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You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

~Psalm 32:7 NIV~

I’ve been gone.  Not sure where I was exactly, but I’ve been watching things from the sidelines and wondering if it will ever be safe to get back in the game again.  For a while, I was busy all the time and I was working on so many projects that I couldn’t breathe.  I had to slow down and think about which direction made sense.  After all, I can only go down one path at a time.

For the past year, I’ve been doing a bit of mental and spiritual de-cluttering.  Well, not just a bit…a whole bunch of de-cluttering.  I’ve cut some people loose.  I’ve abandoned some projects that no longer made sense.  I’ve begun to rethink the path I was on and to evaluate where it was eventually going to take me if I continued.  I decided that it was all wrong.  Just about everything in my life was making me unhappy or at the very least, uncomfortable.  So, I started making some plans.  Yes, my escape is imminent!

The answer, at its most basic level, is that if it hurts then it has to go.  If I spend even one moment feeling less than because of someone or something, then I need to figure out how to remove that someone or something from the path I am on.  Or, I just need to change my path.  Granted, when you are a single parent and you have one source of income, it isn’t always easy to switch tracks in mid-stream.  Our obligations don’t stop just because we have an epiphany.

Sometimes, we have to just pray and make our plans and wait for God to open the doors we need Him to open.  We can go about our business even when we’re not happy, and then one day, when everything is in place God will give us a nudge to set out in a new direction.   So, I’ve been making some plans.  And yes, I know that my plans really don’t mean much if it’s not in God’s plan for me.  I definitely ask Him for direction and to show me where He wants me to be.  He’s been pointing me towards something new and I’m happy with the idea of moving away from where I’ve been.  Mentally, Spiritually, and Physically.  I’m ready to chart a new course and get started on the next leg of this journey.

There are many things that I need to do and once the plan is set in motion, there will be no turning back.  God has given me a new vision for my future and I’m waiting…somewhat impatiently…to set out on that journey.  For now, He’s making me rest and recover from all the things that have done damage over the years.  He’s been helping me to clean out all of the toxins and to see some things more clearly.  I know that where I now want to go is where I am truly meant to be and I can’t wait to get there.

See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

~Isaiah 42:9 NIV~

 

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Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to have no fear.  God wants us to have faith, not fear.  He wants us to trust that even in the scariest of situations, He is with us and He has a plan for whatever may come to pass.  Although this encouragement exists in God’s word, it is rare for a human being to be 100% fearless.  Even Jesus, in His last moments, cried out to His Father saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV).  Was Jesus afraid?  Even though He knew His purpose and His power; could the Son of God have been fearful of what He was about to endure?   I had never considered the notion that Jesus, the man, could have felt fear.  But as I was watching The Passion of the Christ this morning, it occurred to me that it wouldn’t have been out of the question for Him to have had a moment of uncertainty about what He was preparing to do.  The cruelty of the people who beat Him so severely before the crucifixion, surely would have overwhelmed any man.  The hatred that He encountered as someone who was here to be a force of light had to have hurt Him deeply.  Even as the Son of God, would He not have felt sadness and trepidation at the situation in which He found Himself?

I don’t ask these questions out of some naive or immature understanding of Christ’s story.  I ask them because when I saw Him weeping in the garden, begging His Father to “take this cup,” the full impact of how alone He must have felt at the moment He was crucified brought tears to my eyes.  Here was this man, this Jesus, caught up in so much chaos and turmoil, allowing these people to hurt Him physically, emotionally, and psychologically, all for the sake of fulfilling His purpose.  He went forward on His journey knowing the entire time that He had agreed to be tortured and ultimately killed to save a people who didn’t believe and didn’t care.  And here I sit, being afraid to step out and upset a few people in the name of bringing the love of Christ into the lives of those who do not yet know Him or those who have misunderstood Him.  How can I be fearful when my God has shown me through what Jesus endured that His purpose for me far exceeds the power of those who would try to prevent me from walking my path?  Who am I to shrink back?

As I watch Mary watching Jesus being beaten by the guards, I think about my own child.  Could I have stood in Mary’s place?  Could I have watched my child, even as a grown adult, go through what Jesus went through?  There is absolutely no way.  She asks, “Where, when, how will you let yourself be delivered from this?”  And all she can do is stand there and watch Him being hurt so badly.  He could not and He would not allow Himself to be removed from this place until He had done what He’d come here to do.  Although He asked His Father for relief, He would not have given up on His mission.  Although He suffered pain, He would not have decided to go another way.  He had His purpose here and we are reminded today, Easter Sunday, that this man…this Jesus…endured much so that we could be free.  And sadly, so many of us choose to stay in bondage to our sins.  So many of us still choose to allow ourselves to be bullied into silence or darkness by those who prefer to perpetuate the cruelty displayed by the people who crucified Him.  Somehow, we didn’t get the right message from His death.  Somehow, there are some out there who believe that His death wasn’t a big deal.  Somehow, there are people who can see the crucifixion depicted in a film or read about it in the Bible or in another story and still not understand the weight of His sacrifice.  What that man went through for us should make your heart heavy.  What He suffered should bring tears to your eyes.  And then, it should instill a desire in your heart to do all that you can to make sure that no one takes His love for granted.

