The Past Can Hurt

The past can hurt. I’m finding myself facing things this week that I’d made it a point to bury. I felt it was better for me to not dwell on things gone by…it seemed better that way. However, this week, I’ve needed to pull from the memory banks and remember how it felt to live through what I’ve lived through. I believe God allows us to go through certain situations so we can help others later. I’ve always felt that my experiences made me stronger and prepared me for the road ahead, but here I sit, remembering, feeling and praying that I have the right words…that I would be inspired by the comforter and let His words flow through me. I feel completely inept. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I took a small break from cleaning and organizing projects I had planned for the day. I flipped on The Learning Channel for background noise while I munched on a granola bar and it happened. Memories I’d locked up for years came flooding back. One episode of “Hoarders” and suddenly, I was a little girl digging through the six-inch deep carpet of laundry on the bathroom floor. My favorite shirt had somehow inched deeper into the mayhem and landed on the bottom. By the time, I rescued it, it was too late. It was mildewed and completely ruined with no hope of recovery. The brown, grease and grime covered appliances on the TV were like they came straight out of my memory. As I watched, I was amazed to find things so similar to my past, like the holes in the floor that guests sometimes fell through because they didn’t know the proper procedure for jumping over them.

I remember the day a family friend came over and attempted to help us clean. She and I were in my parents’ bedroom and I was standing on the bed when she made the mistake of touching the closet door. It was just enough to cause the closet door to give up its mission and it broke and fell directly on top of me. I laugh now at the memory being completely buried under door and who knows what behind it while our friend screamed in panic and unburied me.

I knew our lifestyle was extreme, but I didn’t realize how it affected me until that moment the other day watching others living in similar circumstances. I panicked. suddenly, ever corner of my home that had the slightest pile of clutter became the enemy of my soul. The pile of mail sitting on top of the piano mocked me as if it were ready to multiply any minute. The books I have been so reluctant to part with because, let’s be honest, who wants to get rid of BOOKS?!!, suddenly seemed so unimportant. My husband has never quite understood my attachment to the printed word, but they’re so pretty! Ah, and my husband…he’s a conservationist apparently. The man will reuse anything. We have little stashes of salsa jars and empty lunch meat containers that he uses to take his lunches to work. It saves my Tupperware and for that I’m grateful, but what if it too, multiplies into a horde of garbage invading my kitchen cabinets until they explode and trap me underneath the pile. I was losing it.

After a short meltdown, I decided to tackle one cluttered area at a time starting with the things I tend to ignore most frequently. I had to make myself remember that my past doesn’t define me. The bondage I lived in as a child (most of which was completely out of my control) has no power to dominate who I am as a woman. I may never completely rid the world of clutter, but my home is NOTHING like the home in which I was raised.

This, just like all of the other things in my life, both physical and spiritual, needs to be tempered and balanced. I cannot fall into an opposite mania, where I strive so hard to be different that I forget about who I am. I can learn from my past, facing it bravely and moving forward with grace and dignity. I can use my experiences to teach my children the importance of doing things a different way. I can use my experiences to remind myself not to go back but to press on, knowing the difference between extremes and finding a balanced ground to rest on in the middle of the two. I can use the panic I felt when facing those memories to understand a little more about myself and why I pressure myself to have the “perfect” home; why I often feel as though I don’t measure up to the imaginary standard of what a woman should be able to accomplish. I can use this knowledge to pray for healing, to grow in grace, to move beyond my past into the woman God designed me to be. I can get over it…and I will.

Outside my bubble

Do we really love? It’s so easy to talk about ideals. We know the right things to do and say; even so, we mess up and run our mouths or misstep into the wrong. Yet we say we’d die for Him. I’ve always believed I would without hesitation until this week when it hit me.

I sat in a room full. Heart full from the love of my friends, my comrades at arms next to me. Stomach full from the extra serving of lasagna someone insisted I eat for the baby (it may have been me, I can’t remember). A preacher on a video spoke with fervor and passion about rescuing the lost, those prisoners of war all around us who we so easily pass by and ignore. Yet we say we’d die for him.

In that moment something clicked within me. I realized that I have missed the point so many times. Deep down, I’m still the shy girl who has no idea where to begin a conversation so rather than fumble, I retreat. I don’t talk to strangers so I stay locked in my bubble of “church-ianity”…comfortable, safe, allowing God to use me in His house speaking and singing to those who know the way. Is that enough?

If I’m willing to die for him, shouldn’t I be willing to live for him? Outside of the church walls where I’ll certainly be rejected, where I’ll be challenged to do something profound with my faith, that’s when it matters most. Jesus told us to go into all the world making disciples of all men. He never asked us to stay in our comfort zones and avoid all non-believers. To do so would be an affront to everything he came to accomplish.

