Monthly Archives

January 2016

0 In Blog

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 In Blog

Themes

I have recently been doing some thinking about the new year and my new year’s resolutions. I think I might take a page out of Shauna Niequist’s book and thinking about a theme for 2016. So lately I have been taking some time to think, ponder and pray about what it is that I need to make the theme of my year–and it is starting to feel that it may be more than one theme.

Honesty. I want this year to be marked by honesty. Raw, blunt and at times brutal honesty. I want to be honest with myself, my friends and God. I don’t want to hide behind partial truths, lies or the perfect image. I want to be real, to be vulnerable and honest. Life is hard–it is beautiful and messy but it is hard. I don’t want to be the type of person that hides behind the perfect image, showcasing a perfect life worthy of likes; I want to be the type of person you can sit down, have a cup of tea with and have a real and meaningful conversation. I want to be real, authentic and honest in a world that is so fake, artificial and dishonest. So one of my themes for this year is honesty. I think it is time that a little bit of honesty is added back into this world, starting with myself.

Peace. Coming from one of my most anxious and fearful seasons I am in desperate need of peace. And not the type of peace that comes from suppressing the fear and anxiety by distracting myself–no the type of peace that comes from God. The peace that will hit me deep within my soul. I think that seeking out peace will take me directly into the depths of what I need to face. The type of peace that I am looking for requires me to trust God, something that I have really been struggling with lately. It will require me to face my fears and live in a stressful situation but seeking out God’s peace will require me to look towards God and the Godly things not at the worldly stress that I am use to dwelling on. I cannot deal with another year of stress and anxiety–I think it is time that I start taking the proper steps to dealing, healthily, with my stress and anxiety. It is time to seek out peace.

Grace. If you read my last post, Dirty Laundry, then you know that I have been struggling with grace and trusting that nothing that I do will make God love me more or love me less. That despite the fact that I am a sinner and I mess up, that God is not keeping score (as Shauna Niequist described so well). It is time that I stop waiting for the other shoe to fall (another one of Ms. Niequist’s wonderful wordings) and it is time that I start to believe in second, third, fourth, fifth etc. chances. I am ready to stop expecting the worse, it is about time that I start hoping more and expecting the best. With that being said, it leads into my next theme.

Hope. It is time that I live my life with a little more hope. Like I said above, it is time that I stop expecting the worse and start believing that the best can happen. I need to have a little hope. If you google a definition of hope the second definition that comes up is, “a feeling of trust.”

Trust. The big thing that I need to work on this coming year is trusting God. Trust is something that I have had a really difficult time with, and I have learned that it is really hard to trust God with all I have–but if I do trust God and do what he asks and calls me to, it is always always worth it. So this year I want to work on trusting God with my whole heart and stepping out in faith into what he is calling me to do and who he is calling me to be.

I know, I know that is a lot of themes. But I feel like all of these themes connect together. I can’t have one without the others, they all dig into the things that I really want and need to work on. They are not necessarily resolutions (I do have a little list of those as well) but these are themes that I want to implement in my life, not just 2016 but all the years that follow.

So as you enter into this new year, maybe think of the themes you want to implement in your life. Be gentle with yourself this year, think about the things you may want to work on. But be gentle, don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection–it is okay if you don’t lose those 25 pounds or reach all the impossible goals you most likely set for yourself. It is okay to need a little grace, to need a little faith, to need a little hope and a whole lot of trust.

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

 

0 In Blog

Dirty Laundry

A few months ago I read a book titled Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. This book is filled with little gems of advice, things that in the past few months I have sought out and have relied on to get myself through tough days. So with the arrival of the new year, I have remembered something that Shauna Niequist wrote about. In one specific chapter she talks about how her theme for the year is grace, that it is not a new concept but that it is something she needed to focus on, to “re-learn,” to act out in her life–to taste, feel, experience, trust and remember (Bittersweet, 81-84). I think grace is something that I really need to work on and to “re-learn.” (Bittersweet, 81).

