Fundamental Thinking

Trauma fundamentally changes the way people think about everything. Thought processes shift from a basic human selfishness to a profound self-preservation that pervades every area of life. Every slight by another becomes a major assault to our character. Every off-handed comment becomes a stab in the back. Every missed cue becomes an indicator of hatred, or at least disrespect. Every oversight or incident of forgetfulness is a personal affront against us.

This is a concept not well-understood, either by the person suffering the impact of trauma or by those who interact with us. It is a concept that needs to be better understood by all of us! It is also a concept we, as survivors of abuse, need to entrust to those who love us, because our interpretations are almost always skewed.

It became a clearer understanding to me as I was working on some household chores. I became personally offended because my expectations for the condition of my house were violated. Suddenly, everyone who lives with me hates me. Suddenly, nobody respects me; nobody cares; everyone just wants to take me for granted.

Until recently, I would have thought these ideas were justified and not at all blown out of proportion, while my husband and children would become bewildered by my overreaction. Then I would become more angry that they considered my response to their slovenliness an overreaction. Couldn’t they see how they had offended me? Or didn’t they care?

Then as I was alone with my harping thoughts I realized that these thoughts were not original to my situation currently. They are ancient thoughts in my life. They stem from a very painful time when my being taken for granted and treated like a servant were a reality. They are thoughts that are rooted in truth, but not in today’s reality.

These thoughts existed back in the time when I was expected to fill my mother’s shoes in the household; the times when my parents would leave the house after a meal, and I was expected to tidy the kitchen by myself; the times when I was left alone in the house for hours to clean up after the 5 of us all by myself; the times of being deathly afraid of failure to measure up and knowing my performance had little or nothing to do with what my father’s response would be when he returned; the times when my being pleased with myself for having created a beautiful home or kitchen were met with harsh criticism and demands to do it over again; the times my negative attitude were met with extreme consequences.

These were not just innocuous times of a rebellious teenager being asked to do chores she didn’t want to do. These were times of abusive parents neglecting the needs of their children and the household. These were times of threatening and fear. These were times I never knew if I would measure up, and if I didn’t, what the consequences would be. And I knew better than to complain about the injustice of it at all, because in my home consequences for insubordination were quite extreme.

These times, and many others like them, left me deeply imprinted with a sense of consistent failure. They left me certain I would never measure up. They also left me with a sense of entitlement to erupt all over those who are weaker than I when my expectations in my own home are unmet, or worse yet, violated. My anger with people who don’t measure up is something I learned from a very young age, and I have felt justified in it all my life. My sense of being taken for granted and being unable to do anything about it was also impressed upon me at a very young age, and I have felt those same feelings throughout my adult life. It makes me angry, and because of the environment in which I grew up, a part of me has always felt justified in being angry.

As I have matured and healed from the impact of the abuses I endured as a child, I have come to see my behaviors are not acceptable. As I have walked with God and known more about him and observed as He has revealed more about myself, I have come to see that the ways I think and act have very deep roots.

For decades, I would condemn myself for the ways I thought and felt. I knew they were wrong, yet I felt powerless to change them. I felt like if I would only trust God more, pray more, read the Scriptures more, my thoughts and feelings would change. But they didn’t. At least not all the time. Sure, I would have times where my behaviors were pretty well under control, but only because I was white knuckling through the challenging times, ignoring the rage that was flowing beneath the surface of my consciousness, but it would always resurface again, in part because I am a sinner, but in part because the issues that created the seed of rage inside me were unresolved.

People who have been wounded by abuse have deep-rooted issues that need to be resolved as they mature in Christ and heal those wounds. The wounds are healable because of Christ. He is renewing us, rebuilding us, restoring us to the people he created us to be. He only allows to the surface that which He intends to work in us. If rage is surfacing, it is because the Holy Spirit brought it there because He wants to work on it in us. If feelings of worthlessness have surfaced, it is because God says it’s time to work on those feelings. Our biggest problem as humans is that we tell God we’re not willing to actively work on what He is bringing into our lives.

We tell Him we would rather work on our anger our own ways. We tell Him our feelings of unworthiness are just silliness and we need to put them out of our minds and focus on Him. We fail to see that these are true feelings, with a root and a purpose, and that God has brought them into our lives in that very moment for a profound purpose. He intends to use those thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and desires to grow us more fully into the person He created us to be. God has not made a mistake, and He has not neglected to see what you are going through, and He has not simply allowed these difficult times for you to learn a lesson. HE HAS BROUGHT THESE TIMES ON PURPOSE, FOR A REASON; TO MAKE YOU MORE LIKE CHRIST.

