You, with those walls….

You, with those walls…I see you.  Fear has kept you behind them but I hope love will draw you out.

I hear the exhaustion in your voice from a lifetime of battling alone. I see the anger burn bright in your eyes and fuel the strength for another day. To wake up again and build and maintain all of the walls of defense that tower so high they block out not just the perpetrators of pain, but any light and joy as well.

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I see the protective prison you’ve locked yourself in and I see the hurt hidden deep within the fortress, nearly hidden by all of the anger, resentment and bitterness blowing outside the walls.

All of this fire, brimstone, bluster and force to protect a heart broken, of course.

I know where you are because I’ve been there too. You and me, more alike than you knew. Have you felt it before? That there’s something wrong with this world and you don’t quite belong? That you were made for more than betrayal, pain and suffering? That it’s all just a bit too much and no one seems to be in charge? So we create our own little kingdom of safety, block out the bad and try to control everything within.

Constantly striving to create that one place where everything goes as planned, in the proper order, in its proper place. No surprises, no disappointments, no pain. No light, no joy, no freedom.

But now I’m outside the gates and my heart breaks seeing you still fighting to stay within them. Because I love you, I’m willing to weather the possible storm and share something with you.

You want to know what happens when the walls are built, the gate is closed? You’re trapped inside. It’s lonely and it’s dark. You exhaust yourself maintaining your defenses; going over battle plans. You have yet to realize that safety is not synonymous with happiness. In fact, those wounds unhealed fester and bleed new because you’re all alone with them, picking at them, making them raw and not letting them heal. I know you’re worn out and I pray every day that you are tired enough to stop fighting alone; that you would realize that what you’re doing isn’t working.

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I long for the day that you will realize that all of your seeking, struggling, wrestling and striving to find happiness has led you to a prison of your own making. That you would see your defenses have kept you from not only giving, but receiving love. Worse, in your need to protect yourself from hurt, you’ve inflicted hurt on the very people you love most. How I hope you would learn that safety, rest and happiness are not found in a climate, a location, a bank account, the condition of your house, but a Person!!

That you would know that the way to healing is straight through the pain with the only One with the power to heal it!

There is freedom outside those walls of yours! A life free of anger, resentment, bitterness and pain. True joy in life! Freedom to remember the hurt inflicted by others but not let it rule your life and keep you from your own peace; to live the life you’re meant to. A life where forgiveness and grace abound. I pray that God would tear down your walls more formidable than Jericho’s. That He would soften the tender heart you’ve worked so hard to shield. I pray that you would see past those walls to the abundant blessings you’ve been given and know that God has been with you all along. That every step of your journey, every heartache, every hardship, every mountaintop and valley has been used to bring you closer to the Father that loves you.

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So, now I pray that the Spirit would reveal to you the God who longs to walk with you through healing and true living. The God who can remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

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Oh! If you only knew the abundant blessings within your reach should you just forfeit your kingdom for His.

**Names of the guilty have been omitted, except myself, which has been one of the greatest offenders of all.

Do you see things unseen?

As Christians we base our eternal lives, our very souls, on things unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:18

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We believe not just in God, but every truth He reveals to us through His word, prayer, worship and Spirit. I believe He raised mountains, parted seas and tore down walls; though I didn’t see it happen. I know people who lived thousands of years ago. Their struggles, failures and the way God used it all to reveal Himself to me. I believe His Spirit lives within me to help and guide me, though it is a still, small voice to which I’ve never laid eyes on.

But I struggle with unbelief every day in a myriad of ways that might not be as obvious. Because I have yet to see. I worry about my family’s future because I have not seen it. Though I know His plans for us are good.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I push to the back of my mind the suffering of others because I have not heard firsthand their cries. I have not felt their tears, smelled the smoke, felt the earth shake beneath my feet or the gnawing hunger in my stomach. I have not seen their trauma or felt their particular broken heart and the hopelessness left in its wake.

It begs the question then. Do I believe in God, or do I actually believe Him?

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

What makes my belief different than that of a demon? Do I believe everything He reveals to me? Do I truly believe it as if I’ve seen it first hand? And if I’m truly believing Him, what does that look like?