I committed to be different this week and he’s brought me so many opportunities to show his love to others who desperately need him. It’s scary! My heart is willing but in the moments when your dealing with very real issues and someone is crying out for help and answers from God whom they’ve never met and you represent, and your praying “God, please give me the right words because I’m just a broken and feeble vessel”; it’s then that the Spirit of God can begin to show himself. Hopefully I can hide I’m the background of his glory and watch while he sutures the wounded and brings life to those whose hearts desperately seek him. Hopefully, he’ll allow me to offer a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a surrender of myself and my time to someone outside my little world.

So I’m leaving the sanctuary of my bubble and venturing out to the unknown, the wilderness where I bear the only light, walking with them as they find their way to the source of hope Jesus. I’m yielding my heart to truly love others with action. We can make a difference in this world. Here I am Lord, send me.


DizzyRound and round we go, don’t stop until we’re dizzy enough to fall. Laugh at the circle engraved in the ground by our feet marching in rhythm. Sing another verse of the same old song. Forget the new lyrics begging for freedom because we’re too busy to write them down. Trapped in the same pattern we’re too lazy to escape. Another opportunity passed by as we say we’ll do it later. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time or maybe we were too scared to move. We were made for more than this.

One Foot in Front of the Other

Photo by Rachel Woodland (my amazing daughter)

Photo by Rachel Woodland (my amazing daughter)

Most days I write about good things, the passions of the soul, the deep longing for a savior and the glorious news that we have one. I write about joy and life and beauty. Then there are days when familiar monsters try to reappear and torment my heart. The most infamous carries a message he’s repeated in my ear for as long as I can remember, “You’re not good enough”. The smallest of criticisms can cause the sulfurous vapors breathed from his lips to sting my senses until I’m wasted and fighting to hold the tears inside a little longer.

Sometimes it builds, brick upon brick, cut upon comment, and little disapproval upon condescending stare, until the weight is more than my pretense can handle and I collapse. Sometimes the dam breaks early before my imposter smile can react.

Some days, I can wring the neck of the beast the moment he appears. My shield in place, I fight off every effort to discourage and hold my head high, knowing that I am called lovely and nothing else matters. I wish I could say I am victorious every time. I cannot. What I can say is that, in my head, I know he’s a liar. It may take a little time for heart and head to connect, but I will continue holding on and fighting harder each time I hear his raspy little voice until the voice becomes a whisper and eventually no more than a memory, a testimony of another battle won. It’s at least a step in the right direction.

I’m Hungry

I’m drinking in the morning. Splendid sights before me captivate the senses and awaken the mind. The sunrise out my window tosses red, orange and pink beams into the horizon, borrowing just a fraction of the majesty the omnipotent one holds. Such sights make me hungry to see more of Him every day.

If I could pull back a small corner of the veil of eternity and peek in, would I even be able to stand tomorrow? My legs would surely be the first things to go as my wobbly feet try to process what it would mean to take a step closer.

Who is like Him? The earth is His footstool. The heavens declare His wonder and still He thinks of me.

I know I cannot pull back the heavens for a closer look so, for now, I’ll put away my pen and dive deeply into the ocean of wonder contained in His word. I’ll always be hungry for more.

Into Dreaming

The lizard in the rough

In my waking and my slumber may your presence fill my heart. When my eyes close let me see you clearly. When all of me is shut down and distant let me hear you shout loudly. Even when I’m unaware, you’re guiding me, warning me, comforting, drawing me near to your glory. My ever present refuge, my deliver, strength of my heart. I trust in You.

Let me dream dreams of vision. Let my passion be bigger than me. May my vigor for your purpose drive my life; a pen in the hand of a ready writer (Ps. 45:1). All I am I give to you, my desires, my dreams. Make them into something more. Make them lovely. Overwhelm, consume, edit my life until it portrays your message.

I’ll dream again and wait for you.

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”.

Everybody Talks

I hope I’m not becoming a talker. I’m sure you’ve met people who you can sit down with for any length of time and you quickly see that they can have a conversation with anyone and escape can be difficult. Before long they might even be having a conversation all by themselves while you are plotting a polite exit route and thinking about a million things that have nothing to do with the words floating in the air. Often, I realize I can’t even understand them anymore. They are suddenly speaking an entirely different language referencing things that clearly interest them, but have no meaning or value to me. I sit there nodding along, faking a smile, trying so hard to be a patient and Godly woman and praying they don’t find me callous.

I’ve never been good at making conversation so in part I’m thankful for the talkers of the world. I think this comes from my mixed heritage. My mother is a talker. My father is one of the quietest men on the planet. Together, they made me, a strange concoction of timidity and passion. I may not be able to start a conversation but if you get me going, look out! I can talk a person’s ear off and not realize I’m doing it until I recognize the blank stare forming on their face and I can read the thoughts behind their eyes saying, “Good Lord, how do I make it stop!”