God doesn’t miss a beat. He hasn’t overlooked the things you are struggling with. He isn’t more focused on other things and you are on His back burner. Whatever it is you are struggling with today, God put it on the surface of your life. Now you have to choose. Are you going to listen? Are you going to pay attention to those unresolved emotional issues? Or are you going to keep white-knuckling, as if God made a mistake in allowing this to be a reality in your life today?

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When Trauma Invades Life

When something particularly painful and traumatic invades the normalcy of life, normalcy all but ceases to exist. Our foundation is rocked, our time is occupied, our emotions are dominated, our fears are realized. It is a painful experience, and it can be largely misunderstood, even by those who love us deeply.

If you love someone who has lived through the trauma of abuse, there are a few things you should understand. Whether she is capable of vocalizing it or not, the reality of her past is affecting her emotional state. She carries the burden of sadness, shame, fear, and worthlessness, among dozens of other crippling lies, and she carries them almost all the time. It is emotionally and physically draining to live under that kind of burden, yet it takes a very long time to undo the impact of those emotions.

It is a long process, and she will get very tired. She will long for rest and not find it. She will long for peace and miss its presence. She will ache for the day her heart doesn’t hurt so badly, and she will not understand why she feels like she can’t function through one more day.

Do you love someone who is hurting? Call her up and invite her to go do something fun. Be persistent and loving. Require nothing of her. Tolerate her melancholy demeanor and lift her spirits. Love her like Jesus does. Don’t take no for an answer, and keep reaching out to her.

Does she love horses? Take her riding.

Does she love movies? Show a DVD marathon at your home.

Does she love food or culture? Take her to a cultural event.

Does she fear leaving her own home? Meet her where she is and bring the fun to her.

Be careful not to force, but encourage in love. She may or may not respond the first time, but keep trying.

These ladies need to have fun from time to time because their burden is so heavy. Will you reach out to someone you know is hurting from unhealed wounds? Be gentle and loving and safe, but nudge her outside her comfort zone and help her find joy in the simple things of life. It will make a huge difference in her life, and someday, when her heart learns to experience joy again, she will thank you!

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What Are You Hiding From?

I have always dealt with uncomfortable feelings by running from them. I’ll bet that is the case for most of us. We don’t like to acknowledge we’re struggling, hurting, confused, or uncertain, but the reality is we are. Our comfort, our relief, our clarity, and our certainty come by being in the presence of God at any given moment, do they not? Then why is it that I choose to embrace the struggle, the hurt, the confusion, and the uncertainty, rather than rest in the arms of my Savior, who holds all the answers?

I want to do things my way. I don’t want to pay attention to what I’m feeling because those things remind me I’m not in control. If I shove my emotions down and rationalize them, I get to stay in control. If I acknowledge them, allow them to be real, and deal with the circumstances behind the emotions, then I have to admit that I really am in control of nothing…except my emotions, of course, which is why I don’t acknowledge them. Confusing, huh?

I live in this circle of thought that is minimized, rationalized, and regularly pushed aside so I can go on about my life. But what if I stop, pay attention to the moment, and listen to God at work in my heart?
Honestly, I don’t fully know how to answer my own question! I am trying to acknowledge the moment, but it is hard! That’s why we all need someone in our lives to help us navigate these things.

When the negative emotions come, and they come for all of us, we are blinded by their influence in our lives. We tend to interpret reality through our emotions and circumstances. But someone who cares, someone who is objective about what we are struggling with, someone who loves us and the Lord, can shed valuable light on our struggles. Then we can begin to interpret our reality through the Truth of who God is.

There have been many moments recently where I have just wanted to ignore the moment. But God continually prods me that the moment is important; what He is trying to teach me in that very moment is more important than anything else I could be doing at the time. So I am continuing to pray for open ears and eyes; that I may discern the Lord speaking to me, showing me the value of the moment. At the same time, I pray that I will continue to bring my struggles to the people whom I know love me and love the Lord, that I may build more and more intimate relationships with God and His people.

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Receiving Adoption

There has been so much talk around me in recent months on the subject of adoption. Friends from church just went through the year-long process of foreign adoption. Another family is in that arduous process now. A third family has adopted two infant boys within our community in the last 10 months. I watched a video online, sent by a friend of mine, about the millions of children discarded for various reasons around the world. I have been wondering if the Lord was showing me we should reach out to a child in need in our community.

