New Year Blessings

A blessing, a prayer, a New Year’s toast:
May you learn to no longer be defined
by names and chains that used to bind.
May last year’s hurts and broken bits
find comfort and healing as God permits,
May you experience the peace and joy of the Savior
through each moment, whether success or failure.
May each step you take into God’s light
grow deeper love, understanding and insight.
May every day of this New Year be blessed
with the love of family and friends in abundance.

written in response to prompt #228 at poeticbloomings

Happy New Year, friends!

Advertisements

The Anguish of Addiction

“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NAS Bible)

Two days from a new year and it seems the same old me just won’t die. I thought by now God would have won all the battles, settled all the pain, and enabled me to forget the past. He hasn’t, but I still know that He is good. He loves me and He has been gracious! He has healed so much of my past and put to death so many of the ghosts that once haunted me. Most days I don’t crave poison.

Even so, I still get stuck sometimes … I have been sober 663 days and my body still craves the biggest mistake that I have ever made. And some days, days like today, are SO hard that the tears of hopelessness burn my eyes. Permitting them to fall causes just as much shame as the craving. They would require an explanation to the family and a confession of how awful the battle is in this moment. Thankfully, the battle is dead in me most days – just days like today, I struggle to think straight.

Some days, the body remembers what it was like to shoot poison and it wants it. I usually know what triggers it, but not this time. This time it came like an unexpected punch in the gut and jolted me from sleep. I woke in the darkest hours of the night, my body begging the poison that promises forgetfulness, promises peace and life, but delivers darkness and death. I cried out to this God who loves me to help me. I cried out to those who have braved this storm with me, but in shame, withdrew my plea. In the end, I woke the man who walks this broken road with me. He held me while my body rebelled against sobriety. I laid there after he fell back to sleep, filled with self-hatred, regretting having fallen into this addiction.

I didn’t sleep until after 7 this morning, and then only for an hour. The tired from lack of sleep adds to the hopelessness of the craving. I have tried to take every thought captive, to speak truth to my heart, no matter what my body has been telling me.

God is good. He has carried me this far. He is not suddenly going to fail me or abandon me.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5, NAS Bible)

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NAS Bible)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9, NAS Bible)

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NAS Bible)

And the good news for today, if you are struggling like I am, is that He is still good! He is not going to turn His back on you or deny you. He loves you so much and is willing to go into the miry pit of whatever struggle you are facing to walk with you. You can not escape Him! How do I know? Because He tells us that repeatedly in His Word. Try reading Psalm 139 (especially verses 7-12) and notice how far His presence extends. There is absolutely nowhere you can go to run away or hide from Him! Nowhere!

Oh, Lord God, thank you that Your lovingkindness is everlasting. Thank You, that in the midst of our battles, we can know that you are faithful! Heavenly Father, when our bodies, minds or emotions are crying out for lies, sins, or poison that lead to death, I am asking, according to the words of Your Son, Jesus, to sanctify us in truth. Please, Father, wash our aching hearts in the truth of your word. Strengthen us through the promise of your presence and grant us the courage and strength that come from knowing you are with us…you will never leave nor forsake us. Thank You that in a world that is constantly changing, You are sure and Your ways are right! Help us each to walk in Your truth. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Never Home Alone

Sitting and watching Home Alone last night with my family, my youngest whispers, “Hey, Mom, you should write a devotional about this. Ya’ know, how God never leaves us behind.” And I smile thankful that this kid knows the very character of the God who came for him.

Home Alone, the movie about a child whose family travels to Paris without him, unintentionally forgetting him, seems almost magical. The boy does all kinds of amazing things he was forbidden by his parents. He delights in breaking the rules, almost seems to thrive in being independent of those who have grown him. In the end, however, he just wants the love of his family that has accidentally left him behind. 

We pause the movie and begin talking about the God who never forgets us, never forsakes us.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my  hands; your walls are continuously before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16, NASB) This is our God!  

