Peace Giver

I’ve kept journals on and off most of my adult life. For whatever reason, I haven’t journaled much at all in the last couple years. But I go through my old journals sometimes and today I found this one copied below. In it I’m recounting an experience I had with one resident in particular at an addiction facility in Nashville where I served as “spirituality teacher.”

In group today I was talking to the residents about peace. It wasn’t my plan, but it happened and I felt like I should stay with it. “The peace of God,” I explained, “surpasses understanding because it is not congruent with our circumstances. God’s peace can be experienced despite the turmoil or trials we may be experiencing in any given season of our life.”

After several minutes on my rabbit trail I asked for questions and feedback on what they were feeling. Two of the girls raised their hands and said they did not have peace; any peace. It was a foreign concept. One of the girls started to share. I’ve known her for a couple months now, and I know she’s endured much more than most, seeing her mom murdered, experiencing ritual abuse at the hands of a cult religion that actually claimed God was commanding the abuse, and much, much more. She wanted to be clear, that under no circumstances was she experiencing peace, nor had she ever. Not peace with her circumstances, not with her recovery, not with God, not in relationships, not with herself, nothing. My hand went to rest on her arm. This vulnerable honesty was not something that came natural to her and it was more than she’d said in group in weeks. Most addicts have to work very hard to open up and say what’s really going on inside. They’re used to masking their innermost feelings of pain and brokenness with drugs or alcohol. Her voice started to get very shaky, her face and neck blotchy, and the tears started falling as she struggled to get more words out. She told me that she didn’t know how to have peace with God when God was one of her triggers. She said she questions whether God could ever forgive her for praying while she was shooting up, for His help to find a vein. She said she used to pray for her mother to die, and then her mother was murdered. How could God forgive her for that? The tears fell. And fell. And so did my heart, breaking in a million pieces all over the floor.

That was the end of the entry. We became very close, that resident and I, and I was able to have a front row seat as God graciously and lovingly honored her desire to know the real Him, and experience His peace. Over a relatively short period of time I watched God flood her spirit with His, pouring out His Love and Light and Grace into her darkest places of pain.

I am still in awe as I recall the Sunday morning I had taken a group of residents to Cross Point church as was our usual practice. But that morning, after the message she leaned over and said, “I think I’m ready. Can we talk after the service?”

So I found an empty office and all the ladies, now friends and supporters of one another, joined together as she quietly vocalized that she wanted Jesus to take His place Savior in her life, and she wanted to know and experience God as the good, loving Father she had been learning about.

She asked me to pray, and I asked her how she felt about doing the praying, just expressing to God what she was feeling and desiring. Bravely she spoke out, eyes closed, talking to God through shaky tears, giving Him her heart, declaring Jesus to be her Savior, receiving Him as her closest friend and confidant, and choosing to follow Him with her life.

Praise God, faithful and loving, patient and kind. He knows what we need. He knows what our roadblocks are. He orchestrates moments of deliverance for every heart that aches for Love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out. The afflicted who have no one to help.” Psalm 72:12

 

 

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Three’s A Charm

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March 23rd, 2013. A very special day indeed.  A day I was going to send out thank you notes for because so many wonderful women and even a few husbands pitched in to make happen. But, alas, I am nowhere near as put together and on task as I dream to be in my head. And so, I will blog about it. This is an “I love you” and “I never could’ve done this without you” shout out to all the amazing givers in this community effort story. 🙂

Dinah, one of the women in active recovery at Mending Hearts who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the last several months, asked me if I would help throw a baby shower for one of the ladies on campus. I thought it was an excellent idea. And then I realized that three of the ladies on campus were actually having babies right around the same time. A triple baby shower was an excellent idea too. But one I knew I would need a LOT of help with. So I intentionally bit off more than I could chew believing God would fill in the gaps through the generosity of others – and do so ecstatically.

And He did!!! (Though I can’t promise there weren’t momentary panic attacks along the way wondering if anything would come together like I saw it in my head)

My goal for the day was to provide for the mommies-to-be everything they would need to breathe easy when they had their little ones and create an atmosphere of love and light hearted fun for all the women who attended. Due to the people I will mention below, that goal was met and far exceeded. When I tell you the women were SET, I mean, I have never seen so many baby items in one place ever. It made me wish I had a baby of my own to spoil! You name it, they got it. Whenever I made a need known, people came through to meet that need. And the room and the decorations and the food, cake, every little detail was just perfect.

So THANK YOU with all my heart:

Jamie and Lance Lockhart                    Miranda Telford

Regina Hernandez                                   Lydia Dragan

Jennifer Pettus                                          Jackie Brewster

Ryan Bult                                                    Jackie and John DiPillo

Billie Colton                                               Joanna and George Logothetis

Angelia Van Vranken                             Anna Lopez

Dena Williams                                          Brandy Little

Brittany Barbera                                       Whitney Frawley

Forest Hills Baptist Church                  West End Community Church

Cross Point Church                                 Renee at Mending Hearts

Thank you so much on behalf of all the ladies at Mending Hearts, especially the mommies, who have all had healthy babies now. 🙂 Your generosity warms my heart and makes me smile. Whenever we sacrifice for the good of others, we can be sure it is actually the life of Christ alive and living through us. That’s just cool. 🙂

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. ~Philippians 2:13

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Spanx and Skin Cream

Today is my birthday. Some people, women especially, don’t like to share their age. I’m not sure why this is. 🙂 But I can take a couple guesses.
  1. Younger is better
  2. Younger is sexier
  3. Grass is greener on the younger side
  4. Opportunities are endless
  5. “Big breaks” are more likely
  6. You assume the clock is ticking but you’re too young to hear it or care
But the older we get the more we realize what truly matters. And what truly matters the older we get, has less to do with what we have and more to do with who we are.  And that scares us. So fear and doubt begin to creep in with each passing birthday throwing questions around like:
  • What have I really done with my life?
  • Who am I anyway?
  • Does what I do even matter?
  • Do I even matter to God?
  • Is God pleased with me?
  • Is there really a God, who loves me?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have my share of pity parties. The wrinkles! Under eye circles! Slowed metabolism! The struggle to hold onto muscle and not eat the same things! Not to mention the dent in my budget due to the need for spanx and skin creams, hair color and chiropractors, fancy juicers and organic produce, foot massages, back rubs, etc, etc.

