LET’S BE HONEST

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I’m beginning to think that whoever came up with the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” was never required to put that confidence to the test. In fact, I’d be willing to bet they knew the guy who first said, “Buck up, little camper!”

Don’t get me wrong. I know adversity can lead to great strength. The Bible is full of examples of that – Paul, Job, Joseph. Tough lives created tough guys. And historically, some of our greatest entrepreneurs, leaders and athletes have risen from the ashes of adversity. I’m confident that each of us have that same potential. I know we each have that opportunity.

However, I also believe that life can really kick you in the butt and wear you down to nothing first. But the nice thing about being that low is that there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Very few successful people are transparent about the times they were down for the count; the moments right before they started to get back up.

One of my favorite quotes about being knocked down is from J. K. Rowling:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

As I’ve mentioned before here and there, I belong to two wonderful Facebook groups. One is for survivors of C/PTSD and the other is for survivors of Aortic Dissections. More and more, the line between the two – one emotional and psychological, the other primarily physical – is beginning to blur for me.

I have one friend who survived necrotizing faciitis (flesh-eating disease) and another who survived a staph infection that was so rare his doctor told the intern to not even bother taking notes on it because they’d probably never see it again. When I gave birth to my first daughter at 28 weeks gestation, weighing one-and-a-half pounds, measuring 13 inches, I stayed at a Ronald McDonald House, where families were staying to be close to their very sick children. Some knew their child was going to die. Others were hoping their child would live. Watch the news and you’ll witness people losing everything they have to natural disasters.

And…?

And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are whole lot of us out here who have been through “stuff”!

And I’m noticing some common denominators:

We’re dealing with something that happened to us. Most fiction is about man vs. man or man vs. nature. Sometimes, what happens is a result of our own sequence of choices, although for the sake of this post I’m not going to address that.

We didn’t ask for it to happen to us. So whether you’ve faced the possibility that you’ll lose your life to cancer or had a fender bender with a rotten driver; whether you’ve lost a child or lost your job; spent most of your life under the dehumanizing  abuse of a  parent or been treated as “less than” because of your size, your gender or the amount of pigmentation in your skin, no one asked if you’d be OK with it. And yet, like the family whose home and all their belongings have been destroyed by a tornado, it’s left to you to clear the debris.

We think we’re alone. Either shame or misinformation has isolated us into thinking no one would understand. And you’d be partially right. If you’ve been raped, not even another rape victim can understand how you translated and processed your own violation. If your spouse tells you they think you’re unlovable, no one else has the same life as you to enable them to truly empathize with your sense of unlovability. (It’s a word now.)

And, finally, we aren’t handed manuals or PowerPoint presentations to tell us what to do next. You, my friend, are on your own. Your friends, family and therapists can support you, but ultimately the true work is up to you.

Now there are plenty of scriptures to address everything I just said, and a few sermons that could be preached about challenges. And, yes, I will insist that God loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. I know that I can cast all my care on Him because He loves me. I believe He will make a way when there seems to be no way. And I am confident that he is able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) However, since this post is already around 1,000 words long, I’ll save these for other posts.

Today, the thing I want you to understand is this: None of us are the only ones and we are not c553a748a7656e370d73d8dab054b6f0alone! I may not have gone through what my friend Jeff endured, but I’ve had my own “stuff”. You may not have had a mother who punished you by not acknowledging your existence for 2-3 days like I did, but I know you’ve had your own “stuff”. Can we agree on that much? Can we be compassionate and patient with each other without judging who’s had the worst “stuff”?

So if someone tells you that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.” don’t feel bad if you think it’s hot air. Don’t let those words shame you into thinking you should be doing better than you are doing. We may become strong from our trials, but I don’t believe that God is sitting on a heavenly throne passing out painful things and saying, “Yeah, give it to him. He can take it.” I think those statements, while being well meaning, actually invalidate your pain.

When I started this blog, I wanted to share things that would give others a sort of permission to embrace their own challenges and pain, as well as to provide some encouragement and validation. I’ve come to believe that one of the things people need to move on or move through their struggle is to have someone look at you and say, “I see you! What you went through was rough. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. But it can be better than this.”

It’s time we shared our stories.5734bd36c0aa8d7f59f5d6e7cc395e25

 

GUESS WHO?

