Tag Archives: God

Scarred but not ashamed…

Earlier today, I shared an image (below) on my Instagram and Facebook pages along with this message…

Scars are a reminder that wounds can heal ♡ Stay tuned… #scarred #Psalm118 #notashamed #byHiswoundswearehealed #itsbeenajourney

I’ve worn scars most of my life. At times, I’ve hidden them. Other times, I’ve been open and honest. I once carried a great deal of shame with my scars but I am not ashamed. They are a part of who I am and where I have been. They mark my journey, which hasn’t been easy.

Today, they aren’t gone…just different.

Not to cover them, but to give them more meaning, I spent some time today with a gentleman named Mike…

Mike is a butcher by day and I guess you could say another kind of butcher by night as a tattoo artist. He’s twenty-seven. He was raised in a religious home and currently lives with his parents to save money. We had the chance to talk a lot. He told me he’d stopped believing because he’d had too many questions and not enough answers. He shared stories with me and I shared with him. I didn’t push him or try to force my beliefs on him but he was graciously open to me sharing the significance in the choices I made for my tattoo as well as some backstory on my scars.

I want to share with you the significance in my tattoo as well…

First, it’s my right wrist…

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

The crown of thorns and the cross remind me…

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

The cross was also drawn from the cross on the necklace I wear daily.

The puzzle represents the small bit of life we see and knowing God sees the bigger picture. I may only get a puzzle piece here or there. I may often feel alone and invisible. But God knows.

The teardrop represents the moments when crying wasn’t safe, the years I spent unable to cry, the tears I’ve finally been able to share in the place I’ve felt safest, and this promise…

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

The dove represents peace and hope, both of which I’ve desperately needed and He has graciously and freely given. In the doves mouth is a ribbon of teal and purple which speaks for suicide awareness. Teal is also the color for childhood sexual abuse awareness…both of which have impacted my entire life.

The dove also speaks for the innocent that can’t.

And Psalm 118 …

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:

“His love endures forever.
Let those who fear the Lord say:

“His love endures forever.”
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;

he brought me into a spacious place
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.

I look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me,

but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They surrounded me on every side,

but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
They swarmed around me like bees,

but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
I was pushed back and about to fall,

but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my defense;

he has become my salvation.
Shouts of joy and victory

resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;

the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live,

and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:17 was shared with me a couple times before I ever knew I’d need it. Then on February 21st, 2015, I realized just how much that verse would come to mean. It was the moment I found myself at the lowest, loneliest place I’d ever been, yet God met me there.

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

Life is beautiful and ugly. Moments still come when I question giving up but this verse reminds me He is in control and all things in His time.

Now, I wear it…proudly.

Each of these pieces were very carefully thought out and planned as far as the tattoo goes but I believe God was working through this just as much as I was. I was blessed to meet and spend the day with Mike and his co-workers, to be able to share with them a little of my life, and maybe even bring a little light into theirs.

Not only will this serve as a meaningful mark for my own reasons, but it’s also a reminder for me to pray for Mike and be thankful for sweet blessings.

 

A Raging River…

>>>>> Yes, this post is incredibly long…what do you expect when it’s been so long since I posted. Don’t click away. Bear with me, read it until the end. Please. <<<<<

2017 Raging River

The past few days have been quite overwhelming. Change is inevitable yet so often, difficult to accept. Loss is painful, excruciating. This sums it up…

Life.

Let’s say you’re on a journey. We each have a different path. Some have flowers and butterflies early on and some have briars and thorns. Maybe some have briars and thorns the whole way. Let’s say the briars and thorns are the hurt, pain, and trauma that stings, cuts, and scrapes like the briars. Then you make it to a river. It’s fierce. It’s scary. You know to get to the path on the other side, free from the briars and thorns, you’ve got to cross the raging waters. And let’s say therapy is the stones laid out before you. You just have to take the step. You make it to the first one, catch your balance, plan out your next step and prepare to move forward. Some stones may be slippery. You may twist your ankle. It’s not an easy crossing but you press on. You step to the next stone, getting closer and closer to the other side.

The let’s say grief gets in the way. Grief over loss, losing the stones. It stops you in your tracks. There aren’t anymore stones laid out for you to step across. All you see is raging waters. You feel the sting of cold water splashing against your scraped and scratched up legs. You feel lost and alone. You wonder if there is hope…but as you glance back at the stones you’ve crossed, you’re reminded there is hope. You found it a few stones back.