But then I read something written by someone wounded by the events of his past. He was trying to work through his struggles with having lived parts of his childhood in an orphanage. It was through his words that I realized God was using these families in my church to show me His love as an orphan; He has been demonstrating, through the outpouring of love of these adoptive parents, the love He has for those who have been orphaned. I had not included myself in that group before but God has been showing me my emotional orphanhood, because in very real ways, I was abandoned by my parents at a very early age.

I was left to tend to my own needs emotionally for as long as I can remember. My parents never paid attention to my heart, though all my physical needs were always met. I always had a house, but never felt at home. I always had a warm meal, but never felt fed and satisfied. I always had clothing, but never felt warmed. I always had something to do, but never felt understood or appreciated.

I never would have considered myself an orphan until God used these families to show me how I had felt abandoned in my soul. I think I had even gone so far as to have abandoned myself and any hope of ever knowing or being known in the way my heart longed for. But I am learning how wrong I have been. While I am still working on how to really know others, I know that I am known very well by a few key people. God of course, knows me better than I know myself, and He continues to show me all the areas where I struggle with the truth of who I am in Him. When I believe Him, I can see that He has gifted me with strength, beauty, passion, insight, wisdom, and integrity.

God has also shown me that I have been trying to interpret the lesson He is trying to teach me from the wrong perspective. I am the adopted one, and He has shown me the power and love of these adoptive parents in order to help me grasp the way He has loved, called, and adopted ME. Then He reminds me that His love is far greater than even those amazing examples of sacrifice and sincerity I have witnessed in those families.

God has revealed to me the neediness and total reliance of those beautiful children upon their adoptive parents. They don’t withhold their love and affection from their parents just because they aren’t biologically related. But even when the children behave in a way that is unlovable, their parents are still just as loving. I do withhold my love and affection from my Father because I still fear and struggle to trust. But He is faithful to continue to love me anyway. Just like none of those families would ever reject their children because of their misbehavior, or because they were born from another mother, my Father will never reject me. How do I know? Because He sacrificed His begotten Son so I could be adopted! To now reject me, or any of His children, would dishonor what His Son has done.

I am so glad God doesn’t give up on using the lives of others to teach me, and I and I am so glad He uses the same scenario in different circumstances to help me focus on His agenda and perspectives instead of mine.

So the next time God seems to be showing you something that keeps coming up with answers that don’t seem to fit, try shifting the perspective through which you are looking at the situation. Become the child and ask the Lord again what He is trying to teach you.

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Binding The Brokenhearted

My heart is torn and battered by the abuses I’ve endured, the sins committed against me and the sins I have committed. The Lord has seated the zipper to my heart with the zipper to His heart. They are united, even when I don’t know it, even when I don’t feel it. He is pulling the tab on the zipper. He pulls it slowly, deliberately in His timing. As the process naturally adjusts it hurts. When He gets to a tooth of the zipper that holds a memory, an experience, a wound that is painful (something I’ve been hiding from or denying or blindly not seeing), I pull back. I try to stop Him from including that tooth in my relationship to Him. He can have everything else, but that, He can’t have; it’s too painful, embarrassing, or not easily understood and comprehended. He’ll pass over it for now, working on those things I’m willing to let Him include as he knits my heart to His with the zipper. But as it closes, the zipper has weaknesses, not because of anything God did or didn’t do, but because I have chosen to withhold things from him. Too many holes in the closing of the zipper make it easy to pull it back apart. Circumstances get hard, or I allow distractions, that pain I’ve withheld from Him shows itself again, someone hurts me in a way I couldn’t see coming; the zipper starts to come apart and reacts to my sensitive nature and fear of vulnerability. My world feels like it’s falling apart again. I wonder where God is. I wonder why He let this happen. I wonder if He’s really there. He hasn’t moved.

He’ll pull the zipper back down to its most stable place, which is often back to the beginning because I’ve withheld so much from Him that the stability isn’t there; my choice, not His. But He is patient and long-suffering, and He knows the perfect timing for the elements of His next move. He moves slowly, gently. I want Him to move faster.

“Skip that wound, Lord, it’s not important. Let’s get through this faster, I’ve got an agenda!”

