“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” Brennan Manning

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Time to Heal

There once was a time when life didn’t seem so hard. I’d wake up, don my shoes, and never stop running. Give me a deadline, "I’m on it." A need, "I’m there" - pushing hard to do everything right. Positive, submissive, and encouraging would be words to describe myself, and it was very important to me that everyone was pleased with me. I didn’t consider what I thought or felt, why did that matter? As long as I looked good - with everything under control, I was okay.

Then, my life started to unravel - I felt like I was dying inside. I kept straining to keep pace despite my weary body and failing heart. All the ways I had kept myself going before, just weren't working.

Busyness and people pleasing had kept me focused on others and numb to my inner world. I kept my heartache, loneliness, depression, and fears carefully concealed - until one day I realized “something is terribly wrong.” I was helping some friends move when I was overwhelmed by my life - feeling panicked and faint, heart pounding, I had to retreat. Not wanting to be noticed, I quickly said "goodbye." I pictured my body - a corpse. “I feel like I’m bleeding to death,” I tell my husband. For once, I admit my own brokenness - the hurt I buried - afraid that I would be too broken and unacceptable if I really let myself be seen.

Saddened by countless broken relationships, I felt very very alone. With no one to perform for or prop me up, my drive to keep going dwindled. I lost hope. Getting out of bed in the morning was hard, clutter piled up along with dishes and mounds of laundry, but I couldn’t seem to muster the motivation to do anything - besides ensuring my kids were clothed, fed, and felt loved. My world became dark, and I wondered if I would ever see light again.

The real me, inside, wanted to be seen, heard, loved, and cherished. I tell a friend, “I want to really believe in Jesus, not in my ability to please Him, obey Him, and do all the right things, because I've failed miserably at that. I know that He is coming after me. I am the lost sheep.” He responded, “Sounds to me like he’s found you, Paula.” Those words resonated deep - Life. Yes, He has! Faith entered my heart anew, and I believed: I am His Beloved Daughter, accepted as I am. My Daddy, that I barely knew, was calling me to come out of hiding, to clothe my rags in riches, dress and heal my wounds, and restore me - making me whole.

At that time, I had no idea what this journey to wholeness and healing would entail. I didn’t foresee the dark valleys and daunting mountains. I thought I would just be fixed and live ‘happily-ever-after,’ but healing takes time. It’s a painful process to let my Daddy open me up, expose the dark places of my heart, and allow His light to touch me - even the scary parts.

I wouldn’t be honest to say that this process has been easy, but the difficulty has brought me to the end of myself - to cry out in desperation to the only One who can save me.

“I'm not doing good. Woke up in a panic, and I can't find my Jesus. Oh Jesus, please come. Comfort me. I need you.

I'm tired. I'm sick of all of this. I'm sick of all my crazy fears - actually believing no one will stay with me, and I can't get it right. I want to disappear and be done, but I can't even do that. I'm pretty damn helpless and frustrated.

Why is this so freakin' hard?! My days are so out of my control and sometimes I feel like a sick experiment not working. God, I don't understand You. I believe You care, but I doubt it. Why do You put me through all this? You are in control - I am not. Well, I want to just be better and not have to go through all this craziness. Why is this so hard? Where are You? Please God, have mercy on me. Will You just comfort me and tell me it'll be okay? Help me.

You're my Daddy and I'm Your child. Well, I'm a screwed up kid. I don't even know why You like me. I can't do anything right. I'm sorry for having a bad attitude. I want to please You, but I keep failing. Help me believe You. You're not going to give up on me - ever. You're not going to leave me. You are kind. You don't see me the way I see myself. Your eyes are full of kindness and love. You don't despise my helplessness - You come to me again, and again, and again. I will be okay because You are with me.”

Broken, I find myself embraced in the Loving arms of my Savior, and I loosen my grip of control, trusting that He knows the right pace for me. He carefully and gently unveils the layers of hurt, guilt, and shame - so I can place them at the foot of the cross, where His blood cleanses my heart and makes me new.

I trust that even as I am a ‘work in progress’, that's good enough. My Daddy sees me as whole - fully loved just as I am. He creates beauty from ashes - the unlovely pieces are made into a beautiful masterpiece. TODAY, I choose to accept where He has me right NOW, and trust that He who began this good work in me, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6). Redemption. Wins.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Designed for Connection - Not Loneliness

“Please don’t leave me,” I think. I want to be close, I want to show you my heart, but what if it’s not good? What if you don’t approve? My heart has been broken - again and again. My life has been hard, and I’ve tried so hard to be strong, but I just can’t be strong anymore. I am a broken person in a broken world in need of grace and mercy.

