Sunday, September 24, 2017

Where is God in Rejection?

As promised I am going to share with you what God has been teaching me as I continue to face my pain, and walk out this journey with God.  Today I want to share with you about something that has brought tremendous amounts of pain to my life, devastated relationships, and in the past, pulled me away from God and people.  Rejection.  I know rejection is a part of life, and we all face it in some capacity.  For me it has been great, and has come from people in my life that I would have thought would be the ones who would love and accept me even more than others.  As I share this with you, I am aware that rejection can sometimes be the perspective I take, and not the intended action of those around me.  I get that now.  There have been times where I chose to believe the lie that I am rejected because of the gaping wound that was in my heart.  Whether it was  rejection, or my perspective of rejection, it felt the same.  It was the same pain.  The same words circling my head "they don't love you", "they don't accept you", "you will never be good enough, and will never be a part".  And whether it was rejection, or just how I perceived it, my response has been the same... close up and hide.  Big fat walls would surround my heart, and I would push everyone else away.  I would be consumed with fear and shame.  As I walked through my healing last year, God showed me those walls.  He showed me the destruction in my life that came as a result of those walls and shutting people out.  I don't want to be that person anymore ever again.  I will not go back to fear and shame.

Recently we were with a group of people that I have felt rejected by for many years.  Those thoughts that circle my head have run over and over again during the life of our relationship.  I have not yet fully escaped those thoughts, but God has brought me tremendous healing and revelation, and I believe some day that tape will be silenced forever.  Until then I face them, every time I see this group of people.  In the past, whenever I was around people I have felt rejection from, I would immediately wall up, just as soon as I saw them or heard their voices.  It became automatic.  It felt like protection at the time, but now I see I wasn't really protecting myself.  I was hiding myself from the love and grace of God.  In closing myself up to everyone else, I also closed myself off from the one who wanted to cover and protect me so I wouldn't have to protect myself.  Then it would take days, weeks sometimes, to get those walls back down.  But this time was different.  For one, I was also with people who make me feel safe.  Who have proven to love and accept me just the way I am.  And, I am healed.  I know who I am now.  My identity is in Jesus, and not in how anyone else sees me.  So this time when I saw them, no walls.  I stuck close to the ones who I am safe with.  Laughed with them.  Loved them and let them love me fully - no walls.  There was still pain.  I could see it, the damage is clear.  But I felt free to just be me.  It felt like freedom.  A few days later though there they were, those damn walls.  They seemed to come out of nowhere.  I was numb... damn it.  This is not me anymore.  I am not this person anymore.  I found myself one morning asking "God, where are you in the midst of rejection?"  Then my heart was reminded of God's promise that He will never leave me.  He is always with me.  I now know that this promise it true.  He proved himself true to me when He never left me, even when I told Him to.  I gave God an out, and He didn't take it.  So, if God is always with me, then why did He feel so distant?  I knew it wasn't because He was distant, I was.  So I asked a new question "where am I in the midst of rejection?  And why am I hiding from you God?"  This began a process of Him gently removing my walls, and opening my heart up again.  There was some pain, but more strength came.  That night I was with an incredible group of women and we were discussing praise.  This was a piece of my process that was missing.  My 1st inclination is never to praise God in the challenges.  But that's what my heart was longing for.  I want that to be my 1st instinct, to begin praising God when I face rejection or any other kind of pain.  I can praise Him because of who He is.  He is good.  He loves me.  He never rejects me.  And in praising Him, my heart stays open and the walls stay down.  God has shown me a new way to face rejection.  A way that is life giving, not destructive.  A way that draws me closer to Him, and to the people around me who love me, rather than closing up and hiding.  I am thankful for this.  I know I will have plenty more opportunities to put this in to practice.  Because it is just a fact of life, we are going to face rejection.  It is a part of relationships.  I don't know about you, but I want to be able to walk fully in abundance in my relationships without fear of rejection.  This is how, for me, to let go of fear and shame, and fully embrace the people around me knowing that when rejection comes, I can hide in the love and grace of my God.  He is my protector.

How about you?  What's your instinct, your go-to self protection mode when faced with rejection?
If your 1st question in rejection is "God, where are you?", my encouragement to you would be to choose to believe God's promise, that He is with you and will never leave you.  If you don't believe that yet, that's where you need to start.  Ask Him to show you, He will.  If you know that promise, then I would encourage you, in the face of pain and rejection if you are like me, and tend to pull away or put up walls, ask "Where am I?  Why am I hiding"  Listen to what the Holy Spirit tells you.  Then the next piece is praise.  I heard it said this way - praise until you want to praise.  Meaning, even if you don't feel like it, praise God.  Something beautiful happens when we begin to praise God.  He is worthy, He is love, He is glorious and deserving of all of our praise.  When we turn our eyes to Him, our hearts open and are capable of receiving His love and grace and healing.  It's not a give something to get something.  That's not how it works.  Its remembering who we belong to.  Remembering who He is.   Remembering His love is unfailing, and if He is for us who can be against us?  Its getting our perspective turned around to be Kingdom focused.  It's walking in our true identity and watching that manifest in even the most painful circumstances.  Where are you today my friends?  Are you hiding from your pain?  Hiding from God?  Are your walls up?  Today can be the day that all changes.  Today can be the day you receive healing.  Do you want healing?  If so, start with God's promise - "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Post Summer Bliss

