Planting Seeds

Little did I know it then, but I think God was planting seeds.  He does that sort of thing.  I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first heard her name.  Naomi.  She had come to our church to talk about her life as a missionary.  It felt odd.  Foreign.  A different world that I couldn’t imagine relating to or living in.

She seemed old, and far away, but somehow I could sense this woman was a saint and I felt drawn to her.  I was both strangely curious and yet terrified that someday God would call me to Africa.

In that church, missions were not emphasized, so this time with Naomi was even more foreign than it should have been. I had so little exposure to God’s heart for the world.

As the years went by, God still planted seeds.  A hunger to learn French in high school.  A mission trip to Egypt in college. Studying a semester abroad and finding a sense of adventure in me.  Studying Greek, and loving it, in seminary.

Little did I know when I planned a birthday party for my son with an international theme, that the nations were being birthed in my heart.  He was just in kindergarten then.  Before long, he will graduate from high school.  And all that time God was planting.

God has brought me to serve in orphanages in Ecuador, China, Haiti, and Mexico. I’ve attempted phrases of Spanish, Mandarin, Creole, and French.

Sometimes when I go to a country, all of my languages and phrases surface with incredible life. I dream and I pray in foreign languages, just bit by bit.  I only know phrases, but they bridge me to relationships and hearts and ultimately nations.  One heart at a time.

I am in awe of Him, how He unfolds visions and dreams over a lifetime.  God grew this heart for the world, for the nations.  When we lived in Wilmore, the Bible Study I went to was vibrant with missionaries on furlough, different languages to hear the scriptures, different countries to hold up in prayer.

I didn’t know when we prayed for our neighbors’ adoption from China that we were fertile ground for more seeds.  About five years later, God called us to adopt from China too, and now the nations feel ever present in our home.  Kingdom fruit.

I’m about to embark on a Conversational Chinese class at a community college next week.  In preparation, I read an e-book called How To Learn A Foreign Language.  Suddenly it all clicked.  I had inklings of how God had a purpose behind my dreams, but this book seemed to solidify them for me.  Here is a quote…

This whole process is as much about THEM as it is about you. There are people waiting to come into contact with you whom you will never have a chance of having meaningful communication with unless you invest this time and effort in learning their language. In doing so, you are honoring their culture and declaring that you have something to learn from them.

That is a vision God has put on my heart.  To enter into a nation, build a bridge to the hurting, and honor the creation of humanity that God so loves.  Because He has reached this orphaned heart, I want to go to the ends of the earth to show others the value and worth of being loved by God.  

Not forgotten.  Seen.  Heard.  Understood.  

If God translates that to COSA’s here in my own world, or to orphans in every nation, the calling is the same.  Build bridges.  Reach hurting hearts.

All of this takes a stretch.  Out of our comfort zones.  Out of busyness or apathy or familiarity.  It takes  a seed of wonder… curiosity… a spark of adventure to go where God leads.  Allowing God to open our hearts to connect with someone else.

It begins with the seed. Being open to what God is planting in you. Search your own heart. Are you being stirred?  Do you have fertile ground for the Master Gardener to cultivate some incredible dreams in you?

Sunshine Breaking Through

How is it, God, that You bless me so?!?  

We have been walking the most hellacious healing journey over the past fifteen months.  Seventy days of rehab, continuing therapy, massive financial commitment to healing, facing raw emotions and ruptures head on, recovery meetings, unemployment, a growing family to nurture, a marriage to resurrect from the grave.

I’ve swallowed enough ongoing trauma and distress to want to give up the fight.  I have cried out to God — this has been too much, too hard, too long.  And from my wretched gut, I have meant it with everything in me.  It has felt like there is absolutely nothing left in me to give.  Stretched far beyond my ability to fathom what God is allowing us to go through, and how his timing is so different than mine.

“One day at a time” is full of great truth and perspective, but there have also been days that it all felt too heavy, too piled up, too far to walk with no end in sight.

Utter desperation before God.  Circumstances that don’t change.  No calls from any job lead.  No update on God’s plan for us.  Uncertainty, anxiety, pounding down like a harsh spring hail.  Unanswered questions.  Prolonged silence.  Even further delays.  How long can God keep us here?  How long can we wait?

