Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Circumstantially my life is pretty much the same as last year, I’m still a single mom spending part of the holidays alone, but it’s different – God has healed my broken places in ways that I could have only hoped for. I can’t really say exactly when the changes occurred, only that during times praying, reading, journaling and time being still or talking with friends, I began seeing myself the way that God sees me. For some time I had viewed myself as boring and average and somewhere along the way I started believing that I was somehow less than everyone around me. As God has peeled back layer upon layer of insecurity and lies, I have started seeing the beginning of a strong character. It was there all along, but I needed some help uncovering it.
I remember some time last year, one of my friends asked me what my dreams were for the future. I didn’t have an answer; I was still in survival mode at that point. Dreams? Dreams were for other women whose lives were more conventional than mine. I was 45 and starting over but with no dreams.
This past week I got to spend time with my family and I was able to have a couple of very good conversations. I was talking to my brother about some things I had hopes for – possible career goals that I’m considering and the dream of possibly writing a book. A year earlier I had cried as he held me because my children weren’t with me and I was completely at a loss as to how to survive the holidays, let alone the future. Now I’m seeing dreams beginning to form.
1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave [b] ;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
I can only attribute this change to God. He is healing me – sparing me from the pit and desiring to lift me up out of the depths of my life circumstance and view. So on this quiet night, I am grateful for a Father full of compassion and power that can redeem a life and a heart and fill them with dreams and hope.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
We have been talking about David in a series at church. Last week and today the focus of the sermon was on David’s sin with Bathsheba and the fall-out from that choice. The pastor spoke about the difference between forgiveness and consequence. So many times we sin, realize that we were wrong and then repent and are forgiven. The problem is that we think that the situation is then over. It could well be, or we could be forgiven and yet to experience the consequences of our sin. I believe this to be a bigger issue in our lives than we realize. Our sin, does in fact, breed consequences, even when we are completely broken and stand in a right relationship with God.
David’s life is such an example of this concept. After he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had Uriah her husband murdered he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. (This takes place in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12) After David’s conversation with Nathan he is obviously repentant and broken of his sin. If you read in Psalms 51, his prayer of repentance after this talk, he begs God for mercy, realizes his sinfulness and desires a renewed sprit and heart. David understood the depth of his sin, but he also suffered the consequences for that sin in the years to follow.
In 2 Samuel 12:13-14 the Bible says, “Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."
Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."
The prophet Nathan, sent by God to have this conversation with David tells David the cost of his sin – his son will die. In fact, over the years David buries four of his own children. The consequences for him were huge even though he was forgiven.
There is something in our finite brain that struggles with this concept of consequence. We try to teach it to our children by disciplining them for their poor behavior, and yet I wonder if we really understand it ourselves as it relates to our Father. God forgives us (given we are truly repentant) and loves us deeply, but allows our sinful actions to play out in our lives. David was still used by God, loved by God and honored in the Bible as a man whose heart was like that of God, even while he suffered the penalty of the sinful choices he made. It will be the same for me, for my daughter and for all of us as we strive to be righteous and yet realize that part of the lessons we learn in this life will involve learning to deal with the fall-out from poor choices we have made along the way. I’m thankful that my Father loves me regardless, as I do my daughter, and will give me the strength to deal with even the consequences of my own poor decisions.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Joel 2:25-26 (New International Version)
25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm —
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
Living in an abusive relationship or even living through a time of great loss is like an attack of locusts. Your heart is decimated until there is nothing left and you feel as barren and lifeless as land pillaged by locusts. But, God being a compassionate Father, longs to comfort us and redeem our loss. I’ve seen this in my own life as he has poured our blessing upon blessing after what was a time marked by loss in many areas. I particularly love the last line in verse 26 which says, “never again will my people be shamed.” I felt shame for a long time, but as God kept pouring gifts into my life, I felt less and less shame and began feeling protected and cared for.
As I spoke with my friend she began describing life after leaving that abusive relationship. She described it as being in black and white and stepping into a gradual technicolor display of beauty or being set free from prison – and appreciating the world and everything in it so much more. Because of God’s grace shown to her through the support of her friends and family, she is blossoming into the person God has always intended for her to be. I’m glad I get to witness this transformation and am so grateful to be able to serve a God who desires to see us fulfilled and take away our shame.
The day after my conversation with her, I thought a lot about all that she had said –the heartache of the abuse and the freedom that she is now experiencing, and I wrote this poem for her. She asked me to share it on my blog in the hopes that someone may read it who is in an abusive relationship and they will be freed from bondage too.
The devastation complete
My soul stripped bare and naked
Coming to my senses
At this late stage
I am but a shell of who I should be
My heart has been
Invaded and pillaged,
Leaving desolation and grief
But all that has been stolen from me
is not my undoing
Your offering of freedom
Stirs my soul
And I grasp at the gift
With my whole heart
Desperate for the liberation
Which you freely offer
My heart, once held captive
By the heavy chains of emotional bondage
Chose to escape
And hope embraces me
Today I stand in the midst of beauty
With tear filled eyes
Astonished by your gracious display of
The sounds, sights and feelings
Of sweet redemption
Are overwhelming to my sated heart
I raise my hands and eyes
To praise you
As I stand transformed
Sunday, November 22, 2009
My list this year is LONG, not my Christmas list, but my list of things that I’m grateful for. I’m so blessed. My life has become a little less chaotic and I’ve seen God moving so obviously that I’m trying to take it all in and be grateful for the big and the small things. I could write a whole blog on all the ways I’m thankful for my relationship with God (and I might do just that) but today I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my friends. It is clear that s God has given me amazing friends to share my life with.
