Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sweet Victory

I recently posted a new profile pic that is pretty ridiculous, but I wanted to show some enthusiasm for the Cleveland Cavaliers LOL!  I told my friend I always wanted a pic of me jumping but that I couldn't jump.  She said lets go outside and goof off, and the first time I jumped she got that silly picture!  Thanks Casey!  I put a Cavs frame on it and made it my profile pic.

But before I added the Cavs frame to it my sweet friend Pammy commented, "They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." That's from Isaiah 51:11 That is the truth! Thank you Pammy for calling the truth out of that pic! Because honestly, I have not goofed around much until recently. That is the story God has been writing on my heart for a long time. Everlasting joy will come, "sorrow and sighing will flee away."

I was out running today and it felt so good!  I've waited a long time for a run like that.  I think a lot of life is like running, many OK days, bad days, and awesome days.  But no matter how the run goes, it is the time when I listen and talk to God the most.  It's OUR TIME.  I have felt some sweet victory lately, not all rose colored glasses, just gentle unexpected joy.  HE and I were processing that today.

In short, my story is one of battling non-terminal chronic health conditions, along with the normal pains of growing up in this world.  I am not ashamed to include I have an anxiety disorder and have had depression, and God has given much grace in all of this.  I hope being honest about these things will make it easier for you to talk about it if you need help.  Anyway, many times I despaired, but never so much as in the past 2 years.  If you've read my blog, you know I lost my brother to suicide March 17, 2016.  And the story is not all about me, every person he loved was thrown into one form or another of PTSD. Is there ever joy after such a thing?  Maybe not the kind of joy I want but-

Psalm 34 says, to "taste and see that the Lord is Good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."  So I write out Scripture most days just to keep "tasting" truth, whether I feel it or not.  In my low points I see I have nothing to offer, only this - its in my weakness that God is strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9 God has carried me, and He shows up the most when I acknowledge my weakness to Him!  Many years ago God taught me that I had to stop feeling like I had to help everyone be OK.  I had to learn to put my trust in Him.  The gospel that Jesus, the perfect God/man, came to die in my place.  Me a sinner, God the Creator. Wow.  Only THIS GOD can help us be OK.  It's not up to me!

But this time, I struggled with the truth I still believed.  How could I still declare the gospel truth when all I wanted to do was die too?  I felt dead for so long.  It was the grace of God that kept me clinging, praying and writing Scripture through the dark nights (that can linger still).  I would cry out, "God I believe, help my unbelief." from Mark 9:24, and I would declare that God is good over and over.

But I could not talk myself out of feeling the pain or the despair, I had to trust and hope in the God who took on all our pain would come through.  He will one day come for good and we will live forever with HIM.  We will have our families back, and we will be with Jesus who made it all possible!  Now there is some REAL HOPE!  It's true that only God can hold "this much pain..."  I'm sure you can fill in the blank!  He did when Adam 1st betrayed/sinned against Him, and again when He walked on this earth over 2000 years ago.  He felt our pain and died for all of it.  God is love and God is good.  He knew that justice had to happen to sin, and He made justice over sin, His Holy wrath, and put it on His son Jesus.  Traded His perfection for our total imperfection.  And just for the record, in my despair I actually did some apologetics reading!  I know that history truly tells of Jesus the Christ but I wanted to check it out again!  That's OK!! Doubt has driven me to God even more, otherwise I would not be writing this. (Check out The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).

It's all faith, not our ability to fix things or be perfect.  As I grow,  every day I press into God and put things in His hands.  I call it the God Box.  Because Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." There's a real gift!  And there is real HOPE!  Our story may hurt until our dying days, but if we believe in this truth, we have much to live for, far beyond our years on earth!

"If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Romans 10:9-10

There is healing that God brings to our bodies and hearts here on earth, but sometimes not until Heaven.  I find peace in the fact that we are on an eternal journey.  I found the lyrics to this song by Trip Lee very meaningful to me this year.  Interestingly enough, the song is called Sweet Victory!  He wrote it about his long term illness and suffering and how God was meeting him in the mess.  The link and the lyrics are below.  I hope you find encouragement in God's love and eternal promises today.  There is so much more beyond our pain, take your time...  Our story is not over


I have not been writing much because I believe I should only write when it comes over me strong!  I think my love for writing is returning and there is so much more God wants us to share with each other!  I want my sharing to be about God's story.