Have you ever played Guess Who? It’s a two-player game where players ask yes or no questions to isolate a hidden character. You might ask if your opponent’s character is male or female, blond or brunette, wears glasses or not. You get the idea. Essentially, the questions help you eliminate which of the characters your opponent’s person is not in order to determine who the person is. The first player to guess the other player’s hidden character wins.

This last year has simply been the most recent in my search for who I really am. I believe this is something most, if not all, of us do throughout our lives. As our roles, interests, and needs change, we evolve and our very identities change as we age. We become physically, mentally and emotionally more capable as we mature from baby to child to adolescent to teen to young adult to mature adult. We adopt and abandon roles as our lives change – friend, sibling, child, partner, parent, employee, coworker, Christian, voter, consumer, neighbor. And yet, all the while we maintain a core image of ourselves.

It’s that core image that I’ve struggled with the most. This year, I’ve been pre-occupied with who I am in Christ,  who I am as a child of God. It’s as a child of God that I want to grow and thrive. As a child of my mother, there are so many ways in which I simply didn’t grow or thrive; although, I had successes in spite of the way I was raised and sometimes because of how I was raised. There’s a lot to reconcile between the two lineages. One tolerated me, the other treasures me. One held me in disdain, the other holds me in the palm of His hand. One denied me affection, the other sacrificed His Son for me. Two very different caregivers; two very different identities for myself.

So I reviewed the lists of verses that declared who I was as a child of God and meditated on them, reminding myself of them when my heart needed reminding, when my mind suggested I was “less than.” But on the heels of each reminder was a quiet but pernicious doubt.3868d1bcf797b5ee2b985299be4794e9

‘Yeah, but….’

I realized that who my mother had told me I was had become a foundational certainty for me. And it wasn’t just what I’d accepted from her. I’d selectively held onto a lot from the kids who picked me last at play, the boys who showed no interest in dating me, the coworkers who didn’t invite me to join the group for lunch, the people on the street who seemed to look right through me. All of them verified my deepest belief about myself. I was unlovable. While there were those who thought I was smart, funny, sweet, dependable, or talented, I was more convinced that I wasn’t really worthy of attention or affection.  I was convinced of a reality that no amount of kindness could crack. And no amount of scriptural affirmation was going to completely convince me otherwise.

296D57B8-6681-406C-82DD-E8A9B00BD724Then I thought, what if I stopped trying to believe the truth of who I am and started disbelieving the lies of who I am not? What if I started with my conception – the point at which God knitted me in my mother’s womb and created a plan for me? I thought about the rows of babies that shared the nursery at the hospital where I was born and considered that each one had been born just the way God had designed them, which was good. Then we each went home to our respective families, where we were raised by ordinary men and women who were just doing the best they could with what they had. Some of us ended up nurtured and some of us ended up challenged. It’s just that simple.

It ultimately becomes our own responsibility to determine how we want to stand in the world, what we want to stand for, what we want to stand up for. And at some point, we become accountable for our own choices, our own identities. That’s when knowing who we are not becomes every bit as important as knowing who we are. Many of us are children of God, but we’re living without conviction of our heritage, without the fullness of our inheritance, falling short of our ordained potential.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tell us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

We can’t don the new clothes God gives us over the old clothes that have worn thin and have developed a stench. The stench eventually leaks through the fabric. We need to strip ourselves of the old before we can put on the new. We need to be cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ in order to be wholly clean. Who are you not, and perhaps have never been, or haven’t been since you chose to change? Are you not selfish, alone, tongue-tied, absent-minded, usc04eb15ce15b1aeb817f35a814166545eless, stupid, unattractive, worthless, boring, clumsy, insensitive, broken, talentless? Are you no longer a liar, an adulterer, a thief, a gossip, a using addict or alcoholic?

Today is a new day. We are a new creations!

God has a good plan for us. Satan has a plan for us, too. The plan we bring to fruition depends upon who we believe, who we let define us, who we choose to follow. We can be victims or victors. We can stay bitter, or we can become better. We can hold onto the lies or move forward into a new life. We can choose to disbelieve the lies the enemy has told us and hold on for dear life to the promises of He who is the Author and Finisher of our story.

So never let someone judge you by the chapter they walked in on. You’ve turned the page and begun a new chapter. Your character is still in development and your story isn’t over yet. But I’ll give you one spoiler alert: As a child of God, you’re on the winning side!