God didn’t give us this life so that we could thumb our noses at Him and tell Him what we think is best.  He gave us this life so that we could be extensions of Him in this universe.  We are to love as He did and to help others understand how to love even when life has been difficult.  Even when life has demanded that we hate.  We are called to love.  And while we may envision our sacrifices to be justification for not loving, we must never forget the man who gave it all for us.  Our trials here are nothing in comparison to what He suffered for our sins.  Even though we can never repay Him, we should always be working to show Him that His sacrifice wasn’t in vain.  My life hasn’t measured up, even in times when I thought I was doing great things as a Christian.  I still have not stepped up in the way that I need to step up and I will continue to work toward fulfilling the purpose that God has set for me.  The cup that I am drinking from is far less bitter than His and I have no good reason to set it aside just so that I can feel more comfortable here.

I pray that you have a blessed Easter and that you continue on your journey with the intent of always showing Him how much His love means to you.

 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV

For those of you who enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, imagine working for weeks on a complicated puzzle only to sit down one day to work on the last few pieces and find that much of what you had thought fit together simply did not make sense.  This is where I find myself these days.  Not literally, but figuratively.  I feel like I’m looking at pieces of my life and seeing that what I thought made sense before, now doesn’t necessarily fit into my idea of what I thought was going on.  It’s unsettling.  It’s somewhat scary.  It has shaken me into a silent but compulsive analysis of the details.  I thought for a while that I had figured something out, but now I’m back to being a little confused.

I’ve always been the kind of person who had about a million things going at any given time.  Now, I’m down to about five….total.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or not.  Is it that I’ve matured and shed some of my overly compulsive tendencies or is it that I’ve simply given up on my dreams of making a difference.  Recently, I’ve taken to turning off my brain after I finish work at my day job and basically ignoring everything that I had once planned to do in my spare time.  I spend most nights watching TV and joking around with my daughter and sister, grabbing dinner somewhere so that we can pick on some poor, unsuspecting waiter or waitress, and then coming back home to scroll through social media to make sure everyone seems to be alive and well in their own little world.  Lest you think I’m a jerk, I need to clarify that we don’t pick on waiters or waitresses to be mean.  We like to make them laugh so that at least part of their shift is enjoyable.

My nights used to be filled with writing, posting on social media to promote my books or the books I publish under Higher Ground Books & Media, doing editing for other writers, or working on ideas for support groups and programs for Higher Ground for Life.  Over the past few years, however, it became clear that the work I had been doing wasn’t really effective.  At least some of the time I’d been spending on trying to build the ministry was not worth the effort.  I was getting nowhere and nobody seemed to be interested in what I had to say.  So, I stopped writing.  I stopped taking editing jobs.  I stopped trying to put together programs for the ministry.  I stopped going to church.  I stopped talking to my friends.  I stopped trying to hear anything else that had to do with the life I had been living.  I didn’t really replace it with anything.  I just stopped.

What happened?  Well, lots of things.  I had been through several years of very stressful custody-related arguments with my ex-husband.  I had watched my daughter struggle with anxiety and depression.  I had watched my mother’s health deteriorate as she dealt with the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I watched my sister’s marriage fall apart and her subsequent struggle to get back on her feet.  And finally, I watched my dad get sicker and sicker until finally being diagnosed with an unspecified cancer.  While most of the problems I witnessed weren’t my own, it was very difficult to watch the people I love go through the pain and suffering that they have gone through.  It is very draining to realize that you can do nothing to help them or that what little you can do won’t take away the hurt and frustration they are feeling.

On top of it all, my relationship with certain members of my family underwent a significantly negative shift.  Relationships that I thought we had long-since repaired, seemed to buckle under the weight of other, less significant conflicts such as political differences and conflicting viewpoints about proper treatment.  And so, all of the work that had gone into fixing what had been broken previously seemed to have been for nothing.  And at a time when we should be getting closer, we were drifting farther apart.  Not knowing another way to deal with the pain of this rift, I began to detach from all of it.  I am tired.

