Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dear Me

Dear Little Julie

I've been wanting to write this letter to you to set some things right and make them clear and easy to understand. I've wanted to lift your innocent face with my trembling hand and tell you you're ok.

I'm sorry I've held you responsible for our pain. You're just a little girl and little girls should not be bowed low under the sheer weight of it all. The most you should be carrying is a stuffed rabbit and a backpack loaded with sparkly crayons and a lunchbox.

I'm sorry no one listened or at least read between your lines. You lived in a day when awareness was at ground zero and no one was paying much attention.
You deserved to be seen.
I see you now.
And I'm listening.

I'm sorry I prolonged your captivity by forcing you to keep secrets. Those were far too big and scary for you and they've kept you in the dark.

Today is a new day.

I want you to be BRAVE. The kind of BRAVE that sets you free.
I want you to untie your hair and let it shake loose and fly everywhere. We'll worry about tangles later.
I want you to set the shame down and pick up some paint brushes instead and create with broad strokes till you're satisfied; filling the white space with vibrant, freeing color.
I want you to dance because you WANT to dance
I want you to see the magic in your one beating heart, waiting for the curtain to be pulled back to reveal its glory.
I want you to look in the mirror and see just a little girl. No other titles. No other names.
Did you know that God calls us Braveheart? You and I were born to do BRAVE things alongside Jesus and do them with a heart like no one else. So stand tall, little one. You've been chosen to do big and bold things for Christ and He's on the move. You can bring your stuffed rabbit with you.

And now listen. I want you to stop running and I want you to breathe. No more running, baby girl. Believe me when I say you are safe now. God is organizing an army of people He's chosen, to surround you, care for you, be playful with you, listen to you on bended knee, gently touch you and even hold you. It's coming. Just hold on.

I will remind you that it's ok to look up. Let your downcast, soulful eyes be seen.
I will whisper in your ear, "We do not deserve to keep hurting ourselves."
Even when you call yourself impossibly wretched names in the reflections you pass by, I will call you beautiful and adored.
I believe in you.
You are good.
And Jesus is pleased with you.
It's a lie that Jesus is disappointed with you. That you are too broken to belong to him .
Fight back.
I know you are tenacious so fight back.
There comes a time to stand up for your mighty self and declare a winner.
Do it.
I believe in you.

Look ahead with me. We've already changed the world in the ways God has asked us to. You are headed for greatness in Christ, which ultimately means smallness, but it's the best kind of small to be. So stay with us.
Let your heart run with the passion that is in there.

I'm going to tuck you in tonight if you'll let me. I long to take care of you. Nurture you. Walk you out into the light, hand in hand. And you know, out in the light is where it's warm. And that warmth is the kind that seeps down into little-girl brokenness and soaks and mends and heals.
It fades the dark circles from under your eyes and makes those gorgeous red highlights in your hair sparkle.

Once we are in the Light, we are going to stay there.

Keep breathing,

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Inside and Right Side Out

Everything changed when I set myself down on a cold hard floor in the darkness and refused to come out. Convinced of insidious, wormy lies that were crawling up my back and snaking their way into any brokenness they could find.

It's not the darkness that changed me.
It was Jesus, who knelt down beside me, made Himself comfortable, and stayed.

Like a friend? your very best friend.

I can sing about it with fervor, read the words in fancy print and even make marker posters to announce it.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus....

But until He came for me with those snaking lies crawling all over me and sat down in the grotesque mess I was in, they were only just empty words.

But the empty cross handed me one loyal, loving Savior.
And that Savior moved in beside me on the floor and rescued me.

Does Jesus sit on dirty bathroom floors?

Yeah.....He really does.

And because He sat there, I was changed inside and right side out.

I am not alone. Ever.

You know what that kind of truth does to the heart of the little girl inside me?
It brings her up off the floor, reaching with every bit of tallness she can muster to a kind of friend she never believed was FOR her.
She grasps the sides of His shoulders, buries her face in His mane and all at once falls in love and falls asleep.

And the way that truth gripped me from one end to the other, the truth that I am never alone and Jesus stays, it makes even the colors in this world look different. Brighter.
The rustling wind from the woods smells sweeter.

That truth is locked and loaded now.
Because of trauma I've had to learn new ways to replace my survival tricks and tactics.
It took an EXPERIENCE to rattle the lies off and cement the hand print of my heart into the truth that I will not ever sit alone in the dark or dance across the kitchen floor without Someone delighting in me.
Never Alone.
He Stays.
I am Held.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Let Him Stay

Sometimes.... there is a darker story lurking and churning behind what others can see from the outside.
This has been true of me.

