Category Archives: Lesson

Free to be free…

2016_FebFreedom

Freedom is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Voluntary.
Without restraint.
Without cost.
To set at liberty.
(NIV Life Application Study Bible)

One year ago today, I was seeking freedom. Desperate to escape from a lifetime of hurts, I attempted to take my own life. If you haven’t read my story about that February day, please take the time to read it here and then come back.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s talk about freedom.

Last year, I thought ending my life would bring me the freedom I desired. The depression I have suffered my whole life, the nightmares that still plague my sleep, the memories and flashbacks of pain and abuse, would all be gone. I had no doubt that God would understand and welcome me home. I would finally be free.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

When my plans failed, I faced a cruel reality that any freedom I had would soon be gone as well. I ended up spending three days in a mental hospital, for my own safety of course. Having never been in an actual prison, I can only imagine I had less freedoms than those behind bars. Everything, and I mean everything, was taken away from me. Physically, I had nothing. I also had no rights. All of the freedoms we enjoy daily, were stripped away. I had to ask permission to do anything and even those things were very limited.

I had to ask to use the restroom or take a shower.
I had to wait for someone to unlock the restroom door.
I had to ask for a pen and paper.
I was given the guts of a pen.
I had to ask to make a phone call.

I had to eat when they said eat.
I had to eat even if I didn’t want to.
I had to sleep when they said sleep, even if I couldn’t sleep.

There was no internet (no quick answers on Google, no Facebook, no emails…okay, maybe there was freedom with that, LOL!), no freedom to watch whatever I wanted on the one small television in the group room, no freedom to listen to the radio or any music, no freedom to call whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted, no freedom to wear what clothes I wanted, no freedom to read what I wanted, no freedom to view outside of those walls. It would be days before I would see the sun again.

Freedom as I knew it was no longer. Freedom as I had desired did not come. But that night, February 21st, 2015, I found a new kind of freedom…freedom like nothing I’d ever imagined.

Through the most difficult night of my life, I felt more alone than ever, and yet, I was never alone. I have never felt a greater embrace of comfort and peace than I felt that night. It was like God himself was sitting there next to me with His arms wrapped gently around me as I poured my heart out to Him. I cried for hours that night. I thought of my family at home. I thought of what mattered to me – God, my church family, my husband and children, writing, and teaching. It became undeniably clear that night, those were the things I needed to focus on. Those were the things that could bring life back into my empty heart.

As I sat there in that little room of four walls and a cot, I held tight to the words God had placed in my heart just days before…

“I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

And the words from the song “Shoulders” by For King and Country played over and over in my mind…

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

God had planted those words in my heart and mind in the weeks leading up to my suicide attempt. I feel sure it was His was of preparing me for that night. That verse and those lyrics were exactly what I needed. When nothing else mattered, when everything else was gone, taken away. When freedom no longer made sense, He provided everything I needed.

This past year has been nothing less than amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some incredibly difficult times and I imagine there always will be.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The difference since that night is assurance. I have no doubt God met me there. I have no doubt God is with me. I have no fear of anything this world can throw my way because I know that no matter how dark my world gets, no matter what is taken from me, no matter what is done to me, God will carry me through. All I have to do is let Him.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

That night, God set me free. I have been His for as long as I can remember but there have been times, I have ran from Him, feeling so broken and so unworthy. The truth is, I am worthy because I am His.

The freedom I found was…
The freedom to trust Him and others.

The freedom to let go of myself and let God lead the way.
The freedom to believe in tomorrow.
The freedom to let my heart heal.
The freedom to understand and accept God’s grace.
The freedom to allow others to love me.
The freedom to move forward, unashamed.
The freedom to see the beauty in the broken.
The freedom to rejoice in my sufferings.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:1-5

You see, I do rejoice. I would not trade the choice I made for anything. That choice led me straight into a prison, more trapped than I’d ever felt and yet that choice led me to a freedom greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

“You have freed me from my chains.” Psalm 116:16b

For months, I thought out, planned, and prepared to say goodbye. For months, I waited patiently for the right time. The truth is, there was never a right time for my plan, but what played out was His perfect plan. Through my own chaos and darkness, He met me. He held me. He comforted me. He poured His grace over me. He accepted me. He loved me.

