To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Emma Jane

Today as we continue our series, To A Wild Rose, I want you to meet my friend Emma.  I’ve known this curly-headed, inspiring brunette since she was 5 years old, and I’ve watched her grow into a young woman who challenges my heart to love strong and always stay careful of complacency. Her mother,who shined so bright in Jesus, went to her eternal home in 2011, and Emma continues Jamie’s legacy by singing of the Love that endures forever.  Emma is big sis to four little sisters, completing her senior year of high school, is quite the musical gal (sings, plays piano and ukulele, songwriter, etc..) and is in prayer as she chooses the direction for her life this next year.  Read the words from the heart of a courageous young lady.  

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Those of you who know me are well acquainted with my thought-pattern or lack thereof. It’s mildly hilarious considering how hard I try to be a writer.  All I ask is that you read to the end. I promise it’ll make sense (hopefully).

I am not a gardener for sure, but I have always loved plants. Cacti especially. Momma was never a gardener either….. I was blessed with a jack-of-all-trades for a dad. Most every year, we had a gigantic garden. Even though I complained about working it, I loved every minute I spent with my parents out in the sweltering heat. I learned a lot about plants over those summers in the dirt from my daddy. I love how God gives us real-life examples of aspects of our walk with Him.

Roots are extremely important to a plant. They are the source of life.

They soak up all the goodness that the plant needs to flourish, and they offer protection. A tree with deep roots is going to be harder to blow over than a tree with immature, weak roots.

roots

In June, I was uprooted from my comfortable home and thrown out into a new church, new school, new life. These past six months have revealed my strengths and weakness like no other trial in my entire life. I have spent days and nights crying out to God, in desperation when I see all that I am missing out on. I have spent long evenings, dancing on the dock in front of a glorious sunset, praising my Creator for this great love He lavishes upon me. I have been taking care of my roots, so to speak. Through this trial, I have been seeking God. It is not always easy, In fact, it’s never easy. I constantly pray that God instills a desire for deeper roots. Through all of this, I am reminded of how easy it is to fall into “surfacey Christianity.” We go to church, post inspirational Jesus quotes, and try to be decent people. Beloved, we are so deceived! Relationship with God is so much more than these. When God draws us, He woos us with His love. He courts us, and calls us into this divine covenant with Him where we offer ourselves, ugly, broken, hurt, and confused.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called His children – 1 John 3:1

blog-rose-emma

This love is my comfort. This love is my hope. I feel like I spend way too much time missing things that often I fail to appreciate and love the present. In the midst of my hurt and confusion, God is God, and He is GOOD. He wants more than anything for us to be pulled deeper into a loving relationship with Him. So spend some time with Him today. Let your roots go deep, so you can withstand the crazy stuff life throws at us.

He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit – Jeremiah 17:8

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Emotions, Memes, and Three Treasures of Joy

screemI’m perusing Facebook, when BAM! There it is.  A cleverly worded meme, complete with lovely background image, and 782 previous shares telling us of its validity.  “You choose happiness today! You have no one to blame but yourself! Happiness is a daily choice!” You’ve probably seen them too, maybe even shared them, or created them in a loving attempt to encourage and recreate your journey to help others. But I’d like to share a perspective from my heart, and I hope it speaks to yours.

First, a thought on happiness.  Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. An instinctive God-given gift to us as a result of thinking patterns, hormones, core beliefs, and experiences.

Emotion is defined by Webster’s in this way: /əˈmōSH(ə)n/ “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”  

This tells me:

Emotions are real.  

Emotions are necessary.

Emotions are a natural response.

