To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joanna

Next up in our series, “To A Wild Rose,” I have the privilege of introducing you to my little sis, Joanna.  They say (who is they?) that dynamite comes in small packages, and that fits our Joanna.  She is small in form, yet has the biggest, strongest heart that you will find.  She currently works in child care caring for little ones; her hobbies include collecting silver-screen flicks, children’s books and movies, gardening, and she is currently a yellow-belt in karate.  Read on, I think you will be inspired by one of my heroes.  

What God Wants

I used to have a really bad habit of mentally bashing myself over the head. When I would feel bullied by other people, I would then bully myself even more. I would repeat the mean words they had said over and over in my head. I have come to realize that I was probably my biggest bully because other people might have lit the fire, but I was the one who poured gasoline on it. (I just want to stop here for a second and say if some is bullying you in any way don’t think that you can’t talk about it! Go to someone you trust, maybe a friend, a pastor or a counselor and tell them about it. I have learned that it’s ok to talk about things.)

I still have the problem of bullying myself from time to time. But, the difference is I used to think I deserved to be bullied, now I know I don’t. Don’t let someone bully you, and don’t bully yourself. I can tell you it’s not right. I like to remember the words of  Eleanor Roosevelt – “No one can make you feel inferior with out your consent.” If someone is verbally bullying you, you don’t have to listen to them. And you do not have to have the same thoughts about yourself. You choose who you are and what you think of yourself. I’m still learning to think positively about myself. I have came a long way through the encouragement of loving friends and family, and I would like to share with you a quote that I have grown to love.

“God wants us to be victors not victims; to grow not grovel; to soar not sink; to overcome not be overwhelmed.”  — William A. Ward

Ok, now I’m going to tell you when I first read this quote I liked it…. but, part of me did not like it. Because I had been so harsh on myself and always running myself down there was a part of me that felt judged by this quote. I knew I was doing the opposite of what this quote was saying that God wanted. I had spent so much time  beating myself over the head that I did not understand the way that God wanted me to be.  I also had a messed up view of God, and so I thought, “Wait does this mean that God is going to be upset with me for not being a victor?  For choosing to grovel at peoples feet? For allowing myself to sink down into sadness? For letting everything around me get me so overwhelmed??”

But, as I have grown to know God better I have actually learned just how much He loves me.  

God loves us so much that He Wants us to be victors. He Wants us to grow in Him. He Wants us to soar high in His happiness. He Wants us to overcome obstacles through HIM and HIS love.  He Loves Us and Truly Wants the Best For Us.  He is not sitting up in heaven going, “YOU better get this right.” He is up there saying, “You can do this and I’m going to help you if you’ll let me.”

I am learning to look at myself not how I see myself, but as God sees me.
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We can be victors. We can grow. We can soar. We can overcome through Christ and God’s love. But, you know there are a lot of days that I don’t just jump out of my bed and be like, “WOOHOOO I’M A VICTOR!”Some days I look up at God and I’m like, “God, I don’t feel like a victor today I’m struggling with some stuff.”  Soo, I was like hmmm I’m going to look up the meaning of the word VICTOR (a person who has overcome or defeated an adversary; conqueror / a winner in any struggle or contest)and  that made me start thinking… you must first run the race to win, or climb the mountain to stand on top.  We might be in the middle of a struggle, but we can get through it.

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Speaking of mountains, I was thinking, you know that kids song “the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see, and he saw another mountain, he saw another mountain….” Anyway, the point is this bear keeps climbing all these mountains, and every time he gets to the top there’s another mountain and I was thinking That’s Like Life!!! We are constantly going through something, or struggling with something.  These are our mountains and no matter how many mountains we climb there always seems to be another mountain. But, as long as we keep climbing we can make it to the top of our mountains, and when you stand on top of one of your mountains, even if your looking at another mountain right in front of you, you can stand at the top and say I am a victor! And, right now if you’re in the middle of  climbing one of your mountains, holding on to God’s hand, telling God “I’m tired I’m thirsty are we there yet?”….Just remember don’t give up and remember What God Wants For You.

God wants us to be victors not victims. To grow not grovel. To soar not sink. To overcome and not be overwhelmed.

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Kristenn.

As I read each contribution from these lovely friends who have so graciously shared their stories with us for this “Wild Rose” series, I’m so inspired and in awe of the diversity God created in each one of us!  Today, meet Kristenn.  This is a joyful mom of three, loving wife, and an encouraging friend to many. She is a student of light.. through her hobby of photography and in a deeper way as she studies the Word.  Kristenn knows how to laugh at the days to come, because she knows who goes before her.

 

As you know, this is an installment in a series titled: To A Wild Rose.  My friend, Joani Burchett, challenged me to offer something on the subject of women, to encourage those who feel the hurts that this world throws our way.  I was blank for a while and then the following words came.  I do hope it is encouragement to you all, who feel anything but hopeful, and redeemed.

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Early one morning last year I was taking some time to study scripture, followed by prayer.  As I prayed an image flashed through my mind.  The best I can describe it is that it was impressed in my spirit and understanding.  It certainly wasn’t my own thought, and didn’t pertain in the least to what I was studying or praying about.
If this has ever happened to you, you recognize something unique about it.  It’s a quickly passing thought, unlike the norm, it’s clearly not your own, and it does not feel as though it came from your imagination.  I believe it’s God revealing.