I’ve had a blast the past 24 hours. One of my girlfriends who has a family of all males decided to have a little girl fix and come stay the night with my girls and me. We had dinner out, went shopping and then stayed up late into the night talking. Then this morning I got to have breakfast with another sweet friend that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. So because of that I’m feeling very filled up and grateful.
I’m extremely grateful for my four closest friends and the qualities each one of them brings to our relationship.
•One of them is incredibly loyal. She has served me and been available both emotionally and physically more often than not. It’s one of her most endearing qualities – and there are many.
•Another friend has made my girls and I part of her family. We are invited to holiday gatherings, dinners and get-togethers. She has shared her family with me and since I live in a city with no other family, this has been huge for me and my girls.
•I’m fortunate to be the recipient of the wisdom of my third friend. She has counseled me and been my spiritual mentor the past few years. Her wisdom has helped me tremendously.
•And finally, my best friend. She’s my kindred spirit, and the sister I always longed for and got to choose. We share a similar passion for God, for music and love for good books and meaningful lyrics and so many other things.
As I’ve gotten older I have come to realize that “stuff” just doesn’t mean much to me. Time spent with people that I love moves my heart in a way that I cannot adequately express. The people in my life that fill my day to day with love and joy and experiences are what I am most thankful for this year.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. “ Prov 3:5
I sit here feeling this heaviness, yet knowing that I do not see and understand all that God does. My understanding and view is limited by time, emotion and sin. Even when I’m feeling close to God and am “tuned in” spiritually, my thinking is still from a worldly perspective. I could be angry, but I have no idea how God can and could be using these very difficult circumstances to bring himself glory or to prosper me in some way. Only God can see without time and situation and sin affecting his plans. Listen to how God answers Job and his friends when they do not trust his motives or the circumstances that God allows to enter Job’s life in Job 38:1-7.
The LORD Speaks
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
There are three chapters at the end of the book of Job where God lists reasons why he is sovereign and we are not. It is humbling and sobering to read. I need to trust in God’s understanding and not my own. Life in this fallen world is difficult and full of painful situations and things I don’t understand – period. I guess I don’t really have to understand I have to learn to trust with childlike faith. I realize that if I truly believe God and his promises, then I know that even in the midst of tragedy and pain, he has already made plans for me and those I love to prosper both here during this life and in the life to come - more than I can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Twenty-seven years ago this month, a very close friend of mine died when the car in which she was a passenger was hit by a train. She was a sophomore in college – just starting her life. That day changed me in a way that no other event ever has. It was my first real experience with tragedy. I looked through old boxes of keepsakes tonight and found the “Jenny” box…filled with the cards and letters that she gave me and all the newspaper clippings about her death. I have a book of poems that she had written and a couple of things that were special to her that her parents had given me – I hadn’t pulled them out in years. Tonight, though, I felt compelled. I’m not dwelling on the sadness that I experienced when she died, I just wanted to think about my friend and all the ways her friendship changed my life for better.
A few things changed in me on the other side of my grief. I began to understand what it means to share my heart with God. Before that my prayers were shallow and I was afraid to express true emotions. I was so angry after Jen died that I either had to share that anger or be superficial and fake. In the Psalms, David was completely honest and open with his true emotions. I didn’t see or understand his expressiveness until I was in a position to be furious at God and to have to work through those emotions honestly with him in prayer.
I also realized that when I was having a hard time actually understanding my emotions, that if I wrote my feelings out in a journal or a poem they would usually sort themselves out. I wrote my first poem the day after Jenny died. Writing and journaling continue to be a sort of therapy for me. My books of poetry are my life’s journal.
And finally, I realized the value of friendship. I am much more grateful for my friends and try my best to make sure that they know how much I care for them. Jenny was always leaving notes or sending cards or showing how much she cared in little ways. She had written me a card the night before she died…just to let me know she loved me. I still have it, of course. Those small yet meaningful gestures she made really stuck with me and have instilled in me a desire to do the same for those I love.
I still have a photograph of Jen that I took the week before she died. It sits on my bookshelf and I see it all the time. For someone I knew for a short time, she had a profound impact on me.
It happened on a day like this
The sun was bright
The leaves were vibrant in color
The air had the feel of autumn
That is unmistakable
I was young and carefree
This time of year takes me back
The years have been many
And my perspective has changed
I remember the innocence
Of a young soul
That touching mine
Gave my soul more depth to it
Life was no longer as simple
But it became more precious
And the people in it
And so to you
Friend of years past
For gently shaping
Monday, October 26, 2009
One of the characteristics that I’ve struggled with over the years, particularly the last few, is how free will works in regards to prayer. How can God promise that whatever we ask for in his name is ours, and yet also give men the choice to serve him or not? That seems contradictory in a way. I labored in prayer over my marriage, believing that God would change my husband’s heart. Somewhere along the way though I began to realize that my husband got to choose whether to stay in a relationship with both God and me, no matter what or how hard I prayed for his heart to change. There are many life situations that fit into this though – whether someone will choose to follow Christ or not, whether they will give up destructive behaviors, etc. I could go on, and you probably currently have or had in the past a situation in your life where free will and prayer have seemed in conflict.
