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.

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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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Division

There’s a certain blog post doing the rounds today,stirring up heated debate with heightened emotion.

I guess at the heart of it, I would most likely agree with the writer of this post with the theology behind it, but the delivery and the polarizing that occurs with how what is said is delivered….that I take issue with.

Division. It ain’t just in maths you know. And I guess it is good to know where you stand on matters, and it is good to debate things and blah blah blah. But I can’t help but think that this all is just a tool from the enemy to stop us from just getting on with The Great Commission.

The longer we sit on our butts, behind our computer screens and toss around words that cause division and hurt, the less we’re out there doing. Doing stuff. Loving stuff. Knowing people – of all walks of life. Loving people – of all walks of life.

Yeah this is a simplistic view of life. But I am a simplistic girl.

I want others to know everlasting life because of me – because of my actions, because I took the time to look at them, and know their story. Because my God was attractive enough in me to show them their need for a savior too.

That Jesus light and love I speak of? It ain’t gonna happen by highlighting the errors of anyone’s ways.

I’m so tired of the ‘having to be on the right team’ mentality. Jesus came to earth and died an awful death so that none should perish. He wants everyone to come to repentance. Not just the pew sitters beside me every Sunday who sing the right songs and attend the Sunday school class as well as service. Not just the theologically sound who can back up every sermon or blog post or tweet with the right three or four verses. But everyone. We’re all on the same team. And seriously, I need to start caring more about the salvations of my team members, more than I care about what I am cooking for dinner, or the moving parts of our move across the world.

We’re so divided as a Christian population that our team doesn’t look appealing to anyone. And this must grieve the Father’s heart.

This life is so pressured as it is. So many things are constantly vying for our attention. Distractions are everywhere. Enough already.

My prayer this evening is that I stop giving my attention to things that are divisive. No more wall building from me. And in four months time, six months time or however long it takes us to get a dinner table..I want to fill that table with people from all walks of life. People who think like me, as well as people who don’t. People who love like me, and people who don’t. Not because this is what I want…no….this wouldn’t be easy for me in the natural, me in the flesh, but because this is what I believe God would have me do. Build my team, because it is really His team. And He wants that none will perish.

Enough of division. Here’s to addition and multiplying!

Rosa – The KitchenAid Stand Mixer

This is about a ‘thing’, but it is about more than the ‘thing’.

I do realize it is not normal behaviour to name a kitchen appliance. Not normal at all. But here’s the scoop – I welcomed a brand new KitchenAid mixer into my family last night. And her name is Rosa.

For the last four and a bit years I’ve had my eye out for a stand mixer. You see I do a lot of baking and once we moved to America I realized the huge difference in price in mixers here….just under a thousand dollars in NZ dollars for the very same thing that I got last night. More than three times the amount it costs here in America.

So for the last four years I’ve been entering every competition I could see on blogs to try to win one. For a while there I would tweet sometimes daily to @KitchenAidUSA, sometimes weekly. Just crazy little comments along the lines of ‘I still have a KitchenAid mixer sized hole in my heart’. I would have friends send me links to competitions. I would write silly facebook statuses along the lines of ‘KitchenAid mixer – the perfect Father’s Day present’. But there was no way I could ever justify buying one for myself.

I was a little over the top I know. But it was fun.

Last night I was invited up to a friend’s house under the guise of ‘cleaning’ in preparation for a new baby’s imminent arrival. Yeah well that house didn’t need no cleaning. Already spotless. Instead the kitchen was full of a bunch of amazing friends who had gathered for a bit of a ‘do’ and to present me with my very own ‘Rosa’ – a shiny red mixer.

Amazing.

Now while I will love using this appliance and will use it all the time – like ALL the time – at the end of the day the mixer is just a ‘thing’ I know…and the meaning behind receiving this gift is more than just being gifted a very handy appliance – that I may or may not have harped on about for over four years….

For me, Rosa will sit on my kitchen counter for years to come and serve as a reminder of just how faithful our Lord is.

Moving to America has been tough. Settling here has not been all smooth sailing.