 

The image was that of a young woman.  I could only see her back view from head to mid-thigh.  She was wearing a historic dress corset.  The corset was rapidly tightening down around her waist, and her blonde hair was growing just as quickly to cover it.
I immediately wrote it down because it was such a fleeting sight, I was sure I would forget it.  Without question, I understood the corset represented bondage.  As the months passed on and I would periodically think and pray about its meaning, I came to understand the hair growth was an effort to cover the bondage taking place.

Easy right!?  God wants me to know that people are in bondage.

Not so much.  He was beginning to show me myself.  As the year passed that message continued to unfold, and I would find myself in unplanned discussions, bible studies, meetings, and scripture readings that opened my eyes to the deceitful, hidden, bondage that sneaks in, and takes over.
How did I get there?  How do I get out?  Here’s hope, I do have a direction to share with you today.  I want to first say you are in good company, so many great women I personally know, and women of scripture, and women of faith have been victim to numerous types bondage.
Bondage comes upon us like weeds in a rose garden, wrapping itself so closely it almost appears to belong.  It is defined as the state of being a slave, in servitude, subjection, oppression, domination, exploitation, and persecution.  It comes to entangle a life with and without consent.  It comes in the form of harsh words, criticisms, violation, victimization, unwanted attention, regrets.  It sets up a camp in our emotions, and then it gets to determine our actions, and self-worth.  It’s relentless, and holds us captive.  Good news, scripture says, “Jesus came to take captivity, captive.”

Every moment you’ve ever lived, good or bad, has molded you. 

 

But we are to be clay in the Potter’s hands.  To often the enemy, and this world get its say in our mold.  Not what God desires for us!  In the words of Joani Burchett you are, “a wild rose, beautifully wrapped up each one individually with different layers of petals…variant sizes, hues, and even scents.”  I hope the following will help you embrace the layers but enjoy the change that all our life circumstances can ultimately bring, even the hard ones.

I’d like to lead off with some scriptural examples of this, straight out of the genealogical line up of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Unlike most Jewish, scriptural genealogies Matthew choose to list women in his.  He listed the generations from Abraham to Jesus, five women popped up in those verses detailed in Matthew, chapter one.  We see Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.  I’m going to give you a PAINFULLY short description of their lives.  It’s really hard to shorten these women down to a few sentences but I’ll try.  The words you see in parentheses are the emotions I imagine likely fit their situation.
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Tamar was a two-time widow of brothers (sorrow/depression).  She was refused her cultural right to marry the last living of the brothers (cheated/fear/alone).  This left her with no inheritance, protection, provision, or children (desperate).  Tamar posed as a prostitute, and sold herself to her  father-in-law (shame).  She became pregnant, in return he hated her  (rejection).  He eventually accepts her as his wife, and they raise their son, Perez, who carried on the lineage of Christ (redeemed).  
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Rahab the harlot was a resident of Jericho (used/depressed/shame).  The scripture does not tell how she became to be a prostitute, but we do know she lived with her family and helped support them in this way (stuck/desperate).  Soon she was given a chance to help two Israelite spies hide for protection (fear).  She became a hero, and had a crucial role in the Israelites coming to the promised land.  She eventually married Salmon, an Israelite, and saved herself and her family from the lifestyle they were stuck in, and bore a son named Boaz to carry the lineage of Christ (redeemed).
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Ruth was a Moabitess who married an Israelite in her own country of Moab.  Moab is described as a sinful, despicable people who worshipped false gods (hopeless/deceived).  Ruth became widowed at a young age (sorrow/depression).  Her sister-in-law, and mother-in-law also become widowed.  Her mother-in-law decided to return to her homeland.  Ruth went with her, thus leaving behind her blood family, and all she had ever known (fear/vulnerable).  She soon found herself in a land where she was and outcast who was judged by her roots (depression/alone/animosity).  By bold, faithful, and relentless action she married Boaz, and they bore a son named Jesse to carry the lineage Christ (redeemed).
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Bathsheba seems to be known for her beauty (pride?), and adultery with King David (shame).  Adultery, coercion?  I’m not sure which it was, but I tend to see her as more a victim (used).  She became pregnant by David, which carried the death penalty due to being an act of adultery (fear).  Soon enough David arranged to have her husband murdered to cover the sin.  Bathsheba was a widow (sorrow/guilt).  David took Bathsheba in and she became one of his wives (jealousy/anger).  Their son died as an infant (sorrow).  She and David later bore another son, Solomon who would carry the lineage of Christ (redeemed).
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Mary, mother of Jesus, a 14-year-old girl faced with the ultimate honor and dilemma.  She was God’s choice to carry out a virgin birth of Jesus (shock/fear/confusion/denial).  I do write Mary’s emotions with a bit more hesitancy.  I can’t know what the understanding and knowledge she felt in the moment she learned that she was to be the mother of the Savior of the World.  She soon married Joseph (lineage of David).  He sought to protect her reputation, and the fall out that it would carry if it became known as a sexual scandal of  becoming pregnant out of marriage.  We know Mary wasn’t sinless, but scripture does leave her as a great example of faith and virtue. She would eventually see her Son punished, tortured, and killed for the sins of the world (I’m not sure there is a word in our vocabulary for this).  Prior to His death, Jesus entrusted her to the care of one of he beloved disciples (redeemed).
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Did you catch the words in bold?  Do you know some or all of them all to well?  Life sure has a way of slipping those things in on us.  If you’re like me, you carry plenty of scars from the past.  Plenty of baggage that became bondage that could have long since been left behind.  We unknowingly hold tightly to the handle of things that have been said and done to us, things that we clearly remember, things that are not so clear but came into our life and colored who we are and continually impact us, things we had a say in, things we didn’t!  Some of these things obviously make us who we are, some we carry around unaware.  Some of these things we stuff deep down, and never discuss.  This my friend, is bondage.  Just as easily as a rose may fall prey to the bonds of overpowering weeds, we too fall prey to the bonds of life’s challenges.  As I said you are in good company.  The women who stood in the very lineage of Jesus, faced these things head on.
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But God, always had a plan and a way for redemption.  He holds the “spiritual garden shears”.  He wishes to see us all free and redeemed.  It comes at a cost to you though.  It will cost you the relinquishing of your control, it will cost you putting your trust in the One who knows best, it will cost your time, and maybe your pride. 
But the benefit….will be that of a rose, brightly bloomed, every bit as vulnerable as it is strong, growing in a garden, trusting the Gardener to meet its every need.
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*Lineage of Grace, a book by Francine Rivers, is a wonderful resource to get a picture of what the lives of these women were like.  Francine gives her insight based on what she knows from scripture and from the historical times.