Hey all!  Its been a really long time since I've taken time to write.  I've thought about it for the last several months.  I've missed it.  I've missed hearing from all of you.  Honestly, I got completely sucked into the vortex of being a mom... crazy, chaotic, mind sucking, energy depleting, day to day mom stuff.  So even though my heart wanted to be here writing and sharing, my brain was in a constant fog, and I barley had enough energy to drag my butt up the stairs to bed each night after taking care of every one here.  In those times I find I tend to want to pull away and hide, because the person I become is really no fun to be around.  So I disconnect.  I just don't have the energy to give to anyone else, or anything else. I refer to that person as "summer mom".  Let me tell you about summer mom.  Summer mom is crabby, short tempered, exhausted beyond belief and is just trying to survive her days.  Summer mom spends her day in the car driving to another grocery store to buy more groceries because all 4 kids eat like they are never going to eat again, all day... or in the kitchen cooking for the umpteenth time.  Summer mom is constantly yelling "close the door, the ac is on and I don't want the mosquitoes coming in!", and "what are you crying about now?!" and "for the love, keep your hands to yourself!!!"  Summer mom lives on coffee and red wine... my dental hygienist will probably be thrilled to get to clean all that off my teeth because there is no flossing in the summer.  I brush my teeth, throw some apple cider vinegar on my face to hopefully keep wrinkles away, and fall into bed every night.  There is no energy to floss.....summer mom is a mess.  I hate feeling like that, but the upside is I survived!  My kids survived summer mom.  My husband survived summer mom.... yikes...  he deserves a medal.  Now, everyone is currently healthy, happy, and in school.  Can I get a Hallelujah?!  Hello Fall Mom.  I love fall mom!  Fall mom is full of joy and wonder because it feels like the beginning of a new season.  Yes literally a new season is coming, but more than that, a new season of life.  Fall mom has energy again.  Fall mom doesn't' have to break up arguments every 30 seconds, or live in the kitchen.  Fall mom gets to watch the morning news while drinking warm coffee.  Fall mom gets to have a social life again.  Fall mom gets her brain back... and it feels amazing.  This is the 1st year all 4 of my kids are in school.  My youngest is in preschool 3 mornings a week, and he loves it.  I didn't cry when I dropped him off, but it did feel weird.  It's the end of an era for me.  For the last 13 years my job has been raising kids.  I am at the beginning of the end of that.  Of course I'm still raising kids, but there is a difference between having them home 24/7 and having them in school for the day.  This is new to me.  For the last couple of weeks I've felt like I needed to rediscover myself.  I lost some of me in that vortex of mom stuff.  Anyone else? 

So, I've been wondering what's next for me?  Our bank account says "get a job", but my heart says study, write, learn.  Press in to what God is doing in this new season in your life.  Embrace it fully.  Give yourself to what the Holy Spirit is speaking.  So I am saying yes to my heart.  As I've sat down with a few people over the last few weeks and listened to what is going on in their lives, I'm more convinced now than ever, that this is the time for authenticity.  People are hungry for genuine, authentic, transparent people.  To see that other people are real and going through stuff too.  To see and hear how we apply our faith to messy situations.  To learn where we find God in the midst of pain, rejection, doubts, fears, and difficult relationships.  I definitely don't have many answers right now.  In fact, I would say I have more questions than answers.  There is a lot that I talk to God about.  There are many things I just don't understand right now.  But I would love to process and walk this out with those of you that would like to join me.  I've thought a lot about this blog and what its purpose is.  When I started writing in January, I knew I needed to share my story of facing my pain and walking through my healing.  I have heard from so many of you who were touched and blessed by my honesty and transparency.  Going forward, my hope for this blog is for it to continue to be the real, honest, and transparent me.  My intent is not to give answers and advice, but to share what I am learning.  My hope is that some of it may challenge some of you in the way you think about things.  Or inspire you to have an open and honest dialogue with God about the things you have circling around in your head.  So here's my invitation to you - lets stop pretending we are all ok, and we have it all together.  Lets stop performing for each other and God, trying to earn approval or love.  Lets be real.  Lets face the pain we carry.  Lets face challenging questions head on.  Lets walk this out, together.  Are you with me?  Or maybe you aren't ready to do any of that and you want to hang out and just read.  I'm so ok with that.  My request is that any dialogue that may happen through this is done with the utmost respect and honor for one another.  You may not like what I have to say, and I'm good with that.  I'd love to hear your perspectives, as well.  I do believe there is a way to talk and share with respect and love.  We all come from different walks of life.  We've all had different experiences, different teaching, different upbringing, different everything.  That's what makes us all so unique.  We certainly don't have to agree with one another to love each other.  So if you're willing to commit with me to love and respect, then join me in open, honest, transparent discussion.  I'm excited for what God is going to teach us this season.  I'm so hungry to grow and learn.  There's a hunger inside of me that I've never had before.  There's a stirring in my spirit.  How about you?  Where are you this season?  What are the things that are stirring around in your head and heart?  What are you talking to God about? 

