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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

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10 years ago, around this same time, my girls were 10 and 8. My oldest would have been just getting ready to go into 6th grade and my younger into 3rd. I would have just finished up my first year of teaching 5/6th grade and (unknown to me at the time) one year away from teaching high school English lit. My girls were homeschooled. I was pursuing my SLP degree. My husband was AGR in the Air Force. Life wasn’t bad and there was so much on the horizon.

Since that day so many things have happened…. We transitioned the girls into public school. My younger into an arts charter (later a small IB middle school, and finally to Renaissance HS) My older daughter into Renaissance HS. They’ve had their ups and downs. Friend transitions, school transitions, leaving the church, hormonal years of Jr. High, the pressure years of high school. And they’ve turned out phenomenally. They are both kind, compassionate, thinking, caring girls who want to make the world a better place. They both have gone on to graduate high school with honors, obtaining their IB diplomas, and are excited about their future. I couldn’t be prouder of the people they have become.

Alongside the girls getting older, my husband and I have had our ups and downs. Just a few years into my 30s we hit a fork in the road, divorce felt like the only option, fear, anger, and uncertainty rested like a cloud over our marriage. And we didn’t let that stop us. With the help of phenomenal friends and a lot of hard work we learned a new dance; one that would honor both of us. We shuffled through what type of music we’d both like, stepped on each others toes, and prayed more than ever that God would make it work. Six years removed I can say that it was all worth it. I can’t imagine living life without Steven; he truly is my best friend, my place of comfort, and my love.

Reflection.jpgAnd I, I have changed… So many lessons have been learnedthrough the abundance of loving, caring friends over the years. I have learned how to trust, and to be trusted. I have learned how to have confidence in myself. I have learned how to standup, step out, and support those in dark places. I have learned that each person’s deepest hurt, is their deepest hurt (their deepest level of pain, is their deepest level of pain) no comparison is necessary. I have learned that God is so much more than I can ever comprehend. I have learned that God is always good, and he’s reflected in every good thing. I have learned that though things are imperfect, God is not, and he moves in and through the imperfect. I have learned that compassion is gained as you listen to the stories of others. I have learned that I don’t have to compromise my morality in order to have compassion for others. I have learned that the stories I make up in my head are often warped representations of reality. I have learned that my body will forever change, so I’d better learn to appreciate it like a loyal friend. I have learned that death is the win and life is a gift. I have learned that a smile, a text, an encouraging note can be life changing. I have learned the decisions that I think are life changing often are not and the decisions that I think are flippant are often the ones that change my life. I have learned that family is priceless, that friends are precious, and that community is essential. I have learned that my emotions are often not a representation of the current situation. I have learned that there are few things worth fighting for. I have learned that my mind, body, soul, and spirit are intertwined and each one needs to be cared for, nourished, and honored. I have learned that most things are not what they appear to be. I have learned that forgiveness is freedom. I have learned that connection and communication happens in vulnerability, truth, and love. I have learned that shame grows in the dark and dissipates in the light. I have learned that courage and fear are catalysts to faith and trust. I have learned not to be defined by my past. I have learned that I am worth more than I think I am. I have learned that I don’t know as much as I think I do. I have learned that I can learn from everyone and every situation. And I have learned that there is so much more for me to learn.

As I move forward into my 40s I hope and pray that I will remain open, soft, and sensitive to all of God’s nudges in my life. That I will see each person for who they are, where they are, and the purity of who they were created to be. And that I would walk to the rhythm of his heartbeat for me, growing in trust, courage, confidence, faith, hope, and love.

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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 –

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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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Tapestry of Grace

One of the things I love most about Galatians is its continued message of freedom, grace, and life through Jesus. It’s the gospel story told over and over and over again. It’s as if Paul is saying, ‘If you didn’t understand it that way, let me tell it to you this way. I will keep explaining it to you until it sinks from your head to your heart and back up again. So that your whole world view, your perspective on everything, is changed. In order for this message to become the sole filter you sift everything through.’

And so we come to Galatians 3.15-25 – an analogy. A modern example of what Christ did for us.

It must have been 3-4 years ago now that I first heard this analogy taught. I’m not sure where I was, all I know is that the comparison stayed with me for days, weeks, months, as I processed it, not only for what it was, but for what the implications of it would be.

It went something like this:

paid-off-mortgageImagine one day you get a letter in the mail that your mortgage has been paid in full. You call the bank to see what’s up and the voice an the other end tells you how a sweet stranger came in talking of how much they loved you and wanted to clear your name forever from this debt. You don’t have to make another payment the rest of your life…. Do you continue mailing in payments? Do you go to the bank and ask if you can clean their bathrooms, or file papers to help pay back your loan or to say thank you for what they’ve done. Of course not! They would look at you like you had lost your mind. They didn’t pay the debt; a complete stranger was the one who came in and loved you enough to set you free from the obligation. Find that person. Get to know them. Say thank you to them, not the bank.

Paul does the same thing here with the church in Galatia. In this short passage he uses the word promise 7 times. An old saying goes something like this – a promise is only as good as the person who said it. It’s in trusting that God is who he says he is and that he has already taken care of your debt. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy in order to have relationship with him. It’s in and through him that we are worthy, free and loved.

