A Resolution from a friend…

Breaking free is sometimes hard.

It was a delightful birthday meal with friends….great Cuban food, laughter, plans for future vacations. My heart felt safe and warm and reveled in feeling of it all.

This time of year, my good friend, Alisa, is all about the resolutions. She’s one of the few people I know that actually writes them down and tracks her progress throughout the year and it is always great fun to hear what crazy antics she is planning for herself each year. I think it drives her nuts that I don’t set resolutions anymore…so in a moment of seriousness, she leveled her gaze at me and said, “Let’s set each other a resolution for this year and promise to keep it.”

Ya’ll this is a loaded request. Alisa doesn’t play with her resolutions. They are hard! From run a marathon and jump out of a plane, to read a book a week and cut sugar out of your diet….they tend to be full on life changing type statements that she takes seriously. I looked at my husband, he nodded slightly, and I said, “Ok…let’s do it!”

We went around the table…some resolutions were immediately rejected. It was honestly difficult to come up with something as I love these people in their current state so much. It came time to receive my resolution from Alisa and she looked at me hard…pursed her lips…leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. This one was gonna be difficult. I could tell by her posture.

“Your resolution is to forgive all the stuff that happened this year and move on. Let it all go.”

Crap.

Ya’ll this year has been the hardest of my life. There are people who have hurt and wronged me beyond what I thought was possible. There were relationships that dismantled my identity to the point that I considered ending my life. There was cancer and systemic infection and cures that seemed as bad as both. There was a loss of a dream that I thought was from God and in result, the shaking of what I had previously thought was an unshakable faith. I stopped writing, painting and creating…I stopped speaking and teaching…I stopped living and started surviving and it nearly killed me.

Through it all, the people at the table with me had held me up and walked me along. They (and so many others) had fought for my heart and reminded me who I was and just wouldn’t let me give up, but, Dear God- it was so close! And now, she was challenging me to “Let it all go.”

There is so much wrapped up in that statement. Forgiveness foremost. Of people…of myself….OF GOD. On (mostly) the other side of things, I can see all the things that I have learned and all the beauty that has started to blossom from the ash, but it doesn’t make the hurt less and I am reminded of it each day. Each day, as I see it, the grieving I thought was grieved wells up alongside the tears in my eyes, and I feel the ache of the loss I have avoided dealing with for the last few months.

Checking your bags is hard when you are in the middle of unpacking them, but I met her gaze and said, “Ouch….OK.” I agreed to something I honestly have NO IDEA HOW TO ACCOMPLISH, but I know this pack of mine will surround me and help…and I guess I’ll bring you guys along with me as well. Buckle up, ya’ll, we may be in for some turbulence!

To Be Faithless and Repent

“In the time of his distress he (Ahaz) became more faithless to the Lord..For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.”

–      2 Chronicles 28:22-23

Oh, Lord- I have more than a little Ahaz in my heart. You, too?  When life really gets hard do you look around and make idols of the gods that are working for other people?

I make idols of lots of things. Of Mexican vacations that bring friends back refreshed and relaxed…of  Law of Attraction philosophy that ‘brought’ wealth and health to a business colleague…of dream houses with granite countertops and in-ground swimming pools…of size six jeans and 6 min mile splits…of all the things that I want  that I don’t have. Of all the things that I want, but that I am not really willing to work for.

So instead of going to God with these desires- instead of seeking first the Kingdom… instead of surrendering my dreams, big and small at the foot of the cross and letting my King work all things for my good- I seek out all the tiny little gods of this world and sacrifice to them.

I sacrifice peace to the god of escapism.

I sacrifice contentment to the god of scarcity.

I sacrifice gratitude to the god of covetousness.

I sacrifice joy to the god of the narcissism.

They are my ruin.  They don’t bring life. With each sacrifice, I silence the voice of the true King in my heart, and doesn’t it seem worse when the chips are down?  At the very moment when I should be surrendering control to God, at that very moment is when I mostly tightly clench my fists around the desires of my heart and seek out an idol that puts me in control.  I wrestle with the Spirit within that quietly asks for surrender…I gag Him with rules and doctrine and drown Him out with loud music and sparkly shoes.

And then, one morning, when my sacrifices have brought weariness, I turn back to Life.  I open this love story looking for hope and find a diagnosis for my soul-sickness.

“In the time of his distress, he became more faithless to the Lord…he sacrificed to the gods…that had defeated him.”

Scripture’s truth and application ring over me like a courthouse bell rings over the town square.

Gong…when you were down, you turned to the world.

Gong…you followed their ways to find success.

Gong…you put all these things before me.

Gong…it’s destroying you.

Gong…Come back to me.  I will provide for you.