Two days before Christmas, as we watch a movie about a child left behind, God reminds us that we are His children.  He will never forget us or leave us behind – His hands are the proof that we will never be forgotten or forsaken – never. Oh, as we celebrate the babe that was born and laid in a manger, may our hearts be afire with who that babe is – The Messiah, the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth, the Life. On his hands, my name (and your name) is inscribed in His heart.  My name – your name – was written with nails on the palms of his hands, a memorial in flesh to never be forgotten. 

“for He Himself has said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13:5b-6 NASB

This Christmas, as family and friends gather around the table to break bread and exchange tinsel wrapped packages, may our hearts be filled with the Gift that came as the Babe laid in a manger, and enables us to confidently say He will never leave us nor forsake us. 

May your Christmas be filled with the joy that comes only from the Presence of Jesus. 

To Whom Shall I Go?

Spinning the little Jesus ring around my right ring finger, my thoughts were of denial. Opening the window, I removed the ring from my finger and told Jesus that maybe, just maybe, I had been through enough. Maybe I needed to just walk away. As I prepared to send the ring sailing out the car window as a symbol of stepping away form my faith, my heart asked one last question – made one last statement: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69 ESV) And I knew that apart from the Lord, I had no hope. That without Jesus, I had no life or joy. HE is my everything, not children. 

And slowly, purposefully, I slipped the ring back on my finger, tears streaming and hope filling my heart. My resolve to follow Jesus and surrender the desire for children to him again steadied my aching heart.  As my husband drove the car, he took my hand and whispered, “I love you.” 

The weekend had been hard. We were at a marriage retreat when a close friend whispered her secret, “I’m pregnant again. And you know, I don’t even want it. What in the world do we need another one for? I am already so overwhelmed.” I know she didn’t mean any harm. She was just expressing her fears and concerns. She had no idea how heartbreaking it would be for a woman who desperately wanted children and couldn’t have them to hear. 

And then, the other woman announced she was expecting during a small group meeting. “I’m pregnant again. It’s what my husband wanted. I see no purpose in more.” Oh, another heartache. I, who had been denied the ability to have children, wanted so badly to be able to announce that God was doing something exciting.  Instead, two women who didn’t want children were blessed. 

My heart ached and my first response was to fall at the feet of Jesus. My husband and I  skipped the next session of the marriage retreat to sit together in our room, hearts aching and tears streaming. We prayed and spent time with Jesus together, but the pain still sliced our hearts. 

It was in that pain and grief that I spun the ring around my finger and wondered if walking with Jesus was worth it. That pain led me to an open car window and the desire to throw my Jesus ring out, along with my faith. But it was also in those moments of grief and sorrow that I discovered that the real blessing isn’t a child to be held in my arms, but that I have a Father who holds me in His. I have a Heavenly Father who is life and joy and whose love is sufficient, even in the hard things. He is a Comforter to sorrows and He is my stability during difficult times. 

You may wonder what happened to that Jesus ring. It was lost several years later, when a chubby fisted toddler that God had allowed me to birth (what an incredible gift!!) threw it out the car window while we were driving, but the Savior it represented holds true today. He has built my faith through the hard things and He has held me through the things that meant to destroy me.  

I am so thankful for that day when the words of Scripture coursed through my heart at my weakest moment. I am so grateful that He called me back to the truth when I forgot – there is no one else to turn to in the difficult, heart breaking days. Just only, always Jesus.

As you walk through the trials and difficulties of life, may you find that Jesus is enough, that God is present in your pain and that in Him is life. May He give you the faith to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69, ESV)

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (NASB)

And God Shows Up

God showed up yesterday in the midst of grief…well, He was always there, this I speak with confidence, even though He seemed silent. He was there in the friends who met me for breakfast. He showed His grace through the husband who hugged me and spoke tender words of love. He was present in the tween who threw his arms around my neck and said, “Mama, I love you.” And in the small treasures while I was sitting in my quiet time spot, He reminded me He was there. Oh, and when seven little Eastern bluebirds fluttered into the burning bush outside my window to devour the tiny red berries that graced the leafless branches, He reminded me He was there. 

