Day 22 – I am not alone (and neither are you)

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A while ago I was at a women’s conference where we silently shared our cardboard testimonies.  On one side were words describing who they were before Christ and on the other the words describing who they were after.  I knew many of  these women.  I loved them. But there were secrets revealed that day that made me love them even more.  These woman had bravely opened up their souls and with simple words and phrases let friends and strangers see into the crevices of their hearts.  The parts of us that most of us try to hide, sweep under a rug or pretend do not exist – these women boldly shed light on for all to see.

What I noticed most of all was how many of us had the same or similar words.

Fearful.

Insecure.

Angry.

Hurt.

Abandoned.

Lonely.

Some of these same things are words I hid behind for years.  These words which were written on another’s sign pierced through and revealed buried wounds in my own heart.

These wounds were not revealed in such a way that they could hurt me again, but rather they were revealed in the light of sweet sisters that had exactly the same hurt, fear, brokenness I did.  I was reminded once again I am not in this battle alone. And that in confession of the wounds there is room for healing.

Whatever your words are – know that you are not alone in your battles. Someone else has that same struggle, brokenhearted identity, and fear. Those words that you hide behind, sometimes without even knowing, they are not your identity.  The One who sacrificed His life for you has banished all of them for all time.  He longs to change the words that you hide behind and heal your wounds. So speak them out, or write them down, reveal them to another.  You will find that in revealing there is restoration, in confession there is a way made to wholeness and healing.

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I too had a cardboard testimony to share that day.

Insecure.

Fear-Filled.

Searching for an Identity.

Full of Doubt.

Those were my words. By grace, mercy and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit now they have changed.

Secure.

Courageous.

Identity found in Him.

Full of Love.

That day I remembered – I was not alone. And Neither are you.

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1….2…skip a few….Day 21 – It’s in the “little” things

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I’m back….starting the counting again. And will make no excuses for the time skipped. It is what it is.

On my way “off the grid” two weeks ago, I passed a field with beautiful horses. They were grazing on the wild flowers in the pasture, and the sun was setting, and everything about the picture was perfect.

I quietly sighed to myself, “I wish I had a friend who had horses so I could ride and enjoy them once in a while.” I kept driving and didn’t think more about it really.

Less than 12 hours later, I was working on setting up for the weekend and talking to my new friend, Jenn. Somehow the conversation got around to horses and farms. Guess what! Jenn has horses! She works with them all day long at her job!

BAM! Just like that this little tiny whisper of a desire in my heart that even I just barely acknowledged to myself…had been fulfilled. I now had a new friend…who had horses.

It is the “little” things like this that God does that overwhelm my heart constantly. Fulfilling desires that sometimes I didn’t even choose to formally acknowledge, but He knows my inner most parts and His desire is that His daughter knows that she is loved and cherished.

So when the bigger desires plague my mind – A desire for a family member to come back to the Lord, or a desire for a godly man to pursue my heart….when those desires weigh heavy…it is the “little” things that I remember and that encourage me to strive on.

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-photo by Nicole Staples at http://www.thinkdreambelieve.com

Another daughter has gone home….

Heaven gained a saint tonight, one who was world weary, whose earthly body was tired and worn, and who long for Heaven and Home. Yesterday she went to sleep, tonight she woke up in the sweet arms of Jesus. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more worry. Instead she is dancing with angels, organizing the rooms in her mansion, praising Jesus and asking the Father when the rest of us get to join her.
My darling, Cathy, my days without you will never be the same, you brought light and life into my life at the times I needed it most. So sister, daughter, auntie, friend you are loved, missed and treasured.
Rest well my friend, your journey here is done….well done, my friend, well done.

Day 20 – Off the grid

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I am headed off the grid to a spiritual retreat for the weekend. That means that I will not be posting anything till at least Sunday night. (I will still write every day and post those writings later…challenge is still on.)

One of my favorite things about going off the grid is the silence I am able to give my heart. So often the noise of this life is simply overwhelming. Work demands give way to house demands give way to school demands and those demands give way to all of the other things that make up a life: friends, obligations, walking the dog, staying healthy, staying current on the news, checking facebook, updating twitter….etc etc etc. The spiral goes on and on till life is just chaotic and out of control.

Then for a weekend…I get to unplug. I get to leave my phone and computer at home, take off my watch…and simply be. Granted even in this time I will be busy and serving….but I will have opportunities for quiet where I can just sit still and know the presence of the Lord.