He tries to slow me down, but I plow ahead. I withhold things from Him so I can move my agenda faster. I totally walk away from the whole process of being healed to be like Him, rationalizing that I’ve taken it far enough; I can do life on my own terms now. I’m strong enough to handle my woundedness now. I know all the right words to say. I know what I’m supposed to feel. I know I’m His child, and I’ll move forward in that promise. I can do this.

But then life gets hard again, and the zipper pulls apart. After I’ve done this enough times, by His grace, I start to see a pattern. He will continue to come back and pull the zipper to draw my heart closer into communion with His, and I will continue to fight and pull and tear until I mature to the point that I see that He really does know what He’s doing. Until I submit to His ways, I will continue to fight Him, but He is faithful to continue to draw me back to Him. Nothing will ever take me from His hand, but my pulling away prevents the very intimacy I desire.

Why do some continue to work through the process and others don’t? First it’s incredibly painful. Second it challenges everything I’ve known all my life, and I see my foundation cracking to make way for His. Third, He does everything His way, and I am too tuned in to the ways of the world to think that doing things in His weird way is going to be anything but folly. Fourth, I lose sight that I am His pearl; that He provided His son and my Lord to purchase me; that is my ultimate value.

When I submit to His ways, He still asks me to let Him zip up the teeth of the zipper that hurt, but now I hurt and know he’s there, while before I thought He was absent in my pain.

As He zips the zipper closed, He shows me the places in the fabric of my heart that are torn. He reaches out to touch them, but I recoil. Again, He can’t have that; it hurts too much, we’re just going to leave that alone and pretend it’s not a problem.

“But it’s bleeding,” He shows me.

“That’s ok.” I answer. “It’s not bleeding that bad. I’ll put a bandage on it and it will be fine.”

The bandage doesn’t work, and I relent. I give up and let God into the wound, instead of pleading with Him to come and heal it. He stitches it up; the stitches hurt, and He moves so slowly.

“Hurry up Lord. It hurts.”

He is quietly working, seemingly not listening to my pleas for relief. “But the relief will be so much deeper and long-lasting if you let Me do it My way.”

“But I want it my way; quick and painless. Fix it now, please.”

“Ok, he says. Quick and painless, but it won’t hold,” He warns.

“I don’t care. I just want it over.”

He shows me that my tears are the door into His perfect soul that possesses true living water. This is where physical healing is only the evidence of an internal wellspring of freedom; freedom comes when my essence blossoms for His glory. It sounds too good to be true; the dream of blooming into the woman I was created to be. I’m just meant to be this broken girl. I need to be strong and get through this. “Hurry please, Lord.”

He lets me have my way; He leaves me with my wounds. He won’t go where He’s not welcome. Yet, He is perfect and can and will draw me back when the time is right. He is the creator of all that is. He will wait.

I find the same wound hurting again very soon. The bleeding has started again, and I blame God because He didn’t fix it well enough.

“I told you it wouldn’t hold,” he reminds me.

“Just fix it,” I demand.

“Your way or my way?”

“Mine, of course.”

I have walked through this argument with God about His way or my way for decades. When I finally gave up, either out of wisdom or the pain of beating my head against the same wall with no results, I let Him do it His way. It hurts; it’s slow; it’s long; and I learned more about myself and the person of God in the healing of one wound than I did in all the years of demanding He do things my way. I finally have a glimpse of what it means to lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge the work and goodness of the Lord. I begin to grasp that yielding to the life of lesser blessings is greater than the life I’ve been trying to hold onto for so long.

So God stitches back up the surface of the wound that’s been causing so much pain, and He seemingly disappears. Where did he go? Look inside that wound again. He’s there. He’s stitched Himself up inside it. Why?

Remember His promise – That everything in His hand will always be His and will not be destroyed or damaged. He’s not done. The bleeding has stopped, but He’s still working. There are more layers to this wound. Layers I can’t see, but He can. Subtle lies and coping mechanisms lurk beneath the surface of the wound.

They still live between me and the truth of who God is; the truth of who He made me to be. He wants them gone.

So he begins the process again, internally. He roots out the lies I believe and challenges them with the truth. Will I believe Him, or will I hold onto the lies? Will I tell Him to take His truth and leave me alone with the lies that are comfortable? Will I allow Him to continue to root out the pain? Or will I tell Him, like before, hurry up, would you? You can’t have that pain. That’s mine, and I don’t share that with anyone!

