Time to Celebrate!

2 years. 24 months. 104 weeks. 730 days. 17,520 hours. 1,051,200 minutes. 63,072,000 seconds. No matter how I count it, the time adds up the same. Two years ago today I took my last hit. If you have read this blog for any amount of time then you know how hard this battle has been, how weary I grow at times and how desperately I fight. Sobriety isn’t always easy, but it always proves worth it.

But God…every good thing begins with those words. But God, being rich in mercy, provides a way of escape to every temptation (see I Corinthians 10:13). Being part of a 12 step recovery group that leans heavy into Jesus has been one of His routes of escape. Having a group of godly men and women who know my past, my struggle with addiction, and who respond with grace, love, and prayer has been another of the ways of escape God has provided. The loving women who meet me for coffee or chocolate shakes and french fries when I am in the midst of a bad craving are part of God’s provision for help during my time of need.

But God, being kind and loving, gave me all that I needed to live a life of godliness. (see 2 Peter 1:3) All that I need to stay sober in each moment of every day is found in the good news of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. As I have walked this beaten path, Jesus has taken every step with me. He is an ever present help in my times of trouble . (See Psalm 46:1) On those days when my faith falters and my pleas are desperate, God lovingly reminds me to not grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9), to not give up or give in, that His grace is sufficient for me, that His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

In the midst of the battle, minutes have turned to hours that have grown into days when I did not think that I could make it one more step without poison coursing through my veins. But then God would remind me that withdrawal and detox are awful. His good and perfect Words would run through my head, a whispered reminder that He created me for good works that He prepared before hand that I should walk in them – and those good works did not and do not include heroin. (Ephesians 4:10) I am His workmanship – that means that He created me and knows me completely. He knows my every weakness and my every strength.

Today, as I celebrate God’s victory in my life, I am ever aware of not only the goodness of the Savior who has carried me, but also of how faithful He has been. I recognize how easily I could fall again if I take my eyes off the Savior. Sobriety is hard, especially on the days that memories are on replay in my mind or days when the lies won’t be silent. But with God, all things are possible. (Matt. 19:26)

And for you today? If you are struggling with addiction, I encourage you to fight the good fight and keep the faith. God loves you and is able to keep you when you are not able to keep yourself. Find a good recovery program that will help you build the resources necessary to lean into Jesus as you learn to walk sober. If you are in the midst of addiction, seek professional or pastoral help. Reach out. It is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. You are so worth the fight!! (I Timothy 6:12)

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Waiting in His Word

I follow a poetry site, and I openly confess that I am not a poet. Words are hard, and have not always been my friend. For all my growing up years, words were used to demean me and harm me. But then I touched the edge of the garment of the Man who said I mattered (Matt. 8:44, 14:36), who said that He knew not just what was done to me, but what I had done. And it is this Man who spoke words of love and affirmation to me, words that acknowledged not only what I had done that was wrong (I openly call sin), but that He loved me enough to carry the judgment for that sin on His shoulders. His love engulfed me and through His stripes I am healed. (Isaiah 53:5) Forgiveness was poured out on me, is poured out on me, through Jesus Christ.

I don’t know about you, but everyday presents a new challenge and a new opportunity to trust the One who offered the edge of His garment or to try to do the healing and laboring on my own. Today I leaned in close and heard my Savior Jesus whisper, “Rest. Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations.” (Psalm 46:10) Oh, what a message for my battle weary heart. Quit. Just surrender to the King of Kings and acknowledge that He is sovereign over all the things that are bothering my troubled heart. Lay down my weapons and my self-reliance. Lay down the desire to be someone that matters. Surrender the need to be right and to carry others. Lay down the responsibility for everyone else’s salvation. Give Him the financial mess that our family is in and let Him work it out. Wait for His provision. I am incapable of fixing any of those things on my own. The Lord is God. He will be exalted among the nations – He will, not me. He will be the One to receive the glory and the honor and the praise. He will rule over every heart, even those that don’t acknowledge Him today.

Today, my battle weary soul is choosing to rest in the truth of His Word, to believe, even though I can not see. I am blind and deaf, but I am choosing to believe He will give me eyes to see and ears to hear, that His love is enough. Today, I am choosing to believe that He will part the sea of financial devastation we are walking through and will bring us out on dry land.

What about you? Are there areas of your life that feel out of control, that you are trying to make work out a certain way? Are you ready to lay them down in sweet surrender to the One who holds you in His hands? His love for you is sure and His presence is promised.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” Psalm 130:5 (New King James)

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on hte Lord.” Psalm 27:14 (New King James)

Beauty in the Broken

A beauty of incomparable proportions greeted my eyes this morning. The world has become a shimmering icy landscape. The tiny red berries that grace the leafless burning bush outside my window hang heavy with the weight of their crystal covering. The ground shines with the reflection of the light from across the street.