 

BUT! There is hope! What I do embrace and love about the aging process is this:
  • The culmination of life experiences that bring wisdom and fruit
  • The mistakes I begin to forgive myself for
  • The grudges I release because I recognize their insignificance
  • The new lens I view others from that focuses more on what makes us the same than what makes us different
  • The lens that recognizes no one is perfect, we all have baggage, we all have scars and we all need healing
  • A greater capacity to love because of a greater understanding of Christ’s love for me.
Today I am 33 years old. I am thankful for every moment of peace and every moment of despair; every joy-filled laugh and every hopeless tear; every friend who has ever loved me and every friend who has ever hurt me; every relationship broken, every relationship restored; every difficult job, every stupid mistake; every child who has given me a glimpse into pure innocence; every high of accomplishment, every low of failure; every fear, every doubt; every flaw, every weakness; every strength, every blessing. Everything.
 
The God of the universe knows you and knew where you would be right in this very moment; even before the foundation of the earth was laid. He made you. He wired you; nothing you do or have done surprises Him or catches Him off guard. He is in awe of you, you are His priceless work of art. Every day is another opportunity to step inside His story for you and with you.

“And now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine according to His power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

To A Chick, By A Chick

Taking a step in someone else’s healing process will always result in a step towards your own.

When I was in second grade my teacher called my mom and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a student give me the cold shoulder. What’s up with your daughter?”

When I was in high school it was brought to my attention by friends that every time they talked to me I was constantly looking around, distracted, and seemingly only half listening, half caring.

Growing up I was forced to work at my dad’s restaurant from a young age. He fired me every other week for being rude and inconsiderate to the customers.

In college, girls told me that before they got to know me they thought I was totally stuck up and full of myself.

When the guy who would become my first serious boyfriend was first “inquiring” about me, he was told, “Don’t even try, she’s got an attitude, her guard is up, she’ll tear you to shreds.”

After hearing this sort of thing enough, I decided to get to the root of the issue.  I no longer wanted to be known as the girl with the attitude who didn’t need anyone or care about anyone. Because the truth was, that wasn’t true. 

The process took years, but once God started softening my heart towards people, and women in particular, I started making some intentional changes that would eventually become a part of my own healing process.

1)  Seek to make people feel heard and seen. At the end of the day, we all want to be respected and understood. Hold eye contact. Listen intently. Pray the name of Jesus in your mind to keep him involved in every conversation.

2)  Intentionally reach out to women. Take an interest in who they are beneath the surface.

When I moved to Nashville almost 10 years ago knowing no one, I realized if I wanted to make any girlfriends I was going to have to be kind, honest and real. (New concept)  A lot of us girls can seem guarded and jealous and it can mask who we truly are on the inside. I wanted to make women feel the way I never felt.  And every time I did, not only did I make some great friends, I also felt a little more whole and beautiful myself.

Most, if not all women are insecure about something. Their appearance, their history, their heart, etc. “We all need healing,” as my boss likes to say.

When we, as women, go out of our way to make another woman feel beautiful, loved and respected, the world becomes a more precious place, it really does.  Even women you think are so stinkin gorgeous and confident they can’t possibly need a conversation initiated, or a genuine compliment, I’ve seen these women time and time again break down over how much they can’t bear to look at themselves in the mirror or how they wish they had closer female friendships.

I would just like to say to any chick reading this.

“You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important.”  🙂

Happily Dissatisfied

I heard this phrase “happily dissatisfied” used by my friend Diana Sumpter and I think it so characterizes so many of us at various times in our lives, particularly women. We do something because it’s expected or we feel obligated, or we think it’s the only option whether it’s a job or a relationship or marriage or kids. We change locations, buy things, get involved in a million different activities and causes. But this feeling like something is still missing lingers and hovers and haunts. And through it all we can manage, for a while anyway, to smile through it and make like everything is just fine.

I love this quote from author and speaker Marcus Buckingham on his latest book, Find Your Strongest Life- What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently 

“The cliche image of a successful woman today is that she’s some virtuoso juggler, somehow able to keep all the different parts of her life in the air at one time. But that’s quite a sad image when you think about it isn’t it? Because the core skill of juggling is throwing not catching. And if you spend your entire life as a juggler, you’ll never hold on to anything long enough to really feel it.”

A woman is highly esteemed when she:

  • Has a good job
  • Is a good mom
  • A good wife
  • An active member in her church or in a community group
  • Bakes cupcakes for her kid’s bake sales
  • Is on the PTA
  • Can still pick her child up from school when they get sick
  • Grocery shops on the weekends
  • Makes time for friends
  • Works out
  • Shaves her legs, And ..
  • Never has to say, “..but I have a headache.”

The truth is, even if a woman can juggle all these things, no one can juggle all these things well; something will most certainly be suffering; a ball will be dropped or barely caught, and often; which in turn screws up the whole dynamic of what juggling should be; smooth and consistent.

Marcus also mentions that although women today have more opportunities, rights, influence, money, power, etc., than ever, that research shows they actually feel less happy and less fulfilled than women 40 years ago did.

Do you know a woman, or perhaps you are one, who is juggling a hundred different things, possibly very good things, yet still feels somehow unfulfilled and unhappy?