When it hurts

Bodie Ghost Town Storm

What do you do – when it hurts?

When the fear has gripped you, the pain no longer protects you and all you want to do is run? You know the feeling don’t you? The uncertainty, the unfamiliarity and in fact, sometimes the insanity! You just want to quit, give in, move on and not look back. Anything, just anything to get rid of the pain you posses and the pain that possesses you.

Like that storm that looms over the horizon is the weight of the world upon your shoulders. You often can see the clouds descend and move in as the sky shifts from the beautiful hues of blue to foreboding clouds of grey.  There is a storm a comin’ and there is nothing you can do to stop it!

Allow me to share a story with you – perhaps you know it – soak it in again….

“There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

There is so much to share from this parable of the Lost Son, so much!

Consider the son – he approached his father requesting his inheritance. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that wasn’t an easy task. Maybe he did it full of pride, maybe not, Scripture doesn’t tell us. But he knew where to go, the Father! Then off he goes with the money – yes, all of it. He squanders it, wastes it and it dries right up. Do you think the Father knew his son would behave this way and lose this inheritance? Well of course He did – yet freely the Father gave to his son!

Verse  14 says, “After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt.” The son who had so much now had nothing at all. He was in need, he was hurting and fear had began to grip his heart. Scripture says he longed to feed on the pods and the slop left over from the pigs. Can you imagine? Being at a place of such hunger that you long to eat the scraps off the table? There he was hunger panged, destitute and weary – wanting relief. Empty.

Finally, the beautiful words…..he came to his senses!

Sigh. Why is it when we are overcome with pain, our senses get skewed? Our motivation, zapped. Our hope, dashed. It took the son to lose everything he ever possessed and trusted in to learn to let go. To release himself and realize he is not the one in control in the first place. The same Father he sought out for the inheritance in the first place, he can seek out again – not for a gift, no. For  restitution, for repentance and forgiveness.

I love the Father’s response!

The Father is watching, waiting and searching for the return of His son. This is not some idle Father ticking off the days on the calendar waiting for his son to do the right thing . Oh no! This is an active Father seeking and longing for His son. In fact, Scripture says when he sees his son, he runs to him and embraces him.  Wait, what? Runs and embraces – the first response of the Father is to hold his son! Before a word is spoken, the arms of the Father wrap around him in his shame, his guilt and his humiliation – and love him. No pointing finger, no shaking of the head or “I told you so’s.” Love.

As the son confesses he uttered harsh words revealing his despair “I am no longer worthy…” eeks out from the depths of his being. What does the Father do? So divine. He hears his son and immediately says, “but” –  it’s almost like, “never mind that!” You think you aren’t worthy? Let me show you how worthy you are!  The Father was so overcome with joy that the time had come to celebrate. Did you catch that? He didn’t focus on the just the words, but the sons heart. He didn’t ask for him to grovel to redeem himself, the Father gave again – and forgave! This forgiveness must have tasted so much richer to the son than the inheritance, don’t ya think?

How marvelous the Father’s love! Will we ever fully comprehend His love?

What happened when his brother came home from working in the fields and heard the celebration? He was overcome with anger and even refused to participate in the celebration. He had been faithful and honored his Father. It seems he has a reason to be upset, perhaps even justified in his anger. Yet, focus on the Father’s response. He reassures his son of the joy in being in relationship with him, but insists – we had to celebrate –  “This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

Good news!

Such good news, this Father’s love. This waiting, searching, redeeming, forgiving love. This love that’s not looking at the blessings I have squandered, the wealth I have lost, the time I have mismanaged  – the brokenness in relationships, the pain I hold onto to. For the Father searches for me in the same way He searched for his son. He rejoices in communion with me and he assures me of the sovereignty of his grace and embraces me as I return to Him, again and again.

For you see, I am a prodigal.

You may be like me and allow the storms of life to overtake you. Hear the wind whip up and find yourself cowering. You may yearn for the pods that at cast upon the floor as unmentionables. You might be tempted to reject the Father’s love, refuse to celebrate with joy as we witness His grace poured out for others.

Beloved. Focus on the Father’s love and not one thing more.