Oh, nature is paying a great price to be arrayed with such beauty. Limbs and twigs lay scattered across the lawn. Trees once holding their hands high now bend and sag under the weight of the ice. Creaking in the wind, they beg for relief from the load they have been forced to bear. With every strong gust of wind, more small limbs become casualties of this storm. How can such beauty be the result of something so destructive? And yet, it is.

As I sit in my quiet time spot, a squirrel hops onto the porch rail and begins a slippery attempt to make it to the feeder. A smile spreads across my face. He pauses, clutching the rail while staring through the window – is he reprimanding me for taking delight in his slippery predicament? He chatters as I chuckle. Eventually, he lets go of the slippery rail and hops to the ground without the seed he was longing for.

Here, in the midst of this beauty, I meet with the Creator of all things good and beautiful. I whisper prayers of worship and of heartache, of joys and of concerns to the One who spoke the world into existence. How I want my life to reflect the beauty, even amidst the destruction, just like the world around me is glittering beauty amidst the destructive ice. I long to proclaim the goodness and mercies of my Savior in the midst of this current trial.

I must confess it is hard on days like today. Last night, the nightmares came to torment me. I want to say that I don’t know what triggered them, but I do. So, I run. I run into the arms of my Savior, crying out to Him to steady the ache in my heart, the pain in my body from having relived the memories in my sleep. Sin is crouching at the door and I know it – I am choosing to run to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when the ache in my heart and the pain in body are crying to be numbed with the prick of the needle and the rush of poison that will aid forgetfulness.

Sitting in His presence, I read about a man who was instructed to build a tabernacle, a place of meeting, where God would dwell among his people. Moses and all of Israel obeyed. As I read, I am captivated by the God who chose to put the stone tablets where his very hand carved the commandments into the arc of the covenant or testimony. These commandments I have broken – all of them at some point or other, I am sure, if I could see as God sees.

Even while this storm is raging inside of me for poison and its empty promise of peace, God reveals his love. To cover the commandments, the men are instructed to build a covering…the mercy seat. On the mercy seat, blood of the sacrifice will be sprinkled. Tears coursing down my tired cheeks, the realization settles in my aching heart that this God who loves me always planned mercy for me and for you. From the beginning of time, He knew that we feeble humans were incapable of living holy and perfect lives. So, he provided the mercy seat.

Mercy. He chose mercy long ago for the way he would deal with sinful man. Covering the commandments, was the mercy seat, not the judgment seat.

But what is mercy? And how do I receive this mercy? The Mirraim-Webster Dictionary online defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance”; as “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” This is how God covered the commandments he knew we would break. He does not say we were not guilty – that would go against his holiness. Instead, he declares our guilt, but offers His Son Jesus as payment for our sins.

Someone once told me that mercy was God not giving me what I fully deserved. I fully deserve death and hell. I have broken the commandments of a holy and righteous God. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a) “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Sin is falling short of perfection – and so that makes us all equal in one thing – we are all sinners because not one of us except Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life. Not many people like that word now a days because they find it offensive. But you know what? That doesn’t make it any less true.

So here is this hard, ugly, broken, beautiful redemption. Jesus Christ came. He lived a perfect life, was broken and died the death I deserved so that I could experience the mercy and grace of God. Just like the beauty of my ice storm. He ransomed me through His death on a cross – He paid God the price and bore God’s righteous anger so that I could be acceptable to God. My guilt and shame, my sin and failures, my falling to drugs and my unforgiveness. Jesus, in love and mercy, carried the punishment for that to the cross. It is a costly mercy and grace that He offers me, but through Him, God gives me hope of eternity in fellowship with him. My sins broke His body. My addictions and failures and stumblings nailed His hands and feet to the cross.

Jesus paid with His life to redeem my life, but He loved me that much. And here is the beauty of the broken: “Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2.

Friend, if you don’t know what it means to be a sinner saved by grace, can I just ask you today to consider the beauty of a love for you that is so grand, so overwhelming, that it showed itself when Jesus spread His arms out willingly on the cross so that you might come to God?

“What’s In a Name?”

William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet.” A name communicates a lot of things, but mostly, it identifies who or what we are talking about, gives clarity. I know that I have kept my name hidden, and I really want to explain the many reasons why. I pray you will receive my explanations with grace and understanding.

