LIBERATION

How do you describe living through many years of hell and the relief felt from escaping it?  I’ve been told it is a loss to grieve over, but all I feel right now is relief.  The feelings surrounding this living situation had grown so intense in a negative direction that jail started to sound like an amazing alternative to continuing in the same day-to-day muck and mire.  So many days I prayed for relief from the situation….that a certain element would just be removed and I could continue life in somewhat the same comfort zone, but yet actually enjoy it for once.  Obviously, that prayer wasn’t answered in the spirit in which it was uttered, but it was answered in a way I never expected.

So many years of my life are just gone and I never felt a thing through any of them.  I was once told that those years were stolen from me, which is true to an extent, but the real truth is I allowed them to be.  I remained hidden behind raising kids that were not my own, buried everything about me deep inside where it could not be hurt or discovered, and just kept on going.  I missed out on a lot of stuff during those years…. I missed my grandfather’s funeral – how I loved that man and how I miss him still!  I missed out on the best years of my mother’s life when she was active, felt good, and was actually hunting/hiking again.  I missed out on opportunities to go hunting with my father.  I missed opportunities to spend time with my grandmother.  All of that gone….and they are all things that cannot be recreated.

Once the fear and timidity that ruled my heart were replaced with a sense of purpose and rediscovery of a backbone, my perspective on life changed dramatically.  Through the help of some amazing friends who were not afraid to put a mirror up to my face and show me the truth of how my life really was, I was able to begin to put the pieces of myself back together again, although very slowly.  I found my worth buried deep down and realized that I deserved to be happy, to be loved, and to be treated with respect.  That realization was so very liberating and became the turning point in my life.

With a great deal of support, love, and encouragement, the situation in which I was living has changed drastically and I am now living on my own for the first time.  The freedom and the quiet is something I am growing accustomed to….and the peace is so very healing.  Although my music had been slowly returning over the last few months, the speed at which it has done so has increased.  Music returning to my heart and to my pen is such a source of healing for it is through music that my heart truly speaks.  I’m hoping that my passion for writing will return as well, even though it has been slower to rise up from within than I first expected.  When it is time, I’m sure it will return as well.

So now, this is the beginning.  A brand new chapter is being written on fresh clean paper…a new outlook on life…a new chance at happiness…a new chance to continue to understand how wonderful it is to be loved by the most amazing woman I have ever met…a new opportunity to discover the depth of who I really am and what I am really capable of.  The future is wide open and my heart is ready to embrace all that it hold!

CHANGE IS ON THE WAY

What an emotional day today has been so far!  There are many changes coming in my life and the reality of just how drastic things will be is sinking in far deeper than I anticipated.  I am looking forward to the change with great excitement and expectation, but I also find myself mourning what I am leaving behind.

Today was the first day of school.  While this is normally a very happy time, especially because the kids will be occupied for most of the day, it was not so much this morning.  I helped my favorite 14-year-old with her hair this morning, which is something I have done since before she started kindergarten, and started to cry.  There will only be one more day in which I will have this opportunity to have this moment with her.  As I dropped off my favorite 8-year-old for his first day of 3rd grade, he did not want me to walk him to the playground or to the line as I have done in times past.  He just wanted to be dropped off like a big kid.  Before each kid goes to school, I make sure to remind them that I love them and that I wish only the best for them.  I only will get to do this in person one more time…

In the last 19 years I have spent raising kids that were not my own, I have made a lot of mistakes and have screwed up more ways than I can count.  However, it has always been my goal to make sure these kids knew they were loved – that they were loved unconditionally, deeply, and unfailingly.  They do not go to bed at night without being told they are loved and I do not leave them without telling them as well.  I hope that they remember just how much I love them…

An adventure awaits me – an opportunity to explore who I am and what my purpose is in life.  There will be time to relax for the first time in too many years to count…there will be time to write whenever the words pop into my head…there will be time to take care of my battered, weary, and worn heart/soul that have been so damaged by the past years I have survived.

While I am so looking forward to this change and know beyond a doubt how good it will be for me, I am dreading the heartache that will come with it.  However, as is true to His nature, the good Lord has provided for me in ways I cannot even explain.  I have been blessed with not only friends who care about me and accept me for who I am, but also with a very special person who loves me in ways no one ever has before.