We can work to control our thoughts and help guide our emotions, but we cannot control our emotions themselves. They are a response, like pain receptors in our physical body that tell us when we touch the curling iron, “Watch out! That’s hot! It will burn you!” Our emotions work the same way. Anger, used in a good way, can help us allocate justice when things aren’t fair. Sadness helps us grieve when we’re lost in this tired, difficult world. Happiness helps us celebrate the good, wonderful things in our lives. Like it or not, all of our emotions are gifts that work for us. God gave us this marvelous way to guide us in our soul journeys.FullSizeRender (60)-001

Personally, when I see cleverly worded memes that tell me to “Choose Happy Today,” I’m brought back to some of my
darkest hours. Days that were rugged and broken, when legitimately sad things were happening. Days when, on top of the emotions I was experiencing, I added on shame. Shame that told me I wasn’t a good enough person, or that something was wrong when I couldn’t shake the sad feelings and trade them for the happy. I wore a smile, and tried to ignore the looming sadness. But I needed the sadness. I needed to allow myself to wash and splash some of the pain and loss down my face with cleansing tears. I needed the sadness to help me process the sad things I was experiencing so I could move forward. Through the support of loved ones, and God’s grace-filled guidance, that happened for me during those days.

Maybe today you’re in that place. Life can be such a struggle. Emotions surge high and crash low, and sometimes, if we battle against them instead of leaning into them, they seem to overtake us. And maybe like me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the storm of struggle. As we identify and acknowledge the need to sort through our feelings, we can begin to look at what’s at the core. And yes, vulnerability and being real with oneself can take courage, but the freedom is glorious as we lay bare before our Father, sharing our deepest pains, our greatest fears, and even our happiest moments. We are created to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) so please reach out, my friend. You were not made to walk alone. Sometimes this process will show you the need for help from friends, family, counseling, mentoring, loving groups, and maybe medical professionals. Please don’t be ashamed! Support is one thing we all can share with one another. One of the most freeing things ever spoken to me was, “Just take the next right step. That’s all you need to do.”

sunsetcaymanHappiness is an emotion that is so pleasant to have. I mean, who doesn’t like good things felt and experienced? But even on days when I’m feeling the loss, fear, or hurt that some experiences afford, and happiness is far away, precious joy is always there. I’m so grateful that I can trade my shiney, “perfect” mask for vulnerable, honest, real me resting in each step found in my Saviour’s care.  Not me choosing to be happy…. Joy finding me.  Joy that helps me see these emotions as gifts, and offer them up to God to discover how I can grow as I acknowledge His design in emotions for me.  

Three special ways that joy has impacted me through my journeys:

1) Joy has given me tranquility.

A contentedness that sings to my soul, “All is well.” Storms come and go, that is assured, but His love is always with me. Where He has me today, I can be assured His grace is with me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

The waves can’t drown me, for He is holding me.  Even when I can’t feel it, He is there.

2) Joy has given me freedom from guilt and shame.

I fail, and I grow weak. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I can’t be all things at all times, and I have loads of limitations. And that’s ok.  Because, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Praise God, I don’t rely on me; my hope is in Him.

3) Joy has given me deep, deep delight, and pleasure indescribable.

The more I see His love for me, the more I rest in Him, and the more I experience His love in the most secret places of my heart, the more deeply I delight in every moment I have to know Him.  The darkest days are easier to face as I feel the close presence of my Saviour.  “And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I can’t explain it all, but my heart knows well His Love.steppingstones

Friend, you are on my heart today.  Don’t let the weight of those cleverly worded memes, or your own fears keep you from reaching out and working through your experiences today.  Emotions are a gift, and a signal that attention is needed. Find the precious joy of steadfast tranquility, freedom from guilt, and deep, powerful pleasure as you embrace this journey.

 

All you have to do in this moment is take the next right step.  

If you are reading this, and need help right now, or have had thoughts of complete hopelessness, please reach out. Call a loved one, or one of the confidential contacts listed below. You are loved, and there are many who want to share your burdens, just as many of us have had our burdens shared.

To Write Love on Her Arms

https://twloha.com/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

National Child Abuse Hotline

1 (800) 442-4453

National Domestic Abuse Hotline

1 (800)799-7233

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

1 (800)656-HOPE

acceptance

father-son-walking“Acceptance: receiving another person willingly and unconditionally; being willing to love another in spite of offenses.”

Acceptance.  Wow.  What does it mean to feel accepted?  This need of ours as human, emotional beings is majorly overlooked in the daily forefront of our minds, yet there it is… not just a desire to feel accepted, but a need to be accepted.

