With These Broken Wings

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I do not respond well to rude or arrogant men. I do not respond well to anything that I interpret as rude, arrogant or controlling especially if it’s a man that displays it. I am not a man hater, nor am I a feminazi. My reactions stem from my experiences with men who repeatedly did not act as a man should.

I grew up with a single mom. My biological father abandoned us when I was only two. When I was three years old, my mother married the man I called “daddy”. For four years I felt the most love and security I have ever known. God blessed me with a man who chose to raise me as his own child even though we had no genetic ties. I firmly believe it’s the reason I love so many children as as if they were my flesh and blood. But my daddy died. And I spent the remainder of my childhood and teenage years being raised by a single mom.

I grew up around alcoholics and abusive men. One of these men screamed at me so much that I vomited. Another took me into a room, turned the lights off and started yelling just to scare me because he knew I was afraid of the dark. I never had a male teacher that I liked or respected. To this day I struggle with male authority because I am simply inexperienced with it.

After my daddy died I longed to feel loved and secure again. My mom did her best and she worked hard to provide for us. I know she loved me and she made a lot of sacrifices for me. She’s the reason I have the strength to persevere through the trials I face as a single mom. But she couldn’t replace the love I lost. She couldn’t give me the amount of love two parents give. After all, that’s humanly impossible. So when I became a teenager I chased after that love through boys and dating relationships.

Most boys I had crushes on didn’t give me the time of day. The ones who did tended to be trouble with a capital T. My senior year, I was blessed to meet a young man who became my boyfriend all through college. He was funny, kind, loving and very protective. He definitely seem to be the answer to what I had been missing. But we were young, immature and hadn’t the first clue on how to make a relationship work. Our relationship eventually ended based on the decision that we were better off friends than in a romantic relationship. When it ended, the void began again.

Over the next few years I found myself drawn to men who had zero desire of settling down and making an actual commitment. They were mostly looking for a woman who wanted to party in various forms. Time and time again I was left disappointed and feeling undesirable. Yet I kept chasing after this desire to be chosen. I defined my self worth based on whether a man would choose me or not. Because I was rarely chosen, I convinced myself I had no value.

Since that college relationship, I’ve had two other long term relationships. One produced my two children. The other occurred a few years ago. Neither filled the void, made me feel loved or protected. Both brought more insecurity than I was able to handle. One was dangerously toxic and consisted of years of being emotionally torn down. The other should’ve never happened because I was incredibly broken and hadn’t even begun healing from the first one. A bird who tries to fly again with broken wings only ends up hurting itself more. That’s exactly what happened in the latter relationship.

Bitterness engulfed my heart like a neglected garden overtaken by weeds. I grew critical and more distrusting of men. I closed myself off to dating. To be honest, I also had some very angry moments with God. Many times I asked God what I did wrong to deserve such maltreatment. After all, suffering can be the result of our own mishaps. But it can also be something that God allows to happen or even brings upon us as part of His refinement process.

Through the years God has tugged at me to begin the healing process. That starts with laying down my brokenness and surrendering my past completely to Him. That is not an easy thing to do. As exhausting as it is to carry around heavy burdens, they’re a constant reminder to stay guarded and work as a shield to keep me from getting hurt or broken again. But God won’t heal me if I’m not willing to tear down the wall and lay my burdens down. He beckons all of us to come to Him, weary and heavy laden, and promises to give us rest. (Matthew 11:28).

Another part of the healing process is confessing my bitter heart and choosing to forgive those who have wounded me. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to forgive the man who abandoned me or the one who yelled at me. I certainly don’t want to forgive the one who cheated, the one who lied, or the one who was only interested in me for “one thing.” I don’t want to forgive the one who continues to text me harassing messages and just recently admitted to “hating my guts”. But want to and have to are two different things. I don’t want to forgive them but God tells me I have to. Not for their sake, I have to forgive them for my own. I also have to forgive them as an act of obedience to God. (Ephesians 4:31-32.) Right now I’m at the stage where I can confess my unforgiving heart and seek God’s help in changing my desire to choose forgiveness.

Once I choose to lay my past down and practice forgiveness, I then have to face my fear of getting hurt once again. This doesn’t mean I start chasing after relationships or become a serial dater. This means I seek discernment in establishing healthy friendships and even professional relationships with men. This also means learning to understand and decipher how men communicate to avoid becoming easily defensive or even shutting down. Too often I’ve assumed the man I think is offending me is like the others from my past. Eventually, God willing, it will mean opening my heart up to the man He will send me who will choose to love, respect and protect me. If that happens, it also means not punishing this man for the mistakes of those from my past.

Lastly-and this one is key-God has been teaching me that no human being, male or female, parent or spouse, can provide the love and protection I truly desire. He is the only One who can. (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 31:6) No one I chase, nothing I seek comfort in will ever fill the void I have like Jesus can. Chasing after anything or anyone else is idolatry and God

refuses to have any other gods before Him. (Exodus 20:3)

When a bird breaks its wings, the wings can be immobilized and the bird is ground bound. Although tying the bird’s wings down keeps the bird’s travel abilities restricted, its a necessary part of the healing process. When the wings are healed, the restriction is lifted and the bird can soar once again. When the human heart is broken it becomes immobilized too. It can shut down and even become paralyzed,metaphorically speaking. It’s in these moments we need to allow God to wrap Himself around us and heal us from the inside out. His healing brings wholeness, renews our spirits and strengthens us to soar on wings like eagles.

Currently, my heart is still immobilized because I have chosen the path of self healing instead of walking through the process God’s way. He remains faithful though. He has sent me a handful of kind, godly and selfless male friends who have been encouragers, and helpers. He even blessed me with an older gentleman who treats me like one of his own children teaching me how a man should father a daughter. God never ceases to awe me that’s for sure.

Has your heart been broken? Do you feel crushed? Have you been abused or treated harshly? Do you struggle with relationships with the opposite sex? Are you longing for the freedom of walking in His healing power? Is your past keeping you bitter? Is fear holding you back from letting go or choosing forgiveness? Take a step toward the healing process by simply confessing to God exactly where your heart is, admitting to carrying around old wounds and trust Him to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Do You Miss Him or Are You Just Lonely?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

***This post is for every woman who finds herself pining away for the man who broke her heart or simply wasn’t her Mr. Right.***

When you first met him he seemed like everything you had been praying for.  Maybe he was charming, maybe affectionate, maybe he studied the bible, or maybe he just said all the right things.  Whatever he was displaying, you fell quickly and you fell hard.  In a few short moments, you found yourself head over heels in love.  He appeared to be feeling the same way and life as you knew it just. seemed. perfect.

At some point you started dreaming of a future with him.  Maybe it was after your first kiss or maybe it was after he said “I love you” the first time.  Maybe your future consisted of a beach wedding at sunset or seeing yourselves growing old together sitting on a porch swing cuddled under a wool blanket during an autumn afternoon.  At some point talk of the future arose and he seemed to share the same dream. You found yourself in the relationship you were looking for and life. seemed. perfect.

Then came the moment you wanted to make the dream a reality and suddenly he sits on a fence of indecision.  Or maybe he changes the subject when you bring it up or makes excuses when you push for a deeper commitment.  Maybe he completely ghosts you and you’re left wondering what went wrong.  More devastating, maybe he found someone new and replaced you like a pair of old shoes.  No matter the circumstance or how it happens, this man of your dreams walks out of your life and you’re left alone and heart broken.

