When Hope becomes a four letter word…..

I had a moment the other night when this strange feeling washed over me. I knew I had felt it before, but I couldn’t quite place it.  I pondered it for a while and prayed until suddenly it hit me, like a ton of bricks. I felt…. safe.

I’m not just talking about being out of immediate danger, but actually safe and secure, like a small child feels being held in their mother’s arms. I felt loved beyond measure and I had this moment of knowing that dreams do come true and I was entering into my promised land.

It was an overwhelming experience and I delighted in it, until a shadow of doubt slipped into my mind and quickly my feelings of safety and anticipation sunk into an ocean of anxiety and sorrow.  One basic thought echoed in my mind…what if this was all an illusion? What if the promise land is just another fairy tale? What if I don’t deserve happiness?

Physical and emotional trauma can take it’s toll on anyone and I am no exception. I held on to hope firmly for 37 years, until a devastating series of events unfolded and my hope shattered into a millions pieces. I was broken and ashamed. So much so, hope became a four letter word banned from my vocabulary. I needed to see the world in back and white. I needed order in chaos. I no longer had room for silly things like dreams. No, I only needed carefully thought out goals, that could be reached through a meticulously thought out plan of action. I was done with hope. I would never need anyone again. I would be enough for me and I would be enough for my girls.

Thinking back on it, I find it funny how God works. He looked at my carefully thought out plan and laughed as He tossed it into the trash. He wisely knew that what I needed wasn’t what I wanted. He wanted to bring healing, but I was willing to settle for feeling numb. He wanted to restore hope but I was content to let it die. He wanted me to be made whole; I just wanted to survive.

I wonder, how often we try and settle for less than what God intended for us. How many times did we go for the quick relief instead of waiting for the cure? How many times did we walk away from our miracle because the journey appeared impossible?

I’m afraid that the answer to those questions, for myself anyway, is far to many to count. I became the queen of “I can do it myself”, meanwhile reducing God to the role of head cheerleader.

Not only did I put God in a box, but I handed Him a list of things He was and was not allowed to say. I was in control and that was that…

Of course, that is never really that and God will only stay in our comfort zone for so long before He starts moving our boundaries.  He loves us way too much to sit quietly in the corner of our lives. Yes, we can choose to ignore Him. He did give us free will after all, but why ignore the only one that loves us far beyond our ability to measure?

I am amazed at God’s handiwork in my life. He took this broken vessel and began crafting something completely new and amazing out of it. The “scars”, I once carried with shame, where now something beautiful, like carefully placed cuts that allow a diamond to sparkle in the light.

I am still a work in progress. I make mistakes just like everyone else. Sometimes, I am even foolish enough to listen to fear and doubt, just like I did the other night, but then I remember: “I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me” (Romans 8:28.) I am a living example of God’s grace, mercy and miraculous power, and so are you.

You can let your wounds define you or you can let them reflect the God who loves you. Having tried both, I wholeheartedly recommend the latter.

Miracle in the Making…

Three years ago, I was in a hospital bed fighting to find the will to live, which, to be brutally honest, was proving difficult. With my circumstances in full view, death seemed like the best answer. My future appeared to be nothing but pain and suffering and I didn’t know if I had the strength to keep fighting. I was beyond broken. I was shattered into a million pieces and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I could never be put back the way that I was before.

My mind was a battle ground. The same scriptures that used to bring me comfort and hope, now seemed to be nothing more than mocking taunts of a life I would never be able to experience. Hopelessness filled my soul as I recounted every broken promise ever told. I was literally abandoned and betrayed and worse yet, it felt as if God was in on the plot to destroy me.

I found myself in a spot where the very foundation I had built my life upon was shaking and I began questioning everything. Was my life in vain? Had I spent my entire existence trying to serve a God that cared so little for me and my children? How could He allow such devastation? These thoughts reverberated in my mind over and over again, but yet, I could not accept them as truth and so the battle continued.

As much as I wanted to give up, I could not. You see, I knew too much. I had seen with my own eyes, the way God moved, not just in my life, but in those around me. For every memory that was painful, there was one to combat it that was miraculous. These things were undeniable truths that I could not just explain away, no matter how hard I tried.

I knew what the Bible said. I knew what God had promised, and so I had to do something that seemed impossible. I had to trust. Maybe you are in that place. Maybe you feel too worn and broken to move forward. Maybe you think your life is beyond repair. I know you cannot see it right now, but you are going to be ok.

