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Dancing On Ashes

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For any of you who have ever sat in a pit of darkness or despair, needing just a taste of faith or hope–a touch of Jesus, I write of my current journey for you…

A couple months ago, I had a “fire”–a time where something very precious and valuable was suddenly gone–burned up quickly and unexpectedly, taking my breath away.  It often still does.  This loss has shaken my core and my faith like nothing else ever has.

Since the “fire,” I’ve been sitting in ashes, trying to sort through remnants of things.  There are so many questions that have no answers.  I have cried out, sometimes hourly, asking the Lord to answer me, to rescue me, to fill me, to comfort me, to speak to me, and to hold me.  He has faithfully met me in so many different ways–friends/family, nature, His word, songs, notes–and yet, the questions have still plagued me.  I often smell like smoke, tasting the ashes along with the saltiness of many tears.

Recently, in a time of seeking Him with my sister, Jesus gave me a picture–an image in my mind…I was clothed in a white dress and I was sitting on a pile of ashes with a house burned down all around me.  Ashes…ashes everywhere.  As I lifted my face from sifting hopelessly through the ashes, I saw Jesus standing right in front of me with His hand outstretched.  He was asking me to dance…DANCE of all things.   Seriously??  Can He not see that things are a little messy right now…and dark…and hopeless and that the last thing I feel like doing is dancing??  He does see, and He’s still asking.  He wants me to dance…to dance on the ashes…with Him.

I cannot describe what the Lord did in my heart in that moment and the hope that flooded my soul…Immanuel.  He’s here.

He will not leave me here in the ashes.  He has a plan, and it includes DANCING!  There’s joy somewhere ahead.  I can’t quite see it yet, but it’s coming.  He says it is.  I just have to stand up, trust Him, take His hand and…dance.  What does that mean practically?  I don’t know exactly, but He’s teaching me.

As we started to dance, He picked up a handful of ashes and started to breathe on them, and when GOD breathes…there’s LIFE!!

My heart is different, even though my circumstances are not…yet.  Peace…Joy….

Following this picture, He brought the line of a song to my mind–“beauty will rise.”  Once I found it, I played the entire song, sobbing my way through.  I didn’t know the full lyrics to this song–only the one phrase that He had brought to my mind,   The words could not have been a more vivid portrayal of the picture He had just given:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJynET3b3PM
“Out of these ashes, beauty will rise and we will dance among the ruins and we will see him with our own eyes…”

I accept your outstretched hand, Jesus.  I choose faith.  I choose to dance with You among the ashes….Beauty will rise (Is 61:3).  You ARE the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)   Behold, You are making all things new (Rev. 21:5).  I believe, help me in my unbelief…

I’m still mid-journey at the moment, and though your journey may be very different from mine, how I pray that Jesus’ touch in my dark, lonely place, will multiply like loaves and fishes of faith and hope in the lives of some of you who may still be sitting in the midst of “ashes.” Others’ stories of faith are doing the same for me.

A Grace Disguised

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This book was suggested to me by at least three different people over the last 3 months, and on the third occasion, I decided that the Lord may be trying to give me a gift, so I picked it up!  Every page seemed to hold something for me, even though Jerry’s story includes greater losses than I can even fathom.  Several people told me it’s the best book on grief and loss they have ever read.  He deals with catastrophic loss including “terminal illness, disability, divorce, rape, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, chronic unemployment, crushing disappointment, mental illness, and ultimately death.”  He says, “If normal, natural, reversible loss is like a broken limb, then catastrophic loss is like an amputation.”

Here are a few quotes from the book just to give you a taste of what you will receive in reading Jerry’s honest and transparent journey through grief and loss:

“It is not, therefore, the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives, for that is as inevitable as death, which is the last loss awaiting us all.  It is how we respond to loss that matters.  That response will largely determine the quality, the direction and the impact of our lives.”

“…[T]he quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise….  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”

“If we face loss squarely and respond to it wisely, we will actually become healthier people, even as we draw closer to physical death.  We will find our souls healed, as they can only be healed through suffering.”

“Loss deprives us of control.  Cancer ravages, violence erupts, divorce devastates, unemployment frustrates, and death strikes–often with little warning.  Suddenly we are forced to face our limitations squarely.  Our expectations blow up in our face.  We wonder what has gone wrong.”

“People in denial refuse to see loss for what it is, something terrible that cannot be reversed.  They dodge pain rather than confront it.  But their unwillingness to face pain comes at a price.  Ultimately it diminishes the capacity of their souls to grow bigger in response to pain….  In the end denial leads to a greater loss.”

“Many people form addictions after they experience loss….  So they watch television every moment they can, work sixty hours a week, drink too much alcohol, go on a sexual rampage, eat constantly, or spend their money carelessly.  In so doing, they hold suffering at a distance.”

“Sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss.  If anything, it may keep going deeper.  But this depth of sorrow is the sign of a healthy soul, not a sick soul. ”

“Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness.”

“The death that comes through loss of spouse, children, parents, health, job marriage, childhood or any other kind is not the worst kind of death there is.  Worse still is the death of spirit, the death that comes through guilt, regret, bitterness, hatred, immorality and despair.”

“Regret keeps the wounds of loss from healing, putting us in a perpetual state of guilt…. People with regrets can be redeemed, but they cannot reverse the loss that gave rise to the regrets.”

“Despite the fact that I had been a Christian for many years before the accident, since then God has become a living reality to me as never before.  My confidence in God is somehow quieter but stronger….  I have slowly learned where God belongs and have allowed him to assume that place–at the center of life rather than at the periphery.”

“Yet a worse state still, far exceeding even sorrow or guilt, is the absence of all feeling, for that means that the soul is dead.”

“Forgiving people give up the right to punish and instead wish wrongdoers well, whether they are starting a new marriage after a divorce or a new life after serving time in prison or a new relationship with God.  Forgiveness hopes that wrongdoers experience a good life, which is full of the mercy of God.”

“I knew I had to make peace with God’s sovereignty, reject God altogether, or settle for a lesser God who lacked the power or desire to prevent the accident.”

“No matter how deep the pit into which I descend, I keep finding God there.  He is not aloof from my suffering but draws near to me when I suffer.”

“The risk of further loss, therefore, poses a dilemma.  The problem of choosing to love again is that the choice to love means living under the constant threat of further loss.  But the problem of choosing not to love is that the choice to turn from love means imperiling the life of the soul, for the soul thrives in an environment of love.”

“Loss is a universal experience…But loss is also a solitary experience…But loss does not have to isolate us or make us feel lonely.  Though it is a solitary experience we must face alone, loss is also a common experience that can lead us to community.”

Sunflowers

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As I gazed out my kitchen window in the cool of early morning a couple days ago, I saw something that caught my attention.  There were some sunflowers that my neighbor had planted in her perennial bed next door.  I haven’t spent much time studying sunflowers before, but for some reason that morning, my attention was riveted on these little bursts of color and beauty.

The sun was just beginning to peak its head out, and the amazing thing was that as the sun continued to make it’s way up into the early morning sky, the sunflowers’ faces continued to move with the sun.  I guess theoretically I knew that sunflowers were named such for a reason, but it never really struck me before.  Their faces follow the sun.

What an incredible idea. Sunflowers are bright, beautiful and cheery, absorbing and reflecting the color of the sun.

Made me think of a verse that the Lord has been speaking much over me in the season that I am in right now, “Those who look to Him are RADIANT.  Their faces are never covered with shame.”  Psalm 34:5

I pray that I will radiate and reflect the Son and His beauty as I move my face wherever He is shining!!

Love those sunflowers…

 

Generations

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I had the privilege of visiting some dear friends in Colorado that are like family to me–adopted grandparents really!  As I was sitting around the table sharing a meal with Dick and Margaret Patty, we shared life, pain, Jesus, Scripture, and places of growth.

As I left later that night I was so incredibly blessed by these friends in their late 80’s who are still seeking to know and follow Jesus and speak into the lives of people coming up behind them–like me.  Psalm 145 lives in Dick and Margaret–“One generation will declare His works to another.  They will speak of His mighty acts.  They will tell of the glorious splendor of His majesty.”  God designed it that way–for one generation to proclaim to another who He is.

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That is something I have thought about in my own family as well.  At the moment I don’t have any children, but I have 8 dear nieces and nephews that I have an incredible privilege to invest in.  I also have countless children of friends that the Lord has put into my life, and what a privilege it is to be one of the people who can tell firsthand stories to them of the works of Jesus in my/our life.

There are some very intentional ways that the Lord has impressed on my heart to invest right now.  On family vacation each summer I have had a “God rocks” time with the kids before bed, reading Bible stories and incredible faith stories from missionaries as well as telling stories of our own!  I love it as much as they do.

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I also have an “Aunt Laurie’s book bag” that goes with me in my car which has special books that my nieces and nephews and my friends’ kids read with me (thank you Kristi P for that idea!).

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At a recent slumber party at my house with all eight of my nieces and nephews, I invited anyone who wanted to join me for my “tea and chocolate” time with Jesus to wake up early with me, drink tea, have chocolate and read our Bibles together.  Almost all of them joined me, and we watched the visual Bible.  They were mesmerized for at least 45 minutes as the book of John came alive.

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How I hope that these sweet times with these precious kids will inspire faith in our amazing God just as an evening over dinner with Dick and Margaret Patty did in mine.