And then the sky broke open with such a compelling warmth and sunshine that my heart hardly knew how to respond to such swelling joy.  All of this hard work, our deepest investment of faith and healing, finally took over with such a strong force we couldn’t help but be transformed by it.

The arrival of spring, the birds’ song that penetrates into my soul, the warmth of the air melting frozen places within me, I can feel it.  My heart is being revived and I am coming to new life.

The amazing thing is that we are still surrounded by much uncertainty.  There is still no job to support our family.  Questions remain unresolved and unsettled.  So what has changed?

We have.

God is transforming this adversity and testing into endurance, depth, and wisdom.  Astronomically more profound than anything we have ever walked, this must be preparation ground for something.  We can’t see where he is taking us yet, but our faith is growing.  We are becoming utterly convinced that God must know what he is doing.  He must be good.  He is indeed healing us and making us new.

Maybe it is because we are that desperate.  We know it is not within our capacity to save ourselves.  God is our only hope.  If he can’t help us, we’re completely screwed.  Have you ever been in a place so deep???

If you haven’t been there, I’m sure my words seem strange.  Maybe you can’t relate.  But, if you have walked seasons so dark and so hard that you weren’t sure if you could survive them, you are not alone.  I’m walking them too.  And God is so near with his purpose, his transforming power, his infinite grace, that this horrific journey is actually a privileged place to grow.

We don’t get to choose our classroom at times.  We play the hand we’ve been dealt.  We learn to accept the journey before us and make the most of it.  Embrace it, believing if God can work anywhere, he can work in this.

And in a way that only God can, right there in the midst of what you’re walking, he brings on the sunshine.  Simultaneously allowing us to experience pain, growth, and new life.  Even when it’s hard, and long, and far too much.  Suddenly you are so profoundly grateful for what he has allowed, because there is nothing so amazing as what God can do.  Glory!!

 

 

 

 

 

This thing called Recovery

Recovery is an odd term — one that I resisted because it didn’t seem to suit me.  It seemed unfamiliar and abstract, like I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  As my husband began his journey into recovery seven years ago, I supported him.  But it wasn’t my journey.  He is an addict — and I wasn’t sure that recovery was relevant to me.

Back then we took a mediocre walk in recovery. It was barely beginning, like dipping our toes in the water and calling it a swim.  But it was all we knew at the time.  He went to meetings once a week, unless a family event for one of our kids took priority. As for me, I really had no understanding of what recovery meant.

I tend to think long, deep, and slow.  It takes awhile for something to sink in for me to get it.  It comes in layers.  It starts off in a distant abstract thought, and then it hones in to something I can make sense of.  Recovery for me was like that.

Today I’m drawn to recovery for what it means to me.  Realizing that my old self was unhealthy, it is living into something new. This process of growth takes time.  Often we don’t even know what is unhealthy if it is all we ever knew.  The old ways don’t work and I finally see that.

Recovery is honesty.  It is allowing myself to feel my feelings and embrace my humanity.

Recovery is self awareness.  It is moving away from denial and avoidance, into reality.

Recovery is self affirming instead of self negating.  It is healthy self care and setting boundaries.

Recovery is about connection instead of isolation.  It is cultivating safe and supportive relationships for our growth.

Recovery is one day at a time living.  It is cherishing today and investing my life well.

Recovery gives me a path toward healing and growth.  It gives me steps to take to ground my footing.  It brings me to a new place where I can thrive.  I can flourish.  Fully alive.

Daily Steps

I continually wrestle and battle with grace.  My humanity comes to the surface, longing for acceptance and welcome.  My shame batters it and beats it down.  Pressure comes as a familiar foe.

I have to intentionally plant my heart in hope.  I’m surrounded by distress and anxiety, fears that tempt to encroach me.  One by one, I have to set them aside. Choose Hope.  Life.  Healing. Growth.

Recovery comes in the moments.  The daily steps.  The choices we make in how to frame the opportunity before us.

Perhaps the ongoing trauma feels so heavy, so life threatening, that we just want out. Internal stress pile up.  No end in sight and endurance chokes.  Who can survive?

I go back, again and again.  Daily.  In those moments,  I get grounded in truth and light and perspective.  Solid footing.  Without it, the storm would destroy me.

Julia Cameron writes of the grace that needs to accompany our journey.

…it is necessary to go gently and slowly.  What we are after here is the healing of old wounds — not the creation of new ones…. Progress not perfection…

Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves.