I admit, before that night, I still doubted and wondered if He could truly love me. That night, He freed me from those doubts. He left me with full assurance that I am His and nothing can ever take that away.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Life isn’t magically okay.

I am still just an imperfect girl living in a broken world. I still suffer with depression. I still have moments where those thoughts of suicide creep into my mind. I still have days when I don’t want to get out of bed. I still worry that I am too much trouble for those who love me. I still feel so very inadequate to be a child of God and to be loved by Him. And that’s okay…because through it all, He constantly reminds me that He’s not going to abandon me. He’s teaching me His truth. He’s shown me that He will prepare me, that He will make a way, that He is using me because He chooses me. I think I’m good with that! (…more like very grateful and honored that He’d choose a mess like me!)

Truth is…He gave me the best gift that night. He gave me the freedom to believe I am His. I am His imperfect princess…perfectly imperfect.

Don’t be sad for me.
Don’t pray away my depression or those thoughts.

Rejoice with me in the freedom I have been given. Those things that hurt and sting…they keep me close to Him. If we didn’t face trials, hurt, pain, sorrows, grief, loss, and more, we wouldn’t need Him. I want to need Him with every breath I take and if that means walking through a fire the rest of my life, then so be it. I’ll walk through the fire, just to be with Him.

People said I should have at least gotten sick when I attempted to take my own life. I didn’t. Not dizzy, not nauseous, not confused, not sick…nothing. NOTHING. What I got…was FREEDOM! To God be the Glory!

Above, I shared Psalm 118:17. I will proclaim what He has done! He has set me free!

I pray you don’t have to meet Him in the darkest, lowest, most desperate place…but even if that’s where He meets you, rejoice that you are His!

You are worthy.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are His.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Choose life.
Choose joy.
Choose freedom.
It is well…with my soul.

“It Is Well With My Soul” – Matt Redman

Our scars are a sign of grace in our lives,
And Father how you brought us through
When deep were the wounds and dark was the
Night the promise of Your love You proved.
Now every battle still to come let this be our song.

It is well, (it is well)
with my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul…”

 

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Oh the lessons…

Lessons

My heart sank when I walked in the room.

It was the first night of new Wednesday classes at church.  My class … a women’s Bible study on forgiveness.  (Insert big WOW here for – nothing like a big topic, right?!)

The book we are following, The Unburdened Heart by Suzanne Eller, is simply amazing.  She does a great job of writing so that no matter what your story is, you can relate to the thoughts and feelings expressed in the book.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  So for the past few weeks, I’ve been so excited about how God is going to work in the lives of the women who come to this class, myself included.  I can’t wait to see how he works and the amazing things he will do.

As excited as I was to start this journey, I was filled with anxiety and fear.  I had spent the whole day fretting over praying out loud.  A few weeks back, I shared a little here about how God was working on me with prayer.  Surely I could tackle this praying out loud thing, right?  I was going to do it this semester in class – I would take the reign and pray for the women in my class.  After all, God has been preparing me for this.  Still, I was afraid, nervous, anxious.

Philippians 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Instead, I walked in with nerves raging and quickly noticed an unfamiliar couple sitting in the room – a man and a woman.  Immediately, my heart dropped.  My class was suppose to be only women.  In my head, there was simply no room for a man.  We were facing some really big topics, the possibility of deep, intimate conversations, some that simply wouldn’t be possible with a man in the room.  Without asking him to leave, I gently warned him that the class would probably be all women and that he may feel uncomfortable as well as the women who attended and hinted that he might want to consider a different class.  In most ways, you could say I handle the situation fine but the outcome was not at all what I had hoped for.

The couple left.  Not just left my class … they left the church.  If I had to guess, I’d say they left angry.  Angry that they had made the effort to come.  Angry that they needed my class and didn’t feel welcomed.  Even though my intentions were right, they left angry.