 

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Alicia

Hello Everyone, here’s our next post in the Wild Rose series.  I’m so grateful for all the brave ladies stepping up and sharing their stories with us!  Fresh perspective.  Today, I want you to meet my pal Alicia.  She is among my passionate, fervent, beautiful friends who is a loving mom, a wife crazy in love with her hubby, and shares her gift to many as a sonographer who introduces mommies and daddies to their little ones every day.  🙂  You’ll see clearly the heart of one that knows the deep love of God as you read her words below.  

In the beginning, I wouldn’t even call myself a wild rose, but a type of crazy weed.

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Why? Because that is how I felt. As a child, I watched my home as I got older to be a place of violent arguing, physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, and a sad view of what love means. I watched my mom first make sure I was okay in the moment of it all, but my eyes still saw it all, stored it in my mind, and it became normal in those eyes. My parents were doing the best with what they had been shown when they were just children. I know my parents loved me then, and they continue to show me that love today. I can always hear my mom say, “Alicia, I want better than what I had growing up and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as I did.” Oh, how I look up to my mom for what she went through! She is not just a blade of grass as I know she must have felt like, but she is a strong, beautiful rose. I watched my mom cry, become angry at it all, but also have to be happy and there for me. I watched my dad leave over and over again. I didn’t realize how this would affect me later on in my relationships though until several years ago.

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In Jr. High I can remember being lost in who I was as a person. This is the time I began to try to find myself. I was saved as a young child, but I gravitated slowly away from what I knew was right and chose to disobey my mother in things that were not who I was. My sophomore year I was so convicted of things and wanted to be on “track.” I began to date who I thought would be “the one” (he will be mentioned throughout as this) for the rest of my life. This all started great, but throughout our relationship things are now apparent to have been so unhealthy. Things like arguing, pushing away, typical neediness on my part, typical boy stuff on his part, and typical “high school relationship” things became normal throughout the years. All I wanted was to be loved. While I felt loved by one, I also found it in someone who would be disapproved by anyone else at the same time. I thought I found that in a man twice my age. I would be given gifts of whatever I wanted, loved like I wanted, and was treated much older than I was. I was made to feel good in all of the ways we want to be felt. I was beautiful, sexy, and all of the things we want to be all while also being made to feel beneath him, controlled, and trapped. My life consisted of keeping him happy all while I was drowning in feelings of being good enough, pretty enough, where he wanted me, etc. For about 2 years (it’s hard to remember) I kept this relationship hidden deep in my heart. “The one” and I broke up due to typical high school things and my other relationship with “the other man” also ended around this time and I dated 5-6 different guys in a matter of probably 6 months. I became what would seem obsessed with some and then in a matter of time I was back with “the one.” During this time I had fallen so deep into a love again with him, but I still had a lie hidden. I needed to tell him about “the relationship” with his stepfather. Yes, you are reading this right. God soon convicted me one morning in February of 2010 to delete all social media connected to the world and tell him the truth. This would break my heart, but I knew it was for the best.

That started the beginning of a very long, but so rewarding journey in my life. Light was shed on something that needed to be shown.