So, while I want nothing more than for everyone I love to be okay, it may be that there is just no way for me to be anything more than an onlooker in some of this.  I think some of the stuff is under control now, but there are big pieces of the puzzle that no longer form the picture I could once see very clearly.  The shape of it has changed and it no longer makes sense to keep trying to make the pieces fit.  I don’t like to give up on people and I generally don’t.  But there are a few people who have repeatedly broken my heart over the years.  My only recourse has been to shut them out as completely as I can without making them feel as though I hate them.  I don’t hate them, but I do hate feeling used and abused.  I hate feeling like I’m an imposition where I was once welcome.  I hate feeling as though I’m never going to be enough for someone.   These are the things I hate.  Even though someone may put me through hell, with the very rare exception of one or two, I most likely still love them at least a little.

I have to be honest, I am also starting to hate this season of my life.  There is so much that I am thankful for and so much that I wouldn’t change, but there are a few big things that I just don’t want to face.  And it doesn’t appear that I have much choice but to face them.  It stinks to be stuck in a place where you are simply waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I spent years in this very place and I never wanted to find myself in this situation again.  Faith should have cured this…shouldn’t it?  Well, not really.  Faith isn’t meant to be a cure-all.  Faith is meant to bring us to the understanding that no matter what we face, God will help us through it.  Faith is meant to help us declare that we know we are not alone in whatever battles we fight.

As I sit here today, I’ve been thinking that there are so many things I need to say.  I’ve written a few versions of my autobiography; each capturing snippets of different periods in my life.  It may well be time to put it all together and fill in the blanks.  It’s a story that needs to be told.  A story that may resonate with those who have been hurt and abused.  It may help someone see that they are not alone.  It may help restore someone’s faith where it is starting to falter.  For now, though, I’m resting.  I’m still thinking, still pondering…but for now, I’m taking my time.  This is going to be rough and I don’t want to jump into this arena without making sure I won’t collapse under the weight of the next season of my life.  I will share some of the details of this journey with you as I begin to compile them.  If it helps you in some way, then it will be worth it after all.

I’ll be back soon.

I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Psalm 89:2 NIV

Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks.  Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her.  All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.

Lamentations 1:2  (NIV)

It’s funny how people can love you one minute and in the next, act like you don’t exist.  I’ve run into this more than I care to admit and it has given me a rather bleak outlook on friendships, relationships, and on my role in getting the word out about what Jesus was trying to teach.  While I would love to greet everyone I meet with a smile, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m thinking ahead to the day when that person will eventually either stab me in the back or somehow prove to me that the time I spent with them could have been better spent.  Yes, these thoughts still plague me even this far into my walk and yes, I do ask God to help me improve my outlook on a daily basis.  But in this area of brokenness where much damage has been done, there is still much repair to be done.

For people who tend to go “all in” with their interactions, the emotional and psychological wounds perpetrated by others run deep.  They may not even realize that they have hurt you, but while they’re getting on with their lives you’re sitting there wondering why they don’t care as much as you do.  Is it realistic to believe that when we show love, we will get love in return?  Not that I’ve seen, but I’ve heard that it does happen.  To clarify, I’m not talking about acquaintances here; I’m talking about those who profess to be our best and dearest friends but who decide at intervals that they can’t be bothered with us.  Those who abandon us when something or someone more interesting presents itself.  Those who expect us to help them pick up the pieces whenever they break something, but who run for cover should we ever need them to hold a dustpan for us.

Of course, there are some exceptions.  I know a handful of people who are truly good-hearted and who have never left me feeling as though they would just as soon slap me as look at me.  But only a handful.  These are the people who will always be there for you even though you may not have spoken to them for weeks or sometimes months.  And when you take the time to check on them, they don’t make you feel stupid for not having been enough of a part of their life to know what had kept them from contacting you first.  You know that you can call them and they will be there to help you out when you need them.  You’ll never find them hiding under a bush with their tail hanging out playing the old, “I don’t want to see you, so I’ll pretend you won’t see me not seeing you” trick.   There are those who are capable of living their lives fully and still making time for everyone that they profess to care about.  I’m not sure how they do it, but I can bet that it isn’t be being deceitful and attempting to hide one part of their life from the other.  And it isn’t by being fake to everyone they meet because they have no intention of ever having a relationship of any depth with anyone.

It’s so frustrating to have people in our lives who simply don’t understand what it means to care about others.  It’s even worse to watch someone living their life as though you don’t matter and never did even though they are still telling you they care.  It stinks to be made to feel like an obligation by someone who is supposed to love you.  So why don’t we just walk away?  When someone makes us feel like they would rather not be bothered, why do we continue to open the door when they come knocking after abandoning us?  Grace? Mercy? Faith? Hope?  Or is it just stupidity?  I’d like to think it’s a little bit of all of these…except for that stupidity part.