I was born into a home brimming with love, security and endless laughter.
I've been a follower of Christ ever since I was even remotely able to understand what a follower of Christ was. He had my heart.
I was gloriously voted in as class clown in eighth grade. A high honor for someone who loves to make people laugh.
I went to college and majored in Christian Education and Missions.
I've been a pastor's wife for twenty-five years in a church that has been nothing but generous and good to me.
I co-founded a non-profit that rescues and empowers children and their families from the grip of extreme poverty and hopelessness in Uganda, Africa and have traveled there to love on those kids and be equally loved by them, six times.
I am surrounded by exceptional family and friends who invite me into joy and crazy kinds of fun, who will stop to listen to my heart and who are never as far away as a text or a phone call, lunch or a movie.
I've been in counseling for at least seven years with some of the best Christian therapists in the field and have experienced deep and lasting healing from childhood trauma.

Hear me say this.
My life is GOOD.
My faith is STRONG.
My family is BEAUTIFUL.
But on June 28th at six o'clock in the morning, I tried to shut down my one beating heart by cutting off my air supply with the ties and material of two hospital gowns.

I'm not looking for pity. And I'm not wallowing in shame or regret.
Instead, I am asking for awareness and understanding.
And at the same time, I'm offering Hope.

I was in great anguish and despair on that early morning in June because I somehow believed I was all alone. Alone in the sense that Jesus had given up on me and walked away. And if I wasn't fit for my beloved relationship with Him, then there was no reason that made any sense to keep me tethered to this life.

How did I get to this place?

A few people have shamed me and turned away in disgust because I fell for and believed a lie. Because I chose to be utterly selfish in trying to end my life and leave everyone I love, hurting and broken.
But I'm joining the ranks of believers who don't carelessly judge someone who attempts or commits suicide. The ones who have been there or understand the reality and torment of mental illness.
One can have a beautiful life and have their medications cease doing their job. Add to that chronic pain with no relief, a serious and prolonged sleep deficit, added financial strain because you cant work your regular job, stressors that are beyond your control and anxiety that pulls you into the need to hide which ultimately keeps you from the very people who you need to reach out to for help. That tormented feeling like you are permanently alone and then circumstances that utterly convince you that your God has also abandoned you for good.

That last one broke me. It broke my heart and it broke my mind.

"I found out that Jesus didn't want to be alone, either. In a garden in Gethsemane, He asked, "Is there any other way?"
Jesus could have chosen to pray by himself and hide this inner struggle. Jesus often prayed alone. Yet on the worst night of his life, Jesus tells us he needed someone to hold on to the hard moment with him.
Jesus needed someone to stay.
And you know what? The hardness of the journey doesn't mean you are on the wrong path." ~Bonnie Gray ~ Whispers of Rest.

Jesus knelt quietly beside me as I pulled those ties tighter and tighter around my desperately pulsating neck, tying knots as I went.
 And He whispered, "I'm here with you. And I'm going to stay. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I call you by name. You are mine."
The Holy Spirit seemed to engulf me and loosen my grip.
He came in three, swirling colors that I recognized as the Trinity.
And I gave in to Love.

I put words to this incredibly personal and painful experience because we all need people who are real. And to help you understand that this does indeed happen to people of faith.
Don't look down on them. Look up to Jesus. The One who rescued me from my own destructive mind and helped me to uncurl my fingers and let go.

He's just as much for you as He is for me.
Let him stay with you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Am in Love

I am a certified list-maker.
Some of my lists are practical, others are fueled by my imagination and others, like this one, are God-led.

It's a list of ten people in my life who have had a remarkable impact on this heart of mine. It was easy to do and I could have added more friends, but I kept it at the nice, even number of ten. From there, I started writing down the details on how these incredible people bring out the best in me.The deepest ways in which they reach me.
 It is the end result that I want to tell you about, so stay with me.

Melissa ~ endlessly patient with me, loves and values my words, thoughts and ideas, sees beyond and through my fears and guarded heart.

Vickie ~ not afraid of my pain. Her very presence speaks safety to me. When she is with me she's fully present and her touch is indescribably healing. I could stay with her for hours.

Karisa ~ is careful with me and hears me in the deepest ways. She is extraordinarily wise and is the rawest real with me than anyone I know. When I am with her, I am certain that I am being heard.

Elaine ~ can wrap me up in her arms and love me with a love that is as close to Jesus as I have ever found. She looks me in the eye, assures me I am ok. And she stays. When all hell breaks loose in my life, she stays and has even gone to great lengths to adopt me. Permanently.

Amy ~ has the ability to make me laugh. Really laugh.With her there is no judgement and no expectations, which leaves me room to be fully and gloriously myself. Which also means she is brave.