I ask, “is it my fault that I am where I am? Have I made too many bad choices that got me HERE? Is God punishing me or disappointed with me? Oh God, show me Your heart for me and this broken world.”

Oh, and He has - in His Son, “for God so loved the world…” For God so loved me…

God created us for connection - we’re not designed to walk alone. God saw Adam’s loneliness, and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” He gave Adam a companion, and his union with Eve was to mimic our union with our Creator. Children are placed in families where they can learn of love, security, and belonging. Where they can enjoy life, play, fall, and get back up again - under the blanket of acceptance as they are. Even Jesus, being God, had companions to walk with Him while He was here on earth. God’s design for Church is to be His body, each part connected - to be nourished together in Love and care for each other like a family.

But, because this world is a broken, hurting place, many of us haven’t experienced life the way God designed it to be. Our pain and brokenness make it a struggle to believe that God really meant all this for good - that He doesn’t leave us to suffer alone. We didn't get to experience the security of a happy childhood with the safety and belonging we always longed for; thus, we had to survive on our own. We learned to pretend everything was good and perform for love. We learned to let other people tell us our worth. We learned that we would never be enough.

Searching for love and belonging, we go to other things that just can’t fill or sustain us. Oh, maybe if I marry a guy that’s really in to me - then, I’ll be worth something. When that crumbles, we look to kids to be our savior - to give us worth. But they can’t do that either. Then, we follow a preacher that has all the answers and do everything ‘right’ or at least try to. But, that can’t save us either. All the while, God loves us with an everlasting love, longing to show us who we really are - His beloved children.

When our worlds crash, and we are left in the ashes, He is there. In our emptiness, with bleeding hearts, desperate, He doesn't condemn or despise, He comforts us. We let Him in. We ask Him to mend and make us whole. He promises to rebuild from the ashes - to create beauty. To redeem.

But the process is hard. It hurts. It’s scary - we have to become vulnerable. We have to learn to open up our hearts again, even after they have been hurt so many times. We have to trust - little by little. He is in no hurry for us to ‘get it right’ - He knows the right pace for me - and for you. Step by step, inch by inch.

He promises to never leave us - we never have to walk alone. He sends aid and encouragement through His Spirit and His people. He stays with us through the pain. When we can’t see any progress and we cry out again and again, “Oh God, please heal me.” He responds gently, ‘I AM.” And we snuggle up under His embrace and let Him hold us, His heartbeat calming our fears. For His Love for us is boundless - we will never reach the limit - for it stretches further still.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Strengthened in Resting

Driving, I am struck with the realization that I have tried to take control - again! Frustrated at myself, I ask God to help me to let go - to loosen my grasp and open my hands and heart to Him. Surrender. Why is it so hard? I have tried so hard to please God - carefully choosing my words and doing all the 'right' things - hoping He would approve. I never rested, always trying harder and doing more until I collapsed - exhausted, disillusioned, and burnt out. In my brokenness, Jesus comes and comforts me saying, "Rest, my Child, the work is done." His scars prove "It is finished."

What Good News! I don't have to keep straining to make God happy with me, living afraid that I won't be good enough. I am accepted as a Beloved daughter as I am! I am secure and safe in Him - free to live life ALIVE. I can rest. Jesus will complete the work He started in me. He proved my worth with His life - His Love is my foundation.

But anything new takes time to sink in - and I am so quick to perform for God, rather than trust in His work and His timing. Change takes time - it's a process, His process.

I reach my destination, still asking God to help me surrender. I load my bar - heavier than usual knowing my frustration - and anticipate the buzzer signaling to start. I lift hard and my Spirit is lifted.

In Olympic weight lifting, it's imperative to learn the correct technique before ever adding weight, and it takes practice. Once good form is established consistently, one is able to lift way more than ever thought possible. Thus, the only way to increase weight safely is by using good ergodynamics - always keeping the bar close to your core - where the power lies.

I remember my frustration with trying so hard to please God MY way, rather than resting in what Jesus did for me. Similar to trying to lift the weight by sheer effort, without good form, the lift just can't be completed. The risk for injury is also greater. When we try so hard to please God in our own strength, we end up burnt out. God's form is in trusting, not straining.