The truth is that there are two kinds of people in this world; those who can only love and those who can’t love at all.  We have choices in how we handle both types of people.  We can either let those who love us, love us or we can push them away.  We can let those who can’t love us keep hurting us or we can walk away.  Either way, we have to find balance so that in the end, we’ll still be able to love. We cannot let someone’s inability to give or receive love dictate whether or not we are willing to show love to others.

God never said that we should allow someone to abuse us in the name of love.  When people are hurting you,  keep moving until you find those who are willing to give and receive in a healthy way.  Understand that prolonged exposure to the damage that some people do will not make you stronger, it will continue to break you down until you no longer desire any kind of relationship with anyone.  It is important that you know when it’s time to say goodbye.  Even though you may wish that the person or people who are hurting you would finally figure out how to treat you, the best thing you can do for the destructive people in your life is to walk away and let God handle them.  He’s the only one who is equipped to handle their abuse and He’s willing to take that on for you.

“If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

Luke 9:5 (NIV)

under the rug

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

~1 Corinthians 3:10-11 New International Version (NIV)~

In the middle of the night, I often think of really stupid things.  Sometimes I remember that thing I forgot nine hours earlier when I was at the store.  Sometimes, I remember an old locker combination from high school.  Sometimes, I remember the name of a teacher or some other thing that I don’t really need to know while I’m trying to sleep.  Last night, I dreamed that I was walking around my house and with every step that I took I heard the sound of glass crunching under my feet.  I couldn’t see it, but no matter where I stepped, I heard crunching.  I woke up wondering what that could mean.  It seems significant and it probably makes sense given the things I’ve put up with in my life.  My tendency has been to sweep my brokenness under the rug when I could just as easily have picked it up and thrown it in the trash; even better, I could have picked it up and handed it to God to see what He could do with it.

But as is typical of me, I have always decided that I could probably deal with most of the mess myself.  I ask God to fix the little things and then I just work on the rest of it when I have the time, energy, inclination, etc.  Hence the house full of broken pieces under the carpet.  It has always been this way.  I have never really felt that He should have to deal with even a small amount of the crap that I have created in my life.  So, why would I burden Him with any of it?  There have to be people who need Him more than I do, so I figure I can go on and do things by myself for a while and then catch up with Him later if things get to be too much.  The only problem with that thinking is that I never seem to know when things get to be too much.  I always try to handle it all without His help.  Even when I thought I was walking with Him the way everyone told me to walk with Him, I figured He didn’t really need to be doing so much for me.

I know that God has made me stronger when I needed to be stronger.  I know that He wouldn’t give me more than He has equipped me to handle.  But what I don’t seem to know or understand fully is that there are times when He places an obstacle in my path that I’m supposed to ask Him to help me with.  Sometimes, He wants me to say that I cannot do this without Him.  Sometimes, He wants me to understand that my hiding the brokenness from Him doesn’t mean He isn’t aware of it.  I’m not sure why my brain understands these concepts, but my heart doesn’t.

The things we allow in our lives define the path we find ourselves walking.  If we are constantly allowing people to take advantage of us, then our path becomes one of quiet desperation.  If we’re constantly moving from one bad situation to another, hoping that the next one will be the one that justifies the abuse we’ve suffered, eventually our ability to love others will dwindle and we’ll find ourselves unable to love even the ones who aren’t hurting us.  We’re supposed to love others, but that doesn’t mean we let them use us or make us feel worthless in hopes that our overwhelming love for them will one day make them do the right thing.  Our love cannot fix those who cannot comprehend it.  Only God’s love can change those hearts.  And while He may use us as a catalyst, we must never believe that it is us doing the healing.

So, knowing what I think I know, will I continue to do the things I’ve always done?  I’m not quite sure.  While I would love to say that I am never going to make a mistake again, I know that this is unrealistic.  There will be challenges that I fail.  There will be challenges where I will succeed.  I can choose to ignore the challenges or accept them, but if I don’t learn from them then I will continue walking down a path that leads to nothing.  And what about the obnoxious crunching?  If it’s one thing I hate, it’s unnecessary noise in the house.  It may well be time for me to pull up the rug and get out the broom.  Whether I throw those pieces out or hand them over to someone more qualified to dispose of them, the very fact that I’m removing them from underfoot is a giant step in the right direction.

God shows us things for a reason.  He may bring you a vision in a dream or bring you a word in a conversation with a stranger.  But He gives us information when we need it.  We just have to choose what we are going to do with it.

