Category Archives: God’s Word

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

 

 

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An Abstraction on the Chain {Fear Day 22}




We were arguing late at night, standing there on cold wood floors, moonlight streaming in, and all I want is to touch his face, for him to trace the lines of mine, and for us to hold each other close in our big four-poster bed with the windows all around, and I said some awful things. Love can make you do the truly abhorrent when you’re lonely.

I said the “H” word–that four letter one that lets him know how I feel. I wounded and scarred up our home, the sacred, the holy. “I hate that you are so distant, that you never touch me, if you want to know the truth, I hate you when you make me feel this way!”

I wrecked everything, hurt him in my thirst for more. So we go to bed holding one another and when I turn over, the chain pulls him toward me and he scoots in close. I wake and touch feet to shiny pine, shuffle out of my bedroom in yoga pants and black flip-flops, feeling rested and slightly askew, step around a little pile of trash someone forgot to discard, and first thing I go and make sprite for my baby, hug my eldest who has been sick in the night.

She looks at me, her all spindly and hair disheveled and curled in fractured sunlight bouncing off, and I see pain in her eyes, and I wonder how much of the argument she heard on her end of the house. With all my babies’ stomachs churning for the past week and running back and forth to the toilet even in black quiet when I can’t hear, I pray it stops somehow. That this would be the end of this torment.

Depression has been hanging over me, a buzzard circling overhead, waiting for the right moment, that moment when life ceases.

I see the chains that bind. I see all the fears that keep me captive, make me a lunatic starving mad for affection in the middle of the night.

I’m linked, soul-bound to this man I said “Yes” to when he whispered in my ear so softly, as we both leaned in close, so unsure, right there on my parents’ couch, “Will you marry me?”‘ Just a quiet hush, nothing more, almost a question, him needing my response to fully form his asking and let it hang free in the air.

I see that I’m afraid of losing him. I’m afraid he’ll go so far away that he’ll never return.

It can feel like that–when a man is distant, like he actually left physically. I ache and groan and grieve and misery spews out of my mouth in words that should never be uttered.

And there is only one way I know to put an end to all things vile. And that’s what I do first thing, what the misery pushes me toward, and like an old song being played I know the steps to, I get out my bible and read a whole psalm.

I read through the first several verses alone and then I open right up, let breath flow out of me, and read the entirety of God’s goodness to them. They fall back to sleep, all my sick littles, while I herald the good news. They are lulled by His grace and peace, settling down over them, covering, a down comforter, weighted and weightless.

I feel satiated and I know this is how to break the chains that have made me a prisoner and I’m a prisoner of my own making. I have chosen in my hurt to not forgive. I have forgotten to look up always, and every morning when I’m ravenous, to the One who satisfies, but especially during times of distance, of pain and suffering.

I feel it right there–how my spirit babe within grows strong at the nourishing breast of the Word. It’s like a huge, tiny miracle right there on our old soft, beige couch in morning light spilling in through high, cathedral-like windows, and I’m offering my prayer, my confession right there, His body taken in my mouth.

I go ’round doling out little medicine cups of Sprite and Pedialyte, lovingly slapping cold rags on heads, tucking blankets firmly around aching bodies, kissing foreheads and hot cheeks, just prayin’ I don’t contract another round of it, and slathering Vaseline thick on cracking lips that whisper could they just have water? And I give my running-around-the-house two year old who is all better a big kiss on her baby-squishy soft cheek, just begs me nuzzle in close.

I look out the window and see them there, large black birds littering the yard, their thick, gangly red necks pecking at my children’s toys, wings beating loud, fighting for territory. I frown at their hunkering, and I don’t know why they are there, like they’re just waiting for death.

I’m not sure if it’s our illness, this misery, this decaying of life–of love–they sense, but I prance outside like a woman with fight in me and a broom and I shew those vultures away. It feels a little silly at first, but at my voice, they immediately beat away, all this blackness fleeing in morning light through the maples, and I feel loosed.

I see how powerful my voice is, how I can call on Jesus for us, for my own depravity. I swallow down the huge, tiny miracle that God has sustained me and when he walks in the door, I won’t resent him. I will love him.

Whoa, sharing all of this, with quaking and trembling, asking God to undo these chains, loosen these fears in the confession…        
**This post shared with Husband’s permission, and I hope you will join me, friends, as I continue to write on marriage this week. God is leading my heart there, whispering to me, wooing me….

Still counting gifts in gratitude to my Father… {1,020-1036}.. This is good for the soul, no?