Tucker, my husband now, was my best guy friend at the time of all of this and I had to at some point tell him what was happening. His reply was simply, “Okay.” There wasn’t a hesitation in his voice that would indicate losing him also as my friend. Months later we began as boyfriend/girlfriend as I was convinced by many that he loved me and that love was so obvious. The end of my senior year in high school ended with no friends except for a few which includes Tucker and my freshman year in college began with such tragedy and sadness that I would be convinced to file against “the other man.” A statement was written to him to be read in court about forgiveness. I chose to put that behind me and move forward although it was so hard to forget. During the beginning of mine and Tucker’s relationship I held onto some of my old ways including arguing, belittling, etc. The closer I got back to Christ and the more I prayed the easier it became to let go of these ways. Oh, but God works in mysterious ways because while my parents separated he knew to bring me another dad who would love me like I was his child. I was also given a stepmother who would not only love me the same as her two girls, but would show my dad the patience and love that he has longed to feel. I tell you all of this so you can see the death and growth of the “wild rose” writing this. I was shown and chose all that I knew and seen.

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All I wanted was love! Isn’t that what we all want?

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It took me all of this tragedy above to see what true love was and that was in Christ first. I now look back and have some grief over my childhood self. I can see myself crying out for water like growing flowers do and my heart breaks, but thankfully I have been saved by the ultimate gardener, God. My challenge to you as parents is to really observe things our children see daily in us. They are like sponges absorbing it all and one day will live according to how they were taught as just tiny seeds. You are raising future “wild roses.” Show them how to bloom and love like Christ.

To a Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of Melody

I’m so excited!  Here is our next post in this series.. “To A Wild Rose.” Let me introduce you to my friend Melody Rodriguez… She’s a mom who knows how to laugh heartily and cuddle muchly with her sweet kiddos!  She loves her husband fervently and the radiance on her face reflects his love for her. She encourages me as a friend who loves with truth and compassion.  As a sonographer she gives the gift everyday in her workplace looking at our “inside” world.  Melody is a courageous woman who loves God with all her heart, all her soul, and all her mind.  Thank you Melody for sharing!  

I love the topic of this blog series: Wild Rose. It takes my mind to the small potted rose bush right outside of my garage. It’s often the first thing I look at every morning. It is certainly a miracle in itself that it’s still alive. I love watching the roses in their beginning stages of life, but my favorite is when one is in full bloom. The rose is tall, its proud, its stretched out reaching to the sun all too aware of its beauty. It doesn’t feel inferior, it’s not competing. Its simply basking in who the creator made it to be. In those moments I silently pray, “Lord make me like this rose. Make my friends, my coworkers, make women like this rose.” I can feel His presence and his answer,

“My child, I did.”

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Most women at some point have walked or are walking through the darkness of comparison, inferiority, and a broken self-worth. There is no sun there. There is no basking and reaching, only wilting and a lack of self-value. All too often we’ve allowed the opposite sex to discern our esteem. As though men belong on a pedestal nor as our equal but to tower over us. I suppose from that height they can see well enough to let us know if we’re too thin or too wide. I guess they can hear better at that level to let us know if we talk too much or too little. Surely, mans opinion must be the most accurate determining factor of a females worth right? I was blessed with a long lineage of good men. I was fathered by one, I’m married to one, and I’m raising two. I’ve also spent some time on the flip side of the coin. I’ve allowed my value, my worth, who I am to be changed, to be altered to better fit into a stereotype attractive to men. And I see so many women living that lie today. This isn’t “normal”. This isn’t “just the way it is”. Women must step out and be willing to take an active role to re-define what our society has dysfunctionally made to a supposed truth. We have this amazing ability to build one another up if we so choose. To have those conversations with one another about where our self-esteem is and how we value ourselves.

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Will you stand and watch your sister wilt in the shadows? Or will you, like I’ve done with my potted plant after it weathered a storm, pick that beautiful rose up, set her on solid ground and turn her to the sun. Will you point her in the direction of the one who holds our value in His hands? We’re all weathered, maybe a little tattered, we’ve walked through shadows. But we don’t live there, we don’t stay long. We stand again, we thrive again, we bask in the light again. Why? Because we are daughters of the most high King. And today is the perfect day to start treating one another that way.

To A Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of a Girl.

When I was just a little girl, I loved lying on the floor next to the piano as my sister practiced.  Beautiful moments gifted by God.  My big sis Jackie’s long dark hair falling over her shoulders, her freckled face seriously in tune with the beautiful melody of one of her favorites by Edward MacDowell, “To A Wild Rose” singing out from the keys.  There was something about his simple tune that has always connected with me, and even the name itself for some reason reminds me of how I see the precious women around me.  A little about me you may or may not know, I grew up with four sisters…tons of Jane Austen, bobby pins, and estrogen. Ironically, I now have five sons, and the tables have turned.  😉 So, I grew up with girls, work with girls, and also serve girls as I work at a pregnancy help center.  I guess that makes me think I have a little to say about girls, and to girls. Ha.  And, I guess that’s why I decided to title this new series as such.  A wild rose, beautifully wrapped up each one individually with different layers of petals… variants of sizes, hues, and even scents.

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Recently, there’s been much discussion about views on women, “locker room talk,” abuse, value, respect, etc.  But, this is a topic that’s been on my heart, in my life, and in my circle for quite awhile longer than the recent news posts and Facebook brawls.  It’s also a topic a lot older than me and my struggles… Actually, it’s been around and is as “old as the hills”–  and, the beauty is we have continued to grow together on this topic! But, more discussion is so needed, and we have the opportunity to listen, learn, and love.