 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

~Romans 8:20-21 New International Version (NIV)~

 

 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

~Psalm 46:10 NIV~

Lately, I haven’t been writing as much.  This is strange because for me, writing helps me to process things that I don’t understand.  Over the years, my writing has been wonderful therapy for me as I’ve gone through many challenges. Sometimes, however; I just need to turn everything off and think about things.  While venting often helps me to get over the sting of an insult or the pain of injustice, sometimes nothing really helps to bring peace like a season of silence.

Earlier this year, we found out that my father had cancer.  We weren’t sure what would happen, of course.  We had no idea if he would be okay.  We went through many months of wondering just how long we would have him here with us.  In true form, I began to back away.  I’ve noticed this about myself.  When I love someone and I see that there is a chance that I might lose them, I tend to back away from them.  Not to hurt them, but to somehow keep myself from hurting so much if something should happen to them.  It’s really stupid and it doesn’t really work.  It still hurts when we lose those we love, only it hurts more because we didn’t spend as much time with them as we possibly could have.

Looking back at all the times when I ran, I wonder how differently things could have gone if I would have pressed on through that fear.  What memories might I have had if only I had stayed?  And this isn’t just about those who have died.  It includes those who I loved and left.  I’ve walked away from someone I loved very much and I’m sometimes not sure if it was self-preservation or just plain selfishness.  And the saddest thing is that I’ll never know.  I’ll only be plagued by dreams of what life might have looked like if I’d only stayed the course.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks back and wonders if things might have worked out differently if they had only made a different choice.  I used to think I had no regrets, but that isn’t altogether true.  I regret every moment when I sat alone thinking about calling or visiting someone and didn’t actually take action.  I regret all of the time I spent planning things that I never actually did.  And I regret feeling as though the things I managed to make the time to do weren’t worth doing.  Every visit, every call, every e-mail, every text to someone you love is remembered.  Whether we think they are paying attention or not, what they miss most are the times when we simply don’t connect with them.

I’m very grateful to be able to say that my dad is still with us and that his treatment has been going well.  I will be visiting him this weekend and truthfully, I can’t remember being more thankful on this day than I am today.  To spend most of the year dreading the loss of someone you love, only to be blessed by having them experience miraculous healing is truly the best gift a person could ever hope for.  I know we aren’t supposed to worry.  We are supposed to trust God and know that whatever He decides is best, but we are human.  The thought of losing the people I love has been choking me.  It has kept me from saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done.  But I don’t want to let that continue.  I don’t want to be ruled by fear and regret.  And I don’t think you want this for yourself either.

So, I’m looking around and taking stock of what is and leaving what will be to God.  Nothing really stops us from taking the time to be with the ones we love.  We just need to fight through whatever fears are keeping us from them.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his love endures forever.

~1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV~

Something big has been here, what it was, I do not know,

for I did not see it coming, and I did not see it go,

but I hope I never meet it, if I do, I’m in a fix,

for it left behind its footprints, they are size nine-fifty-six.

Jack Prelutsky~Something Big Has Been Here

Is it possible that I’ve been teaching myself to miss you a little at a time so that when you’re gone, it might not hurt so much? As in the poem above, I’ve been ambushed by loss before. In response, it appears that I’ve been doing this thing where I distance myself from the people I care about so that if I lose them, the loss won’t be quite so painful. Funny, how we convince ourselves that this kind of thing will work. By not letting ourselves get close to people, we eliminate the potential for damage…right? Well, no. Not really. By moving ourselves out of what looks like harm’s way, we actually create a different type of pain for ourselves. We create this sense of longing that only grows more and more overwhelming as the days pass. And one day, we look around and find that we’re out here all by ourselves and the people we didn’t want to lose have somehow already lost us. Does that make sense? I’ll share a few things with you to try and illustrate the point.

I felt like my life started ending in 2006. We lost my aunt suddenly and none of us were prepared for it. Although I didn’t see her much at that point in my life, she had made such an impact in my life that I felt as though a significant piece of my heart had been taken out. The family went through a major shift. You could feel the loss ripping through us as we struggled to make sense. This source of light was gone and we were left behind to deal with it. I was also dealing with some other issues at the time, so I pulled the curtains around me and retreated into the pain I was feeling.

A few years later, the family took another major hit. My grandfather, who had lived with us for a major portion of my life, became very sick and we watched his health deteriorate. Many of us were clinging to the hope that he was too strong to actually pass away, but the day came when we had to say goodbye to him and there went another big piece of my heart. I felt myself shutting down just a little more. By this point, I’d had five miscarriages and my marriage was failing as well, so I went further into my “safe place” or into what I believed to be safe. I figured that if I stopped caring about people, then losing them couldn’t possibly hurt.