For fears relieved, for Lilly trying so hard to say a word for me, how her voice sounds so tiny, for all of us being so sick and getting the rest we need, for making up in the night, for snuggling, the way they all gather and lay on me when I lie down, how good it feels to nurture their little hearts, for Ivy cleaning my bedroom and laundry room without being asked just to cheer me up, for a break from routine and just long rest, watching movies together, cuddling, folding clothes, for Husband bringing home chicken noodle soup, sprite, and crackers for days in a row, for all of us learning to take care of one another, for God’s freedom, for the power He’s placed within and knowing I can access it–call upon Jesus’ name…

Linking with Amber, Ann, EmilyLaura, Jen, LL, and Heather for Just Write

Also linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear– of him leaving, of marriage not turning out quite like you thought? Of this love not playing out, not feeling the way you imagined it should feel, not fulfilling you the way you imagined it would? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these fears in your marriage? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. {I’ve jumped from Day 12 to Day 22 because I want to finish this series at the end of the month & this gal started late}

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo

My Heart’s Cry to Heaven {and A Blogger’s Prayer}

I lay in our high four-poster bed, and everything is swirling around. I can’t sleep, eyes hurting and heavy in mid-afternoon–the anxiety threatens to break me–and I moan and let the tears stream, let them break open past the lump in throat, let the trapped burn escape.

I bury my head in feather pillow, the soft brown cotton catching the wet, the words and voices circulating in my head relentless. Husband hears, comes and holds me and talks to me. I tell him it’s happening again, and oh, the frustration of it.

How did I get here again? I have no idea. Why am I so weak?

I don’t want to be drowned in a sea of confusion, a hopeless tossing of words, phrases, voices, too many voices, and screens, too many screens buzzing, my constant typing on the black keys, lined up in a  shiny plastic row. They click at me and give me no history, no story.

When I look at the screen, there is no one there. Just words, just letters, advertisements and lights making my brain forget how to sleep. When I step away from the click-clicking of the keyboard, I can still hear it, the humming, the whirring, running, on and on it goes.

I walk across pine floors and I forget to notice the gorgeous light. I’ve forgotten the beauty of a story told on paper, bound and handed down between covers, the words kept for safe-keeping to be whispered quietly only between me and the Lord in the morning light.

When it all boils down and I’m left with the bottom , the pit of myself and mankind–what really matters?

There are too many voices, too many deadlines, too much rush and hurry, too many demands to meet, too much worry, too much reaching for me, hands grasping.

Where is God’s voice in all of that? Because I can’t hear it.

My heart is fragile and weak, it is easily swayed, weighed down with the cares of this world, and I am quickly overwhelmed and taken like a tsunami crashing over me.

I want to give my life for my Savior King.

If there is to be a tsunami, Oh Lord, wash over me, overtake me like the consuming mighty ocean, it’s waters heavy and drenching, bending me, and burn me up with Your three times hotter holy flame. Consume me in the fires of your love that cannot be quenched.

Hold my hand as you stand in the flames with me. Here I want to powerfully, wrecklessly be lost in You. Here in Your deep lake of fire, I will swim and pray that You will come rescue me. Completely take me, wash me clean, relentlessly pouring and crashing over and over and over me.

My heart is weak, and I need you, oh, desperately how I need you. If there are to be swirling thoughts and voices that won’t stop, Lord that it would be your voice circulating, permeating the synapses. Let me awake with Your holy voice calling my name relentless.

Let me not be able to get away from it, let me not escape You, when I rise with the sun, at mid-morning and again when I prepare lunch, when I sit outside in your creation while children run free and when I sit to consume the bread you’ve given and when I light the Lenten candle, when I lay head on pillow at night.

Lord, pursue me, Hound of Heaven, come hot and heavy after me, my thoughts haunted by you, my every waking moment pricked with awareness of you and my sleeping moments laid upon your pillow of grace, covered and cloaked in the blanket of Your wings.

Father, pursue me between the pages of books, descend upon me heavy as I teach my children Your ways, wash over me, bending me beneath the weight of Your glory as I bend to correct them, consume me with Your presence in the red letters of Jesus’ words as I read in soft, early light, prick my heart with your holiness as I prepare meals, as I meditate on You, and follow hard after me as I serve Husband’s needs, and never stop chasing me as I tap out words, only let the words pour pure as You separate the gold from the trash in Your holy fire.

And Father, teach me the meaning of these words, words that sweet Ann spoke:

“All art is a call to come to an altar, to come lay down and die to self. So be it. He is enough.”

         {An excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s prayer, called A Blogger’s Prayer}:

“I am no longer my own blogger, but Thine.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.