In “Live A Praying Life”, the author says, “What is God’s intent for prayer? The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine; to reflect God’s mind, not change it. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11) Could I learn, like Moses, to make my heart available for God’s purposes? Could I learn to trust His purposes more than my own perceptions?”
God gives free choice – period. But he also works the best in a situation where he gives that choice. My goal in prayer can’t be to try to convince God to do something – change a heart, move in a situation, etc., my motive in prayer should be to align my heart and will with God’s will. How sovereign would God be, if my prayers could change his mind? Obviously his view and understanding of any given situations far exceeds my limited perception.
This new understanding of God’s sovereignty helps me to trust him more. I’ll still ask him for things in prayer that involve other people’s choices, because that is part of the process of sharing my heart with him. David did that in the Psalms. If you read the Psalms though you’ll find that David worked through his feelings and by the end of what we see, his heart was in line with God’s heart. The main thrust of my prayers should be to take on God’s heart and will and desires instead of giving him a list of what I desire. This new outlook gives Psalm 37:4 a whole new meaning to me. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The key of this verse isn’t for me to gain my heart’s desire, but for my heart to delight in God’s will so that my desires are the same as his and will reflect God’s mind.
Here I sit with another piece of the puzzle in my hand. I can make out a little more of the complete picture I’m working on. There are still parts of the picture that I’m unsure of, but I feel confident that over the years, I’ll find those pieces as well.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
I believe it’s during those times of waiting that God actually works out details and gives us time to become, time to grow. He could have given Abraham a son instantly, just as he could have placed David on the throne as a 15 year old boy. But it was during the period of waiting that God worked on Abraham’s heart. God refined David’s character all those years he was shepherding sheep in the fields alone. The waiting isn’t for God, the waiting is for us. We need it. During that time, we look to God more intensely perhaps, or with more intent or purpose. There is expectation, wondering what he will do or how he will work out all of the plans that he has in store for us. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God already knows what the plans are, we are the ones who are struggling for the answers…struggling with waiting.
When I was in the midst of my divorce, I remember saying to a couple of my friends that I had reached a point where I didn’t know if I could keep living in limbo…..the unknown of my future was so difficult. The things that I did know seemed much more prevalent and real – I was unloved, lonely and my life felt completely out of control. That is what I knew. I laid in bed at night for months worrying about finding a job, a place to live, what my friends and family would think of me, and how I would handle life on my own. What I did not know was that in the midst of my time of waiting, God was working out details to every area of concern that I had and working on my heart and relationship with Him. I found a job – and not just any job, but one where I would be affirmed, and appreciated and gain self confidence. Some friends offered me a home to rent on the back corner of their 10 acres of property and it’s like living on a slice of heaven for me – a little bit of country in the suburbs. I’ve become more confident and comfortable living on my own than I thought possible. And my friends have been more supportive and wonderful to me than I could ever have imagined. All the nights I laid awake, tears I cried, longing for an end to waiting and God used all that time to work out each and every detail that I agonized over. That was the worst and best time of my life. I learned to trust God in that time of waiting. I learned that waiting is not passive, it’s a time to dig deep. I prayed more intensely and intimately and just more than I ever thought I would. As painful as waiting was for me, it was a necessary part of my journey. It changed me.
If you are in the middle of a time of waiting and you feel as though the end is nowhere in sight, just hang on. Dig deep. God is using this time to work out details that are part of the plan for you. You know, I still don’t know a lot about my life, there is uncertainty every single day. I trust in ways I didn’t before and I’m sure that was part of the plan all along, my part of waiting on the Lord.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I’ve lived in this house for almost two years now and have seen the cycle of the seasons play out with this tree. Soon it will be bare, looking stark for the winter months. But once spring hits, new leaves will pop out and it will grace my view from this porch for another summer. The tree is strong and beautiful…I don’t worry about whether it will survive the harsh winter months. I know it’s just going to be dormant for a while and then burst into new life, growing in the process.
The seasons in nature are not unlike life in general. We endure seasons of death – whether it is the literal death of a loved one, the dying of an important relationship or loss in the form of a job or something equally as heartbreaking. There are many ways that we experience intense loss and change and it is painful. We enter into a time of autumn – a time of changing and transforming. Eventually the bleak, barren winter arrives. I remember when I lived up north and the winters felt unending. I wondered if it would ever be sunny or warm again or if winter would just go on forever.
One of my dear friends is going through a difficult time right now – experiencing painful changes in her marriage. It’s hard and emotionally draining and like a death of sorts. She is entering into a time of winter. I’ve experienced that pain myself, and wondered if it would ever end. I literally feel her pain and I know how truly difficult this is.
