that all are welcome to drink of the living water.

Water is a powerful image. I have listened to the water of that creek tinkling as it flowed over stones, the crash of the waves on the shore and the drops of rain thudding on my jacket hood. I have felt the refreshing relief of drinking cool water on a hot summer day, I have felt the cool sweetness of letting my feet be washed by waves and I have felt cool raindrops fall on my open hands as I walk home in the stereotypical Scotland rain. Water refreshes, renews and brings life. My friends will you drink of the living water?

My dear brothers and sisters, I cannot express the healing my heart has experienced from writing these posts. Thank you to all of you who read them and who follow me on this journey. It has brought me joy and reminded me that I am not alone. I send you so much love.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Peace, Love, Joy and Blessings—Margaret

1 In Blog

And So the Wind Blows

Today I had a conversation with my mom, I tend to have difficulty accepting the good advice my mom gives me. Bless her, she has more patience than I ever will, despite the fact that I drag my feet and want to put my hands over my ears and yell “la la la I can’t hear you” at the top of my lungs (it is a good thing that she is a kindergarten teacher). But she does offer good advice, once I have stopped yelling and started to let her words sink in.  She told me that I need to have some positive thoughts, to try and enjoy the physical place that I am in. Today I took a walk to a beautiful spot here in St. Andrews by the sea, East Sands, the weather was outstanding–the sun was out and the wind was blowing.

I called my mom after this walk and was ranting, that is when she gave me the advice of trying to be positive and embracing where I am. I then went inside the library and wrote something about East Sands and it made me reflect on the beauty and peace that I find there. Today was an incredible day, chilly but absolutely stunning, the beach was full of people walking their dogs, picnicking and enjoying the sun. I reflected on that amazing view in the library, continued some unfinished work then packed up and walked home (it is still sunny out because our time finally changed!! Hallelujah!). As I walked home I didn’t put my earbuds in and listen to music, instead I started to listen to the wind. How it rustles the trees and bushes as it blows through them, how it gasps as it whips through the air and how it whistles as it blows past my ears and through my hair.

I am currently practicing making myself write, I have no clue if you care about how the wind sounds–but I do. It almost seems as if the wind has a personality and persona of its own and from my faith I know that it does.

John 3:8

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

As I walked home rather than be annoyed with the wind I let it accompany me and tell me things I wouldn’t ever hear if I hadn’t allowed myself to listen. It seems a bit strange to listen to the wind but somehow cathartic. It is like in Pocahontas, the Disney movie, where she sings “Can you paint with all the colors of the wind”? As I walked home listening, hearing and feeling the wind I thought of this question; maybe the wind will always be colored the blue of the sea, the blue of the sky and the green of the grass and maybe it will always take me back here to Scotland–no matter where it follows me.

At home we get really satisfying thunderstorms, with thunderclaps that will shake the windows and lighting flashes that light up the room but thunderstorms don’t really happen here, instead there are wind storms. Sometimes late in the evening here the wind will be so loud that you can feel the building shake and hear the roar outside, and in some ways it is comforting, different but still satisfying. Maybe that is what Scotland is meant for me, especially in the spiritual sense, something very different and yet at the same time still satisfying.

Who knew the wind could be so wise?

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, Joy, Love and Blessings–Margaret

 

 

 

 

 

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What You Can Find in the Dark

Happy Easter! I hope that this post finds you, wherever you may be in your faith journey. I know I have posted a lot recently, but I figured that I was not the only person in the dark or struggling. It also is therapeutic for me to blog, it helps me think through and process my emotions and I think the way I am going to get through this darkness is by digging in, being honest and sharing.

This is the first Easter that I have spent away from my family, and needless to say, it was hard. I woke up and I felt sad that I wouldn’t be at my home church where Easter is a big deal and in the place that I feel God’s presence in a way that is indescribable. I went to Church, it was of course different, but it was good and in some ways familiar, singing three of the same hymns that I have sung since I was a small child and celebrating Jesus’ triumph over death. But it isn’t at church that I found the connection to the resurrection that my heart had been seeking, it was in the book that I have been reading, Learning to Walk in the Dark. Barbara Taylor offered my soul peace and comfort in the midst of the dark saying: “new life starts in the dark” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 129). She points out something most people, including myself, have never thought about the resurrection: “If it [the resurrection] happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 129). New life happened in the dark and happens in the dark: “whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 129).