To truly believe is to follow. It is to take every God breathed word of the Bible as truth regardless of whether I’ve actually seen or known personally the people within it and to respond in a way that I’ve been instructed to. It is to hear the cries of God’s children whether they are within my own home, in my community, or half a world away.

2 Corinthians 1:4

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

It is to give freely the gifts of grace showered upon me by a loving, generous Father because I know that He will provide for me. I have received His comfort in more ways than I can count. But have I given it as well?

James 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

It is to take up the great commission and share hope to the hopeless.

Some of us are called to the mission field into our own home, serving in a hundred ways no one but God will ever see. Some of us are called to serve our own communities, neighbors written off by the world. Still others are called to mission fields far away from the comfort and privilege of Midwest America. But all of us are called to believe and live a life broken and given to Christ. To live free of the chains of this world. This is great news! But it takes a commitment from us to live a life of belief. Believing the ultimate in unseen suffering, the suffering of Jesus, and staking everything we know and have on that truth.

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Sometimes I am deeply grieved by the products of my own unbelief. Selfishness, pride, worry and fear can keep me shackled to this world without me even being aware of it sometimes. But thankfully there is no need to despair of the condition of my heart! Thanks to Christ’s willingness to live broken and given for me, this condition is not terminal! In God’s infinite loving kindness, He even gives me a treatment for this condition. A way to help me experience the true freedom of the Gospel and sharing that healing freedom with my neighbors. Both seen and unseen.

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Mark 9:24

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

*emphasis mine

Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Please help me listen to and be guided by Your Spirit. Please give me Your eyes to see and soften my heart to feel for all of Your children. Reveal to me these things I’m holding more dear to me than You. Show me how to honor You with the time, gifts and resources You’ve given me. Help me to see beyond me, to hear above the noise and to run hard after You. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you see, and if you are feeling so lead to believe in the unseen suffering in the images above, I’d ask you to prayerfully consider helping! You can find out more about the need, and how you can help by visiting the link below.

http://livebeyondwords.org/

 

When you feel a little stuck

A couple weeks ago I was really discouraged.  One of those weeks when I was finding it difficult to see any growth or heart changes.  When it seemed every evening guilt and shame streaked down my face and parted worn out make up on my face over critical, impatient words that rushed past lips that should have remained closed or selfishness and my own desire for comfort that kept me annoyed and inconvenienced over the needs of a family of five.  Or how about that fear that still pops up? That unbelief after being shown hundreds of times that I’m never alone? So there I’d find myself feeling stuck.  With this frustrating pattern of sin daily confessed, repented, forgiven. To repeat.

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How much longer, Lord? How much longer before I’m complete? Before I don’t have the daily struggle with self?

Because I’m pretty tired of me. And in this world of instant gratification I’d really like to be fixed now. I mean, I was born again, right? I know I have a whole lot to fix but couldn’t the process go a little faster?

Or am I the only one?

If I’m not, keep reading because this gets really good!

Just when I’m almost sure I’m a hopeless case, that I will forever hold onto these chains, He reaches down and… moves me.

Literally.  And shows me that sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

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sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

Somehow, in my regular, every day life I had become unaware of the sometimes slow healing. The gentle touch of His hand in those unsettled places.

So in His infinite kindness and answer to my prayers, He showed me.  He plucked me out of my everyday Midwest routine and put me on a whirlwind of a Make A Wish trip for our daughter. I was incredibly grateful for the gift to her,  but had no idea what an amazing gift He had in store for me.

I’ve always been a worrier.  Anyone who knows me well knows this. I contemplated officially changing my middle name to “careful” when I changed my last name. What some might not know is that my careful was born of fear. Of just about everything. Oh, some of it was common.  Bridges, roller coasters,  car accidents, etc. But whenever I was out of my comfort zone fears took flight to crazy town. I could actually see horrible, very unlikely,  things happen.  Shoelaces in escalators, falling overboard, TV’s or fans falling off walls, fires in public places and not able to find an exit….I could go on and on to convince you of my incredible imagination but I think you get the picture.