Where do you go from there?

Your journey halts. You’re stuck on that stone for who knows how long while the water crashes around you. It’s overwhelming. It’s painful. It’s scary. You beg for more stones. You cry out for stones from the deepest part of your heart. But the stones are gone. How do you get across. How do you reach the other side without drowning?

You know it will happen…you just don’t know how. You know it won’t be with those stones and that is where grief has settled in. Maybe you’ll fall a few times. Maybe you’ll get soaked but you’ve made it far enough to know the river won’t take you.

Where is your path leading you? Are you headed through flowers and butterflies or are you tangled in the briars? Are you safe on a stone or treading water just to breathe? Or have you crossed the river and reached the other side, with soft green grass, the shade and protection of a giant weeping willow tree, a cool, gentle breeze, and a place to rest, where you can look back and see just how far you’ve come?

I wrote that sometime last night. Words usually come easy for me but the ability to accurately explain my feelings, well, not so much. This seemed clear enough to create a visual of what I’ve been feeling.

Why all this? I do want to offer an explanation. I owe that to myself.

Abandonment.
Abuse.
The insecurity of home.
The lack of support, love, and nurturing.
A childhood lost.
A girl growing in a world alone, a world that has mostly been cruel.

If your own mother and father don’t love you, why would anyone else?

That is a question I’ve asked over and over again. A parent’s role in a child’s life involves love, nurturing, protection, direction, guidance, support, and so much more. Those are things that can’t be replaced by another person. It’s an ugly fact.

I’ve bounced from house to house, never really feeling home.

Abuse.
Foster care.
Grandparents.
Homeless.

I’ve been in and out of therapy since around age 11. At 15, I wanted nothing to do with the therapist the courts ordered me to see. I was stone cold hard. My walls were so high, no one could touch me. It was great. And it was lonely.

At 19, after losing the one person I knew without a doubt loved me, my Papa, a part of me died with him. He was the only person that had given me a reason to live all those years. He was the one person who taught me what real love looked like, how to be kind and respectful, and how to love others unconditionally.

At that point, life became careless. I was a firefighter. Back then, female firefighters were rare. I loved that. I loved being the tough girl. I loved the idea that I could step into a burning house, with flames all around me and knowing they couldn’t touch me. I embraced the idea that I would gladly give my life in order to save someone else. In fact, I wanted to.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

And today, twenty years later, I can say there have been many times that I ached to find home. Not a home this world can offer, but an eternal home where there is no more pain and suffering.

Admittedly, I’ve attempted to take my own life. Several times. And yet, here I am. I look around and see raging waters. But I also see the path continues. I’ve learned that somehow, I’ll find a way.

So, where I am today is in the midst of grief. They say being able to feel is a part of healing. Well, I must have done a lot of healing in the past few years because I’m definitely feeling this. It’s heavy. It feels like I’m choking. It feels like there are rocks in my lungs. It feels like I’m covered by a blanket waiting to be smothered. It’s incredible pain. I’ve never known pain like this because I was never able to feel like this.

Over the past four years, I have been seeing a therapist. She’s the last of a long list of attempts to break through my walls…and she did. No one else had been able to do that. Not because they couldn’t but because I couldn’t let them. I couldn’t trust. I could talk about my past and all the wrongs but I couldn’t feel. No one could knock down the walls that kept me safe from the pain of the world around me.

Kara did. I don’t know how she did. She says I did the work.

Therapy is an odd thing. My opinion of it has changed frequently and probably will continue to change. In many ways, it’s amazing. You have the opportunity to share anything without judgment. Without anger. Without being punished. Now, don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t come easy. It takes a long time to learn that it’s a relationship where it’s safe enough to trust. A LONG TIME! (for me anyway)

But when you find that person, the one who can really see you, the one who lets you know it’s okay to breathe, the one that reminds you, you’re not alone, the one that bears ALL your secrets, the one that has loved you in spite of all you’ve been, done, and are…when you find that one, it means the world to you.

Kara isn’t perfect. She’s not some magical creature with a wand that wipes away all the wrong of the world. Nope, she’s pretty normal. She’s just a regular human being who struggles like the rest of us but we clicked. She taught me to trust. That was something I’d never been able to do.