If I will be faithful to the process, to allowing God to have His way in my heart, He will keep going with this until at the root of every wound I’ve ever experienced, by my own sin or the sins of others against me, I see the person of God. My life will start to truly be lived for Him, not for Him by my lips but for myself by the attitudes of my heart. If I will withhold NOTHING from God, even the deepest most painful secrets (which aren’t secrets at all because He knows them) He will dwell at the root of every wound, knit into them by His own hands as He walked me through the process of knowing Him and knowing myself as He created me to be.

The Lord has shown me that all my behaviors have a reason; they all have a purpose, and He’s trying to show me what they are. He will use my wounds, my pain, my sin and the sins of others committed against me to accomplish His will. Everything happens for a reason, in His power, for His glory.

As I look ahead, the zipper God is pulling is so long still. It will not be completely closed until He returns or takes me home. How much will I fight Him on the way?

As I look back, I see the scars He’s healed. I see the places where He’s patched my wounds. Some of them still ooze a little because He’s still working on some of them from the inside. Others of them are beautifully scarred. But the unique thing about looking at my heart, now bound to His by the work of His hands on that zipper, is that His heart looks just like mine. The scars are the same because every wound I bore wounded His heart as well.

When I was broken by the sins of others against me, so was He. When I sinned against Him and damaged my own heart, I wounded His too.

Now I can stop focusing on my heart first, even when it is hurting. Now I can look at His, see how badly wounded He’s been because of sin in the world, and desire to reflect the beautiful glory of His wounded heart, rather than sinking into the pain of my own. We all have that thorn in our flesh; those wounds that nag us; the reminder of pain from the past. But will we allow the Lord to heal those wounds? To bind up the thorn? Will His grace be enough, though the thorn remains?

How can a person know when true healing has taken place in their hearts? One knows that healing has occurred when their thorn can be used for His glory.

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What Are You Hiding From?

I have always dealt with uncomfortable feelings by running from them. I’ll bet that is the case for most of us. We don’t like to acknowledge we’re struggling, hurting, confused, or uncertain, but the reality is we are. Our comfort, our relief, our clarity, and our certainty come by being in the presence of God at any given moment, do they not? Then why is it that I choose to embrace the struggle, the hurt, the confusion, and the uncertainty, rather than rest in the arms of my Savior, who holds all the answers?

I want to do things my way. I don’t want to pay attention to what I’m feeling because those things remind me I’m not in control. If I shove my emotions down and rationalize them, I get to stay in control. If I acknowledge them, allow them to be real, and deal with the circumstances behind the emotions, then I have to admit that I really am in control of nothing…except my emotions, of course, which is why I don’t acknowledge them. Confusing, huh?

I live in this circle of thought that is minimized, rationalized, and regularly pushed aside so I can go on about my life. But what if I stop, pay attention to the moment, and listen to God at work in my heart?

Honestly, I don’t fully know how to answer my own question! I am trying to acknowledge the moment, but it is hard! That’s why we all need someone in our lives to help us navigate these things.

When the negative emotions come, and they come for all of us, we are blinded by their influence in our lives. We tend to interpret reality through our emotions and circumstances. But someone who cares, someone who is objective about what we are struggling with, someone who loves us and the Lord, can shed valuable light on our struggles. Then we can begin to interpret our reality through the Truth of who God is.

There have been many moments recently where I have just wanted to ignore the moment. But God continually prods me that the moment is important; what He is trying to teach me in that very moment is more important than anything else I could be doing at the time. So I am continuing to pray for open ears and eyes; that I may discern the Lord speaking to me, showing me the value of the moment. At the same time, I pray that I will continue to bring my struggles to the people whom I know love me and love the Lord, that I may build more and more intimate relationships with God and His people.

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Misguided Expectations

Over the last several weeks, I have been studying the Gospel of Mark. I have wanted to be a good student of the Bible, and I have never studied a book on my own, but I am stepping out into a new way of learning and getting to know the Lord and His truths through His word.

One of the topics I wanted to explore throughout the book was how profoundly the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was doing. At the beginning of my weeks of study, I read the whole book, beginning to end, in one sitting, and the Lord opened my eyes to the fact that the disciples consistently didn’t get it! Jesus was performing miracles; they were sitting at His feet learning day by day; they lived with Him for three years. And they still didn’t get it. So I wanted to look into it a little more closely.

I methodically began to read through chapter after chapter to find instances where the disciples clearly missed what Jesus was doing and/or teaching. I’m sure I’ve missed some of what is to be learned through this type of study, but I’ve learned a lot, and the Lord is using it to show me just how often I don’t get it.