I was crouched down behind Mini Hubby at the bow of a glass bottom boat in The Keys when I noticed it. Cruising along through mangrove trees dotted with birds I’d never seen, laughing in utter joy over the dolphins that came to escort us out, I had never felt so LIGHT. I assure you I’m not talking numbers on the scale.  Turns out vacation calories do, in fact, count. Just ask my jeans. Nope, it wasn’t until I’d moved out of my normal, out of my comfort zone, that I realized the weight of the chains was gone. There were no random,  crazy fears to steal my joy.  To take my eyes off of the beauty around me.  For the first time on a vacation I soaked every beautiful gift in without it being tainted or dulled by fear.  Never has the ocean smelled so amazing. Never has the sun felt so warm and enveloping.  And never has my children’s laughter sounded sweeter. I was free to shed thankful tears of joy for the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of creation. Because I now know the Creator.

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So I stayed crouched behind my four year old, our heads side by side, unafraid, the sea spray mixing with my own grateful joy filled tears and laughed over hair whipped crazy and looked into a bright blue sky and beyond to the One who breaks every chain.  In His own time. Which just happens to be totally perfect. I can wait for that. 

Freedom

In the United States we celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from British rule on July 4th. This celebration typically includes things like cookouts, barbecues, potato salad, pie and fireworks.

In the upper Midwest, participating in the requisite fireworks usually requires a bath in deet or running the risk of being carried away by hummingbird sized mosquitos. Having two kiddos with neurological issues, we try to avoid the deet bath. Instead, we have been taking the kids to our local dirt race track for their “Fireworks Spectacular” event. Where, either the noise, diesel fumes, or dirt, deters the pesky bugs and the kids also get to watch the races. fireworks5

We load the van with blankets, clear protective glasses, sweatshirts, sunscreen, ear protection for five, and more money than I want to part with. Once everyone has used the bathroom one last time we make it out the driveway with only three trips back in for forgotten items. As usual, we arrive about an hour before the races start which is not early enough to avoid sitting just downwind of turn four, but just early enough to stuff some food into the kids before the race starts and it’s filled with dirt. This year, the toddler complies with the ear protection requirement, which means all five of us are able to watch the races and make it to the fireworks portion for the first time since Mini Hubby was born.

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Well past Mini Hubby’s bedtime, he’s curled up on my lap, waiting for the promised fireworks. My chin resting on the top of his little blonde head I can smell the unique “Speedway Smell” of diesel fumes, exhaust, dirt and burnt rubber with the underlying earthy smell of toddler, i.e. sweat, sunscreen, more dirt, popcorn, pickles and something sticky which I’m bound to be covered in as well. Preteen has let his “I’m too old to be excited” mask slip and is trying in vain to find popcorn at the bottom of the bag that isn’t too gritty to eat. Baby Girl has moved past tired into overdrive, squirming on the unrelenting (even with blankets for padding) aluminum bench, and grinning from ear to ear and has only asked “How much longer” approximately eight times in the last fifteen minutes.

As the first firework is lit, shoots out of it’s tube and covers the sky in bright, loud, red, white and blue, three expectant faces follow it’s trajectory and smile. Eyes bright, mirrors of the cascading light. I smile. Watching joy spread across their faces and fill my heart. In between the repercussions and the patriotic music being piped tin through speakers, I hear it.

Soft and sweet.

Do you feel it? No fear.


Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Lamentations 3:57
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”


Just joy.

There had been no fear all night. No stray fears about crashes and random parts flying into the crowd to sneak in and steal the joy of watching my family pick their “winning cars” for the next race.

No stray fears about someone stealing one of the kids to sneak in and steal the joy of watching Mini Hubby play in the dirt by the fence five feet away between races.

And now, no stray fears about tipped over fireworks or big explosions to sneak in and steal the joy of watching precious upturned, dirt filled, excited faces.

I’ve lived a life afraid. Afraid of bridges, wall mounted speakers in movie theaters, car accidents, kidnappings, wrong decisions, mistakes, and fireworks. Over the last few years I’m slowly learning to live a life of hope, in Jesus. To be brave and courageous. To walk this journey with perseverance and endurance. With Him. Until this blindingly beautiful gift of a moment I don’t think I’d really realized just how much work He’s done in my heart. I can get caught up in the mess of who I am, the frustration of fighting the desires of my flesh, and just how far from complete I am and forget that I am a work in progress. And that He’s been working all along. feartofreedom

I look up into crackling flashes across the sky, slightly blurred from grateful tears and celebrate true freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom in Christ.


2 Corinthians 3:16-18

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.