I never thought about this, but Taylor laid it out for me so clearly, and my heart rejoiced. I have come to recognize, through the guidance of Taylor, through allowing myself to embrace the darkness and giving up control that I am finding a healing I never knew existed. Maybe I am so desperate to feel some sort of connection with God that I have made this up, or maybe, just maybe it is God whispering to me in the dark. I am not out of the dark and I am not sure when I will be, but I am learning that I need these emotions, I need to let it happen because I am learning to give up more of myself. These hurts and this darkness I have felt have had me longing for my Savior to come and heal–I have cried out to God in anger, frustration and desperation. I have allowed myself to embrace the darkness and allow God to approach me here and meet me here in the midst of it, and Brown was right–you start to realize things that you never could have in the light (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 5).

Luke 23: 5

“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.'”

My dear sisters and brothers, rejoice for he has risen! I want to wish you all a happy happy Easter!

May the Peace of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you all. Peace, Joy, Blessings and Happy Easter–Margaret.

 

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In the Dark

There are moments, glimmers and seconds where I feel something being laid on my heart–but they are fleeting and if I am not quick to act they disappear. The desire to use those moments of inspiration are gone and then I end up doing the same thing that I was doing before–ignoring God, hiding and refusing to try. A dear friend advised me on Wednesday to simply blog about being unable to blog, so I took her advice and sat down and wrote, despite the fact that it felt like it took everything I had and was trudging through heavy sludge. I wrote and am now writing again. I have no clue if any of this is good but I am writing, trying to learn how to be faithful without feeling the presence of God.

I am currently reading a book by Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor digs into the concept of darkness and dark times, a concept that we usually try to run and hide from. As humans we tend to avoid the darkness and the emotions or places we have determined dark, and by default labeled dangerous. But Taylor provides a look into the dark, both the physical dark and those “dark” emotions, and asserts that we cannot function without both light and dark. I am a person with many emotions, I have always been an emotional creature and I see my younger cousin act in similar ways as to how I acted when I was her age and even how I act now. I cry at anything, it can be happy or it can be sad–tears are a normal thing for me to shed. I have had my fair share of joy and my fair share of disappointment and heartache, I have also experienced depression (fortunately, with the help of my wonderful family, supportive friends and a counselor I came out from that depression). But I think within the society we live in and from what Taylor has said–we have labeled certain emotions as “dark” and have given them a time limit as to what is appropriate for you to feel. This is not a way for us to approach these emotions, sometimes you have to let yourself feel the feels, I personally have to be careful not to let them take control and push me down the rabbit hole but I am still allowed to feel them. Taylor talks about how the dark has opened up another way of receiving God: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p. 5).

We don’t like talking about the dark and we don’t like being in the dark, but there are times when it is unavoidable. I bought this book at Christmas, but it was recommended to me long before, I purchased it with the intent of reading it over break in an attempt of calming my fears of returning to St. Andrews after the spiritual warfare I had experienced. However, I did not manage to read it before my return, so I squeezed it into my bag and brought it with me. I figured at some point I would need to learn how to walk in the dark, that walking only in the light was impossible and I was right.

There is an expression that I have used many times before, “I feel as if I am in the dark,” meaning, I have no clue what is going on. That is exactly how I would describe my present circumstance, I am in the dark, I have no sense of direction, I am simply wandering and hoping that I will take the right steps to move forward. I am sure many of you are feeling this way right now, lost, confused and in the dark. All I can say is you are not alone, I am right here alongside you stumbling through the muck and mud hoping to find solid footing soon. It is scary, the dark makes me uncomfortable–but I think that I am where I am meant to be. I have been avoiding God, running and hiding and it finally got to a point that the other shoe dropped and I ended up in the dark, mostly due to my mindless running and hiding. Now I am in the midst of the dark and am not entirely sure how to get out but I don’t think I am meant to get out. I think God is meeting me right here, right now in the dark, knowing I have no other option but to face him and turn to him. I never expected to sense a purpose for the darkness (other than to scare me) but I believe that I am experiencing some sort of healing. I am allowing myself to feel the feels, the darkness is not comfortable but I have to learn to meet God outside of the light. I am reminding myself that all circumstances come together for good (Romans 8:28).

Taylor says that step one of learning to walk in the dark is “to give up running the show” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, 15). I am tired of trying to grasp control. My dear friend told me, a few months ago, that she felt as if God was telling her “open hands.” I think that God used her to tell me the same thing: open hands to receive what God wants me to receive, open hands for God to take what God needs to take away and open hands for what needs to remain to remain. Ultimately, I know and deep down I do trust that God wants to give me the best, and maybe the best is not what I have in mind. At this point I am so confused and I am too tired to run anymore, too tired to fight against it anymore–it is time to “give up running the show” (Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, 15) and to let God have rightful control.