First, I choose anonymity. Some people call me Grace and I am good with that – wish it were my name, really. I know they get it from the title of my blog, “Grace Anchored Soul.” It makes me smile and brings me joy because it reminds me of God’s grace.

Some call me Abigail – and that is the name that I am published under. It means father’s joy. It became my pen name when the publisher contacted me. I chose Abigail because it reminds me of who I am to my Heavenly Father, that I bring Him joy. My dad always called me a curse, told me he wished I was never born. Once he put his hands around my neck to strangle me while screaming horrible things at me. But God preserved my life, redeemed me, and called me his child. My Heavenly Father rejoices over me and considers me a joy, not a curse. And so, for that reason, I chose Abigail as the name that people would know me by.

Others know who I am and call me by my given name – and that is fine, but their comments never make it on this site. Still others know who I am, but understand my need for anonymity and comment without my name (thank you).

Why anonymity? Some might think that I am hiding in shame. For many years, that would have been accurate. Now, as God has written His healing in my heart, I have made the choice to remain anonymous for the protection of my family as well as for the protection of my abusers.

For myself and my family:

I am an addict of the worst kind – although my dip into drugs was short-lived, it is a daily battle to stay sober. I have been clean one month short of two years. My children don’t need to pay for the mistakes of their mother. Friends and family who know that I have used heroin have responded with grace and love, but the church isn’t a safe place for people with sins like mine. Other children wouldn’t be allowed to play with my children – I have witnessed this with other children whose parents struggle. Not all parents are understanding and some would keep their children from my children in fear of me. So, I write under a pen name for my children’s protection.

And for my abusers:

My first abuser is dead. I hadn’t seen him in decades, but attended his funeral – I can’t explain why I felt the need to do that. I sat and listened to what a wonderful man he was, how he had surrendered his life to Christ and was now in heaven. All I could think was that he had molested me repeatedly beginning when I was four… how is that “wonderful”? The pastor shared the good news of Jesus, saying that the man would want everyone to know what he came to believe and live by: Jesus died for sinners like him. We sang “Amazing Grace.” I cried angry, busted up, bitter tears. He had gotten away with what he did to me. But then God reminded me that his sentence had been just and his punishment had been fair… just like mine was. Jesus had carried his sins to the cross, just like He had mine. Death was required and in mercy and grace, Jesus paid it for him. He is my brother and when I get to heaven, we will embrace. None of the harm he caused me will be between us. It’s hard to think or imagine, but it is truth, even on the days when I punch my pillow and weep over it. And nothing would be accomplished by ruining the testimony he had at the end of his life.

My second abuser was a teen. Mistakes made by a teen should not destroy him now. I have forgiven. If I ever suspected he was harming someone else, I would come forward. But really? He has grown into a really good man who fears God and has overcome the abuse that he endured as a child, as well as the abuses he committed against me. There is something to be said for that. He deserves freedom from the past, just like I do. He still lives near me and I run into him at the grocery store occasionally. He always stops and talks to me. I come home and cry, wondering how he can even look at me after what he did. In the end though, grace and peace win – Jesus loves me. Jesus loves him.

One of my abusers is an old man. He has not made peace with God. Do I think that publicizing his sins against me will lead him to repentance? Probably not. It would probably cause him to harden his heart even further. So, for the hope and prayer that he will repent and give his life to Jesus, I remain anonymous. Some days, it is hard. Some days, I want to point my finger and say, “My daddy hurt me and I want the world to know it…” but then God reminds me, “Vengeance is mine…” And one way or another, God will have vengeance, the price for his sins will be paid. He will either repent and turn to Jesus, allowing Jesus to carry his guilt and shame to the cross, just like He did mine, or he will pay the price for the things he did for all eternity. All eternity is a hard, long time, and so I pray he finds Jesus.

The other men who harmed me, well, I don’t even know their names or where they are. If I saw them today, I don’t even know if I would recognize them. I pray that they too will come to know and understand the redemptive power of Jesus.

For God’s Glory:

I don’t write to be known. I write for God to be known. I don’t want others to be distracted by who I am. Nor do I want pity from those who know me personally, but are unaware of my story. I want all that I write to point to the redeeming grace of God. In the midst of my pain, there is a God who is able to use it for my good and His glory. Just like Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20), I long for Him to use the evil against me for good – to turn the ashes of childhood abuse to beauty!