(If you want to subscribe to this blog just type your email in the box to the right.  I have 88 posts, keep the best and leave the rest!)

This music may not be your style, but the lyrics are awesome!  And I love Trip Lee music!

I feel thorns where my crown was
(I be weak but I'm alive)
From the dusk until dawn yeah
(I'll survive 'cause I got) sweet victory
Nobody can take it from me sweet victory
'Cause I got (sweet victory) yeah
You see me limpin'
I know you see me limpin'
You can't tell on these CD's but bro I'm knee deep in it
I'm waiting in my weakness he may be deep in it
I be lyin' through my teeth to say I don't resent it
Even as I right these lines I'm close to tears
Body ain't be workin' right for 7 years
So miss me with that keep your chin up try to smile
Bro I'm 26 I should feel better by a mile
Keep all your anecdotes and cute quotes
I'll pass some clich├ęs for true hopes it too dope
I feel thorns where my crown was
(I be weak but I'm alive)
From the dusk until dawn yeah
(I'll survive 'cause I got) sweet victory
Nobody can take it from me sweet victory
'Cause I got (sweet victory) yeah
Toast to the King
Cheers to the ceiling
Feeling good we gon' make it to the finish (sweet victory)
You hear me
Holla if you feel me
Yeah we still runnin' even though we limpin' (sweet victory)
'Cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin'
Even though we're winnin' we're still in it (sweet victory)
'Cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin'
Now we livin' (sweet victory)
They see me on the stage
They like that boy the man
They hear play on them songs
They clappin' in them stands
They like "I bet you got a lot of good stuff from other bands"
So when I say it's been a few hard years they think I'm playin'
But you don't know my life boy
You don't know my life boy
You don't know what it's been like on my wife
Don't know my fight boy
Being in the trenches steady tryna' fight my foes
And when I couldn't fight no more it brought me low, low
It brought me low I know can't bet it low
I feel thorns where my crown was
(I be weak but I'm alive)
From the dusk until dawn yeah
(I'll survive 'cause I got) sweet victory
Nobody can take it from me sweet victory
'Cause I got (sweet victory) yeah
Toast to the King
Cheers to the ceiling
Feeling good we gon' make it to the finish (sweet victory)
You hear me
Holla if you feel me
Yeah we still runnin' even though we limpin' (sweet victory)
'Cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin'
Even though we're winnin' we're still in it (sweet victory)
'Cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin'
Now we livin' (sweet victory)
They like I here you talkin' wins but I see your losses
You celebratin' crowns but I see your crosses
That's the paradox that don't fit in your Mary box
You might not understand if you walk in this pair of socks
The Victor ain't the one that's winnin' seventh inning
Trophies don't go to the ones that got a good beginning
When I say I win I don't mean the state I'm in
I mean that day when the grace got fade out then
I'm winning 'cause I ran with Him
The crown of thorn
Declares your King
A scarlet robe can't cloak Your majesty
They nailed Your hands
You mailed our death
From the cross You reigned
Your Kingdom knows no end
Oh, Jesus
You won it all
Oh, Jesus
Oh, Jesus
You won it all
Oh, Jesus
Oh, Jesus

Sunday, March 4, 2018

In the middle. Hang on!

Things often seem dark in January through March - The middle!  The fall crisp colors are gone, and there is typically no pretty snow here in Kentucky.  Spring feels so far away!  Honestly I'm not a fan!  It can make all that's already hard seem even more so.   If you're fighting your way through I'm just sayin', yeah me too.  We all have stories, and we all know people with hard stories, and we all know the news.  But I won't stop there, not today.

Yeah. Life. Hurts. But!

Recently,  my spirit has been reminded in the most gentle ways, that God, the Creator of the Universe humbled himself as a man ( Philippians 2).  He suffered to the point of death, so that even in our suffering, we can have LIFE!  So He too says, yeah me too!  "He sees, He knows, He is making a way." He did this so you and I would know there will be an end to suffering.

