TRUSTING, EVEN IN THE DARK

The last few months have been a confusing, confuzzled configuration of one mess puddle after another. There are times when it feels like I walk out of one valley and fall into another that is deeper than the last.

So much of my life is unrecognizable compared to even six months ago. Everything has been turned upside down and I have been forced to branch out and learn things I never thought I would have to learn – and some I hoped to continue to avoid.

I have found myself in situations where a rather destructive behavior was planned, but the Lord intervened and I ended up with other plans/commitments during the time in question. There have been other times when I was so determined to go through with the destructive plans that I made sure I went through with it. I did not leave myself or my heart open to any other options or possibilities. However, these times ended up doing nothing more than making me look like a fool and feeling so much worse in the end.

I have:
raged at the heavens desperate for relief…
yelled at a friend in a desperate search for clearing of my confusion…
hardened my heart to the Spirit of God in defiance of His Sovereignty…
denied myself the release of the feelings through the tears I have not allowed to flow…
isolated myself from those who would speak the ugly truth to me in the moments when I needed it the most…

But most of all, through all of this, my stubbornness and hardheadedness have cost me the peace I could have been enjoying all along if I had only allowed God to be God rather than blocking Him at every turn because life was not going how I felt it should go.

Despite all of the jumble of junk and mess that have been trudged through, there have been moments of elation, moments of surprise, and moments of freedom. The truth is not as frightening as it once was and I have found a strength within I did not know I had. I have also been blessed with a friend who is not afraid to speak the truth to me in bold living color when it is needed – and whether I feel it is needed or not.

When the storm rages and the darkness envelops my heart, I must remember to fight against the darkness, but not fight against the One who anchors my soul throughout the storm. Even though I cannot see His hand and I do not have a clue where He is going with my life, He is still there, He knows every pain in my heart, and He understands every tear I cry. He knows the beginning from the end and He will carry me when I lack the strength to even stand. He can be trusted for He is faithful.

Even in the darkest of times, the deepest depressions, and the most difficult circumstances, He continues to be faithful. He can be trusted, even in the darkness of the heart.

Struggling To Reach The Surface, Fighting For Daylight.

I was hoping that the beginning of a new year would bring about a change in perspective, tide of events, and the opportunity for more positive transitions. However, after completing two months of this “new” year, I am coming to realize that these are not going to be outward occurrences in my life for the time being. I must, however, find them within myself and these need to become an outward expression of what I want my life to represent in spite of the trials.

Unknown circumstances…medical situations that remain unsolved, undetermined, unknown… These are not things I do well with and I have found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters of depression and despair. So many changes have come about in a very short amount of time due to the unknowns that still plague my heart that it has been a challenge to keep my balance, keep my perspective, and not get lost in the fast crashing waves of change. Absolutely nothing is the same and I don’t know that it ever will be again.

Because of this storm, I have a better grasp of how Peter felt when, while walking on the water to Jesus, he saw the storm rather than the Savior and began to sink. That is where I have been…away from the words I love so dearly, away from the outstretched hand of my patiently waiting Savior, away from many who could pray for the situation – or for me. I allowed the storm to rage and the waves to crash over my soul and here I sit, alone on the shore like a shipwrecked child.

As I sit here before this slowly filling screen, I am reminded once again of His faithfulness. I have thought about writing often, but I could never find the words to begin anew. As I sat the other day on the washed up shore of my heart, I began to try to put words to how I was feeling – even just a few. Slowly, the pieces of the title for this post began to float to the surface. Little by little, it came together until it was a cohesive string that summed up my heart and circumstances at the moment. I had been swallowed up the waves of despair and tossed about in the storm of the unknown. Reaching the surface was a struggle. Fighting for light in the darkness of my heart seemed impossible. So, I wrote those words and let the title sit (to simmer, so to speak). I allowed the thoughts that would come with it to soak into my heart and grow. When I opened the document the next day, those thoughts grew into words carried onto the page by only the strength of my Savior.