She taught me…

to trust – that taking the chance can be worth it.
to believe – to believe I am strong, worthy, lovable, wanted.
to seek hope – that even in the darkest moments, hope is there.
to love – to love myself, to see my worth, to know myself.
to dream – to imagine where I would be when I made it to the other side.
to embrace – to seek truth and embrace it.
to grow – that I didn’t have to be afraid of who I would become.
to change – to bring truth in to erase all the lies I’d believed.
to feel – that it would hurt like hell but it would be so worth it.

And that’s where I am. I am feeling. I am grieving. When my Papa died, back in 1997, I cried off and on for three days and didn’t speak to anyone. I felt dead inside. That was about all I could feel. I wanted to die with him. I was numb. I was lost. I was alone. I wasn’t able to grieve because I had no idea how to really feel anything other than empty.

Grief sucks! Plain and simple – it absolutely hurts like hell. Losing someone who has meant the world to you, by death or by the end of a relationship is incredibly hard.

Two days ago, Kara told me she’s leaving her position in a private counseling setting and heading into the school system. It’s what is best for her and her family. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one she had to make, none the less. I care greatly for her and want the best for her and her family…I just wish I could be a part of her best.

I was/am devastated. DEVASTATED.

This woman, the one who knocked down my walls, helped me learn to breathe, taught me to find hope, and to press on, to fight death and find life…she’s leaving me. And all I can think of is I knew this would happen. Everyone leaves.

A father who never cared enough to even meet his daughter.
A mother who chose the man who sexually abused me for years, rather than her own daughter.
Teachers who cared but couldn’t realistically move on to the next grade with you, every year.
Lawyers, advocates, foster parents, friends, houses, family, etc.
A grandma, who much like myself, bounced between emotions, never really being able to express unconditional love, but rather love based solely on conditions, and fits of rage and anger.
A Papa who meant the world to a little girl who had no one else, who had the hands of strength, the heart full of love and compassion, a presence of the only thing safe in the world.

Whether by death or by walking away, the people that have mattered most, who have cared most, who were supposed to love, protect, encourage, support, etc. – they all leave.

And that’s where I’m at.
Kara is leaving.

I know it’s not the same. I know she truly cared. She’s dedicated four years of her own life and time to helping me. She’s put in countless hours of watching me stumble over words, back track on progress, question everything she’s said, argue or debate her truths vs. my truths, and lately, she’s watched me cry.

For years, pretty much all my life, crying wasn’t an option. Crying wasn’t safe. Crying made things worse. Crying meant something was wrong. Crying meant you weren’t strong enough.

But Kara taught me it was okay to cry.
She taught me I was safe with her and it was safe to cry with her.

She never took advantage of my vulnerability and what I viewed as a weakness. She viewed it as strength. Progress, she would say.

I can’t tell you the exact day when I first cried with Kara. I can tell you it wasn’t that long ago. It’s only been within maybe the last year that I really felt like I was stepping across the stones that created a path to somewhere better. And she was walking with me. Holding my hand. Offering hugs, when I was able to ask.

You may wonder, why is it a loss? It’s not like she died and is gone forever.

But it is a loss. That’s where the ugly part of therapy comes in…

Kara always said the therapist/client relationship is like no other. It’s complicated. There are ethics and boundaries she has to adhere to for my own good, but they are incredibly difficult to accept and understand. You’d think just the fact you’ve spent so much time with one another, that would be enough, but it’s not. Ethics, boundaries and the design of the therapeutic relationship don’t leave a door open for anything when the relationship ends. It most definitely is a loss. It’s a death.

And that’s what I am grieving.

I am grieving the loss of the person who knows me better than anyone else in this world.
The person who has taught me what safe love looks like, what love really means.
Who has given up much of her own life in order to save mine.
The person I pray for and want the best for, yet ache to be a part of her best.
Like with my Papa, I am grieving the person who showed me I mattered, that I was loved, that I was wanted.

I have an amazing husband. He’s caring, patient (very, very patient), gentle, and understanding. For the most part, I’ve shut him out of my therapy life and my healing journey, mostly because I’m stubborn, and partly as some lame attempt to protect him from my own heavy baggage. It was safest for me to view the time I had with Kara, in her office, as the one place, the one person I could actually let see the real me. I treasured that time. I cherished it. And I learned over time that I didn’t have to carry it all with me when I wasn’t there. She was safe enough that I could leave it all with her and actually live life in the in between. There’s so much comfort in that.