I love all of you!  Thank you for reading, and thank you for joining me on my journey 😊

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Serving Out of Rest

Hey all!  Its been a while since I sat at the computer to write.  I've been in what I think has been an intensive time of growing and strengthening.  I've been learning how to apply everything God has taught me to every aspect of my life.  I feel like I am truly learning how to walk in a place of victory. Yay!  If you remember from my other writings, its been almost a year to date since we stood in front of our church family and told them we were stepping down as small group pastors and going on a 4 month sabbatical.  A year ago I wasn't sure if I would ever step in a church again.  I wasn't sure if I even believed anything I thought I believed about God, about ministry, about myself... it was the beginning of my total unraveling.  I'm sitting here remembering everything God walked me through in the last year, and am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I'm grateful to still be in fellowship with my Genesis Church family and pastoral staff.  I'm grateful to be living with a healed heart, free from past pain and bondage.  When God asked me to write this post I have to be honest, I felt unsure about it.  I've gone back and forth with God on it all week.  I've been able to share freely about my pain and healing with all of you.  I've been open and vulnerable about so much.  But this is different.  This is a post about victory.  About learning from past mistakes.  That makes me uncomfortable because I don't want the impression to be that I am "tooting my own horn".  I'm not.  I am boasting in the goodness of God, and what he's done.  Truly this is beauty from ashes.  The old me burned to the ground, and he is crafting something beautiful, in a way only he can do.  With such gentleness, patience and love.  I told God a while ago I want my life to display his goodness.  That's it.  I don't care about anything else.  God just show your goodness in and through my life.  That is the heart behind this post. 

Easter.  If any of you are leaders or volunteers at your church, you know how big Easter is.  Its a huge opportunity to reach out to the community and invite them to church.  Not just to fill chairs, but an invitation to come and encounter and experience the love of Jesus, and hoping and praying that it will grab hold of their hearts and be either a beginning place, or another part of their journey with the Lord.  It is a big service.  Lots of planning, preparation, and prayers go into a service like this.  Since Chad and I came back from our sabbatical last fall, we've been slowly immersing ourselves back in to serving.  We have been very intentional about what we say yes to, staying close to the Holy Spirit and following his lead and direction.  Its been good, no, its been great.  I have felt God calling me in a little deeper every week since the beginning of this year.  So when we began discussing Easter service in our staff meetings, I was ready.  So I said "yes".  I felt my spirit completely engaged in what the spirit of God was saying about Easter.  Before I go any further I have to tell you the most life changing lesson I've learned thus far - Rest.  Rest is more than not working.  Rest is a promise from God.  A promise available to all of us.  Simply defined, the promise of rest says you are perfectly complete in Jesus.  Rest is knowing who you are in Jesus, your identity.  Rest says you are fully equipped to handle anything God asks you to do.  Rest flies in the face of Religion.  Religion says you have to work to earn.  Religion says you are sinful.  Rest says you have, because God freely gives, now just receive and walk in it.  Rest says Jesus already covered your sins, and you are complete, you are redeemed.  Nothing is missing, nothing is lacking.  If this is a new concept to you, or you want to learn more about Gods promise of Rest, I HIGHLY recommend listening to a series my Senior Pastor, Jeff Korsen, taught at the beginning of this year.  Click here  scroll down to Jan 8th 2017.  Its titled "Gods Rest - Entering His Rest pt 1"  There are 6 messages total ...SOO  good.  Life changing.  Listen.  Ok, so Rest.  I've been intentional about applying this promise from God to my life, and it has changed the way I live.  It changed my perspective on so many things.  Including serving in the church.  I have always been such a doer.  A total worker.  In the past, I would work work work till I was completely spent.  I never even really asked God, "do you want me to do this?"  I would just go go go.  I would work as hard as I could for as long as I could, then completely crash from burn out.  Ready to quit.  Hating ministry.  Hating people... ummm this is not good.  And not Gods heart for serving, at all.  Back to Easter.... Rest.... I started by just saying "yes".  I didn't have to even really "press in" a whole lot.  My spirit was already engaged.  Instead of jumping in and working, I listened.  As I heard or was prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something, I would do it.  I did nothing else.  Only what He said.  Here's the beautiful thing.  I ended up being able to do quite a bit.  Between Chad and I we spent several late nights at the church the week leading up to Easter working on various things.  We spent all day Saturday at church cleaning and setting up.  We were some of the first ones there Sunday am, and some of the last to leave.  We worked hard... but from a place of Rest.  Rest told me I am fully equipped to handle everything God asks me to, and I don't have to do anything else.  Rest told me I have grace and favor.  Rest told me I am full of peace and joy.  Rest reminded me I am fully loved and accepted already, so I don't have to work to earn it.  Out of that place, serving is an overflow of that love.  Love for God, love for people.... flowing in, then out.  So even though it was a busy week, and I will add, it was still a normal week with 4 kids.  Soccer, dentist appointments, laundry, groceries, meals... that never stops.... I stayed in Gods promise of Rest for me.  Here's my testimony of victory - I never felt the burn out!  I never had a moment of wanting to quit.  In fact, it was life giving!  It was full of joy and peace!  That is a beautiful way to serve.  This is our secret weapon - Rest!  We can so easily burn ourselves out in ministry, or anything else in life.  We do it from a dangerous place called "good intentions".  But outside of the promise of Rest, its a work of the flesh, rather than faith. 