It doesn’t help that I have an opinion about everything. I feel very strongly about what I believe and this passion can sometimes become a myriad of soapbox appearances that others can find amusing or annoying or a mixture of both.

Over the past few months, I’ve made a commitment to work on controlling my mouth a little better. The tongue can be an unruly little booger. I hate those moments when I say something and I instantly feel like I shouldn’t have said a word. I know that a wise woman considers the words she’s about to inflict on the earth around her before she speaks. I want to be a wise woman.

Proverbs 15:1-4 “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

Scripture is very clear about how much of a mess we can make with our mouths. Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I feel like this verse is often taken completely out of context and abused, but that’s a soapbox for another day. If you read the verses preceding this scripture, it’s speaking about offenses and strife. It can be so easy for us to say something that would offend someone or sow strife and animosity. This can cause others to fall into a spiritual state of emergency. Taming our tongue is important for us, for others and for our spiritual health.

James 3:2-11 “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”

Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you. Let me learn to be quiet when I should. Help me to bite my tongue when anything unruly tries to take control. Help me to think of the effect my words have on others and be a woman of wisdom and self-control.

Happily Ever After

I’m not sure where we got the idea that we wouldn’t face adversity. Many well meaning Godly men and women have grabbed ahold of principles about abundance, prosperity and healing and walk around like Job’s friends wondering what isn’t operating in a person’s life if they are going through a trying time. I hear expressions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” from folks who are longing for answers, for fairness from the universe. To quote The Princess Bride, (Rob Reiner, dir., 20th Century Fox, 1987), “Who said life is fair? Where is that written?” or “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Every great love story holds within it the need to overcome obstacles. We grew up on fairy tales and somehow got the moral all wrong. True love conquers all. It’s true. Christ proved this on a cross many years ago. Yet, when we are young, we expect to grow up, meet a prince or rescue a princess, find a painless adventure and live happily ever after. We somehow forget that the phrase “happily ever after” denotes that there was something before the present and future that wasn’t so happy. We’ve come through all of this and now, we can begin enjoying the spoils of our victory.

Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip overcame a fire breathing dragon and eternal slumber before their happily ever after. Snow White spent time hiding in the forest from a murderer, was poisoned by a witch and was rescued by a team of unlikely heroes only to face death until her prince showed up before her happily ever after. Belle sacrificed everything to save her father. Cinderella suffered slavery and persecution. Ariel and Eric fought a sea witch. Jasmine and Aladdin conquered an evil sorcerer. There’s always peril preceeding the victory.

Real life isn’t so different. I know so many men and women who have overcome tremendous odds in life and fight on. These men and women are the true heroes: The young man I know who lost both legs in a motorcycle accident who lives his life on prosthetics and lives to the fullest in spite of the circumstances, The wonderful woman at my church who suffers from MS yet volunteers consistently, offers a smiling face to those who walk in the door despite the pain she suffers consistently. The mother of seven I call my friend whose newborn twins battled RSV shortly after birth leaving one of them with cerebral palsy. She is light and life where others would falter. There’s the lovely lady I know who is battling cancer who through the agony breathes words of life and love to all those she encounters. There’s the woman I know who lost her baby at 26 weeks gestation and despite the heartbreak, she’s strong. She teaches toddlers the love of God every Sunday. She is a warrior. These are heroes. In their eyes true joy is evident.

My life was not always easy. I grew up in poverty. My family fell apart. My stepmother battled alcoholism and paid with her life at a very young age. My father was a thousand miles away. I married an addict, who abused me emotionally for years and chose substances and other women over me. I went through a divorce. But I am a fighter and refused to give up or give in to the pain. The journey is far too precious for that. My happily ever after didn’t depend on my circumstances. My happily ever after began the day I met Christ. He has carried me through every moment and blessed me abundantly in the midst of them all.

For me and most princesses, there is a happy ending. I have met my prince, I’m carried in the arms of a loving savior. I’m blessed with incredible children and the joy of building my very own fairy tale with my family. Everyday, I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I’m blessed and I’m overflowing with joy. But I know the rains will come. Not everyday is perfect, but real contentment can be found in the middle of the worst situations through the love and refuge of a comforter, Emmanuel, God with us.

Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, beaten with rods and so much more, yet he fought on with joy! It seems to me that bad things may happen to bad people sometimes, but they definitely happen to good people also. Into every life, rain will fall on both the just and the unjust. It’s how we handle the adversity that matters. Jesus Christ is our joy and we can begin our happily ever after right now.