God did not forget me. He did not abandon me and He will not abandon you. He gave me the strength the rise up out of that bed. He gave me the strength to face the unthinkable circumstances that surrounded me, and He provided each step of the way. He not only restored my body and my mind, but He restore my life in a way I could never have imagined.

You may not be able to feel Him now, but He is there working. This, I can promise you. There is a path out of the darkness, but you too have to do the impossible. You too, have to trust.

Jeremiah 29:11-14  says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

This is His promise to you. “Call on me and I will listen to you” This is what He is saying to you “When you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,”

Whatever is happening around you, whatever you are experiencing, remember that the One who formed the heavens and the Earth, is fighting for you, not against you. You are not alone. Take a moment and let that sink in… You are not alone. GOD is working on your behalf.  You are a miracle in the making, so arise and shine for your light has come, even if you cannot see it yet.

Change is a coming.

Change takes a remarkable amount of courage. Ok, It’s really more like a stupid amount of courage, but who’s counting? Trying something new, or letting go of something old, is never easy, but you can do it. The question is… how? Here are a few things that may help.

1. Understanding the power of free will.

God gave us all the gift of free will. We can use that gift to either destroy or empower. The choice is truly up to us. I’m not saying it’s always easy to make the right choice, but it is always possible. The enemy wants us to feel powerless. We are not. Never ever forget that. You may not be able to choose your circumstances, but you can always choose how you respond to them. Once we understand we always have a choice, we can learn how to respond to adversity instead of reacting to it.

2. Don’t quit the race!

I don’t care what lays ahead, do not stop. The road may look impassable, but I assure you, it is not. God has a plan for each stage of the journey. Trust Him and you will do things you never thought possible.

3. Emotions lie

Don’t be fooled by your emotions. They are too easily manipulated. Instead, look carefully at your feelings and figure out what they are really saying. Pray for wisdom and good counsel. Anger may in fact be sadness in disguise. Anxiety may really actually be excitement. There are too many variables to take emotions at face value.

4. Stop letting the past weigh you down!

How can you journey forward carrying the past behind you? Seriously, who in their right mind would run a race with a ball and chain willingly strapped onto their ankle? It makes no sense, so stop holding on to the chains that bind you. Be free and let go

5. Be your own cheerleader

Tell yourself things you are proud of on a daily basis. If you are struggling, encourage yourself to move forward. Remind yourself of the strength that comes from deep with in and, for the love of all things good, stop all the negative self talk. It does nothing but make you feel weak and vulnerable. Remember the Bible says the power of life and death is contained in the tongue. Use this power wisely.

And lastly,

6. Acknowledge failure with grace.

You are going to mess up. Just be sure to remember that what happens after a mistake is far more critical than the mistake itself. Do not be foolish enough to allow your mistakes to define you, or cause you to give up. Admit your shortcomings, ask forgiveness, pick yourself back up and get back on track.

Whatever God has in store for you, or whatever He is asking of you, remember that He didn’t make a mistake. He never expected you to do it without Him, so don’t even try. Just hold on tight to Him and see what unfolds.

The Swamp of Sadness

The Neverending Story was one of my favorite movies as a child. I watched it over and over again. I loved every moment of it…..well almost every moment.  There was that ONE part……If you’ve seen it, you know what I talking about, the Swamp of Sadness.

The image of Atreyu’s horse, Artex, sinking into the mud has haunted my thoughts for more years that I care to admit. The part that always bothered me the most, was the fact that the horse didn’t have to die! The horse chose to stop moving and let the sorrow overtake him. The simple fact of the matter is, Artex abandon Atreyu in the swamp.

It didn’t matter how much Atreyu needed him; Artex left willingly. Atreyu begged, pleaded, pulled, screamed, and cried, but to no avail. Artex would not move forward. The horse didn’t care about the empty void he was leaving behind. He didn’t care about the pain and greif it caused Arteyu. He simply became too weary of the difficult journey, and gave up; thereby leaving his best friend to carry on, all alone.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the swamp of sadness. There are times when I feel as if I am lost inside of it and I cannot find my way out. There are times when I wonder if the journey is even worth it. There are even times when I feel alone and betrayed by the people I care about most.  Yes, there are times when I simply want to give up and just let the circumstances consume me, but then, I remember; that is just the swamp talking.

There are blessings around each one of us every single day. There are chances for laughter. There are moments of beauty. Love surrounds us and reaches out for us every moment of every day. The question is, are we looking for them, or are we too focused on the mud that slows, or stops, our movement?

The older I get, the more convinced I am; that life is all about choices. Freewill is probably one of the greatest, most powerful weapons God has ever given us. We can choose life. We can choose peace. We can choose faith regardless of our circumstances. We can find our way out of the swamp, if we choose.