"Oh God, help me to trust in Your Love for me and surrender - again." I realize that He IS building a firm foundation for me in His Love so I can be free to live - not weighed down by heavy burdens. I can't handle the burdens of this life on my own - and I'm not meant to. So, I give them to Jesus and let Him carry them for me, and we walk together. This is His way. But, just like learning the proper form in weight lifting, learning to trust and surrender takes practice.

Building strength is a gradual process. To increase muscle mass, the body has to be under stress first, stimulating blood flow and nutrients to enter the muscle fibers. During this time the muscle doesn't get stronger, it's broken down. Then, while RESTING, the muscle becomes stronger.

Spiritually, our job is to REST in the work that Jesus already did. Trials come - leaving us broken down. In our brokenness, the Holy Spirit comforts and nurtures us in Truth, giving us rest, and making us stronger than we ever could have been on our own - for our strength is in Him.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Cor 12:9

Trust is a building process - so we have to give ourselves the same grace God gives us.

“To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:25-31

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Need Help

I need help. Those are hard words to admit. I've worked so hard to be strong, show little weakness, always be positive - abounding. I was careful to not be a burden - neglecting my own needs in order to make sure everyone else was happy. If they were happy, then I was doing a good job - and they would like me, right? However, I never felt secure - who would like ME for ME? If I can please you or help you, then maybe you'll see me as worth it and you won’t leave me. But if I fail; then, what’s the point of me?

Living in this place kept me afraid - afraid of rejection and failure - never good enough. It kept me always straining, never attaining. My strength was a mirage - looking together on the outside. But hidden safely within was a little girl - longing to be seen and heard - loved. She wanted to be free to dance and sing, to create and play. Carefree. Without a thought of who’s looking. But, she was too afraid to come out - the risk was too great, still remembering the hurt she hides. So she settles in the safety of good behavior and performing for acceptance - squelching any creativity or expression of her real self.

Beneath her layers of pretense and blankets of denial, there was One who knew her. He knew her all along. He hadn't forgotten or abandoned her. She was never beyond His reach. Her Maker saw her - when no one else could. He heard the cries of her broken heart. He loved her - every piece. And He whispers, "My Child, you can come out now. You are safe. You are Mine. You are fully loved just as you are - I adopted you."

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139:12-16

Though now I know my Abba is very fond of me, I still struggle with the same old doubts and fears. Though my perceptions do not change the reality that I am free and loved, walking in this truth takes practice. When faced with obstacles, it's easy to retreat instead of taking another step. Falling is painful, and getting back up is hard. What I've realized is that I wasn't created to walk alone; I need help. But I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to take time. I don’t want to reach out and ask. I still struggle with the thought: Am I worth it? There’s so many pieces - how will I ever be put back together? Won’t people get sick of me - disappointed, lose patience, reject me? What if I take a lot of time? What if I keep falling again and again? What if I’m slow? Will you stay with me? Will you still love me? I’m afraid to let you see the real me, afraid you won't like what you see, and you'll leave. Please don’t leave me. I promise I’ll try. I need you.

In my desperation, my Sweet Jesus comes to me, and whispers gently, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not fret, I will not hurt you. I will provide for all of your needs. Rest, my precious Child, you are loved.” His Voice calms me and peace rushes through me like refreshing waters. I am comforted and strengthened in His embrace with courage to just be - unedited me - alive in My Redeemer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesus in the Struggle

We sat in a circle. I felt uneasy with only one familiar face, weighed down by a heaviness in the room - but maybe it was just my own. I was sitting among the hurting and broken, the lost and forsaken, the messy and struggling, young and old alike. All in different places and stages of recovery. Sitting there, with my heavy baggage on my lap, I listened. When my turn to share approached, I was freaking out inside. I passed - I could barely breathe, let alone put two thoughts together. All my walls went up to guard and protect myself - but those are the very walls that keep me alone - untouchable. “Oh God, please help me.”

I listened to the real stories, of lives and hearts shattered. I felt some compassion, but my inner Pharisee rose up in me - I didn’t want to be in this group. I didn’t want to be associated with the messy, struggling - I am strong, free from all of the hurts and pains of the world - and I wanted to put my mask on and say "all is well." I didn’t want to hear about all the struggles - I wanted redemption stories - and yes, they were there, but still with struggles. In my heart, I asked God, “really?! Is THIS what you have for us? Oh God, how long? Does the pain last forever? When do the struggles end? I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m scared.”

