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.

Interfere Less, Love More

Interfere Less, Love More.

This is my latest lesson in life.  Not that I am ‘there’ yet….it is journey, a process, but this is the transformation I am in.

Zipping my mouth.  Switching channels in my thought process.  Even if those thoughts are ‘for the greater good’.  Even if those thoughts are ‘but I want to help’.  Flipping the switch from a posture of ‘this could be better’ to ‘love – just love’.

I think you’ll know what I mean.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

You see it just struck me that Jesus didn’t approach people with a 3 step process of how to ‘improve their life’.  No.  He waited until they approached him  – and  then IF they asked him – he was forward with his answers.  But He waited.  And in the meantime – he loved.

Ohhh how he loved.

I want to be known for my love.  Because by golly – how He loves us.  And isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?  Sharing the good news of the gospel by our actions – sharing God’s love around.  The aroma of Christ. That’s the mantle I want to carry.

Love and acceptance.

No three-step process needed for Jesus. So definitely no three-step process needed for me.

Interfere less, love more.  I’m working on it.

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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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Permission to Parent

This evening I read a fantastic blog post that is doing ‘the rounds’ at the moment.    Written by Steve Wiens, who happens to be a husband, Dad, pastor and runner, this blog post speaks to parents of small children in a very real and honest way, tinged with a good dose of humour.

I bet Pastor Steve was not expecting this post to create quite the stir it has.  But it has.  Not sure how many tweets today have been talking about it, but the number of facebook shares for this post are well over 3,000 already.

You see this open letter to parents of small children addresses the fact that we’re all bone-weary.  We’re all hopelessly head over heals in love with our little munchkins.  We’re all learning how to handle the very (often) demanding personalities, needs and desires of our offspring.  And we’re all desperately trying to enjoy, yes to even savour every single. blessed. moment.  When not every moment is even slightly enjoyable.  Truth.

What interests me is how well-received this post is turning out to be.  Yes the writer does a fantastic job, I love the humour, I get the honesty, I get it all, I really do.

What stands out for me though is, we’re starving.  We – parents – of all cultural backgrounds, of all walks of life, whatever our socio-economic status – we’re starving for permission.  Permission to just get on and do it.  Permission to parent as best we can.  Permission to feel like we can do this, and in fact we are doing it.  Permission to stop comparing ourselves with others, our bambinos with other bambinos.  Permission to help each other, be the best we can be.

We applaud Steve Wiens for writing such a great piece and we receive it, we embrace it.  We want to know we’re doing an ok job with parenting.  We want to know that others struggle with the very same issues that keep us awake at night, that drive us to create engaging and colourful chore charts/ potty training schemes and help memorize spelling lists/ state capitols and the periodic table….

I look at my facebook list of friends, and I’m thrilled to say that I see each and every parent there is an active and involved parent.  Yes we’re all on a very long and hard journey.  Yes to some of us parenting comes more naturally than others and some of us were blessed with better childhoods than others so we have a few more clues about parenting than others…..but every single parent I know is doing their darndest to do the very best they can.

So why don’t we encourage more?

Why don’t we point out brilliant behaviour when we see it?

Why don’t we thank our neighbours for their kids’ marvellous manners when we hear them (yeah Frosti and Kurtis I’m talking to you!).

Why don’t we tell the other Mum at school pick up time how well their kid is doing with new reading skills?

Why don’t we smile at the exhausted parents of a houdini toddler, and tell them that yes their kid is a ‘busy’ kid, but by golly that’s leadership material?

We’re starving.  Parents of small kids especially but I don’t think it gets much better as the kids get older. We still need permission from each other to get frustrated by the challenges we face, we need to know it is ok to put the clocks forward an hour(stealthily – unseen by the kids who can actually tell time) to hasten bedtime when we need to and we need to celebrate the victories together. Big victories.  Small victories.  We’re in this together.

Let’s try to feed each other’s souls just a little bit more, yes?  After all, one day my three boys are hopefully going to marry……we could be parents in-law one day to your little princess……

Let’s try not to starve, together.

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Building Your Lifeboat

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I’ve been marinating on this little ditty, this little nugget of truth since I saw it on pinterest a couple of weeks ago.

You see it is all very good and well to read these words and to believe them.  It is another thing to actually live them out.  And gee……there is absolutely no denying the truth of these words when you see someone living it out…..when the truth they have stored up in the silence is the only thing that gives them hope, it helps them carry on, sees them through the hard times, when the storms come.