I have three beautiful, smart, amazing kids. I adore them. They are great kids just like my husband is great. They are my biggest fans, my biggest source of support, and they are honest enough to be brutal when I wear something wacky!

As much as I love them, it’s not the same. Theirs is a relationship where they depend on me. They receive unconditional love and support from me and in return, they love me back. They look to me for comfort, protection, guidance, and so on. They need me. They come to me for hugs or to fix everything.

That’s what I’m missing. That’s what I’ve lost. There is no one on this earth that can fill that role. There is no one who has known me forever, who calls me theirs, who has done and would do anything for me, who has wiped away tears, picked me up when I fell, held my hand through the hard times, and taught me what a mother’s love is supposed to look like. Kara did that for me.

And honestly, I am so truly blessed. My home…my family…I have found in my church. It took me years to get to that point to but I believe all that time, God was preparing me, teaching me, growing me. And He’s given, and He’s taken away. I’d like to put in a direct request that He stop taking away but it seems when He takes away, He helps me find many other things/people to keep me moving forward.

I have some amazing people in my life. There are women who have walked this journey with me, who have been my allies, my support, my stones along side Kara. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve kept me accountable (sheesh!). They’ve guided me and taught me. And painfully, when I look at them, I see what wonderful mother’s they are to their children, how they pray constantly for them, how they love them with such a deep, genuine love. And I see how they have that with their own mothers, how they have those people that have always known them, always cared, and always called them theirs. I realize there is no perfect family. I realize it’s a really messed up world and every family has its issues. Still, it’s hard to be loved by these amazing ladies and know I will still never matter that much…so much that I would be first in their lives, that I would be right in line with their other children, that they have watched grow from the tiniest fingers and toes, picked up from falls, held when they were sick, ached with every ounce of their body when their children were hurting. That’s what I grieve. Even Kara couldn’t offer that.

But here I am.

The river might be raging but I can still see the other side. I’m determined to someday sit beneath that giant weeping willow tree, feel the warm sun bearing down on my face, the gentleness of the soft green grass below me, and the freedom to breathe.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

But for a moment, let me grieve. This is healing, right?

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No Greater Love | Day 1

Today is the first of a three day series of what I believe to be the greatest love story ever told…Let’s begin with purpose.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Purpose? Yes, purpose.

Take a breath. Grab a cup of coffee. Snuggle under your favorite blanket and ponder my thoughts. Know, my friend, that as I write this, I’m wishing we could be sitting in a coffee shop sharing a conversation face to face or in the comfort of my living room, enjoying the presence of wisdom and wonder together. But since this computer is what we have, let’s embrace it. Hello friend…there is purpose!

From the moment our hearts pump their first drop of blood, there is purpose.

In an instant, that purpose is life.

Some never take their first breath, but rest assured, they lived. For however short a time their heart beat inside their mothers womb, they were known. They were loved. They lived.

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

Known. Loved. Life.

Each and every heart that beats has been known, loved, and lived.

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How can that be?

We live in a horribly broken world with devastation surrounding us daily. A quick glimpse of the news is enough to make any stomach churn. How can every single heartbeat be known, loved and live? Babies die every day. Children are abandoned. Mother’s and Father’s forsake, abuse, murder. Lives are tossed aside as if they have no meaning, no point, no purpose…like garbage or waste.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:4-7

But…each and every single heart that beats has been known, loved, and lived…by The One who created him, who knit him together in his mother’s womb. Not one went unloved.

“This is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall not lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40

Not one. Not one life that chooses to believe. Not one heartbeat, whether is beats a thousand times for a thousand years or only once. Not one life that chooses Him will be lost. Can you believe that, my friend?

There is purpose.
In every beat of the heart. In yours, in mine, in the tiniest, most fragile heart.
There is purpose.

In the beginning, God created. None of us can claim that. We can’t take any credit for the trees, the stars, the clouds, the mountains, the ocean, and so on. We can’t even claim the own children who grow in our womb. Sure, we can do things to grow life, to sustain things but there is only One who can claim each and every creation.

He created the earth and from the dust of the earth, He breathed life into man…into us. And to the dust, our bodies will return. Each and every one of us. No one thats heart has beat escapes life and no one whose heart has stopped escapes death…in the physical sense. But every single heart that beats, lives…and every single life that lives has purpose.

That purpose can’t be explained by evolution, science, or even by our faith. We can’t prove our purpose beyond sharing our feelings and thoughts about the subject.