Alone.  For a large family or a person who is continuously surrounded by large crowds, this word means peace, tranquility and rest.  For someone who longs for relationship, thrives on interpersonal connection or desires human touch, alone is a word that brings up feelings of abandonment, rejection or can lead to questioning one’s self worth.

Alone is just a word in the dictionary and loneliness is simply a state of mind.   There are times I feel alone.  Sometimes I feel most alone when I’m in a crowd that I don’t feel like I belong in.  Other times when I’m home alone and I’m counting my blessings, I feel overwhelmed with the amount of friendships and the loving family I have been gifted.

There are times I also feel lonely.  Those are the times that can get dangerous for people.  You see, loneliness is a feeling that can really tug at one’s heart and travel one’s mind down memory lane.  During that journey we find ourselves remembering little things about a former lover.  Lonely memories don’t usually trigger the red flags in the relationship.  Lonely memories trigger all the things that made you fall in love with the person-and those memories tug at your heart strings a little too hard.

Sometimes those memories make you think you miss the one who walked away.  The more you meditate on the memories, the more you miss him and you may find yourself longing to be in a relationship with him again.  You may even find yourself praying, asking God to bring you back together.  If you entertain this too long, you could become convinced you two were meant to be together and take action to reunite.

A trip down this kind of memory lane is a slippery slope that needs to be stopped before your mind even thinks about turning down that road.  One way to do that is to take the thoughts captive and recognize what triggered them.  Maybe a love song started playing, maybe their name was spoken or you ran into someone that looked just like them.  Whatever it was, recognize it.  Then remind yourself of what you don’t miss.  Maybe you don’t miss the lies they told. Maybe you don’t miss feeling like you never measured up to their expectations.  Maybe you don’t miss being cheated on.  I am confident most of us could say we don’t miss the excuses they made for not committing or the emotional roller coaster ride they put us on with their “Come close then get away” behavior.  Whatever their character flaws were that broke your heart-list them out to remind yourself of what you don’t want in a relationship.

Then, recognize what you do miss, not in the person, rather list the behaviors that you miss.  For example-maybe you miss the daily texts messages and how it felt to be pursued.  Maybe you miss having someone to study God’s word with and to share in depths conversations about scripture.  Maybe you miss having someone pray for you and with you.  Maybe you miss the laughter and jokes that only the two of you shared or the silly nicknames you called each other when the relationship seemed solid and loving. Those are all good things to miss.

But guess what.  Those things you’re missing aren’t qualities that only your ex possesses.  They are universal character traits that you can find in someone else-someone who will love you exactly as you are, someone who won’t lie, cheat or play games with you and someone who will choose to commit to you.  That someone is your “Mr. Right” and God will lead him to you when you’re most ready to receive that kind of love.

Why?  Because you are marriage material and you are worth making a lifetime commitment to-hands down.  How do I know this?  Because Jesus proved it when He died on the cross long before you or I even existed.  There maybe things that God wants to change in you and some areas of refinement needed before you meet the one He designed for you.  Just know this-when the time is right, the Lord will make it happen. (Isaiah 60:22) In the meantime, don’t pine away for someone who isn’t pining away for you.  Turn your focus on Jesus-He promises to go before you and to never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6.)  One more thing-the next time a love song comes on and you feel loneliness knocking at your door-change the station or make the song about your love for Jesus and remind yourself just how much you are loved by Him. Meditate on His word-especially on scriptures that reinforce that you are never alone and will bring you comfort when you do feel lonely.  Never turn back to one that rejected you.  That can only open the door to an endless cycle of broken heartedness. Don’t chase after another Mr. Wrong in effort to fill the void that rejection left. Chase after the One who is always with you, Who is near to the broken hearted and Who is the Creator of Agapé.

Please know this post was not written out of bitterness or with a man-hating heart. This is not an anti-man post nor is this an assumption that all break-ups are bad. This post was triggered after I found myself missing a friend and the steps I took to help me recognize what I was truly missing. There are examples listed of some things that have happened to me in past relationships but this isn’t triggered toward one specific person. This post also lists common examples that happen to anyone involved in a toxic relationship or simply found themselves having feelings for the wrong person. I pray those who read it, male or female, especially those who may be struggling to move on, find encouragement and maybe, just maybe, the strength to take that first step of allowing God to heal your broken heart.

Heavenly Father’s Day

Tomorrow is the day we in America celebrate the men who are dads.  For some that is their biological dad.  For others it may be a grandfather, uncle, step-dad or honorary dad.  Still for others it stirs up feelings of disappointment, abandonment or sadness because they’re dad is either gone or not a positive part of their life.

For those who are struggling with not having a dad I want to bless you with this encouragement from our Heavenly Father in hopes that it will fill your hearts with peace, comfort and even joy.

In His word God promises to be the Father to the fatherless.  (Psalm 68:5.) He again reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 6:18; “And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty.” There are also numerous verses that describe God as our “Heavenly Father.” And more that call us His sons and daughters or refer to us as being adopted as His children.  No matter what relationship you have with your earthly father, and some may not even know who their father is-God is your Father and you can know Him in this capacity/be adopted as His son or daughter when you accept His own son, Jesus, as your personal Lord and Savior.

Some reading right now may be asking “How do I accept Jesus as my Savior?” What does that all mean?  Well some believe you have to pray something called the “Sinner’s Prayer” where you confess your sins, confess Jesus as God’s son, confess that you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again and invited Him to live in your heart.  There’s nothing wrong with that prayer but there’s a lot of human formality to it.  The Bible tells us this is how we become children of the One True God.  “…Believe in the Lord Jesus [as your personal Savior and entrust yourself to Him] and you will be saved, you and your household [if they also believe].” (Acts 16:31)  In John 10:9 Jesus Himself tells us “I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever]…” And Romans 10:9 is even more direct with this; “because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To put it simply-salvation (becoming a child of God and securing eternity with Him) means confessing and believing that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and conquered death for you and for me!

Salvation makes you a child of God but studying His word, talking with Him through daily prayer and building your faith by walking in obedience to Him is what grows your relationship with Him and opens your heart to knowing Him as your Heavenly Father.  When you grow this wisdom in your heart you will learn three very important things:

1) God’s love for you is unconditional and everlasting! (“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”‭‭ Jeremiah 31:3)

2) God will never leave you nor forsake you! (“…for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  DEUTERONOMY‬ ‭31:6‬)

3) God is your true Protector and Provider! (“He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions, And under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.” ‭‭PSALM‬ ‭91:4‬ and “…my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”‭‭. PHILIPPIANS‬ ‭4:19‬)

For the dads out there who are engulfed in their children’s lives fully dedicated and devoted to raising their children, thank you for your commitment and love to your children.  To those who weren’t gifted with this kind of dad or who’s father is no longer living, I pray this post blesses you and draws you to either pursue a relationship with God or if you’re already saved, draw you deeper into the knowledge of Him as your Heavenly Father.  Abba, which is a word used to describe God, means “Daddy.” So start by praying to Abba daily and see how your heart grows toward Him when you view God in this way.

I want to close with the lyrics of Chris Tomlin’s song, Good Good Father. This is a song I resented until last summer when I had to make the difficult decision of emotionally detaching myself from my biological father who had broken his sobriety and gone back to drinking.  It was just after Father’s Day that I mailed him a letter informing him of my decision.  A week later I found myself at a Christian festival hearing Chris Tomlin perform this song live and where I felt God release the chains that had hardened my heart toward seeing God as my Abba.  With a rush of overwhelming freedom I raised my hands up and worshipped my Father as tears streamed down my face.  It was His emotional healing at its best.  I pray these lyrics bring healing for those who need it also.  God bless.

“Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night And you tell me that you’re pleased And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide But I know we’re all searching For answers only you provide ‘Cause you know just what we need Before we say a word
You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

’cause you are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable I, I can hardly speak Peace so unexplainable I, I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still..Into love, love, love

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am…

Father’s Day in May

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

The month of May brings hopes for warmer temps, budding trees and blooming flowers.  It also holds the day we celebrate mothers and remember those who sacrificed their lives for us as well as loved ones who have passed on before us.  But for me, the month of May holds another special day-not one most would celebrate or even wish to ever have happen.  May holds the anniversary of the man whom I was blessed to call dad’s (His name was Skeet), death.  May 15th, 1983 to be exact, is the day that  made me half an orphan.

Although it’s been over 30 years, I can still remember many details from that night.  Some details are foggy but what still sticks with me is this:  My mom woke me up in the middle of the night telling me there had been an accident and my uncle was taking us to the hospital.  When we got to the hospital I remember sitting in the waiting room praying to a God I didn’t know asking that it be my grandfather who was hurt, not my daddy because in true 7-year-old logic my grandfather was “old” and I didn’t want God to take my daddy.  But then I saw the doctor talk to my mom and I watched her lose all strength in her legs.  She was so stricken with grief that she literally collapsed and a wheel chair was brought in for her to sit in.  The days that followed were something like this:  We moved in with my Aunt and Uncle temporarily (we never returned to the apartment we lived in with my dad.) My mom was catatonic for days.  She said nothing, I don’t recall her eating much.  She just sat on the couch and stared into space.  I grieved alone.  I remember getting a new dress for the funeral.  I loved that dress.  I think I got new black shiny shoes and white bobby socks with lace trim (don’t laugh, it was the early 80’s.)  I remember there was a tornado warning a few days before the funeral and I made sure to grab my and my mom’s funeral outfits before heading to the basement because I didn’t want them to be ruined.

The day of the funeral lots of people were there.  Lots of tears and sadness filled the room.  I remember my dad was buried in a brown polyester suit (again it was the early 80’s.)  Thinking back now, I think he would’ve hated that suit and preferred to be buried in one of his button down butterfly collared shirts and nice pair of blue jeans.  But my mom chose a suit.  I remember what he looked like at the funeral.  He looked like he was lifelessly asleep.  It was the first dead person I had ever seen.  I kissed his nose.  That was a shock-dead people don’t feel warm and soft like a live person.  I have never touched another dead person again after that.

I sat in a side area of the funeral parlor for the service.  I don’t remember what was spoken I just remember looking around and seeing lots of tears.  One teenaged boy in particular went through at least a full box of tissues from sobbing. I knew he was my dad’s biological son whom he wasn’t allowed ever see.  I have to admit I’ve lived with a guilt of being blessed to have been loved and cared for by this man and his biological son never knew what he was like as a dad.  I know it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t his either but nonetheless there’s still a burden I carry of having such a blessing that his own son was not fortunate to have.

Just a few short months after Skeet died, mom and I moved into a huge home in town that she purchased.  It was my most favorite house I have ever lived in.  We moved next door to a minister and his family and it didn’t take long for me to form a friendship with the minister’s children.  Soon I was invited to their church and that’s where I came to know Jesus as my personal Savior.  My mom still went out from time to time but soon, something stirred in her and she felt she wasn’t being a good role model for me so she quit the bar scene altogether. It wasn’t long after I became saved that my mom started attending the church also and she too gave her life to the Lord.  For five years we lived in a few homes (the house my mom had bought was just too big for the two of us and we moved around to a few different spots.)  We finally ended up in a 1-bedroom apartment upstairs in the house my mom had originally purchased (and later sold to someone else.) My mom started dating a man from our church and they ended up getting married.  That man and I had no bond.  I wasn’t ready to let go of the dad I had lost and he didn’t know how to father a 12-year-old child.  My baby brother, however, was a beautiful produce of that short lived marriage and I am forever grateful for that union because of his birth.

But then it was just my mom, my baby brother and me-and again, we moved around a lot.  I had a different address each school year.  My mom didn’t have to work when my step-dad died and for some time after because we lived off his life insurance policy.  But when that ran out, my mom was jobless and relied on public assistance temporarily.  One lesson I learned from that hardship was the value of an education.  My mom attended secretarial classes at the local career center, paid for by the government, and was eventually hired by the school as one of their secretaries.  She hated being on assistance and took action to ensure that hardship was only temporary.  While she was pregnant for my brother, she walked to work (4 miles round trip) just to keep her job and continue to provide for me and him.  We walked a lot growing up.  We experienced a lot of financial hardship.  But through it all, my mom kept persevering and providing for my brother and me.

Can I get real for a minute?  Grief is a very challenging thing to deal with and if not dealt with properly can cause years of problems and dysfunction.  How do I know?  Because I am one who didn’t grieve well and it took its toll on me for far too long.  For years after Skeet’s death I was numb for two days in May-the day of his death and the day after.  I would tear up and then eventually suppress the sadness because I didn’t want to feel sad.  I couldn’t visit his grave without crying so I eventually stopped visiting.  I hated to cry. I gave myself a time limit to grieve and after a while I told myself I shouldn’t be sad anymore so I shut down that part of my feelings.  I resented my mom too.  You see, they were together the night he died and she left the bar early.  He was drunk and decided to drive home (like many, many times before) and he caused the car accident.  Thankfully, the person he hit suffered only a broken leg and only my step-dad’s life was taken.  I am not thankful he died but thankful no other lives were lost in what could’ve been a preventable accident.

I have dealt with anger issues and lived a very long life feeling half of me was missing.  I also felt like I was robbed of the only security I had ever known.  I had times I was angry with God too. I couldn’t understand why He would take my daddy away from and allow me to grow up without a father.  I strayed from the church in my 20’s because of my anger with God and felt I had been force fed the Bible for far too long.  During my bar days, I would get into near fist fights with people who had been drinking and were going to drive home. I was a designated driver for many years and honestly didn’t even have my first alcoholic beverage until I was 23.  I was even controlling with my first real relationship because I was afraid to lose him.  Having something so tragic and out of my control happen to me at such a young age put me into a tailspin of always being in control, expecting the worst and never really enjoying the happy times because I vowed I would never feel that out of control or lost again.

It took years to learn that I am not in control of anything but my own response or reaction to the curve balls life throws at me.  It took years to recognize that God is in control and He does what He wants, when He wants to whom He wants because He is God and He can do that.  It also took me years to truly believe that all things work together for His glory Romans 8:28)-even the worst tragedies of our lives.  And it literally took 30 years for me to feel free from the burden of grief.  In fact-it was almost 30 years to the day of his death that I found myself at the same funeral home surrounded by the same family and at the same cemetery honoring the life of his great aunt.  After her graveside services and I said my goodbyes to his family, I mustered up the courage to walk over to his grave site.  While standing there, I found myself talking to the stone as if he was there in person.  I suddenly heard a whisper in the wind say, “I’m sorry.” And I felt my whole heart whisper back, “I forgive you.”  It was that moment all the grief, sadness, resentment and anger was finally released.  I walked to my car with a tear stained face and heart full of freedom.