Jesus is the reason we can fight FROM VICTORY not FOR VICTORY!  Easter, the ultimate celebration of Jesus is an every day truth.  We don't have to wait for April!  We don't have to wait for Heaven.  He is risen NOW, and because of that, we RISE.  BUT we DO NEED to encourage one another in that HOPE. 

We. Have. Hope!

"13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words."

Many of us have hard days we need to "take back."  If you've been there you know what I mean.  Maybe this season we can begin to take back the joy that God wants us to have.  Because He sees and knows, He doesn't expect us not to grieve the hard, but He holds out His arms to us to Hold us.

This March 17 will be 2 years since my brother left this earth.  I'm finally feeling like "taking it back," bringing back the joy that he brought to that day every year, one of his favorite days!  I'm at least willing to try by the grace of God.  Amen?! And isn't it great that we have freedom to heal at our own pace, and He is watching over us all the while.  

A friend of mine recently reminded me of the Spiritual armor that God gives us and the perspective that we need.  I'm just going to throw out a few chapters of Scripture that I need to keep top of mind.  Romans 8, Psalm 16, Ephesians 6, Psalm 69, Revelations 12:10-11, and Zephaniah 3. Just a snippet from each...

Let. My. Words. Be. Silent. And. God's. Word. be. LOUD!  

Romans 8 says, (be EAGER for heaven, yet PATIENT for God is at work.)

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity,... 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Psalm 16 says, (we have more than the here and now.)

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Ephesians 6 says,

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places...18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication..."

Psalm 69 models a beautiful prayer from the heart of David,

69 Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.

13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

18 Draw near to my soul, redeem me;

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them."

Revelations 12:10-11 says, (let us testify!)

10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,

“It has come at last—
salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ...

11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die.

Reckless Love, by Cory Asbury

Finally, yes, one more... I hope these Scriptures let you "taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34 and that He has a plan far beyond the here and now that will blow us away!  Hang on!

Zephaniah 3:17 says,

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Beauty from Ashes - A Continual Process: (Re-post) There is no "silver lining" It. Is. Red....

Beauty from Ashes - A Continual Process: (Re-post) There is no "silver lining" It. Is. Red....: I wrote this post 2 years ago, on December 23rd, 2015, 3 months before I lost my brother, and we all lost a wonderful man as he went ahead ...

(Re-post) There is no "silver lining" It. Is. Red.

I wrote this post 2 years ago, on December 23rd, 2015, 3 months before I lost my brother, and we all lost a wonderful man as he went ahead to heaven. These words mean even more to me this Christmas. My (our) pain is deep...but also so many friends that I have are in the midst of deep pain this Christmas season. May you find hope here...Jesus.

As I was out running this morning, I was so aware of God really tuning my heart this Advent season.  This will not be an organization of thoughts, but a download of disorganization and how that is OK.

I'm more aware this year than ever, that Christmas in all it's beauty is also pain.  We rejoice in the precious baby, God incarnate being born.  We set out lights, candles, cards, cookies, gifts, traditions rich and meaningful to our families and friends.  But they are meaningless if they don't point to the Cross.

One year we were given a nail ornament, to represent the nails that went into Jesus.  I always hid that ornament in the bottom of the box because I couldn't reconcile putting in on our celebration tree.  I didn't want anything dark to mark our celebration.  But without the darkness, we never see light.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John 1:5

I'm not saying we should mourn every moment of the Christmas season!  The angels sang!  "Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy!  A Savior is born in Bethlehem."  Luke 2:10.  There is great joy in our Savior coming for us!

Coming. For. Us.

