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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

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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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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Doorway to the Soul

A while ago a friend of mine wrote a short piece on the journey I went through deciding whether or not to have my ‘lazy eye’ fixed. (You can read that here.) While we were processing the surgery and my journey through it, he asked me if I wanted to write my own story. Realizing I wasn’t quite ready to go there, I quickly declined. And on that day I promised him I would write, I would choose to go there, I would push through the fear and acknowledge the lessons learned, and the lessons still to learn. This is that promise being fulfilled.

My eyes have always been a sensitive subject for me. As a child when they realized there was an issue, I was forced to wear a patch on my right eye at home. The hope was that my brain would acknowledge the wanderer and lock it into place. After several months of trying, along many tears shed over cartoons missed because my ‘good eye’ couldn’t see the television, they suggested surgery. To a single mom living in government housing while trying to raise two children, the idea of an ‘elective ‘ surgery was an overwhelming and not attainable financially or emotionally. So I learned to adjust.

For the most part, my eye didn’t bother me growing up. It stayed in place unless I was really tired. There were times… like when my cat scratched me in my ‘good eye’ causing it to be patched on the same day my school was going to the local roller-skating rink. There’s not a whole lot a seven-year-old can do with one eye patched and the other one virtually blind. So there I sat on the circular, carpeted tables alone. Determined to be there. Waiting for it to be over.

As I grew older, the wandering of my eye was obvious only to those friends in high school who stayed up all hours of the night with me laughing, studying, crying. It was those friends who had learned to look past the eyes and love the soul. Yet to me it was a dominant feature every time I looked in a mirror, or saw a picture of myself. It was slowly becoming my identity.

The older I got the more my eye wandered. Having gotten married at 19 my husband married what he thought was a ‘normal’ person, but I knew better. Every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of my weakness. They say the eyes are the doorway to the soul and all mine seemed to lead me to was shame and embarrassment.

I got to the point where I’d avoid anyone from the past so I wouldn’t get questions like, ‘Has your eye always been like that?’ I’d close my ‘bad eye’ when looking at specific people in a crowd to avoid the awkward look of confusion on their face as they looked behind them to see if I was looking at them or not. I tried to embrace my eye by pointing it out to my students as I introduced myself as their new teacher for the year. And it was a bit endearing when one student said they were excited to get the crazy-eyed teacher. Little kids would ask about it, adults would ask about it. I felt like my words faded into the distance, consumed with thoughts of my eye. This thing that I wanted so badly to hide had become the thing that appeared like a scarlet letter with each new person I met.

Somehow I had created this, I deserved it. I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough or pure enough, were the words written for all to see on the doorway to my soul.

Having thought about surgery a couple of times, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Who was I to change the way God made me? What am I going to do next, want a boob job or liposuction? Vanity, this whole thing is about vanity! A good Christian wouldn’t do this surgery. You must not be close enough to God to feel like you need surgery to be fixed. Who was I to spend that much money on myself? There are people much more valuable with worthwhile causes who could use that money; how selfish! The lies continued in my head for years… I was being consumed.

Finally realizing I couldn’t live in the struggle of it all, I began to look into having my eye ‘fixed’. Telling myself if it didn’t cost too much money, I’d be willing to consider it. (In the back of my head thinking it wouldn’t be an option because insurance couldn’t cover a surgery that was pure vanity.) I was wrong, surgery, post-op, pre-op, medication – everything was completely covered. It was as if God was giving me a gift and all I needed to do was receive it.

There was a risk involved, my eye could turn in instead of out. I could have to get used to a whole new set of frustrations. Did I trust God? Did I believe this was a gift? Did I really want to change?

After much research and many talks with my family I decided it was worth the risk. That’s when I began to see all that I had wrapped up in this one thing. I began to imagine my eyes being straight. I imagined a life where I boldly walked up to old friends, confident of the person I was, sure of my value. I imagined looking in the mirror and enjoying the image staring back at me. I imagined feeling beautiful, secure, and lovey. Without shame.

Two surgeries and almost three years later I realize my insecurities went far deeper than the doorway. The lies that penetrated my soul remained long after the doctor bragged about how well the surgery had turned out. The feelings of ugliness, unworthiness, and pain did not go away when the questions about my eye stopped. The scarlet letter was still imprinted onto my very being.