But we’ve persisted. And God has blessed us tremendously. God has been so very faithful. Every step of the way. In the good times and the bad times. He has been our strength.

Three years ago I never dreamed that people would gather in a beautiful home, one summer’s night, to bless me with a gift – a gift that I can use to serve others. To bless others.

Two years ago I never dreamed that would happen.

But in the midst of just getting on with life, and reaching out and initiating and just being real and raw and learning to not hide who I am……..relationship has happened. Lifelong friendships now exist. ‘Community’ has happened.

Not because of me. Because I say stupid things and I have fierce and strong opinions, and I second guess myself all the time, but IN SPITE of me – God has been so very faithful.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19: 29

Those words in Matthew, they are a very special promise.  To be perfectly honest with you, it isn’t the funnest thing in the world to yard sale a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff you actually use and are gonna have to replace once you move countries again.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to realize one day you have plenty of friends with kids your baby’s age, but hey, that tween, that tween of yours is seriously lacking in the friendship department and you failed miserably in that area.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to say goodbye to family and friends – and to miss special events, for years on end.

BUT God.

But God is faithful.  He does promise that if and when we give up ‘things’ and proximity of relationships for His name’s sake, for ministry purposes, then we will receive many things in return.  According to His purpose.

Whatever God is asking of you – be assured, He does provide all we need – as well as things we don’t actually need.  Like a mixer.  If you are being called to do something for His sake – he will not abandon you.  His will = His bill.

The very fact that I’ll be sad to leave friends behind when we leave in three months time is a very good thing – again it shows the Lord’s faithfulness.  If I left and I wasn’t going to miss anyone – then that would have been a terrible shame.

And for me, right now I can see the Lord’s goodness – represented by a shiny red mixer.  Others may see a powerful kitchen appliance that will churn out whipped cream in a flash and make the best pavlovas, but not me.  I see it as a symbol of God’s goodness.  That He cares about the details of my life.  He wants to bless us – abundantly.  And friendships matter.  They really do matter.

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Pedestals and Stepladders

One of the hats that I wear is the ‘co-ordinator for the childcare for the Mom’s group’ that I go to.  It has been an interesting role.  One I felt called to, but not one I’ll be sad to pass on.  In fact we have our last meeting for this school year this coming week and then that’s it for me….I’ve printed out all the checklists and need to know stuff for whoever takes over this role…and I’ve already handed it over.  Can you hear the angels singing?

Anyway, as always finding volunteers is never an easy thing and for about a month I knew I was a helper short for our last meeting.  So I did some advertising on my church facebook pages and held my breath, and waited.

No nibbles. No nibbles for three weeks until I got a message from the senior pastor’s wife saying she would love to do it.

Seriously?  I love that lady.  My initial thought was ‘No way, I can’t let her loose with the two and three year olds’…..that’s the class where altercations sometimes happen.  That’s the class with squabbles.  Stolen toys.  Noses out of joint.  And poopy diapers.

Seriously? Out of all the people that had seen my cry for help, this lady was the only one moved to step out and do something to help?  This lady who already does so much for the running of the church.  Whose phone rings at all times of the day and night with people needing her.  The demands of community.  The demands of position. The constant giving of herself.

Seriously?  Then I thought to myself, silly me, this lady is in control of her time and knows her boundaries.  Don’t put her on a pedestal Fiona.  She is leading by example.  Serving out of a love for her church, and a love for those children.

Maybe we all need to take people off these pedestals a bit more.

The pedestals that we create for them.

Maybe we need to lower our expectations of people and not try to size up their boxes for them.

Leaders.  Ministers.  Pastors.  Elders.  Yes they hold positions of authority.  But first and foremost they are people.  People who love the Lord.  People who love you and me.

Let’s give them honour and respect, let’s encourage and support them, but let’s partner with these people, instead of putting them on a pedestal.  Let’s not place undue expectations on them.

