Hope for the Bruised Soul

I’ve just started Lysa Terkeurst’s book ‘The Best Yes’ and already I’m loving it and already getting lots of ‘meat’ from it. The following, from Chapter One really jumped out at me…

‘In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents’

  And ain’t that the truth?  It’s a tricky thing, opening up, saying ‘this is where I’m at right here, right now’.  It is much easier, it rolls of the tongue much smoother, when we can talk about things with the benefit of hindsight, and sometimes even from a place of victory.

  But there is power in shared story.  There’s good stuff that comes from opening up and being honest about our presents.

  Today I can sit here and write about my bruised soul that is on the road to being fully restored.  And if I can see the healing that is taking place, if I can know the goodness and glory of God’s hand in this, then I really need to share this with you.

  I was chatting to a friend the other day about how I came into this new calendar year with a heart that was a little bruised and crushed, but now I’m in the fixing process.  And I am.  In the process of being fixed.  And it is a process.

  How I came to be in this bruised and crushed state doesn’t really matter.  Life happens.  Curveballs come.  Sometimes things compound.  Sometimes you don’t know who to turn to for wise counsel.  Sometimes you can’t talk things out.  Seasons happen. Just stuff, right?

  But the neat thing is….bruises change colour, and they heal, and they go away.  Souls can heal.  Things that were crushed, can be smoothed and soothed back into their original shape….and sometimes what they are newly shaped into, is better than the original. And even if crease lines are still visible – they are there to tell a story….

  My creaselines are there to tell a story….a story of God’s goodness.  Of His faithfulness.  Of his far-reaching hands that embrace me and remind me of my worth and significance as His daughter.

  So how are these creaselines being formed, as I am going through this ‘fixing’ process,  as the Master Potter gently and deftly pulls the walls of my heart back into alignment?

  *  time – time is my friend.  Time by myself.  Time with others.  Time that isn’t rushed.  Time to think.  To dream.  To pray.  To read my bible.  To read good books.  Time is a precious commodity and I think we could all value it a little more.

  *  worship – there have been certain songs that have just spoken to me, spoken deep down, and they continue to minister to me, any and every time I hear them.  So I put them on repeat.  And I listen again.  On some level I don’t completely understand there’s a connection formed…and with that comes healing.  One of those songs is ‘No Longer Slaves’ by Bethel.  Another one is ‘Come Alive, (Dry Bones)’ by Lauren Daigle.

  *  people – People can be downright scary for a person whose soul has been hurt by….people.  And there’s the temptation to withdraw from everyone when this has happened.  But you have to know that people can also be Jesus with skin on.  The right people can speak truth in love.  The right people can blow on those embers that need encouraging into life again.  The right people can be a safe place for fears to be faced with, prayers to be prayed with and laughter to bubble forth with.  I’ve been spending the last four months or so rekindling pre-existing friendships from before we moved overseas, but also building new friendships.  And it is exciting seeing God’s hand in this.  It takes vulnerability, it takes conscious effort to not over-analyse how I may come across as, or how or what I may be misconstrued as being, but it is worth it, so very worth it.

  To be in community is priceless, and to have friends become family…….I’m so very grateful.

  You know I’ve been a pretty ‘solid’ Christian for a good number of years now.  My Christian walk is something I take seriously, but that didn’t stop me from taking a bit of a hammering from life.  Sometimes it isn’t a matter of if, but of when these storms hit that hurt us and cause a bit of temporary misshapenness.  But it is temporary, and shouldn’t we all be in some process or another?  Aren’t we all in the Refiner’s Fire?  Take heart friend, if your creaselines are being hammered out and moulded back into shape, you’re not alone.  This surgery is for a greater purpose and the master surgeon is at work.  Together, we’re in the very safest of hands.

There is a lot of hope for our bruised souls.  Always and forever.

Tumbleweeds

I’m just back from an amazing day at a Women’s Retreat, with women from the church we’ve made our home here.  I know women’s retreats aren’t everyone’s cuppa tea, but this was relaxed, very chilled and full of good food and great company.  So when you have that as a starting place and then add the invitation, space and freedom for God to do whatever He wants to do…..well then…..it is no surprise that I’m not ready for the land of nod yet.

