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!

Anticipate

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

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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?”

————————————————————————–

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).

tears & smiles — guest post

The following is a guest post from my niece Abigail McBride.  The best word I can use to describe Abby is real. She is purely authentic and shares her love with a pure vulnerability. Because of that quality she is one of the most inspiring, strong women I have the privilege of knowing.  When I falter in my faith, I see clearly the strength of my God by seeing His light transparently in her life.. I do not take it lightly that she gives us the opportunity to peer into her soul, and I’m so grateful for a heart that desires to share a message of hope for those of you who might be reading and can find encouragement for your own grieving heart.  

 

Funeral home.

Burial.

Memorial service arrangements.

These are things no 20 year old should have to hear, especially when it’s referring to her husband.

But I did. I heard them, deep down in my soul. I heard the phone call, telling me that I needed to get to the hospital. I heard them tell me that he didn’t make it. I heard them tell me that they had done everything they could. I heard them ask me if I was ready to see him. I heard Liam fussing in the background because he was hungry. But I didn’t feel much of anything. Numbness. The kind that takes over your mind body and soul, trying to desperately shield you from the reality of what you’re facing.

I remember walking in, getting the news. And the only thing I could say was “No”. No this isn’t real. No this isn’t happening. No, no, no. Because, you see. We had plans. Great big beautiful plans. Plans for us, for our house, for our children, for life. But in an instant it was like our plans had never been dreamed. They were just a memory. MY plans. MY life. MY future. And it was all gone. In just an instant.

I walked in and saw him, laying there. He looked so childlike, so innocent and so completely peaceful. I was jealous. I walked in and knelt beside his bed and wrapped my arms around him. I can’t describe what came next, I was immediately calm. I breathed him in. Tracing my fingers over his face. He was with Jesus. I knew that. He was happy. I knew that. He was whole. I knew that. He was complete. I knew that. And somewhere deep inside me I heard a voice say “Abigail, don’t push God away. He is the only one who can get you through this.” Call me crazy, but I know that was from Jonathan. Because in life, he always pushed me closer to Christ. So why wouldn’t, in death, he do the same?

Am I telling you that I haven’t yelled at God? That I haven’t screamed into my pillow in complete despair? Am I telling you that I heard that voice and said “okay God, I’m good. You’re right. I’m fine. This isn’t so bad. This doesn’t hurt like hell. I’m okay with this.” No. It hurts. More than anything, it has completely shaken me to the core. I want MY plans to go back to the way I wanted them. The way WE planned them. I look into my son’s face and I see a little boy who won’t remember his daddy. He won’t remember the bond they had, how he would scream with delight when he saw Jonathan walk through the door. He won’t remember their bedtime stories, their nightly prayers, or going on walks outside. He won’t remember the pride and joy that Jonathan had for him, the look of complete love that he had every time he got to say “this is my son, Liam”. But I remember, and I can’t wait to tell Liam. He loved this little boy so tenderly and strongly at the same time.

I have chosen to put my future in Gods hands. I know his plan is greater than I can imagine. I know he cries when I cry and his heart hurts as mine does. I know he wants his very best for me. I know that he gave me Jonathan for a reason. And now, he’s gone for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is. I know he sees Liam and that he’s going to provide for him. In every area. We don’t always understand why life happens the way it does. And it hurts. It’s incredibly hard to be human. It’s hard to love someone and then have them taken away. It’s hard knowing that you’re going have to explain to a little boy one day why his Daddy isn’t here.

My comfort is found in God. And in remembering Jonathan as a man of God, my best friend, my love, the father of my son. A man who accepted me for who I was. A man who had a servants heart. A man who loved like Jesus did. Jonathan set my standards so high. I know how a man should treat his wife. I know how a man should love his family. I know how a man should treat his children. I know how a man should work. But most of all, I know how a man should love God fiercely. I will continue to thank God for giving me Jonathan, even if it was just for a little while.

I’m not here to preach to you about how when you follow God that it’s going to be a rose garden. It just not that way. There are trials. Trials that make you want to run and hide. But I can tell you this in full confidence. MY God will carry you through. MY God will give you strength you never knew was possible. He gathers up the broken pieces and creates something beautiful, not perfect, and not what you had before. Something different, something  that you look at and say “Only God could have done this.” Because, truly. Only he can take the broken and make it whole. The wounded and make them well. The tears and make them smiles.

I can smile because I know that Jonathan is whole and with Jesus. I can smile because he loved me and Liam. I can smile because Jesus promises me that one day I will see Jonathan again. Until that day, I can smile knowing that more than anything, that’s what Jonathan wanted for me.

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28, (ESV)

abby2

words that remind us

harpA few years ago a friend sent me these timely words that were written many years ago.  I remember staring at my screen in silence, tears falling as I peered over the words – praying for the depth of the message to nestle into my heavy heart. My life has not been a stranger to the face of pain, as I know you also face your own battles in this world, My Friend. Hold fast today. Share hope. Take moments to rest.  Breathe freedom. Speak words of Life to each other every chance you get. I’m so grateful for little reminders like these that speak great faith to my life!

“We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which his vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights.”

-C. H. Spurgeon