There’s such a beautiful tapestry, interlaced in, among, and around us, like threads connecting, drawing each one together, wooing the spirit and soul to the reality of tapestry-threadslove, life, freedom and grace. It’s the beauty of the promise given by one who loves us before we know him, the worth and intricate value given because he created us, the trust that is built as we learn more of who he is, the belief in the promise that gives us courage to step out in freedom, the freedom that gives us strength to lean into that promise, the love that overwhelms the soul giving it peace to rest in his sweet, sweet whispered hope that resonates deep within our very essence.

This and this alone is the promise and in this my soul will find rest.

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There are some passages that bring freedom to me more than others. Some books that stand out to me as places my soul wants to anchor down in and lay for awhile. Galatians has been that book, largely because of the truth in these verses Galatians 2.11-21.

freedom1You see for years I tried to earn my salvation, my acceptance with God. Believing that I was innately flawed and broken at my core kept me in a cycle of self-defeating behaviors. (Read more of that story here…) Before I new Christ those behaviors were socially unacceptable, trying to drown out the voice of inadequacy in my heart with anything that would satisfy my flesh at that moment. After I realized there was a Daddy God who loved me and wanted me as his own I continued to fight the inadequacy, I continued in beating myself up as often as possible, this time with all the things that gave me acceptance in the eyes of the ‘church world’.

Yet for all those years living as if I had it all together, I would still wake up broken, hurting and condemned inside. Living in a pool of shame and guilt for the person I thought I was, for the things I had done, and for the inability to make myself better. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that somehow I could be unconditionally loved. I continued to tell myself, ‘If only people knew what I had done….’ ‘If people saw what was really inside of me then…’ I was afraid to even finish the sentence, all I knew was that people couldn’t find out.

I could read verses like Galatians 2.16, “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified.” believe it in my head, longing for it to penetrate my heart, and walk away still feeling ashamed of who I was, unable to accept the truth.

I was slowly dying inside, the law was condemning me, sucking the life out of my soul.

It wasn’t until recently that my heart began to see the hope and life there is for me. The beauty in the tumblr_mdnw3rP5a41rv29wyo1_500freedom away from the law, the beauty of resting in who I was created to be, the realization that my sweet Daddy God has seen me completely and loves me unconditionally.

What freedom there is in that! I don’t have to prove my worth. I don’t have to wake up each day living in the slavery of lies telling me I’m worthless, condemned, and broken beyond restoration. I can open my eyes knowing there’s a grace bigger than the ugliness of my sins. There’s a love deeper than the wounds in my heart, and there’s a loving savior who, knowing all that I’ve done, and all that I will do, has chosen to love me, save me, and cover me with his grace.

Are there things in your life that you’re keeping locked up for fear of condemnation?

Are you able to fully accept the free gift of love and grace God is pouring out onto you?

Can you see who you are, outside of the things you’ve done or are doing?

Take some time today to rest in who He is. Read this passage a few times, let it soak into your heart, soul, and mind. Allow yourself to accept the fact that you are fully known and unconditionally loved.

Thank you Daddy God for seeing the deepest parts of my soul, the parts that cause me to look away in disgust, and for loving me anyway. Thank you that I don’t have to work for your love. Thank you that I can’t lose your grace. Thank you that I don’t have to live in the slavery of condemnation. Help me to see myself through your eyes. Help me to see others through the loving grace you’ve so freely given to me. Amen.

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Something Different

Bible-ReadingAbout a year ago I changed the way I read the Bible. I decided to push aside (as much as I could) all that I thought about various passages, ignoring different sermons I had heard, and dismissing discussions I had been part of that pulled theology out of thin air backing it up with random verses. I decided to read the various letters and books of the Bible as a whole, reading each one with fresh eyes, opening my heart to what God would want me to hear and glean from each book. I then decided to stay with one book, reading it as often as possible until I felt like it was time to move on to another.

There were seasons when this felt tedious and I didn’t understand why I was stuck in one book for several months. And then there were those moments, those life-giving times when clarity poured out of the pages, when answers were given, hope was received, and understanding coursed through my spirit and soul. It was for those moments that I kept reading, soaking in the pages of life, and consuming it like a dry sponge soaks in water. When I felt like I had consumed all there was for me to consume, it was then that I would move on to the next book or letter.

Looking back on this past year, the lessons I’ve had to learn, the pain I’ve had to deal with, and all that life has thrown at me, there’s a beautiful parallel to the overall message of the books I read during the times I needed it most. I found hope in 1 Peter, faith in Hebrews, love in 1 John, Jesus in Colossians… on and on it goes. My sweet Daddy was intimately leading me to what my soul needed as I leaned into Him.

For the past 6 months I’ve been in Galatians. Reading it, processing it, looking at the simply powerful message of this book. And what I’ve found, is that there are many things in life that are important, many things that stick out to me as things I’d like to pass on to those closest before I die, and yet very few of them resonate within me as much as the truths in this book. It’s a breath of fresh air I want to share with everyone around me. And I see the message everywhere. It’s a message of hope, grace, freedom, and intimacy with the one who loves us unconditionally. I could go on and on with what I’m learning through this book.

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I’ve decided to take the next few months to process Galatians here. I’ll be posting once a week my thoughts on a specific section of Galatians. And because I’m still asking myself questions as I read and process, I may share a bit of those questions as well. I’d love for you to journey through Galatians with me and share your heart, and thoughts on this short letter.

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