Stepping out in faith is never easy and that first step is the most terrifying.  My first step comes Friday morning.  Although I am nervous, I know that I am stepping into my future and that this future that has been laid out before me as a gift.

The River continues to flow, the next bend is coming up fast, and I am so grateful that I know Who is in control of my ship.

THE POWER OF FEAR

My life has been a challenging assortment of stuff over the past several months. Lots of changes, some loss, some heartache, and a whole lot of confusion. It has affected my health, my heart, and my writing.

At the core of all of this is one simple truth deep within myself, but this truth scared me beyond all other fears I had ever experienced. It scared me so intensely that I pulled away from God in terror – in gut-wrenching fear of receiving His condemnation. Countless hours of crying until there were no more tears, praying until I had no more words, screaming at the heavens until I had no voice brought no relief or release. I pulled away from Him further and pulled deeper in to myself.

The funny thing is, He had already prepared for the day when I would cry out like this a long time ago in an old hymn He embedded deep in my heart and in an early and continuous relationship with Him that firmly plant the roots of my soul. I did not see it at the time, but I see it now – which is how it often happens. I now realize that, in my terror and in pulling away from God, I hindered my own writing and robbed myself of the peace that was freely offered to me.

Through all of this, I have been richly blessed with friends who were patient with me beyond belief, spoke truth to me even when I did not want to hear it and didn’t like what they said, and continually reassured me that I really was okay….that I was not broken or messed up beyond repair. At one point, I even screamed to the heavens demanding to know if there was not mercy and grace for even me, but I now see that the friends He has placed in my life speak to the depths of His love for me. They are the representation of His grace and mercy poured out on my life.

I am working on accepting and not hiding the truth of myself and learning to walk in the freedom that was given to me long ago even though I was too blinded by fear to see it.

I do not know where you are in your journey, but I pray that His peace surrounds you, His love enfolds you, and grace goes before you each step of the way.

The Heart of the Problem

A little over two months ago, my PC was attacked by a very nasty virus that inflicted irreparable damage to every document that was saved and not open at the time of the infection. Many years’ worth of writing was just gone. I could see the file name, but not open them. Countless ideas that had been jotted down and saved for future expansion and elaboration were gone. Hundreds of poems (many of which were not very good at all, but they had a line or two that could be used in another work) were gone. In one brief moment, all of my words seemed to just disappear, stolen away. Unfortunately, this was just beginning of many more trying times and various losses that were to ensue over the months that followed, however, I never realized how profound of an effect the loss of my writing would have on my heart.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I attributed the heaviness and emptiness of my heart to being just a side-effect of all the other stuff that was unfolding in my life. No matter what I did or how hard I prayed, I just couldn’t seem to shake a rather specific feeling of emptiness that I just could not explain.

The other day, I was reading a wonderful novel my cousin wrote (Steal The North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom) and happened to read the acknowledgment in the back. In this, she references a tragic event in her life when a fire had taken place and she thanked the fireman who ran back to save her laptop. In this statement, she referred to herself as a “frantic” writer and it was at that moment that the light came on. The emptiness I had been trying to pray through, or pray away, was a subconscious mourning of the loss of my heart, the loss of my writing. A poetic heart with no poetry is like a heart with no purpose or peace.

I have often felt that my heart was more poetic in nature, but I never realized the depths of that truth and how tied to those words my heart really is. It is almost as if I can barely breathe without them. This thought, however, is rather astonishing considering how long it has been since I have written anything, even a sentence – and even longer since I have written any poetry (over a year…).

In an ironic turn of events, I was cleaning my desk the other day. Now, before you think I just left the sentence hanging around and unfinished, I must admit that cleaning my desk can be a challenge (If I am not careful, my desk gets as cluttered as my mind!). However, I was cleaning my desk on an act of faith that situations would be restored or renewed and that my desk would be needed again (the story in the Bible of the two farmers who prayed for rain, but only one prepared his fields in faith that God would send the rain). During this wonderful cleaning moment (not really….), I noticed a manila envelope in the corner with a stack of paper beside it. It is not like me to have a stack of paper standing up without it being in a clip or envelope or something.

I carefully remove both the stack and the envelope and I could not believe what I had found.

I had found my heart!