Not the inheritance lost, but the one gained! Feel the arms of the Father envelope you as you walk into His embrace for He’s been searching for you all along. Are  you a prodigal? It’s okay! Come to your senses my friend.

Choose Him.

5 Minute Friday ~ Visit

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I stand at the door and knock. No wait, I sit at my computer screen – and write.  She’s there waiting for me on the other side. My friend, we visit. Oh how we visit!

I have been blessed with the most precious friend.  I have found that the more I visit and get to know her, the more I want to spend time with her. It’s like drinking in a fine wine. You savor it at first, letting the flavor enlighten you as you ingest. But eventually it’s so good you just have to drink a good long swig!

My friend and I, we dive deep. We’ve explored the depths of one another’s hearts already in the short time we have been together. She’s scaled a few ravines in dark, hard places and I have thrown her the rope a time or two to tie around her waist and pull her up. Oh wait, or was that she to me?

I smile.

That’s the thing about this friendship. The more we visit, the more we see Him. God! The one who brought us together in the first place. The author of life, the provider of hope, the giver of grace and crafter of love Himself. He pours into the crevices of our hearts and the more we share and speak, the more we see it’s Him! He’s writing on the walls of our hearts, creating symphonies with songs of praise and thanksgiving and drawing maps to guide our way. Not to the destination, oh no – just where to take the next step.

Isn’t that what happens the more we visit with precious friends? We commune in such a way, that love is found, is given and is shared.

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This post is part of Five Minute Friday’s, a five minute weekly reflection on a word prompt. No edits, no do overs, just write.  “No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”

I Am Accepted

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Today, I go deep. It’s time to really share.

I started this blog for a specific purpose, to discuss and process through my lens of life the daily journey of what it is like to live with life threatening health issues, chronic pain and the doubts and fears that can arise from such a struggle.

This is no small feat and nothing that will change in one blog post, or with a new day upon me. It’s a true struggle as you wrestle in your life to regain control and find a new normal and just live, once again.

There’s no wisdom present, no answers quickly given, just raw, honest truth. Since I am a person of faith, I use that filter to sift through my thoughts, the fears and the journey. I am glad you are here to walk with me. So, where do we start?

The hardest place.

The most difficult thing to face living with health problems is probably not too much different than what I suspect others face in their own circumstances.  The hardest thing to deal with is quite frankly, the person staring back at you in the mirror –  me. No, not the weight you need to lose or the wrinkles that continue to emerge on your face.  It’s what’s going on inside your mind, inside my mind. These unexpected circumstances add daily challenges to everyday life. You just can’t live in denial – you must face the facts, whatever they are, including the weight to lose. But, what if the answer didn’t lie in the scale, or in the food, but in your head?

In our thoughts.

The only experience I have is my own, and it’s that voice in which I speak. I am a survivor. I have survived 3 pulmonary embolisms and 5 DVT’s. (blood clots) While I am eternally grateful for the blessings of a new day, I still had to accept that my life would not and could not be the same again. There is a very high probability that I will have another clot someday and when I do, I may not survive this time. I don’t say this to be dramatic, no. I say it because statistically speaking, it’s true.  So, how I choose to live from this moment forward drives me. Each day I awake with a fervent desire to live life to the fullest and be walking in truth. So in the morning when I see myself in that mirror I can have peace knowing I am being who I was created to be.

I want to live an authentic life.

I am in the process right now about rediscovering what this means.  I’ve spent way too much time trying to prove myself or find worth in what I did, rather than in the person I already am. There is nothing like the harsh reality of the short time span we all have on this earth to reawaken the deepest truths and fears within us. Life is short, and frankly, I want to live it.

Once I began to finally accept my limitations imposed upon me by all the clots and the damage they did to my lungs and my legs – it was time to reexamine how I was currently living. With more challenges looming ahead, this is what I learned. You have to realign your thinking, change the expectations you place upon yourself and let go of your life as you once lived it.  Sometimes this is a drastic elimination of commitments, a temporary setback or  you can chose to keep on living the way you had all along and eventually, it will catch up to you. Been there, done that!