The most obvious instances of the disciples not understanding what was really going on was when Jesus fed the 5,000. Clearly, a miracle of God’s provision and care for His people occurred right before their eyes. Yet just a short time later, when another monumental crowd had gathered to hear Jesus teach, the disciples wondered again how in the world they were going to feed so many. Jesus again provided enough food for the 4,000 who had gathered. The disciples have now seen this miracle twice.

Yet a short time later, as Jesus was trying to teach the disciples about the dangers of the teachings of the Pharisees and of Herod, their thoughts immediately went to the fact that they didn’t have any food with them. He reprimands them and reminds them of the miracles they have witnessed. They are walking in the presence of the Lord of the Universe, He is warning them about things they need to know about, and they are worried about bread. They have seen the miracles He has worked, and they are concerned about having enough food. I want to plant my palm on my forehead and ask what in the world they are thinking. Then it hits me…

I do exactly the same thing! Ouch.

The problem for the disciples, along with their sinful, selfish nature, was they had a religious/cultural expectation of Jesus. They had been raised to know a Messiah was coming, and they believed Jesus was that Messiah. They were right. But their expectations of who the Messiah was and what His purpose was were clearly misguided by the religious and cultural teachings passed on through generations.

Those in the Jewish community of their day were awaiting a Messiah who would deliver them from the oppression of the Romans and establish a Jewish Kingdom on earth by force and power; a kingdom in which they would have the opportunity to turn the tables on the Romans. They did not understand the Kingdom Jesus came to establish was not an earthly kingdom, but an eternal Kingdom, both physical and spiritual, where His power and glory would reign. The disciples were interpreting Jesus through their understanding of what would come to pass, rather than interpreting what was happening through the truth of the person of Christ.

My problem is exactly the same as the disciples’. I interpret Jesus through my understanding of things. I keep God in my little box of expectations, and I get scared when He doesn’t deliver exactly what I expect He ought to, according to the way I expect things to be. That is a really dangerous mindset to work from!

The truth is God is God, and I am not. I did not speak the world into being; I did not add anything to creation; I have not added one ounce of value to anything, apart from what the Lord has done in and through me, by His grace!

The world today still tries to fit God into our box of expectations; we’re all guilty of it, even those of us who know and love the Lord with all our beings! I misinterpret what God is trying to teach me because I’m more interested in knowing Him through my experiences than in knowing the truth of who He is. I’m more concerned about knowing how He’s going to work things out for me than I am about how I am going to bring Him glory in each circumstance in my life. I want to know what God is going to do for me before I even think about what I can do to bring just a small amount of honor and glory to His name.

The truth of the matter is that I was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, yet I live as if I was created for God to glorify me and give me everything I want, and NOW!

I have been quick to judge the disciples and shake my head as I read how, yet again, they have neglected to see what Jesus was doing. They got so wrapped up in themselves again, and despite the miracles they were witnessing, they didn’t get it. But God in His grace has shown me that I do exactly the same thing all the time!

I have witnessed God at work in my life and the lives of so many people He has brought into my life! I have seen wholeness restored, relationships healed, brokenness undone, and understanding come to completion in the lives of so many women God has brought into this ministry! Yet day by day, I wonder why He’s not providing more.

I have sat at the feet of Jesus, learning, growing, experiencing His healing and grace, but I still find myself questioning like the disciples did; how is God going to accomplish this thing I expect Him to do? Fortunately, the Lord gently rebukes me, shows me the things He’s accomplished up until now, and reminds me to find the truth in His character, rather than in my cultural and religious expectations.

The Lord is about bringing His Kingdom to pass. It will not likely come in the way I expect, because His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I have to recommit myself, day by day, to seeking out His ways, rather than relying on my own understanding. If I will acknowledge Him in all my ways, He will make my path straight.

Lord, You are the Author, Creator, and Sustainer of all that is. Nothing happens outside Your sovereign will. Everything You work in our lives is to glorify You and to make us more like Your Son. Today Lord, reveal Yourself to me in new ways. Show me the path You would have me walk, and give me great joy in serving You by being faithful and obedient to Your call on my life. Give me boldness and remove my fear of man by drawing me more intimately into relationship with You. Make me different from the world and more like Your Son in everything I do and say, for I ask it in Jesus’ name!