My ungrateful, proud, too good for this, ugly all came out. And I just said, “God, I’m sorry. Help me be honest and not think I’m too good for You, cause You are right HERE in the midst of us - in the faces of all of these beautiful women. And my turn came back around, and I shared exactly where I was - my desire to pretend and look good on the outside, the mask I struggle to remove, the walls that surround me, my shame for needing help, like it's all my fault and I'm not good enough, and my difficulty to even admit that I struggle. And from there, I shared my heart with the courage God provided - bringing darkness to light.

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:6-8

I left with that gut-wrenching, uneasy feeling. “God, why? Why’s my life such a wreck? Why does everything come the hard way for me?” He answered - with only His Presence, His embrace, and that’s enough for me. “I wish You, Jesus, could just hold me all day long. I just want to hear Your heartbeat and never leave Your chest. May my heart beat with Yours. Change me and give me Your tenderness and compassion. Heal my broken heart and please never let me go.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hold your head up, You are His delight.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:8-13

I'd read this verse, "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret." and I'd hear, "You are disobedient, out of control. If people really knew who you are - how you turn to food for comfort and throw up, how you get frustrated at your kids, how you don't REALLY love people - they would reject you and God rejects you. You can't get to God because you'll never get it right and God isn't fooled." I would sink in a pit - feeling condemned, unworthy, and hopeless. Shame kept me in hiding, terrified of punishment. I begged God for help and forgiveness, feeling so guilty that I kept disappointing Him. I didn't know His love, thinking I was too messed up to receive it. I tried so hard to do "what pleases the Lord" in my own strength, but I would fall again and again and be so ashamed. I could never measure up.

As I was listening to 'Worthy is the Lamb', the line "bearing all my sin & SHAME, in love He came..." rung loud and clear in my ears and my heart. Jesus took my shame! God knew that I would never be good enough - I had no hope of ever even being close. So He provided a way, because He wants to be close to ME! Because of Him, I am whole and 'enough as I am'. So I never have to fear the Light again. When I am afraid and want to hide, Jesus whispers softly in my ear, "Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11:28-30

I just say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, take me with You. I want to walk with You. I want to be close to You" And we walk together. He watches as I skip and dance and fall and totally look a fool, but He just smiles and helps me up again and again. When I lose my way, He brings me back. He never scolds me, just gently leads me. He is pleased with my company and looks at me with delight, I'm His girl!

His Voice is gentle and kind, unlike the Enemy's. So when Scripture is twisted to make me feel guilty and hopeless, I know that is NOT My Savior, My Redeemer. That is the Enemy and I don't have to play his blame/shame game. I just come boldly into the Light and Darkness flees. The Light removes my shame and guilt, it heals and redeems, and makes me new, alive, and radiant. So even when I fall, I do not have to live under the weight of shame, all I have to do is come into the Light to be healed and loved again. Truly, "What pleases the Lord", is an honest, open heart.

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame."
Psalm 34:4,5

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just crumbs

Before I type even one word, I feel like I need a big disclaimer on the whole thing saying, "Sorry, I'm not a good writer. Please pretend I'm in third grade." And this has been my mindset for everything - NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. And it paralyzes me, inhibiting me from just being ME and believing that I AM ENOUGH. I have lived under the weight of shame for so long, and it's kept me a slave. Afraid to speak, to move, to just be - ME - unedited, as I am.

While I may only have a few messy crumbs to share, I can only give what I have - and I'm willing to do that. The first thought that came to mind when I actually entertained the possibility of ME - writing something - to share on 'bread' was "Do not eat the bread of idleness." Because I have based my life on 'do more, try harder', be a winner, always give 110%, be sold-out. And so when I would learn a 'better, healthier, more economical, fail-proof' way, I'd go head-long to implement it. I felt like I 'should' do whatever it takes to be the best mom, wife, friend, person I could be - all in the guise of 'being whole-hearted for God.' But really I was just trying to prove to myself that I was worth it - that my life was valuable. And all I really wanted was to be loved - so I tried so hard to earn approval from people and God.