 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

Atreyu had to make a deliberate choice to move forward, despite the pain and grief. Because he did, he survived, and became a little stronger because of it.

At some point, you too, will have to make a choice to move forward. You will feel pain and loss. You will feel the agony, betrayal, grief, and more; but you do NOT have to be destroyed by it. Even in death, you can still choose life. The question is, will you?

 

 

 

 

 

I Respectfuly Request a Turn on the Soap Box

In our pursuit for justice, equality, moral stability, and freedom from oppression, I am afraid that we have overlooked something very important. I am afraid that we have forgotten about the individual.

As much as we may want things to be easily defined, the simple truth is, when it comes to people, one size doesn’t fit all. Just because a person fits into a category does not mean that they are exactly the same as everyone else in that group.

I am a proud Christian, but I am not the same as every other Christian on the plant. I am a female, but I am not the same as every other female. I am a mom, but I am different then other moms. I am a musician, but I don’t sing or play like anyone else. My skin color is pale white and pink but I am not the same as every other person with my skin tone. I am an individual. I am unique and so are you.

The biggest atrocities in human history occurred as a direct result of the classification of people into generalized groups.  Once society looses the sight of the individual, they can be convinced that even the most heinous of actions are for the greater good.

Just think about it for a moment because this is very important. Through out history, millions of people have been slaughtered like cattle, not because of their individual actions, but because they belonged to a group of people that were deemed unworthy for life.  I don’t want my generation, nor my children’s generation to make this same mistake.

We are standing on dangerous ground. It is a slippery slope. The holocaust didn’t happen over night. It was a series of small compromises over a long period of time that gave way to the murder of over 6 million people. Little by little, people gave up their rights and their freedoms for the promise of safety and prosperity. They received neither.

We are losing sight of what really matters. Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself on the cross,  and conquer death in order to redeem a specific group of people. No, He did it for each and every individual that would ever be in existence. He did it for you. He did it for me. He even did it for all those he knew beforehand would reject him. God wanted us all.

With this understanding, we must therefore, endeavor to truly love our neighbors the way Christ loves them. We cannot do that if we lose site of who they are in the midst of the causes we are called to fight. We cannot villainize them just because they look or believe differently then we do.

As Christians, we must realize that we can love our neighbor without agreeing with them. We can love them without condoning sinful actions. However, it would be foolish for us not to recognize that our neighbor, will in turn, have to do the same exact thing for us. For none of us are without fault in our own lives. As the Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

I say all of this because my heart is broken by what I see happening to the communities around us. We have made enemies out of the people we were called to serve. We have forgotten that all life is a gift from God. We have forgotten that no one is a mistake. We have forgotten that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross covers ALL sins, even the most contemptible. We have forgotten what the real battle is all about.

12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Eph 6:12

I beg you to take these words I have written into prayerful consideration. I beg you to speak the truth with love and not contempt. I beg you not to ruin a just cause by fighting with unjust actions.

Yes, I beg anyone who will listen, to spend more time praying for the people you consider adversaries then you do actually fighting with them. I beg anyone who will listen, not to be fooled by propaganda meant to instill fear, but rather seek discernment in all you read or hear (including this post). For what is true and just remains as such from now until the end of time.

Please, stop the hate. Please stop the name calling. Please, just stop and look around you and see what is really happening. Pray that God opens your eyes and guides your next steps because fighting dirty is not what God has ordained you to do. Be wise with your words, and when you fail (like I often do) be humble enough to ask for forgiveness.

I have one last request. It may be metaphorical, but it is still extremely important. Please take a moment to look down and see that there is a baby in the bathwater you are trying to empty.  Yes, the water is nasty. It is disgusting and it needs to go, but the baby is precious and needs to be saved. Save the baby then toss the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Hope on the Road to Emmaus

Waiting has never been something I excel at. I like things to happen on my own terms and at a time I predetermine. Unfortunately for me, however; God never really consults me about what I think should happen and when. This has led to many sleepless nights arguing with the sky.

The times that are the most challenging for me, are the in between times. We all go through these. It’s a season when one door closes shut, but the next door is either playing hide and seek, or is stubbornly refusing to open. This is my battle ground. This is where I must improve myself. It is here that I feel the most alone. It is here that I feel weak and vulnerable, but I also know that here is where the break-through awaits.