While understanding is great and crafting metaphors to explain things of the heart that words alone do not accurately convey can be wonderfully freeing, I now must ask myself some hard questions. What now? Where do I go from here? How do I open my heart to not only allow others to see the storm raging inside of me, to see the fear from the potential of the unknown, to see the pain brought on by the changes in life, or to even pray for me? After all, I am supposed to be the strong one …or at least the is the lie I have bought into for a long time… Honestly, I have no idea what the answer is besides to hold onto my Savior for dear life and trust Him to calm the storm, bring answers, and smooth circumstances in His time and in His way. Like the saying goes, I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds my tomorrow.

So, even though the storm rages around me, through my heart, and through my life, it is through these storms that I know my Lord will be faithful all the more. It is through these that He will show His strength on my behalf. Through this, He will continue to demonstrate His infinite love for me. Even though the challenges will continue to try to wash over me and circumstances will continue to disrupt and bring changes that so hard to bear at times, I know He is there. Even though my heart may feel like a piece of washed up shipwrecked lying on the shore, He will gather the pieces as they wash up on the shore, He will cherish them, and He will restore my heart.

All that is required of me now is to give Him my fears, trust His heart, and just be still.

A Closed Off Heart – Can It Still Be Of Use?

I found myself in a situation recently that really perplexed me and has caused me to examine the way in which my heart functions in relation to people in my life. A friend I have known for many years had been sharing with me how different her life was, how happy she was, and that she felt like she had finally become who she was meant to be all thanks to the inclusion of a certain person in her life. Now you have to understand that when I first met her years ago, she was not a very happy person. She was torn, confused, and struggling to find a path for her life. Fast forward many years ahead and she is now a completely at peace, loved, cherished, and very happy. An amazing transformation – and due to acceptance and love. I have been so amazed by this that I decided to express my gratitude and told this wonderful person in my friend’s life how much I appreciate all that has been done and the unconditional love that has been shown. I, personally, did not find this conversation to be of any significance beyond an expression of gratitude. However, my perception was not correct. This wonderful person showed my friend the things that were said and my friend, in turn, expressed her gratitude for what I had done.

This conversation really kick started my brain after I finished laughing about the fact that I had been “ratted out” in my expression of gratitude. I relayed the conversation to another friend and expressed my surprise that the conversation was passed on. Her reply was “Well, wouldn’t you do the same?” My answer to her surprised me. I said, “No. Why would I?” Really…..? Something nice said to me or done for me and I wouldn’t share that with anyone? Yep, that is how I tend to be…

My upbringing was one of strictness and emotional control. You were to never “wear your emotions on your sleeve.” After all, allowing people to know how you really felt would give them an edge, give them leverage. Stoic was the motto and “never let them see you sweat” was the theme. Yes, I have always been short. Yes, I got picked on a lot as a kid. Yes, some of these theories of emotional control helped in not giving those who picked on me more fodder. However, they did start a pattern of compartmentalization and created a struggle within of how to express what I feel – or sometimes even understand it. Compartmentalize it and put it away became the standard method of walking through life and, while it is less painful, existing rather than living became the norm.

A heart that is of use to God is one that is open to His leading and to His love. How does a compartmentalized heart fit into that? If my heart is not open to much at all besides another passageway in the maze or another hallway leading to yet another closed off room , how can He find something of use inside? Better yet, how can His love get through the maze so it can be displayed to others? The answer to this heart-wrenching question (at least for me) came from a simple comment from one I have known for more of my life than I haven’t. It is a simple answer that took me a while to comprehend (even though I didn’t admit that at the time…) – paper.

Yes, the answer was simply “paper.” I was given a love of words and of writing as a way to work around the compartments inside the heart. On paper, I can express what my mouth is unable to utter. I can “perfect” the phrasing until it says just exactly what I want it to say. It can be re-worked, re-worded, re-written, or thrown away. The backspace button and delete key are my friends as they can erase and remove that which makes no sense at all. When the piece expresses what it is I want to say, it can then be presented to whomever without the need for waiting for my mouth to work or the words to try to come out right or for me to apologize when the words do not.

The Father so graciously provided a way around my heart so that I can still be of use to Him even though my heart is a maze and so many things and memories seem to be lost inside. So long as I yield my pen to His leading, my heart to hearing His voice, and the purpose for His glory, even a heart as broken, complicated, and scrambled as mine can still be clear, understood, and of use to Him. To think that He loved me so much that He provided a “detour” for me such as this is beyond amazing. On paper, I can express the thoughts and feelings that my mouth would screw up every time. On paper, I am able to better understand how He moves and flows in my life and heart and the journey He is taking me on.

