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Archive for the ‘The Journey’ Category

A small parallel to life that has brought me great peace lately…

GreyWhale-2As a grey whale goes through it’s life swimming, resting, gliding, and simply being a whale, there are parasites that attach itself to the whale that can cause disease and damage. The harm from these parasites is often passed onto the whale’s offspring causing pain for generations. Yet God, in his beautiful wisdom, didn’t leave the whale out in the ocean helpless to fight off these deadly leeches alone. Throughout the ocean are fish that feed off these parasites. All a whale has to do is simply swim and be and the fish will come, eat the parasites off the whale. Making it healthy, braking off drag and resistance, giving it an easier glide through the water.

It was this image I saw a few weeks ago in worship. God was telling me to rest, relax and let him take care of all those things in life I feel like I need to fix about me and about others. Swim through his presence. Rest in his great expanse. Enjoy the beauty of who he is and he will do the rest. He takes care of the great whales of the sea, he can definitely take care of me.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11.1

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Thank you God for taking care of all the things I can see as well as those I can’t. Thank you that I don’t have to focus on those things that I think need fixed. Thank you that I can rest in who you are, trust your guidance, and swim gracefully in your presence as I glide through this beautiful journey of life.

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. Ecclesiastes 5.20

Be still and know that I am God… Psalm 46.10

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“Perhaps I have been struggling with an illusory idea of freedom, as if I were not, to a great extent, bound by my own history, the history of Gethsemani, of the country where I have become a citizen, etc. There are only certain very limited and special avenues of freedom open to me now, and it is useless to fight my way along where no issue is possible. This is true not only exteriorly but even interiorly and spiritually. To say that God can open up new ways is perhaps, among other things, to admit only He has provided ways for me of which I cannot yet be aware, since I am too intent upon imaginary and experimental ones.” Thomas Merton –

SunStandStill

How do we know we’re on the right path? {Trust}

How do we know we’re trusting the right things? {Look}

How do we know we’re looking at the you?

{Open your eyes to see, I’m holding you close to me.

My grace overflows you; my love empowers you.

To hold true to the journey,

Simply Be.}

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Processing this passage of Galatians 3.23- 4.20 I love how Paul contrasts child and slave. The heart of freedom though sonship. Emphasizing that we are no longer slaves, but heirs to the promise is such a beautiful image: That we are no longer bound by laws, pain, and ways of this life but free to dance, sing, and be who we are. To live in the grace that we have with Jesus’ spirit inside of us calling out, “Abba Father!” Wow! The magnitude of that reality, I doubt I’ll ever be able to fully embrace.

It’s been many long seasons of lessons that have allow me to begin to know what it’s like to dance. A few years back during an amazing training I was in, they walked us through an exercise of laying down all that was holding us back. Through that exercise I began to see an image of a little girl.

loneliness-and-pain--large-msg-114668569582-2Like a movie when they focus in on a specific person, I saw an image in the distance that quickly was right before my eyes: a little girl hunched over, laying on a boulder twice her size. She was about 8 years old, light brown hair hanging past her shoulders, stringy and knotted with girt and oil. Dirt covered her body like an extra layer of clothing. Her dress thin and ragged, torn from years of neglect. The light blue flower pattered faded into the background, barely visible to those who had never seen the dress in it’s original state. As I looked closer something caught my eye. A large shackle was hanging around her left ankle chaining her to the boulder in which she lay. It was at that point that I realized this boulder, so cold and hard, had been her bed, the place she sat by day and slept by night.
Looking up, our eyes met. Her sweet brown eyes, moist with tears, quickly averted my gaze and became fixated upon her small clutched hand. My heart leapt and broke when I saw what was in her tiny fist. Poking out from either side were the ends of a key. I gently placed my hands beneath hers, cradling them, willing her small fist to open, to let me free her from this chain, this boulder, she had called her home. Without words we spoke.

“Why are you still here?”