LETTING GO OF THE LIES

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NIV

This is such a short sentence, and yet it’s so powerful! It’s one of those verses that could be divided and each sentence would work alone. But they work together powerfully!

If you’ve ever felt inherently defective and undeserving of anything good, you’ve missed so much. My prayer for you is that you can move from a position of powerlessness and worthlessness to one of power and worthiness in Christ even if no one else has treated you that way – including yourself. I pray that you will open your heart and hands to what God has to give you.

A good place to start is by submitting to God and resisting the devil. I read this verse on my phone this morning and, for the first time in my Christian life, I read it differently (and I’m kind of excited about it right now because I need this now!). Today is different because I read it as a deserving child of God. I’m learning who my real Father is, and I have to tell you, He’s powerful!

My Father has already won every battle to come. In spite of how scary the devil can make things look, it’s all nothing to God. If you follow the story of Christ, you’ll see that demons fled when He spoke. They knew who He was and they were afraid. They were afraid Christ had come before His appointed time, which tells me they knew their time was limited. Their fear also tells me that they knew they were on the losing team. They were weak and vulnerable and had no choice but to submit to Christ as the son of God!ca320ee80218a2a06ce2f66d5db8dbf3

This is the same devil and demons we deal with today. They’re the ones who whisper to you that no one likes you, that you’re inadequate, that you’re alone. They’re the ones who lie to you!

Now, be honest for a moment. If you had a friend who you knew lied to you, how long would you listen to her and trust her? You’d be foolish to believe what she said. Sure, there might be times she tells you the truth, just to keep you in a relationship. But how long could you tolerate hearing, “Jill doesn’t like you.” or “Jim thinks you’re fat.” or “You’re not good enough.” when you know it’s a lie?

So why do we listen to Satan’s lies? Because they agree with the thoughts you already have? Test them against what your loving, forgiving Father says about you, and you’ll see that they are, indeed, lies. Remember that Satan condemns and God convicts. Condemnation is bad, and you don’t need that. Conviction is good, and you need that.

Submit to God. Read His word and learn how very much he loves you. Realize how wonderful and powerful you are as the child of the One who created the universe and you with the same hands. But you need to submit to God so you have an anchor to hold onto. It’s a bit like playing on the monkey bars; you don’t let go of one bar before you let go of the bar you’re holding.

Then resist the devil and make him flee. The verse doesn’t say, “and hope he’ll leave you alone.” It puts the truth very simply – he will flee. He’ll flee from you just as he fled from Christ and his disciples. Why? Because you are a child of God, and God protects His own. This is where you let go of the other bar.

Trust me, once you’ve got ahold of God, you can let go of the stuff that doesn’t help!

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YOU ARE SO LOVED!

Before Eckhart Tolle talked about the power of now; before Brene’ Brown studied vulnerability; even before random acts of kindness became a thing, there was “Dr. Love”  – Leo Buscaglia. He was a ground-breaking researcher and actually taught classes on love. If you’re interested in reading his work, you can find at least one of his 14 books in a garage sale or maybe all of them at the library. Or ask your parents. (Unless they’re the ones who sold them in a garage sale.)

I remember being touched by his passion, his tenderness, his uninhibited enthusiasm for caring. He was an advocate for the power of love. No act of love was too small for him.

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When you haven’t been properly or appropriately loved, self-affection or the belief that anyone else can love you is virtually impossible. To this, Buscaglia said, “Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”

It’s too easy for some of us to put the needs of others before our own. But if we do, then loving ourselves is mandatory! We must love ourselves in order to love others. Why else would one of Christ’s two commandments be to love your neighbors as you love yourself?

For as long as I can remember, whenever I heard that, I thought, ‘My neighbors are in for a whole lot of nothin’ if that’s the case’ because I didn’t love myself. Not at all. I hoped others would love me, but I certainly didn’t expect it. I harbored the quiet belief that if anyone were ever to find out what I was really like, they wouldn’t like me at all. Essentially, I felt unlovable.

And there, in the middle of my growing up in self-deprecation, was Leo Buscaglia, a boisterous, loving bear of an Italian who was telling the world how important love was. I could read about it, but it may just as well have been well-written fiction to me. It was a lovely but ridiculous idea to a young woman who saw conditional tolerance at home and earned appreciation at school, but not love.

