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.

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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.

SEASONED WITH KINDNESS

I signed into my WordPress account the other day and was looking through the blog feed.  From time to time, interesting things pop up, new stuff can be learned, and I find new blogs I want to read.  As I was scrolling,  “The Courage To Be Open”, the title of this blog really caught my attention.

As Christians we are called to be salt and light, but we are also called to be kind, compassionate, gracious, and loving – in other words, to be like Jesus.  Throughout the four gospels, I do not recall Jesus speaking harshly or in a condemning manner to anyone else besides the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious “authorities” of the time.

I know that there are very strongly and passionately held beliefs regarding the subject matter this blog talks about, but I would challenge each of us as Christians to take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul:

“Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].”
Colossians 4:6 (Amplified Bible).

Despite our personal feelings and opinions, we should always speak with grace first.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,],”  II Timothy 2:24-25 (NIV)

What do we accomplish by speaking out so quickly in judgment?  What right do we have to inflict so much damage with our words?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”  Proverbs 18:21 (Amplified Bible)

Our words, when they are not spoken with grace but rather with judgment and condemnation, bring about a death in the heart of the hearer.  How many of these “deaths” does it take before the spirit of the hearer is irreparably damaged?

People of God, let us show the love of Jesus to all that we meet.  After all, according to the Scriptures,

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23, NIV).

There is no disclaimer included…ALL have sinned and ALL fall short.  While this does not nullify our right to have a strong or differing opinion, it also does not give us the right to judge the heart of the person or to tear them down with our words.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen… 32  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 
(Ephesians 4:29, 32)

If you come across a fellow believer who is hurting or a person whose orientation or lifestyle you do not approve of, take the time to care for that heart.  Regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we have done, we all want the same thing – to be accepted for who we and to be loved.  Perhaps, through your love, their heart will be opened and, if there is work to be done or things in their life to be corrected, the Holy Spirit will then have a willing vessel through which to work – you.

Dare to be open.  Dare to be the one who makes a difference, even if it is in just one life.  After all, for that one person, the results of your kindness can change their whole world.

In case you would like to read more, the following verses would be good to look into as well.

Proverbs 15:1
Romans 14:10-12
Proverbs 10:12
Galatians 6:1-3
Luke 6:38
Luke 6:31

10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE DARKNESS

While going through several recent bouts with depression, I attempted to try to not only put into words the stuff going through my head, especially as the darkness begins to subside and light begins to creep back in, but I also wanted to see if there was anything I could learn from this time…find some purpose in it…find something that can be carried into the next dark time…find something to cling to. I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven, so surely He has a reason for these. Perhaps He will use these experiences in the future, but perhaps there is a more personal lesson that can be learned.

1. It is dark….some days are darker than dark – but even in the darkest of moments, He still sees. The darkness within does not block out the view of the Almighty.
(“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12)

2. It hurts… some days the pains is almost unbearable, although there is often no explanation for it, but the Father knows. Every tear we have ever cried has been seen, understood, and known.
(“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8)

3. Everything appears to be upside down and the top cannot be found. At times, it is as if you are being pulled down a spiral and there is no way to know which way is up or which way is down. It is a swirling sea of pain and darkness. But, despite all of this, He is still there, He is still holding on, and He will not let us go.
(“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b)

4. It seems to last FOREVER — and F…O…R…E…V…E…R… is no joke when you are drowning in darkness.

5. God doesn’t let the darkness remain all-consuming. He sends a ray of help at the darkest point. BUT, it is in His time and not ours, which is a tough one to swallow. Perhaps this is why I always felt drawn to lighthouses. They symbolize hope in the midst of raging storms and help to guide sailors away from the unseen ragged rocks that would dash them to pieces. He truly is our Lighthouse as He is the One who gives light in the dark, that protects us from what would crush us, and that guides us safely home.
(“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a)

6. You are NEVER alone or unloved in the darkness, even though it may totally feel that way.
(“The LORD appeared to us in the past,[a] saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…’” Jeremiah 31:3)
(“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2)

7. Nothing seems to matter, even though everything really does – and even more so.

8. Feelings, while very frightening, are allowed and need to be released/expressed during this time. Freedom comes from expressing some of the feelings. It is almost as if that, by putting words to the feelings, they are disarmed and lose some of power.
(“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a)
(“My tears have been my food day and night… 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:3 – 5)

9. It will end – the light will break through. Just be patient and remember to keep your head up despite the drowning sensation.
(“14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
“20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”,
“29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[b] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:14a, 20, 29-30)

10. You will be stronger for having survived the storm.
(“2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3a)

The biggest challenge for me, but one of the most crucial one, is to remember to just be still and to hold on. Even though I cannot see what is around me or where I am reaching, I must trust that when I reach out to Him, He will find me. When I grasp hold of even just the hem of His garment, He will hold onto me and will not let me go.

All that is expected of me during these times is to trust His heart and, most importantly, be STILL and KNOW that He is God.

He is in control even when the darkness surrounds and obscures all vision.
He is in control when everything around me seems to be crumbing to pieces.
He is in control in the mist of the chaos.
He is in present,
He understands, and
He will have mercy.

They dawn will break, morning will come, and He will exchange our tears for His healing, our pain for His peace, and our darkness for His light.

*All Scripture quoted is from the NIV.

My Shepherd

I know that I have posted this once before, but I hope you will indulge a brief reflection on a cherished passage. Given events in my life and heart, my soul needed a reminder of this simple truth – a reminder that He IS my Shepherd.

While all that is within me is longing for those still, quiet waters and the lush green pastures of rest, I trust my Shepherd and know that this path is for a reason, that there is always a purpose, and that He is eternally faithful. He has not forgotten me, forsaken me, or abandoned me.

I know that, even when the darkness seems to hide me, the night will shine like the day around me for the darkness is as light to Him. There is no where I can go where He cannot find me and no where I can run that He is not already there. He is My Shepherd.

***
My Shepherd

I – He WILL for He IS
Yahweh Ro’I, the Lord my Shepherd.
He supplies all that I need for He is Yahweh Jireh.

I will lie down and rest where
the meadows are sweet.
He will bring me to the still and restful waters,
beside peaceful streams of quiet waters,
so that my soul can rest.
He is Yahweh Mekaddesh.

He will restore my soul,
refresh my life,
and renew my strength.
He is Yahweh Rafae.

He will lead me in the paths that are right –
He is Yahweh Tsidkenu.

***
II – You ARE and You WILL

During the apprehensive journeys of life,
through the deep, sunless, darkest valley,
yes, even when I come to the valley of death,
I do not have to fear evil,
nor have I cause to dread it,
for You are always with me
and remain close beside me.
You are Yahweh Shammah.

Your will protect me and guide
as a father to His children.
You are such a comfort to me
and the rock on which I depend for strength.
You are my Abba.

***
III – You WILL, You DO, You ARE

You will care for me
and provide for me,
oh Yahweh Sabaoth,
Even when my enemies are near
Or are standing righting before me.
You pour Your love and joy over my life so that
my cup of blessing overflows
with the abundance and fullness of You.
You are Yahweh Shalom.

Your mercy, Your unfailing love
will follow me and pursue me
so long as I live.
You will be always be
the place my heart will call home.
You are my Adonai.

Baruch HaShem Adonai, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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.

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.