So on the way home Sunday, after a beautiful Easter service, I was tired.  My body was tired.  My heart was full, but I was tired.  So I told God, "God, I need to be here for my kids.  I can't be too tired to be here for them today.  This is a holiday, we have plans.  God I need more grace today."  We got home, ate a little, had some down time, and I was refueled, fully covered by grace, and we had a great day together as a family.  I wasn't spent, not burn out, not ready to quit.  I still loved God, still loved people.  I was full of life, peace, and joy.  This is Gods heart and plan for serving.  Did I need naps the next week?  Yep :)  Did God provide time for me to have those?  Yep :)  And I slept hard for a few nights.  My friends, if you haven't yet, grab hold of Gods promise of Rest for you.  It is for everyone, for every aspect of your life.  Marriage, Parenting, Work, Ministry, Relationships... everything.  It is a way of life.  If you want to hear more on Rest, go out and listen to Pastor Jeff's series.  I promise you won't regret it. 
Much love to all of you!  You are blessed, you are highly favored, you are fully complete in Jesus!  There is nothing lacking or missing in you!  You are in Jesus, and He is in you!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Finding Strength in Brokenness

     I am home with sick kids today.  They are currently watching their umpteenth cartoon, so I have some time to sit and write.  I wanted to share something that's been stirring around my mind the last few weeks.  Brokenness.  For many years I fought being broken.  I always had the mindset that I needed to be strong, independent, and keep myself together.  If you haven't met me face to face you may not know that I have a pretty strong personality.  Those of you who do know me might be thinking "pretty strong" doesn't do it justice... Ha!  I am not ashamed of my personality, even though there have been many who have tried and are still trying to change me.  This is what God gave me, and I know it's for a purpose. Do I need some work, uh yes.  Always growing and changing... aren't we all?  But I do know I will never fit into other peoples boxes of "expected behavior", or "appropriate religious way of living, talking, or thinking".  I just don't fit there.  I have a tendency to say inappropriate things, push boundaries, and stir the pot.  I'm convinced this is why God has put such amazing, strong, loving, and understanding people around me.  Starting with my husband, who for reasons beyond my understanding, loves me with this crazy strong personality.  Don't get me wrong, being strong willed definitely has its advantages, like when it comes to working out and loosing weight.  I refuse to quit and I work hard.  But it has made it incredibly hard for me to ever let myself be broken. In the past when I pictured myself broken, I saw the bottom falling out, and everything falling apart.  I couldn't see past that.  That seemed like an end to me, not a beginning.  Clearly I thought I was the one holding myself together, and my fear of failure wouldn't allow me to fall apart.  What I didn't realize was the amount of energy it was taking to "hold myself together".  If you've read my last several posts starting with "My Unraveling" posted in January, you now know how well that turned out for me.  The bottom did fall out, and I fell apart.  And I am truly grateful.  That was an end to a hard journey, and the beginning of something beautiful.  Now on the other side of all of that, I have a completely different view of brokenness.  I am not afraid of it anymore.  I learned so much through my brokenness.  More than will fit into one post.  So for today I will share just a couple of things.
     The first thing I learned is that God is not ashamed of my brokenness.  In fact, He didn't even seem all that surprised by it.  Instead of showing me all of my failures that led me to that place, and pointing a disapproving finger at me, He met me, face to face in my brokenness, and loved me.  He held me, and showed me that He is the one who holds me together, so I don't need to any more.  I can rest knowing that even when I fall apart, He never does, so brokenness is a safe place in His arms. 