But Christ has it right, and so did Buscaglia. We can only offer what we have. I spent many of my 50-plus years being judged, and so I am now judgmental (And, yes, I’m working on it. I’m especially judgmental of people who are judgmental! I know, right?). I have learned to be more loving to myself, which has allowed me to be more accepting of love from others. The more love I can accept for myself, the more love I can offer to others. Eventually, I hope that loving others as I love myself will be a really good thing for other people! For now, I do the best I can. If I want to love as Christ loves, though, I have to allow myself to feel loved.

Here’s the cool part: If we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and we can’t love ourselves without accepting love, where does the first act of love come from?

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

This is great news for anyone who has grown up feeling unloved and unlovable! (And I believe there is a difference between the two.) If no one showed you love growing up, you can bet that God loves you! He always has and he always will. If you’re a Child of God, nothing you do can make him love you more; nothing you do can make him love you less.

First Romans 8:38-39 confirms this:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You are so loved! Never forget that and never doubt it.

GOD WANTS YOUR REJECTED HEART

God so desperately wants a relationship with you. Do you know that we are the only creation of his that needs reconciliation and has been given the opportunity for reconciliation? The animals don’t need reconciliation. However, there’s a third of the original angels in heaven who left with Lucifer who desperately need reconciliation, and God hasn’t made a way for them.

‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son'”? Hebrews 1:5 (NIV)

And if we are adopted, grafted into the family of our Almighty, that makes us co-heirs with Christ. And that’s exciting news!

Angels, however, have no opportunity to be reconciled to God. What torment that must be. As humans, we can only imagine – and our imagination is incredible limited! – what it will be like in the presence of God when we reach Heaven, and yet so many of us yearn for it, look forward to it. The fallen angels know what it’s like to be in the presence of God, and they are bound to be denied that presence eternally.

This is how much God wants you! So much so that he has made a way to spend eternity with you at the expense of his only son, Jesus Christ.

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This may not be a comfortable thought for many of you who were not only discouraged from being a part of your earthly family, but were outright rejected. There’s no pain like the pain of rejection.

Like being picked last for the team. Some of you know what I’m talking about. The team captains are down to you and the kid who picks his nose – and eats it! And the nose-picker gets picked before you! You’ve never, ever picked your nose, much less eaten it! Who does that in the eighth grade anyway?

But then you go home, where it’s supposed to be safe and loving, where Mrs. Cleaver has just brought out a pan of fresh brownies for your after school culinary pleasure. Instead of brownies, there’s a note: Went out to eat with friends. Find some leftovers in the fridge. Again.

I had a profound experience of rejection when I was in college. It was a class exercise in recognizing people in the dark. The professor turned off all the lights. Then we were supposed to find a partner. But because there was an uneven number of students, he explained that if time were running out, someone would have to take on a third person. Simple enough, right? I wandered around in the dark, looking for a partner. Everyone I tried to attach myself to told me they already had a partner. When the lights came back on, I stood alone and humiliated.

Now someone who had been raised with more self-esteem than me may not have been bothered by this. I wasn’t one of those people. Instead, I stood there with tears threatening to run over my lower eyelashes. All I could think was, “I’m so defective that even in the dark, people know enough to reject me.” And I believed that.

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But God! Oh…God looks for you in the dark! He knows where you are. There is nowhere you can hide that his light can’t find you. And you’re the one he wants. It’s your rejected heart that he wants to hold next to his own. He didn’t send his only Son as a sacrifice simply to leave you out.

I used to think He did.

I accepted Christ as my Savior in a small Southern Baptist church when I was 12. As the years went by and I became a connoisseur of rejections, I began to genuinely believe that if I got into Heaven, it would be on a technicality. I imagined Jesus standing at the Pearly Gates, seeing me show up and begrudgingly saying, “Hmm. Well, I didn’t mean you, but rules are rules so come on in.” I even imagined an exasperated eye roll behind my back.

Our Lord isn’t like everyone else in our lives. He doesn’t just love. He is love. And he wants you to come to him with your rejected heart. So go ahead! You can trust him with it.

HELLO, MY NAME IS….

It seems that when you meet someone, there’s a list of facts about yourself that you routinely share – safe things. For example, I like telling people I was born in California, raised in Missouri, spent a few years in Kansas before moving to Minnesota, where I currently live. I suppose I feel there’s a preemptive apology in there somewhere in case I fail to pronounce my O’s like a proper Minnesotan, or if I slip up and ask them what “casserole” they brought instead of calling it a “hot dish.”