I read James 1:3-4 to her one night because it’s one of many verses that fit her situation perfectly. It says, “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its worth so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” My friend must persevere – period. She really doesn’t have any other choice. But the amazing thing is that God promises that her perseverance will result in maturity if she allows it to mold her character and she holds on to him. I’ve seen this play out in so many lives and in my own as well. When I persevered through a couple of very difficult times emotionally, I emerged on the other side much stronger and more mature.
I know with complete confidence that God is working on her heart during this time of dormancy and barrenness. I’m already seeing it. I have every confidence in her to stand tall and strong after this season and there will be new growth and life that wasn’t there before. I hate that she’s experiencing this rainy dreary day, but look forward to seeing the beautiful future.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The book centers on two main characters and the relationship that they have with God and each other. Most of the story takes place in China as we see the unwavering faith of the Chinese Christians. Their fierce devotion to one another, to the Bible and to spreading the gospel is amazing. I won’t tell you anymore of the story because I don’t want to ruin it for you. The book, though fiction, is based on actual events that have happened to Chinese Christians living today and goes into detail of their amazing commitment to the Faith.
This book changed the way I pray. A big boast for a fictional story I know, but it’s true. I felt so moved by what the Chinese Christians go through and I sat there wondering if I could do the same thing. Could I wake up each day and ask myself, “Is this the day I will die for my faith”? Would I be willing to walk to church several miles in the middle of the night so that I could meet in a secret house church of believers? Do I love the Bible so much that f I was held prisoner I would survive only by meditating on the verses that I had memorized. I would love to say yes, and I hope I could, but I don’t know because I’m not in that position. But what I do know is that the Christians who are persecuted in various parts of the world, this very day, are desperate for a relationship with God. Brothers and sisters in the faith have faced death in 2009, because they refused to compromise their love for Jesus.
Safely Home has made me so much more aware of how fortunate I am to live in a free country, but painfully aware that I take that freedom for granted. Now when I pray I am asking God to give strength to the Christians who, that very day, are being tortured or perhaps even killed. When I get to heaven I long to meet some of the men and women who I’ve prayed for, the ones who perhaps died because they spoke out for my Lord.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Jesus knew heaven. He’d been there, and understood what it was like.
I think that’s it. Now, of course there’s more to it, but I believe that is the basic answer. Jesus had been in heaven before he came to earth. He had experienced its wonder, splendor, joy, etc. That’s why Philippians 2:5 is such an amazing verse when it talks about how Jesus was in the very nature God (and in heaven with God) but he left the glory of heaven to come to earth. That is a large part of the sacrifice that he made which we seem to often gloss over. He voluntarily came to this fallen earth, knowing his fate. But, he was able to endure because he understood what he was saving us for – and he had that goal of returning to heaven. At times, heaven and the goal of being righteous can seem a bit nebulous or overwhelming to me, maybe that’s why I struggle with sin sometimes.
When I lived in St. Louis I had a friend who was a runner. We were good friends and in order to get to spend more time together she convinced me to train with her to run a 5K. I agreed – although I knew it was no small task. We trained and had fun spending time together, but she constantly had to drag me out to train because I was not self-motivated. Then came the day we ran the race. We lined up at the starting line with 12,000 other people that first year - it was exhilarating. It was hard for me to finish and my time wasn’t exactly world record, but when I crossed that finish line…wow, it was great. I really felt I had accomplished something. The next year I happily signed up to run with her again. This time I understood the prize. I knew the feeling of accomplishment that awaited me at the end. That knowledge of the prize changed my motivation and desire. It was easier for me to train, to push myself and to sacrifice in order to do well in the race. I understood it.
Jesus understood it. He knew what he was fighting for – he knew what heaven was like and desired not only to be back there, but to give us the opportunity to be there as well and I believe that gave him the ability to endure more and push himself harder. I’m not trying to minimize his sacrifice at all, merely understand his ability to be perfect.
The past few weeks I have been struggling with a couple of things. I knew they were wrong – and yet I felt powerless. I had been praying about them for a while, yet honestly, still sinning. I confessed my sin to a friend (James 5:16) and asked her to pray for me and with me. Then I started thinking about Jesus’ understanding of heaven. I have studied more about heaven the past couple of years than I ever have before and I think I am actually aghast for not letting this motivate me more. I have begun praying that God will show me bits of heaven so that I can understand the prize I’m running for. I’m not caught up anywhere or having heavenly dreams, but I believe God is lifting the veil back for me little by little. This week when I was tempted to sin I started thinking about heavenly rewards, reunions with loved ones, walking through a field with Jesus, etc. It’s motivating me more to be pure-hearted.
Did Jesus want to bring God glory? Of course. Did he want to save the human race? Absolutely. He was able to do those things because he knew what was at the end. Jesus understood the prize – he’d experienced it before.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
For the most part I have adjusted to being a single parent. I miss many things about being married, but overall I have a full and happy life and I don’t spend much time wishing my old life back. Wishing doesn’t change anything and it’s more helpful for me to remain in the present. This has been a tough week though. I have been overwhelmingly busy both at work and at home and have felt my patience and self control slipping more and more each day as my exhaustion increased. I want someone to hold me and tell me that I don’t have to do it all… but the reality is that I do have to do it all. My children need clean clothes to wear, food to eat and a clean place to call home as well as someone to give them a hug at the end of their day and make sure they are doing well emotionally, physically and spiritually. And so, I find myself on auto pilot half the time, drinking whatever caffeinated beverage I can get my hands on simply to remain somewhat functional. Last week in the midst of the madness, I read this during one of my morning devotionals:
What if for one day, Jesus were to become you?