Quite recently I overheard a conversation in which a man was calling a lady not present a “Ho.” She apparently had been sexually active with several different people in the recent past, and the latest of which was a man who also had a recent reputation of being sexually active with many different partners, as well.  I “butted” in and queried as to if the couple discussing would call the man the same label, and with laughter was told, “No, that’s just the way it is.  Always has been.  It’s just different for women.”

Hmmm.

He brushes past us too closely, grazing our curves “accidentally.” We feel our boundaries infringed on, and we are made to feel uncomfortable.  We hesitate to speak up knowing the response might be met with laughter, or “don’t take it so serious – it’s really not that big of a deal.”  We are ogled in the grocery store, or approached in a disrespectful way, and maybe we look down at the ground awkwardly.  We are honked at while standing at the gas pump.  We are yelled at with crude words while sitting at a red light. Feeling like an object meant for others pleasure, rather than a living thing to be cherished. We don’t know where “yes” begins and “no” stops sometimes, because we’re just not sure.

We dismiss it.

It’s just the way it is.  Always has been.  Always will be?  Hmmm.

We struggle internally as we always feel the need to compare ourselves to others.  I’m too fat, I’m too thin.  I wish I had longer legs, or shorter legs.  Why am I freckled?  Why am I so dark?  I’ll do anything to get his love and his attention.  I must be worthless, he rejected me. Why am I not good enough for him? How can I win his affection or attention, that’s the only time I feel real value.

And, we either are saying in our very core that possibly we are sub-human as women, or men or super-human as we strive so hard internally to gain favor or equality… We struggle to see our worth that is already determined whether others recognize it or not.  Maybe we feel deeply flawed without that approval, or treat the desperate need for a man’s favor as if they are god-like and we are less than.

All the while, God has specifically made us just as He created the wild rose… And we are beautiful, free, individual, and overflowing with potential.  Not determined by what man says, but with specific, amazing, individual gifts and talents to give the world around us. Gifts not given by or dependent on another human.

An artist.

A mother.

An engineer.

A doctor.

A social worker.

A caregiver.

Never an object.

Equal?  YES!  Diverse?  YES!  Unique?  YES!  Each and every one of us!

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I don’t know about you, but I’m not the gal I was twenty years ago, or even five, or heck, even one!  God constantly has me on a path of growth. My journey has me often walking away from things that aren’t best as I learn by trial and error, and enlightening me with new ways of looking at things, new perspective.  Honestly, growth hurts sometimes!  But, what a gift that rewards not only me, but those I love with a newness for my ways to live and love!  So, that’s what you will find here; fresh perspective, straight from the heart of many women who walk this walk every day who will be sharing the next few weeks as a gift to you! What am I saying?  We need to re-think the way that many of us view women.. and both sexes need to search our hearts on this matter. We aren’t personally healthy when we aren’t growing in wisdom, truth, experience and perspective. We need to remember that as a culture the same growth is needed..

The way it is, doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be.

Domestic and sexual abuse.

Pornography.

Exploitation.

Degrading talk.

Desperation and co-dependency.

The way it is, doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be.  We need to talk.  

For the next few weeks, I’ll be hosting a blog-series here, and I’m proud and pleased to say that many contributors who will share with us are among the most strong, kind, brave, precious, lovely ladies you’ll meet.  I’m so excited to start this conversation.

I want to leave you with a quote from one my recent reads that challenged me and reminded me of the most important love and definition that I’ll find.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.” 

Are Women Human?  ~Dorothy Sayers

Meeting Rita

ritaEleven years ago.  September 21, 2005.  I remember the day all too well.  I remember the night even more.  As I stared at the TV screen as a wind-blown Geraldo reported the damage to me that was occurring in my southeast Texas.  All I could do was pray… for my husband, all the first responders trying to keep safety for others, those trying to keep the chaos at bay, and for all those in danger.  Hurricane Rita swirled with fury into our community recorded as the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever.  A category five that tragically took over 100 people’s lives that day.

The boys and I had left Hunter earlier that afternoon and also left our first home, and our sweet lab Maggie behind and made our way to stay at my dear cousin’s home in Tyler, Texas.  Reluctant wasn’t the word, as I pulled out of our driveway, tears brimming over in my eyes as I said goodbye.  My gut told me that this was the end of something…. Or the beginning of something… whichever way I want to look at it, maybe.

The next morning an early call finally came from my husband, who sounded so exhausted.  He was ok, and he was safe.  My heart was so relieved to hear his voice!  Maggie was safe, too!   He hesitated as he began to tell me that our home was not ok.  We had received severe high wind damage, resulting in part of our roof being peeled back, rain pouring into our home.  Light fixtures fallen, sheet-rock peeling back off the wall… everything wet, wet, wet, wet.  Our privacy fence, and roof to our pool outbuilding was found in various places… including across the road and field from our home.  It was all a wreck.  We comforted each other, “We’ll get through this, Joani.  We have each other, and that’s what counts,” Hunter reminded me.  So true.  What beautiful truth.

The following weeks without electricity compounded the devastating damage to our homes effected by this storm.  While my husband and all the wonderful community helpers, local law enforcement, fire departments, and disaster relief teams worked hard to clean up, re-build and help our community survive… the south’s heat and humidity continued to work its way with mold growing everywhere and anywhere Rita’s water and moisture had shown itself.