    The other thing I found in a place of brokenness was strength, incredible strength.  It surprised me.  And it wasn't the kind of strength I was used to.  It wasn't my strength, or my strong will.  I didn't have to come up with it - I couldn't.  I didn't have the energy to be strong.  It was a strength that came from within the depths of me.  It didn't remove all of the hurt, there was still much healing to be done.  But it was a strength that got me out of bed each day, and held me up.  I now understand the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that says "My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  I never understood this verse before last years unraveling.  There may be more context to this verse than just emotional brokenness, but for me right now, it resonates.  Before, when I thought I was the one holding myself together, I was making a choice to not trust in Gods grace for me.  I didn't trust that He would catch me, hold me, or love me if I fell apart.  But there He was, even in my unbelief.  It was His strength in me.  Now I can rest knowing that I don't have to be strong all the time, I don't have to exert so much energy to hold myself together.  He holds me together.  There is so much freedom in this place.  I don't have to be the strong one.  He is.  I can safely and securely rest in Him.  I don't have to fear pain or failure anymore, because I've experienced His sufficient grace.  I failed in some of the worst ways, and yet He was still there, loving me.  I faced incredible amounts of pain that had been kept in my heart for decades, and He healed me.  His grace is sufficient for me.

    Let me leave you with this today - Do you trust in Gods grace for you?  If you haven't yet, are you ready to let go, stop trying to hold yourself together, and allow God to take you through a process of facing your pain and finding healing?  I know it seems scary, but take it from someone who has walked through it, it's worth it.  You are worth it.  God's got you.  He is holding you together so you don't have to.  He is safe.  You can let go and experience His strength in your weakness, His wholeness in your brokenness.  Healing and wholeness is for you too.  What are you waiting for?

" bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."  Isaiah 61:3

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Life, an Open Book

Last summer I was driving home from yet another trip to the grocery store to buy more food to feed my kids unending hunger.  The radio station I was listening to was talking about a breaking story.  A family lost their young child in horribly tragic circumstances.  In my mind I went there, I put myself there and imagined what it would be like if that was my family.  I was crying.  My heart ached for this family imagining the kind of pain they were in.  I asked God, "How will people who don't already know you're good, ever know your goodness, especially when stuff like this happens in their lives?"   I heard "Through your life, and others like you."  Others like me?  I didn't really understand what that meant, but at the time that answer satisfied.  A few months later I heard "Will you be open and vulnerable?  Will you let your life be an open book?"  With out even hesitating I said "Yes."  I was surprised at how quickly I responded, and with out any fear or anxiety.  That confirmed healing had been happening in my heart.  I didn't know yet what that was going to look like, still don't really.  But I don't need to know.  I am trusting, resting in God's goodness and grace.  I know this will not be free of challenges and trials, but I also know that God is good, and He will not ask me to go anywhere He hasn't equipped me for.  And He will never leave me.  I now really know this because even when I told him to, to leave me alone, He didn't.  He had an out, He could have said "Ok then, you think you can do this with out me, I'd like to see you try.  Good luck."  No, He stayed.  He heard me.  He saw me, the real me.  All of my anger, pain, doubt, fear - everything.  He wasn't ashamed of my brokenness.  He wasn't even surprised by it.  He loved, He supported, He understood.  He was my rock at "rock bottom".  Knowing this I can keep moving forward, step after step, guided and held.  Even if I fall, He is still my rock at the bottom so what do I have to loose now?  So... here I go... 
My last several posts were easy to write and share because all of that represents the old me.  I'm not that person anymore.  To keep writing and sharing I have to share who I am now, the new me.  The truth is I don't know her all that well yet.  We are just getting to know each other.  Everything still feels new, even months later.  So here's where I can start.  I can tell you the things I am thinking about, struggling through, contemplating, and what I am going to be intentional about this year.  Today, I am thinking about my dreams.  I don't have many right now, so mostly what I want my dreams to be.  I am nearing the end of an era in my life.  We just signed Nolan, my youngest, up for preschool next year.  For the last 12 1/2 years I have been home raising kids.  Next year all of my kids will be in school.  Nolan only for a few hours a week, but it feels like a milestone.  And now I have to decide what I want to be when I grow up :)  I am struggling with it, honestly.  It's a strange tension.  I am crazy excited at the thought of not having babies or toddlers to take care of 24/7.  And the thought of having a life outside of kids is also quite exciting for me.  The struggle is I don't want to get a job.  HA!  I would really love to just enjoy a kid free, quiet house.  Listen to my music as loud as I want.  Dance all day.  Eat what I want, when I want, without having to share ANY OF MY FOOD! Oh, and getting to finish a cup of coffee while it is still warm without having to reheat it a billion times in the microwave!! But, alas that won't pay the growing bills...  thus my struggle ;)
Alright in all seriousness, going forward I can promise I will do my best to be open and honest.  I by no means have anything all figured out.  I plan to keep learning as I go.  One thing I have learned so far through feedback from many of you is that we all face a lot of the same daunting questions.  We are all on a journey with God, and they all look different and yet the same.  I'm learning that we need each other.  And we need to see each other, really see each other.  And truly hear one another.  We all have so much to share.  Speaking of sharing, I would love to hear from you!  Would you comment on this post or on my Facebook page and tell me where you are reading from, and how you found this blog?  This blog has traveled to many countries and I am interested to know how.  I would love to know who my readers are.  I think you may need a google account to comment???  Not 100% sure.  Also, to "follow" this blog so you are emailed when I publish a new post, you need to go to "view web version" at the bottom of this post, and there is a blue bottom on the left side of the page that says "follow".  Thank you again for all the love and support!  It really helps on the days when discouragement tries to creep in and keep me from coming back to the computer.  :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Found in Love