To some of you reading this may seem like nothing new at all, it’s how you approach life. But for a co-dependent, fear filled woman who allowed others to chart her way through life and masked it all under the guise of Christianity and servanthood – these continual, consistent health problems were my wake up call and my greatest blessing.

You see, I based my identity on what I did, how I measured up, what others thought of me. I have battled it my entire life, but none so much as when I was living in circles of a faith community which for me and in my interpretation, reinforced my dysfunction. This is not to say the faith is dysfunctional, no, just the interpreter. I was the problem. I lived the life of a victim, and I lived it well.

Life circumstances being what they were, it’s how I coped.

So, this health crisis I’ve undergone, it’s been totally worth it. The constant doctor visits, lab work, medical tests and years of ongoing medical care. Worth each and every penny. Not because I can afford it, no, but because I can’t afford to continue to function and live my live the way I had been living. It took this crisis in my body to bring me to a crisis in my heart. It challenged me to seek Jesus on a deeper level and in doing so, I not only found Him, but I found me.

“Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you.  All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. And he who knocks, will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

For over 30 years I’ve been knocking on the door, continuing to knock, for the opening that Jesus says will come. I am sure He’s been opening doors for me before and I have been just too blind to see it.  Some doors I remember seeing clearly and I cowered in fear to walk through them. Others, I sprang forth and lept through!

What are your doors?

Maybe you can’t even find the doorknob, never mind the door. Perhaps you are searching for the key to unlock it yourself. Jesus say to continue to knock. Can you hear Him? Don’t give up! Find a way to form that fist and pound if you have to. Keep on knocking, use all the strength you can muster and gently knock.

Trust Him.

When the time is right, He will usher you. The Risen One Himself will reach out with Hands of glory to embrace you. When He does it won’t matter if you have your physical health, or your emotional health – all He concerns Himself with is your spiritual self. Jesus accepts you.

My first door has been learning to accept myself. If Jesus could accept me, why couldn’t I?

Finding myself, my true self, not the one I presented to the world has been a hard journey so far. It’s like digging for treasure. Sometimes you dig and dig and hit something and you think it’s a chest full of gold, but really it’s just another boulder in the way to the real treasure lying somewhere. Hand Him the shovel, let Him dig, watch Him sweat. He already has the map to my heart anyway, invite Him to chisel away and just let go.

Allow Him to chip off the fears, the insecurities, the doubts about who you are. Invite Him to recreate and renew your heart and accept with gratitude who you are and who He is. He is God. I am not.

I am accepted – and I am finding my way in Him.

If you are struggling with a current health crisis, know this, you aren’t alone. If you are wrestling to accept who you were created to be, know this, you can find a way. There is hope, HOPE.

Just stand at the door – knock.

Living in truth?

Denial

While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard. One of the Chief Priest’s servant girls came in and, seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, “You were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

He denied it: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He went out on the porch. A rooster crowed.

 The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around, “He’s one of them.” He denied it again.

After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again. “You’ve got to be one of them. You’ve got ‘Galilean’ written all over you.”

Now Peter got really nervous and swore, “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.” He collapsed in tears.” Mark 14:66-72

Denial.

Flat out, straight from our heart – nope, I didn’t know it, didn’t do it, didn’t say it and even didn’t think it! Denial, refusal, rejection – ways in which we deflect ourselves from dealing with the reality of the situation before us.

In this story from Scripture, Peter was faced with the ongoing questions about his relationship and his commitment to Jesus the Nazarene., “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Here Peter denied knowing Jesus, the Christ, three times before the rooster crowed. His denial was not a one time occurrence, oh no! He refused, again and again, to acknowledge his relationship, his experience and his love for Jesus.

Wow.

Just drink it in. The man Peter who did so much for His Lord Jesus, had this moment where he couldn’t accept the truth that knowing Jesus would hurt. Admitting He knew Jesus at the moment left him open for accusation, shame, distrust and mockery. Peter didn’t want to feel it, experience it or go through this public disapproval. I believe he feared it. Jesus was before the Sanhedrin that very moment, standing silent against their false testimony about Him. (Mark 14:61) And Peter, in his denial of His Lord, spoke volumes.

Denial, it does that.