Maybe one of the reasons that we often starve, and hurt inside for this need is how we view ourselves, and those around us. We feel rejected, criticized, and often live under the weight of trying to impress others with our intelligence, works, education, money, and even how effectively we relate to others, all to gain something to feed this hunger for others to accept who we are. We toil daily under a weight of the fear of rejection, and we put on masks so that others will accept us.  And, oh my, the need of acceptance can NEVER be met by someone accepting us for the mask we wear, because that deep, down need will never be met when we know really it’s only the mask they approve of… our courage to be vulnerable is squashed as we fear others seeing the true “me.”  And, maybe this all stems from a mis-interpretation, I think, of how we receive one another, and even how we receive our own selves.  We often place our approval ratings on what we can accomplish, and not simply who we are.  And, yes, there is a difference.

We have learned in our culture to be human-doings rather than human-beings. What about a busy, vibrant young mother who finds herself with a debilitating disease?  She cannot care for her children in the same way as before, and even herself.  Has her value changed because she cannot “do” anymore?  Then, there is our dear friend, who is an older veteran who served his country with passion and protection.  He now is seeing the sunset of life, and is confined to a chair, communication even difficult for him.  Is his value different than in the years before? When we think about examples like these, it is easy for us to see the answer!  It makes it so clear.  Of course, the value is not determined by what they do! What about the weak, strong, blind, young, old, prideful, rich, poor, crippled, athletic, homeless, well-spoken…?  What about me, what about you?  Is our value placed within the external acts? All human life has its worth determined by our Maker.  Our worth is not diminished or increased by what we do (or don’t do!), it is simply who we are.

We can accept one another, not because the other gets it right, or wrong in our view.  And, we can even accept ourselves because we meet all the criteria necessary to be “ok.”  We are accepted because we are an amazing creation.  Made in the image of God! Eternal beings that are a miracle from conception!  You were never an accident, and your very breath was breathed into you by an all-powerful God with purpose!  Wow!  I don’t have to jump through your hoops, or ring my bells just right to be accepted.

Accepting one another may look like, “You might make mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a mistake!  Your wrong behavior doesn’t make you wrong, my friend.  Let me walk beside you, and help change behaviors that are hurtful for you.”

“Even though you’re not perfect, I’m not either – we are in this together!  The welcome mat is still out for you.”

“We might disagree, but that doesn’t change how valuable you are, and how important it is to hear what you have to say.”

“You don’t have to do anything for me know that you are valuable.  You are.  Just as you are.”

Giving a sense of consistency in your care for them – “I’m in this for the long haul!  Ups and downs!”

Sometimes we might see the need for acceptance met in unhealthy ways, such as gangs, cults, or maybe as we see in all of us, the propensity to “group thought,” rather than knowing our own core, personal thoughts and beliefs with the freedom to be ourselves. silhouette-of-sitting-man-looking-at-the-sunset-and-the-moon

Who meets your need for acceptance today?  Is it even being met, or do you feel the pangs of starvation?  Is it met in an unhealthy way by those who aren’t really nourishing your soul?

It’s our job to find ways to meet these needs in our own lives.  Just like it’s my job to drink up on the H2o, we have to own this need, and look for the people in our lives that can meet this need, and fill up a bit of our accepted tank.

And, as an important side note, remember our little ones.  We do have the responsibility to meet this need in their lives.  Just as a two year old won’t be able to meet her needs of nutrition for her growth, she also doesn’t have the means or ability to find ways to meet this need for acceptance.  And, it is oh-so important for our littles.  What an honor that we can serve our little ones in this vital way!

Let’s remind ourselves and others; We aren’t production machines whose value is placed by performance.  Our worth has been determined and set by our Maker.

So, who can we offer the gift of acceptance to today, and how can we care for this need in our own life?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for joining the conversation! This is the second post from this series of talking about our human basic emotional needs.