As I was running I was thinking about  how much grace I need to cover the gaps in my heart every day.  God is sealing those gaps, but without His grace, I am extreme in all of these:  feeler, empathizer, controller, insecure, fearful.  And without daily coming to Him as my Abba Father, I will be aware of these things to the point of distraction.  Distraction from His love, His joy, His peace, His blood that reconciled all these things to my weary soul so it would not be weary. Colossians 1:20

But in Christ, I am loved, redeemed, accepted, adopted, blessed, chosen, forgiven.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.'  Ephesians 1

When we dwell on our "triggers" they TRIGGER!!  A little thought can pop in my mind and suddenly I am at a # 10 on anxiety.  And I am really terrible at letting others minister to me.  The few times I have let someone in to help me, I have said something like this, "I really need help;  but I know what is going on so I don't need help."  I call, and then push.  Anyone get that?

Well Jesus came to earth and suffered every thing we have and more, yet without sin.  We can trust Him.  I was thinking about how His death burial and Resurrection were the "silver lining."  And then it came to me, it is a red lining.  His blood is what saves us continually, once for all time.  He entered our pain to take on our pain.  I can, we can, call on Him and not push Him away.  I know that it is safe to call on Him, I have a knowing today, that He does not look on my shame, but on His beloved, because of Christ.  That red line came through Rahab, a harlet, just one of the many ways Jesus shows us His unconditional love for us.  That line ran through David and on down the line to us.  He is the "red lining."

So this Christmas I'm wishing Christmas were the first day of the New Year, because it is the first day of the prophecy of the Messiah coming being fulfilled, and it will yet be fulfilled again!  He. Is. Coming.

So let this Christmas have joy, let yourself feel pain, but purposefully shift your gaze when the triggers come, and they will.  Shift your gaze to the Messiah.  He sent the Comforter (Romans 8) to help us in the here and now.  So, even the silly things that weigh me down, I can let go of today.  I love you.  I couldn't wrap my brain around Christmas cards this year.  I didn't even get Josh's senior pictures lined up before the leaves fell.  There is so much I can not do in my flesh, that I could measure myself by.  But this is what is important, Jesus said,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11

He. Is. Here. And. Now.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When Its Deep We Get Tossed Head Over Heals, But Its Not Forever!

The loss of my brother will always take my breath away - that's true for all who miss Joel.  As my heart constricts and my breath leaves, and I feel the deep ache in my chest and throat - even then,  I feel God again.  People said I would, but the despair made it impossible to imagine.  I also know that every day, season, event will bring new filters...

I'm sure that in life, we will always be aware of someone suffering.  The ones who can get closest to our heart are those who have suffered in the same way.  In time our inward suffering calls us to outward action.

A lot is going on in the world.  Where can God use your pain?  If not yet, some day He will, if you offer it up to Him.  Take your time...I'm taking mine.  But when you're His child, He is close, whether you sense it or not. 

God. Is. My. Anchor.

I have hope and a taste of His presence again.  Psalm 34 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."  Many have prayed for our family in our grief.  God calls us to pray for one another.  Thank you does not even begin to express my gratitude.  

Prayer lifts our gaze, lets us confess, praise, intercede, offer thanks.  There is a listening part of prayer too.  Slowing down allows us to hear His response of unconditional love.  
We have a good good Father.I am seeing, and want to see more of
 "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

I am trusting in the truth that we drink from the living waters of hope.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38 and "I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs." Isaiah 41:18  and Isaiah 43:19

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I don't know what God has planned.  But I know that I don't want this pain to be in vain.  My desire is to see God not only continue healing my family and me, but that He would grace us to be living vessels of His love to the hurting.  May the following verses bring you hope today, in what ever you are facing.  And know this, the bulbs we plant down deep in the cold hard winter soil create the most beautiful blooms come spring.  Hold on dear one.

Psalm 42:6-8: 

"O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. 8The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.…"

Psalm 31
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;...

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God."

Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

I had said in my alarm, "I am cut off from your sight." But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:1-3, 5, 7-10, 14, 16, 19, 22-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬ 

This following songs soothes me with the Scripture:

Til The End of Time by Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe

 calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. 
8The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life."
Psalm 42:7-8

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#No Filter

I write my heart.  I write of pain and beauty.  My Blog title, Beauty from Ashes, is not about my beauty at all!  It is taken from Isaiah 61 where the Isaiah was telling of a God-man to come.  Jesus.  

Jesus was going to come,  now Jesus has come, and the full healing of Jesus is to come.  But God wanted Isaiah to give us hope...