Last fall I found myself traveling to the town I lived in when Skeet had died.  It was for my son’s football game.  While driving home my children and I drove past the place I lived at the time of his death.  Suddenly floods of memories came back that I hadn’t thought of since I was a small child.  Good, strong happy memories.  As I was telling the kids many wonderful stories, I began to cry.  Only this time, I didn’t suppress it.  I let myself tear up and feel the sadness that never truly goes away.  You see, when you live the rest of your life missing half of yourself, no matter how fully healed you are, there’s a sadness that will never go away.  I have learned that that is truly ok.  God can fill us up and He can make us whole.  But even God knows what it feels like to be grief stricken and feel like half of you is missing.  So I believe He fully understands the emptiness we forever feel when someone we deeply loved is taken from us so suddenly.

Although Skeet was only my dad for nearly 5 short years, he impacted my life tremendously and his death forever changed me.  One thing that came from such a loss is this-I am living proof that God is near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18), that He turns our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11) and that He makes beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3.) A life changing tragedy is what led me to Him and continued circumstances beyond my control, including other moments of heartache and grief continue to keep me close to Him.  Tomorrow is another anniversary of the day my life was forever turned upside down.  But because of God’s healing touch and His perfect love for me, I will face tomorrow with joy in my heart and gratitude for the years I did have with Skeet instead of focusing on the years I have lived without Him.  God is always faithful to His promises-especially the promise of healing (Isaiah 53:5) and to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1.)

God calls us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18.)  This doesn’t mean I have to thank Him for taking my daddy away from me.  What this does mean is that I can choose to be thankful for the years I had with him and for all the ways God protected, provided and loved me unconditionally in the years I have lived on since Skeet was called home to Jesus.  It also means I can thank God for His faithfulness in the promise that He is our Heavenly Father and is especially faithful in being the One true Father to the fatherless.  (Psalm 68:5)

I Need a Heart Transplant, do You too?

“I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

I’m a girl with her head in the clouds, figuratively speaking.  I’m not referencing myself as a space cadet or an “air head”.  I’m referring to actual clouds-sky watching. I love sunrises and sets and seeing sunrays beam through the clouds. I love searching the skies for messages from Heaven, God’s wisdom in the shape of a cloud or glowing through a majestic rainbow stretched across the sky.

This time of year, where I live, sunrises and sets are few and far between with days filled with a fog of gray.  Trees are merely blackened sticks barren of their leaves covered in a dusting of snow.  People who don’t believe in seeing life in black and white should experience winter in North America because most days are just that-black and white coloring every.  Winter brings cold, ice and more darkness than daylight.  It’s the time of year I can fall into seasonal depression, becoming overly tired, cranky and just craving warmer temps with opportunities to soak up sunshine.

Earlier this week I took a quick trip into town to pick up my son from a friend’s house.  The day was your typical December gray day.  Temp was cold, and snow covered the ground and roads making travel slower than usual.  Out of habit, I searched the skies fully thinking I wouldn’t find anything beautiful or eye catching amidst the dullness.  But that day, right above me slightly to the left of my view was a stone colored heart shaped cloud.  I blinked a few times to make sure I saw it clearly but each time I saw the same thing-a stone colored heart.  The cynical side of my immediately thought; “How typical to see a stony colored heart on a cold winter’s day.”  But then Ezekiel 36:26 ran through my mind and I immediately thought about what it means to have a stony, stubborn heart and how God transform it into a heart of flesh.

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on that verse and thinking of how it applies to me specifically.  I felt God heavily speaking me showing me reflections of this past year and how I handled different situations.  I finally realized He was showing me that I have a stubborn stony heart.  People closest to me may disagree.  I have many people in my life who tell me regularly how beautiful my heart is.  When I really blow it or make a big mistake they are the ones who remind that God sees my heart.  They’re right, He does.  I used to think He saw a solid black heart because when I’m angry and hurt I can have some pretty hateful thoughts. But I believe He was showing me my heart is gray, the color of stone because that’s what I have built around it to protect myself.  He also gently reminded me that He wants to remove the stone and give me a heart of flesh.  But I have to be let go of certain things in order for Him to pluck the stone out of me.  He’s been chiseling away at the stone for years but He knows I’m more bullheaded than a mule and short of zapping me with a bolt of lightning to knock me off my stubborn keister or throw me into the belly of whale, He lets me repeat the same mistakes over and over again like a wandering Israelite lost in the desert for 40 years.

Tomorrow is a New Year and I believe God has been telling me there are things I need to lay down and leave in 2016.  They don’t belong in the 2017 that He has planned for me.  Instead of partying hardy to ring in the New Year, I will be spending this evening home reflecting on the things I need to leave behind to make room for God to transform my heart into one of flesh that can receive His love and all He has planned for me.  I don’t know everything He wants me to lay down but three things have been tugging deep within me already this week.

  1. Pride-Pride is something I have wrestled with most of my life.  I grew up in very humble means and chose to pursue a college education believing that degree would bring me a salary where I could live comfortably and never know financial struggles, never need anyone’s help.  I couldn’t have been MORE wrong.  My college degree has led to me to the career I have but it also afforded me a large almost unpayable debt and the paycheck of a social worker is far from lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Being a single parent means being the sole bread winner.  Short of working myself to death and never sleeping or seeing my children, my income is limited to what my salary brings.  Money is tight and there have been many times I could not make ends meet.  Pride kept me from asking for help when I really needed it and getting buried in such financial dishevel that asking for help became my only  With a broken spirit and in utter embarrassment I would sob words of failure to my family and friends who graciously have helped me throughout the years.  Just tonight God blessed me with an unexpected offer of help (and answered a prayer to pay off a debt I have been battling with for a few years.)  The first sentence spoken to me before the offer was made was, “Put your pride in your pocket.”  Thankfully I prayed ahead of time asking God to help me swallow my pride before meeting with the couple who blessed me tonight.  I left their home with a check in my pocket and utter awe in my heart for how God uses everyone in our lives, even people we would least expect consider the role they play in our lives, to help us in time of need.
  2. Selfishness-I am a very “me” centered person. I grew up feeling invisible and looked over, viewed only as average or ordinary.  The only time I was noticed was if I was acting out, being loud and obnoxious or simply to be the butt of someone’s ridicule.  Add a few neglectful relationships in there and suddenly I took on this whole new defensive persona that felt no one would fight for me so I had to fight for myself.  I busted my backside living down the lies people spoke about me and lies I believed in myself.  I did it in my own strength.  If someone didn’t notice good in me, I made sure to point it out to them.  I was very much a “Look at me-I’m worth noticing.  I matter too.” person.  I refused any type of constructive criticism and immediately reacted with accusations and attacks to my critic’s character.  I was very much a “Who are you to talk to me that way?” thinker.  In a nut shell, I lived for me.  Even my prayer life was selfish.  Oh I prayed-I prayed daily. I made myself get out of bed at 4am every day to get on my knees and pray.  I was even faithful in fasting.   Why?  Because I wanted God to give me what I wanted.  I didn’t pray seeking what God wanted.  I prayed for Him to selfishly grant me my desires-like a genie in a lamp granting me three wishes.  When He told me no I believed the lie that fasting was futile and my prayers didn’t travel any farther than my living room ceiling. I couldn’t admit that I was praying wrong and with selfish motives.  James 4 is very clear when in verse 3 he says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong-you want only what will give you pleasure.”  That was me.  I wanted what I wanted and didn’t consider what God would want.  Mostly because I feared God wanted the exact opposite of what I wanted and I couldn’t accept that. Which leads me to the third thing God wants me to leave behind in 2016.
  3. Fear-Fear is probably my biggest stronghold. I have missed out on amazing opportunities because of fear.  As a child, I wanted to be a Disney animator, work as a marine biologist for Sea World and perform on Star Search.  I believed I wasn’t good enough in drawing or smart enough in science nor talented enough as a singer to pursue any of those dreams.  In high school, I studied performing arts for three years, performed in talent shows and school plays.  I dreamed of studying at Juilliard in New York and star on Broadway.  Fear of rejection and being told I wasn’t good enough kept me from even applying.  In college, fear kept me from doing a study abroad in France for five weeks.  I feared losing my job, losing the relationship I was in ad flying overseas in an airplane.  Fear kept me from taking a lot of risks and trying many things for many years.