But there is purpose.

Otherwise, we simply wouldn’t exist. Without a reason, there isn’t a need.

Like…in the beginning, God created everything. He spoke the world into existence. And man, and woman; He breathed life into them. We can’t truly understand any of that because it’s simply beyond our ability to understand.

But purpose…Adam and Eve get blamed for all the worlds problems but Christians agree that God makes no mistakes. So, when we blame Adam and Eve for their bad choices, poor judgment, or lack of obedience, aren’t we essentially saying God made a mistake? That He created everything perfect and yet somehow, everything ended up imperfect? That sin was an accident, an afterthought, a big oops?

My point is this…even in sin, there is purpose. God allowed sin for a reason. I don’t have all the answers, and thankfully, I never will…because honestly, I don’t think I could handle that. And that’s probably exactly why we don’t have all the answers…because God knows, we’re confused enough as it is!

God does not make mistakes. He can’t. He is perfect and we are His perfect creations…sin and all.

Sin? Sin is bad…right? So why would God allow sin in a perfect world?

Without sin, we would have no true need for Him. Without sin, we would have no glory to reveal, no savior for saving. The point, the purpose, is to reveal God’s glory, to shine the light of Christ, to know Him, and to make Him known. Without sin, there would be no need for Him…and the purpose is to know Him, to need Him, to love Him, and to be loved by Him. Without sin, the world in which we live would already be perfect and we would miss out on all the glory and goodness He provides. We would know no different.

With sin, the ability to discern a difference between light and darkness, was born. With sin, came an understanding that we are not God but we are God’s, we need Him. With sin, came a desperate need for something more, something beyond our own explanations and comprehension. With sin, came pain and suffering, but with pain and suffering comes healing.

“God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10

Does that mean sin is good or okay? No. It just means there is purpose in it, even when we can’t understand.

“And we know that in all things God works for for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

What then, would be the purpose in sin? Sin separates us from God. Sin destroys life. Because of sin, physical death exists and because of sin, grace exists. Because of sin, we are weak. Because of sin, we are broken. Because of sin, we need. Because of sin, we need a savior. Because of sin, we need healing. Without sin, there would be no suffering and without suffering, we would need no savior. Because God allowed sin, we get to see the goodness of His glory in the presence of our Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of sin we need Him, and because He loves us, He gave us His Son…to give us life.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:8

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:11

You see, it is through our suffering that we have the ability to really see Him, how greatly we need Him, and to fully recognize the emptiness we have without Him. It is through that sin which gave us over to death, that He has overcome to give us life. There is purpose…to see His might and glory…to create in us a need for Him and to provide healing.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

And on that note, ponder a while on healing. I’ll be back tomorrow to pick up where I left off here. I hope you’ll join me again as we explore together this great love story. Click here for Day 2.

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

 

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Word of the Year…

2016_Faith

Word of the year…

Perhaps the word of the year has become the new hype instead of resolutions we often fail at. I hear a lot of people these days choosing a word and focusing on that word throughout the year. Focus and Intentional seem to be what I’ve heard the most lately.

I’d never really chosen a word of the year…until last year. Even then, I didn’t choose the word; it chose me.

Hope.

I’m a part of a beautiful group of ladies along with a dear friend, Suzie Eller. In this group, we were asked to share a word. Honestly, at the time I didn’t even put much thought to it. I just knew the word I was supposed to use was hope. I shared a little story about what hope meant to me at the time and this picture…

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I wouldn’t know at that point just how much the word hope would come to mean. By February of last year, I had lost all hope…Not hope in a God that loved me or would save me, but in a life on this earth filled with peace. I was ready to be with God. I had been for a while. On the night of February 20th, after an evening of laughs with our closest friends, I attempted to take my own life (check posts from February and March 2015 to go back and read about that time). When my attempt failed, admittedly, I was quite disappointed.

Rather than losing hope, I was suddenly forced to find hope. I was still here. I was alive. I didn’t really feel alive, but by definition, I was alive. That wasn’t a part of my plan but that’s where I was.

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

I had to find something to help me get through each day. This required effort. It hasn’t been easy by any means.

Hope.

It began with just having enough hope to open my eyes in the morning, eventually leading to hoping I could wake up and get out of bed. Slowly other things came…

Hoping I could look at my kids again.
Hoping I could put together a rational thought.
Hoping I could make it through an hour without wanting to die.
Hoping I could make it through a day, a week.