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
to proclaim good news to the poor.
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Today at church we read Psalm 130.  David writes of pain, mercy, and waiting, and hope.

A year and 5 months after my brother's death, I have grown and healed, and at the same time I'm torn apart.  Split second interruptions of my thoughts can send my soul back 1 year and 5 months.  

But I have tasted of healing and hope, and so my soul grows in faith.   God is once again, showing me that He wants to create beauty from pain.   He won't waste a moment if we open up to His love.  I don't know what that will look like yet.  My hope is that in some small way, my writing of this journey will be a slice of the hope of Heaven to a soul in need.  

I used to love to throw out bits of hope as I come across them in my own heart.  It's been a long dry spell.  But I am waking in hunger for His presence each morning.  I'm beginning to find and share #hiddentreasures again.  This was my early morning taste of hope from God:

The honest truth about my personal journey of grief is that I sometimes hurt more in church than when alone in the Word.  My mystical view of "church" as a child was that it should always be a happy place.  But church is a "real" place.  A place to bring the brokeness and the pain.  A place to give your heart to those moments you don't understand.  A place to slice off a piece of your own broken heart and share it with someone else who also needs understanding.  Jesus came and took all our brokeness on Himself, so we could look and point to eternity with Him.  Now that is hope!

Get some Jesus from someone further on their journey than you.  
Be you in the moment.  
And give some Jesus to someone coming along behind.

One of the hidden treasures, might not seem like a treasure at first.  I'm not quite there yet myself...but you begin to know how someone else feels in this pain.  You are part of the "inside circle" you never wanted to be a part of.  But you find family in that circle and you begin heal in that circle.  You are one that knows the second year is not easier, it's still raw and the hard part is that life goes on and you're still dealing with such great loss.  I will never see a second year suicide survivor of a loved one again and assume anything, I will know what they need and I hope I can bring a gift with that knowledge.  I also hope to join the army of those raising suicide awareness.  There is work to be done and survivors know what that work looks like.  Often they live in silent pain because they were not able to prevent it.  So many much love needing poured into those wounds.  Who better?...Someday.

I took a walk today, and saw this one lone sunflower in the middle of a construction site.  A picture of beauty from pain.  The dirt and weeds all scruffy and piled in messes all around, the beautiful landscaped part that was finished in the distant background.  

And this lovely yellow smile right in the middle.  Bringing a smile right in the middle of my heart.  This flower needs no filter, it's real, and brilliant and bright mixed in with the dirt and weeds.  Let your self  just be who you are, and lean into Jesus as He does the work.  One day a sunflower will pop right out of your heart and you will breathe again.  

This I know.  

Hillsong United, Wonder

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When the unimanigable is a "filter," a new normal, the "picture" is still there... Hold on to hope!

Today I pray a glimmer of God's light will shine through my brokenness, the many cracks held together only by the Spirit of God. He is my glue. I'm learning that there's always a new filter through which we see life. Each painful experience, changes the way we filter past pain as well. We see everything differently.  With the unimaginable, there can come unimaginable strength as well. At some point we get to the place where this filter, though unwanted and always with us, allows us to see a new kind of beauty. A beauty from pain.  There is no time table for this...

On my drive home last night I saw the sun setting on the horizon of a beautiful Kentucky farm.  I snapped the picture through my dirty car window.  All these thoughts came crashing in.  The window changed the purest beauty of the sun setting, but the sun was in the picture,  and its beauty was still there.

A new strength slowly sprouts from beneath the cement, it's tender and needs nourishment, but a change does begin.  Hope does return.  Memories and belly laughs and big bowls of ice cream come sneaking in.  Isaiah said that Jesus would come to heal the broken hearted in Isaiah 61,  I've always loved and believed this.  But oh how the "filter" has made this truth all the richer:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,"

Jesus quoted that passage about Himself in Luke 4:18-21,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, 

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is always and forever, the true bookends to our measured days.  The truth of His mission was foretold and then announced in the present time, and now is the truth of the cross of over 2,000 years ago that we can cling to for strength for today.  