Part of this morning’s portion of the retreat was led by a neat lady who is a Spiritual Director. A what?  Yep.  That’s what I was wondering.  To put it very simply, (I like simple), Fran helps people explore what is going on with them and God.  What is God wanting to say to us, in our right here and right now?  Spiritual Directorship isn’t really counselling, just a re-directing of good questions, to enable us to hear from God directly.

So we did an activity.  With magazines and scissors and glue.  And no it wasn’t scary as activities such as these can be for the Anti-Marthas (Stewart, not the bible one….)  We could take a magazine and cut out pictures and words that spoke to us – that God spoke to us, in some way, somehow, and put them on a piece of coloured paper….and God spoke.  He really did.  Here’s the thing though, I believe God is speaking ALL the time to us, we’re just not always tuned in to listen.  Anyway – once we’d had our time making our pictures we could then share with the group about how God is relating to us, individually, using the pics as illustrations and starting points.

I could have shared with the group, it was a safe place that’s for sure, but you know me and spoken words.  Nah.  But maybe, just maybe something of what God spoke to me in and through my picture will mean something to you…..so I’m gonna share it right here…

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Right.  So there’s a beautiful work of art right there aye…..stunning….you know I came this close to failing Teacher’s College Art…anyhoo…now for the meaning…and this is what I found fascinating…

That pic on the right there…..anyone know what that is?  Well I’m a gonna tell you….those men are hauling tumbleweeds away from a field…tumbleweeds.  You know when you read books set in remote places in America and they mention the tumbleweeds rolling by….well who knew they grow so big?  Now you know.  In my mind’s eye they are just small cotton wool ball type thingies….not so. And here’s the thing about tumbleweeds….they thrive when they can get a foothold in loosened ground.  They are invaders.  Imposters.  From a tiny seed…they become these massive balls of weeds that just go wherever the wind carries them.  A right proper nuisance. Now I knew nothing about the tumbleweed before I saw that picture and read the corresponding article about them….but as it captured my eye I felt God clearly say ‘you’ve got these big balls of weeds in your life, because you let the seed of disappointment grow’. Disappointment in God. The ground of my heart was loosened by tiredness, by apathy, by all the ugly, and these seeds had taken root, and grown and become the invaders that weeds are.

So I was digesting these humbling thoughts when I found the next picture that leapt out to me….the picture of the hand outstretched. And God whispered deep down into my soul…that’s how you keep the soil of your heart healthy…that’s how you stop the tumbleweed seeds from taking root…by having your hands outstretched to Me…….More of the Lord, more of that desperation that I am nothing without Him, more of what You would have me do.  Reaching up and out…that’s what keeps our ground firm and solid.  Resistant to weeds.  Resistant to the barriers that would harm our closeness with Abba Father.

And next on my page?  The reservoir.  A picture I’ve had for a while for my life right now.  Now, being a time to just dwell on the Lord’s goodness, to take the time to store resources and to not feel guilty about that.  To have resources that run deep, veins of liquid gold for resources for the next storm.

And finally?  The words ‘The World Changes When You Are Thirsty.  It Shrinks’.  Now I know that those words were written to illustrate what happens geographically when drought occurs….but to me, what I got from God with that was that the thirstier I am for Him, the deeper I build my reservoir, the looser the boundaries will be in my life.  The smaller the limitations.  My world can shrink in the sense that all the things that bring distance from me and friends all across the world aren’t actually barriers.  The thirstier I am to be there for people – no matter the geographical distance – the more that distance shrinks.  Because God.  I just need to rely in His leading…for that word in season, that prompting to reach out and speak out…no matter if its someone right beside me, or oceans away.  And for me, as someone to whom people matter – this is just such a good thing to remember…now and always…..

All these crumbs of God’s goodness, just from a magazine and a pair of scissors.  God is so good, right?  He reaches down and speaks to us when we so need it.  And like a kindly Father, he steps in and alters our course, when that course needs re-adjusting.  I can’t hold onto past disappointments any longer. No more tumbleweeds for me.

He Sees

There’s this thing in me, that I suspect is also in you. And this ‘thing’ is this desire to be seen. To know that the things that cause our hearts to ache, our brows to furrow, these things are not just important to us, but to someone else.

This ‘thing’ isnt a desire for validation or even for encouragement, although that’s always nice…..but simply the knowledge that our struggles aren’t our own.