It starts with one refusal of the truth  and next thing you know it is planting and growing seeds of mistrust and disunity wherever it lands. We all could confess to some denial in our lives, don’t you think?  We often refuse to admit the truth of who we are in our very inner being. We share part of ourselves with the world, to the communities and even to our families. Perhaps our marriages are a mess, or maybe we harbor an addiction we try to keep under wraps. It could be we just don’t want to face the pain of our past so we just keep looking forward thinking that will “fix” it. We focus everywhere we can, pointing fingers of blame elsewhere, rather to face the truth we find in the mirror.

We are afraid.

Fear is the bedrock of denial. We fear what others think. We fear what might happen to us. We fear our reputations to be amiss, our family life to be torn asunder and our belief in who we are, rejected. Rather than speak truth and shine authenticity into the world around us, we deny the power of truth.

It is when we choose to speak the truth that invites transforming power and hope of God to a life filled with denial. Fingers may continue to point your way, self rejection and shame may consume you and make you want to flee. You do have a choice.

Choose truth.

Let the warped sense of reality that denial brings fall away.  Invite Jesus into this place and let the power of God’s Spirit  speak into a dark, dry place. This place in our hearts which yearns for hope, craves acceptance and desires freedom. I encourage you today, from someone who is a Peter. I’ve lived in denial and shown only part of who I am to those around me. There is freedom in being you. Don’t deny being the person God intended you to be.

Face your fear, and live!

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.

Happy New Year?

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It’s a few days past from all the Happy New Year wishes, the resolutions, the goals being set and the reality of the true new year sets it.

It’s just another day isn’t it? Any step along the road you trod. A walk along the journey of your life where you are privileged to be – you. With each new year there is this sense of a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to be made new. Dreams are remembered and hopes are set before you once again as you try to prioritize and discern the essence of who you are and where you are headed.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just plan it all out and it would fall into place?

Yeah – right! I know, I know, but please just stick with me for a minute. For years I lived my life thinking I could organize this shelf, pick up that room, move the clutter about and somehow it would dethrone the anxiety off the seat of my heart. If things had a system,  if I could manage paperwork, errands, shopping – oh the list could go on and on! Mine certainly could, how about yours? With the start of a new year, there is this yearning within me to gather my thoughts together and order them on paper. Somehow stream them into a nice, neat and orderly list. I can write to-do lists, organize clutter in closets, clean out things not worn in over a year. It may take some time as the things have stacked up, but sure, I can do that.

But the heart, just how do you gather that?

It’s like somehow believing you could heal yourself as you reflect upon broken lives, unfulfilled promises and shattered dreams. How do you reign in and order, chaos? It’s not with lists written on paper with pen and ink that transform our thinking. It’s not with resolutions that we muster strength for obtaining goals in our lives. It’s not with unfailing strength that we fortify ourselves against painful experiences.

No.

That would be trusting in yourself. While it’s true, there is beauty and freedom in finding who you truly are and have been created to be. There is a sense of purpose and of dignity as you gain hope not in lists or in items scratched off. No. There is freedom in releasing yourself from the expectation of measuring who you are against such a list. Each moment you strive to better yourself or to unlearn a behavior you are in fact, accepting that perhaps the way you have handled it all along may not have the best. But handle it you did.

It’s with our mistakes, it’s in our brokenness and with these unfulfilled lives that we become seekers. Searching out purpose and meaning. It’s these moments in our lives that we find ourselves asking questions we didn’t even know we wanted the answers for, that we begin to see light in the darkness.

We see, even when we didn’t know it was dark.

As you begin your new year and the resolutions you penned in ink are dry, yet they are ablaze within your heart. They kindle like a burning ember reaching down to deepest part of who you are. I encourage you today, this moment, to seek out and not depend on your own understanding, oh no.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!” Proverbs 3:4-5

God is real. He is true. He will be there for you. You can trust Him.

There is peace in not figuring it all out on your own. There is hope in knowing you can trust that if the dreams do shatter  – God can pick up that shard and graft it into piece of art taking away the sharp painful edges and make you a new creation. He is a transformational, renewing and redeeming God.

In this new year, let Him make YOU new.