My checklist just kept growing as I found the so-called best way to live:
Make bread from fresh-ground wheat berries to obtain all the health benefits - check.
Cloth diapers to save money and avoid all those chemicals on my precious baby's bottoms - check.
Have lots of babies so to not refuse any of God's gifts and trust Him completely - check.
Have a garden and grow my own food - check.
Home-school and train up my kids just right - check.
Eat healthy and avoid all processed foods with additives and chemicals - check.
Make everything by scratch - check.
Workout and have a good body for my man - check.
Read the Bible and pray everyday - check.
Serve people - check.

While for a time I was able to somehow 'do' my list, it became more and more impossible with four small children, a husband drowning in work, and a support system lost. I hit the wall - and I hit it hard. I was left with nothing but the bread of exhaustion. And I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I was a failure. I was out of control. I was unworthy of love. Life was too hard - I just didn't have what it takes to make it.

Getting up in the morning became hard, and the thought of another day dreadful. I could barely do the minimum. Though I maintained a somewhat normal appearance, I knew I was dying and my hope had failed. I wanted to disappear - wishing my life away. Why did God make me anyways? Why did He give me impossible commands? Why did He allow me to get hurt and leave me? Where was He? I was mad at Him and blamed myself too.

But somewhere in that pit, He reached down and touched me. He didn't scold me for failing, in fact He didn't even see me as a failure. He called me beloved, daughter, fully loved JUST AS I AM. I didn't have to prove my worth - He proved it already by sending His Son to die for ME. He wants me even when my life is a crumbled mess. I don't have to earn it, I am loved as I am, not as I 'should' be - and I belong. As I learn to walk in Him, He gently leads me - not to 'do more, try harder', but to rest in what He already did. And I let Him make me who He created me to be.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Trust is won.

A dear sweet young friend stopped by after school. Her presence always warms me. I feel her brokenness, yet her eyes radiate with excitement. She can't wait to tell me about the horse she is on her way to rescue. Horses have been her haven and there's something magnificent in the way she knows them and wins their trust. I'm always in awe of her softness and strength. Her love in the midst of hardships most people never have to know. She was adopted by her great grandparents, the only family she's had. And in their age, they could only take care of her for so long. Her mom passed away with cancer a few years ago and her dad is weak and struggling with cancer now. So she's had to find friends or neighbors to take her in. Yet, she always comes with a smile and real embrace. Though deep she hurts, she's making it. And I see her.

Curious, I asked her how she goes about breaking a horse that has never been ridden. And oh, she overflowed as she told me. She said the ones she rescues take a lot more time because they have been abused. It takes months of daily interaction to win their trust. Though it's a slow process that takes a lot of patience, she sees the potential in the horse and values his life. Her belief that the horse will yield his fears and learn to trust possibly for the first time keeps her going day after day. So she tirelessly works with the horse, at first only with her presence and reassuring words, then after time, gentle touch. She said there comes a time when she has a sense that the horse is ready to be won over. It's just an intuition that comes when the horse comes running towards her when she calls his name, enjoying her presence and touch. She then leads him to the middle of a pond. And in the middle of the pond, she gets on his back and rides him out. After that, the horse is broken and will let her ride him. They have bonded. Trust is formed.

This encouraged me so. Because trust is hard for me. I've been abused and hurt too many times by the ones who were supposed to protect, and I don't want to let anyone come close to me again. But living so shielded is desperately lonely, unloved, and unknown. And really I long for connection. I long for Love. And God is oh so patient with me, and gentle. He's in no hurry. He finds me day after day, whispering Love Songs in my ear, and as I hear His heartbeat, I let Him come closer. I let Him touch me where it hurts. I let Him lead me gently into the waters. And I let Him in my heart and welcome Him as my Master. He doesn't demand my trust, He earns it with His endless love. Even when I am a broken mess, unwanted, used and tossed away, He sees me as worth it. As valuable. And He persistently shows me He isn't giving up on me, He isn't leaving, He isn't going to stop loving me. Patiently, He waits till I respond to Him. And we're bonded in Love. Trust is formed.


Just as I'm about to fasten the diaper, he jets, streaking across the living room into another room waiting in eager expectation for my pursuit. As I call his name, all I hear is giggles, knowing his mommy's gonna 'get him' and he can't hold in his excitement. He doesn't expect me to punish him, he awaits my smile and kisses and tickles. And he loves every moment of this, and so do I.