Put me to service, or put me to suffering.

Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers

Let me post for thee or be put aside for thee,

Lifted high, only for thee, or brought low, all for thee.”


          Go HERE to read the full Blogger’s Prayer and get your own “Upside Down Blogger” button.

{An absolutely gorgeous song of worship–Savior King–you don’t want to miss this! Worth the few minutes to watch. A God-glorifying display of corporate worship–watch a few times and let God fill you up, just wash over and over and over you, friend!!}

{A little dose of honesty and testimony? I had no idea what to write this morning, I wasn’t even going to join in the counting this week due to exhaustion–I prayed and asked God to guide me and to use what I write to bring Him glory only…and this story and prayer poured out of me. I saw the Blogger’s Prayer as I had never seen before! All for HIS glory!!}

Gratitude:

#608 A work day at the church and a couple hours spent there during a rare day date

#609 How it brought us closer–horizontally and vertically–gave us joy to serve

#610 How Husband said he was glad I convinced him to go even though he was tired–how we push one another constantly toward God and others–the beauty and glory of marriage God has blessed

#611 How this pushing toward God and loving others fulfills the two greatest commandments–and I wonder if maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking to one another through us? Oh, the beautiful mystery

#612 How Ivy runs to the door everytime, just at the last second when I’m heading down steps, even more than once, for a kiss and to say “bye, Mama. I love you.”

#613 These sweet memories I will hold in my heart forever

#614 An email from a lovely friend telling me to not even write back, just to see the silver lining of all of us being sick, gather up my girls wrapped in blankets, watch movies, and drink something hot–and that is just what I did and will do more often when we aren’t sick

#615 Lovely emails, warm comments from friends that make the heart toasty inside

#616 Ivy asking if she can pray for Lilly when she is sick, my nod, and her going over to her, laying hands and asking for God to heal

#617 Our new vehicle, finally here! Now I can take the girls to free classes, on field trips with the group, and to the doctor!

#618 How Lilly won’t talk, just “Mmm, mmm”‘s at us constantly and we laugh happy over our baby

#619 Knowing she’s only this small once

#620 Knowing deep-down that God will take care of her, that she will eventually talk–if you are reading this, would you pray?

#621 Our home, a roof over our head

#622 Me learning to really make it home, a peaceful, safe place, not just a place of no rest for the weary

#623 Ivy’s prayer at the supper table–her thanking God for everyone in her sweet voice–Mama, Daddy, sisters, and everything we’ve been given–a long list–this reminder from an angel child

#624 Being blessed financially so that we will soon be able to finish our kitchen–{I will finally have cabinets!}, make some badly-needed home repairs, close in and build the school room (!!), and buy all schooling needs–all praise to God!

#625 Ordering books, all kinds of lovely books!

#626 Husband and I sitting huddled on swing, warm blanket wrapped around us, drinking coffee in early morning–the only thing our voices and the song of the birds

#627 Staying home for Sabbath rest

#628 The medicine of a good clean comedy, Husband and I laughing together hard

#629 Surrendering to the season God has called forth in my life–staying in while the pollen stirs–trying to get well–writing less, just listening quietly to Him–oh, this is hard. Might you pray for me,
friends?

And how perfect it is–writing about feeling overwhelmed–and Ann has a beautiful Joy-In-A-Box over at her place today–a gift to cheer someone in need of joy, to cheer you in the giving, for the overwhelmed ones…

Join the JOY DARE with us? Click here to learn more…

Shared in community with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Grit {Five Minute Friday}

For Five Minute Fridays, we link up with Gypsy Mama, Lisa-Jo, and write for only five minutes, just for the fun of it, no tedious editing or over-thinking!

GO.
Grit.

                            {thanks to my sister, @ Tri Junkie, for sending the picture} 

It takes grit to do what I do, to be a Mama to four, to rise above my circumstances, my past, my illness and stay strong.

It takes a grit that comes from my grandmother and my father. He says I’m just like my grandmother, but I never knew her. I wish I had.

I would have had a lot of questions for her, like where did she get her grit? How did she stay strong through the beatings and raise three sons, watching one die in her arms, just three? How did she get through that?

What kind of grit did it take for her to rise each morning with a song? How did she find the courage to wake her boys early every single day and say, “Up and at ’em!”

I want that kind of grit.

I have an idea what she might say.

I get the feeling in my gut, because her and I think so much alike, that she would have said she got her grit from God.

She was an evangelist, a very good one. Her bible was worn, her hymnal music sheets tattered from loving use. I’m sure her knees were too.