And I’m learning to remember, I’m learning to see, that God sees. He really does see.

God sees when we’re hurting. He sees when we make the effort, one more time. He sees when we struggle to be all we know we should be. He sees when our hearts are stretched and tugged in all sorts of directions.

He doesn’t miss a thing.

When we feel alone and lonely, we’re not. He’s right there.

When we’re in a crowd of thousands, still He sees us. He doesn’t miss a thing….

…..and the best part…..He sees us all with eyes of love…..And through eyes of love.

And that is worth remembering. 

He doesn’t miss a thing. We are known by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. 

You split the sea

I’m stuck, listening to this one song, ‘No Longer Slaves’ by Bethel Music.  I’ve been watching YouTube clips of this one song for over an hour.

Have you heard it? Does it make your own heart soar?

While I’ve been so fixated with it, I’ve been asking the Lord about what this song could mean to me, what specifically should I take from it….and I got this little ditty……

So often we, well ME, fret over what we have or haven’t done. We stress over our roles in life. Especially poignant for me as I try to find my fit in this new life I now have. I look at all the things I’m not doing and all the things I could be doing, and ask the Lord about little old this and little old that…..and in doing so I forget what He has already done.

He surrounds me with songs of deliverance from my enemies.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I was chosen from my Mother’s womb.

Love has called my name.

I’ve been born again, into my Heavenly Father’s family.

The sea in front of me, has already been split.

I can walk right through it.

My fears have been drowned in perfect love.

I have been rescued.

So much has already been done for us. So much has already been done. Achieved. Finished.  All these truths, all these promises we have in Him. We just need to walk in this knowledge and embrace who we are, because of what has already been done. I am a child of God. You are a child of God.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

Antidotes……

For the first time in a very long time I’ve now got time to think. Like, really think. Moving countries twice in 13 months definitely took its toll on me in a lot of ways, but one of them was it took away my space and ability to think and process these thoughts. So watch out world…….I’m spending a lot more time by myself these days and therefore…..all the words I have….they may just appear on here….

I’ve been thinking about ‘burn-out’ in terms of ministry burn out and what brings people to that point. I’m not even sure what the clinical or professional definition of burn out would be, other than the loss of motivation to carry on with whatever ministry obligations one is supposed to be carrying on with. I once heard someone give the statistic that youth pastors survive two years in the job before burning out. I don’t know a stat for overseas missionaries, but I would be interested to hear it. And then I’d love to know how that compares with missionaries who stay in their home culture but their main job/ source of income would be Christian ministry of some form. How quickly do they burn out and how can we avoid this? I’m sure the info is out there, I just need to track it down.

My husband and I are fortunate. We were overseas doing mission work for nearly six years, and now we’re back in our own culture, but the mission work continues. We’re fortunate though because we’ve avoided burning out. But if I were to sit down and ponder this really closely and honestly with you, I think we, well really I, came pretty close to it a number of times. I don’t think the desire to chuck it all in and run away from home is a very healthy mindset to have, and I’ve felt that way a few times. And recently too.

Any walk that is walked alone is harder than it needs to be.

I harp on and I harp on in this blog about the need for community and for people to have people. And I still believe that is so very true. And I wonder with all my might, in my very simplistic way of thinking and looking at the world, if the very antidoteC to burn out, is to have someone in your life asking you how you are on a regular basis. Someone other than your husband/ wife, that is making the effort to actually inquire about you. Not asking about your partner, your kids, your ministry, your extended family, but YOU. Making you a priority.

Why do I think this is so important? Because we feel things. You and I feel things. And we need to have these feelings either validated, or squashed beneath our feet. We need to know that what we feel actually matters, and that we’re not alone in these feelings. We need to have these feelings taken to the Lord, and to gain His wisdom and insight into our issues. And sometimes we can’t do this by ourselves. Sometimes we get stuck in the moment. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we’re so used to making sure that everyone around us is ok that we don’t focus on ourselves.

What I am talking about is more than having someone we’re accountable to. It’s about having someone who is actually invested in us. Who makes us a priority.

What if everyone in Christian ministry of some shape or form had someone in their lives who was interested in them as a person with feelings…then I wonder what would happen to burn out rates then?