Two years later, we found out that my uncle was very sick and in fact, had terminal cancer. I didn’t even have time to say goodbye. It felt like he was gone within days. And again, the pain began to envelope me. And then a few months later, another uncle who had been sick for a while passed away. How can someone be in your life and then just be gone? I hadn’t been as close to him, but I know that when I was growing up he had always been there with my family and now, he too, was gone.

I hadn’t really thought it could get worse; surely God was finished taking people away from us. Nope. Not even close. He seemed to be systematically eliminating anyone and anything that had meant anything to me and I didn’t understand it. I’d distanced myself and I had braced for impact. If I proved to God that I didn’t need them, surely they would be left alone and I wouldn’t have to worry that they might one day disappear. Turns out that this isn’t at all accurate. My aunt, whom I loved dearly, passed away just months after her brother. I went to see her in the hospital and I thought she would be fine. I kept telling myself, “She looks good. She’ll be okay in no time.” And then one day, she was gone. My heart was broken. How could this be?

I was still dealing with this loss when my grandmother’s health began to decline significantly. I hadn’t meant to allow myself to get close to her after all that had happened, but I ended up going with my mom to visit her on a fairly regular basis. After weeks of watching her become weaker and weaker, she left us. And I felt another piece of me being ripped away. What made these losses even worse was that I not only felt them deeply, but I watched my mother and father deal with losing family members who had played a huge part in their lives. These were the foundations that had been holding us up all those years and it felt as though the stones were being removed one by one.

About a month later, I lost a good friend. On top of everything else that had happened over the last twelve months, this person had died suddenly and there was little to no explanation. I was numb by that point and I had no idea why these things had piled up in the way that they had. People I cared about were gone. My life would no longer include visits and conversations with them. I couldn’t hug them again. All I could do was remember that they had been here.

Today, I am thinking about how much of my heart is left. I’m not sure it grows back after all of that. I’m not sure the pieces can be repaired, though God tells me that they can. My reluctance to believe Him has been the source of much pain over the years and though I don’t want to feel pain, I keep creating a perfect environment for it. How do you allow yourself to be close to people again when you’re scared of losing them? This is the question I ask Him every day when I pray. Is there some way that I can love a person without worrying that one day, they’ll be gone?

His answer is this, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” Revelation 21:4 NIV. I know that this life is temporary and that we are here to fulfill a purpose. My reluctance to put myself out there again has been keeping me from doing His will. My fear of losing the people I love has been keeping me from loving them. And that was not my intention. To love someone is to accept that there will be times when you feel pain because of that love. It isn’t always going to be about making you feel good or proving that you have value. Yes, our relationships can do both of those things, but the point of it all is to show us how to use our hearts in the way God intended.

We were made to love Him, but if we close ourselves off to loving those around us, we close ourselves off to loving Him as well. We cannot just channel all of our energy into self-preservation and believe that this is called loving ourselves. Self-love cannot exist where no other love is allowed to live. If it’s only about protecting ourselves, we forget that love is sacrifice. Love involves putting ourselves on the line for others and knowing that sometimes, this may backfire. Love has to include acceptance of injury as well as healing. And when it doesn’t, it’s not able to grow.

I’m not saying that we need to let others hurt us in order to know how to love. I’m saying that there is a natural component of pain attached to love and we cannot be afraid to confront it when it appears. All is not lost when we suffer. In fact, with every part of that suffering that we allow God to heal, we gain more than we will ever lose. I hope that if you’re suffering today, you will take the time to talk to God about it. Ask Him why. Tell Him how you feel about it. Share your feelings with Him about what’s going on in your life. He already knows your story; He’s just waiting for you to tell Him what you need. If you don’t understand what is happening, He wants to help you see the point of it all. If you’re in pain, He wants to give you healing. If you’re angry, He wants to hear you acknowledge that as well. Part of healing is admitting that you’re in pain. Once you tell Him everything, you’ve taken a big step toward letting Him guide you down a new path.

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a bunch of women that I love dearly last night. We sat and talked and laughed and shared stories with each other about the things we remembered from that time before life scattered us to our separate corners. It hurt a little, but it also felt great to know that we are all still here and that we mean something to each other. I may not tell them all the time, but I do love these people dearly. Moving forward, I hope that instead of trying to cushion myself from the pain of losing them, I will instead try to let them know as often as possible that they are loved and that they have more value than they know.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

~John 16:20-22 NIV~

 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

~Philippians 4:11 NIV~

Sometimes I look around and wonder what happened to the days when I hoped for more.  Where did I lose my desire to go after the things I wanted?  When did I stop wanting things?  Is that even a bad thing?