I tell them I work at an insurance agency before quickly moving on to a subject that strikes a little less fear into their hearts. After all, who wants to sit and visit with someone who might try to sell you insurance, right? At least I now have a job to discuss. The months I was unemployed were the worst! I was relieved to discover the phrase “community volunteer.” The only danger there was having someone figure out that my husband probably didn’t earn enough to allow me the luxury of being a “community volunteer”. Know what I mean?

In any event, I’ve learned that the longer you know someone, they eventually find out what your favorite foods, books, movies, singers, and sports teams are. You’ll tell them what you really don’t like about some people, what you like about others. For some, it’s the beginning of a great friendship.

Maybe not so much for you, though. Will they ever become acquainted with the person you see in the mirror? The one that even your own family seldom sees? How do you ever introduce that person?

Hello, my name is….

Did you know that today I had a hard time getting out of bed and getting dressed? I just wanted to keep sleeping because that’s where I can avoid the ugly thoughts that won’t stop going through my head. And getting dressed? Let’s face it – you can put lipstick on a pig, but…. Still, I knew I would have to put on a smile when, in all honesty, I want to cry. In fact, that’s why I wear water-proof mascara. I know that at some point, I will go to the ladies room and cry, and I don’t want my mascara to run. And, no, I don’t really have allergies. That’s not why my eyes look puffy sometimes.

Did you know that the reason I don’t welcome you into my home is because I wouldn’t know what to do with you? When I was growing up, we didn’t have company over and other kids weren’t allowed into the house because we never knew what mood Dad might be in. So, I’m sorry, but I can’t bear the thought of you coming in for a visit. Can we meet somewhere else?

Did you know that I’m sorry? I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry if I make you wait or if I say the wrong thing. I’m sorry if I talk too much. I’m sorry if I don’t talk enough. I’m sorry for taking up too much room. I’m sorry for breathing too much air. I’m just…so sorry.

Did you know that I’m afraid you’ll want to be my friend because I don’t quite know how to handle that level of intimacy? I’m afraid you’ll want more from me than I’m able to give. Some people have wanted everything I had until there was nothing left for me. But I’m also afraid you’ll leave me if we do become friends. I’m afraid that you’ll learn what I already know about myself – that I’m a worthless pain. I’m needy and insecure and ugly. I’m unlovable. And I couldn’t bear for you to discover that and reject me.

Do you really have any idea who you’re talking to? Let’s just stick with the name on my name tag, huh? It will be easier that way. I’ll smile. You’ll smile. Then we will both go home none the wiser, OK?

But that’s not OK with God. God designed us for relationship!  As his children, we’re meant to encourage and love each other. In fact, other people may need exactly what you might be hiding. You’d be surprised at who is waiting to get to know you. You might even find someone who’s as scared as you are.

As C S Lewis said:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

No matter how flawed you might think you are, you’ll be surprised at what can happen if you just give relationships a chance. It may be a learning curve, but with God’s help you can do it. Remember:  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV). Now, go make a friend!

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

I’m having one of those days today. I didn’t have days like this until I had emergency surgery for an Ascending Aortic Dissection in July of 2013. Which means that I have been having days like this since July of 2013. I don’t like them! In fact, I’m quite tired of them.

Before I write another word, I want to let you know that, yes, I am aware that there are people out there who have it worse. My heart goes out to them and I sympathize with their challenges. I don’t know how they do it. That being said, if you don’t want to attend my pity party today, take your comfort food and go before we play pin the tear on the sad girl. 😀

On the outside, I think I appear to be fine. People say they don’t usually notice the difficulty I have with my speech, although I am aware of the effort it now takes to speak clearly. Many of the people I know now didn’t know me when I did public speaking in high school or even when I did community theater here in New Ulm.  And they can’t appreciate how painful it is to me to work so hard on something that was once so effortless and fun for me. I’ve always said my favorite thing to do was to talk.

When others read my handwriting, they often don’t have my pre-dissection handwriting to compare it to. If they did, they would see a difference between today’s shaky, labored handwriting (which they say they can read) and my prior assertive, fluid handwriting that leaned forward in anticipation for the next word. I was so proud of my signature. It was me. It’s now as ordinary as I am. Today, I have to carefully sign my name as if it were simply any other word.

