Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Author's Heart

For several years, I've wanted to write a story about a girl I named Gracie. It is a story about a young woman who has experienced trauma and enters counseling because a current traumatic event has stirred up a life time of pain that she had buried deep. I wanted to write this story to help people understand what it is like for a child to experience abuse and then to grow up carrying the baggage of that with them into adulthood. I also hope to help others see glimpses of what the healing journey looks like and maybe to answer those questions irritating questions that many survivors get asked--questions like" "Why didn't you just tell them to stop?" "Why didn't you run away?" "If that really happened, why didn't you tell someone?"

I hope to show how trauma can impact the way one views themselves, views others, and how it changes one's perceptions of God. I am just a few chapters into the book and am finding it both challenging and fun. Though I started writing this book to teach others something, I realized yesterday God is using it to teach me about Himself. As I was writing a chapter that described Gracie's childhood and the neglect she experienced my heart began to ache a little. As I described the impact of mental illness, her parent's divorce, and the subsequent poverty on her and her family my heart ached even more. Then as I went on to described the physical, mental, and sexual abuse she experienced, I found my heart growing strangely tender towards Gracie, this young woman I was creating as I wrote. It was not long before my eyes filled with tears. I finished the chapter, but couldn't shake the feelings I had experienced.

As I was processing the emotions I experienced in writing yesterday, several interesting thoughts passed through my mind. I had been crying for a character I had created. I had been crying for the painful things she experienced in the story I was writing for her, knowing full well I had the power and the authority as the author to rewrite her story in a different way. Yet, I am choosing not to do that for what I believe to be good reasons. As I thought about that, I began to wonder if this could be the way our Abba feels as we live the stories He has authored for us--stories that are often riddled with trauma and pain. Maybe His heart is just as tender towards us as we go through the hard stuff He has written for us. Maybe He even cries for us, while being fully conscious of the fact that He could with a word or a movement of His hand stay the trauma and prevent the hurt, but chooses to not do so.

Maybe it is because He knows that it is a grain of sand irritating an oyster that results in a beautiful pearl. Maybe it is because He know that a catastrophic natural event can form the purest and most beautiful of diamonds. Maybe it is because he knows that it is the time spent in a kiln that renders a piece of pottery both beautiful and fit for Holy use. Maybe it is because He knows the heat is what burns away the impurities in silver allowing a silversmith's reflection to shine through. Likewise, maybe it is because the painful things we experience are what we need to get us to the place we can abandon self to fully trust Jesus, who can transform us broken vessels into glorious ones fit for His Holy purposes. Maybe it is because He knows that it takes us being fully broken to be willing to allow Him to take the little pieces of our hearts and stitch them back together in such a way that they are beautifully tender, yet strong enough to love even the most unlovable. Maybe He even restrains a desire of His own to rewrite stories because He knows the most valuable and most beautiful treasures are those treasures that we find in the darkest places. Maybe He restrains His desire to prevent pain because He knows that the sweetest intimacy with Him occurs when the questions that began as statements of protest dissolve into questions asked from hearts seeking nothing more than to know His heart. Just as I know I have good intentions and a tender heart towards my creation, I think we can trust that this is a reflection of the Abba's heart towards us as He writes our redemption stories, stories that in the end reveal the Author's heart..

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Never to be Forsaken

I started reading Louis Giglio's new book, Not Forsaken. I started it a week ago, but haven't gotten past the first chapter. Like much of Giglio's writing, it is rich in truth and touches on things that stir the heart and draws me to the Father. 

As I read the first chapter, I knew I would need to take it slow to ruminating on one chapter at a time. I soon realized the word forsake was a good place for me to start. As I looked it up and read the definition and its synonyms, different pictures popped into my head. Forsake means to abandon, bringing to mind a women reeling from the news that her spouse has found someone else. 

It means to desert someone without the intention of coming back, bringing to mind a husband who finds a note left by the wife who didn't even have the decency to tell him in person. 

It means to leave a person high and dry, bringing to mind a child whose dad or mom has deserted them in their most formative years, leaving them ill equipped to navigate the life they live, the pain they will experience, the tumultuous relationships they will have, and the struggle between right and wrong they will face on a daily basis. 

It means to fail to protect someone who is depending on you, bringing to mind children left in the care of unsafe people, especially when children have said either verbally or nonverbally that they don't feel safe. 

It means to leave someone when leaving them places them in a weakened state, bringing to mind a child whose needs will never be fully met as a result of a parent's selfish decision. 

It means to turn your back on someone, bringing to mind a child calling after a parent, "I need you," as the parent walks away for the last time or the child who is clamoring for approval and a father or mother refuses to give it. 

It means to cast someone aside, bringing to mind ladies in our groups who were used and abused and cast aside like today's trash. 

It means to give up on a relationship, bringing to mind  the marriage in which one spouse wants to work on it and the other doesn't or a parent seeking to repair a relationship with an adult child who is unwilling to forgive. 

It means to disown someone, bringing to mind a parent so angry with a child that she writes them off, refusing to visit, return calls, or open letters. The list goes on, including other words like jilt, renounce, relinquish, disclaim, disavow, desert, or discard. I will let you use your imagination for. 