Grace beckons me to come and rest.  Be still here.

Allow the calm to soothe my spirit.  There is purpose in timing.

Accept that where I am is okay. This step. This one small step is significant.

Slow down.  Live just this moment, and live it well.

 

Gather Hope

How do we live into hope?  How do we unpack such a thing in our hearts?

It is something we are reaching for that hasn’t come yet.  It is looking, watching, and waiting.

It is not knowing when, or how.  Keeping our hearts expectant, alive, and fresh with wonder.  Even when some days it hurts to lift our head.

It is living with more ambiguity than answers.  Accepting uncomfortable, because that’s the reality of where we are.  Planting our faith in this moment, to see God here.

It is courage to know this story hasn’t been fully written.  There is more to come.  I have yet to see, but it is coming.

How do we hold onto this longing in our hearts — this thing that keeps us walking forward — when our storm hasn’t passed and our spirit wears thin?  Because for anyone willing to admit it, life can be really, really hard.  And if you’re walking that, it’s painful.

I’ve lived enough trauma, walked enough healing, to have some idea of how to go through.  There are no simple formulas, but I’m grateful for this journey: while it has been seasoned with pain, it has also grown wisdom.

I want to offer one glimmer of inspiration that God has given me over many seasons and years of pain.  Gather hope.

You actually have to gather it.  Just like the Israelites had to leave their tent each morning to pick up the manna God provided for that day.  Gather hope.  Surround yourself with encouragement and truth.

I gather quotes, scriptures, songs, and reread them over and over until they sink down deep into my soul.  I gather clippings from emails, books I’m reading, facebook and twitter.  I make playlists with songs that encourage me for that season.  I light candles, turn on lamps, and constantly bring myself back to hope.

Things will resolve and unfold over time.  But as we wrestled with how hard it is to wait in recent posts, we have to cultivate hope:

God’s wait is so purposeful.  He is accomplishing transformation in our hearts that we can’t yet fully see.  He is orchestrating details for what will unfold next. But we’ve got to give him time.

It’s a one step at a time kind of progress.  Perhaps slow at times, but I’m realizing slow isn’t a bad thing.  It is the time you give to something of quality.  Something that matters.  Something deep. And how you get there is just one moment, or one day, at a time…  and then the next.

What is hope if you already have the answer and the clarity?  Where is the wrestling and growth in that?  We hurt, we stretch, we get uncomfortable….but our lives are transformed there.

We will come through different than when we began.  Stronger.  Healthier.  Deeper.  More whole.  If we invest well.

So as we wait, as our hearts long for something yet unseen, let’s hold onto the gifts God gives us along the way. Gather them up.  It will sustain us to walk another day.

(If you want to follow me on twitter or facebook, I attempt to post words that bring life, faith, and hope.  I’d be honored for you to join me in that journey.)

A Willing Sacrifice

I’ve been wrestling with time.  I cannot master it.  It is a gift given in the moments, but I cannot control it and make it go faster or slower. I can only commit to living it well.  Protect it by blocking out distractions.  Being present with now, for what God has for me here.

It is so hard to give something to God when it ultimately makes us uncomfortable.  Can we willingly give up and surrender things that we don’t like…..specifically, God’s timing?

Can we live in places that are for our benefit, our healing, or our growth, if we would prefer not to be there?  Maybe this place stirs up pain, or unresolved places without answers, or brings us work to do within ourselves.  “Outside our comfort zones” is an understatement.  It stretches us far beyond ourselves.

We have past the point of the year mark where Todd last had a job.  The only clarity I found in prayer was that healing had to come first, then the job.  That became the only path we knew to follow.

God has led us forward, one step at a time, to spacious places of healing.  It has involved rehab, therapy, marriage counseling, and more therapy.  It has connected us with support groups, recovery, studying countless books, and dealing with our stuff.  It has taken us deeper with God and deeper with ourselves.

You would think that we could have the open door that I’ve prayed for unceasingly.

But God has said, not yet.

I’ve been willing to share our story for the greater good of those who might need someone who understands their journey.  For God to be glorified in our mess.  For hurting hearts to be reached.

A friend shared with me about a woman deeply struggling in her marriage.  I felt God give me this post for her, and for others.  I thought about the ones who are new at the two different support groups I attend.  I see the pain in their eyes and I feel it in my own heart.