I found the manuscript (both the edited version and unedited version) of a book of poetry I had assembled for a completion a couple of years ago. All of my “best” works were there – in their finished form! In the envelope, I found the rough drafts, pieces in progress, thoughts/ideas for new works, and my notes regarding the format/setup of the “book” as well as the pieces I had elected to not include. While it was not everything, it was the most important parts – the pieces that I worked the hardest on, invested much of my heart into, and the ones that spoke the loudest to the depths of my being.

Up until this point, I had no idea that just the thought of losing my poetry (let alone the reality of its loss) would have such a devastating effect on me, that the words had that profound an impact on my heart and mind – almost as if they were a part of my very soul.

During these past few trying months, my heart has leaned heavily on Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God…”) and I had remained in Psalms on a basically daily basis searching for answers or something to fill the emptiness inside. The night after I found the manuscript, I just opened my Bible randomly and found myself in Jeremiah…29:11-13, to be specific. I was totally floored – again! The thought that there could be a plan through all of this, a reason, some purpose – some hope– was rather shocking. Hope had been in rather short supply in my heart despite the knowledge in my head that there is always hope so long as we have Jesus.

In re-reading this passage, I found that I love both the way the KJV is written as well as the NIV. Both give such a unique perspective and, in my opinion, complement each other very well. With your indulgence, this is how my heart reads it.

I know the thoughts I think toward you, the plans I have for you, what I have in mind for you.
Thoughts of peace, not of evil.
Thoughts to prosper you, no to harm you.
Thoughts for well-being, not for bad things.
Plans to give you a future and a hope,
An end and an expectation,
A hope and a future.
You will call upon me, come to me, pray to me –and I will hear you,
I will heed you,
I will listen to you.
When you search with all your heart, you will find me.

During this experience, I found that all the searching, seeking, crying out, and pleading don’t always end in His miraculous majestic arrival at the foot of the bed to announce to the universe He is here, but rather, when we are trying, searching desperately to find Him, He finds us.

He comes to us in ways that can be so subtle, so still, so quiet that if we are not looking for Him in that way, we will miss it altogether, but, thankfully, this does not negate or minimize His arrival! While we would all love the majestic fanfare announcing His intervention in a situation, sometimes He arrives in a manila envelope and a random stack of uncontained paper that He had been saving for just the right time – a time when I was broken, I had stopped fighting the emptiness, and given up all the hope I dared to.

It was in the moment that He quietly stood beside me and returned to me what I had given up as lost – He returned my heart and my hope.

RUNNING IN THE LIGHT

In the quiet, before what is really occurring is truly known, the veil of darkness is lifted. Ever so slowly and gently, the warmth of the sun begins to creep into the cracks and crevices, into the corners and closets, driving away shadows along its way. The dark has left behind a weariness that is felt within the depths of the soul and cuts to the very center of the heart, the pain so overwhelming that the beginnings of the dawn are not even noticed. But the Father knows.

Ever gentle, ever faithful, and ever kind, the Father reaches down and begins to bandage the wounds left behind. He lovingly wipes away each tear and cherishes what each individual tear represents. As the intensity of the pain eases, He gently turns the face that is cradled in His hands toward the sun. The warmth shining in is so comforting, so soothing. The warmth brings with it a sense of calm and a peace that runs deep into the wounded places. Although wounded and weary, restoration is coming, peace is returning, and healing has begun.

Easing out of the corner and beginning to struggle to stand, a steady hand is offered, but this hand is unlike any other. This hand radiates power. This hand carries within it a boundless unfathomable love. This hand bears scars and written with in the scars, I find my name. I find my name carved into His hand! Within His hands, I find my healing, but it is a healing that is only found within scars left behind by nails.

Holding onto His hand, I rise. Holding onto Him, I find solid ground beneath my feet and the strength in which to stand. Focusing on Him, I find the assurance that all which remains broken will be healed, that strength will be renewed.

With one glance at the smile on His face, my soul begins to take flight. With wings like eagles, my heart begins to soar. Caught up in the strength of His hands, I find the courage to run once again. In His light alone does that which once was weary and broken become renewed and restored. Carried on by His everlasting arms, I run once again, for I am running in His light.

The Hidden Places

While in the process of moving lately, I came across a devotional I read a few years ago that had some interesting ideas. It was about finding God in different placed, hidden places, and not just in finding Him as the source of our creation, salvation, or being. It was about really, truly, finding HIM. I walked out of my office the other day and saw that this book was just sitting on a box. I don’t even remember putting it there, but it was there all the same.