My sisters and brothers, I hope that God meets you right where you are whether you are in the dark or the light. Keep moving, no matter where you are, just keep moving forward. Tomorrow the season of Lent ends for us and we will celebrate the tomb’s emptiness and rejoice for he has risen! And maybe I won’t be in the light personally tomorrow, but I will rejoice for Christ will have risen–and I know that we will get through this difficult spot and our relationship will be even stronger.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, Joy, Love, Blessings and a Happy Easter–Margaret

 

 

 

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Defeat

I have been unable to blog recently, you as readers most likely have seen the lack of posts–this is due to a severe lack of inspiration. I feel shut off, unmotivated, distanced , angry and homesick–just a few of many emotions that have been going on in my life lately. Yesterday, I received some not so great news, something happened that caused me to flashback to the very dark storm of last semester. Now I am trying to figure out how to avoid going back into the deep dark pit of that storm. These words are hard to write, because I am experiencing a severe spiritual block, one that leaves me questioning every word I write and makes everything a heck of a lot more difficult. This post is not going to be pretty and it might not have a happy ending today, but maybe in the midst of the week we are in, Holy Week, it somehow fits that I feel this way.

I am angry at God. I refuse to sugar coat it and if you are uncomfortable with those words I am sorry, but I am mad with God. I am not running away from him or turning my back against him but God is a person I love dearly but also a person who I am not happy with. For those of you who are uncomfortable with those word and who think that it is not acceptable for me to be mad with God let me ask you this “Have you ever been mad at someone you love dearly?” I do not approach God carefully, not anymore, God is someone I love dearly and someone who loves me dearly–a person who knows the good, the bad and the ugly (trust me there is plenty of ugly in there). There is no point in me hiding things from him, because God already knows me inside and out, I try to come as am: broken and jagged. So I don’t look at God like some scary deity who is going to strike me down–I look at Jesus as my Lord and Savior, as a person who loves me despite the evil in me and I approach him as a dear friend, parent and a Savior. I approach my relationship with God in my broken human way. I fail to trust, I get scared, I avoid contacting God, I come when I need something, I try to be faithful and loyal, I attempt to listen but I am not perfect and so I fail all the time. And yes, I even I get angry with God.

Now I am sure you are wondering why I am angry with God? What could have happened? Well honestly I am not only angry at God but I am angry at myself, I should have been trying to reach out and to develop the relationship but I have found St. Andrews to be one of the most difficult places to do that. Last semester I experienced spiritual warfare, this warfare left me hindered, vulnerable and scared. I was miserable and I truly questioned whether or not I wanted to come back to St. Andrews. Then over Christmas I dug into my relationship with God, I talked to him and I received my second Scotland call, you have to return, you have to go back. I had to be brave and I had to come back, getting on the plane in September was hard but getting on that plane in January was a type of difficult I have never known before. I had one prayer I kept praying over and over “meet me there God, I can’t experience another semester without you.” I have stopped saying that prayer, that is on me, I started to try and control things and left God out, and that is on me. I am clearly in the wrong, and most likely a lot of this is my fault but I just said I was angry with God–not that it was rational.

I feel disconnected, lost, scared, vulnerable with no sense of direction. I have no clue what God wants from me and I can’t hear him. If I could I would jump on the first plane back home, where it is safe, comforting and where I have more of a chance at hearing God (most likely he would tell me to get my butt back on a plane and go back to Scotland). But I have no plane ticket, purchasing one is not an option and ultimately I know that running won’t change anything and that staying is my best option.

Although, I would prefer to not have these feelings, to not feel as if I have been led to Scotland and then just dropped here. I have no sense of direction and it feels as if everything is crumbling around me. In the midst of these emotions came the most fitting image, an image of my Savior hanging on a cross crying the words:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Now I know and we all know that God had not forsaken Jesus and we know that Jesus was also fully God in that moment. But the reality is, Jesus was experiencing the humanness of feeling lost and alone, the emotions I am feeling on a much smaller scale. I have no clue where God is, I don’t know where he is or what he wants me to do, the connection is bad here and I don’t really put the work into our relationship like I should. Regardless of the circumstances, I am not the only human who has ever felt this way. As a dear friend told me, I just need to tie a knot and hold on. So that is what I am going to do. God blessed me with a iron strength deep inside, and anytime I get knocked down I get back up. Life keeps swinging but I have learned you just have to push yourself up, dust off your hands and swing back. So I am tying my knot and praying that I can hold on, that I can keep on swinging, that God will come through with his promises.