Just newly raw, starting out on the journey of recovery.  My heart is deeply tender and compassionate for them.  My own story is still so fresh.

I wonder if I could open my own journey and show you the hope that Jesus has put there.  It doesn’t come from shallow platitudes, easy answers, or distant indifference.  It comes from my journey through the pain.

My heart is overflowing with hope.  Sometimes — and I remember the feeling well — we have to borrow hope from others.  We need them to believe for us.  We need them to help us hang on, because on our own we are too overwhelmed.

The surroundings I am in are critical to get this.  Coming from a place where my own prayers are still waiting.  Where my circumstances are uncomfortable, and still painful at times.  And even here, even now, there is hope.

God’s wait is so purposeful.  He is accomplishing transformation in our hearts that we can’t yet fully see.  He is orchestrating details for what will unfold next. But we’ve got to give him time.

There is hope.  Wait it out.  Give him time.

We can’t skip today’s work because it prepares us for tomorrow.  We want to rush out of the pain, rush past the work, but we will miss something crucial.

Perhaps your answer hasn’t come yet.  Your marriage hasn’t fully healed.  Neither has mine.  But I can live today, and give God my willing sacrifice.  Yielding my timing for his.

He has given me just a taste of the joy that’s coming.  Enough to know that there is greater joy ahead than any pain or trial we’ve had to walk.  We don’t have to walk alone.  We can do this.  We can do hard.

 

 

 

Small Steps

I am recovering perfectionist.

I’ve learned enough about myself to know I wasn’t attempting to put on appearances, although I had been raised to do so.  It was more about calming my environment, so that I could ultimately soothe my inner world.  It gave me something to delight in, having things in order and done with gusto and fine attention to detail.

The problem was, it was killing me.

I have come to realize that I had an enormous pile up of pressure.  Decades of demands I have pushed on myself.  Endlessly, tirelessly, expecting more from myself.  Until I couldn’t do anymore.

Suddenly what my soul hungered for was Grace.  Humanity.  Limits.  Recovery.

When you are that desperate, that starved, something has got to change.  And praise God, it has.  An entire shift in my thinking.  A welcome embrace of my own humanity.  Learning less pressure and more grace.  And moving into this new reality, this recovery, I just might be able to live and not die.

I’ve learned it comes in small steps.  One decision, one moment at a time.  A shift in thinking that I don’t have to push harder.  If I kept up the pressure, I’d either explode or collapse.  No longer.  Instead, every small thing I do helps.

Out with the old, in with the new.  We took some Christmas money and I redecorated our kitchen with the smallest touches.

This isn’t where I hung them, but these are the simple daily affirmations that greet me.  I have a few fresh containers for napkins and cooking utensils, a new five dollar rug for under the kitchen sink, a place for fresh fruit.  You would think I have a whole new house, it  feels so good.

Sometimes we feel bound up in fear.  Things feel so desperately hopeless that we get stuck.  If you have battled depression, as I have, it can be empowering to hear how much a small step can help forward motion.

“Over time these small steps lead toward recovery.”

No matter how hard the task may seem, no matter how much you hope to accomplish….or for me — how many books I hope to read and study and sit with (for more hours in the day than what I’m given)….you can do something.

As Jon Allen writes, “You still have some energy and some motivation — at least some of the time.  

We must distinguish between difficult and impossible.  Hope lies in the difference.”

I learned many powerful things through The Meadows this past year.  My husband spent ten weeks in rehab there, and I was deeply blessed to support him through family week.  I spent an additional week working on trauma at Survivors Week.  I highly recommend this place.  God has profoundly used The Meadows to change our lives.

One thing that my therapist at The Meadows taught me was about moderation.  Recovery is a life of balance and moderation.  To be healthy, to have balance, to live in moderation, you often only need to take a few steps toward the middle.  Maybe your life has been out of kilter, on some unhealthy extreme.  Healing is not in moving completely in the opposite direction, or you would be off balance again.

Just take a few steps towards health.

It dawned on me in a life changing way.  Even a few steps of redirection can be the moderation and adjustment I need.  Reflecting on each adjustment, each step, I realized the power it holds.  This very process will lead to transformation.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: Progress not perfection.  Take the next right step.  (Ahhh.  I sit back and smile.)  And to think we don’t have to kill ourselves with the pressure, and our life can really change.
Progress.  That’s something I can live into.