It was the first sentence and it really caught my attention. In fact, I read the same chapter two days in a row. I can’t seem to decide…what if Jesus were me? I wonder how he would handle the daily situations that I find myself in. It’s more than wondering WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), the slogan that you see on bracelets and t-shirts alike. I am curious as to what he would do, but it goes deeper. I think God wants more from me than redirecting my actions all day long to align with some slogan. He wants me – my heart, soul, mind and strength to become like his. I want his heart – I long to handle things like Jesus did. I know there were MANY times that he was exhausted and pushed to his emotional limit. I wish so badly that I could see him in action and know how he did it – how he kept pushing himself when he was tired and weary - and yet perfect. Maybe sometimes he just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. I’m sure that he was able to draw more strength from his intimacy with God than I have been able to.
So here it is, Sunday afternoon, and I’m facing a week that looks not quite as busy as last week, but definitely busier than what I enjoy. My prayer this week is to overcome, not to be overcome. I can’t do that on my own, so I will have to rely on God more and experience more intimacy with him and perhaps in a quiet moment he’ll comfort my heart and tell me I don’t have to do it all. That’s all I know to do.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I’ve been thinking about how Jesus is able to see past the hurt, pain and crud in our hearts and see the character hidden deep down that He created. Take Simon Peter for example. How many times have you heard a sermon about Peter that pointed out his many weaknesses – his impetuousness, his ability to speak before he thought, cowardice, etc., and yet Jesus renamed him Peter “the Rock” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus looked past his character flaws and saw the qualities that would be Peter’s crown and enable him to actually be the one to preach the first gospel sermon, leading the first Gentiles to a relationship with the Lord. He saw what Simon would become and named him accordingly.
I love the scripture Isaiah 64:8, it says, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The following is what came out of my evening of pondering these things:
Holds in His hand
A lump of clay
And with His touch
It is transformed
At first only the Artist’s imagination
Can see the potential there
Then the transformation
His hands move and form
Scraping and pain
As it’s molded
Into its intended nature
A stunning piece
Its charm unmistakable
To only the Artist at first
Its unique beauty
Evident to all
The people around me day in and day out see more of my sin than I wish they did. They see the insecurities, the selfishness and anxiousness that is so prevalent in my heart. And God sees those things as well – but he also sees what I can become. I am a lump of clay in his hands and he is hoping to shape and form me into a useful and beautiful vessel, evident to all.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
At times, I have felt like I was under attack. Those times have been very desperate, sometimes circumstantial, and always very difficult. It has been during those times of intense attack, however, that I have come to rely on God more completely. I wrote the following poem at a point when I was feeling particularly attacked.
I am in shock at the intensity of attack
I am surrounded
And in distress
My mortal enemy has studied my weakness
And attacked with passion
I feel helpless
Powerless to stand alone
Against this onslaught
The battlefield is littered with pieces of me
My heart bleeding
Until it feels as though
There should be nothing left of it
And yet there is more pain
I extend great effort to stand
Bloodied and beaten
Wondering how to fight this enemy
Who seems to know every crack
I have no plans to surrender
That what little strength is left
Is somehow enough
The encouraging thing is that I did survive – and my faith stronger, and a little more refined, in that process. I am hoping for a peaceful season – less bloodshed in the future. This thought leads me to thinking about what I hope my next blog will be about…an amazing book I read by Randy Alcorn called “Safely Home”. It is a fictional book but is written using actual events that have occurred to persecuted Christians in China. My battles are very real and painful to me, but they are nothing compared to what the persecuted church worldwide is enduring. While you’re waiting for me to find the time to write that, read Safely Home – you won’t regret it.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Several states separate us, but we got the opportunity last month to spend a day together, and it was so fun! We talked for hours, sang in the car, went for a walk and prayed…it was awesome. She sent me an email afterwards, thanking me for meeting her where she was at. I starting thinking about that….isn’t that what we really long for and need from all of our close friends? I go back to Proverbs 17:17 again, but it does say a friend loves at ALL times. I guess that means when we feel great about changes in our relationship and even when we don’t. I wrote her this…hoping to convey that of course I’d be willing to do whatever…because I love her and sometimes you don’t understand, but you hang in there anyway.