I would love to say that I’m so spiritually enlightened that I finally get what God’s been trying to show me all these years, but in reality I think the things I used to want just disappointed me so much that it’s just easier to be happy with what is than with what could be.  I no longer think about what might have been if only I’d made different choices.  My choices were already set in stone long before I made them.  And what I’ve gleaned from the experiences that resulted has been a lifetime of trial and error…mostly trial…and quite a bit of error.  But I don’t really feel any worse for having made the mistakes I’ve made.  My heart has been in the right place.  My head may not have been, but my intent was never to hurt anyone with my actions.  It was only to try and heal something in me that had been broken.

Looking back at all of these mistakes, I know that the years I spent feeling badly about what I viewed as unforgivable flaws were time that I needed to process the lessons that come with heartache and pain.  It took a long time for me to understand that the worst part of anything that I had done did not lie in the actions themselves, but in the fact that I felt so bad about who I was that there was no room for me to learn or even attempt to accept who God made me to be.

The confusion we feel when we are in pain often keeps us from appreciating any good thing that may be happening around us.  We look at the people and things in our lives and sometimes we feel so unworthy of happiness that we seek out ways to destroy them.  Or we look for ways to destroy ourselves.  And we often succeed.  We push people away.  We become self-destructive.  We act like jerks.  But those who really know us, continue to love us even when we blatantly show them why they shouldn’t.

God knows why we act so dumb.  He knows that this is all we know how to do.  He understands why we can’t let ourselves be loved during those times of confusion.  He understands all that we need to do to finally accept His love.  He even understand when we do so without fully understanding what we are doing.  He already knows our hearts and minds and He watches us process the challenges we face.

Even though it may take us a lifetime to figure out how to treat others and how to treat ourselves, He is never surprised by our choices, no matter how surprised we may be.  So as we are looking around at the pieces of our lives; whether they lay in a pile or they’ve been reconstructed into something that is yet unfamiliar to us, His love surrounds us and gives us the strength to be content in our circumstances.  Once we accept that, the need to have something we aren’t meant to have disappears and we begin to want to develop a better understanding of why we are given the life we have been given.  And the burdens become just a little bit lighter.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Psalm 68:19 NIV

 

 

Then David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship. After that, he went home and asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food, and he ate.

2 Samuel 12:20 NIV

I feel like I’ve been in mourning for a very long time.  It all started many years before I’ve tended to acknowledge, but the fact is I’ve never really let myself get up from the ashes and fully step into a new season.  I hadn’t realized this until recently, but a conversation with someone who is very dear to me has opened my eyes to this truth.

As I have shared on this blog in the past, I was raped at the age of 22.  My life up to that point had been filled with depression and anxiety over various family issues, but I had never expected to be a rape victim.  It was someone that I had trusted and for years, I couldn’t even tell anyone what had happened.  I handled it very badly, turning my fear and anger inward on myself.  I drank and turned to promiscuity, albeit very targeted promiscuity.  I was on a mission to get my power back.  What had been taken from me was the very core of my being.  It shook my sense of self to the extent that I took on an identity that wasn’t mine to take on.

For years now, I’ve been trying on different personas.   I’ve tried to be a wife.  I’ve tried to be a savior.  I’ve tried to be an activist.  None of these have actually fit me well.  I’m a mother.  That seems to be the thing I love most.  I wouldn’t change any part of it other than what my daughter went through when my ex-husband and I divorced.  My daughter has been my saving grace and I am forever grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to be her mother.  As David struggled with the impending death of his son, he fasted and cried and he prayed constantly for healing to occur.  He says in 2 Samuel that he figured if he did all of these things, the Lord would feel sorry for him and that He might let the baby live.  But when the child died, David saw no reason to continue his mourning.  He had done all he could do to try and bring about a miracle and it simply hadn’t worked.  He got up, cleaned himself up and began moving forward.  He didn’t stay there wallowing in his pain.  HE GOT UP!

The big mistake that we often make is to continue our mourning far past the point of effectiveness.  Maybe we think that if we are sad long enough, God will take pity on us and give us what we truly want.  If we continue to beg Him for mercy, maybe He won’t take away that person or thing that we are clinging to so stubbornly.  Surely, He doesn’t want us to suffer this much.  Surely, He wants to give us the thing that we so desperately want.

The truth is, no, He doesn’t want us to hurt.  But sometimes we are so convinced that we cannot live happily or live at all without the thing we desire that we forget that God has already planned this all out and He has good reason for adding or removing people and things to and from our lives.  He knows better than we do whether or not the course of our lives will be improved or diminished by the loss or addition of any person or thing.  He is in charge, but all too often we forget that.  So, instead of walking in faith, we allow our grief over not getting our way to be stronger than our belief that God is actually in every situation and He is allowing some things to move forward in hopes that we will get up and move in the same direction.