I’ve been longing for this weekend….waiting for it….it is finally here….and I am ready.

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Day 19 – short and sweet

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Tonight will be short and sweet! This week is full of preparation. At work I am preparing for an important meeting that happens next week. Working to make sure all the details that the organizer wants are in place while I try to balance all of that with my other responsibilities.
At home I am preparing to serve at a women’s retreat this weekend, and trying to still my heart while making sure my house is in order and my lists are all taken care of before I leave on Thursday night!
What the enemy wants this week is for me to be flustered and crazy. Instead I am learning to lean in to Him for my strength, do my best and know that it will all be done.
So tonight I am headed for bed earlier than I have in weeks. Calmly trusting that tomorrow will take care of itself.
Night peeps!

Day 18 – Somebody prayed for me

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Somebody prayed for me
They had me on their mind
They sacrificed their time
Got down on their knees and prayed for me

They had no doubt 
That God would bring me out
That He would change my life and set me free

I’m so glad that someone prayed for me. 

Those lyrics – which by the way are incredibly, annoyingly Rhymey (if that is not a word  I just made it one) – are on this constant replay in my head the past few weeks.  Just when I think they are out of my head and a new song can take up residence there, someone says something that prompts them to start all over again.

Before the past few weeks I probably had not heard this song in 20 years or so.  Even then, I’m not sure I liked it.

However, as annoying as the rhyme might be, the song holds truth.  It is in that truth that so often I am humbled and overwhelmed.  Someone did, in fact, pray for me.

I have made some pretty dumb choices in this short life of mine. I’ve made choices that one day I may share, and I’ve made choices whose stories will stay dead and buried right where they belong! But somewhere in the midst of those really poor choices – someone was praying for me.

As the the lyrics say ‘They had no doubt that God would bring me out, change my life, and set me free.’

And I am here to tell you, friends, I am free!  I am free from insecurity! Free from the need of someone besides God to give me my identity! I am free from constant worry that I will not have my needs met. Free from addictions that ensnared and free from lies that entangled my soul. I am free!

And when any of the above try to sneak back into my life I live in confidence that someone is praying for me.  That fact, ladies and gentlemen, is enough to push back all sorts of darkness from my heart and mind.

Mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends like family – those of you who have sacrificed sweet moments and precious hours seeking God’s face on my behalf – thank you is not enough for how I feel about your prayers and sacrifice.  Because of you my life is changed for ever.

So even if I think the lyrics are a bit cheesy, and the rhyming parts annoy me as they tumble over and over in the vein of the song that never ends.  I have to grin a little as I get to the end of the day and sing along….I’m so glad that someone prayed for me. 

Day 17 – I stayed put

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A year ago I stayed put.

Unbeknownst to most reading this blog last year around this time I had done some pretty extensive interviewing for jobs in Alaska. I was ready to get out of here and find some adventure. I am young, unattached, had very few true ties to this place so why not just get the heck out of Dodge?

Just as I was ready to make that decision I caught a glimmer of hope that Dallas really did have what I had been looking for all along – community.

Don’t get me wrong here – I love Texas. I have always loved Texas. It is my stateside home.I have the accent, boots and love of country music, longhorns, and cowboys to prove it. But while I enjoyed living here I just could never seem to find the right group of people that worked for me.

Part of the reason for my discontent was self imposed. I moved to Dallas with a pretty unhealthy outlook on my life. My world was full of co-dependent relationships where people sucked the life out of me like a vampire does its prey, then moved on when I had nothing left to give. The cycle continued as when I found a healthy friendship I had no idea how to handle it but to cling to it for all I was worth. I found my identity in who liked me that day and what group I hung out with.

The problem was, I was always in the outer circle. No matter how badly I wanted in, I found myself constantly left out. And I tried, believe me I tried. My heart aches at all of the silly, insincere, prideful ways that I tried.

When I finally saw the cycle of unhealthy for what it was I once and for all put a stop to it. I got rid of some friendships. Shut them down pretty solid. I found my true identity in Christ and anything else outside of that identity had no influence on my self worth. Yet still I struggled for community. Due to how I had been wounded before, I was gun shy. While still outgoing in personality, I was guarded in Spirit.

Then a funny thing happened. The more genuine I became, the more I began to make genuine friends. Funny how that happens, huh? The less I tried to impress people with my “godliness” and instead I showed my weakness and flaws the more that they surrounded me, became my friends, and loved on me. Not one of them was sucking the life out of me…rather they were giving life too me…and I, in turn, had life to give back!