These past few years have been hard. For days, the God who created me and who promised to always be present has often seemed absent. But He has been here, with me, walking faithfully through the hard things. There are things that I wish I could write, but words seem inadequate. How do I describe in words the bigness of the God who has held me or the depth of the kindness of my Heavenly Father?  He so lovingly arranged my life so that when the memories that I had tried to silence in my heart and mind, the things my body was going to relive, resurfaced and refused to remain silent, I was not alone. I was surrounded by people who would carry me in prayer and not judge the mess that I would eventually become. 

This God who knows all things had prompted my husband to work from home well before I knew that I was going to need him every moment of the day – loving me through the past. God put me in a small prayer group that I would end up spilling my mess to and they would pray me through it. This God whose love overwhelms me, put a pastor in my life that was willing to reach out to a counselor to get me the help he knew I needed. And then, his wife, who met with me when I didn’t know if there was hope.  When I stepped into a twelve step program and found help, God’s love was guiding me.  Looking back, I know that God was present in all the big things and all the little details, preparing me for the miracle of healing that He is doing in my life. 

I have rough days, weeks, months. But today isn’t one of them. Today is one of the days when I know His goodness is at hand, that He is encouraging my heart and reminding me of His promises. Today is a different kind of day.  There is all this joy spilling into my heart. I don’t really know how to explain it.  The truth of His Word is filling me up to overflowing and the promise of His presence is my confidence.  

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened,  and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, ESV) I have been some places in my life and I am so thankful that even when I was frightened or dismayed, I have discovered that the Lord is with me! He is faithful to His Word. 

Living in the Light

“Mom, without the sun, there’s no color in the world. Imagine living always in the black of night!” my tween says, glancing up from his astronomy book. I smile and wait – knowing there is always more. “Imagine having to play with Legos without color! How boring would that be?” he looks at me incredulously. 

And my smile grows as I answer, “God is good to give us the sun, and the light, and the colors! But many people still live in the dark.” His eyes swell tears as he swallows back the pain. And so we talk about the God who spoke light into the darkness and created all we see.

Trying to imagine we live in the dark of night, without any light, we close our eyes. It is not as dark as before creation. We still have memories and images, reminders of light, streaming through our minds. Those who are without faith in Jesus Christ are blind, can’t see, are unable to recognize the colors of mercy and grace, of joy and hope. of forgiveness and love. Only Christ opens their eyes and is the Light they need to be given restored vision and understanding. 

This Christmas, as we string multi-color lights on the tree and hang pretty ornaments, may we remember that Jesus is the Light of the World. We are celebrating the One who comes as the Light in our darkest night.  Christ, the Living Word, speaks life to the dead. He fills the eyes of our heart with His Light so that we can see the goodness and kindness of God. And as people who are in Christ, we, who were once blind, now have the privilege of carrying the Light of the world to others! 

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5, NASB)

“But as many received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor or the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ” (John 1:12-13)

For more reading on Jesus, I encourage you to read the entire book of John. Jesus. May He be the LIght of your life! 

Grief

The darkness had not yet slid into the gray of the day,  not yet surrendered to the morning light, when my eyes cracked open. The black of the night reflected the pain in my heart. Grief weighs heavily some days. 

This is the season families gather and celebrate, when grown children return to the nest to wrap their arms around the parents that have grown them. Facebook posts of happy family outings, generations gathered together to celebrate just seem to be a knife stabbing the heart. Celebrating the Babe laid in a manger that long ago night who grew to carry the weight of the world, to set captives free. Joyous. And yet, my heart so deeply grieves. 

Grief seems rawest at what are supposed to be the most joyous times. Death and sin tinge joy with sorrow.

A friend suffers deep loss and she grieves. I watch her grieve with all this beautiful grace. I carry her in my prayers, knowing that even though she is doing well, grief interrupts life at the most unwelcome times. We were not made for death! Death was invited to become part of our existence long ago in a garden (see Genesis 3), but when God spoke us into being, He created us for life in communion with Him.

Grief is born not only from the loss of earthly life, but also from the robbing of earthly hopes and dreams. I was told at a young age that I had a broken womb. Children would not be part of my life, at least not naturally born children. I grieved deeply because of both the harm that caused the brokenness and the empty womb that resulted.