I think about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and I can totally identify with them. What they thought would happen, the future they imagined with their Messiah, was completely destroyed by the cruelty of others. Death stole their vision of the future. They were scared, and rightfully so. Being a known follower of Jesus wasn’t exactly safe in the city of Jerusalem. They needed an escape, so they took off for Emmaus.

Anyone that is familiar with the story in Luke 24:13-33, knows that they were joined by a “stranger” on their journey. Because, however; they were blinded by grief and disappointment, they didn’t recognize that the very person walking with them was the same person they were mourning.

RoadtoEmmausThey heard Him speak a thousand times over the past three years. They knew His phrases, His posture, His wisdom, yet, when standing right before them, their despair and pain kept them from seeing the one thing they wanted more then anything else: their Messiah.

I wonder how many times we wander through life, feeling disillusioned or hopeless, but the entire time, the thing we need most is standing right next to us, just waiting on us to open our eyes and see the beauty in what He as done.

Honestly, the disciples plan for their Messiah was too small. It was too temporary. It would only have freed the Jews from their Roman rule. God’s plan was so much bigger. He wanted to free them from the tyrannical rule of sin and death. I am glad, Jesus wasn’t the Messiah the disciples thought they wanted, and I guarantee you that, in the end, the disciples were glad as well.

Realizing that, I have to put that same understanding into my own heart and my own circumstances. Just because I have planned everything out they way I wanted, doesn’t mean that it was what is best for me, my family, or the world around me. I think too small. I focus on little things. God sees it all. Yes, He cares about the little things that get me, but He see where the real danger lies. He knows what is coming and I have to learn to trust Him, not matter what I see.

I don’t like suffering. I don’t like pain, but I rather receive what God wants than settle for some temporary thing that comforts me in the here and now. As much as I hate to admit it, the “in between” is exactly what I need to grow and mature. There will be a day when I look back at this particular time in my life and I will treasure it because I know God’s hand is upon it. So why then wait for that “someday”? I will choose to cherish it now. I will choose to grow. I will choose to rest. I will choose to be obedient.

For anyone else here in the “in between” be encouraged. This season won’t last forever. In fact, they are usually short in comparison to other seasons of life. Enjoy the moments you are given as you wait for God’s best. Don’t settle for less then what God has for you. “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms 27:14

 

 

Into the Unknown

Recently, my family and I were traveling in the mountains of Pennsylvania. At the base of the mountains, it was beautiful. The sun was shinning upon the recently fallen snow, and fluffy white clouds adorned the tops of the mountains like a crown of cotton candy. It was picture perfect.

Once we reached the top, however, our feelings towards the mountains had changed. The beautiful snow, was now scary and slippery. The fluffy white clouds no longer picturesque, but an overwhelming fog that kept everything from sight. In fact, the fog was so dense we could not see past the front of the car. Seriously, we had no visibility past the front of the car. We were traveling on a mountain road covered in snow and ice and had no way to see what was coming.

Luckily, we had a GPS with our final destination programmed  into it.  At one point, at the thickest point of the fog, the GPS told us that we needed to turn right at an intersection just a few feet ahead of us. My husband and I looked at each other in horror because we could not see this “alleged” intersection. By faith, we followed the little blue arrow on the screen and the little white line I could barely see on the side of the road. We safely made the turn and eventually came down  low enough to go underneath the fog. The sun was still shinning.

On our trip home, the skies were clear and sunny. When we got to that same intersection, we were shocked to see that an entire town was there. Seriously, the fog was so thick, it hid an entire town from view.Road-Fog1

We see our dreams as being some picturesque idea, but in reality, the journey towards them is messy and spiritually draining. On top of that, our emotions can be a slippery slope and our circumstances an overwhelming fog, but just because we can’t see the sun shinning, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because the road is hidden from view, doesn’t mean that we’re lost. It just means that we have to rely on something greater then us to get through.

God sees you where you are. He has not lost you in the fog. There may be times when you feel as if He has left you to figure this all out by yourself, but in reality He is there teaching you and guiding you each step of the way. Don’t let you emotions or circumstances fool you into thinking that you can’t be who God created you to be.

There will always be adversity. There will always be trials, but you are an overcomer. That is a promise given to you though the blood of the Lamb (Revelations 12:11). Claim that promise and hold on to it tightly. Never lose sight of it. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) Cities can be transformed, families restored, bodies healed, chains of addiction broken, financial burdens removed, and more. Dare to dream again. Dare to hope again. Dare to believe again. This is not the time to idly sit by. This is your time to be who God called you to be, so do it. Take that step of faith out into the unknown and never forgot that God still sees where the path leads, even if you can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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