Thanks to paper, I am able to understand even better now why this blog was started. You see, I had created this blog several months before I ever posted a thing. I created it, was terrified of it, and walked away from it. Eventually, the Lord did prod me back to it and I posted one entry or so, but nothing more. I still wasn’t even sure of what direction needed to be taken with the blog. Then one day I found myself engaged in a rather one-sided conversation with a wonderful friend from California who was proceeding to let me know exactly what it was, how it was, and that I needed to get off my duff and get to work for the Lord. She very poignantly suggested that I blog about this journey the Lord was taking me on and restoring me through. She suggested that, as I moved through the various healing stages and places where He would put more of the puzzle inside together, I should share the journey.

When I created this blog in the first place, I had no idea just how appropriate the title would grow to be…but He did. He had a purpose in mind for this all along – I just had to be patient and wait. He had a use for my closed off heart all along. He knew how I was, how I would survive some years of mess emotionally, and prepared a use for me anyway. He provided a way that I would be able to glorify Him in spite of the brokenness I had become – and He would get the glory and the praise for it all.

Do you have a closed off heart? Is it damaged, broken, compartmentalized beyond comprehension? That’s okay. Even in our jumbled and scrambled state, the Father still has a plan and we can still be of use. Are we intact vessels that can contain the living water He will pour into our lives? No, we are too cracked and broken for that, but I think He uses those cracks and chips to allow that living water to seep through our pain, to weep through the cracks, and to saturate the dryness around us. Through our flaws and defects, which keep us from being a seemingly useful vessel to the world around us, He is able to work and move and flow to those He brings into our paths as the living water He pours into us flows from the cracks in our hearts and into people He has placed around us – or onto paper.

Any heart, regardless of condition, when yielded to the Father, can become a vessel fit for the Master’s use and become a heart through which He can work and move. Don’t just step into the River of His heart, allow that river to flow through yours for His purpose, for His glory.

Never Forget

The excitement of Christmas morning comes along. The anticipation is so thick you can almost cut it with a knife. The constant wondering if you are going to receive the gift you wanted so badly is finally met with the amazing realization that you did!! The most fantastic gift ever given to you has been received that morning! Joy is incredible! The excitement is palpable! Success!!!

Fast forward to week later… The gift is still awesome. You are still amazed that it worked out the way you hoped it would… It is still the coolest thing ever!! You still remember to be grateful.

Now, fast forward six months down the road… Gift? What gift? “I don’t remember”…”oh, yeah, well, I guess I remember that”… It was a fantastic gift at the time, but what about now…. “I am happy you got that for me, but I already expressed my gratitude when you gave it to me.”

Is that not how we as human being tend to be? We are excited for what we receive right now, but we so quickly forget once the emotions have quieted down and the “calm” returns. While the newness is intact, we are grateful, we are happy, we are excited, and we do not hesitate to share it. Once the newness begins to wear off, we slowly loose most of these until we eventually lose it all – and ultimately forget.

How much more so do we do the same with the faithfulness of God? With the providence of God? With the grace of God? How often do we take Him for granted, forget to be grateful for all of the blessings He pours on our lives, or forget that He is holy?

Reading through the Old Testament, one theme seems to be repeated on a regular basis – constant reminders to never forget.

When the Children of Israel were being delivered from Egypt and instructions given for the first Passover, they were told to celebrate this every year at the same time so that they never forget. When the Israelites were saved through the bravery of Esther, they were instructed to remember that day every year so that they never forget. The feasts and celebrations that are observed throughout the year all serve that same purpose – they celebrate an important event in Jewish history when the providence of God was manifested on their behalf and they are to remember it always. Seemingly minor details, such as the manner in which they pray and the prayers that are said, were designed to ensure that they did not forget to be mindful of God, to be focused on pleasing God, following Him, and on not their own desires.