Fear has been a factoring role in many of my relationships also.  In college I would fight with my boyfriend if he wanted to have a drink or go to a party because I was afraid he would drink and drive and cause an accident (my step-dad died in a drunk driving accident when I was 8.)  I stayed in a very destructive relationship for many years because I feared being a single parent and having to raise two children on my own.  I held onto the hope of another dead end relationship out of fear of being alone.  And I settled into a “this is as good as it’s going to get” mentality career wise for years because I was afraid to pursue something new and fail again.

Fear of rejection and fear of failure are my two biggest controllers in life.  Fear of failure has shaken me from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and kept me away for hours just tossing and turning worrying about failing.  It’s kept me from speaking up when I should and saying the wrong thing when I should’ve remained silent.  Fear of rejection has kept me from chasing my dreams time and time again.  Fear is the most crippling baggage I need to let go of and probably the hardest one for me to separate from.

Pride, selfishness and fear. Three controllers I will be eliminating from my life TODAY so God can strip all the stone from my heart and transplant into me a heart of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully God’s word has some pretty specific thoughts on all three of these areas to help me let go of them.  For pride God says; “Pride ends humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (Proverbs 29:23), “And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.” (Job 35:12) and “He shows them the reason; He shows them their sins of pride.” (Job 36:9.)

For selfishness, God specifically says, “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual and demonic.” (James 3:15), “And even now in your holy festivals aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:6) and “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (James 3:16.)

God’s word speaks even more about fear.  Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not worry (fear) about anything, instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.”  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”And Deuteronomy 31:6 specifically tells us to “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord Your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Today I will leave these three in 2016 and refuse to carry them with me tomorrow as day 1 of 2017 begins.  But because old habits die hard, I won’t be doing this on my own strength.  I am finally at a point in my life of surrender to God and His will for me making it easy for Him to do as He has promised-remove my stony stubborn heart and give me a spirit filled heart of flesh.  Today-I will be undergoing a heart transplant by the best Heart Surgeon no money can ever afford.  As you begin a new year, I invite you to reflect and see if you too need a heart transplant.  What better time to gain a spirit filled heart of flesh than at the beginning of a new year?

A Modern Day Hester

If you’ve ever read the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, you are familiar with the main character, Hester Prynne, who was publicly punished for having an affair.  Her punishment included imprisonment and standing in the town square for hours wearing a red A on her clothing (the A stood for adulteress.)  Hester had a child by her lover but chose to never disclose who the lover was despite the threatening pressure she endured.  In fact, the only time she fought back was when select townspeople threatened to take her child away when the child started acting out.  The story is full of deception, secret lives and guilt stricken consciences.  In the end, Hester carries on, wearing her scarlet A with no healing from the mistake she made.

I am a modern day Hester.  Now before I go any further let me clarify-this is NOT a confession of having an affair nor am I pregnant with a love child.  But-I have made some pretty sinful mistakes in my life and if I had lived in the puritan era like Hester, I would’ve been her cell mate. My scarlet letter probably would have covered my entire body.  Like I said, this is not a confession. In fact, guilt rarely even has control over me anymore.  This is transparency for my readers in hopes to raise awareness of forgiveness, mercy, grace and healing.

I was called a “loser” recently.  Being call that not only shocked me but it greatly stung.  In fact, in nearly knocked me down.  I was called a loser because of a mistake I made.  It was a mistake made from a broken heart and out of mass confusion. I confessed it not only to God but to the person who called me this name trusting that person would be understanding and forgiving. They weren’t.  They were angry and instead of mercy and grace, they verbally pinned me with a big old scarlet L (for loser.)  This is not the first time I’ve been called names for making a mistake.  My “favorites” are being called “a head case” when I had post-partum depression, and “a financial disaster” because I struggle with money management.

We are all human.  We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23.) David was an adulterer and a murderer.  Do you know what God did to him?  Made him king of Judah.  Moses was also a murderer and a coward.  God chose him to take on Pharaoh and lead God’s chosen people out of slavery.  Rahab was a prostitute and God used her to hide His spies who came later to conquer the city she lived in.  God did punish them-David and Bathsheba lost the child that was conceived by their affair.  Moses was exiled for 40 years after committing murder and I’m sure Rahab lived a fairly miserable life as a prostitute.  But God also redeemed them.  And once redeemed, He then promoted them!  That’s just how God works.

God doesn’t call us names.  If He is tearing us down it’s only to remove the bad.  Any tear down from God is guaranteed to have a major build up and fill up with His forgiveness, grace and mercy. God calls us to the do same with each other.  His word is full of scriptures like; “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith… (Jude 1:21), “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25) and “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8.)  The Bible does call us to admonish one another but He does not call us to shame or condemn one another.  In fact, He says the opposite in Romans 8:1; “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  That verse is pretty straight forward and if your Christian walk is anything like mine then we both need straight forward, aye?

Driving to work today, God reminded me of Hawthorne’s novel.  He played a Casting Crowns song for me on the radio with these lyrics,

“Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are…

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.

And You’ve told me who I am.

I am Yours, I am Yours…

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin

Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” ~Who am I

He then spoke to me with these words, “You don’t wear a scarlet A or L, Beloved.  The blood I shed on the cross for you removed every transgression I knew you would commit in your lifetime.  Beloved, the cross took that A and L away.  I have emblazoned you with a new letter-a V, washed white as snow.  It stands for the victory you have in Me.”

Ironically, when googling those above song lyrics, I stumbled upon the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Jessica Andrews.  It’s called, Who I am.  The second verse in this song is my anthem;

“So when I make big mistake

When I fall flat on my face

I know I’ll be alright

Should my tender heart be broken

I will cry those teardrops knowin’

I will be just fine

‘Cause nothin’ changes who I am..”

I know who I am.  I am not a loser, a head case or a financial disaster.  Who am I?  A modern day Hester redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  I AM the DAUGHTER of the ONE TRUE KING, His Princess and His only.  No cruel word will ever change that.

For those living in a pit of guilt and shame-get out!  Shake it off and straighten your crown.  For you too are redeemed, washed white as snow and wear a V for victory on your heart.  Live victoriously as the son or daughter of Christ that you were made to be.  For those casting stones, stop it!  Stop forming a firing squad.  If your heart is hurting and your angry then pause and pray.  Ask God to fill you with the grace and mercy for those whose mistakes hurt you.  But remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees who wanted to condemn a woman caught in adultery in John 8:7, “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” God called us to be bridge builders-not stone throwers.

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I have a few favorite quotes/sayings in life.  My first would be Mother Teresa’s “Small acts of kindness, done with great love, change the world.”  My second would be Audrey Hepburn’s, “I believe in pink…”  My third would be “Never let anyone dull your sparkle.”  On a side bar- my favorite paraphrase would have to be, “When life hands you lemons, make margaritas.”  I call it a paraphrase because I think it’s actually supposed to say something about lemonade but seriously-if I’m drinking lemonade, it had better have some Patron mixed in it, and served on the rocks in a salted rim glass.  Am I right?  I’m digressing, my apologies.