What was suppose to be a light and fun evening quickly started off totally wrong.  I managed to somehow pull myself together enough to get things going.  The class went on, women came, women opened up, we passed the tissue box around on the first night!  It was great and I am absolutely looking forward to the next 11 weeks with this wonderful group of ladies, getting to know them and seeing God working in their lives.

Why did I share the story above?  Well…if you’ve read many of my recent posts, you know that God is really teaching me.  Sometimes, lessons are pretty hard to learn.  Sometimes we have to make mistakes to learn from them.  It’s like riding a bike, sometimes we have to fall before we learn to ride.

This morning, as I’m sitting in the Sunday service, listening to our pastor talk about the man that was born blind that Jesus healed, my thoughts went elsewhere and I thought about the couple from Wednesday night.  Sitting there in church, I kept thinking about what I could have done differently.  Did I really handle it the way I should have?

The answer was simple – it was NO!

I did not do anything wrong by the way I addressed this couple but that doesn’t mean I did it right either.  Perhaps instead of standing across the room and going on and on about how uncomfortable he and everyone else would be, instead of suggesting he go elsewhere, perhaps I could have first of all introduced myself.  I did not even introduce myself.  Here was the this couple I had never met before, in my class, and I didn’t even take the time to welcome them or introduce myself.  Secondly, I could have gone over to them and after introducing myself, I could have leaned in close to inform them that this was really suppose to be a women’s class, however, they were welcome to be there if they choose.  Basically, I could have shown them kindness and acceptance, even if it went against the rules I had placed on the class.

Proverbs 21:13  Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

Philippians 2:4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The thing is, we have encounters like this every day.  God is trying to speak to us and teach us new things every day.  I am so thankful that through this, I learned a very valuable lesson.  I learned to be still, to take the time to acknowledge people, to welcome them, to show them kindness.  I learned not to be so quick to react.  I learned that even when a choice seems right, that doesn’t make it the best choice.

How many times has God tried to teach me something and I failed to see?  How many times have I turned away from his lessons?

While I am so sad that this couple left and the weight is heavy knowing that I am the reason they left, I walk away thankful that through this difficult situation, God is teaching me and that I am able to see it, able to learn from it and hopefully it will prepare me to handle situations better in the future.  Let my mistake be your lesson!

And while you’re here, can I ask you to pray for me?  You see, because I allowed anxiety and fear take over, we failed to pray at all Wednesday night.  I did ask the class to keep the couple that left in their prayers, but I failed to pray for our class and I didn’t even take the time to ask someone else to pray.  I allowed fear to get in the way and that’s not what I want.  I know God has been preparing me for this and I know that it’s not about me, it’s about him.  Please pray for me, that he will use me and give me the words of prayer that my class needs.

 

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When You Seek Me…

SeekMe

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

Several weeks ago, in preparation for the women’s retreat our church was hosting, a group of women’s ministry leaders had gotten together to finalize some things.  Each meeting had been filled with prayer over who would be impacted and affected, how God would work in their lives and ours and more, who would lead the sessions, etc.  Our meetings are always very centered around prayer and God.

During this meeting, the topics for different sessions we would be leading went around.  I quickly offered to do “games” because I’m so good at hiding anything real behind laughter and fun.  As soon as I saw session 4, I knew I had to lead it.  That session was on forgiveness.

I have struggled with forgiveness my whole life.  I have been torn on the idea of forgiving others and forgiving myself.  It’s a constant battle and in many different situations I have faced it seems nearly impossible.  For me to choose this session was very much stepping out, but I knew I had to do it.

As I prepared for my session, I spoke with our women’s ministry leader who suggested another verse to me that was not included in my guide.  The guide followed the story of Malchus, one of the guards who would haul Jesus off to his death after Judas lead the guards to him.  In the heat of the moment, Peter slashed off the ear of Malchus.  Instead of Jesus cheering him on and giving him a big “Kudos!”, Jesus stopped to heal Malchus.  This man, who was getting ready to help put Jesus to death, was healed by Jesus.

Jesus didn’t stop to tell him how awful of a person he was or how wrong he was.  He didn’t fight him or laugh at him.  He didn’t ignore his suffering.  No, he forgave him, for no reason, and healed him.