I’ll meet you there
In those places of fear, shame or weakness
Where you hide your heart and pretend
I’ll meet you where
God’s Spirit makes you whole
And the hope of a pure heart seems possible
I’ll meet you in prayer
Approaching the throne together
Hearts laid bare
Hands lifted high
Or face to the ground
Struggling to make sense of it all
I’ll be there
Walking together on life’s journey
The sweet taste of victory
And the bitterness of failure
It doesn’t matter which
I’ll meet you
Walk with you
And be your friend
I’ve learned a couple of important things about relationships along this crazy life journey. The only relationship we NEED is Jesus, every other person we love is simply a blessing and a gift. I know that seems very simplified, but I truly believe that. When I was 19 my best friend at that time died in a car accident. I really thought I was going to have a breakdown because she was the only one I’d ever completely shared my heart with. I didn’t. I just picked up a pen and started writing poetry and reading my Bible more. I had a few friends that I was very close to move away when I lived in St. Louis and I thought it would break my heart. It did for a while, but we’re still friends and now we just communicate differently. My husband stopped confiding in me and started sharing his life with people I didn’t even know, and then ultimately he just left. I remember thinking that I literally wanted to die. Not that I ever considered suicide, don’t get me wrong, because I didn’t. I just thought that death would surely be easier then the hell I felt I was going through. But I’ve survived, and in fact, grown closer to God and the friends around me more than ever. All of that loss along the way has helped me to have a little perspective I guess. I have always been fine after some period of grieving for whatever loss I was experiencing. God is the only relationship who hasn’t left me or changed in some fashion over the years. I wish I’d learned that lesson when I was younger because it could have saved me a lot of grief, and yet, I think the grief is where I learned the lesson. And so of course I’ll meet my friend where she’s at…isn’t that what God has done for me every step of the way?
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I’m on the porch again. I can’t seem to pry myself out of this old white chair. It’s a beautiful morning – a slight breeze is blowing, not a cloud in the sky and I’m reveling in the last morning of summer. This last week has been a fun one – I even took a day off and spent the afternoon at the pool with my kids and some friends. I used to experience days like that all the time before I had to go back to work, and I know I took that time for granted. I don’t anymore. I am grateful for every second of time to relax and just be… I believe God knew that I needed to somehow find time and a place (a.k.a my front porch) where I could unwind and sort of center myself. Everyone should have a spot – a place that is all their own where they find special comfort and moments to relax and a period of time that is just a bit slower and less structured. Summer is that time for us – our family schedule is so much more manageable and more peaceful.
When I was a stay at home mom, I loved summer with my children, but I did look forward to school starting. Summer was fun for about 7 weeks, and then it became hard to keep the kids entertained and happy and the house clean. That first week of school was like a little taste of heaven. I’d have my quiet time in the morning, go walk with my friend, go to lunch a couple of times, clean the house, run errands and still have a little time to read. Now, I dread the start of school. The alarm is set for 5:15 a.m., the evenings are filled with homework, activities, baths and stuff! It’s overwhelmingly busy!! I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that I’m not what you’d consider a “Type A” personality, in fact, I definitely fall somewhere much further down the line. I’m not lazy, but I am one of those people that values having a little bit of time every day to myself to be quiet and still. That happens MUCH less during the school year. In fact, my porch may become a weekend longing more than a weekday occurrence.
And so…this morning I am sitting on my porch, listening to the animals causing a raucous down the hill, watching the sun rising, and enjoying that last little bit of quiet that I love. As summer is winding down, my porch will see less of me and I may be rambling a little less often. I hope not, because I’m really enjoying this little chance to throw my heart out to the world.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Have you ever been with someone you really love – be it a spouse or a dear friend – and you so enjoy being together that you are just quiet…no words are spoken, or need to be, it is just companionable silence? Those are rare, but beautiful moments. I have a friend who loves to sit on my porch with me. Most of the time we talk, but occasionally we just sit and look at the birds or the bunnies playing in the yard and enjoy being quiet together. There aren’t any uncomfortable lulls, we are happy just being in the same place and we don’t feel the need to necessarily fill every second with conversation. God’s love is so amazing and we can feel so completely loved and comfortable with him that we are able to simply be quiet. The noise and chaos of the world is not prevalent. There have been occasions when in the midst of a time in my life that was particularly chaotic or difficult I have felt peaceful and quiet within my heart. I never felt that when I wasn’t walking closely with the Lord, but when I am in step with him, there is a peace that is hard to express. His love can quiet my soul.
In all your special and moving moments with loved ones, has anyone ever sung over you? I remember putting my children to bed, or holding them in my arms, sitting in the rocking chair and singing them my favorite lullaby. I had one in particular that I sang to both of my girls. I was completely enraptured with their beautiful little faces and pure souls, and I sang over them. It felt magical.
I have a dear friend who is a singer/songwriter. In the midst of the most painful time in my life, she wrote a song for me about hanging on to God and continually believing in his faithfulness, even in the midst of turmoil and hurt. It was undoubtedly the most special gift I’ve ever received. She has sung it for me several times, but one time in particular, we were in a large room where she would later be performing, with this amazing beautiful grand piano. She sang the song to me, choking up – and eyes filling with tears…and I was equally moved and felt very loved. That was her hope, I believe, when she wrote the song – that I would feel special and my soul encouraged to remain faithful.