Little by little over the next year, those thoughts of hope have grown. I won’t say my thoughts have completely changed from the plan to end my life. I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.

I will never be the person I was before that night. It didn’t change my thoughts but it did change me.

It’s strange how the darkest, scariest, loneliest, and most painful place can somehow become the greatest. My memories from that time are some of the worst and best of my life. I was searching for peace that can only come through knowing to Whom and where I belong. I now know the answer to both of those. Knowing that is peace.

Peace.

I still struggle to find hope and peace with life here on this earth but I think one thing I learned was I was searching for something that can’t be found.  While in this life, I won’t find peace from suffering, I have found the peace I was meant to find. This journey has not been without reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

With that said, peace was added to my word list. By the end of 2015, one more word had been added.

Joy.

Through the darkness of my depression and somehow stumbling back into His light, I learned what true joy is.

True joy.

It’s not happiness.

Happiness is eating a Big Mac without worrying that it will add pounds or a stomach ache.
Happiness is pouring water over your head on a hot summer day.
Happiness is having a few hours to myself when the kids are in school.

Happiness is based on circumstances and things.

Joy goes much deeper into the core of who we are. You have to search for it (again requiring an active part from us) and when you find it, there’s no denying it. You know you’ve found it. Joy is possible in both the best of circumstances and the worst.

As odd as it may sound, I found joy through my suicide attempt and because I have joy, true joy, I can share the good and the bad with you. I learned so much in the past year and in a lifetime of hurt and pain and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it has taught me what hope means, how to have joy through anything life throws at me, and that peace is attainable when you search for the right kind.

So, that sums up last year. Hope, peace, and joy will always have a special place in my heart. I will embrace them and the joy I found through the lowest point of my life. And, I look forward to learning new things about them in the days, months, and years to come.

I can’t wait to see what words 2016 brings. For now, I already have two words.

Faith.

Faith is the word that I’ve chosen, but really, like hope, I think it actually chose me. I plan to focus a lot of faith, growing in faith, trusting the faithfulness of God and those He has placed by my side, and sharing the gift of faith. I’m sure there will be many posts on faith. Along with faith, is grace, extending grace because we all need it. Many stood by me last year in my darkest moment and showed me how to truly love someone. Part of that love was by extending grace. I want to offer the same to others.

Right now…

My faith is stronger than ever before.
My faith is in Him.

Lessons learned last year…

Find hope.
When all hope seems lost, His love still remains.
Joy is possible…in all circumstances.
Peace is found in knowing to Whom and where you belong.

And…

“Faith isn’t faith until Jesus is all you are holding on to!”

I don’t know where I heard the above quote but it has stuck with me. On the night of February 20th, 2015, nothing else mattered. Not my husband. Not my children. Not my friends. Nothing. I simply wanted to go and be with God. And that next night, as I sat alone in my bare, cold hospital room, striped of everything shy of the air in my lungs, He was all I needed and He was there.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Have you considered choosing a word for 2016? If you have, what’s your word? I’d love to hear from you all on your thoughts and stories!

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Nothing is Wasted…

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In the past couple months, I’ve shared some very personal struggles.  The responses have been overwhelming.  Many have expressed thankfulness and encouragement and I am very appreciative of all the kind words.  Some have shared their own struggles, told stories of how alone they have felt, how my voice gives them hope and strength.

That is what matters!

That is why I shared.

We aren’t meant to walk through life alone.

God is using this darkness for something good.

Nothing is wasted.

Over the past couple months since I have been home and trying to adjust to actually living life, rather than waiting to die, one song has replayed over and over in my head.

Shane and Shane – “Though You Slay Me

John Piper says, “It’s not meaningless!

Your pain, your suffering…they are not meaningless.  God is using them or will use them for something good.  You may not be able to see it but somehow, someway, He is using it.  He will use all the hard parts for something good…if you will allow Him too.  And sometimes, even when we fight Him, He still takes hold of those things and uses them for our good and the good of others.

Nothing is wasted.

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Making the best…

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Making the best out of what may feel like the worst…

What is your worst?