People might notice the care I take with my steps, but I fear they might also think I’ve been drinking when they see me saunter to the side or lose my balance. I can say with confidence that it is not because I’m drunk. Alcohol is no more responsible for my unsteady gait than it is my slightly poor driving and even worse parking. Those are more a result of my poor judgment of distance.

And it’s frustrating to have poor short-term memory when I’m accustomed to being able to juggle several different thoughts. Now, I have a hard time keeping a single thought in my head until I get it out. I often feel like I did when I was a kid and had to repeat “milk, eggs, bread” all the way to the grocery store so I wouldn’t forget what my mom had sent me after.

Anyone watching me type today would never imagine that I had excelled at that, too. I did. When I was in my late 20’s, I won 1st and 2nd places in national competition for Business Professionals of America in Information Processing. Today, I have to constantly correct myself in spite of how slow I go.

Since I was on heart-lung bypass for nearly eight hours to repair my aorta and save my life, everything seems to take more concentration and deliberation. It’s exasperating to have to carefully do simple things that I used to do with ease.

And on days like this, I feel a little broken and frustrated. I’ve prayed for healing, but I think God has his own idea of how I’m going to be healed. See, before my dissection, I was always in a hurry and usually managed to get myself in over my head with work and responsibilities.

I seldom took the time to relax, and I didn’t relax I assumed anyone (especially my family) who wasn’t doing something was lazy. I took it upon myself to feel burdened and offended by their lack of busyness.

I can’t hurry anymore. I can’t talk fast or write fast or type fast without the words coming out unintelligibly. I can’t walk fast without tripping or tiring myself. I don’t care to drive anywhere and prefer to leave the errands to my husband.

Here’s what I’m finding out as I find slowing down a necessity: A lot of the things I thought had to be done by me can actually be done by someone else. A lot of the things I thought had to be said, don’t need to be said by me. Most of the thoughts in my head really don’t need to be shared at all. And even if I get there slowly, I will eventually get there. All in all, the work gets done somehow.

Sure, my pride has taken a big hit in the last 4 1/2 years. I’ve prayed for healing. The body isn’t healing that well, but if God wanted to heal me of busyness, pride and arrogance…I think it’s starting to work. What God has done is to force me into relationship with others in a way that is much deeper and more vulnerable.

And if I wasn’t sure that God is working on my, he confirmed it just now. As I looked for an image to go with this post, I found on Pinterest the two graphics I’ve used in this post without having to do a search. My God has a sense of humor!

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BEAUTIFUL BROKEN PIECES

 

 

Ephesians 5:13-14 tell us “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”

In my last post, I talked about validation. Today, I want to take a closer look at Ephesians 5:13-14 again because I find it very encouraging. We’ve looked at shining the light of Christ on our pain and shame in order to find validation and start healing, which is beneficial for ourselves. If we take a closer look at this passage, we see how the light of Christ can shine through our pain to bring others to Christ.

How long have you felt dead inside? Have you numbed yourself, thinking that you’re inoculated from pain? Have you been going through your days on automatic pilot? Are you missing out on fully enjoying the life that Christ died to give you? Do you feel like a shell of a person, doing the same things every day, feeling no joy at all? It’s not a very victorious life, is it? Certainly not the life Christ died for us to have.

It’s time to wake up! There can be purpose to your pain. God can use that pain. Verse 13 tells us that “everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” I know – why would you want to illuminate a painful past? It’s ugly. Why would you want to illuminate your own pain and shame? It’s vulnerable, and vulnerability can be dangerous. So why would you want to shine a light on the very things you want to bury and forget?

For one thing, all the numbing in the world will not erase your pain. For another, when the light of Christ is shone on your pain, through your pain, it can become a beautiful beacon of hope and promise for others. Second Corinthians 4:6 tells us, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Only by letting God heal us and sharing the story of that healing, can God’s glory and Christ’s purpose be served.

Imagine the beauty of a stained glass mosaic. God can take your broken pieces and make something new and beautiful out of them. And when the light of Christ shines through the new picture…Ah! What beauty! It’s this beauty that draws others to Christ. Are you willing to let the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ shine in your life, through your brokenness? Then wake up! Rise from the dead, and let God use your pain for the purpose of bringing the lost to him for his glory. Become a beacon of hope for others.

 

VALIDATION

When you’ve been hurt, I believe there are two you need: validation and permission. Validation tells you that, yes, something painful has happened to you or you’ve struggled with something that’s taken a lot from you. Permission allows you to move forward when you don’t believe you have the right to.