Tonight as I sat in church, I reflected back on this past year and all that has changed. Instead of selling it all and moving, I bought a home and settled in. Instead of trying to fit in, hoping to have friends, I am surrounded by sweet friends…..brothers and sisters that truly love me and care about my life, my soul and my walk with Christ. They call me out on my stuff and put me in my place, and they hold me in their arms and pray with me when my insecurities overwhelm me. And I do the same for them. We do life together (I’d heard about this for so long but so did not understand what it really meant.) We laugh, we cry, we tell stories, we cook each other dinner, and help provide for each others needs.

When I travel (as I will always be wont to do) I get to come home to them.

A year ago I stayed put. I’m so glad I did.

My answers to prayer

My answers to prayer

Day 16 – My Only Enemy

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What a week this has been – every day it seems been something tragic has filled the airwaves.  Yesterday I watched with fascination at the events unfolding surrounding the capture of one 19 year old kid.  A city shut down and thousands of law enforcement on the search, and the nations glued to the coverage.

At the end of the day they got him. And rejoicing was everywhere.  People rushed the streets in fanfare.  Twitter and Facebook blew up with shouts of gladness and praise that the enemy had been captured.

And I was quiet.

I was happy that he had been found, and the people of Boston could rest soundly that night.  I was thankful, so incredibly thankful for the men and women who had worked tirelessly to find him. However, at the end of those thoughts my heart was sad for this young man and his brother.  I know I just made a lot of people angry with that statement but it is an honest one.  My heart was sad that at some point they had both chosen a path of destruction and evil rather than a path of life.  They had been fed lies and believed them enough that they took action – action that took lives and wounded people, a city and a nation. I believe this was wrong and I believe that the one captured should face consequences that are due to him for these actions.  But I cannot – will not – call this man my enemy.  And I will not rejoice in the destruction of his life.

As a believer in Christ – I have but one enemy.  Scripture teaches me that I “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  It also teaches that but for God’s grace and God’s grace alone I could have been one of those boys. I could have been raised to believe that a nation was my enemy. I could have been taught that the only way to defeat this enemy was to strike terror and mayhem into the hearts of its people.  I could have been told that if I was brave, if I was a true soldier, I would help destroy these enemies and conquer these people.  By God’s grace I was not.

I find that often as Christians (and my finger is pointing right to my own face first here) we listen to the testimonies of completely transformed lives in awe and wonderment, yet don’t believe that it can be the same for others.  The stripper who walked off stage for good, renounced her old life and gave it to Christ; the murderer who took lives without a thought,  found Christ and now leads worship in prison while he sits on death row; the man who beat his wife daily, who came to Christ and now honors her with his every breath; the married couple who divorced due to adultery and then found Christ and each other all over again; the church goer who stopped playing at the hobby of Christianity and now walks in a life thoroughly transformed by the gospel.  YES and AMEN! We as Christians rejoice for “one who was lost, and is now found.”  We look on the beautiful thing that God has done and clap and shout and dance, and yet in looking at the beauty we often forget what their (our) lives looked like before the Hope that is Christ entered in.

How often do we walk out of a service where we have listened to such a story and condemn the next person we see that walks in a life that they once lived?  I do it all the time!  I rejoice in the story of redemption, but I forget the work that it took to get there. I forget that in order to have come to this monumental life change Christ had to die, and someone had to love them enough to share the life changing Gospel of Christ with them!  Meanwhile I stood on the corner in my pretty church clothes and judged who they were.

Someone, somewhere prayed for that stripper, murderer, wife beater, divorced couple, and church goer.  Someone cried out daily for them. Tears of anguish were wept as a friend or family member looked at the lives they were leading and thought that all was lost.  Despair set in that this is how they would be and they would never change, but they kept praying. They kept praying because they knew deep down that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”  They knew that the one and only enemy of this world had fed lies that were believed and that same enemy had a hold on the souls of those that they loved.  They also knew that that enemy has already been defeated by a crucified Christ and with that Hope they kept praying through their defeat and dispair.  Because of those prayers and sacrifices the stripper is now a teacher, the murdered now a worship pastor, the wife beater an encourager, the divorced couple remarried and the hobby christian now sold out to Christ.