I Am a Victim of Choice

The news coming out of New York has had my heart stirred up – stirred up with memories of my own abortion. I hate the lie that is being told to women, that it’s “my body, my choice.” Oh, sweet sister. It is your body and it is your choice. But what would you choose if you knew the price you would pay for aborting your pregnancy? You see, there is a price. Some will tell you that a baby died and try to make you feel guilty for ending its life. Some will tell you that they believe that life begins at conception and you are stealing a life. Some will tell you that it is just a group of cells that don’t really matter, that won’t feel the pain of the abortion. Some will promise you that you will find freedom through abortion.

I am going to tell you something different: It doesn’t matter whether you consider that lump of cells a living being or just a fetus. I was twelve when I had an abortion. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t care. All I knew was that my abuser was fixing the problem he created. How could that be wrong? But here I am, decades after the fact, and I still grieve during the season when I had an abortion. My body still relives the pain of it and my heart still knows that something is missing.

Abortion doesn’t just end the problem of an unwanted pregnancy or a child born with some devastating illness, it creates a host of other problems for the woman (and many times the man). One problem is solved by unknowingly creating many more. She may be able to deny it for years and through multiple abortions. She may reason that even science hasn’t decided if the fetus is a life or not. Her reason for an abortion may be her youth or her inability to give up a child for adoption. Maybe she is just afraid. Can I just say, maybe she just isn’t ready? And my heart aches with her.

But there is this: Abortion creates more problems than it solves. At least it did for me. Depression, a low self–worth, physical pain, infertility. These marked my life. No doubt, the pain of abuse played into those. I went through some intense counseling for the abuse, but the hardest thing to process was that I had an abortion.

Abortion has a physical, mental, and emotional impact on the woman who has believed the lies. Women who have had an abortion often feel grief that they are not free to express – because, let’s face it, they chose the path of abortion. They may feel guilt, self-hatred or shame. They may struggle with depression and self-harm. Some even struggle with addictions or mental illness. For me, I felt unworthy of love or life.

My story of abortion isn’t everyone’s story, but it is one I must tell. My pregnancy was the result of rape. I am one of those women that everyone thinks we need a law to protect – protect my right to choose freedom from a child who would be a constant reminder rather than forcing me to suffer the punishment of carrying a child to term when I had already suffered enough. If only I could have known when the pregnancy was being ended that now I had another trauma to struggle through…now I had the difficulty of walking through ptsd for the harm done to me and the misery of walking through all the overwhelming emotions of terminating a pregnancy.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I spoke of it to anyone, whispered it really, to my 12 step recovery group. And that only after I had emailed my pastor following Sanctity of Life Sunday a hypothetical, “Should this lady who had an abortion when she was like 11 or 12 tell her husband?” He, of course, said she should.

Courage. After telling the group of recovery women and the pastor, asking them to pray, I found the courage to whisper it to my husband. His tears and, “I know,” broke the dam inside of me. His tenderness and love surrounded my aching heart. I told him about it. And then, the next Tuesday, in counseling, I talked to my therapist about it.

Healing didn’t come through therapy, EMDR or through my 12 step program. All prepared and strengthened me for the healing that was going to be worked in my life by God. He had a plan so far from what I could imagine.

One Thursday in February, I found myself at a lake house in another state, surrounded by women who had had abortions. Every woman had the opportunity to tell her story, to grieve her child or children. I grieved with these women even though our stories were so different. My story was one of being pregnant through abuse and then being physically forced to have an abortion. Yet, my feelings were the same. I had carried the guilt around my neck like a millstone, nearly drowning in the shame. I found forgiveness for myself at that long weekend retreat…and I discovered an even greater forgiveness. The forgiveness of a God who loved me and sent His Son to carry my punishment on His shoulders, to bear my burden to the cross, to set me free..the kind of freedom that every woman there thought an abortion would give her. We each discovered that freedom did not come through our abortions. Pain, suffering and bondage did. Freedom came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus met me in my pain, my guilt, my shame, my grief. He held me in His arms and whispered to me that I was forgiven, washed clean. Whatever men had done to me, I am safe now and fully free in my Savior’s arms.

If you have had an abortion and are struggling with that decision, please contact a crisis pregnancy center near you. Many of them have loving and supportive after abortion care. If they don’t, they will be able to help you find one. The group that I participated in was led and attended by women who had been where I was, who understood the devastating effect that abortion has on the woman.

Jesus doesn’t just care about the aborted baby. He cares deeply for the woman who felt like she had no choice.

Bursting Joy

I read a poem the other day
That led me on a joyous way
Helped me see this spinning orb
As bursting joy to be absorbed
Full of goodness and of grace
The sun, a kiss upon my face

This poem was written in response to prompt #231 – Motivation: Discovery at Poetic Bloomings