And so I choose to turn today- from all the idols I have created trying to be a ‘better’ person and from the ruin of sacrificing to the world’s little gods and their formulaic systems of success.  I choose to listen to the still, small voice that whispers words of grace and love over all the things I would change about my life.  I choose to read up on the promises made by a benevolent and compassionate King, the one true King- promises to give me the desires of my heart, to provide for my every need and to never forsake me.

And when I turn, I taste it….I hear it….I see it….I touch and feel it….

Life. 

“ I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

-John 10:10

How Time Heals

I receive a daily feed from The Henri Nouwen Society (he’s one of my favorite authors) and love the way he makes me step back and view the world from a perspective I other than my own.  Today’s post struck me as aptly timed in light of all the cries of injustice coming out of the Casey Anthony trial and the state of relationships as a whole these days.

I hear so often the words “forgive and forget.” I love what Henri says in this passage.

“That is not realing healing; it is simply ignoring reality.”

Healing takes more work than memory loss.  Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s about rebuilding.

“Time heals,” people often say.  This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened.  That is not really healing;  it is simply ignoring reality.  But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it.  “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

 

What do you think? Can you forgive AND forget?

Check out another great post on forgiveness here at Folks, Listen!

Do you have one? Share your link in the comments! I’d love to read them!

Upgrade Your Spirit- Forgiveness

As we head into this Christmas weekend, my thoughts turn to healing relationships.  To mending broken pieces and patching torn places.  To human love in its purest form.  To Forgiveness.

I read this recently and it resonated deeply with me…I want to share it with you:

Forgiveness is made possible by the knowledge that human beings cannot offer us what only God can give. Once we have heard the voice calling us the Beloved, accepted the gift of full communion, and claimed the first unconditional love, we can see easily–with the eyes of a repentant heart– how we have demanded of people a love that only God can give. It is the knowledge of that first love that allows us to forgive those who have only a “second” love to offer.

I am struck by how I cling to my own wounded self. Why do I think so much about the people who have offended me or hurt me? Why do I allow them to have so much power over my feelings and emotions? Why can’t I simply be grateful for the good they did and forget about their failures and mistakes? It seems that in order find my place in life I need to be angry, resentful, or hurt. It even seems that these people gave me my identity by the very ways in which they wounded me. Part of me is “the wounded one.” It is hard to know who I am when I can no longer point my finger at someone who is the cause of my pain!…

It is important to understand our suffering. It is often necessary to search for the origins of a suffering.  It is often necessary to search for the origins of our mental and emotional struggles and to discover how other people’s actions and our response to their actions have shaped the way we think, feel, and act. Most of all, it is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past and can learn new ways of responding. But there is a step beyond the recognition and identification of the facts of life.  There is even a step beyond choosing how to live our own life story. It is the greatest step a human being can take. It is the step of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We do not even know what we are doing when we hurt others. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour– unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.  The voice that calls us the Beloved is the voice of freedom because it sets us free to love without wanting anything in return. This has nothing to do with self-sacrifice, self-denial, or self-depreciation. But it has everything to do with the abundance of love that has been freely given to me and from which I freely want to give. – Henri Nouwen

I am praying for you this Christmas- that your hearth is warm and your family is near, that your heart is full of love and laughter  and hope.  I am sending love your way! Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday Jesus!

There are still 4 posts left in the Upgrade Your Spirit series.  Check back next week for more reflection on deepening your relationship with God.

Love and Grape Jelly

I posted this earlier this year, but still this image is so deeply ingrained in my brain.  I just love it when God uses the simple, everyday life things to teach us deep lessons about who He is.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.  ~St. Augustine”

We were in a hurry.  We were late for school.  I was rushing and pushing and striving and, well maybe-just a little, yelling.  I had woken up as Drill Sergeant Mom and was fully committed to the role at hand.

Xander was making his breakfast toast.  Gluten free brown rice bread with soy free, vegan butter spread and Welch’s grape jelly.  A big, giant, brand new, did I mention full? glass jar of grape jelly.

“Come on, guys. We are going to be late for school! Let’s move!”

“I’m coming, Mom!” Xander exclaimed as he put the lid back on the jelly and shifted the giant jar to his left hand to open the fridge. I turned to give him the “don’t-sass-me” look, and time froze. In the painfully slow motion instant where you just know what is about to happen and are powerless to stop it I watched the giant, glass jar of jelly teeter in his hand and-

fall

to

the

floor.

The dull spl-thwack of the jelly glass snapped the space-time continuum back into full speed.  I leaped into action as I watched tiny shards of glass spray across the floor- lifting Xander and swinging him out of the blast zone.  As I sat him down, I looked into his eyes. Tears were streaming down his face. With huge, remorseful eyes he looked up at me.