So today, I will take up that charge for this young man.  While a nation hates him I will pray for him. I will pray that somehow someone will show him the Truth of the gospel.  That he will understand the grace, mercy and love of Christ for his life and that he too only has one enemy.  I realized that I may lose friends over this stance and I may even find those who will hate me because of it, but in my heart I know I must. I will pray for this man’s salvation.

I am not asking that he does not face consequences for his actions. I believe in the justice system and that he should have to pay. I am not belittling the crime that was committed, the lives lost and the lives destroyed because of what he has done.  My heart is broken for those who lost their lives, and I have spent this entire week praying for the people of Boston, and I will not stop praying for them!  When the camera crews go home and there is new “breaking news”, when people have moved on, I will still weep with those who have been left to clean up the destruction, and for those who will never recover from this seemingly senseless tragedy.  For all of those I mourn and pray.  As I wrote earlier this week, my heart’s cry is that those whose worlds have been rocked by this week’s events will come to know the One who is Hope.

But for this young man, too, I will pray. Except for God’s grace – I am he…and my heart’s cry is that someone would do the same for me.

Matt 5-44

Day 15 – Putting it all together

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I’m sitting here looking at 2 couches, a side table in the middle of my living room that I am not sure what to do with…down the hall is an office that is in complete chaos, and upstairs is a bedroom that has the basics but has yet to be “mine.” In the midst of it all I’m going crazy!

And then I breathe, and I remember that I am blessed enough to own this chaos!  And I know that slowly but surely it will all come together and be organized. I will find the right pieces here and there, I will paint a wall or two (or pay to have them painted), I will buy a lamp and hang some artwork, and it will become mine.

Life is a lot that way.  It transitions and moves and gets cluttered and disorganized.  But then you take a moment, you shift things around, clear out the clutter of your mind, place memories on the shelves where they belong, and you hang the beauty of the world around you like artwork on the walls of your soul.

Slowly but surely you make sense of the chaos and put it all together.

Day 14 – Brokenhearted

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I had written a glib little piece for Day 14, full of fun and silliness and the things that filled up my day.  But I could not hit publish for some reason.  So I didn’t.

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Then I saw the news.  A fertilizer plant in West, Texas had blown and had taken out everything in its path for miles around. I just sat and watched the coverage of this tragedy where even the reporters just had no idea what to say and the anchors were choking up in tears.

I closed my computer and decided day 14 would have to wait. I had no words.

My heart – almost numb at this point just said “Why God? Why?”  And then I got mad.  I got mad because I knew that this would turn into a political things somehow. I got mad because I knew that jokes would come. I got mad because people were hurt for no good reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got mad because I knew that people would rush to help for the sake of their own prideful “look at me I’m helping” and not to actually help at all. I got mad at myself for having any and all of those judgmental, harsh thoughts. I got mad because all of the happenings of this week seem so completely senseless to me.  But mostly I got mad because everything in my world just seems to be in total chaos right now!

I wanted to write something fun and glib and silly, and yet day after day my heart is inundated with the horrors of this world – cancer, bombs, rape, murder, abused children, and tragic accidents. How do you write a funny story after being faced with these things all day. Yet – I really don’t want this blog to just be day after day of Debbie downer.

Then I turned to the scriptures and let the words wash over me.  I “am not as those who have no HOPE”.  (1 Thessalonians 4:13) I “KNOW that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25)!  I KNOW THIS! AND in my faith I also know that I serve One to whom none of these tragedies are a shock or surprise.  All are things that He could have stopped from happening – and He didn’t and I don’t know why.  But what I do know is this – He is big enough to handle my anger, my tears, my anxiety, my fears and my questioning.  He has called me to constant communication with Him, and sometimes that communication is just asking why over and over. And I know that this is okay. I also know, as I said on Day 11, He sees a bigger picture. He knows what He is about, and somehow in the tragedy of it all it is still for our good and His glory.  I don’t get it, but I trust it – because He has proven faithful since the beginning of time.

So today, I sit in heaviness, brokenhearted.  And tomorrow, I might sit there too.  This blog may be days or weeks of posts of how I am just leaning in, trusting that His promises are faithful and found complete in Christ, and a place in which I work out my faith.  I hope that somehow in it – you find comfort and you find Hope.  Or you may stop reading it all together and that is okay too. My prayer is that somehow in the midst of all of this you find that you are not alone and that there is Hope found in Him.

So, blog #14 will not be glib and silly – today I am brokenhearted – crying out “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Come!”