So maybe this post was a bit dark and a bit sad, but we are still in the season of Lent. Tomorrow my Savior will hang from a cross and utter those defeated words, but on the third day he will rise again, he will be triumphant. Easter is coming, the joy will return, but first the darkness must occur.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. May you see the light that is coming, but recognize the suffering Jesus endured on our behalf. Brothers and sisters, the darkness is settling amongst us, but the third day is coming–He will be Triumphant.

Peace, Joy, Love and Blessings–Margaret

1 In Blog

Witness To Love

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day! A day full of “mushy” love (as the pastor called it), romantic and grand gestures, flowers and loads of chocolates. I love Valentine’s Day–I love Hallmark movies, chocolate, flowers, red hearts and Valentine’s Day sweaters (yes, I bought myself a Valentine’s sweater). In the society that we live in, it is almost engrained in us to despise Valentine’s Day if we are single–but thankfully I have a wonderful mother who taught me that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all those you love, just a bit more than you usually do. It is not just a day for couples it is a day for all lovers and I hope that we all choose to be lovers.

I went to church yesterday, I was, of course, running late. I rushed into the Church, expecting to see not too many people (usually the crowd is quite slim at the traditional service) and imagine my surprise, when I was greeted with quite a significant crowd–a lot of babies as well. Maybe it comes from my Christian Education days, but I am a firm believer of babies and children in church, it warms my heart to see the little children or babies and to hear the little baby noises. I am not sure if it is the part of my being that hopes to one day be a mother or just that I remember Jesus saying “let the children come” (Matthew 19:14) but seeing a baby, especially a baby baptism, it touches a place in my heart that can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. And that my dear friends is what was happening, the church was full of family and friends celebrating the baptism of a baby (I usually tear up at baby baptisms, they just hit me in the heart when I realize that it is the promise of the parents and the church to raise that baby in the knowledge that they are a child of God). As I sat in that church and watched a family make the promise to raise that baby with the knowledge that they are a precious child of God, as I repeated the words promising to help the parents in any way I could and as I listened to the preacher preach a sermon about love–I realized that I am a witness to love every single day.

Fortunately, I have been surrounded by so much love and continue to be surrounded by so much love. But yesterday in that church, I sat there and I really looked–I saw how the parents coddled and smiled at their babies, I saw the love the family had for that little baby getting sprinkled and I realized I am just getting a glimpse of the love that is in this world. I realized that I get to be a part of the love in this world; that I get to celebrate my friends who have discovered love in the form of a {future or current} spouse, I get to love my friends and family and even strangers, I get to love and spread love. Today I was walking down the street, I passed an older couple and I saw love, the older man walked over to (presumably) his wife and placed a hat on her head. I saw love. I witnessed love while sitting in my pew at church yesterday.

I wrote a post about a year ago, titled “Warrior for Love” and I still believe in my heart today that I am called to be a warrior for love. I have not been doing my best to live into that call lately I am afraid, but I do still believe it to be true in my heart. Yesterday, as the pastor preached about the first Sunday in Lent and what true love is, I realized, yet again, the power we do have. My brothers and sisters, we have the power to celebrate love, share love, receive love and to defend love. Love is the most powerful force in this world–and no matter the evil that always seems to lurk–love will always triumph.

1 Corinthians 13:13:

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

We are in the season of Lent and as we make our way to the cross, I know I need to really dig into and think about the price Jesus paid. The love that he has for us.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” that line right there strikes something into my heart. True love is overwhelming and it is so hard to believe that someone could truly love us so much, I have a hard time believing it or appreciating it. Too many times I have written it off and taken that love for granted, but maybe as I make my way to the cross during this season of Lent, I will ponder just what this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” and maybe I will be more appreciative.

I think that in this season of Lent I should “put on thankfulness.” I am too often so selfish, always wanting more and never stopping to really be thankful, especially towards God. I want my hands to be upturned in praise towards God, I want to stop focusing so much on me and turn to those around me, being thankful for them and to love and serve them. This season of Lent I want to go into the hard spots to learn to be thankful for the good and the bad, to celebrate life and love. As I make my way to the cross I want to thank my God for what he has done for not only me, but for the world–I don’t want to take for granted his sacrifice.