“I’m afraid…”

“Open your hand and let me set you free.”

“I can’t. I’ve tried. My hand won’t open.”

“Then let me do it for you.”

And with that little bit of trust, her small hand opened. Placing the key into the lock the shackle fell off. The little girl looked at me, tears streaming down her face, unsure of what to do next.

“I’m still afraid.”

“It’s because that is all you have known. It’s where you’ve made your bed, and where you’ve placed your head each night. It’s time for you to move on.”

“I don’t think my legs can walk.”

“Just try, you’ll find you are much stronger than you think you are. Trust Him you aren’t in this alone.”

Lifting her head, she saw a trail leading out of the darkness she had been living in. With unsteady arms and wobbly legs she lowered herself onto the dirt path. Slowly at first, calculating each step, she moved forward. Glancing back at me, and at her old home one last time, she continued on. The further down the path she went the faster her pace became, until she was eventually running, arms open wide.
freedomUntil finally there she was in a field of wildflowers, dancing in the wind. Something unexplainable happened to this little girl along that path. She was radiant. The dirt that had covered her before had been replaced with the glow of innocence, the sun reflecting off her being. As she spun in circles letting her small hands run along the tops of the wildflowers you could see her winsome hair flowing in the breeze. The vibrant blue flowers on her dress weaving in and out adding their own beauty to the field. Our eyes met as she twirled around, pausing ever so briefly, her smile catching mine, knowing she never had to live on her boulder of fear again.

It was with this image, that I began to see what trust, freedom, and grace were to me.

Thank you Daddy God that we don’t have to live chained to the law… to fear… to doubt. Thank you that you set us free from whatever we are bound to. Thank you that we can dance in the field of your grace, hope, and love knowing it is in you that we can truly live.

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“The forge is used by the smith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature where it becomes easier to shape, or to the point where work hardening no longer occurs.

The metal (known as the “workpiece”) is transported to and from the forge using tongs, which are also used to hold the workpiece on the smithy’s anvil while the smith works it with a hammer. Finally the workpiece is transported to the slack tub, which rapidly cools the workpiece in a large body of water. The slack tub also provides water to control the fire in the forge.” Wikipedia

An analogy I heard this past Sunday has given me a new perspective on the struggles in my heart, mind, and life. As a blacksmith forges metal, so God is forging us. With each blow of the hammer, we are being shaped into something strong and beautiful. In order for the metal to be pliable and not break, it must first be placed in the fire. (That’s my summary, here’s a link to the full sermon by Trevor Estes.)

As I listened to Trevor say, “With each blow of the hammer…” The memory of me emotionally beating my head up against the wall again and again wondering, why I was revisiting the old pain, distracted me from the rest of the sentence. At the same moment a freedom overflowed my heart and my perspective was changed.

I used to think life was a line with a beginning and an end, a neatly packaged start and finish, or a ladder that I was continually trying to climb in order to attain, and be, who I was created to be. Not any more… I’m thinking life’s more like a slinky: ever twisting, bounding, circling, back over the same things again and again as we are shaped and molded. “Like a blacksmith forges metal so our lives are continually being shaped. “

To embrace the discomfort and the struggle in life like an athlete embraces the pain to push toward the goal; to realize that the feeling of hitting my head against the wall again and again over the same issue isn’t because I haven’t learned anything, or that there’s a deficit in me; to acknowledge that life is about cycles, transitions, ever changing; to rest in the seasons: This is a freedom that I’m beginning to embrace.

It’s a freedom that rests in trusting the blacksmith. Feeling his strong hand encircling my life, knowing that there’s more to the story than I can see, breathing in the life-giving breath of each blow from the hammer, every moment in the fire, and every cool moment in the water.

Being reminded that this too is temporary, this too will soon be gone, my heart can rest in his sweet whisper, ‘My love, trust in me.’