Margaret ~ is a powerful mediator and intercessor, She believes in me, fights for me and always tells me the truth wrapped up in unmitigated, impressive love. 

Mom ~ is genuinely interested in what I have to say. She puts me first, lets me dream big and then stands behind me as I go after making those dreams a reality. She is generous.

Beth ~ leaves her door open for me. Accepts me and loves me without a single condition. She takes me in and sets me free all at once. She does not look away.
Mary ~ sees in me what I cannot or will not see for all the best ways. She forgives me and her friendship is permanent.

PT ~ likes to be with me, needs me to show up and delights in the attention I give her. She leads the way.

This list makes me smile. It has become my way of tapping into the very nature of Someone who I have known for years but am just now getting to know. 
I've decided to cease all apologies for being the deep person that I am. I can't deny any longer my great need for depth and connection.
The only relationship where I still find myself hiding is with the threesome; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And His intention behind this list that I made was about so much more than looking at the people who He has surrounded me with out of pure goodness. Because I was unexpectedly faced with remarkable insight into the very heart of my Creator.....

He is endlessly patient with me, loves and values my words, thoughts and ideas and sees beyond and through my fears and guarded heart.

Jesus is not afraid of my pain. His very presence speaks safety to me. When He is with me He's fully present and His touch is indescribably healing.

He is careful with me and hears me in the deepest ways. He is extraordinarily wise and is the rawest real with me than anyone I know.

Jesus can wrap me up in his arms and love me with a love that is as close to perfect as I have ever found. He looks me in the eye, assures me I am ok. And He stays. When all hell breaks loose in my life, He stays and has even gone to great lengths to adopt me. Permanently.

Jesus has the ability to make me laugh. Really laugh.With Him there is no judgement and no expectations, which leaves me room to fully be myself. Which also means He is brave.

He is a powerful mediator and intercessor, He believes in me, fights for me and always tells me the truth wrapped up in some pretty impressive love. 

He is genuinely interested in what I have to say. He puts me first, lets me dream big and then stands behind me as I go after making those dreams a reality. He is generous.

Jesus leaves His door open for me. Accepts me and loves me without a single condition. He takes me in and sets me free all at once. He does not look away.

He sees in me what I cannot or will not see for all the best ways. He forgives me and His friendship is permanent.

Jesus likes to be with me, needs me to show up and delights in the attention I give Him. 
He leads the way.

I had no clue that I was being set up. That He was about to reveal Himself to me in a way that He knew would set my feet to dancing. 
This is my God. 
This is who has been in relentless pursuit of my heart for so long.
This is who sits with me when I'm so lost and unsure of my next breath. 
And this is who holds me when I think no one should ever want to hold me again.

Let me suggest that you try this. Make a list of ten people in your life who you like to be with. People who like to be with you. And who have made a deep, lasting impact on you and spent themselves for your good. Add the details of exactly how they love you or inspire you or see you.
Then....go back and rewrite your list but use your Creator's name in place of your friends.
This is how He wants you to know Him. 

As for me, I will never see Him the same way again. 
I do believe I am in love. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"You never have to overcome your      brokenness to claim God's love.
  His love has already overcome your  brokenness and claimed you." 

My shoulders lower three inches upon reading these words penned by Ann Voskamp in "The Broken Way".
My jaw loosens and those eyes of mine shimmer with unreleased tears.

For I am broken.

"No one could tell me how to get the dark, the ache, the fear, the hell out of me. No one could tell me how to find the place where you always felt safe and secure and held."

It was like a thunderclap of my soul from the inside-out.
I am broken.
The pieces are scattered across the floor and I am bent over them, kneeling into the gritty shards of my sin and darkness. The busted up pieces of loss and shame and the gravelly crumbs of innocence lost that look impossible to gather up. Much less put back together.
I needed safe.
I wanted held.

"How can it be? When we're naked and ashamed and alone in our brokenness, Christ envelopes us with His intimate grace. When we're rejected and abandoned and feel beyond wanting, Jesus cups our face. 'Come close, my Beloved.' When we're dirty and tear-stained and despairing, Jesus Christ is attracted to us and proposes undying love. 'All that you're carrying I take....and all that I am is yours.'"

Hope rises.
Jesus is attracted by brokenness.
By my brokenness.
It's why He came.

"You're guilty, but not condemned.
You're busted up, but believed in.
You're broken, but beloved."

I can do this.
I can be broken and beloved in a single space in time.
The two can link arms and walk straight and strong.

"Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice." Psalms 51:17 The Message

Monday, May 16, 2016

No Pulse

I did not know there was an Enemy in the camp.