I want to love hard and fiercely, defend love and celebrate with joyful thanksgiving that there is love in this world and that we get to experience it.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-8

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if i have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.”

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. May you be witnesses to all the love that surrounds you and may you be givers of love, as well as, receivers. Peace, Joy, Love and Blessings–Margaret

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning To Be Flexible

I have learned how to crotchet; I needed a hobby that would keep my hands busy, occupy my mind, relax me, allow me to be productive and easy to travel with. Well I found all of that in learning to crotchet. The other day I was working on what was suppose to be a scarf, but suddenly I was far into my work and realized that it would be too wide to be a scarf. I was left with a choice, undo all that I had worked on or figure out how to expand my work to make a scarf. I had to learn to be flexible, of course I wanted to make a scarf but a blanket seemed to be the right idea.

This is a silly little example, but I think that lately I have seen more and more “tests,” if that is the right word, that suggest that God is pushing me to be more flexible with my plans and trust him. I feel that I need to explain something–I believe fully that God has an active hand in every aspect of my life. I often joke that Jesus and I are very good friends, and I know that he is with me everyday and every moment–no matter where I may be. With that being said, I believe that I can see God’s hands on so many aspects of my life urging me to trust more and let go of my plans. Currently, as I sit here and write this post I am supposed to be about to board a plane to Scotland, but I had to be flexible, my flight today was canceled due to bad weather and I had to change my flight to Wednesday. Now, I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t a bit pleased that I had to alter my plans. But the point is, I am a bundle of stress and something like a canceled flight severely challenges my peace of mind. Especially when that canceled flight threatens my ability to go to my classes and then my carefully laid out plan goes up in smoke. BUT I told you that this was a lesson in flexibility.

So this morning as I discovered that my flight had been canceled, I felt it, the stress began to bubble and my mother had to remind me to bring it down. So I tried to reign it in, and the mantra that I have been saying for the past few days came into mind– “I trust you [Jesus].” These simple words calm me down and reaffirm my faith. I have been working on my trust for the past month, letting go of my control and learning to be flexible and to be open to the changes in the path. And these three [four] words are words that cut through the fear, anxiety and stress. I have been uttering these words, reaffirming my faith and putting my trust into God. Every time I say it, my heart inches forward just a bit and I open up my heart to more and more of God’s peace and love.

I had a plan when I entered into my masters program. I was dead set on French Colonialism, I had previously started a project with it my senior year of college but that plan was altered when I chose to table it. So I planned to table it and use that project as a proposal for my masters dissertation and a potential Phd proposal. However, we all know what can happen with our plans, they can easily and often do fall through, and sure enough this plan fell through. Another opportunity fell into my lap, an opportunity I never saw coming and an opportunity that I would be an idiot to pass up. So I had to learn to change my plans–to be flexible, to trust God. Letting go of my control and my plans so that I can embrace the plans that God has for me. And so far, despite the fact that I haven’t even started the research yet, I know I have made the absolute best decision. Choosing to change the course of my masters was tied up into a lot of fear and I am putting myself out on the chopping block, opening up myself to being academically vulnerable with a subject that I have had one class on. That is scary and for me it was causing fear that left me stuck. But I chose to allow my feet to be relocated and moved onto God’s plan and I am so thankful that I did. I am nervous, being vulnerable academically–allowing myself to be open to brutal criticism is hard, but it is what God has asked me to do, it is what is going to make me a better historian and future teaching. So I am learning to be flexible and with every stretch I am learning to breath into the stretch and trust God.

Trusting God is one of the absolute hardest things. It causes us to wade into deep waters, where the shores are no longer visible and your feet can no longer touch the bottom. But trusting God will always lead to the most beautiful destinations, the paths may be a bit bumpy and we will most likely be faced with some of the scariest things but we will always be in the palm of God’s hands. As a dear friend’s mother told me: “God wants to give you the choicest piece, the absolute best” and I have learned that begins with trusting God, taking Jesus’ outstretched hand and saying “Jesus, I trust you.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Friends, I am not sure where God is asking you to be flexible and to trust him. But I pray that you open your hands and be fearless (these are two things a very dear friend mentioned to me and I loved the idea of them and what those words mean). Open hands to let go of what God is asking you to let go of and open hands to receive what it is that God wants to give you. Fearless–trusting God in every aspect of your life and be willing to be flexible and to go down the paths that God is calling you to, the paths that just might scare you the most.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, Joy, Love and Blessings–Margaret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 In Blog

Safe Haven

Occasionally there are times that words are laid on my heart and simply will not go away, and most of the time it is just a simple phrase that keeps being played over and over. The phrase will follow me around and I will hear it continuously repeating itself, until I make the decision to do something about it. Usually I test out the phrase, walking around without sitting down and asking what this phrase wants to say–what is God asking me to share? I actually tested this phrase out in a post that I tried to attempt to write last week but it just wouldn’t materialize, so I left it and I haven’t opened that post since. The phrase wants to be used it just didn’t quite fit into that post. Now I am going to forewarn you–I don’t really think this phrase or post will have much meat or meaning to it–but you never know it could really come out and surprise me. So here it goes.