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Evaluating Relationships

All my life, it has been hard for me to maintain meaningful relationships, outside of my husband and children whom I see every day. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that life gets in the way, and I make excuses for why it’s too hard for me to keep up with them. I’m great at those relationships that are actively part of my daily life, but for those I don’t see often, I struggle to be secure in the value of the relationship.

We moved a lot when I was growing up. I had friends in each of the towns we lived in; some of them were very good friends! I vowed each time I moved, that I would not lose touch with those people this time. But eventually I would lose touch with people who really had been very special in my life. It is a pattern I relived many times.

To be honest, I was discouraged by my parents, whether intentionally or not, from maintaining long distance relationships. Each time I sat down to write a letter to my friends from previous towns, (in the days before electronic communication and free long distance) my mother would tell me it wasn’t worth it. She would ask if they had written to me since my last letter. If the answer was no, she asked me why I bothered investing in a relationship that wasn’t reciprocal. I began to believe that people weren’t worth investing in.

We moved again 6 weeks into my high school career. My best friend through all of junior high and I committed to maintaining our relationship. She was going through a tough time in her life as her parents divorced, and she and I had really built a sincere relationship with each other. The first summer after our move, Jennifer came to visit. We had kept in touch but it was slightly awkward as we got to know each other again. My parents seized on that awkwardness to tell me that relationship wasn’t worth it. When Jennifer didn’t do the dishes with me after dinner, my mother told me she wasn’t a good friend. I gave up. The next summer, I was to return to our old home town to visit Jennifer. My parents reneged on their offer to let me go. Actually, they convinced me I didn’t want to go, seeing as how Jennifer wasn’t a real friend by their definition. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, since I had no resources to get myself there, so I chose to believe the “reality” my parents created for me, and I gave up on the relationship.

In college Jennifer searched for me, found me, and we began to rebuild a relationship with each other. We’ve been in touch with each other throughout the years since, and I hope someday we can see each other again and really get to rekindle the friendship I threw away so many years ago.

In thinking about my relationship with Jennifer, I realized that I do the same thing in my relationship with God. I tend to get busy with life, and the time I spend with God gets shorter and shorter, and less and less meaningful. I convince myself that it’s been so long since I’ve spent time with Him that He wouldn’t be interested anyway. I convince myself, as I did as a child, that God really has no interest in me in the first place, and that He really doesn’t want to be bothered by me. I convince myself I can handle things by myself and I don’t need Him anyway.

Yet on the other hand, I beat myself up for not taking the time to spend at the feet of God. I plead to be taken back, and I can weep sincerely at my own neglect of my Savior. I want so badly to pour all my energy into being in a deep, meaningful relationship with Jesus, but the circumstances of my life convince me that He’s not interested, that I’ve screwed it up so badly now that He doesn’t want me back.

Thankfully, what I learned about relationships growing up is not true, particularly my relationship with Christ. It doesn’t matter how many days I go without being in the Word or in prayer, He always wants me back. It doesn’t matter how poor my communication with Him is, He is constantly pursuing me. He will always take me back, and He will always continue to build my relationship with Him by the power of His Holy Spirit working in my life, even when I neglect the time I know I should be spending with Him.

I am trying to learn new habits and patterns, based on the Truth of who God is, rather than on the circumstances and experiences of my childhood and old patterns. Even though I learned not to pursue relationships that required effort to maintain, I am learning that the most important relationships we have in life require effort! I struggle to make and maintain relationships with people in my life. I get my feelings hurt and feel like I’m not wanted when people don’t reach out to me in ways that are meaningful to me; that is a pattern I learned over years as a child. But what I am learning now is that it is hard work to be a friend, and it is hard work to have friends! Godly relationships require hard work, and if I want to have those kinds of relationships, I am going to have to work at having them, without getting my feelings hurt that someone is not reaching out to me exactly the way I want them to!

The same application can be made to my relationship with the Lord. It is much easier to neglect time alone with the Lord; life gets in the way, and I have so many things to do. But the effort and time it takes to get to know my Lord better make me a better me; more completely fulfilling His will and design for my life. It is easy for me to get wrapped up in the “stuff” of life and think that God is not “there for me.” But the truth is that God is there for me in the way that is right and perfect, not in the way that satisfies my selfish desires. His ways are perfect and holy, and mine are tainted by my human nature. And when I really think about it, I have let God down more times than I can count, and He’s still always there in His perfect providence, and He has never let me down. Even during the darkest days of my life, He was there, holding me, weeping with me, putting a hedge of protection around me that kept His perfect will for my life firmly in place.