This past week I’ve had the honour to walk alongside a friend as she has encountered one of life’s curveballs.

You know that mixture of feelings you get when you go for your big anatomical ultrasound scan, when you’re about 20 – 22 weeks pregnant?  You’re thrilled to actually see this little person for the first time, you may or may not be eager to know the baby’s gender, but you also have that slight uneasiness..hoping everything is ok with that baby.  Wanting a good report for everything.  Well Lindsay didn’t get that all clear that we all hope for, not then anyway, and she has another wait of a few more weeks before she gets definitive results from more tests done this week.  You can read this part of her story here, and she writes it beautifully, so much better than I ever could.

I said it is an honour to walk alongside her through this and I truly mean that.  I can see the fruit and the evidence of what Lindsay and her husband build up in the silence, carrying them through the uncertainty.  Giving them hope and that peace that passes understanding.  You see it is not that Lindsay and CJ are perfect – nope – they are human, just like the rest of us – it is because they serve a perfect Lord.  They are conduits of the Holy Spirit – vessels – that’s all.

I like to think of ‘the truth that we build up in the silence’ as being the things we build our lifeboats out of.  Lifeboats to keep us afloat when our ships are capsized by life and life’s curveballs.

*  The word of God = the body of the boat, the hull.  Knowing God’s word means knowing God, knowing his heart, and who wouldn’t want to know the creator of the world’s heart?  In Ephesians 6 Paul talks about the armour of God and of putting on the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  The bible illuminates, it reveals to us the good and the bad, it gives clarity to the wise and the unwise.  The sword, the bible, is used for offensive and defensive purposes.  Jesus used the bible to counter Satan’s attacks when in the wilderness.  The word of God deep down in our souls is going to keep us afloat when storms come.  We can depend on God’s word and the promises in his word.

*  Prayer = the gps/ radio in your lifeboat.  The prayers that you pray in the silence come back to you in the storm, when you don’t have the words to say, when you can only muster up that Holy moan. An utterance. Prayer is just communication with the Lord and the *best* thing about prayer to me, is it keeps your perspective right, it keeps you looking up and out so that you’re not consumed by your here and now.

No relationship survives without communication, including our relationship with the Lord.  Prayer – communication is necessary for growth and intimacy.

*  The companionship of Godly friends = the outboard engines on our boats.  Sometimes when we walk through the trials of life we can walk that ever bit faster with a friend by our side.  Things can be so much more bearable when you have a shoulder to cry on.  Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to make good friendships great.  It involves a lot of vulnerability, on both persons part, a lot of trust and a lot of wisdom.  It is never a good thing to just spill your guts to just anyone, but when you know who can be a great friend to you, and when you make room in your life for them and them for you……friendship is one of those things that can get you through anything.  C.S Lewis said “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
You know this past week the easy thing for Lindsay to do would have been to hide away.  To just hibernate with her husband while working through the emotions and seeking a Godly perspective in all the waiting.  But in doing that she would have been denying her friends the opportunity to reach out to her, to uphold her family in prayer and the opportunity to partake in a miracle.  The harder thing for her was to share with people where she was at – and God was glorified.  She could call on these friendships because they have been established in the silence.  When life was a little easier.  And then, when the storm came, the outboard engine of friendship helped to push her along a little….reassuring her….

Now here’s the scoop, the latest on Lindsay’s baby, Charlie.  Lindsay’s OB (who also happened to be my amazing OB, a great man of God) emailed her today with the news that the fact that the ultrasound that Lindsay had yesterday showed no abnormalities in the baby’s heart, that it was normal, was a gift from God.  The ultrasound yesterday was so different from the bizarre one from the previous week shows that the baby was healed.  This was not a technical glitch, but a healing.  Praise God.  Praise Him.

And here’s the thing – because Lindsay chose to include others in her journey, both in her real life and through her writing, others have been blessed.  My own faith has been boosted.  What my husband and I prayed for, in the quiet of our time with the Lord, has been heard.  Countless others have likewise stood in faith with her about this too and prayed for healing – they have been touched and who is glorified?  Not Lindsay, not CJ, even though they are strong leaders and amazing people in their own right.  No, the Lord is glorified in this healing of baby Charlie, because the Lord is the reason for their peace and their very purpose.

Lindsay and CJ still have a few question marks hovering over their little Charlie’s life – but nothing can take away from the fact that this life is God-ordained, this life has a purpose, this life already has an amazing testimony of God’s healing power and this life is loved.  Loved by the people around him already, but even more so by the one who created him.