With my house in disarray due to the move and the fact that unpacking has to take a backseat so many other things that are of higher priority and more importance, I found the book even more ironic. One of the first images that popped into my head was all the places in this house we have been so blessed with that the Lord could “hide.” But then the poet within began to think of all the places within me that He could “hide” and that really caught my attention.

How often do we go through our day-to-day lives and overlook so many of the miracles that are not only around us but within us as well? I know that I am personally guilty of this more often than I can say I am not. Yes, I do so appreciate a beautiful sunrise and am enjoying watching spring finally arrive. However, do I appreciate the beauty He has created within me and the blessings He has poured over my heart, my mind, my soul, and my life just as much?

After having come through such a long season of uncertainty, a season of dependence on others, and a season of waiting for the Lord to move in my life, I now am blessed with the peace, the space, and the opportunity to take the time to ponder on these things. I am sitting here in the peace and space of my new office and the words, which felt to be so far away for so long, finally seem to flow.

While the season of waiting seem to go on for so long and the answers never seemed to come, now that it is over, I can look back and see His hand in it. I can see how He was breaking down the things that did not serve to honor Him, allowing me time to come to the point where I would yield to His timing and not force my own, to come to the point that I acknowledged the fact that His plans for me where infinitely higher than the dreams I had for myself. Even when the Lord seemed to be so very far away, He was still there – waiting for me to find Him in the midst of my waiting, in that hidden place.

Regardless of what season in life you are going through right now, God can be found in the middle of it all. Even when depression seems to reign and you can’t seem to find the light of day, He is there. When chaos seems to have control and screaming into the darkness comes to no avail, He is there. Through the darkest night, the deepest sadness, the wildest storm, He is there.

The challenge is to not only look for God within His creation and to appreciate the beauty with which He surrounds us, but to also look for Him within, to find His hidden places within us. As I search for Him there, I know that I will continue to grow in the knowledge that He is my hiding place. As we hide our hearts within Him, He hides His within us – and He waits ever so patiently for us to find Him there.

When all else is gone, He remains

September…..where did it go? Somehow I missed part of it – I think. The real question for the heart is this, in the midst of the chaos and busyness of September, did I remember Jesus?

I guess you could call it a down-side to working for yourself…if the workload gets heavy, you work more. Days off?? Really? What is that? Working only 8 hours? How would that feel once again? On the other hand, it is extremely gratifying to know that the work has been accomplished, you were dedicated to your task, and you succeeded at defeating the seemingly insurmountable tasks in front of you.

However, once the glow of virtual success had dimmed slightly, one must truly look inside. How high was the price paid to accomplish this? Was time with Jesus sacrificed for the sake of some quiet, uninterrupted time in the mornings? Where priorities re-arranged for the sake of getting the job done?

Unfortunately, I am not at that place yet where I can sit back and bask in the satisfaction of knowing that the goal was accomplished, the task completed, the goal met. I am, however, at a place where I know that I can achieve the daily goals I set and I am coming around to a place where I can find my words once again.

In light of this, though, I am forced to ask myself the hardest question of them all. Where did the words go? I have stared at this blank page several times, but it remained blank, much like my heart feels. As I was praying about this and after reading some advice from a cherished friend, the light switch came on. When things go wrong with the “things” in our lives (microwave, coffee maker, alarm clock, etc), where do we go for answers? We pull out the owner’s manual. As believers in the Almighty God, we have an Owner’s Manual so to speak as well (the Word of God). Granted, we are not the “owner” of this product, but we happen to know exactly Who is. So then the answer to the hardest question of all must be this: the words are in His keeping as He is the Author of Eternity. When I find no words of my “own,” it is then that I must rely on His.

To my heart that feels heavy and blank, I say this:

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley (the valley of the shadow of death),
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

To my mind that wonders where the words have gone within my heart and if they will return, I say this:

Psalm 139
1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
a. Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me

Just remember that in the storm and in the night, His song is always with you. Regardless of the season in life, regardless of the depth of the darkness, and regardless of the silence within, He is still there. The Everlasting One remains. Timeless, unchangeable, ever faithful He remains.
And, when all else fails, read the Owner’s manual!