“Mama, I am so sorry. I have made such a big mess, and it’s all sticky and it was a brand new jar and now we’re late and it’s all my fault…”

You know what my first reaction to his repentant heart was? Was it, I can’t believe you made such a mess? Or clean this up right now? Or even an exasperated sigh and when will you ever learn?

 

It was none of those things.

 

Upon seeing his heartbreak and repentance, I melted. I immediately gathered him in my arms and held him. Loved him. Soothed him.

“Aw, Baby…it’s ok. We’ll clean this up together. Everything will work out just fine. Ok?”

Sniffing back the last of his tears as he started to calm down, “Ok…”

And then, “Mom…I love you.”

“I love you, too, Baby.”

I just want you to hear this one thing-

God loves you like that.

With Mama-soothing-her-broken-hearted-baby-love.

I have lived a good deal of my life with a voice of accusation that I sadly labeled as God. Always believing that He sent his son for US to cover our sins, but, in some way never fully understanding that Christ came FOR ME…FOR MY SINS…and that nothing that I do could ever change the fact that He loves me so much that He would lay down His crown, put on our icky man clothes, walk among us on this fouled planet, innocently die a horrific, tortured criminal’s death bearing up under the weight of all the sin that ever was and will be, conquered the grave and ROSE AGAIN (He’s alive, my friends- isn’t that the most amazing thing?)…HE LOVES ME that much- and HE LOVES YOU that much too.

The moment that jar of jelly hit the ground, and I looked into my son’s eyes and saw his despair at what he done, and I felt the immediate, instinctive reaction to soothe that despair, to forgive that mess he had created, to forget it. In that moment, God changed my entire understanding of grace and forgiveness.

He spoke His word to me, “And now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..” Romans 8:1

I knew that God loved me like that- no, beyond that. That as long as I have a truly repentant heart about the mistakes of my life, God is stirred to soothe. To forgive. TO FORGET. It is the promise he makes us. I knew that the accuser of my soul was not my Lord, my Savior, but an enemy.  The enemy.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He speaks to us with words of love, and joy and encouragement.

Thank you, Jesus for ransoming my heart on the cross. Thank you, Lord for rescuing my heart with a broken jar of grape jelly! I love how you use the tiniest of moments to teach us truth….Keep teaching, Lord. I am listening.

What small moment has God used to teach you about His love?

 

I’m linking up with my friend Holley to answer the prompt “In God’s heart I am….forgiven.”  You can join in too! I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Write your post and link up on Holley’s site and leave a comment here with the link so I can be sure to check it out!

Divine Love Story

I wrote this post several months ago and was recently rereading my posts looking for a good post to link to (In)Courage today. I had forgotten I had written this, ironically enough, to link to (In) Courage…and well it spoke volumes to me today.  I hope it will speak to you as well.

 

 

It is late. Or early (depending on your “half empty/half full” viewpoint. About 4 am.  I  have been lying awake for nearly an hour now…restless…and repentant.

I have been working this ministry for the last 7 months now…taking this God given message and kneading it like a piece of dough. What happens to dough when you work it over too much and don’t let it rise within the pan…yep, it gets all stale and hard and not at all appealing. Dear God, I am so sorry…

I am haunted this morning by a post I read at (In)Courage, a challenge of sorts, to write your divine love story.  When I first read it, I thought, “self, you should so do that!” and then I closed my email and when off about my business.  But I kept coming back to  it, and as I lay in bed tossing and turning and asking God to forgive me and give me strength to run this race called life, he whispers, ever so softly in the night, “I still love you.”

Extravagantly, He loves me. Even when I mess up. Even when I let the busyness of life take over and stand in the way of our communication. Even when I get so focussed on doing His work I forget to live His work. He cares for me and blesses me in more ways than I can even fathom, let alone recount. He holds me and comforts me, keeps me safe when I have run headlong into the path of the enemy, and He heals my hurts, my scars, my self-inflicted wounds.  He is my peace in the storm, my strength in the race, my light in the darkness. And even in my imperfect humanness and all my failed efforts to live life on His terms instead of mine, he STILL loves me. THAT, my friends is divine.

The most amazing thing about this love is that he only asks two simple things in return: that I love Him back and that I tell others. And I do both. Not nearly enough…not with extravagance that I should, but here, in the wee hours of the morning I making a new start. I am telling you.

His love is so perfect, and it isn’t just for me…it’s for you, too.  He’s already given it to you, you just have to accept the gift and invite Him in.  Will you?

If you would like to learn more about my journey with the Lord,  you can read My Testimony here.