He allows us to sit there and wallow, but it doesn’t sway Him in His execution of the plan He has for our lives.  He knows that when we finally do GET UP, we are likely to find the peace we need tucked somewhere between each step we take in faith.  He has given us free will, so it really is up to us to decide how long we want our sadness or discontent with a given situation to control our direction.  I’ve been sad for a long time.  I often choose to hide it under a crazy sense of humor or an extremely busy schedule, but the truth is that I haven’t allowed myself to fully let go of the things that He has clearly shown me I need to let go.

I’ve spent too much time being sad over the inability of someone I love to be everything that I needed him to be.  I’ve spent too much time being dissatisfied with outcomes and simply chalking it up to yet another injustice that I’ve been forced to suffer.  I know better than to sit still and allow life to dictate the degree of momentum I gain as I continue to seek my purpose and God’s plan for me.  I’ve allowed distractions to prevent me from moving forward…mostly because I wasn’t sure I could handle what lies ahead for me.  You can do this for a while, but eventually you begin to wonder why you stopped standing up for yourself.  Where did you lose your spark?  When did you stop wanting to become a better version of yourself?  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it was somewhere between the tears.  And that’s completely okay.  We all need to take a break and give ourselves time to heal when we’ve been hurt.  But we cannot stay there forever.  There is so much more for us to experience and we cannot do that if we’re sitting still.

It’s time to GET UP!  It’s time to allow myself to move forward even if the ones I want to bring with me aren’t quite ready for the trip.  If they are meant to be there with me, they’ll eventually catch up.  If it is God’s plan for us to be a part of each other’s lives, they will somehow cross my path again when we are both in a better place.  For now, it is so important that I keep moving forward and that I keep trusting in God’s plan.  For now, I have to be willing to step into the next season and accept the fact that the distractions are not meant to be the focus.  They are simply things we need to get past in order to reach the finish line.  And eventually, the sadness won’t overshadow the joy.  ❤

What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:9 – 3:11 NIV

 

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.

~Deuteronomy 30:15 NIV~

Sometimes what we think we see isn’t what is happening at all.  We cannot ever know a person’s true motivation for the choices they make.  Most often, our anger or frustration with someone comes from our perception of why they have done something we didn’t like or agree with.  In reality, their decisions likely had nothing to do with us.  In reality, they are choosing a particular option because of something they are feeling or based on what their experience is telling them is the best way to go.  It usually doesn’t have a thing to do with them not loving us enough or with them discounting our great, expansive knowledge about something.  Yes, although we may think we have all the answers, our answers may not be the right answers for anyone but us.

I’ve experienced this in many different situations.  I’ve been in relationships with people who, for whatever reason, decided that they didn’t want to stay with me.  My first thought was that I was not enough.  I didn’t have what they needed.  I wasn’t attractive enough.  I wasn’t successful enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  In reality, I was actually too much.  I had already cleared the hurdles that they were still stumbling over and my willingness to help them make it over was just too much for them to take at that moment in their journey.  And even though I have made some good progress in my own struggles, the fact that I’m not willing to accept that I no longer have to live in the struggle in order to keep my relationships going shows that I still have a long way to go myself.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so helpful until I get past ALL of the hurdles?  Or maybe I just need to learn which relationships are supposed to make it over the hurdles with me and which are supposed to be left on the track?  This remains to be seen, but I think I already know the answer…at least as it pertains to me.

Other situations where I’ve had to back down some have been with family.  There have been many times when I thought I knew what was best for a loved one and they had already made up their mind to do something else.  When I was younger, I didn’t have the experience to know better.  Now that I’ve gone through some things, I still have had only my own experiences.  So, yes, while our experience qualifies us to give advice or offer suggestions, it does not give us authority over someone else’s choices.  We can only hope that their history with us and our past interactions have instilled in them some level of trust in our motives for offering advice.  After all, when we love someone it can be difficult to know or think we know what would be best for them and watch them take off in a different direction.  We really don’t know that our way will bring the best possible outcome…we only hope that it would.

The key in all of these situations is that we trust that God’s hand in the matter will guide it to a favorable outcome.  Sometimes we have to lose people.  Sometimes, they weren’t supposed to be with us in the first place.  Sometimes, we have to let God walk people through the most difficult situations they are dealing with.  He won’t lead them down the wrong path.  So, even if someone else has greater influence over them than we do, we cannot discount God’s influence there as well.  I don’t agree with every choice my loved ones have made.  They haven’t agreed with all of mine either.  But we can only go as far down the path with someone as they will allow us to go.  It is their choice whether or not they try to do the rest of it on their own or if they allow God to do what He needs to do to get them to their destination.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV~

 

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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