“Never let anyone dull your sparkle” if taken literally, sounds like something you would say to a Vegas show girl or perhaps a cleaning lady-basically anyone that deals with shining things or wearing glitter.  In reality this quote is simply another way of saying, “Don’t let others steal your joy” or even “Do not let the words or deeds of others define who you are.”  A pretty deep meaning behind a very short quote, don’t ya think?

I gotta be honest with you-my life (as I’m sure some of yours’ also) has been full of “Sparkle Dullers”, “Joy Stealers” and outright pathological jerks.  For years-I defined who I was based on how I was treated, the harsh words spoken to me and on the opinions of my critics.  Basing your self-worth on what someone who doesn’t like you thinks of you is pretty reckless and gives that person too much power over you.  I can’t tell you how many texts and phones calls I’ve made to my friends and few close family members, full of tears and brokenness expressing how much I felt like a total loser and not worthy of anything all because the voices of my critics rang too loudly in my mind.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with friends and family who speak truth into me regularly and have worked diligently to fill me up with words of affirmation, reminders of who I am in Christ, and all around uplifting encouragement.  They never put me down for putting myself down (which by the way is not a helpful tactic.  Putting someone down when they’re already down on themselves only pushes them down lower.)  One friend in particular, calls me a diamond.  Every time I get down on myself, she says to me, “Friend you’re a diamond.  Shine like it.”  But all these words of affirmation and encouragement simply aren’t enough if I don’t choose to believe them over myself.  Believing in ourselves can be a very difficult thing-especially if we’ve spent most of our life believing in what our critics spoke about us.

The truth is-we are all diamonds, we should shine like it AND we should never let anyone dull our sparkle.  For anyone that’s ever owned diamond jewelry, whether it’s a diamond ring, a pair of diamond earrings, or tennis bracelet, they know most people treat diamonds like the beautiful and expensive treasure they are.  Some keep them in special cases, locked in safes, and purchase special insurance to ensure their diamonds are well protected.  They always make sure to clean these precious gems before adorning them to capture the eye (and envy) of every passerby.  Afterall, who doesn’t want to show off their diamonds?

Guess what that means for the diamond in you and me?  It means we need to take care of ourselves by cleaning out our minds.  We can do this utilizing positive self-talk, reminding ourselves who God made us to be in order to sparkle in a way that lights up a room as soon as we walk in.  That sparkle inside each of us is what attracts others to us.  The more we accept the words of affirmation and encouragement others speak into us and refute the naysayers mean words, the brighter our sparkle gets.  The more we speak words of affirmation over ourselves, the more attractive our sparkle gets. And the more we speak words of affirmation and encourage over others, the bigger our diamond grows.

The bigger our diamond grows-the harsher our critics may get because they will be jealous of our happiness and angry that they can no longer steal our joy.  Think about it-how many times have you watched two kids interacting (usually siblings)-one is doing their best to irritate the other.  If the one who is doing the irritated gets a reaction from the other one, they will keep it up because they are thriving on irritating the reactor.  But if the reactor instead chooses to not respond or chooses to respond in a positive manner, the irritator has lost their power.  Jealous mean people are usually power people.  Nothing frustrates a power person more than when they lose that power.  It infuriates them. At first they will try harder to steal your joy but the more we choose to shine-eventually, the critics stop.  They give up.  They learn that what you and I think about ourselves holds a greater weight that what they think of us.  They may still never like us, but those “Sparkle Dullers” will move on and find someone else to prey on, who thinks they’re nothing more than a cubic zirconia.

Here’s the kicker-thank God for the “Sparkle Dullers” and “Joy Stealers” in your life.  Praise Him for the critics.  Why?  Do you know how a diamond is made?  It’s starts as a piece of black coal and after years and years of hardcore pressure a beautiful, highly coveted, deeply admired, very precious gem is formed-a sparkling diamond.   You may have been nothing more than a lump of coal in your past but today-you are a diamond.  Speak life into yourself and into others.  Let your light so shine before others and watch how others become attracted to you.  Then see just how big your diamond is going to grow.

In an effort to show off my sparkle tonight-here’s a blended version of my three favorite quotes and one paraphrase, with my own twist.  “Do random acts of kindness, love greatly, believe in everything pink, drink magaritas and always, always, always, make sure to never let your sparkle go dull-when you do all this, you, my diamond girl, are going to change your world!”

Time Doesn’t Heal Wounds…God Does

I am almost always running late.  I can’t say “always” because there is the rare occasion I am right on time or even early.  In fact, I joke that because I was born one week early it cursed me to a lifetime of tardiness. I’m rarely late on purpose-it’s usually a matter of thinking I have more time than is actually allotted or getting sidetracked and losing track of time.  Those closest to me expect me to arrive at least 30 minutes later than I’m supposed to and probably don’t start worrying about me unless I’m over an hour late.

I don’t wear a watch but I’m always checking the clock.  Although I can lose track of time, I am very time conscious.  I tend to be more focused on time when I have a deadline to meet or need to be somewhere “five minutes ago” and am being hit with various interruptions or setbacks that create roadblocks in meeting my deadline or arriving on time.  I even have dreams of being late or never arriving to my destination because of road blocks.

I can also waste time.  Procrastination and I used to be BFF’s.  Although I strive to be more diligent today there are still days I throw a major “put-it off until tomorrow” party only to end up with a pile of must-do’s that are overdue.

Time is a universal obsession.  Everyday someone is asking, “What time is it?” “How much time is left?”  “What time does it start?” etc.  There’s not a single conversation that doesn’t usual have time as part of the discussion.  We measure time in seconds, hours, days, weeks, months and years.  We give time limits and express concern for not having enough time.  In his book, The Time Keeper, Mitch Albom puts it like this; “As mankind grew obsessed with its hours, the sorrow of lost time became a permanent hole in the human heart. People fretted over missed chances, over inefficient days; they worried constantly about how long they would live, because counting life’s moments had led, inevitably, to counting them down. Soon, in every nation and in every language, time became the most precious commodity.”

The greatest emphasis on time tends to center around people’s age, anniversaries and deaths.  Our lives are measured in the number of birthdays we celebrate, our relationships are measured in the number of years we “stay together” and death is such a time stopper that it draws people to focus on how short life and time can really be.

Another way we focus on time is when we’re in a season of waiting.  I am probably the guiltiest of this.  Year after year of unfulfilled dreams, unanswered prayers or feeling like I’m a hamster running on a plastic wheel going nowhere, I focus greatly on time.  I find myself anxious, worrisome and impatient.  I entertain despair and hopelessness like they’re my neighbors inviting themselves over for coffee.  My mind fills with negativity and I just want to give up.  But God never gives up and is great at reminding me that His timetable is nothing like ours.

You see, God doesn’t wear a watch.  That’s obvious in 2 Peter 3:8; “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (NLT) I’ve heard this verse a few times in my life and it’s usually when I am most impatient and fearing the dreams I have will never come to pass.  He sent it to me yesterday and again today through two different forms of media-one was a phone call from a friend, the second was through an e-devotion.  To the human brain that is so acutely trained to measure time, this verse can be a challenge to wrap your mind around.  For me-I better understand it this way; Another day of waiting for me, is like a thousand years.  But a thousand years of waiting is merely only a single day to God.  He is the epitome of patience and as the saying goes, His timing really is perfect-it’s never too early and definitely not ever late.