My Father is perfect. He has created the universe and all that lives, breathes and is around me, and yet this verse in Zephaniah says that he saves me, sings over me, takes delight in me and rejoices over me! This isn’t the sweet comfort of companionship, a mother moved by her newborn, or a friend singing to give encouragement – this is the Lord of ALL delighting, creating stillness and rejoicing over me! That, my friends, is what unconditional love feels and looks like.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
It’s hard to write “a” blog on prayer. Someone could write a daily blog on prayer and still not touch the subject – it’s huge and it’s mysterious. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever really understand it, until I’m face to face with God himself. How can we ever really understand the significance? I’ve seen a shift in my own heart though that has been encouraging. I am starting to actually believe in its power. I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager and I’m just NOW getting this? I’ve seen it – I’ve really seen God moving in my life and the lives of others around me like never before.
The last three days I’ve had the honor of joining a dear friend of mine in prayer and fasting. There are some hard things going on in her family and she needs wisdom to make sure she handles it in the best way. The road ahead could be pretty treacherous…or not...only God knows. So we have prayed – separately and together. God is answering her prayers. He’s answering her just the way he answered me when I was in turmoil and wondering how I could possibly survive. I’ll tell you how I survived (and am still surviving) my chaos…prayer. I prayed in anguish and through tears so many times. God worked through those times and he worked through the prayers of many people who loved me enough to approach God on my behalf.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…” 1 Peter 3:12 He’s loves me and whether he answers yes or no, He is listening.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
One of my friends, during the hardest time of my divorce, came over almost every night for about two weeks to help me pack up my house so my kids and I could move. She had worked all day as well and I know she was exhausted. One weekend a group of women from my church came over on a Saturday and helped me paint the inside of the house I was moving into. Another sweet woman watched my kids for me every day after school for months – and fixed us all dinner many times because she knew how tired I was. My best friend, who lives far away, opened her home to me a couple of times when she knew I just needed to be with her and out of the stress I was living in. I could go on and on with stories of how they rallied around me so unbelievably. They were the hands and feet of God to my children and I.
The unconditional love my friends have exhibited has given me a glimpse into the very heart of God. Believe me, I didn’t do much for any of them for quite a while – I was in survival mode for a long time. But it showed me so much about grace and love…and I understand more fully how God has loved me when I have had nothing of value to offer him except my heart. That’s it – just all of my heart. That’s why God wants us to have strong relationships – we show glimpses of God to each other.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I’ve been doing some grieving of my own this week. It’s been difficult. My ex-husband was remarried last Saturday. My daughters are visiting him and I received a text message from my eldest that Saturday was indeed the day. I don’t want a relationship with him anymore, but I found myself feeling rather numb about it. After all, he’s still the man that I was married to for 18 years – and most of those were really good. We had fun together – we built a life, we had a family. He knew me like no one else has ever known me…and now he has that with someone else. My numbness turned to tears - and I’m grieving. I wrote this poem on Sunday as I was trying to come to terms with it all.
I am overcome
And as another wave
Assaults my soul
I am swept away
Pushed back and forth by its strength
I lose footing as it shifts
And swirls around my heart
and I am tested
This cycle of grief
Pounding against me
Just as I steady myself
I see another wave forming and
Barely have time to brace myself
Before it crashes into me
How long must I stand in this cycle
And when will it simply be over
Grief hits us all at various times and it can potentially be devastating, but there is really no avoiding it. I realize that I am no different than anyone else. I have grown to love Psalm 34:17-18 during the sad moments though. It says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (italics mine) He knows my heart, my sadness and pain…and He grieves with me.
Friday, July 24, 2009
- Goodbye to worrying about what others think about my life situation. It is what it is. I am a woman doing the best I can to love God and other people and be a good parent.
- Goodbye to the shame over being divorced. I’ve learned that God is bigger than all the ways I have felt shame and judgment. I’ve discovered that most of my friends didn’t think any less of me, I just feared they did.
- Goodbye to letting other people’s feelings toward me dictate choices that I make. I need to do what I feel is best and live honestly. They can deal with their own stuff.
- Goodbye to wanting to move back to St. Louis. My life isn’t here, people I love dearly are here and a host of wonderful memories, but my life isn’t here anymore. If God shows me differently, then ok, but for now I need to focus my heart on where I live.
I’ve been able to have several deep and meaningful conversations this week that have allowed me to come to some of these conclusions. It is why I feel full tonight. I have come full circle in many ways. I still have some things to figure out, but for now I feel strangely peaceful...I think I’ll go to bed and sleep.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Sweet morning stillness
the priceless moment
The opportunity of knowing
and my own
A time for self evaluation
The point when honesty reigns
and the possibility of purity
seems somehow attainable
The quiet stillness of first light
Sunday, July 12, 2009
For most of my life I have been a “glass half empty” kind of person. I wouldn’t say that if you met me you’d automatically think I’m negative, because I don’t think that is the case. However, when a situation presents itself….I tended, in the past, to automatically jump to the negative conclusion. I’m also a worrier and I think these two unbecoming traits go hand in hand. This morning though as I was sitting on the porch drinking my tea, I was reflecting on the past few years. To say that have been eventful would be an understatement! I left a church community that I had been a part of for over 20 years, my husband decided I was no longer wife material, I had to find a job and begin supporting myself and my children, I had to find a new place to live…you get the idea. It has been tumultuous. I spent countless sleepless nights praying, crying and grieving over each of those circumstances only to look back from this new vantage point and see how God has worked every one of those situations out in an amazing way.