Maybe it’s…

a night of drunkenness, confusion, and bad choices
a lifetime of neglect or abandonment
a failed marriage
suicidal thoughts or attempts
witnessing or being involved in domestic violence
rape or sexual abuse
murder

Maybe it’s…

financial struggles or bankruptcy
a job loss
the loss of a loved one
infertility
feeling inadequate as a spouse, parent or child
self-hatred
an eating disorder
self-injury

Maybe it’s something else.  Whatever your worst is, please know this truth…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Did you hear that, friend?  You may not believe it right now but will you please read it again and plant that little piece of truth deep in your heart.  I pray that one day, you will believe it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

God has not given up on you…even in your worst…especially in your worst!  He is working all things for good.  Even your worst.  That’s a truth to hold tightly.

Your worst doesn’t seem very good, does it?  I know mine doesn’t.

My worst was a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment by the very people who were supposed to love, nurture and protect me.  Trust was foreign to me.  Love was engulfed with lies.  Innocence was stolen, striped away.  Years went by and with every day that passed, my shame and guilt grew.  I bore the weight of acts that were never mine to carry.  I retreated into my own little world, building walls all around me.  Those walls kept people out, protected my very fragile heart, and left me incredibly lonely and scared in what I saw as a dangerous world.

Along the way, people came into my life and showed me that life didn’t have to be as scary as I once saw it.  Little by little, I began to see that I could extend a slight be of trust…though never fully…never even close to fully.  But a little was a lot at that point.

Later, my worst led to other worsts including multiple suicide attempts (read here), many years of depression and many thoughts of dying, self-injury (cutting), eating disorders, alcoholism, smoking, promiscuity, and more.  I realize at some point, I had a choice in my actions and trust me, I have paid some pretty big consequences for those choices, but I also believe, had my innocence not been crushed as a little girl, many of those worsts would not have followed.

Today, I am a wife and mother of three amazing kids.  I have been part of a wonderful church family for nearly 16 years.  I am surrounded by some incredibly loving, caring, supportive people.  I am blessed far beyond anything I ever expected.

And you know what?

Life is still hard.

But…

Out of the worst, has come the best.

My worst, though it still leaves me with extremely painful, terrifying, and crippling moments, has also highlighted my bests.  Because of the life I have lived, my heart aches to reach out to others who are hurting, who are broken, who feel damaged and worthless, to pour the love into them that I, at many times, so desperately wanted.  Compassion is something I know well.  My ability to understand pain and to withstand pain is enormous.  I have experienced many things that allow me to be able to relate to so many others in their struggles.

We all have a worst.  Our best just might come from our worst.

In my worst, one of the things I missed the most was my voice.  Innocence was stolen from me and along with it, so was my voice.  For years, I just lived through the abuse, silently.  I couldn’t tell a soul.  I had no one to tell and even if I had told, I feared what would happen.

One night, at the age of 11 years old, I prayed for God to give me the courage to tell…

And He did.

That next day was the first time I told about the sexual abuse I had been living through for years.

Telling did not magically make things better.  Honestly, in many ways, it made things worse.  A lot worse.  Life became more difficult.  That was the first time I believed it was my fault and I began to carry the weight of all the shame and guilt.

I wrote a lot.  It was my outlet, my survival.  I have always loved to write.  I haven’t always written when I should and many of the scary things have never been put into words…even on paper, but I have, over the years, written a lot.  That’s probably why I love this blog so much.  As I’ve said before, for me, writing is like the air I breathe.  It’s a lifeline.

Even though my voice was stolen, I still had words…I could write them.  Someday, I pray He will give me the courage to speak them in front of others.  Through my worst, God has shown me some of my best.  He’s used something so horrible, so dirty, so broken, and turned it into words that have reached deep into the hearts of others.

I teach Bible studies in my church.  I am so unequipped for that but God has been with me every step of the way.  He has used these classes to grow me, teach me, and draw me closer to Him, while also blessing me with the privilege and honor of getting to know some amazing people who saw something in me and took a chance on taking my classes.  I hear many thank you’s, but honestly, I feel like the one receiving all the blessings.

God has given me a voice.  What was once stolen from me, He has made new.  He has given me a platform and a voice and each day, He gives me the courage to step out and use it.  He’s given me a heart of compassion to help others through their own struggles, to reach out to them in their time of need.  I fail often.  I will continue to mess up but my intentions are good.  He gives me grace.  Each and every day, He takes the ugliness of a life gone wrong and shows me the many ways He is making it right.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

He is taking my worst and making something beautiful out of it.

Friend, He wants to do the same for you!

 

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