Here I was, fully immersed in the life and kingdom that I had so carefully arranged and had dominion over. 
The dishes were washed AS they got dirty and I implemented the same strategy for the relentless laundry.
Back-to-back dentist appointments were scribbled in red ink for Tuesday. 
Said a prayer for my neighbors, daughter's dog AND the pope on Thursday.
A family reunion complete with a bubbling casserole and peanut butter whoopee pies tucked into a picnic basket for Saturday.
And always, always church on Sunday. I was the pastor's wife. I needed to show up.
Every morning as soon as I became conscious, my legs would swing out of bed and my feet would hit the floor running. My husband and four squeaky-clean children needed me for their very survival.
The floors had to be swept and vacuumed, the dog bed needed fluffed, there was a glaring streak on the window that faced the morning sunrise that I never stopped long enough to watch and there was only one pickle left in the pickle jar for goodness sake.

And while I was debating dill versus sweet in the grocery aisle, a battle raged inside my little boy's body.
An unseen and aggressive cancer was quietly grasping and clawing and consuming his entire right kidney for its own and creeping its way to nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes.
We did not know that time was against us.
The only red flag flapping gently in the wind of life wasn't very red at all; fevers that came on swiftly and left even more abruptly only drove me to buy more Tylenol and stock up on freeze pops.
We were all sleeping soundly at night while the disease multiplied and advanced.

As clueless as I was about this nefarious cancer being camped out among us, even more unaware was I, that a different sort of enemy had long ago coiled itself around my beating little-girl heart and had stolen my identity, dreams, hope and purpose.
Any and all red flags on this sinking ship of mine were lost on me.
I was numb.
I barely had a pulse.

Little did I know that a daring and risky rescue for my heart was being ordered and executed as my own son's imminent battle with The Beast began.
I can almost hear the valiant call to arms with swords clashing, arrows launching and shields deflecting. Here began a frightening and exhausting, earthly fight for my child's life and an all out, unseen, spiritual war to cut me loose and lead me out of the dragon's lair.....


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Popsicle Stick Cross

 I've been asked to pray about and share my one word for this new year.

One word that God has impressed my heart with.
A word that I will take with me all year long and know that it is mine.
My one-word-gift.
Given to me by my Father.

 I typically resist being boxed in by a request like this when I write.
Rules, scripts and boundaries suck the life out of even the smallest inclination to put my heart on paper. If you look back at my recent posts on this blog of mine, you won't find any. I have not published anything for an entire year.

I've been silent.

My life took a road that I never would have chosen, Had I been given a choice.
A road that was littered with betrayal, loss and eventually suicidal thoughts and intent.
Who chooses to watch their long-awaited-for dream be bulldozed into a pile of smoking rubble?
And who chooses to lose hope?
To lose heart?

But I realized that this request to share my one word is an invitation. 
An invitation to use my voice. To take a break on hiding my own story.
Because God made us to be known. 

For the past year I've been finding out who God is. And who He isn't.
Who I am. And who I am not.
Past trauma and the resulting belief that I needed to shut everything down that moved or breathed or had life in me, kept me far and away from living authentically. And it kept me from knowing the truth. That the God I thought I knew is not that kind of God at all.

God is love.

I've known that since I could hike my own tights up under my little skirt in the bathroom stall of our local church. Since I could wrap my fingers around a blue crayon and color in those exact words on my Sunday School take-home-paper. And glue those letters onto a popsicle stick cross.

But those three words were not mine to keep.
I hastily folded my paper up each Sunday and dropped it into the trash.
My cross was broken and discarded before I ever reached home.
God's love was a concept that I bravely denied. Passing it on to the next deserving kid in line.
I knew without question that I was not ok.

There were other shameful words that had been given to me that kept me from receiving any kind of good gift. Any kind of truth.
And especially any kind of love.

I've traveled a few miles since then.
And God has persisted and pursued in His desire to introduce Himself to me.
As He IS.
And to open my bolted heart on who I am.
To Him.

I'm Beloved.

This is who He says I am.
It has taken months upon months of personal, intimate, healing moments to be able to open my hands up and receive that word.

BE.....exist, have life, breathe, draw breath.

LOVED....cared very much for, felt deep affection for, thought the world of, devoted to.....a feeling of warm personal attachment....all arising from kinship or close friendship. 

BELOVED....much adored, treasured one who is affectionately and unconditionally loved.

What kind of God loves like that?

It is the same God who helped me learn to pull my tights on by myself.
Who shaped my unskilled fingers around a blue crayon.
And who wept at the sight of a little girl lost.
The God who rescued her and brought her to rest in His unsearchable love.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” Deut. 33:12

I'm linking up today with my favorite blogger, Bonnie Grey at Beloved Brews.