Now you may be thinking that surely this is already happening in most missionaries lives? Surely the organisations are looking after their people. Well some are and do and do a fantastic job at this. And some missionaries/ ministry workers are very good at having this in place in their lives. But not all. Not everyone wants to talk about their feelings. And not everyone knows what happens when their feelings aren’t listened to. Until it is too late. They want to run away from everything they know and love.

Now maybe not everyone needs to talk about their feelings as much as maybe I would like to be able, and that’s ok, but i do think most if not all people need to be able to process things, and if having someone who is able to hear you out helps, then awesome.

So why am I bothering to open up about this here and talk about my own simple thoughts and findings on a matter…….because if you’re reading this you’re likely to be a fellow Christian. If you have someone in your life who is involved in Christian ministry, can I implore you, start simply asking them about them. Not their family, not their ministry, not their spouse, but them. You may be the only person to do so, you’d be surprised. And if you’re in some form of ministry and all of a sudden get asked to share your heart, embrace that. You’re not dumping on someone, someone is actively showing they care for you and about you. Embrace it.

We need each other. Always and in all ways.
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A note from the returned……

We’re ‘home’. Home in the sense that our accents are understood, I know which potatoes to buy that roast the best, and we’re now only a few hours away from the majority of our family.

Home.

Its kinda wonderful. Only it isn’t. I’ve got a headache that won’t go away, and feelings that need processing that I’ve been carrying around for the last year or so, and even though we’re home we still have to go through the newness that comes from being in a new area with new routines, schools and a church to find to make our own.

Instead of festering on some of these things that make my heart ache, I thought I’d try to put into words some of the things we’re going through and give some really practical pointers, so you can get a sense of what it is like for returned missionaries, or even just returned workers. So you can be there for others. And maybe help alleviate someone else’s headache.

Food. We all have to eat, right? And kids love their snacking, right? I mean it’s not just mine whose tummies are ruled by the clock. We flew into Auckland airport close to midnight and I knew our motel for the night was not near a supermarket so I stocked up on some breakfast foods from a kiosk at the airport. Probably the most expensive fruit salad I’ll ever buy. But I didn’t need to fret, because when we opened our room in the motel, there was a basket of goodies waiting for us. Biscuits, treat food, fruit and nuts. This kept us going for a few days and was an amazing help. Put together by my husband’s new boss, this gift basket meant a lot. If you’re looking to do something to help out a family who has just moved internationally, don’t underestimate the power of a chocolate bar.

It is extremely hard to cook out of a semi-stoked pantry, to make meals on the fly that are going to be healthy and yummy for a family with growing kids. It takes time and money, to build up your supply of spices, herbs, and baking basics. We’ve been in our new rental house now for nearly three weeks and I think my kitchen is close to ‘workable’, so you know what I would gift a family moving into my world from another country? A stash of spices. Yep. Silly as it sounds, that’s providing a need right there.  And another thing that was a stand out in my memory forever – the day our container of household goods arrived and was unpacked, our dinner was brought to us by a co-worker of my husbands. Amazing. And delicious. And it met a real need. The gift of a premade meal should never ever be underestimated in how powerful that is.

Friendships. They are a weird but glorious thing. I’m super conscious of trying to not step on people’s toes and trying to not be demanding of their time and energy, when I’m really not sure of where I fit into their lives here anymore. We’ve been out of this country for nearly six years now and things change. So all I can do is put it out there, that no my life is not busy, yes our days are wide open, and yes I’d love to see you whenever suits you. That means leaving the ball in other people’s courts  and so that does mean we’re having some long and lonely days. On the plus side it means lots of family togetherness time and by golly we were unpacked the day our container arrived, so a shipshape house we do have.  We were very fortunate to be invited to a get together a friend organised, with a few families who are already going to our new school. That means in a sea of new faces, there will be a couple of faces that can greet my boys by name when they start. And that means a huge amount to this mothers heart. So if you’re ever in the right time and space to do something similar, for a new family, can I encourage you to do the same? A simple gathering of three families, nothing fancy, but a chance to just hang.  And if you’re in the situation where you want to welcome a friend home, but your schedule and commitments, especially over holiday times just don’t allow, then do still text/ message/ call/ email. Unspoken words and unwritten words don’t convey any intentions.