That’s the kind of grit I’m talking about.

STOP.

Join me over at Lisa-Jo’s for more “writing like we can fly”………this is going to be FUN!



Advent: Preparing For Christ’s Coming {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #11}

Dishes in dishwasher and it humming and quietly grinding away, night has fallen and we all happily scrub counter-tops, light pumpkin-scented candles and put cereal boxes and banana peels–the remnants of the day–away.

The girls settled down with a movie, I think about Mr. Simmons coming home as I shower. I look forward to kissing him at the door and wonder what I will wear.

I feel a little like a love-sick teenager as I anticipate his coming, a little like the bride waiting for her bridegroom,

a lot like the church, the chosen bride of God, waiting for Christ’s coming.

Through all of it they held out.
The elect–those Israel children that told Moses they would rather go back to slavery under Pharaoh than to be desert-wandering–they waited so long and through much arduous toiling and slavery, through much miserable oppression–they just waited.

For generations and generations they waited. Each and every old man waited in exile for his ransom, His Saviour, and in his death, when no Saviour had come, he told the story to his children again of a Saviour, a shoot that would spring up from the stump of Jesse, as the scrolls foretold.

He would tell his children as they gathered ’round, of Immanuel, God with us, God that would come to them, these children held captive by sin.

“O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lowly exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel”

And when Mr. Simmons finally arrives, my hair still dripping, I kiss him and all six of us gather tight on the couch and light the candle on the advent wreath.

We let the candle burn bright in the dark room, God’s bright light, the only pure light shed upon our dark hearts.

And His perfect plan unfolds, all of us gathered ’round, waiting, just waiting for the story of the Saviour

and we hold out for the promised birth.

And we wait for our ransom, and we wait for Him to come and bring our freedom.

Immanuel. God with us. We wait for that.

We wait in the lonely season, in the dry desert. And it is here that we meet Him.

And we know Him as Immanuel.

I shift my gaze and see a little one falling asleep by the table that holds up our advent wreath, our waiting. And children touch one another back and forth and the baby wanders around while Mr. Simmons reads from the bible and I wonder if this lighting of the candle, this waiting, this beholding is helping at all.

I grow a little frustrated underneath my weak smile and I see the sin in all of us.

I see how that it will never be perfect here. We will never fully know God here in these sin-filled bodies. I silently pray in my heart for deliverance for us all.

And I wait. And I hope for Him to come. I shift my gaze again and in the dark we all feel Him here.

“O come thy rod of Jesse, free
thy own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell they people save
and give them victory over the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel.”

Please watch the video below of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” with scenes from Nativity Story:

And this one a beautiful song by Christy Nockels, “Waiting Here For You”, if you would like to listen in worship?

I wasn’t able to link up with Jen at Soli De Gloria this week since I didn’t do a Monday post, but I wanted to share her post, a vlog, because it really touched me. You will certainly be blessed if you would like to click on the link below…

Join me at Ann’s today for more ideas and inspirations on preparing for Christ’s Coming?

also at Emily’s…

Just a tiny correction…but a heavy effect

This started out just as a simple correction, and turned into something else, taking on a life of it’s own, but that is sort of how it is with us scatterbrained writers.
***I want to clarify something that I wrote on my last blog. Whenever I say that something or someone changed me, I always recognize that it (or they) is only a vessel or source that God uses! I do get excited and forget to say that sometimes. A dear friend sent an email today, and asked me to read John Piper’s blog. It reminded me of the importance of God’s Word (something that I can never get very far away from–He is always pulling me back). So I wanted to make sure that, in my excitement and determined focus to be well, that I am not forgetting, even for one moment, the Creator who made me, and who is also my Healer, my portion. And any glory for changing this depraved heart of mine must go to Him! I do believe that He uses people in our lives and that is vital to our survival. In the midst of wailing children, sticky gum on the floor, poo accidents– the wake destruction of which Mama spends an hour cleaning, folded clothes all spilled in the floor, neverending assignments, errands, and requests, hopelessly sleepless nights frought with worry, the forcing to cope with stress and failing miserably, the daily attempt to give my children grace, and failing even more miserably, desperately trying to steal a quiet while to blog, write, and gather my senses–in the midst of all of that, it is easy to get wrapped up in just trying to be well, just trying to survive, and forget the One who is the author of it all. I so quickly overlook His healing hand in my life…the one who loves me more than anyone could fathom, and can change all this for me, into something joyous…that One, the only One is my Jesus and He is my portion, my Healer, my friend, and He holds this messy heart of mine and transforms it into beauty.