 

Contentment comes with each new wind

My heart it overflows

The tears pour down as flesh resists

The heat, and hammer’s blows

 

Trust reveled as seasons change

My spirit lays at rest

There’s strength inside for now it knows

The hope of love’s conquest

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Most things I read on Facebook, I scroll through like the ticker tape at the bottom of news screen; liking a cute picture, acknowledging a clever saying, logging details of people’s lives for conversation starters the next time I see them. Rarely does something I read on Facebook stick with me like the saying I read last week. Repeating itself daily in my head cycling, processing, telling me, ‘There’s more here, go discover it.’ I couldn’t shake this simple truth.

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

I’ve heard many times saying like, “Failure is good. No one is perfect. Try new things. Never stop learning.” For the most part I thought I had these down, and in many ways I had convinced myself did; I was learning, trying new things and giving myself grace – That is until this quote pierced through my deceptive dance and opened up reality. A blind spot that had been hidden for years was now a blinding light I was forced to look at.

Yes, I was continuing to learn… more about things I already knew. I was allowing myself to fail… as long as the failure didn’t affect anyone else. And I know I’m not perfect… I just try not to do things that remind me of that. As for trying new things… I would only risk on those things that I’m semi-comfortable with… like new types of wine, or this blog, or new music. To step out and really be a beginner: just the thought of it makes my want to run back to my cozy pjs, find a good book, and escape into someone else’s reality.

be·gin·ner/biˈginər/ Noun:

A person just starting to learn a skill or take part in an activity.

Synonyms: novice – tiro – tyro – neophyte – tenderfoot – apprentice

To be a beginner… to stumble… to mess up… to not know how to do something… to be forced to ask for help. To paint a picture that a 3rd grader could paint better – To be the heavy girl in the corner of the gym sweating after 10 min. – To write a story that lost it’s flow halfway through – To run a 15 min. mile – To try to sew only to have the machine jam before you even get the material under the needle – To pick up the bow of the cello, and realize your hand has no idea what to do with this foreign object – To try – To risk – To trust –To extend grace

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

Thoughts in my head swing between calling myself a fool, and images of a child learning how to walk, ride a bike, or write their name. Never would I look at a child, mock their efforts, or laugh at their failure. Yet, here I am unwilling to take the next step with things my heart really wants. I fear my own voice, laughing, mocking, -reminding me of why I shouldn’t try.

What is holding me back, what is so manipulatively strong, that I am so blind to and unable to push past? Telling myself it was fear; I focused on learning to trust. Telling myself it was tapes of the past; I dug down deep beginning the process of ripping them up and replacing them with new ones. This is more, its strength intertwined, weaving itself through the fear and tapes, disguising itself in the pain.

It is pride.

pride/prīd/ Noun:

A feeling of pleasure from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is associated, or from qualities or possession.

Synonyms: arrogance – haughtiness – vanity – conceit

My heart had become so fond of hearing the praises that it would shrink back at the thought of them going away. To have to walk forward and look like a fool with mud on my face was too much for my prideful heart to imagine.

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

Allow yourself to play, to experiment, to learn. Allow your heart to explore new ways of expressing itself. Allow yourself to push toward a goal that looks daunting. Allow yourself to find the joy in the baby steps. Allow yourself the victory of falling down, and getting back up again. Allow yourself to be humbled by the reality of your own frailty in order to extend grace to yourself and others as we all maneuver through this space of liminality. “Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

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I shared a bit of my journey this morning at a women’s lunch. I wrote it out a few days before. It’s a bit long for a post, and yet I thought I’d should share it, so here it is…

There are tapes in my head that I listen to like old recordings of people’s words, or actions. The loudest tapes in my head often bring me back to the beginning, my first tape. It was created when my father left when I was three. I was told he left me because he didn’t want children. At first I thought it was a hurtful lie that my mother made up. That is until as a teenager I asked him why he left. The answer was the same. Being the youngest I restated his words to say, ‘I left because I didn’t like you.’ This left a deep-rooted lie that so imbedded itself in my being that I’m not sure what life would be like without it.

