let’s communicate for love’s sake

My tongue often reflects my heart.  The Bible tells me that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).  My heart often is self-serving, and my tongue reflects that!  I often write it off, even to myself, with disguises and masks.  Recently, I’ve thought much about difficult conversations that are loving, and why they seem soo difficult to have. We seem to find it way easier with conflicting views to sit far off and throw lashes with our tongues to others who think like us on the topic, or whine and complain to our friends — rather than speaking face to face to HEAR their thoughts and SHARE our thoughts with true love to the one with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  Promoting unity involves honest, real conversations and authentically listening.  Putting my heart out there.  Caring more about true love for all than just “love” of my self.  Selfish-love that worries how I look to others, or critical that the other won’t care about my side of things (and certainly me not caring about their point of view), or worried about how I’ll be perceived…. which actually can’t be love…. cos all that’s fear based. There’s no fear in perfect love.

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Whispering behind backs, blanket statements thrown out there targeted to make someone “hear” me without actually reaching out to them personally, indirect communication and using God to justify “me” and “my” agenda is manipulative… again there’s my fear clinging to a silly control that is really just an illusion, right?

We can’t control others.  And even if we could, would that be love?  I can’t make you hear me, and you can’t make me hear you.  But, true love is the bridge that is only capable of connecting us.  Unifying our hearts.

True love gives a patient ear.  A kind response.  Even if we disagree… love can be kind.

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True love doesn’t brag, protect its ego, or become jealous.  It doesn’t have to win the argument.. it wants to win the trust of the other person.

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True love doesn’t dishonor others.  (Ouch!)  It never shames or disgraces another.

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True love isn’t angered, and it doesn’t make a list of all the wrongs to shake in the face of the other.

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True loves gets excited to share truth!  It doesn’t let things go by that are “not” ok… True love reaches out to restore that which needs a new perspective and breathe new light and hope.  True love confronts when needed, with a beautiful aim to build up.

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True love protects, hopes, keeps going, and trusts God – cos He’s the one actually in control.

True love never fails.  God’s love will never, ever fail us. 

So, you may be like me sometimes, and say… “This is impossible.  You don’t know my situations.  You don’t know how impossible this really is.”

And, you are right.  I don’t know your story, as you don’t know mine.  But, what I do know is that with God… this is possible.  I believe that with all my heart for you and for me.  And, how He shows you will be a miracle designed for you, and it will bring peace to situations that you right now feel like can never be resolved.  The first step is to trust Him.  Trust and obey.  As we know His love, and as we sink deeper and deeper in the vast, overwhelming love of our Father – We know love.  And, as we love others, the love becomes more and more real and known to us.  What a beautiful cycle to be in, right?

Divisiveness destroys, but love restores.  Last time I checked, my God was in the business of restoration.  It’s what He does.  Give it up to Him.  Be brave and kind when you speak up.  Be quiet and still to hear Him.  Reach out and talk to others about conflict and various perspectives.  I can’t know your story, unless you share it. Please be brave, it’s yours, and it’s meant to share. Let’s give each other the opportunity to put one another’s shoes on and walk around a bit.  Unity comes as God fuses us together as one.  One body that represents Him.  His way is vulnerable, honest love and connection… So let’s seek His ways.  Mine don’t always work the best.  😉

Bible References:  I Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4

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Two Kingdoms & Hope For A Weary Heart

img_8382Straddling two kingdoms. Some days I feel my legs stretching into the splits as the crevice between the two grows farther and farther apart in my heart. Looking down and wondering about a free fall. The tears flowing down my face from the pains of this one, while I gaze into the bliss of the other. When will there be no more dying, no more pain, no more ugly… and oh God, I cry out… where is the justice? The windshield wipers clicked back and forth in the rain… I wish I had one for my eyes too. Where is the justice? For children who suffer abuse around our world, for those suffering mental health that are judged and criticized while they are suffocating, for the hurting and the rejected. For the kids who hear whispers behind their back about their clothing, hanging their head in shame.. Don’t you think they wish they had nikes?? Or clean clothes? Don’t you think that they see the differences? Don’t we understand that no matter how tough the exterior is everyone would love a comfy bed like yours or a hot shower in the morning to be a norm? Don’t we know that every soul on this earth is struggling along every day just wanting to know true love… just like me and you?

But, oh the screaming and labeling. The shouting and the angry voices. The fear… the insecurities.

And so where is it that my heart lives? In this struggling, fighting, insecure world? Or does my Saviour invite me to look elsewhere?

Seek His kingdom now. We are in this world… not of this world. My heart is breaking for us as we straddle the two, but oh that we might more and more gain sight of the kingdom He offers!

We must awake all our senses to this gift. Take a deep breath, and inhale the fragrance of His grace. What we don’t deserve, but so freely given. My pastor this past week in his sermon said, “free, not cheap.” No, not cheap – this costly, precious exchange of His life to give us ours with feet set firmly in a new kingdom! May we stretch out our arms and let it flow… We have the opportunity to be the healing hands of Jesus.

For those struggling with mental health who need to be carried!

img_8386For the poor and rejected!

img_8385For the neglected and forgotten!

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For those without a voice!

Aren’t these the ones that Jesus reached out to? Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost.. the broken.. we that are in need?

img_8310Because the kingdom that He invites us to seek.. Oh, my friends! This is the kingdom of a radical Saviour who sees the value of a soul!

It’s a kingdom of hope!

It’s a kingdom of peace!

It’s a kingdom of joy!

It’s a kingdom of love… love that is patient and kind. Love that isn’t selfish or rude, or seeking its own interest. Love that isn’t boastful or conceited. Love that doesn’t get excited over wrongdoing… running in corners to whisper or delight over tragedy. We know the passage.. but do we really sink into the passage? Do we see how God pours out that passage lavishly all over our own lives?

Oh God, Your kingdom, come..

What will your heart given to the complete trust and reign of God look like? Take a minute to ponder that… Seek His kingdom first, Christ says. And all will be added. So, we look at the line we straddle, we lift our eyes up to Him, take a deep breath… and free fall into His love. His kingdom. Every choice, every thought, every talent.. all His. What’s in your life that you can place to use in His kingdom? Why, simply your all. All. All. How shall we walk in one kingdom, and live in another? That’s the miracle He offers us. Seek His heart today. Openly look to Him with eyes afresh and clean…not clogged up by the media, fear, or our own understanding. Lean in; freefall in His love. God will guide you as you navigate this messy world with a pure heart to fight in His kingdom for the news of this love.

For meditation: 1 Cor 13, Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 4:18-19, Matthew 6:33-34

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.

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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

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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

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 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 24, 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.

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.