There it lay deeply rooted – founded in the lies of my youth, stronger than any external force. And here I am: still too shy to go up to an old friend from high school, still on the brink of tears when I shop for jeans, and still having to remind myself daily that my beauty comes from within. That the gift I was given was a priceless one from my Daddy God, who sees me as his priceless daughter, beautiful, worthy and pure.

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Seasons of Change

Poets for generations have written about this incessant mystery, this unwavering friend.

Tennyson pened the obvious when he wrote, “Then came a change, as all things human change…” in Enoch Arden.

Shakespeare’s the Seven Ages of Man, depicting a melancholy rendition of life speaks of it, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,…”

I could sit here and write for pages the quotes of greats from yesterday and today that have intimately wrestled with the seasons we all find ourselves in, that I now find myself in.

Every fall I wait in anticipation for the constant that tells me our lives are getting back to the usual routine. It generally happens on a Wednesday evening in mid-September. After school we scarf down a quickly prepared dinner (or drive-thru), then off to the Vineyard. The girl’s excited to start youth group and I…, well this year my routine has changed…

At the beginning of the summer I would have told you my constant would be there. You can count on me, I won’t say no. I even had one little girl ask me with a crooked toothed smile that lit up my heart, “Are you going to be in AWANA again this year.” My answer immediately, “Of course I am, I love AWANA, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

As we pulled up this evening, watching the kiddos getting out of their cars, each dressed in their appropriate attire: blue vests for the cubbies, red vests for the Sparkies and green polos for the T&Ters, my heart broke. The reality of my decision began to sink in. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the side of the building where they were meeting. I had let something keep me from being there this year. Change…

My role in AWANA was the bible lesson teacher, technically called, T&T Director. Each week I’d get 40 minutes with the T&Ters (3rd-6th grade). 20 minutes I’d get to watch them: some would sing songs, raising their arms in worship, some would sit and giggle at the cute boy who walked in the room, then others would dance like no one but their Daddy God was watching. (I could have spent all night soaking this in.) We’d pray, then I’d share. For 20 minutes I’d get to talk to them about how much God loves them, how precious they are, and the unconditional presence of grace, love, and acceptance they have simply because God made them.

There is little in life that has filled me up more than a little girl giving me a hug after she shared that she wasn’t loved at home. Knowing that I was given the honor of loving her without condition; showing her that she was made priceless, no matter what the world said. There were so many times that I would leave that classroom overwhelmed by the presence of God’s sweet, intimate love for his children… for me.

Yet here I sit knowing my season of change has come. Realizing that the tearful email I sent declining my role as teacher, could not be taken back. Accepting the fact that someone else was in that very room, sharing with those precious, innocent hearts breaks mine in two…

And I sit on the other side of the building, knowing my season of change has come, that the tears that fall in mourning the passing of one season, fertilizes the soil of the one to come.

So I wait, embracing the tears, imploring the change…

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Opening the Door

There are times in life when nothing suffices, where longings, desires, and passions, cannot be fulfilled by anything short of the execution of a yearning. That ever-present voice in the back of your head, whispering at times; shouting in others. Some of us push this longing aside, trying to drown out the noise with past voices. Playing our tapes louder: tapes of unworthiness, of fear; fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown. Sometimes the noise chooses to briefly become a whisper, if only to allow for your own sanity. Yet, you know it’s there, patiently waiting for acknowledgement, for the slightest bit of hope, giving it permission to shout again, urging you onto fruition.

Throughout my life I’ve played that cycle. Opening the door to my heart, listening to the truth. Quickly shutting it when things got scary, unsure of what I was to do with this foreign thing. Leaving myself empty, I was left with the question of, ‘What if?’ What if I had the courage to pursue? What if I sat down and began to dream again? What if I finally opened that door and left it open? What if….

I’ve run across something today reminding me of my dream, in the words of a humble monk.

To be as good a monk as I can be, and to remain myself, and to write about it: to put myself down on paper, in such a situation, with the most complete simplicity and integrity, masking nothing, confusing no issue: this is very hard because I am all mixed up in illusions and attachments. These, too, will have to be put down. But without exaggeration, repetition, useless emphasis… it requires much honesty that is beyond my nature. It must come somehow from the Holy Spirit. A complete and holy transparency: living, praying and writing in the light of the Holy Spirit…

~ Thomas Merton

This is my dream, this is the beginning. Allowing myself to journey, to write, to walk forward not knowing how things will end; not really sure what to expect. Knowing to push it aside would once again be putting to death a part of me that thirsts for life, for freedom, for rest. Here I am trusting, watching as I open the door…

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