The tapes began, “Something is so innately wrong with you that even your own father wouldn’t want you.”

My mom married again when I was 6 and I quickly became daddy’s girl. I took on my new dad’s last name. I strategically watched him, trying desperately to find ways to serve him in order to get the accolades a little girl wants from her dad. Anytime he was running errands or working on his truck I was there asking questions, getting to know him, wanting so badly to be known in return. And I was. We would dream about all the places we would go together, listening to his tape of the latest hits from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s while eating pistachios and sunflower seeds, spitting the shells out the window. My heart was beginning to be healed, the tapes beginning to quiet down.

Then it happened. He was gone. The divorce wasn’t too big of a shock, he was a compulsive gambler with a drug problem and my mom was trying to run a daycare in her home. The combination wasn’t exactly set up for success. At first he moved right around the corner. I’d visit him as often as I could, hoping that though he left my mom, he wouldn’t leave me. Then one day he just wasn’t there. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, or why. I remember walking by his house on the way home from school hoping that he’d have changed his mind and come back for me.

All the while the tapes got louder, “There is something wrong with you, he finally saw it, and just didn’t want you any more.”

And so I continued with my journey of trying to prove my worth.  This time I’d be less trusting, I’d guard my heart more, I’d only let people see what they wanted to see. Not being a good student in school, I quickly realized that my brains wouldn’t bring me the affirmation I so desperately sought. I would be the class clown, the talkative one that would win the heart and the frustration of my teachers. Alongside the list of mediocre grades on my report card would inevitably be the comments, ‘Pleasure to have in class, excessive talking.’

Through a series of events, that are a journey all their own, I began my relationship with Jesus. I immersed myself into a church that loved me, wanted me to know Jesus, and demanded I change. In a place that is focused on the outward, on works, and who will happily hand you a list of rules for you to follow, it was easy for me to know what to do to find my worth. I attended every event I could; I changed my clothes, my habits, my speech, and everything I could, longing for worth. I was hailed as the girl who was saved from the world and a life of destruction, to one with a call on her life. The church had done well. The people there had amazing hearts, loved me dearly and in many ways God used the legalism to completely shut out destructive patterns in my heart and life. Their intent was good. And for a girl who just wanted to know how to belong, it was a dreamland. It seemed so easy.

The lies were being reinforced daily, “Who I am doesn’t matter as long as I follow the rules I will be found worthy.”

Then came the fall, my unexpected pregnancy. Every thing changed in a blur. On July 13, 1996, I turned 19 years old, and found out that I was pregnant. After telling family members, our close friends, and our pastor, the wedding was scheduled for Friday, July 26, and the church confessional was scheduled for Sunday, July 21. It was the day my finance and I would go before the church, confess our sin, and show them that there really was something innately wrong with me. I wasn’t what they thought, and I was far from worthy. I remember standing up there on stage, crying behind my soon-to-be husband, while he apologized to the congregation for letting them down.

The tapes got louder “Once again you tried to hide who you are and failed. You are worthless, and there’s nothing that can change that.”

There were those who stood up during the confession and had my finance stop, embracing us in love, trying to reverse the damage. Nothing helped. I began an emotional tailspin that lasted years. I went far into myself, trying to lose who I was, trying to escape the reality of my depravity.

We were married as planned, and our beautiful baby girl was born less than 8 months later. I quit my job, and tried my best to find worth as a wife and a mother. Marrying into a family with a Donna Reed type mother-in-law didn’t help my feelings of worthlessness. I was constantly trying to measure up, and my husband was wondering why I didn’t. Frustration built, and I secluded into the darkness of my soul. Leaving my husband angry, hurt, and confused.

The years went on and the tapes were got louder, “I was worthless and anyone who spent much time with me would soon find out I wasn’t what they wanted to see.”