I’m beyond familiar with the story of Abraham and Joseph’s seasons of waiting.  Abraham was made to wait 25 years before the promise God spoke to him regarding an heir came to fruition.  Joseph waited 13 years before his dream of leading his brothers came to pass.   But yesterday, I learned a profound lesson that even Adam had to wait.  I watched an interview between a pastor and a writer.  The interview wasn’t exactly about time but waiting was discussed.  The writer mentioned Adam.  He spoke of the passage in Genesis where God said, “It is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18).  Just three verses later, we learn that God created Eve and called her a “suitable helper” for Adam.  But what the writer pointed out was before God made Eve, He planted the dream of companionship in Adam’s heart then made him wait.  Seriously-the very next verse tells us God made animals and told Adam to name them all.  After Adam did that, we read there was still not a suitable helper for him so God made Eve.  The interviewee has this interesting perspective to Adam’s season of waiting.  Reading it in two short verses we tend to think he named all of the animals overnight.  But in reality coming up with original names for every single animal on the earth could have taken 10 to even 100 years to complete.  So here’s God putting the dream of companionship in Adam’s heart then making him do something else completely unrelated to his dream that most likely took him years to complete, making the longing of companionship deeper for who knows how many years and once that task is done-that’s when God brings the dream to pass and makes Eve, bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of Adam’s flesh.

Every season of waiting serves a mighty purpose in our lives.  For some it’s refinement.  For others, it’s to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ, to develop total dependency on Him or perhaps to develop more patience in their character.  For me, I have finally realized all this waiting was to heal me.  You see I have deep wounds.  As much as I thought I was healed I am learning that my wounds have merely scabbed over.  Circumstances arise regularly that rip the scabs off and an all too familiar pain pours out of my heart with an overwhelming ache that reduces me to tears.  I hide it pretty well and only remove my mask to those closest to me.  I’ve even tried burying the pain but it always resurfaces.

When we break a bone or undergo major surgery, if we don’t allow our bodies the proper time of healing we will continue to re-injure ourselves or worse, rip open the stitches from the surgery.  Continuously injuring ourselves or ripping open a wound can lead to permanent injury and even infection or death.  The same is true with emotional wounds.  If we try to move on too soon, ignore the wound or bury it, we will continue to make unhealthy choices and get hurt.

Just like recovering from a broken bone or major surgery, recovering from emotional wounds is very painful also.  We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain even when it’s most unbearable.  Facing it, feeling it and dealing with it is the process God uses to heal us completely from it.  Having this realization, I can face my season of waiting with a newfound hope because I want to be healed from my emotional wounds.  I want all the holes in my heart from rejection, verbal abuse, broken relationships and abandonment to be filled with God.  I want the scabs to turn into pretty pink scars that can never be ripped open again.  And I know I will be healed because God is our Great Physician who heals all wounds.  Ezekiel 36:26 is the perfect promise to stand on for emotional healing.  In this verse, God promises He will “give us a new heart and a new spirit.  He will remove from us these hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh.”

As doctors give broken bones and surgeries 6-8 weeks to heal, I’m giving my heart a time table of healing as well.  For the next 6 months, I am going to focus on emotional healing.  I will be do that by drawing closer to God, expressing the hurts that still exist, writing letters to my offenders (who will never see them but is merely a form of facing the hurts) and opening myself up to God’s ultimate healing.  I am no longer going to bury the pain and even give myself permission to cry when the tears want to flow.  I want to be completely emptied from old wounds and filled up with the wholeness that only comes from Christ’s mighty power of healing.  I’ve never been so excited to feel pain and cry but this excites me for I know the outcome is going to make me better than the woman who’s typing this blog post today.

He Never Promised Us a Rose Garden

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to kill and a time to heal…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NLT

Can I be bold with you?  Sometimes life just sucks.  For those of you offended by that word, please forgive me but honestly in some situations there’s really no better non-cuss word to use.  Seriously think about it-throughout history there has been generations of people who endured much suffering and I am certain there are people right now in your family or neighborhood who seem to repeatedly get dealt an unlucky hand in the poker game we call life.  Sometimes-we are that person who’s parade is ever being rained on and no matter how hard we fight, crawl, climb, scrape and cry-out for help it seems we’re continuously being knocked down and will forever remain in a pit of bad-luck and despair.

I’ve had my share of “bad luck”-my life has been a whirlwind of high hopes and deep disappointments. I’ve experience sudden deaths of loved ones including my step-dad when I was just 7-years-old.  In my 20’s I lost the one man who was a constant in my life, my grandfather, to lung cancer.  Add to that the betrayal of friends, a few abusive relationships, growing up around violent alcoholics and at times feeling abandoned by own biological father, you could say my life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been years I felt like I was just moving in circles and other years I felt I was running on a hamster wheel striving to rise above all the junk but really just going nowhere and wearing myself out in the process.

To make matters worse, I’ve seen people I care deeply about have their whole lives turned upside by major tragedies-sometimes it’s a sickness, sometimes it’s a family member (or themselves) battling an addiction, other times it’s a break-up or divorce, sometimes it’s the sudden loss of a loved one or the untimely death of a family member or a friend due to a lengthy illness.  Then I turn on the news or read online and tragedy is splattered everywhere.  Just last week I watched a video of a shell-shocked boy, only 8-years-old being pulled away from rubble and left alone in an ambulance while rescue workers searched for other survivors and casualties.  The clip showed him completely  gray in color covered in ash, with no emotion on his face.  He rubbed his eye, barely blinking, touched his bloodied head and looked at his hand.  The sight of blood on his hand didn’t even excite or upset him.

I cannot tell you how many times I have cried over the tragedy of others.  My heart breaks over my own disappointments and losses but when I see others hurting or going through a trial that just doesn’t make sense I cry for them, I get angry at God for them and there are times I simply ask God, “Why?”  Other times I cry out, “God this is so unfair!”  And I cover them in prayer whenever they come to mind.  When I see others hurting I also tend to want to hug them until their hurt goes away.  I want to make them feel better and make them whole again.  I forget that I am not God and He alone is the One True Healer.  Only God can turn broken hearts into whole ones again.  His word not only says so, He shows how He does it through Job and Ruth.

Ruth was a young widow in a foreign country. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was engulfed with grief after losing not only her husband but also her two sons.  The only family she had left was her two daughters-in-law.  In that culture it was normal for a sibling to marry his brother’s widow.  Alas, for Ruth and her sister-in-law this was not an option as both siblings were deceased.  Naomi felt her daughters-in-law would be better off returning to their home country for a chance to find new husbands and bare children.  Neither wanted to leave her at first, but after a little urging Ruth’s sister-in-law left Naomi and returned to her home land.  Ruth however clung to Naomi.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is when Ruth says to Naomi, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NLT) And Ruth’s persistence pays off because Naomi finally permits Ruth to stay with her.  That decision ends up being the turning point in changing both Naomi and Ruth’s circumstance from despair to redemption.  Ruth lost her husband. Naomi lost her son.  But God placed them in the hands of a kinsman redeemer who became Ruth’s husband and in a way an honorary son to Naomi.  In the ends, Naomi’s friends (or moreover perhaps the town gossips) praise God by saying, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” (Ruth 4:14-15 NLT)

The other example of God moving a pit dweller into a land walker is good ole’ Job.  In Job 1, he is introduced as a man who fear God and stayed away from evil.  He was also a man who was very wealthy, married and had several children.  Life you could say for Job was “smooth-sailing.”  Along comes satan who mocks Job’s faith by implying Job was only a follower of Christ because God had given him such an easy life.  God’s response?  He allowed the belly-crawler that satan is to attack Job and test his faith.  First Job lost his livelihood.  He had no time to absorb this kind of a hit before he was informed ALL of his children were killed at once.  If that wasn’t enough, God even allowed satan to attack Job’s health and he ended up covered in painful boils. Job didn’t just fall into a pit, he was thrown in by the arrogant punk coward forked tongue fallen angel Lucifer.  AND GOD ALLOWED IT!!!!  For me that is the most shocking part of Job’s story. God allowed a faithful follower of his to hit rock bottom simply to prove that nothing would shake Job’s faith to the point that he would turn against God.