- My relationship with God has grown and changed so much that it is like comparing night and day. In my previous church community I lost sight of the Lord somehow and began worshipping the church. I’ve never longed to pray, read and just be still with God like I do now.
- I am now divorced. I hate that. I’m completely an advocate of working things out. And yet I … I like myself better now. I’d lost myself along the way trying to please someone else. I became an accessory to my husband. A very good friend of mine told me that although he knew I didn’t want to be divorced he likes me better now. Me too.
- I LOVED being a stay at home mom. Now I am a single working mom. Life is VERY busy!! But my job has helped me to gain confidence that I needed.
- I had to move out of my house …and I was terrified at where my kids and I would end up. God provided, through an amazing friend, a little house sitting on the back corner of 10 acres of property. It is a little slice of heaven in suburbia.
The bottom line is that I’m closer to God, my kids and my friends and have gained a stronger character along the way. Perspective. I am learning that whatever life hands me, God can work good in it. The circumstances aren’t good, but the outcome can be. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I always believed this verse, but now I understand it. God has changed my perspective. And that glass…it’s half full.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
It’s not unlike Divorce in many ways. I have felt all those things: unwanted, unloved, unattractive, and even ashamed. In fact, I know I’ve shared with a few friends that I have felt at times like the main character, Hester Pryne, in The Scarlet Letter, only instead of an “A” I have a big “D” emblazoned on my chest. The leper cannot escape from his disease; it seems to characterize him, like divorce seems to. It becomes who you are from filling out paperwork in the doctor’s office (you have to check the divorced box) to attending a holiday picnic with all your married friends, feeling out of place.
The other day I was sitting down trying to write a poem about how the leper must have felt when Jesus healed him. I was intending to try to convey how the leper may have felt, but what it turned into as I wrote was how I felt as I have been healed. The poem is still a work in process (as I have a couple of versions I’m working with) but I thought I’d share it anyway.
Cast aside and rejected
The pain stained my heart
My sense of worth mislaid
Plagued with guilt and loneliness
I began to feel nothing at all
In the midst of my anguish
There was a pause
As you met my eyes
Touching my hand
I began to feel again
Numbness giving way to value
Filled with compassion
Your love eased the pain of judgment
When you offered me your heart
There are moments when
The pain returns
Another judgment is leveled
And it’s easy to feel the guilt and shame returning
But I force myself to stop
And close my eyes
Giving pause to accept your offering
To be filled with a sense of you again
It’s been about a year and a half now since I’ve been divorced. I still struggle with some of those unwanted feelings, some days more than others. Overall though, I am doing ok because I’ve been able to feel the healing hand of God through various ways. The leper was changed and went away rejoicing. I can’t say I’m rejoicing at the circumstances of my life, but I can honestly say I’m rejoicing at how He’s using it to change me. I’m slowing losing the sores and the scabs and gaining depth, confidence and security.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Today while I was sitting on my porch reading, I ran across some scriptures that spoke to my heart.
John 15:19 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
Revelation 2:17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
I guess the truth is I’m not meant to belong here. Even if all the areas that I long for connection were fulfilled, I would still long for something. Only in God’s presence will I feel like I totally belong. That’s comforting to me. He’s working on my room right now – wanting to make sure that it’s perfect for me. And, when I get there, he’s going to give me a stone with a new name…and only He and I will know it. I belong to Him, and Him only. I’m actually quite happy overall. I get overwhelmed and lonely (it’s that belonging thing), but one day I will be completely at home, completely satisfied and I will be where I’ve always longed to be.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I feel the parallel with my own life. Certainly I didn’t want to leave my old life and I have thought many times if I could only go back and do a few things differently – would it have turned out another way? Only God knows. I’m sure if I had been willing to deal with some of the issues in my own heart that I would be further along spiritually and emotionally, but I don’t have any idea whether I’d still be married and living the “Little House On the Prairie” existence that I did for many, many years. BUT, as I have learned, there is no gain in looking back (Lot’s wife), only looking forward. Ken Gire said something that really stuck out to me, however.
“Remember him. (Jesus)
Remember Lot’s wife.
And remember that one day you will be remembered too. By someone struggling along life’s path. By someone groping to find the way. By someone for whom your life has become a parable.”
I don’t know what I will be remembered for. I know what I HOPE to be remembered for…3 things:
· My walk with God
· My parenting
· My friendships
When it gets down to it for me, those are the three things I value the most. Of course there are other things that I could be remembered for – the music I love, quirky things about my personality, the type of employee I am. But by being close to the Lord, loving my children and being a good friend, I hope to inspire people to look forward in some way. Looking back is painful for me. It brings out a host of questions and “what ifs” and “whys” that I have no answers for. Looking forward, however has strengthened my relationship with God. I’ve had to learn to trust that God will provide – from my need to provide financially for my children to the need for love and acceptance.
I loved reading this chapter. It’s almost the holiday and I’m struggling a bit with not looking back to a time of family closeness and holiday fun. I’ll be thinking about Lot’s wife today, and hoping that I can keep my focus looking forward and not back. I want my life to be remembered as inspiring in some way, as an encouraging parable.
I hope you'll check in with me occassionally, and please let me know what you think about what I write.