As he warms my heart, in the back of my mind, I beat myself up, thinking, I'm doing a bad job with my kids and can't even get them to obey me. But then I think, NO! This is a much better way; it is Love. He is secure in my love for him even when he's being a bit ornery. He knows I delight in him no matter what his actions are. My nearness is his good and he awaits in suspense my pursuit of him even in his nakedness. He has no shame; he knows he is loved just as he is and he anticipates my delightful embrace, clothing him again. Cause in being pursued, we feel loved. And God's pursuit for us is relentless, even when we are hiding, ashamed and insecure, He wins us over in Love. And His nearness is our good and He delights in us as we are.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Struggle for Freedom

Looking back, it seemed like I was doing better when I was back in slavery. I obeyed the rules, worked hard, had my 'food' given to me at the proper times, and was acknowledged as a good submissive wife and caring mother. I was outwardly a happy, obedient girl that didn't question the commands. I lived to please and somehow was able to feel like this was my purpose.

But God has bigger aspirations for me. He doesn't want me to rely on man's ideas and rules in order to win love and acceptance. He wants me to trust Him. Before, I was strong and confident, willing to work hard for others. Now, I'm faltering, weak, and broken. Barely able to stand and walk. Just a beggar crying out for mercy from my loving Father who is teaching me to depend on Him, not rules, my own strength, or man. Just Him. And it's much scarier this freedom is. I don't know the way and I can't see ahead. But I'm learning to hear His Voice even in the dark, “This is the Way, walk ye in it.” And I'm taking steps of faith and I'm falling again and again. But never without the reassurance to get back up, hearing, “it's okay, you are getting stronger.” This road is uncertain and changing, but my Guide is constant, unchanging, unfaltering, strong, and trustworthy. He is leading me on.

And I remember the words of a friend, “Let my people go that they may worship me!” A call that still rises for those who would choose the free and wild. There is no going back, though we may have times when we crave the leeks and garlic somethin' fierce.” Though some days, all I feel is that gut-wrenching feeling; grief. Feeling the loss of how I perceived my life, and then the realization that I was under the illusion of freedom which really kept me a slave. But this little butterfly is struggling to break out of this cocoon. And the struggle is necessary to build the strength to fly. And I want to fly- wild and FREE!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Experiencing Love Changes Everything

When I was in nursing school, I carefully studied textbooks, listened to lectures, and memorized material. I would spend hours practicing skills such as inserting an IV, foley catheter, or changing a dressing for a wound. I would memorize the procedure and practice on mannequins. However, there was no amount of studying that could supersede actually taking care of real patients in the hospital. The textbooks gave me a good base of knowledge, but without the experience I still couldn't fully grasp the concept or procedure. The textbooks lacked power in a sense, because real life scenarios can be complex and do not follow a textbook.

Every person is unique with their own history and needs, so many times you have to think outside the book and bend the 'rules' in order to actually give people what they need.

Well, similar to nursing school, I've spent years studying the Bible. It gave me a good knowledge base, but I lacked the full experience. I knew God was with me many times throughout my life, but I doubted He really loved me. Though I wanted to believe, trust was hard. I tried to emulate the Bible but it was difficult and heavy. I attempted to do everything just 'right' and not do anything 'wrong'. I was afraid of slipping and falling and feared God was watching, ready to punish me and that His patience would run out.

I disciplined myself to read, study, memorize, and be as perfect as I could. But without the foundation of God's love and acceptance, I was susceptible to lies and confusion. Despite all my efforts, I couldn't muster up love and forgiveness when it counted. I knew the Bible says that if you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you. I knew my heart was ugly and I believed I was damned if God didn't save me. I wanted to forgive, I just lacked the power to do it.

Disillusioned and discouraged, I sunk into a deep pit - hiding from God and people, burying the pain, and just trying to move on. But the pit grew deeper and deeper and I couldn't stand the darkness. I was so afraid, alone, and desperate for help. I doubted Jesus could rescue me. But even when I was hiding and running away, God pursued me and captured me in His gentle embrace.

Despite my mess, my unforgiveness, my pride, my self-righteousness in trying to do it on my own, He didn't let me go. He gave me mercy when I deserved judgement. He forgave me. He showed me His intense love for me and I believed Him.