Even though Job grieved, tore his clothing and covered himself in ash-he was credited for not sinning against God during this horribly tragic time.  In the end God restored to Job all that he had lost, two fold.  He doubled Job’s fortune and restored to him the exact number of children Job had lost.  JOb was even cured from his boils. (Job 42)

These are just two examples of restoration and redemption.  God’s word is filled with so many more.  In this life-God still restores and redeem.  If you are going through a difficult time, learning to live life without the person you loved most in it or feeling like you are forever stuck in a pit or just going in circles please be encouraged that God is with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you and just like Psalms 40 reminds us, He will pull us from the mud and the mire.  In fact, I’d like to end this post with Psalm 40.  I pray it encourages anyone who reads it and empowers you to walk tall knowing God is for you, not against you.  If you surrender your wounds to the Father He will make you whole again. Be open to love.  God tends to show His love for us through the love of others.  He’s also been known to use the love of others to mend our brokenness.  Ruth and Job’s hearts were crushed but God not only pieced them back together He enlarged their hearts to love again. After all, they’re hearts had to have grown twice in size at least to love those they had lost and have room to love the ones they had gained also.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,

and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3 NLT)

One final thought before I close-God doesn’t just promise to bind up broken hearts-Psalm 30 tells us He promises to turn our mourning into joyful dancing, and to clothe us with joy (verse 11.)  Grief is part of the process when one experiences loss.  But it’s a process, not a way of life. Eventually to move past grief we have to release the wound and allow God to mend it so that we will no longer have the desire to mourn but instead be filled with joy and gladness once again.

Let. It. Go.

“Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past.”

Isaiah 43:18 NLV

Anyone who has a preteen or early teenaged daughter, preschool aged niece or school-aged granddaughter knows about the movie Frozen.  If you’ve walked through the toy department at Walmart, you know about Frozen.  But for those who’ve been off the grid or living in an alternate universe the past few years I’ll give a quick rundown of the movie.

Frozen depicts two sisters, Elsa and Anna, one (Elsa) of which is cursed with a spell that t turns everything she touches to ice.  During one of their playtimes, Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her ice hands and the girls are separated for the remainder of their childhood.  To make the story more dramatic, their parents are killed and Elsa is made queen.  It’s at her coronation ball that the town discovers her curse and she flees fearing her curse has made her an outcast.  At this moment of the movie she builds an elaborate ice castle and belts out the award-winning musical number, Let It Go.

My daughter was in 6th grade when Frozen came out.  And she rode the Frozen fan wagon for a good year. No one could say the phrase “let it go” without her busting out the lyrics to the song.  In the beginning it was cute and we would all burst into song.  But like all things that start out “cute” and get overdone, it became incredibly annoying.  Still to this day, even though she’s now going through her “emo” phase, it’s not unusual for her or my son to burst out in song when those three little words are spoken (and quite frankly I’m guilty of it too.)

In Frozen, Elsa had to let go of her fears and the idea that she was an outcast.  She was actually created for royalty and the curse that was meant to destroy her, became her greatest super power.  How many times have we faced obstacles or setbacks, even felt cursed at times with situations that were created to destroy us.  The enemy will tell us were nothing but a lost cause, or trick us into believing the situation is hopeless.  He’ll do whatever he can to throw us into a pit of despair and keep us there.  But like Queen Esther, God may be saying, “Perhaps you were born for a time a like this?”  (Esther 4:14) Or like Joseph (who was literally thrown into a pit) tells his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”  (Genesis 50:20)

How do we break free from that pit?  We have to let it go.  We have to let go of everything that was created to destroy us. Let go of our past hurts, mistakes, losses.  Let go of our insecurities and doubts.  Let go of the negative self-talk.  Let go of the abusers in our life even.  We have to let it go.  And then, like the saying goes, we have to let go, and let God (take over.)  Trust me, I know all too well that this is easier said than done. But I also know the amazing freedom you will walk in when you finally do let go.

Letting go is a process.  When Elsa belted out that song, she wasn’t free.  In fact, right after her musical breakdown,  she created frozen giants to ward off her sister and others who were trying to save her.  She had to go through the process herself before she could walk in freedom.  That process consists of speaking God’s truth about who we are in Him, aloud over ourselves and our circumstances.  It means we rebuke the enemy’s lies and we call him out for the liar he is.  It means receiving compliments and real love from others.  It also means living a surrendered life to Abba God, stepping out in faith and trusting His lead.

Letting go is similar to jumping off a diving board into unchartered waters near the edge of a dam.  I know, because I did that exact thing two summers ago.  After spending a Sunday afternoon kayaking with dear friends of mine, we gathered near the dam for the men and kids to jump off the diving board.  As I watched I noticed none of the women were jumping in.  We were all just chatting and watching everyone else have a blast being dare devils in the water.  Being somewhat of a dare devil (although at my age it’s much less than what I was as a kid-just as my mom) I decided I needed to step up and be the only woman to take on that diving board.  And I did.  Mind you, there was a grown man in the water ready to catch me if I started to drown.  Nonetheless, when I got to the edge of that diving board and saw how far away from the water I was, I nearly chickened out.  The only thing that pushed me to face my fear was a greater fear of looking like a coward.  I closed my eyes, plugged my nose, thought to myself, “You only live once!” and jumped!  And..I survived.

Although I didn’t start a female diving board club that day-in fact no other women even jumped on that band wagon-I experienced a freedom in letting go of fear.  This is the same freedom we experience when we let go of a toxic relationship, bad eating habits, a habitual sin and negative self-talk.  When we step out on the diving board of life and look down, Jesus is the man in the water, ready to catch us and He will never let us drown.

Whatever situation you’re in today that seeks to destroy the future God has designed for you, I challenge you to step out on the diving board, close your eyes, plug your nose and jump-trusting the Lord to catch you.  If you’re a literal person, stand on your couch or bed and jump picturing Jesus holding out his arms to catch.  Just don’t do anything that will cause an injury or death PLEASE! There’s so much freedom in letting it go.  And since I just wrote those three empowering words, let me help you with the lyrics as you mentally or verbally now break into song:

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight

Not a footprint to be seen.

A kingdom of isolation,

and it looks like I’m the Queen

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in;

Heaven knows I’ve tried

Don’t let them in,

don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal, don’t feel,

don’t let them know

Well now they know

Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go

Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care

what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on.

The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me,

I’m free!

Let it go, let it go

I am one with the wind and sky

Let it go, let it go

You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand

And here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand

In the light of day

Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!”

One last challenge before I close-that last line, “The cold never bothered me anyway!”- replace the word “cold” with the lies the enemy has been feeding you.  It’s a great start in rebuking the lie and reminding the enemy Who’s really in control.  It’s also a great way to start standing on God’s truth!