Within my own soul, I know how quick I am to forget all He has done on my behalf – especially during the rough times – and I also must question myself as to why I am so careless with His grace. If the Almighty, Omniscient God took the time to remind His people and institute celebrations and practices to help keep them focused, should I also not take such determined care to ensure that I do not forget all He has done for me? Should I wait for Easter/Resurrection Sunday to celebrate the fact that my debt is paid, that He became the ultimate sacrifice to cover MY sin, that He made a way for all people to come to the Father through the shedding of His blood on Calvary, and that He loves me more than I can comprehend? Should I wait for Christmas to remember that He willingly set aside His glory in Heaven and His place with the Father to come and be Emmanuel, to be God with us, to live as one of us, to experience all that we do? Should I wait for communion to be observed in church before I seriously take time to search out my heart, deal with hidden, unrepentant sin, and celebrate the Cross of Christ?

Unfortunately, and all too often, the answer to these questions tends to be “yes”…… We tend to get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives and forget or overlook the ways in which He is moving and working in our lives. Perhaps we, like the Jewish people, need to be more diligent in remembering Him in even the little things in life…. I can only speak from personal experience, but, in talking with my Jewish friends, I am continually convicted of how lazy I tend to be and how casually I treat my relationship with my Father.

We must be more diligent in our relationship with the Almighty. We must take time and make time to remember all that He has done for us, all the He will continue to do. I am so grateful that He remains faithful even when I am faithless! However, I do not want that to be the case any longer! If the Good Lord took the time to institute remembrances throughout the daily lives of His people, we need to be diligent to remember Him as well. After all, He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows how easily we forget.

My challenge to myself – and to anyone else who needs the help – is this:

*Find God in everything each day because He really is there if we will take the time to look.
*Be mindful of all the blessings He has poured out on my life and return all the glory back to Him.
*Thank Him continuously and in everything – He is worthy to be praised!
*Don’t let the busyness of my life supersede His authority in my heart or His position in my life.

May you see Him clearer, know Him better, love Him deeper, and cherish Him always.

Dare to Express

I was taught from a young age to never let anyone see you cry, never wear your heart on your sleeve, always keep up a good front, and don’t ever let the heart open too far. While most of these were verbal instructions I received (some of them repeatedly), some were driven home by example. I was always the shortest in the class and some of the boys thought they could pick on me. As far as I remember, I kept a good face on. I did as I was instructed to do and never let them know it bothered me – even though it did. I have continued to use this philosophy in life and consequently have kept most people away at least at arm’s length, if not further.

There are very few people I have ever let in far enough to know how I truly feel – if I even allowed myself to know. What a hollow and lonely existence it has been at times – and it is all of my own doing. But I must ask myself this one hard question: is living my life in this way useful to God? This question, of course, grows into more pointed questions (I happen to love questions…). Does this glorify Him in anyway? How can I be able to reach out to anyone with His love when I can’t even reach out myself?

Once answered, all of these questions then end in one ultimate question. In light of this thought, how then shall I live?

That is, of course, a question that will have different answers for all of us as we all have a different purpose and different challenges.

One of the biggest – and most recent – things I have learned in attempting to answer this question is that living a life that is closed off and inexpressive leads to friendships and relationships that are the same way. If you don’t share how you feel about someone, why should they be inclined to? Yes, it would always be wonderful for someone else to take the initiative, but there are times when we must take that leap of faith, take that step to come out of the protective surroundings of the mask, and say simply, “I appreciate you” or “I am glad you’re my friend” or “I am grateful that God brought you into my life.” One might even be so brave to risk saying, “I love you.”

Friends are a gift from the Father. They were placed here to enrich our lives, strengthen our hearts, walk through life with us – at least pieces of it as His plan would have it – and help us to know Him more.

Tomorrow is never promised. Accidents happen and lives change in an instant. Who is to know what may happen next…. I know for me, I never want to attend another funeral with the regret in my heart that I never told that person how much they meant to me, that I never told them I loved them, that I appreciated them, that they were special to me. Trusting the Father to pass on that message to them is not good enough – and it is not His job. We must tell them while they are here. Honestly, though, is there such a thing as being told you are appreciated or loved too often?

The Word says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and I completely agree. However, we should dare to show it more, speak it more, live it more. If you love someone, you should know their heart – and allow them to know yours.

Dare to be bold, dare to express, dare to live with no regrets – and dare to never go to another funeral with a list of things you wish you had said. Say them now while you still have the gift of today!!!