I did not think I would ever have a flicker of light return.  In fact, there were many days that I thought maybe God's light was snuffed out... I chose to wait in silence.  Not just wait, I pursued healing, but it was so dark.  But, I held onto hope that God would not abandon me.  There is a song, "He will hold me fast."  Those lyrics put me to sleep countless nights.

Brokenness is talked about a lot.  I've been broken before, but never in such a paralyzing way.  In the 15 months since my brother Joel's death I have smiled outwardly, as the shell of my soul hid beneath the hopeless unending questions.  It's not over.  3 weeks ago I had one of those days.  A day of beating myself up for the weight of the pain and its power over me. 

There is no set time or pattern to grief, and the grief of a suicide is a complicated grief, and mixture of tragedy and loss combined.  All grief is different.  And spouses, children, parents, and siblings all grieve differently as well.  But pain is pain and we do not compare, but encourage each individual journey.

My aunt recently reminded me that diamonds are formed in the dark.  John 1:5 talks about the light shining in the darkness.  I claimed that verse for years, and it says that the darkness is not overcome.  But "would I be overcome?"

I have felt God nudging me to look for the hidden treasures in life.  A picture of the geo-cashing that I got to do with Joel.  I felt God saying, your going to keep hurting, but "now I'm giving you the strength to look up and out.  Just keep following me a day at a time."  

I'm learning not to look ahead.  I'm working at being present in this moment.  Another practice that is spreading, but there is real meaning, especially when I can practice His presence...the knowledge that God is with me in this very moment.  I'm beginning to ask for glimpses of Him daily, a practice I once did routinely.  And you know what? God shows up.  Or actually, I see that He is there!

This past week, Steve and I got away alone for a week, a first in 31 years.  Yes, it gave room for the tears to flow, time slowed enough to remember that God says He collects our tears in a bottle.  A time to remember that Jesus wept, that Jesus suffered on this earth so one day our pain could be gone and we will be overcome by Him in all His glory.

On this trip I had this crazy impulse to chase joy in something I would normally fear.  I went para sailing.  This moment made a benchmark in my life.  A moment in time when I chose to allow myself to have fun,  like Joel would want.  A time to mark my smile as real.  

Yes, we've had joy this year;  Kristen and Tyler got married, Kristen graduated from college, Josh and Eliza got a puppy...he named her Zoey after Joel and Tammy's dog.  But I needed a moment, a moment where I could "feel," and also say to my family, God's got this mama and she is going to be OK!  A moment to see that there is life after loss, a life worth chasing so that your broken places are not wasted, but used to come along side others.   But also to realize that there is not a clock for this process.  There is a freedom in that. 

I've been blessed by a precious group called survivors of suicide.  If any of you in the group read this, please know that you received me and my tears, and shared your tears.  Together you were/are an instrument of hope to my soul.  And as new broken souls join, we can together carry one another and point to hope.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I know that we all have different beliefs.  I am sharing my personal journey as I blog.  It used to be about knowing God while dealing with and overcoming anxiety and depression.  But the "filter" has changed.  And as life is fluid, so are anxiety and depression.  But I have found God to flow with me in this river of life.

I have always been very moved by Scripture and lyrics of worship music.  Most recently I've been deeply touched by Hillsong United's album, Wonder.  I've shared some lyrics and links below.  Yet this past Sunday, I had to leave church during one of my favorite worship songs.  It's OK.  I tell you this because the big smile I posted on FB while para sailing points to a moment in time.  A moment when the tide is beginning to change.  The tide is always changing.  And sometimes it brings joy and other times, not so much.  

I just thought maybe it was time to put another stake in the ground of this journey for anyone following behind.  Hold onto hope.  Life on earth is a time to fall forward into Jesus and share light.  One day we will see face to face Who we now often see dimly... Jesus.  We the broken can link arms and move forward. We can in time give faith, hope and love to each other.  Most importantly love.  Jesus says His perfect love casts out fear in 1 John 4:18.  I'll admit, sometimes I'm afraid to love too deeply, because real love hurts.  But its a hurt worth chasing and a chase worth running after.  