I learned how to do exactly what I thought my husband and people wanted, without regard to myself. We had another baby girl and my solace came from being with my children. Their love was unconditional, they would laugh at my jokes, sing my silly songs and we would play for hours without worrying what anyone thought.

As the girls grew older, the dysfunction in my marriage became more and more apparent. I realized that we were in a destructive dance. I had lost who I was, and all I wanted was for this misery to be over. The state of my heart and head scared me; I knew something needed to change.

I started spending time with God in new ways. I would sit with Him; listen to His heart for me, and just rest. Some days I would lose track of time, simply sitting in His presence, knowing He knows each part of me, and He still loves me. I would dream about Heaven, tired of this world, longing to be in His arms. In the arms of one who would never leave me, or call me worthless.

Beginning to replace the lies with truth.

I began reading the Bible differently. Instead of reading a verse, or a chapter at a time, I was reading the books as whole books. Letting the truth and reality of this living word sink into my soul, not the interpretation of man who I so often let hurt me. I would read, asking God to show me His truth, show me who He was, to show me who I am.

And I began opening up to people, allowing them to see the ugliness inside of me.

I was learning to trust.

As I read, sat, and rested, my soul was being healed. New tapes were being played. I was embarking on a journey away from the reality of worthlessness into one of pricelessness.

I am still at the beginning of that journey. If I look behind me I can still see the curve in the road and the lies of worthlessness that have left deep impressions on my soul. I am learning who I am. I am learning what I like, and what makes me laugh.

I still avoid large groups of people. I still don’t like looking in the mirror. I still go to dark places in my soul very quickly if I let myself. I still fight the lies of guilt and shame for not measuring up to everyone else’s standards.

And I know there’s hope.

I know that God loves me deeply.

I know that He is who He says He is.

I know that He is good.

I know that His love covers me.

I know that as I walk, I can trust that He will never leave me.

And I know that He made me priceless.

As I continue to trust, rest, and hope in who He is, I will find more and more of who I am. And I’m trusting that one day I will be able to see myself the way that He does: Precious and priceless, not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am. Because that is the way He made each one of us, intimately, delicately, in the hands of a loving father of grace, and love.

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Analogy of a Hammer

One of my favorite Einstein quotes, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

I love the value this quote places on the uniqueness of people. In realizing that we are each created as individuals, and that we can’t impose expectations on others or ourselves that weren’t meant for us. It’s a beautiful parallel to the passage in the Bible that talks about the uniqueness of the body being made up of many parts. It’s a passage that has brought me much comfort over the years, and one I need to remember as I ponder my heart and dreams for the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, dreams, and contentment. I’m still processing it, and don’t really have many conclusions. And as one who often thinks in pictures, an analogy was brought up while I was talking with my love that helped define some of the processing. It’s simple and yet for me it is a profound reminder to trust, wait, hope, and dream.

– Even a hammer will make a great paperweight, in many ways much better than the traditional paperweight. In fact, people may pass by and say, ‘Wow that hammer is the best paperweight we have. It has never let a paper fly off the desk, and it’s long handle allows more of the paper from getting blown in the wind.’

Yet, inside the hammer knows it was created for something different. Even though it realizes that it makes a good paperweight, there is a longing inside to do what it was created to do. It just isn’t sure what that is.

And a hammer sitting next to a nail may feel like it’s getting closer, it may feel like it’s purpose is right there to reach out and grab. Yet trying to force things would only create unwanted holes, hurting not only the nail, but leaving the hammer feeling worse for causing such harm.

Only in the hands of a craftsman with a vision and goal in mind, will the hammer be content being used. With each swing of the arm, with each pound of the nail, the hammer will know it was fulfilling its purpose.

Until then, the hammer must wait; it must find joy in the journey. Realizing that being used as a paperweight is better than being left in the drawer, in the dark. Still the hammer dreams of days when the craftsman will pick it up to create something beautiful, it waits in peace knowing that it was created for something more, trusting the craftsman’s sovereignty and vision.

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