Won’t Ya Be my Neighbor…

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34, NIV


How well do we really know our “neighbor” – or our friends for that matter? I once read somewhere long since forgotten that if you say you know your friend well, you should also know where they hurt. Hmmm…. I am not sure that I can answer that for some of the people I call “friend,” but I do know that I will be paying more attention.

There are many people that suffer in silence through various trials, challenges, and situations that do not have to do so alone. Many of them choose this particular avenue of dealing with their circumstances, but there are those who do so because they doubt that anyone would care anyway. There may be hints that are dropped or abstract comments made just to see if anyone is listening, but it never goes further than that. There are times when the fact that a “friend” is too busy to see the real picture of what is going on just compounds the problem and seems to “prove” that they were right to feel alone in the first place.

Are we so busy working that we forget to serve? Have we neglected to serve and care for our brothers and sisters within the body? Are we so wrapped up in our own lives and our own worlds that we forget to take the time to really see what is going on around us, to get to know those whom the Lord has brought into our lives, to step outside of our comfort zones, to dare to take an honest look at our surroundings? This is not always easy to do and I am the first one to admit that I get wrapped up in my to-do list on a regular basis. However, I cannot allow myself to do so anymore.

I pray that you will take the time during the next week to really open your eyes and your heart to the people around you. Take the time to dare to look in their eyes – and don’t shy away if you find some pain inside. Reach out to one another, pray for one another, care for one another. If you don’t cherish the heart of your brother or sister in Christ, then who will? If we don’t take the time to care for those who are hurting and suffering in silence, who will? It doesn’t even have to take up a big chunk of your day…maybe something just a simple as a “hello” or a note to let them know you were thinking about them – some way to let them know that they are not forgotten.

Be Jesus to those around you. After all, He was not afraid to reach out and touch the lepers, the untouchable ones. How can we do any less?

Wounds and Scars? Yeah, but what now?

As I am sure everyone has experienced, there has been people in our lives that have caused us emotional harm. Whether it was intentionally or not doesn’t matter. Passed over, over looked, disregarded, tossed out with the trash, taken for granted… Words have been said – or not said – that reached a quiet, tender portion of the heart and created an oozing wound. It is not a deep or desperate wound, but it is just enough to break the integrity of that space and leave a weeping cut. As the years go by, these wounds slowly scab over and stop weeping, but a scar has been left behind. Time after time, wound upon wound, these scars build up to the point where they take over the space. All of this happens so gradually that it is not even noticed. Defense mechanisms begin to be used to protect this hall of scars and become such a part of normal everyday life that they are not noticed as well. Life can continue on as if all is well and no one is the wiser to the well hidden, darkness covered depth of pain residing just under the surface. But what happens if the surface gets cracked?

In the quiet and stillness of the hall of scars residing within a wounded heart, how does one react when light is brought in? While it is very painful, that is where I find myself today. The Lord is steadily cracking open this shell I built around my heart to keep out the hurt, to shelter from the disregard, a place built to escape to when the world forgot I existed. Two unbelievable people have been sent into my life and have blasted the doors away. They have forced me to take a look at my reactions, my standard response lines, and the reality of the emotions behind the things I sarcastically say. Some of this has not been pretty at all, but it has been a huge wake-up call to my heart to start beating again.

For too many years, I allowed others and their words to determine my value or self-worth. Too many years were wasted wondering what other people thought, how I should fit in, and wondering why. But, in the midst of all of this, the Lord spoke to my heart last night: “And God chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before God.” I Corinthians 1:28-29 (CJB)

Listen well to the words of life, my heart! There is hope! What it means, at least to me, is that even God has a plan for me and He finds value in me – especially because the world of my past did not. He saw me even then – and He still sees me now.

My prayer for you, my friend, is that you carefully choose your words. Cherish the heart of the person to whom you are speaking and guard it well. Some scars take a long time to heal, but the ones that were unnecessary and preventable can be the most painful.

Cherish the Body of Christ. Care for your fellow members. Do not overlook the ones who are not exactly like yourself. We were all created with great diversity so that we can each fulfill our role in His church. And it is HIS church, after all… Step out of your comfort zone, guard your tongue, think before your shoot darts out of your mouth, and learn to cherish that which is not like you. You just might be surprised at what you find – if you will dare to look beyond the veil, the mirror, and the walls.