When I finally was able to re-enter the community, my heart sank as I saw such devastation everywhere.  But, my heart was lifted high as I saw weary faces all around, with smiles on their faces, love for each other in their hearts, and hands to help.

To be honest, to write all of my thoughts about the journey we began September 21, 2005 would be a novel.  So many beautiful moments, so many wonderful helpers, and some dark, dark days, too  — all part of God’s road for me.  And, honestly, I actually have written one!  Just not ready to share it all yet… Haha!  But, today being the anniversary I just wanted to share with you a bit of hope when days look dark, and the night even darker.  When the storms swirl in, and fear makes us tremble.  When so much is lost, that it’s hard to see what remains. 

SunRiseThe One who calms the storm in my heart, the One who created the sea, and told it where to stop.  The One who knew you and I before we were born, and knows every day that we will live on this earth.

He is greater.

There was a very sad moment of big realization for me as I held James’ blankie in my hand.  In our haste and emotions as we left for Tyler, I left it behind.  Now molded and ruined.  He was four at this time, and my grandmother had crocheted it for him at birth.  He loved that little green blankie.  He slept with it every night (sometimes even brought it to the grocery store with us, but shhh don’t tell him I told you ;)), and he loved how his fingers slipped and fit right in between the stitching.  My Mema is with Jesus now.  I miss her so much.  I sat and held the blankie close, ready to toss it in the trash with all the other debris of memories.  Crying, I felt the pangs of the loss of innocence for my children in this broken world, I cried for the interruption of their joyful times spent in the pool, the normal routine with play-days and school days with friends, the loss of all their belongings.

And, then right there, that still, perfect, small voice whispered to me.  Sitting on a moldy, wet carpeted floor, with piles of trash bags containing my home, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear… crying my eyes out holding a child’s little blankie…

I am greater.

Greater than all this.  And, I am here. 

Yesterday, as I woke up and opened my Bible, 11 years later, I searched for a verse of comfort for this season’s storms.. they aren’t a physical hurricane for me, but this world still has some swirling, whirling chaos trying to run my life some days.  The verse I ended up reading wasn’t the fuzzy, feel good one I kinda was looking for, it was so much more.  Deep meaning for true deep down comfort:

 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:26-29, (ESV) 

My life has been shaken. Shaken with things that felt like was shaking even beyond my core. Sometimes to the point of wondering how I will ever steady my footing again. My friend, what I have seen is that through my shaking He has been my rock that doesn’t move. Clinging to that steady rock, keeps me steady even in the biggest storms. I may shake, but my Father does not.  An amazing part is that through my pain, through my sufferings, through shaking like a leaf and standing vulnerable and helpless before my King, He has not only guided each step by His hand, but He has shaken off many things that needed to be stripped away, and He has replaced them with things that can never, ever be taken from me.

A quote that has come to have more and more meaning for me through the passing years, written in a book called “A Grief Observed,” by CS Lewis is this:  “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already.”

He is greater.  This I know.

Meeting Rita.. a new beginning.

the fruit — post 6

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“When a person is good from root to branch, he does not need to be told to be good. His goodness grows like fruit on a tree…..” John Piper

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4, (ESV)

Seek the source.  Know the source. Experience the source.

forgiveness like a crown; reconciliation as an option; freedom to heal.

In the past few months especially, I’ve had several of those conversations that leave you reflective, and desiring to help others through these murky, messy complicated heart, mind, and spirit battlegrounds.  This topic I’m about to share my thoughts on, is one that I understand can be quite controversial with people.. I’m quite certain that there are many who will read this that are much more educated, theologically more sound, and all-around possibly more skillful to speak to this subject.  But, this is the clumsy offering of a person who has wrestled through some of these pathways.  I’ve listened to many pain-filled stories, and have talked to my Heavenly Father often about it, and now I can sit with coffee cup by my side, peace in my heart today staring at this screen sharing my heart with you.

One such recent conversation began in a group-class, where we discussed the topic of forgiveness.  A friend of mine, who has suffered sad, devastating abuses.. emotional, physically, and spiritually looked up with tear-filled eyes… “How can I forgive?  When I make myself be around him, I feel panicky and my mind feels so confused.  I feel so wrong. Why can’t I love stronger? I thought I’d forgiven him, yet everyone tells me I need to forgive and forget and move forward..”

And, looking into those pain-filled eyes, my heart broke for the condemnation she and others were heaping upon her, adding to the years of pain she had endured.  Oh, my Father, now we are heaping heavy burdens onto her weary soul in your name?  In the name of love?

flwoerOh my precious friend, what my Father has lovingly shown me through many pain-filled tears of my own is that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things. By summary of definition;  Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.  John Piper suggests that some of the following may be indicators that forgiveness has taken place; resisting revenge, not returning evil for evil, wishing them well, grieving at their calamities, praying for their welfare, seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you. We also would do well to remember that this is a spiritual journey that we each individually walk through in our own way, in God’s perfect timing as He is our healer and help.  We don’t “fix” others, we have the beautiful opportunity to love, LISTEN, contribute what we can to help, and to encourage others.  He doesn’t fix… He heals!  Forgiveness is a beautiful work that God does in our hearts — It’s truly a miracle that we can all experience, and the freedom releases us to soar!

——- > Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations.. So, our hearts and minds can most certainly be in a place where we do not wish for revenge, and even our heart may break for those who have wronged us.  We might even be in a place in which we pray and hope and believe for God’s very, very best way of love for that individual, whatever that might look like.  But, we must also with caution and carefulness seek reconciliation to the level that is safe for our heart, mind, and life.  There are many reasons for which I believe in some situations “restoring a friendly relationship” is not best or safe emotionally, spiritually, or mentally.  Sometimes, it may be that the reconciliation process just needs a more lengthy time to build trust, and security… Sometimes, it will never, ever be healthy to reconcile.  Especially, if the abuser is unrepentant and continues to wound, justify and blame-shift.  Often, we might get confused with what love is, and what love isn’t.  Making someone feel good about themselves, isn’t really love… and a person who has destructive mentalities and behaviors often continues on in their pathway, being enabled to continue by all the “feel-goods” from well-meaning people who think they are loving.  “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth. Sometimes the truth is that the damaging behavior of another person cannot be in our life at this time, even though we have forgiven, or are working through that process..  Drawing close to the Father’s heart, knowing His freedom, seeking for truth in His word (and maybe less of other’s opinions), and resting in His love is a beautiful time of healing.

Forgiveness like a crown….

Reconciliation as an option..

Freedom to heal.

It’s ok, my friend, that you aren’t “strong” enough to sit at a Christmas dinner across from your childhood abuser (and actually facing and speaking the truth to say you don’t want to is being brave, truthful and courageous!)  It makes sense, my dear friend, that you feel panic attacks when feeling pressured to be “friendly” with someone that has given you tremendous pain in your life, and you are still trying to heal from the wounds.  You aren’t flawed when your heart requires needed time, space, and the ability to process.  Our Father weaves beautiful grace through these processes..

A few weeks ago, a helping friend of mine sat with me in my place of tears.  She reminded me that Christ not only died to set me free from the wrongs, and yucky messes my heart cooks up, but all those atrocities that were done against me.  The shame I carried for that which I have done, and the shame for that which was inflicted on me…. ALL taken care of at the Cross.  He traded my sorrows, my pain, my burnt-up ashes of dreams and innocence, the wrongs, and torment… HE TRADED IT ALL for my freedom.  For me, and for you.

All. Traded for the crown of beauty.

Not only the wrongs I have committed, but those that were committed against me… I am laying at His feet.  “Here it is, Jesus. You paid, what those who hurt me could never repay, and I don’t know how to get rid of..  You died to set me free. All the brokenness I’ve created, and the life-whirlwinds others have created for me… you want me to trade for YOU.  You died, so that I may live. The acts of others may try to slay my very soul in ugly, dark brokenness, but my Saviour lives through me to make ALL new and beautiful and ALIVE.”flower 2

“Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down.”

~Don Moen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;to provide for those who mourn in Zion;

to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.”

Is. 61:2-3

*Hi Friend, if you are reading this and are currently being abused in any way.. please reach out to a safe place.  1-800-799-7233 is the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 1-800-656-4673 is a safe place to discuss Sexual Abuse, or talk to someone you trust for help.  There is hope and there is help.

respect

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Respect: “to value and regard highly; treating someone with importance.”

I’ll let you in on my secret blogging/writing style of world.  I write a ton.  I post a little.  I keep certain posts ruminating for awhile, and sometimes they sit in my draft box for months awaiting my decision to hit the final delete or post.  It’s all a gamble for the words that pound out on this keyboard. Ha.  This is my last post for this series on our emotional needs, and ironically today I saw that I began this particular series a year ago.  I began this one on respect, and it has sat in my draft box since May.  With all the tragedy, sadness, and turmoil of late, I have been thinking often about this emotional need of respect that God placed in our souls.  That He placed deep, deep, set in our core this need for respect.  The need to give, and the need to receive respect.

When I began to think about what all respect is, and what it looks like in our lives, I decided to poll a couple of my guys and I asked them, “When do you feel respected”… and this is the results:

9 year old: “When someone treats me like they treat all the other people that they like.”

11 year old:  “When they include me with what they’re doing, and give me the chance to be like everyone else to them.”

Amazing how well they summarized and brought to life the definition for me.  I thought, that’s so right-on!  I just want to be treated as valuable as the next guy.  The more I thought about these definitions the more I thought about those who feel the entire world has disrespected them at times, and the days that I have in this life felt disrespected.

The abused.

The broken.

The oppressed.

The neglected.

In the face of the injustice and unfairness we get angry.  We feel the disrespect and we hurt.  Especially when we build up the courage to speak up, and we aren’t heard in our pain, or even worse when others who don’t understand what we’ve been through, make statements of how we need our “thinking fixed” in this way, or that.  And we cry out, you don’t even know what my pain is like!  You don’t even know what my pathway looks like, and you don’t even begin to listen before you try to fix me.  Or judge me.  Or criticize me.

And the disrespect is felt all the heavier.