He took my calloused, unforgiving heart, and gave me His heart of love and forgiveness for those who hurt me. And now God's voice is real to me. I'm no longer just trying to follow a book, I'm actually living what it says through the power of God. I'm actually experiencing His grace and love, His goodness and forgiveness, His kindness. And it is changing my life.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." While I was still running from God, He found me and loved me despite my unworthiness. He called me His own and accepted me as I am. His love is the foundation. "God loves us as we are, not as we 'should' be." His love is what changes us, not our own diligent efforts.

Instead of trying so hard to make His word true in my life, God is making it true in me. "My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God." 1 John 4:7-10.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I was running, gasping for air, afraid, hurt, and alone. No where to go or hide, but running away from it all. Life was too hard and too scary and I just couldn't handle it. I've been running since I was eleven. And when I couldn't run anymore, I had to go back to the confusion and pain; there was no escape. So I'd cry at night, so afraid and alone. I would never show it. Too much shame like it was my fault, I was not good enough and unworthy.

I tried harder to be better and earn love and acceptance. I worked very hard but any accomplishment meant nothing to me. I longed to be loved and free. And I kept running. And the loneliness sunk deep, the hurt buried far beneath the surface to cover any traces of who I really was, and my fears weighing me down, paralyzing.

Who knew? Who cared? What was love? I was longing for it, but could never reach it. I wanted to believe, but then doubts and fears would flood my vision. I was lost, rejected, and undone. Running for my life.

After a long time, I knew that I was being pursued. Was it love? Could I trust? I was unlovable. No one knew me, how could I be loved? So I ran away afraid to be torn apart. I couldn't handle any more pain - I already was dying. But He caught me and held me tight. I fought Him hard, so angry, hurt, and afraid. And He whispered gently, "I love you. You are safe with me. I won't hurt you. You are Mine." And slowly my defenses weakened, and I let myself be seen and held- captured in His embrace, enveloped in His love, and I was changed.

Stepping in the tube

July 3, 2013 Gotta share what God's doing in me. OK, so I've been afraid of God for a long time. I knew He could see right through my masks, and I knew I was in big trouble and I thought He was going to nail me. I believed my acceptance depended on my performance and I just couldn't fix myself and get it together. And so I've been running from God, but He has been chasing me. I knew He was chasing me and I was afraid because I knew I couldn't really hide all my mistakes and failures from Him. I knew I had tried to be a Christian and do all the right things, but I just didn't add up and I didn't deserve His mercy so I kept trying harder and harder and falling in all kinds of ditches, trusting the wrong things and people, turning to food for comfort (more shame), and kept getting hurt and stained and more desperate to be found and loved.

So I dared to open up to a few people, still very cautious, worried it could all turn on me. But I had to do something cause I felt like I was dying and no one knew it and I was so hurt and torn up and angry and lost and afraid and lonely inside. And I didn't even know who I was. But last night Jesus found me while I was so lost and afraid. And He held me still shaking. And I didn't fight it, just let Him love me. And He is kind, not harsh. And I let Him see my mess but He didn't scold me but gave me grace and forgiveness and love. And His love is changing me like I never could. And it hurts in a good way. And I feel loved. And my fears are becoming less. It's true I am still a sinner full of mess and sins too numerous, but He is breaking down my walls of pride and self sufficiency and washing me and showing me grace and kindness. His love changes everything.

But I still feel hesitant to trust completely, afraid it's too good to be true and that the rules might change and that God will turn His back on me. And so I'm asking Jesus to show me His love and help me to trust Him and not fear. So today, I'm at my in-law's lake house and we took my boys tubing (in a really big safe tube). My 3 year old was excited and jumped right on the tube with my husband. But my 5 year old really was too afraid even though he really wanted to get in. We encouraged him, but he couldn't find the courage and so he watched with me in the boat. After watching for a few minutes, he found an ounce of courage and he told me he wanted in the tube. This time he was determined even though he was still very much afraid as he stepped in.

He sat down, hands griping the handles tight, eyes wide with fear as the boat started off slowly. He saw the waves and felt the tube rock, and tears just started rolling down his cheeks. His daddy whispered gently in his ear, “You can do this buddy. You're going to be all right. You are very brave. I am with you. I got you.” His daddy knew the driver would go slow and easy and that he was safe. But the tears continued to roll. He didn't try to stop them and he didn't ask to get off; he just sat there and cried with his daddy whispering courage in his ear. And after a long time, he began to loosen his grip, he looked beyond the waves at his daddy who was cheering for him the whole time and he gave him a knuckles. Then, he smiled and waved at me. He was free. His daddy's love and encouragement helped him see past the waves. And he began to trust and he was able to enjoy the ride with a smile on his face. All the while, his little brother was standing on the tube, both arms flung in the air, unafraid and free.