Hello all!  It is Monday morning and I am stirred to write, but my mind is a blank right now... weird.  The last several posts felt like they flew out of me.  This one feels different.  It has more depth, more weight.  But it is coming much slower.  It feels more intentional.  What I am about to share with you are the moments in which my life was completely turned around.  But it was such a personal experience for me, my fear is that it wont make much sense as you read it.  My hope is that it will some how resonate with something inside of you.  Especially if you are reading this and don't yet know your worth.  I didn't.  Let me bring some context to this.  Up until August 2016, I always felt worthless.  From what I can remember no one ever told me that to my face, I just felt that way.  I always felt like I was on the outside looking in.  I never really quite fit in with groups of friends in school or church.  I always had friends that I hung out with, but could never connect with anyone in a way it appeared they all connected.  I tried, but I was so uncomfortable with myself, so insecure, so I put up walls all around me.  Looking back I can see that even if anyone wanted to connect with me I wouldn't have let them.  I was so afraid of being rejected that I never let anyone in.  Never gave them the chance to truly know me, so they couldn't really reject me.  So I never really understood or experienced a real richness in relationships.  They were pretty shallow.  I was very much in control of how much I'd let someone see me.  There were times I would start to open up to someone who seemed safe, but as soon as I felt vulnerable and like I was going to loose my control of how they viewed me, I'd immediately close up again and push back.  It was an automatic self defense mechanism in me. It was strong.  And the more friends I lost, the stronger it got.  I just learned to live like this.  Truthfully I didn't really know what I was missing in relationships, because I never experienced anything other than this.  For years and years I'd watch people come in my life, then leave.  It was just what people did.  At some point in the last few years I came to the conclusion that this was what my relationships would look like - people come in to my life, take from me what they want or need, then when they have gotten all they can from me, leave.  Rejection.  That's all I was worth.  Clearly something was wrong with me.  Person after person, came, took, left.  Mostly women.  I was fully expecting my husband to do the same thing eventually.  I would even tell him that.  I figured eventually he would realize I'm not really loveable and leave me for someone else.  I now have tears running down my cheeks as I write this because I can't believe I lived in this mindset... and it makes me all the more grateful for the healing that's happened in my life.  Ok God, help translate this into something relatable... One Sunday last summer I was chatting with a couple of friends after church service.  A purse came up in conversation between the two of them.  One friend had given the friend this purse as a gift, but for some reason she didn't feel like it belonged to her.  She really wanted to love this purse, and thought she would, but she knew it wasn't hers.  She looked at me and said "The purse belongs to you, Marissa."  I was still in a funk at this time, just barely coming out of the fog I'd been in, and didn't really understand how a purse could belong to me.  But I know this friend, and when she says something like that, you believe her.  She told me she would bring it to me.  Many weeks passed and we didn't see each other.  During those weeks my heart was getting freed up.  Much of what I wrote in my last post "Seed of Hope" was happening, just to give you a timeline.  It was now August.  By this time a lot of healing had taken place.  I had faced my pain and baggage, and walked with God through a lot of it.  Joy was being restored in my heart.  I was feeling some freedom.  We were nearing the end of our sabbatical, and looking to the future with hope.  I was ready for something new.  You have to understand the timing of all of this was so God.  Had that purse been brought to me just a week or 2 before I wouldn't have gotten this.  My heart had to be ready to receive it and hear what God was going to speak to me through it.  There are some things I don't fully understand, but I do know this.  This was Gods perfect timing for me.  Ok, so at church one August morning, before service my friend walks in with a blue bag and handed it to me.  At first I didn't realize it was the purse because it was in a dust bag... I had no idea purses came with dust bags.  Listen, I don't buy expensive things for myself, ever.  I'm a bargain shopper.  I don't pay full price for much.  So my purses were always super cheap.  I certainly never paid enough for one to come in a dust bag.  She handed me the bag, and I closed up.  It was weird.  I felt vulnerable all the sudden and so out of place.  