I’ve seen time after time the hurting finally speak up… and then they are made to feel like the “bad guy.”  How sad.  Why can’t we listen?  Why can’t we empathize?  Why can’t we give respect and know that if we haven’t been in their shoes, all we can do is listen and express that what you say is important!   We might not always agree, or understand, but we can listen and seek to find some common ground.  We can desire to have a new perspective from another set of eyes.  Disagreeing is not disrespect!  Not fully understanding is not disrespect.  Refusing to listen, and choosing not to value what another has to say is disrespect.  Refusing to think about and work to help protect another from injustice is disrespect.  

As Atticus said in one of my favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

We really don’t take time to do that, do we?  Instead, we see through our own filters, cultures, life experiences and allow our mentalities to see through only our own point of view…

We say that we want to hear our loved ones thoughts, but then balk when it concerns something we’ve done wrong, or might need to think through a change. “How dare you suggest I need to change!  It’s you!”  We read the newspaper and question why the date rape victim did not fight back more, “Well, that wouldn’t have happened to me.  I have more fight in me, than her.”  We don’t get why the young lady who has had years of abuse is so quiet and to herself, “She’s just outright stuck up.  Must be because she thinks she’s better than me.”  We downplay people’s cries for equality, “Well, don’t they realize they’ve already got it?!  Why can’t walking-alonethey just move on?” We see the homeless man wandering the streets, and think, “Get a job, man.”

Really, have we been in their skin?  Have we walked in their shoes?

We truly can have respect.  But, we must be intentional, and prayerful, and looking through God’s eyes of value for you, and for me, and for the us, and for the we.  For the little, and the big, and for the hurting, and the happy, for those hidden, and those exposed, for the them, and for the they.  For His all.

 

Some basic ways to show respect….

May look like:

  • Listening without interrupting
  • Appropriate tone of voice and body language.
  • Asking before taking or borrowing something that doesn’t belong to you.
  • Not encroaching on another’s personal space without permission.
  • Appreciating other’s efforts.
  • Sincerity.
  • Checking before making plans that affect others.
  • Confessing wrong.
  • Keeping your commitments.
  • Making effort to learn about their perspective.

May sound like:  “I’d like to hear your ideas.”  “Which do you prefer?”  “I was wrong… will you forgive me?”

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I’m weary of my heart disrespected others. I’m weary of disrespect and slander that I see others imposing on each other.  I’m purposing to value and regard all life as equally valuable and equally important.  Let’s purpose that together?  Because, the truth is… We are.

All precious in His sight.

References:  Center for Relational Care, MacMillan Dictionary (2015); Abraham Maslow; Robert McGee; The Bible (Genesis 1:27, Romans 10:12, 1 Samuel 16:7, Ephesians 4:32, 1 Peter 3:18-22, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, (1960).

 

construction sites & the book of Hebrews

In my journey through God’s word, I currently have the joy of studying the book of Hebrews.  Gotta be truthful, when I first began to read it at the beginning of March, I thought to myself that maybe I could just skip over it, remembering that each time I’ve studied Hebrews before it kinda feels like my heart is under construction… ripping out maybe some trashy, cheap cabinets I installed, or painting a new color on the walls that wasn’t quite what I expected.  But, I went ahead and dove in, and I’m so thankful for the worknew construction site that I’m feeling, because He is reminding me that He is here, He is present, and He isn’t finished with me yet.

This morning my text was Hebrews 6, and these particular verses resonated so strongly with my heart-work, So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:17-20). 

anchorTwo things can hold us firmly in place… like a steady weighted anchor for our soul: God’s promise and His pledge!  Two things that do not change.  Ever.  His love and work for you is not dependent on you — not your failures, or weakness.. not your successes or strengths. And, guess what?  He cannot lie! He does not lie. Isn’t that reassuring! (Psalm 110:4). This world is shaky, isn’t it?  Money will come and go, places that we live change, earthly relationships sometimes are grand..and then someday’s maybe disappoint, but my Saviour does not.  His work was done for us, completed on the cross.   Little phrases that have GREAT ALTERATIONS like “and then,” AND THEN, “And then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:50-51, ESV).  For you, my friend.  For me.  Now, because of Christ doing this work of propitiation Jesus made things okay to run behind the veil and have sweet fellowship with our Creator and Perfect Father.

I can’t speak for you, but for me I often get tangled up with my struggles, sickness, emotions, and responsibilities… and I forget to run… or I choose not to run.  I’ll just try to carry it all, and plod along.. each step feeling weighed down a little more.  I seem to be doing that alot lately. How amazing is it, that He, my Daddy wants me to lay aside all that is weighing me down and run straight to His arms… free and unfettered by heavy laws, and muddy sin.  Surrender maybe doesn’t come easy to us “big people.” but becoming a little, dependent child is the most freeing thing ever for this weary heart.  I can face the biggest giant when my Daddy goes before me.

Run, with eyes on Him.

Run — He’s waiting.

Run, oh the joy that is to come.

I woke up with verse 2 of these amazing hymn lyrics written by Edward Mote singing over and over in my soul:

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

 When the darkness is thick,  that’s when His promise and oath to me are the anchor that keeps my little, bobbling ship stayed still, and quiet in the presence of His love.

I’m so thankful that my God is rebuilding this little place I live in.. the book of Hebrews is reminding me: “What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).