There is a movement called the semicolon movement.  It speaks of hope.  Of moving beyond darkness, pressing on, because there is so much more to give, there is no "period" at the end of the sentence...but a semicolon 

And so we move forward, peace be with you on the journey... I have a picture returning to me;  a tall, strong, loving, giving, caring, brother with the warmest smile and best bear hug you'd ever want!

2 Corinthians 4:6-18
"For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” ...
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;"

1 Corinthians 13:12
12 ...Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.…"

"The Garden" by Kari Jobe
I had all
But given up
Desperate for it
A sign from love
Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind

Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep

I realized
You never left
And for this moment
You planned ahead
That I would see
Your faithfulness in all of the green

I can see the ivy
Growing through the wall
'Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

I can see the ivy
Reaching through the wall
'Cause You will stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

Ohh, You're healing broken souls
Ohh, You're healing broken souls

Faith is rising up like ivy
Reaching for the light
Hope is stirring deep inside me
Making all things right

Love is lifting me from sorrow
Catching every tear
Dispelling every lie and torment
Crushing all my fears

You crush all my fears
You crush all my fears
With Your perfect love
Ohh-ohhh, with Your perfect love

Now I see redemption
Growing in the trees
The death and resurrection
In every single seed...

Hillsong United
"Rain / Reign"

Everything starts in You
Made to be beautiful
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the covenant You made for love

Everything moves in time
Played into Your design
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the world You died to save

You fall like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You

Everything finds its place
Folding beneath Your ways
Nothing could stand against
Your resurrected Name

You fall like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

My God
Making all things new
Everything turning from ruin to life in You
Making all things new
Everything turning to something so beautiful!..
Your goodness, Your mercy
Your promise crashing down like rain
Your kingdom, Your glory
Your presence breaking out...

Like rain!
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

Everything ends in praise
Shining in Your embrace
Nothing could tear Your heart
From the promise that remains

You fall like rain
In fire and thunder
The mountains melt
Like wax before You
Your kingdom reigns!
In everlasting grace and wonder
Your love making all things new
Your love making everything beautiful

"Glimmer In The Dust", Hillsong United

I was lost in a moment
A glimmer in time
Like a child chasing shadows
My back to the light
I was lost in a fog till
You caught my eye
Through the smoke and the mirrors
A glimmer of life

I know there’s a place I belong
Where I’ll see the fullness of love
A child face to face with my God Lost in
Your awesome wonder While I wait
I will not be afraid
My faith will remain all the same
My hope in the things not yet seen
Found in the greatest of these

I found love in a moment
Exploding in light
At the cross where the curtains
Were ripped from my eyes
I found heaven in pieces
In glimmer and dust
Broken glass in reflection
Till we shine like the sun

I know that You love me I know that
You love me Your love never fails
Your love never fails
When all’s said and done
All that matters is love
So let love take over
Not just in part
But in all that You are
Let Your love take over

"Splinters and Stones", Hillsong United
Holds nothing on the providence I know
No longer bound to things of wood and stone
When all I had to offer was my worst
You saw my heavy heart and loved me first

Your beauty staring down my brokenness
You chose to throw Your heart into the mess
Compassion crashing down upon my debt You were there

All this time
Like a river running through my failure
You carried me all this time
Like the splinters buried in
Your shoulders You carry me now

If ever now my heart cries hallelujah
If ever now in the wonder of Your grace
A thousand times a thousand years my soul
Will say

You saw the crushing weight my flesh deserved
You kneeled and wrote forgiveness in the dirt
And one by one the stones fell where they lay
As one by one my accusers walked away
With nothing left to throw they made a cross
And knowing only love could count the cost
You were there

All this time
Like a river running through my failure
You carried me all this time
Like the splinters buried in
Your shoulders Your love carried all my shame
Jesus how my soul will praise You
You carried me all this way
Like a diamond in the scars upon
Your crown You carry me now

If ever now my heart cries hallelujah
If ever now in the wonder of Your grace
A thousand times a thousand years
My soul will say
Forever now in the greatness of my Saviour
Forever now in the brightness of Your Name
Jesus on this rock I'll sing Your praise