I didn't even open the dust bag.  Didn't even look inside to see what the purse looked like.  I didn't feel like I could.  I wasn't good enough for it.  I tucked it under my chair.  After service I went back to my other friend, who had originally purchased the purse, not the one who brought it to me.  I sat next to her and she asked me if I looked at the purse.  I said "nope".  She laughed, she knew me well.  She told me to go get it.  I brought it back and she began to share with me what God had been speaking to her about this purse.  I opened the dust bag and pulled it out, realizing in the moment how representative the purse in the dust bag was of me, and where I had been the last few months.  I was the one in the dust bag, being protected, kept, held, safe.  Now I had the purse out, holding it in my hands somehow knowing this purse was now representative of my life.  The purse was big, much bigger than anything I'd ever carried.  She explained to me that God told her I was an essentials person.  I only carry the essentials in my purse, just what I'm going to need.  So I could get away with a small purse.  And it was comfortable for me to hold something small.  But this purse was big, it had room for what I wanted to carry also.  I knew that meant my dreams... what I wanted in my life.  I had been such a doer for so long, focusing on the task at hand, and working to be super efficient so I would be able to get by with just the essentials.  I never took with me things I wanted, or ever expected to be able to carry any of that.  She went on to tell me the size of the purse represented the calling on my life, it was bigger than I imagined.  "Oh and by the way," she said, "I did not go to the sale rack to buy this.  It was not on clearance.  I paid full price.  And it wasn't cheap."  This was a designer purse.  Many of you might know the name, I didn't.  Dooney and Bourke.  This gift, a purse, represented the call on my life, allowed for my dreams and wants, not just the essentials, was bought and paid for - full price.  I knew she meant Jesus.  In that moment I felt uncomfortable.  I didn't know why, but I did.  There are more details about the purse - the color, the fabric, finding a random unused toothpick in it... I'm not going to share all of the significance of those things right now.  There was a lot.  Maybe another time.  But hopefully you see the significance of what was happening.  I was so uncomfortable, I felt exposed and vulnerable, and I needed to leave.  I put the purse back in the dust bag, found my family, and we left.  On the way home I was trying to explain everything to Chad.  I told him how I felt so uncomfortable with this big expensive purse.  I knew it was representative of Jesus paying full price with his life for mine, and I felt awful about that.  Why did I feel so guilty?  So unworthy of this gift?  We got home and had the after church lunch rush.  Every one was hungry and so I kicked into mom mode and made lunches.  But still with these thoughts running through my brain.  "God what's wrong with me?  Why am I this way?  Why do I feel so guilty about Jesus dying for me?  Why can't I accept that was for me too, not just everyone else?  I'm not worth it.  I'm just not good enough for that."  I was standing at our kitchen island at the end of the lunch rush, and as clear as I've ever heard God, He began speaking to my heart.  And suddenly something was exposed in me - a lie.  A lie I had been believing my whole life.  God showed me, and I knew.  It was really as if a veil was taken off of my eyes, and I saw it for the first time.  The word "just".  That was the lie.  I'm just a mom, just a wife, just a woman, just.... me.  Nothing special.  He began to show me that the lie I believed was I was "just not good enough."  Then he told me "No, you are.  Period.  Not you are 'just'.  You are."  I ran upstairs to where I had a notebook to write in.  And I wrote as God spoke to me.  "I Am" he said, "And because I Am, you are.  'Just' is a lie.  You are - chosen, my child, beautiful, valuable... The enemy lies and tells you that you are 'just'.  My truth says you are, and you are mine.  Time to step into the 'You Are' I've called you to be."  My knees hit the floor.  I wish I could explain with the best words the feeling that over took me... love.  My heart was open, free, and filling with love.  I now understood, not just in my head, but in my heart.  Now I had a choice, now that I knew.  I can continue to believe the lie that I'm "just" whatever, and keep trying to work and strive to earn love and approval, OR I can now choose to believe God's truth that says I am loved, He does approve of me.  I am who He wants... He wants me.  Not for what I can do for Him, or what I can do for anyone else.  Not for the good things I do, or how hard I work or how much I perform.  He wants me, because He loves me.  My worth is found in His love for me.  That's His truth.  I'm choosing truth. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Seed of Hope

