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!

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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.

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

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.

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?

One for Five!

Provision from the Lord can come in many forms that, if we are not watching, it can be missed more often than I care to acknowledge. Often times, at least in my life, it tends to be so subtle that I don’t realize He has taken care of it until after the moment has past.

Having spent so much of my life withdrawn from the world, when I moved to a different state and transitioned from being a traditional employee to a self-employed/independent contractor, the solitude seemed to envelope me some days. Not that I had a lot of friends left behind in the move, but I did at least know people. In the new location, while it is more beautiful that I could have hoped for, was more solitude. During this time, I found great comfort in writing and continued to add to my files of poetry which appeared to have no purpose or destination whatsoever beyond an intimate moment with my Lord.

During this time, I joined some poetry and Christian writing groups on FaceBook, but wasn’t really “involved.” Yes, I would scan through to see if anything caught my eye, but I did not share any work or really comment on much. One day the Lord placed it on my heart to share a little poetry – and a “little” is what I posted. I think it was one of the shortest ones I had written, but I went out on a limb and hit the “post” button. I was surprised to see that people had actually read it – and even more surprised when I received some positive feedback. I was “brave” and shared another – and with a similar response. Then I stopped.

The “what’s the point?” argument came up…which was followed by the “they are just saying nice things about the poem to be kind” lie. I am ashamed to say that I listened to both of them – but only for a while. The Lord then reminded me that nothing done for Him, for His glory, for His honor, out of obedience to Him is ever wasted, worthless, or pointless. Even if I did not see immediate results or have people knocking on my door (or inbox…) wanting to publish my poetry, if even one person was blessed by an inspiration He provided, then it was worth it and its purpose fulfilled for that moment.

Being one so accustomed to solitude and remaining in the background, it can be a struggle some days to share the words He has laid in my heart. There are some pieces that contain so much of my heart I don’t know that I will ever share them with anyone for fear of exposing some of the deeper parts of me. I have struggled to overcome the fear of exposure, trusting the Lord to show me what pieces to share and when to share them. I have also struggled to expose the lies the enemy speaks to me against the kind words given regarding the work, to not search for the hidden meaning behind them, but rather to take them to the Father as what they really are – His! (My lack of ability to accept a compliment for the longest time was brought to my attention in a very pointed manner by a friend – and she nailed me with it. I had listened to the lies for so long that I didn’t even realize it was happening.)

Along this rather interesting – and rather exposing – leg of the journey, the Lord has provided some very encouraging, uplifting, God-centered friends whom I have never met. These five people have impacted my life more in the last few months than any of them will ever realize. I have been challenged to think beyond the box and “churchy” responses/statements, to open up and let some of this poetry out into the world, to express my heart without fear, to share words I had not shared before, to banish lies from my mind that had been long rooted and entrenched, and to enjoy poetry more than I ever have.

This wonderful provision of the Lord was slowly being brought together and I never saw it coming! I was a little sad the other day thinking about friends who seem to have forgotten me and wishing there was a way to “fix” things when He gently reminded me that He had provided above and beyond what I thought I was missing out on. It may not be the way in which I would like things to be or more convenient for me, but He provided the way in which He did for a reason – and the blessings are more than I could have imagined! Besides, that is some awesome math when you lose one and He replaces it with five!

Look beyond the obvious to see what resides underneath – often times that is where the Lord is working the most in our lives. Don’t miss out on what He is REALLY doing just because you are looking for what you WANT Him to be doing in your life. Keep your heart open, your eyes focused on Jesus, and hold on – you never know what is around the next bend!