So I am challenging myself to think differently about relationships, both with the Lord and with other believers. I have to continually change my thinking from “What can this relationship offer me?” to “How would the Lord have me love this person today?” It’s not about me; it’s always about honoring the Lord and helping others know Him better, and the only way I can learn how to do that well is by spending time in relationship with Him. I think I’ll marinate in that for a while.

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Truth of God or Reality of Circumstance?

In Mark 1:40-45, we read the story of Jesus healing a leper. As I read this story again this morning, new understandings of the exchange Jesus had with the man, and the man’s response to Jesus, began to emerge.

When Jesus healed the leper, He told the man to tell nobody about what had happened, but rather to go to the temple, present himself to the priests, and be pronounced clean, in the method that Moses had taught the Israelites. Instead the man disobeyed. In his excitement, he didn’t obey Jesus’ command, and he made it impossible for Jesus to enter a town unnoticed.

Nobody can dethrone God, so I am not implying the man ruined God’s plan. But what blessing did he and/or others miss out on because he followed his own agenda, rather than Jesus’?

How often do I think that something good in my life is so worthy of sharing that I listen to my own voice, convince myself it is the Lord’s will to do things my way, and get in the way of the work God is doing, either in my life or the lives of those around me? Why do I listen to my own voice with so much more certainty than the voice of the Holy Spirit? When will I figure out that His ways and thoughts are so different from mine and live out of that truth?

I think the leper, in all the excitement of being cleansed of his awful disease, was deaf to the words of Jesus. He focused on the circumstances, not the Word of God made flesh. In his deafness, he was disobedient to the Truth; yet he was cleansed by faith. I do this in my life on a daily basis!

The workings and ways of God are so different than mine! I want to have my ears unplugged, the scales removed from my eyes, and my spirit stripped of the desires of my flesh, so that I may see, hear and discern the ways of God, rather than following my own voice and desires, being obedient to the methods of God. I want to be focused on the person of God, not the emotions of my circumstances.

My prayer for today, and for the coming days, is that the Lord would show me His ways; that He would strip away the understandings that come from my flesh and its desires, and reveal His ways to me by the power of His Holy Spirit. But beyond that, I pray that I would be obedient to His ways and His voice, rather than my own.

Are you willing to pray this prayer for yourself and be brutally honest with yourself as God reveals things to you? I am expecting God to show me profound differences between His truth and my understanding. I would love to hear what God is teaching you as you open your heart and mind and spirit to the Truth of Who He is and how He is at work in this world.

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A Much-Needed Look Back

It is always an interesting journey to look back at what I’ve been through in this healing process. To think about where I was a few short years ago and how far I’ve come is astonishing to me. It’s also really draining.

When I began my healing journey, I was at the bottom of the ocean. Everything I experienced was distorted by all the pain and pressure I felt from the unresolved emotions of my childhood experiences. I was conflicted because I had some understanding of what it must be like to live above the surface of the water, but at the same time I was resigned that my life would end shortly because I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. By God’s grace, my desire to see life from above the surface became more enticing to me than dying from drowning in my pain.

Those were incredibly dark and painful days. Even after I began to get help, the days remained dark for a long time; even to the point where I thought I was just fooling myself to think it could ever get better. Someone had thrown me an air line, but I was still living underwater, and the pressure had not let up.

I just finished writing my perspectives on the impact of emotions on my day to day functioning, both before, during, and since my recovery process began. I need to do that more often because it really allowed me to see God’s hand at work, both in the pain of my past and my recovery process, and in my ability to understand the pain of others and my ability to minister to them by His healing grace.

I still have days when I feel like I’m back at the bottom of the ocean, but they are fewer and farther between, and they aren’t nearly as deep and dark as my most painful days.

For those of you who are currently in the midst of your darkest days, please know there is hope in the healing offered to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows your pain, He suffered everything you have suffered, He was wounded that you might be healed, and He is reaching out His hand to lead and guide you through this process! It is a painful road, but so was the road to Golgotha. While He walked His road of suffering alone, you don’t have to. He is there for you, and He has put people in your life to walk this road with you!

It is my prayer that you will find healing in His arms, by His grace, for the restoring of your soul. Lean into Him, ladies, for He loves you with an everlasting love, and He will never let you out of the palm of His hand. Amen?

My love to all of you in the strong, healing name of our Savior!

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