Today I want to talk about validation. I lived in silence for years about my home life, mostly because I wasn’t aware that it was different from anyone else’s. I lived with a mentally unhealthy mother who was emotionally and verbally abusive, often withholding attention as a means of punishment, and punishment was unpredictable and came on a whim. I never knew when to expect it, so I anticipated it constantly.

Even after I learned that this was not normal parenting behavior, it didn’t make me feel any better. And for the longest time, I thought I wanted pity. It took me a few years to realize that pity wasn’t very satisfying and not especially forthcoming when no one knew what I’d gone through. Through years of therapy, I felt sorry for myself when what I was really looking for was acknowledgement that what I’d gone through was, indeed, abnormal and that it was painful. I needed validation so I could start healing.

As I said, though, validation is hard to come by when no one knows what needs to be validated. So often, we don’t talk about the pain of our past (or present, even) because we don’t want to appear pathetic or vulnerable. No one who has felt weak wants to appear weak. We want to appear fearless and seamless when we may very likely be very broken. We keep our pain in the dark, hidden.

But here’s the thing: There is no healing as long as our pain is hidden. Ephesians 5:13-14 tell us “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. I believe this is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” As long as our pain and any shame that goes along with it are kept in the dark, they’re in Satan’s domain. He can continue to use them to destroy our relationships and self-image.

But if we shine the light of Christ on what is hidden, we can be healed of that pain and shame. We can heal our relationships. Best of all, we can have a self-image that reflects who we really are – children of God. And how incredible would it be to see yourself as the child of God, rather than the child of a parent who hurt you? Ultimately, we have been made in God’s image. What a lovely, beautiful image that is!

So whether you endured years of unspeakable abuse or someone simply hurt your feelings today, don’t be ashamed or afraid to shine the light of Christ on your pain. It wasn’t your fault, and the one who hurt you can’t heal you the way God can. Let God dispel the darkness that Satan delights in. Let the Lord do a good work in you today and begin living the life he wants for you – a life that glorifies him.

 

HERE AM I

When I was about 26 weeks pregnant with Sophie, I was told that my blood pressure was creating an unsafe environment for my baby. The doctors at KU Medical Center strongly suggested I be admitted immediately. They explained that I could get out to the parking lot, go into premature labor and lose the baby before I could get back into the hospital.

The problem was that I’d brought my brother along and he didn’t have a driver’s license yet, so I needed to take him back home to Atchison – a 40 minute drive. Once I got home, I figured, I could find someone to take me back to the hospital so I wouldn’t have to pay to keep my car in the hospital parking lot. I had no idea how long my stay would be.

I asked three people, and each was too busy to take me back that evening. None of them knew when they’d be available, actually. Later in the evening, a friend of mine from St. Joseph, MO called. I told him about the situation. I was starting to worry about my baby and had no idea now if I would get to the hospital in time to get the care I needed. I’d decided to take myself. David said, “Pack your bags. I’ll be there in 30 minutes.”

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that David was willing to drop everything to make the drive to Atchison to pick me up, then take me to the hospital another 40 minutes away. By the time he got to my house, it was already 11:00 pm. His drive back home to St. Joseph would be another 50 minutes or so. But 30 minutes after I hung up, there he was. I was touched that anyone could care about me that much!

But you know what? God cares about us that much.

His promise in Isaiah 58:9 NIV tells us, “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: “Here am I.”

Throughout Christ’s ministry, all anyone had to do was ask for healing or help, and it was done. He never even stopped to consider if the recipient deserved a miracle. He helped everyone equally.

How wondrous it is to have someone who, when you ask for help, simple says, “I’m here.” You can almost hear the gentle, comforting whisper of “Shhh….”

When you’re crying…”I’m here.”
When you’re scared…”I’m here.”
When you feel alone…”I’m here.”
When you’ve messed up so bad that you think you’re beyond hope…”I’m here.”
When you’ve been betrayed…”I’m here.”

Just look at Peter when he trusted Christ enough to walk on water toward him. With his solid hold, Jesus assured the sinking Peter. “I’m here.” his grip told him.

Friends often come and go in our life. Even lifelong friends can let us down occasionally. But God never disappoints us. He’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He will never stop caring, no matter how bad the situation is. His answer will always be “Here am I.” He will sit with you as long as you need him to.

What a loving God we serve!