But, with God all things are possible – that broken womb cradled many children, two of whom my arms were privileged to cradle and I have watched grow. Still, there was another ache. The ache of a mother bereft of her unborn children. The inexplicable joy of being a mother tainted by the grief of the children my arms would never hold here on earth. 

These last few years have been years of deepest sorrow and grief. Grief that I was unable to name for so many years because Christian truths were supposed to wash away the heartache.  This pain stemmed from harm I endured years ago, years so far behind me that I thought I had outrun them. Still, heartache and pain when unacknowledged don’t really go away. They stay and take up residence in the heart, hiding in places and making themselves known in unrecognizable ways. 

It is this grief that weighs on me now. Unacceptable grief. Grief the church doesn’t know what to do with other than quote a Scripture at and claim that if I meditate on truth long enough, if I get involved in serving, if I follow the right equation,  the sorrow will resolve. It is messy, debilitating grief at times. It makes me feel incredibly alone. Like Tamar, the sister of Absalom must have felt after being raped by her  half-brother Amnon. Hide away your shame – well, no. Really, hide away yourself. Don’t let others see your heartache. Only her shame didn’t go away – and was never hers to bear anyway. Her shame festered in the heart of her brother Absalom, who eventually killed her rapist Amnon. Grief, unacknowledged, sin unpunished, destroyed more than a woman. It destroyed an entire family. 

My grief and shame are similar to Tamar, and they have ruined an entire family. Only, the shame was never meant for me to carry. And I was not the one who ruined the family. The shame and ruin belong to the men who harmed me and to the one who could have protected me and chose not to.  And holidays always accentuate the grief of a family torn apart by men’s selfish sins in my life.

And for you today: Grief is a part of everyone’s life. So, how do we handle it? How do we walk through grief without losing our faith? 

First, grief is not sin. No matter what we are grieving, the loss of a loved one, the loss of innocence, the wayward path a son has taken, the answer is the same. Run to Abba Father, crawl into His lap and just cry to Him.  He knows this world was not made for death and destruction, for the harm men (and women) do, for the sin that is so rampant. He knows that our hearts grieve. And He holds the brokenhearted.  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) I know it may not feel like it, but your Heavenly Father sees your tears and cares. And you know what? He records those tears (see Psalm 56:8). He doesn’t chastise you for your grief, but welcomes you in to His arms of comfort. 

For those of you who have lost a loved one, grief is necessary. The depth of your grief is not evidence of lack of faith, but evidence of the depth of your love for the one you have said a good-bye to. We know we shall see them again, but some days, that doesn’t help the ache in our hearts when we miss them now, to feel their arms hugging us, to hear their voice. In moments of grief, we understand how beautiful heaven is, that we shall never have to say good-bye, that death is defeated! (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18) We do not grieve as the world. We grieve, but we also hope. Because grief causes us to feel lonely, I would recommend connecting with  a GriefShare at a church near you!

Only God can give us the faith to hold on to His promises when our hearts are aching and grief overwhelms. Surround yourself with His people who allow you to grieve freely without trying to fix you. People who love Jesus and aren’t afraid of tears or the messy truth of life in a fallen world.  People who keep the faith for you when you can’t keep it for yourself.

Another suggestion: if social media seems to flaunt all the happy families and accentuates your grief, don’t be afraid to take a break. I have to do that occasionally to keep  my eyes on Jesus and His many gifts instead of on the seemingly perfect families others have.

And finally, if you aren’t in a season of grief,  is there anyone you can support in their grieving process? Great support comes through your prayers and your encouragement. Pray for God given wisdom and words, pray for the person grieving to be able to hold on to the promises she already knows as she walks through this season.  Send her a card that lets her know how loved and valued she is. Be present and listen, without needing to fix it for her. Let her grieve. Let her cry. Listen to memories of her loved one or listen to her lament over the things done to her. Her pain needs to be seen and validated without a lecture or without someone trying to fix it. She needs truth, but she needs love first. 

Father, Thank You that when we grieve You are the great Comforter. I pray for the grieving today. Father, give them a friend to walk with them, an arm to lean on, a sister to share her tears. For those walking through grief with others, Father, will you just grant them wisdom and grace, an abundance of love and insight. Help them discern when to speak and when to remain silent. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.