When Chad and I returned from our little anniversary getaway I was just starting to come back to life.  Truly when I say that, it honestly felt like a part of me died, but it had to.  For me to really face my pain, heal, and move on, those pieces had to die.  They were cancer in my heart.  For my heart to be full, healthy, and complete, the old had to die so new life could replace it.  When you think about it, it's really quite amazing and beautiful.  That things in us that are so dark, ugly, broken, and so unhealthy, that these things can die and be replaced by hope, beauty, purity, honesty, love, life and wholeness - its almost more than my mind can comprehend.  If are reading this right now and you feel the yuck in your heart, I want to tell you there is life for you too.  You may not believe me yet, and that's OK.  But I have to tell you hang on, you too can find beauty from your ashes.  There is hope for you!  That weekend we had family in town and had planned to head up to the mountains all day Sunday.  We decided to go to a Sat night service at our previous church.  A place that we loved deeply.  It is a big church, so we could hide pretty well there.  I was torn between wanting to see old friends, and not wanting anyone to see me.  That meant more pretending.  Pretending that I was ok.  We got the kids settled, hugged a few friends, smiled and pretended, then walked into the sanctuary and hid in the back.  After service there was just one person I wanted to see.  I found her working in the back.  She is one of those friends where we can go years with out seeing or talking to each other, and the moment we see one another we just pick right back up again.  I love that.  I hadn't planned to tell her everything, but as we started talking something came over me and I began weeping.  I started to tell her, slowly, just a little bit, about what had been going on.  She met me with such compassion, because she knew.  She too had walked through stuff, through yuck.  She knew.  At that point I knew she was safe, so I opened up about everything.  She loved me.  Didn't try to fix me, just loved me, and knew.  She said a few words of encouragement, then stopped.  She hugged me, loved me some more, then told me "If God can restore my life, he can for you too".  I wasn't at a place where I believed that yet, but I remembered those words.  I didn't recognize it at the time, but those words were a seed of hope planted in my heart.  They went deep.  She told me she would pray for me, and I know she did.  The next couple of months were a blur.  The days kind of melt together in my mind.  It was summer break, and my kids were not about to slow down or stop needing me because I was going through something.  So I got out of bed everyday, loved my family, took care of them, and talked to God.  I felt depression knocking on my door a lot.  It felt like I could so easily open that door and sink into it.  But I didn't, I kept talking to God and to my husband.  My days were spent in the car driving to and from swimming lessons and grocery stores, or hanging with our friends.  As I kept talking to God I could feel some changes in me.  I didn't have the words to express what was happening to me, but I could feel the changing.  Now, looking back I can see the more I talked to God, the less pain I felt.  Pain - we all have it.  We've all experienced it and will unfortunately experience it again.  I used to think it was a bad thing, but now I'm not so sure.  I don't think pain was Gods plan for me... I am still figuring this all out, I definitely don't have all the right answers.  I'm thinking it thru as I type....  here's what I've learned from my pain thus far.  First - it is not from God.  Even though He was the 1st one I blamed, I now understand He didn't inflict pain on my life.  That's not who He is.  The more time I spent talking to God, the more I understood this.  All of my pain has come from other people and myself.  The level of pain in our lives can vary of course.  Some things hurt a little, some a lot.  Some can go away, some will be with people for the rest of their lives.  Pain of loosing a child, a spouse, a sibling, a parent....I have not had that loss, so again I'm no expert, but I imagine that kind of pain never really goes away.  You just learn to live with it.  The pain I carried had names; rejection, abandonment, feeling unloved, unworthy, always on the outside, never a part, fear of failure, fear of people rejecting me, feeling used.... That was my pain that I carried for decades.  And instead of facing any of that and allowing myself to heal and forgive, I just let it pile on.  Pain after pain.  I'd open the door to that part of my heart and let it go in, shut the door, and move on.  Strange, isn't it?  Why on earth would I do that?  Somewhere along the way I had decided facing pain was too hard, that it would break me.  I would come completely undone and fall apart if I ever opened up that part of my heart.  But the strangest thing happened.  When I started facing my pain, while yes it was hard, and for a time I felt broken, walking through the process of healing, I found strength.  A strength I never knew was in me.  This is the best way I can describe it.  In those moments where I felt the rejection, or fear, or whatever was hurting me, I made a choice to leave a piece of myself there.  Stuck in that moment of pain.  I gave a piece of myself away to make room for that pain in my heart, thus weakening my heart and myself.  As I went back to face those moments, I was able to make a different choice to allow healing and forgiveness, and in doing so, pick up that piece of myself that I had lost.  So the more I faced, the more I healed and forgave, the stronger I was becoming.  Amazing, isn't it?  My ashes were becoming something beautiful.  So when I say that pain maybe isn't a bad thing, what I guess I mean is pain is inevitable in this life, and in and of itself it is not good, but how we choose to deal with it in the moment can actually strengthen us.  Instead of it being a place where we lay a part of our hearts down to accept the pain in, it can be a place where we can choose, in that moment, to forgive, heal, and strengthen our hearts, and in doing so, increase our ability to love and be loved.  When there is less pain in our hearts, there is more room for love and life.  As my heart was being freed up from pain and baggage, more room was being made available for the most incredible love encounter I have ever experienced.  It started with a purse.  Yes, a purse.  My life was about to be completely turned around with a purse.  It's a crazy story that I will write next ;)