I can’t imagine how I would feel in that situation.  Terrified?  Angry?

The verse we included to go along with that story was, 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24

When I studied this story in preparing to lead my session, I knew God was working in me.  He was leading me, guiding me to something more.

I lead a Wednesday night class and had already chosen a book for the class that will begin this fall.  A few days after the retreat, I stumbled across a book on forgiveness.  I knew right then, it was the one we needed to do this fall and quickly asked to change my class.

I’ve been reading this new book.  Guess what was the main story in the first chapter?  The story of Malchus and Jesus healing him!  And later in the first chapter, is the verse from Matthew.  I don’t believe that’s any coincidence.  In fact, it’s reassuring to me that I am following God’s lead and that He is working through me and in me.

With all that said, I imagine there will be a bit more to come from me on the topic of forgiveness, considering that seems to be where God is leading me right now :)  Stay tuned!

What a blessing it is when we can clearly see God work in our lives and the lives of those around us!

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

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31 Days | Day 13 – Colorful Blankets

Have you ever had that moment when you realized you just stole the joy from your child?  I have and it’s a hard one to digest.

A couple weeks ago, we heard the excitement in Olivia’s voice as she showed off her fancy made bed to her brothers.  The boys had cleaned and made their beds early in the evening and she wanted to be a big kid like them and do hers all by herself.  She proudly came running into the living room shouting to her dad and I …

“I made my bed!  It’s pretty colors!  Come see!  Come see!”

Of course we went without hesitation to her bedroom.  There, we found about 10 multicolored baby blankets neatly flattened across her bed.  She had done such a wonderful job getting them just right.  I praised her on a job well done and her great choice of colors and asked, “Are you going to sleep under all those pretty colors tonight?”  She quickly replied, “Yep!”

In a completely innocent attempt to give her something special, I said, “Hang on, I have something special for you!”  

I ran to the closet and pulled out the most special blanket.  My grandmother did a lot of sewing.  My mother kept many of my grandmothers fabrics.  She had cut out some Holly Hobby dolls (the profile view of the little country girl wearing a bonnet) and never did anything with them.  Well, several years ago, my mom had a large quilt made for me with those dolls and before we ever even knew about Olivia, she also had a toddler blanket made from them, just in case I ever had a little girl :)

I went in Olivia’s room with this awesome little blanket I’d been dying to give her.  I started to remove her beautiful arrangement of blankets and place the new blanket on her bed.  With excitement, I said, “Here, this is a very special blanket that Nana had made just for you!  Don’t you love it?”

To my dismay, she didn’t.  I had ruined her moment.  Although I had the best of intentions, I had minimized the specialness of her sweet combination of colorful blankets arranged so perfectly on her little bed.

In the end, she did love her new blanket special from Nana.  And for years to come, I will remind her just how special it is that it’s made from my Nana’s fabric and a gift from her Nana. 

Right now, this was a reminder to me though, to enjoy her moments, for her.  To let her have her moments and to build her up through her own creativity.  It was an awakening that I don’t have to fix everything or try to make everything better.  Sometimes things are just right the way she chooses.

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

31 Days | Day 6 – Wrong Feet

Mommy:  “Olivia, your shoes are on the wrong feet.”

(In her best little sassy, hand on hip pose)

Olivia:  “Well, I like them on the wrong feet!” 

Isn’t that just how we are with God at times?  Even though we know what’s right and He knows what’s best for us, sometimes we just want to choose the wrong thing?  He gives us all sorts of signals, instinct, signs and warnings, but often, we just simply ignore them.

Many two year olds have found it quite normal to wear their shoes on the wrong feet.  At this age, they are learning to test their independence.  Olivia loves to dress her self and is very much independent.  I love that about her.  At the same time, it’s my job as her mom to teach her right and wrong.

God teaches us but also allows us to make our own decisions.  Many times, I have chosen to take the wrong path, to do the wrong thing.  Thankfully, He still loves me.  He continues to guide me gently.  And just as God has done with me, I will continue to teach her right and wrong and even when she makes bad choices, I will love her, wrong feet and all :)

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com