This was so good for me to watch. For some, like my 3 year old, trust is easy. But, for others it's hard and their may be bad memories of the past to overcome or just more hesitation. The struggle of my 5 year old is the same as mine. I fear stepping in the tube even though I want to get in so bad and be free and have fun. And after just watching other people ride the waves, I determine to step in. But I go in afraid, still looking at the waves and not trusting they won't hurt me, but my Daddy is whispering in my ear, “I love you. You are safe with me.” And slowly I begin to trust and I loosen my grip and my eyes turn to Him and He smiles at me and I am changed. And I am free. And all the waves that looked so terrible are not as scary because my Daddy is with me and He is not going to hurt me. He loves me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

About the Bible- venom or medicine?

I think God likes to use illustrations to help me. :0)

About the Bible- venom or medicine?

If you've been beat with something, you tend to shy away from it.  Well, the Bible has been used to beat me over the head and make me feel condemned. However, in college God used the Bible to comfort me and help me to see Him. But then I started hearing what other people said and thought about the Bible. And somewhere all the other voices drowned out God's and I was so focused on not sinning, being perfect, and evangelism that it became a heavy burden. It became a law book, full of do's and don'ts, and confusion for me. The very thing God gave us to help us see Him and feed us and help us grow had turned into poison to me.

So I remembered a young girl I had taken care of that had gotten bit by a Cottonmouth snake while hiking. When someone is bitten by a poisonous snake prompt treatment is imperative because they can be fatal. The venom of this snake destroys the blood cells, which leads to a reduction in the clotting of the blood, and finally hemorrhage (bleeding) of the body parts. Symptoms include pain, swelling and bleeding at the site of the wound, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, numbness and tingling, skin-color changes, thirst, tiredness, tissue damage and weakness and can lead to shock and death.

The only effective way to save the patient is by giving them antivenom intravenously as soon as possible after a bite. Antivenom is created by extracting venom, or poison, from the animal whose bite needs to be treated. In snakes, this refers to a process known as milking. Another animal, like a sheep, a rabbit or a horse, will be injected with between 1/10th to 1/100th of one lethal dose of the venom. Over the span of several weeks, the animal will be injected with an increasing amount of the venom until it can comfortably handle a dose that is several times larger than the initial lethal dose. Then blood is drawn from the animal and centrifuged, which will separate the white blood cells from the red blood cells. The white blood cells contain powerful antibodies that fight off the effects of the venom, and they are the antivenom that is sent off to the hospitals. When I handled the antivenom, I had to be very careful because one dose I was told was worth around $2,000.

Someone had to risk their life in order to get that medicine. Snake milkers have an insane job; every single day, a snake milker handles deadly, venomous snakes. They put their fingers millimeters away from the sharp, fangs of asps, vipers, cobras, corals, mambas, kraits, and rattlesnakes. One slip of a finger and, well, its all over. However, they know that that venom is valuable. Newer medical research is showing that venom can be used in medicines to help with both strokes and malignant tumors as well. Snake milking is a dangerous job, but by saving lives it can be quite satisfying.

So, like snake venom, the Bible can be poisonous and dangerous. It must be handled with the care of a snake milker. We can't survive if we're just injected with venom. It has to be filtered to make it not lethal to us. In order to create antivenom, the horse acts as a filter. The horse is injected with a diluted amount of venom and slowly builds up antibodies that identify the poison and attack it relentlessly until it's destroyed. And those antibodies are the life-saver. So God knew that we also needed a filter in order to be able to find life and healing in His Word. So God sent His Son to take the venom for us. The venom of the law of sin and death killed Him, but He rose again defeating that Snake and death. And by His blood, we have a cure. In Him is the most powerful antibodies ever that cover our sins and heal our bodies. He gives to us freely. So the law in the Bible brings death until it is filtered through the precious blood of Jesus. But when filtered through His grace and love, we have hope and life in Him.  And God speaks to us personal messages of love in all of our everyday experiences.  His Voice is quiet and strong, full of peace and hope, and gives us the courage to keep going.