Whatever the next weeks or indeed the years to come bring my dear friends, they will be riding out the storms just fine.  They have a lifeboat.  They are building their lifeboat……prayer by prayer, bible verse by bible verse, friend by friend, they are building their boat.

All of us will encounter storms in our lives, it is not a matter of if, but of when……when will you need your lifeboat to hold you afloat until your seas become smoother?  And will that lifeboat be ready for when you need it?

 

 

 

Ministry: A team thing

There are always pretty high stats floating around regarding the number of people that leave ministry, that leave their overseas mission field.

More than ever, I can see why.

Coming off the end of what’s been a particularly hard week, I can see why people leave ministry.  I’m not going to. Make that, we’re not going to.  I believe we are called to what we’re doing and God is firmly in control and that trials come and go, but I can see why people leave.

Chances are if you’re reading this you are possibly involved in a local church.  You will surely have friends and acquaintances serving in countries and places other than where you are currently planted. You may even be in an overseas mission field yourself. Or you may even have missionaries of sorts in your own neighborhood.

There are plenty of things that YOU can do to make life a lot easier for your friends in ministry.  Things that don’t just happen unless people think and then do……

Ministry needs to be a team thing….here are some pointers I’ve learnt along the way…some happened for us naturally and easily….others have been harder…but ALL are appreciated.  More than anything it is the people who can make a difference, for good, for people in ministry.

*  Pray. Pray.  Pray

*  Ask how your friends are doing.  Whether you are asking via email, skype, phone call or face to face.  Ask direct and pointed questions to get a good idea as to how they are doing in every area of their lives.  Don’t just presume.  (I wonder if I would had settled in a bit easier and quicker if I had people in my life actually ask me how I was finding things. I’m a private person and don’t talk about myself unless I am asked….maybe your friends are the same).

*  Give invitations to your friends in ministry around you, to include them for major holidays.  Push them to accept.  Holidays are the absolute worst to spend alone – without family around you – when it feels like everyone else is with loved ones.  (Word the invitations with a considerable amount of sincerity….nothing worse than it coming across like a token gesture).

*  Do what you can to be adoptive grandparents/ aunties/ uncles.  One of our friends here has really stepped up and been that person for us.  ‘Grandma Sue’ has been to watch basketball games, soccer games, has invited us into her home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and various barbecues as well as taken time off work to come to things like Luka’s Kindergarten graduation.  This has meant so much to us.  So much.

*  Be a free babysitter for your friends.  This matters.  If your friends are in ministry then nine times out of ten they are on a tight budget……the thought of some time out is appealing but the additional cost of a babysitter just pushes it into the too hard basket.  And ministry can cause enormous stress on a marriage.  Give your friends the gift of time.  Push them to accept it.

*  Communicate.  Write letters.  Write emails.  Skype.  Call on the phone.  Even with different time zones make it happen.  Show your friends you care and they are not forgotten.  It may seem like their ‘new’ lives are rich and full….but they still long for real friendships, the kind that has a history.  The kind where you can just pick up where you last left off, so very easily.

*  Provide news from home for those absent friends.  Keep them in the loop with what’s happening with mutual friends.  Most friends will be returning to their past ‘life’ at some point or another so this is important for them to know what is happening in their absence.

*  Seek to give pure, lovely and genuine encouragement.  Whether it is to your friends who are away from you, or your new friends in ministry beside you.  You never know how far that simple word of encouragement will go – you never know the depth of their honesickness or struggles on that particular day.

* Pray, pray, pray for them.  Know their prayer needs – by asking direct questions again.  Cover them in prayer.  Be aware of high pressure times for these friends of yours.  For us whenever Michael’s work does an appeal for more financial support, things happen to us.  Every time.  Without fail.  Usually it has been the kids getting sick and because Michael is working long hours, it has been me looking after sick kids for long hours by myself.  Now I know we need specific prayer covering at these times and I seek out people to pray for us.

You know maybe if we treated each other a little better, and were more aware of people’s needs a bit better, then maybe people in ministry wouldn’t get so burnt out.  They would feel more appreciated and supported in what they’re all doing.  We’re all part of one body.  Let’s help each other function as best we can.

‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.’

– Romans 12

God wants us to take His love and mercy to the ends of the earth.  Let’s help each other do the best we can, with what we are each called to do.  Hand in hand.

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