I’m swapping out the pedestals in my life, with stepladders.  Yes I will honour those who are in authority over myself, but I’m right there, holding onto their stepladder, making sure it is steady, doing all I can to make their job easier. To be a support in whatever capacity they need.  Wouldn’t it be neat to be a generation of stepladder holders?  Instead of pedestal makers?

I do hope though, that my own little two year is a cherub on Thursday at Mom’s group…….we shall see…..;-)

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An Addendum

I woke up with a song in my heart and the pressing need to add onto my five minute friday post from last night.

 

You see while everything I wrote is true – I do long for more in my friendships, I long for my daily routines to be interrupted by phone calls and texts and the ‘how are yous?’ that deep and reciprocal friendship bring with it….I still have to declare out loud that God is so very faithful.

I have much to be thankful for.  In the next few months as we prepare to leave our American adventure, I can look back and see God’s hand at work with relationships I’ve established and He has grown.  And for these I will be forever thankful.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning, new every morning

Great is thy faithfulness O Lord

Great is thy faithfulness

Faithful with my Monday night writers group.  A group of women who took me in – they are all published and professional with their own writings – me – well I have this.  We chat, we eat, we play cards, we play our own form of scrabble.  We fellowship.

Faithful with my Wednesday morning prayer group.  We meet and we seek the Lord’s heart.  We strive to listen to Him. Together.  We care for one another.

Faithful with fellow church goers and co-workers of my husband and their families and Mom’s group members and ministry to teenage girls leaders.  All of these are such important parts of my life.  And I am grateful.

Faithful with random people that I have met through various inroads, people who have opened their arms and with their mouths declared ‘welcome’.

And so, for the days when the phone does not ring, my cell phone stays quiet, the doorbell does not go, I will still remember His faithfulness and His goodness.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and I wish that you too, could know this love.  Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, please know you are not alone, and I say this with all certainty.

 

This gift we have

Yesterday I was thinking some deep and meaningful thoughts along the lines of self-confidence and outward awareness.  I posted on facebook:

I really admire people who remain outward focused and concerned about others, while keeping their own self-confidence healthy. Too often it is a case of having either, or.

And it is true.  I do admire those people in my life who have a healthy self-esteem yet still have concern and time for others.  But, in all honesty, there aren’t many of those people around.

Do you ever find yourself in the situation where you easily find words to encourage someone but then it becomes an expected behaviour from you, and you feel like you transition from encouraging friend to number one fan club?  I guess this happens where there in no reciprocity in the friendship – no two way encouragement.

Unfortunately I see all too often people who appear to have lots of self-confidence, a very positive self-esteem and their worlds are mainly concerned about themselves – their trials and victories, their lives.  But notice I said people who appear, appear to have it all together on the outside.  

The truth is we all could do with more encouragement.

The truth is we all need each other.

If you’ve spent any time at all on my blog you’ll know that this is my thing.  My heartache.  The thing I will harp on and on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

We need each other.  We need community.

We have this gift at our disposal.  Each and every one of us.  Not matter how confident and secure in ourselves we are, or appear to be.  We need to give this gift and we need to receive this gift.

We all have the gift of caring.  Of taking an extra two seconds to ask someone about themselves.  Of taking the spotlight off of ourselves and onto another person.

We don’t need fan clubs.

We need people around us who care.  Who love.  Who stand by us.  Who are present.  We need to be those people to others.

Even if those others don’t reciprocate.  Love anyway.

Even if those others have quite well established fan clubs.  Give of yourself anyway.

The gift is inside of us, just waiting to be delivered.

Why, why, why is this so important?  Why, why, why am I convinced that we need to do this more and more?  Why won’t I shut up about it?

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35

There has to be something in us that appeals to others.  There has to be something in us that makes us different to scores of other friends.  That something and someone is the Lord.  By loving others – the spotlight is shone quite brightly on Him.

And that’s what it is all about:

Caring about others, because He cares for us.  Showing others we care through word and deed, because He cares for us.

Giving others this gift we have – this gift of caring – because when we start to use this gift, it never runs out.  It’s like a never-ending fountain of goodness and flows on and on.  A well that never dries up.

This gift we have.

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