I have been abroad a few times and what I have come to notice about myself is how I recognize myself. The first thing you often ask, when meeting new people is: where are you from? And the first thing many people realize about me is that I am American–then they will usually ask where from in the US? (Fun Fact: I often get asked if I am from the West Coast, I guess I have a valley girl accent?) But what I have come to realize about myself is that I resonate with being an American, it is like my overarching label, my nationality. But I really resonate and connect with the fact that I am from the Southern Region of the United States; that I am a proud, born and raised, true Southern (American) Belle (feel free to read that in your finest and thickest Southern accent). Then I resonate that I am from Charleston, then that I am from South Carolina. My Southern roots are something that I will hold near and dear to my heart and will be proud of till the day I die. You can take the girl out of the South but you can not take the South out of the girl. I often feel like a hybrid: a modern, strong, independent and feminist woman with a set of certain traditional values that I will not back down on. I usually don’t have a thick Southern accent, but believe me that sucker will come out if you make me mad. Certain country songs tug at my heart–and that low country coastline will always scream home to me.

You are probably wondering why I am rambling on about my Southern roots. Well, Charleston and the South is my home, my safe haven. It is the place that I feel comfortable, safe and at home. Charleston is a thin place for me, it is a place that I really can feel God’s presence. If I am being blunt, it is a place that I don’t really have to be brave, because I have my family, my support group and my friends to help me be brave. I walk and drive around here, one of my favorite places to drive to is over to Isle of Palms and drive from there to Sullivan’s Island and back, last night I saw the most beautiful Mount Pleasant/Charleston sky as I made that drive–the palm trees and docks were black against a light orange twilight sky, and I felt it. I felt the tug that is so hard to feel–I knew this wasn’t going to last. I want so badly to see my life here, to see my future being worked out here–who wouldn’t? Charleston is beautiful and it is so comfortable for me. But as a dear friend told me once, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. I look at all that is familiar and comforting and I know that it is only mine for a little bit longer. Soon I will be back on a plane flying back to Scotland, away from all that is comfortable and easy.

I love Scotland, it is one of the only places that I have been that I could really actually see making a life there and considering it a home. But going back is hard for me, I love being home and being physically close to my family. However, no matter how hard I look here to see my future–I can’t see it, and that is because God is not stirring things here. Charleston is a place for me to come home and lay my head, to rest a while in the comfort of my family’s arms and to feel God’s presence and regain my strength–a safe haven. I know where God is calling me, and that is back to Scotland. God is stirring things there, my future is in Scotland I have to answer that call. I am excited to go back, to continue this journey that God is leading me on, but that does not mean that I won’t miss the peace that Charleston and her natural beauty has to offer me.

I have just finished reading Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have by Annie Downs. It is a book about taking chances and being brave enough to say yes to what God is asking you to do. I know I am being asked to be brave and to continue this journey, to trust in the plan that God has created for me and to believe in myself. Annie Downs seems like a woman I could get along with, she actually felt God’s call to Scotland herself, she lived in one of my favorite cities, Edinburgh! I am telling you, God has the greatest sense of humor!

My words are not very profound, but the phrase wanted to be said. My heart squeezes with pain at having to leave my safe haven, but I am being called to trust God, and by this point I have learned that it is just easier to try and go ahead and trust God.

Genesis 28:15

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

This is the verse that I have heard whispered over and over again since I made this decision to go to Scotland. And I am clinging to this truth. God has me in the palms of his hands and in truth that is my safe haven. Maybe I will end back up here in Charleston or in South Carolina or maybe just back in the US. Or maybe I will end up in Scotland. Who knows! But right now–I am called to go back to Scotland.

I am not sure where in your life God is calling you to be brave and step out of your comfort zone. But listen to God, to what he is calling you do and as Annie Downs says–say yes!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, Joy, Love and Blessings–Margaret