I am emerging (hopefully) from a very recent and (hopefully) short season of severe anxiety and fear. A season that I have not felt inspired in my work, my blogging and my personal life. A season that has been marked with, what I can best describe as spiritual warfare, a distance in my relationship with God–a season in which fear has been the ruling force. My friends, it has not been an easy season and this morning as I sat down and journaled I realized that I felt that I was an imposter. I realized that I feel like I am a “false Christian,” that I am walking around wearing my cross around my neck and all my Christian jewelry (I have quite a few pieces that I truly love–that are not just my simple gold cross) and I am not worthy to do that, not when I am in a place where fear controls my life and my faith has been put on the back burner. I feel like an imposter, walking around like I am in a mask. A few weeks ago I realized, with some fear, that as I was talking to someone–trying to offer some advice, that I felt as if I was a shell and that I was peering out through a mask. I gave advice but I just felt that I wasn’t really connected and it took all that I had left to give that advice–I realized right then and there that I was not feeling inspired or passionate about anything. That the fear and anxiety had exhausted me so much that I was just a shell of a person, unable to do the one thing I really love to do–help people, write my blogs and shed light on my scars with the hope that it will help others too.

The fear and anxiety caused me to retreat within myself, to allow the darkness to cling to me like a cloak for far too long and it allowed me to believe lies. That fear of inadequacy led me to believe that since I am not perfect, I am unfaithful, I stray from the path, I make mistakes and I am so far from being a faithful, trusting and loving Christian that I am an imposter. That because I am all of these things I cannot be considered a “good” Christian because I fail and I disappoint God. How could I help people when I can barely help myself, I am being a hypocrite if I give others advice and don’t take it myself. And if I do help people they will “find out,” they will find out that I am not really all that great and that I struggle to take my own advice. The thing I have realized today is–maybe all these things are the reason I can and should help people and that if I write these words or give this advice that I am potentially helping someone else but in return could be helping myself.

I think too many times in this world there are too many people who sugar coat Christianity, who make it seem that they are perfect and their life is perfect and easy. I am not a “good” Christian, I am not really sure there is any such thing as a “good” Christian and life is not easy. But I can tell you that I am a real human–a real person who has an incredible fear of inadequacy and of failure, a person who has fallen off the path too many times to count, a person whose heart is often weak in the face of temptation, a person who too many times to count has created idols and placed things before God, a person who is raw and exhausted, a person who is a sinner. So maybe I am not the image of a “good” Christian and a spokesperson for “easy” Christianity; but I am a real person, who is in the thick of life, struggling to make good decisions and to choose God–and I think that makes me a member of the club of humanity not an imposter. I like to think that revealing my scars and making myself vulnerable helps others, to show people that it may seem like I live a charmed life and that I have it all together but I don’t. My struggles may come in a different package than yours do, and you may be struggling with things much much bigger than me–but you are not alone. I am stumbling through life right along side you and if you need a little help and inspiration I hope that my words give you some solace.

I am tired of feeling like an imposter and of letting the fear of inadequacy and of being found out control my life. So I have laid it all out for you, in these blog posts you will not find the words of a woman with her life together; you will however, find scars of wounds healed and some of which have not, a woman who is struggling to find her purpose and her way in this world, who struggles with trusting God, who sometimes turns her back to God and often feels like giving up. But you will also find words of encouragement, a woman who is trying to trust God and his plans for her, who is looking for hope even in the darkest of moments and who is trying to always choose God–not just sometimes choose God. So my hope is that we can walk through life together, hold hands when the waters are rough and to celebrate and dance when life is good.

My guess is that you already knew all of this about me, that you could clearly see that I am a human who regularly fails and you chose to like me  or read my blog despite that failure. But I felt it was something I needed to say, more for myself than anyone else. I had to air my dirty laundry and come clean about the truth–so that the lies and the fear can no longer have control. So that I no longer allow myself to believe that I am an imposter. I think I needed a lesson in grace, remembering that God has not called me to be perfect. Despite the number of times I turn away and say “no no I can do this alone God,” then end up freaking out and crawling back asking for forgiveness–God is right there waiting to welcome me back into his arms. That God loved me even when I was so ugly and thought that I could do it all alone or went directly against him. I love how Shauna Niequist describes grace:

“Grace isn’t about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty. It’s when you realize that the other shoes isn’t going to drop, ever. It’s the moment you feel as precious and handmade as every star, when you feel, finally, at home for the very first time. Grace is when you finally stop keeping score and realize that God never was, that his game is a different one entirely.” (Bittersweet, 83).

Lets enter this new year with grace on our minds, let be gentle with ourselves and stop holding ourselves to a level of perfection–because God certainly isn’t. Thank you to all who read this blog and who are following along on this journey with me. Happy New Year–let us go forth into 2016 without fear and instead with peace, love, joy, hope and grace.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace, love, joy and blessings–Margaret.