References:

Some of the concepts discussed were taken from writing by the Center for Relational Care, Robert McGee, Abraham Maslow, and more. Bible verses; Psalm 139:13-16, Romans 8:32, 1 Samuel 16:7, 1 John 3:16-17, Genesis 1:27-28, Colossians 3:12-14.

the possibilities

The reminder started yesterday…

…whilst I was at my sister’s house, with lovely women buzzing around me — singing, sweeping, cleaning, and dancing (to some groovin’ tunes) as we worked together. Julie’s cutesy twin daughter’s were watching a video, and the song, “I Am A Promise” started to play… A simple song.  An old song.  “I am a promise, I am a possibility, I am a promise with a capital “P”! I am a great big bundle of potentiality!”IMG_2670

Little children’s faces started flashing across my mind… faces with chocolate stains, faces with snot crusted and dried on, laughing faces, and the big, gummy, no-teeth grins.  Faces that have little legs dancing under them, and faces with tears flowing down their cheeks.  Unborn faces that I see on the ultrasound screen wiggling, and waving.  Faces of all colors, shapes, and sizes.  Faces of hope.  I saw faces of “bigger” kids… the man who calls the street his only home, the boy who just received his first paycheck, the girl who dreads school because of the ridicule she feels, the man who completes his first original song, the woman who cries alone in the motel feeling she has no choice but to sell herself to survive. The elderly woman, who opens a knock on her door excited to see her grandson. The angry man, who no matter how hard he tries, falls again into an outburst — shackled by insecurity.  The happy couple that just had news of their first child.

Faces.  The faces of promise.  The faces of possibilities.

Your faces.  My face.

This day is new for you!  In the words of Jon Foreman, “Are you who you want to be?”  Dare to move!  Dare to work through whatever it is you face that keeps you from who you are created to be. Rejoice in the beauties, and know that the dark days are not forever. Don’t believe, or despair that your low point today will be the same low point tomorrow, and that you can never change. The possibilities are there.  The promises are there.  You are so uniquely created, by our loving Father.  Reach for Him.  Just one step at a time, my friend.

FullSizeRender (30)The growing process is slow… Be patient with yourself.  Your Father is!  Be kind to yourself, and don’t give up.  Screw up?  Pick yourself up, and reach for Him. Dig down deep, and grab hold of those things He has given in your care, and look to Him as your source of strength.  Even though this world around us sometimes swirls fiercely, He remains the same.  His love is steady, and His ways peace-filled.

You are full of potentiality!  You are made in the image of God, and He has plans for you.  Good plans!  You are a miracle. You!  An awe-inspiring miracle, uniquely designed, and wonderfully made by God!

(And, so is that person sitting next to you… so, treat them accordingly, too… but, that’s a whole another blog post.  😉 )

I’m a big fan of yours!  But, most importantly… your Father is.

 “You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”  Psalm 16:11

change (and a challenge for you to share with me….)

Well, if you know me, you know that I can be indecisive at times (slight understatement you might say…) So, I could not decide whether this post should be called change or challenge.  I finally decided of the two terms to communicate, change was a bit more palatable, but I had to throw in the word challenge too.  Cos it just fits.

Let me clarify… this blog is about my favorite things, yet change is not always a favorite thing.  Psychology has proven that change is actually one of the most difficult things for us to process and walk through.  In short:  Change, for the most part, is not easily done.  Yet, I list change as one of my favorite things, simply because I am not content to stay who I am today — I want to think wiser, care deeper, and love harder tomorrow. Joani does not always think wise, care deep, and love right.  In fact, so often I fail to look much like my Father at all… and it hurts me when I think about His amazing love and grace for me.  What about you?   The only way for us to know Him and to make Him known more each day happens with a change.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2).

So, now to the challenge that you can share with me:

I have recently been reading a little book called, “Found: God’s Will” by John MacArthur.  In this book he recommends a plan of 30 days reading over and over and over in a row a passage of scripture.  Normally, my reading routine is somewhat different than this, but I like his idea of “saturating” ourselves with one passage — he began with the book of 1 John.  My passage is going to be the book of Colossians… once a day.  I really look forward to seeing how many little details come alive for me.  You know how it is when you watch a movie many times, and each time you say, “Wow!  I never noticed *insert some little detail you did not see*” — The movie sometimes makes more sense, and you also realize the brilliance of the intricate writing style.

Are you ready?

Get excited with me over this challenge, and the little treasured details we will see!  Join me, and enjoy this challenge that will help us daily change!

PS:  Since I have had my blog now one year, I decided to do a facelift.  (…and in honor of change.) 😉  Thanks for reading my friends!