As I have processed the first chapter, I realize how much of my life I struggled with the fear of being forsaken. It began in early childhood when my parents were struggling and threatened divorce. As children do, I personalized their desire to leave and made it my responsibility to try to hold them together. I did this by trying to be good so neither would get angry enough to leave, by bossing siblings around so they wouldn't rock the proverbial boat, by assuming more than my share of household chores so mom didn't get overwhelmed and leave, by staying home on Friday nights when friends were hanging so the parents didn't have too much to worry about, and by keeping some pretty dark secrets that needed telling because I feared those secrets would push them over the edge. I also did this by confronting the parent who eventually left, forever complicating the relationship we had. 

I carried that fear into friendships. It played out in my being a compliant friend--one who seldom voiced her preferences, desires, dreams, opinions, or needs. It played out when a the thought of  using my voice to express some very real concerns over what I was seeing terrified and silenced me and eventually sent me running from a friend who desperately needed me to stay. 

I carried that fear into my marriage where it kept me silent again. I was afraid to express my needs, desires, opinions, or concerns for fear my spouse would leave me with five kids to raise alone. I was afraid to confront sinful patterns that were chiseling away at the foundation of our marriage for fear he would head out the door. I know now that my fear of being forsaken was irrational because my husband is a man who has desperately always wanted to break the pattern of divorce that reigned over our extended families. He is a gentle man, a kind man, and one whose anger tends to be more passive than aggressive. Yet, my heart was terrified. There were times I needed to use my voice so he could understand the ways he was hurting me. There were times I needed to use my voice to get help with the kids, but didn't. There were times I needed to use my voice to confront his sin and invite him to be the man God was calling him to be. Oh, we eventually had those conversations, but I grieved that my fear kept us from fixing things that needed fixing long before they caused us so much pain. 

When I read the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martydom of Cassie Bernall, I was enamored by a scene the author described. Her daughter, Cassie, had gone through a rebellious stage and had gotten into all sorts of dark stuff, including witch craft, that had left her emotionally scarred. The parents moved their family and fought long and hard for their daughter and her salvation. One day she was having a day in which she was filled with anger and all sorts of painful emotions and rebellious feelings. Instead of fighting her and disciplining her, Cassie's dad grabbed her and held her tight. At first she struggled and beat on his chest as she was wailing. He just kept hugging her tight until all the anger dissipated and she leaned into him and resting in his arms she wept all the tears she needed to weep. 

When I went into counseling to face underlying pain and anger of the dark secrets I had kept, this vision of Cassie and her dad often came to mind and I longed to scream and wail and still find myself being held, knowing full well someone, anyone would stay and hold me for as long as it took to get rid of the pain. Then God began to whisper Hebrews 13:5 into my mind, "I will never leave you or forsake you." The vision of Cassie's dad holding her was soon replaced with one of me climbing a mountain and crying out at the top of my lungs all the hurt, the rage, and the questions I had held on to for so long. I remember being met with the Abba's loving presence and Him holding me and whispering in my ear, "It is okay. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I am here for good." I realized those dark secrets had lead me to believe and doubt my Abba's love and as I began to rest in the fact that He had promised to never leave or forsake me, I found my voice. I found my courage. I found my God-given passion. And, as a result of His healing, I have become more of who God created me to be, not trying to be who I thought others expected me to be and with that freedom came great peace. 

Even though my relationship with my earthly father were complicated and so deeply flawed on all sides, I am grateful my story doesn't end there. Nor does it end with the abuse I experienced but was never able, as a child, to talk to my parents about. As Giglio put it in his book, "No one who knows Him as Father will be forsaken. No one will be left behind. No one will be orphaned. No one will go unwanted. No one's story will end with abuse and betrayal. No one will have to live without a father's love. No one, ever."  Because of what Jesus did on the cross for me, I will never have to cry out the words He cried out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Friday, June 7, 2019

Who is Sitting at your Table?

Sixteen years ago I was in a lot of emotional pain as I was participating in an abuse group similar to the Passionate Heart Groups at our church. Shortly after the group ended in the fall, I was in an accident and suffered a severely broken ankle that left me housebound for a year. During that year I had a dream in which every woman I passed on the street had no mouth and dead, haunted eyes. I woke up crying and I pleaded with God to give women their voices. Soon after Jesus gave me the desire to write Growing a Passionate Heart and instilled in me a vision for the ministry of which I am apart. And, it is not a surprise that it is a ministry that God uses to not only help women find their voices but help and healing as well. 

Women often come into our groups looking for quick fixes for traumatic wounds, emotional pain, eating disorders, and relational problems. But, instead we ask them to do a lot of hard work and walk them through processes in which they uncover, examine, and clean emotional wounds so that they can heal. They often discover their pain began early in life when they experienced abuse, rejection, harsh criticism, emotional or physical abandonment, or grew up in the chaos of having parents struggling with addictions or mental illness. And, sadly many come to realize rape, incest, and molestation aren't just words to forgive, but deeply wounding actions that impacted every part of their lives. 