This week my boys start their new school, and for the first time in over twelve years I am going to have time to myself as our littlest one started kindy last week. I’m vacillating between pure joy at having time to think and just be, yet petrified at the thought of having all this time to think. This blog may explode with newly processed thoughts, inspiration and shared experience. But I hope I still have eyes to see, eyes to see others who may be hurting like me, others who may be lonely, others who need to chat. Because, as always, life is better together..and as a newly returned….this is just as consequential as ever.

The gardener and his helper.

It is getting quite toasty in these parts, these days. We don’t have daylight savings here, so most people’s days begin rather early.  It isn’t uncommon to see people already working hard at their daily tasks, while it is still rather early…..partly to make the most of time before it gets too hot, and because they are most likely going to be awake and up anyway.

Last week I was on my way home from dropping my two oldest boys at school, and I was stopped at a red light at a major intersection.  Whilst stopped, I began watching two people in the gardens of a church I was outside of.  One of the men was getting on in years.  Wearing a broad-rimmed hat, with long, neatly pressed trousers and a short sleeved shirt, and working boots.  He looked familiar with his work, and careful and tidy.  Let’s call him Mr Neat.  Mr Neat was mowing the lawns.  Standing reasonably close to where Mr Neat was working, was another man.  The gentleman also looked like he was getting on in years, only he looked dishevelled.  He was wearing way too many layers for what the temperature called for, he looked like he could have had a nice wee appointment with a barber for both his head hair and his facial hair, and he looked like he rather enjoyed his food, and he just seemed like he was in need of some extra care.  Let’s call him Mr Scruffy.

Mr Neat was the one who was doing the bulk of the work.  Mr Scruffy was close to him, watching him with ease.  There seemed to be a familiarity between the two, but from my simple observations I didn’t get the feeling they were related.  I got the feeling that if the two men were related, Mr Neat would have been the type of person to make sure Mr Scruffy wasn’t overdressed.  He would have seen that Mr Scruffy had clean hair.  You know what I mean?

So anyway…..Mr Neat was doing the lawnmowing, then he finished up the patch he was working on, and as he was doing that, Mr Scruffy opened up a gate, and walked the lawnmower through to a another area, while Mr Neat followed behind him.  Mr Scruffy looked pleased as punch.  He was helping.  I couldn’t hear any dialogue between the two men, I couldn’t see them talking, but there just seemed to be this natural flow between the two, as Mr Neat stepped back and let Mr Scruffy do something that obviously made him very proud, but Mr Neat followed very closely.  Ready to correct, help or intervene if needed.

Then my light turned green and the flow of traffic surged forward so I had to leave my observations and carry on my merry way.

But for however long this little vignette took, I was captured by it.

And then I felt the Lord speak to my heart.

In the picture I had just witnessed, Mr Neat represented the Lord.  He’s in control, he’s got things sussed.  He is the master gardener.  He’s tidy and organized, but he has his sleeves rolled up and he’s ready to do business.  And I am the Mr Scruffy.  I’m messy and uncomfortable in myself – yet God has no trouble with me coming near to Him.  I’m overdressed and ill-prepared for come what may, but God doesn’t look twice at that.  I’m more than happy to be near the Lord and to sit and watch Him at work, and when I’m ready to take flight, when I’m ready to action upon what I’ve been asked to do, God’s right there, right behind me, ready to intervene if needed, but urging me on, like a proud Daddy watching his baby girl walk for the first time…And you know God really isn’t looking for talent and ability, or presence or a certain personality type – He’s just looking for obedience.  If Mr Neat was worried that Mr Scruffy didn’t have the goods to really help, he wouldn’t have let him take over controls of the lawnmower.  But he did.  He, quite simply believed in him, definitely when others wouldn’t.

What an amazing God we serve…..always at the ready….in charge but let’s us ‘help out’ when we feel we can or should….

And you know what happens when a master gardener is given permission and freedom to do what they do best?  When they have ample resources and man power to put into their project?  Beauty happens.  Significant change happens.  Something that was dead, and ugly and lifeless is made attractive and brings joy to many.  Imagine what would happen the more we work hand in hand with our Master Gardener……just imagine…..

What a touching scene I witnessed that day, at that red light.  I pray that God blesses that Mr Neat in real life, and may Mr Scruffy always find acceptance and love, on those church grounds.

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