Over time, our ladies begin to understand the truth that Jesus understands what they have been through. He understands because He lived in a fallen world and was abused and wounded by people who should have loved Him. He understands because He endured beatings that left Him unrecognizable and experienced rejection by those He came to save. He understands because He went through pain similar to theirs, having been stripped and hung naked and exposed on the cross where He bore the blame for things He didn't do. He understands because He was abandoned and left to bear the painful consequences of others’ sin. He understands because He was perceived as crazy and demon possessed. He even felt forsaken by God as He cried out, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Over time our ladies come to understand Christ hanging on the cross is the proof they need that God cares and deals with the evil that exists in this world! For in a very public arena, Jesus bore sin and shame in His body. He was innocent, yet wounded and chastised for sin, dying a very violent death. 

The end of group is always hard for leaders because they will no longer be there on a weekly basis to remind ladies of the truths they learned in group. As I was writing this years graduation talk I watched a sermon on line given by Louis Giglio at Liberty University. The sermon was on Psalm 23:8, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I realized our leaders worry that some of their ladies will faulter because they will forget that since the fall humans, who were created for paradise living, are living inbetween Eden and Heaven, sharing space with a very real Enemy and his cohorts. The Word tells us clearly that Satan was defeated on the cross, but we know the Serpent is still writhing and seeking whom He can destroy with his lies. Because he is evil, he goes after those made vulnerable by loss, by trauma, by abuse, by catastrophes, and by moral failures and speaks ugly lies into their vulnerable minds--lies meant to destroy both the person and their relationship with God. 

I loved the picture Giglio presented in his talk. God has prepared us a table not away from the enemy, but in the presence of him. But, we sometimes fail to remember we have the power and authority to choose who sits at our table. As a believer, imagine you are sitting at your beautifully decorated table with the Lord and engaging with Him as you read His Word, pray, meditate on His Truth, trust Him, and obey Him. As you engage with Jesus, He reminds you of His Holiness, His goodness, His power, His faithfulness, and His great love. He reminds you that He has redeemed you, that He has reconciled you to Himself, that He has chosen you, and that He has fully accepted you based on your faith in Him. He also reminds you that you are beautiful, loved, treasured, a part of a royal priesthood, an ambassador whose real home is heaven, and His adopted daughter with the full rights of sonship. He reminds you that the Holy Spirit empowers, comforts, and calls to mind all that you need for living the live to which He has called you. He reminds you the Spirit has also given you spiritual gifts that enable you to build up the body of Christ. When you are fully engaging with Christ, the Enemy maybe hovering over your table, but you don’t even notice him. 

But, when you get triggered, succumb to temptation, are realing from a painful traumatic event, or simply ignore Jesus, Satan sees it as his opportunity to pull up a chair and plop down at your table. Sometimes, you recognize the Enemy for who he is and tell him he is not welcome at your table. But, there are other times the Enemy speaks a lie or a half truth that resonates so much with what you are already thinking or feeling that you get hooked and begin to pay attention to him. Before long your have turned your chair away from the Lord and towards the Enemy. You begin to fully engaged with the Enemy, buying into one ugly lie after another. Before you know it, you've forgotten the Lord who is sitting at your table and you are chewing on Satan's lies. You know those lies. You are ugly. You are fat. You are a failure. You are unloved. You are unwanted. You are too broken. You are too much. You are not enough. You are nothing but damaged goods. You deserve to be battered. You are weak. You are invisible. You don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. You deserved the abuse you experienced. Something in you caused the man to do those vile things. Everything wrong is your fault. You are responsible for everyone’s happiness. And the ugliest lie of all--Jesus didn’t really love you, what you experienced has proven that.

All the while Jesus is still sitting at your table, you have just turned your attention to the Enemy. The Lord gently nudges you, but you ignore Him because you are so filled with confusion, shame, pain, and anger. After a moment or two, an hour or two, a day or two, a week or two, a month or two, or a year or two or maybe more, you realize you have been listening to the Enemy and have given him power over you. Then the Spirit within you or maybe someone you know reminds you that you can have the authority to take back your power. And, you yell, “STOP, LEAVE!” You turn back to the Lord who never left and reengage with Him, hanging on to His truth and begin, once again, to live out your faith. It sounds easy, but it isn't. When there is trauma those lies Satan uses are deeply embedded into our core. To overcome them, we must change our core by constantly taking our thoughts captive to God's truth and that is a 24-7 job. 

So, who is sitting at your table? To whose voice are you listening? I can tell you God’s voice isn’t a condemning one, that is the Enemy’s. We would do well to remember, as believers, we get to decide who sits at our table. Fear, insecurity, lack of peace, condemnation, bitterness, the ugly things we think about ourselves, and the paranoid things we think about others--these are all things that indicate we have let the enemy sit down at our tables. We, as believers, have One who is dwelling in us who is more powerful than the Enemy and He gives us the power and authority to tell the Enemy to leave and allows us to redirect our focus back on the ever present, ever loving Jesus so we can enjoy Him and experience His peace, His love, and His healing power.    



Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!