Paradise Lost?

shutterstock_732751837Have you ever walked through tough times in your life and come out on the other side, only to be plunged back into difficulties?  It’s one of the most discouraging things in life to think you have finally hit some smooth sailing and then your boat overturns again.  In my life, these times have rattled and shaken me to the core.  I have felt defeated, like the sun was never going to shine again, and have often felt like maybe God is mad at me for some reason to have allowed more trouble in my life.  Of course, there are all the cute quotes out there that remind us God is always good and is always working for our good.  Heck, I even believe that, but man, sometimes I don’t feel it.  I sit and wonder what God is up to and why there are times it feels like He yanks me out of a pleasant place only to drop me into a difficult, depressing or downright terrible place.  If I’m being totally honest, it makes me question His goodness and wonder why He doesn’t just put me (or others) in that pleasant place and let us stay there.  Sometimes it is life circumstances that just hit us, but sometimes God actually calls us out of the good places for a reason.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about a man named Lazarus.  Many of you may know of whom I am speaking, but let’s take a look at it for a moment. Lazarus was a dear friend of Jesus (and also the brother of Mary and Martha).  He became extremely ill, so Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus telling Him, “Lord, the one you love is sick,” because they KNEW Jesus had the power to heal him.  It probably seemed like a no-brainer that Jesus would come and heal his friend, especially since the Bible tells us that Jesus not only loved Lazarus, but also loved Mary and Martha.  They were a dear family to Him, and you’d think He would immediately run to take care of it.  But He didn’t.  He told the messenger, “This sickness is not going to end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Then He stayed where He was for two more days before telling the disciples “let’s go back.”  When they asked why, Jesus told them that Lazarus was asleep and He was going to wake him up.  The disciples crack me up because they told Jesus that if Lazarus was sleeping, then he would get better.  As usual, they missed what He was saying, so Jesus had to clear it up by saying, “Lazarus is dead and for your sake I’m glad I wasn’t there, so that you may believe.  Let’s go.”  That sounds a little harsh, but Jesus also knew his disciples needed some strengthening of their own faith.

When Jesus got to where Lazarus lived, He found that he had already been in the tomb for four days!  Martha hears that Jesus is coming so she takes off to meet him.  She gets to Him and says, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” I always feel like Martha was irritated or even scolding when she said it, like “you took too long and now look what happened!”   So Jesus tells her that her brother will live again, but Martha misunderstood and thought He was talking about the resurrection.  After a brief conversation, Martha goes to get Mary.

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When Mary reached Jesus, she fell at His feet in anguish, crying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Same words, different emotion behind it.  The Bible says it was her anguish that deeply moved and troubled Jesus.   He asked where they had buried Lazarus, and then He began to cry.  Yes, He cried openly.  As a result, some people thought, “See how He loved him,” but others started to criticize.  They said, “He opened the eyes of the blind, couldn’t He have kept him from dying?”  What happens next is best read in the verses themselves (John 11:38-44)…

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Most Christians use this account to share the incredible miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead, and it IS miraculous.  We hear sermons about how God always shows up right on time, even when we think He is “four days late.”  We hear preachers and teachers talk about Jesus’ love for His friend and the emotion He showed in weeping openly over the situation.  Those are all great things to consider, but how often do we look at how Lazarus probably felt?  If I was Lazarus, I would have been ticked off!  Think about this for a moment:  Here’s a guy who had been really sick and was miserable.  He eventually succumbed to his illness and died, but in that moment, he was immediately in the presence of God.  He was in Paradise!  He has no more pain and doesn’t have to worry about anything anymore.  As a child of God, he is finally home.  I imagine him hanging out with Moses and Abraham, or maybe some of his loved ones who had already died.  What a great homecoming!  What a great time!  All the crap he had to endure on this earth was finally passed, and he could relax.  But then, from beyond the grave, a voice calls to him, “Lazarus, come forth.”  If I was Lazarus, I would be thinking, “Are you kidding me?  After everything I’ve been through, You are calling me BACK?!!  I’ve attained more than I could imagine and You are yanking me back into a world full of trouble, evil, pain and suffering.  Leave me here!”  We don’t know what actually went through Lazarus’ mind, but I think of how I would feel if it happened to me.

shutterstock_427738096There was certainly a bigger purpose for bringing Lazarus back than just relieving the grief of his family.  God used that event to show who He is and that He IS who He says He is.  He used it to show His power, but also his mercy and love.  Look, there was no denying the miraculous nature of what happened.  The Bible tells us that Lazarus was in the grave for four days already and that he stunk!  No one could deny he was dead – I mean “dead” dead!  There was no way to say what Jesus did was a parlor trick or anything else.   It was most definitely effective!  Not only that, but the disciples needed their faith strengthened, and Jesus knew that bringing Lazarus back would accomplish that.  But again, what about Lazarus?  What good did it do HIM to be brought back?  He lost all of the perfection of Heaven, AND he would have to go through an earthly death TWICE!  Is it just me, or does that seem mean to anyone else?  I’ve felt bad for him on that piece, because it really feels like he got the short end of that stick.  I think that’s why we don’t often talk about this piece of the story.  We don’t want to think that God would purposely bring us back from something amazing – or even perfect – just to drop us back into something where we are going to have to struggle.  We can say all day long that we’d be ok with it since it for His glory, but I really don’t think that’s how our hearts react when it happens.

So what was in it for Lazarus?  Think about it this way:

  • Lazarus got to see Heaven and knew exactly what it was like.
  • Knowing what was waiting in Heaven, and that death was not to be feared, would most likely have caused Lazarus to live with a boldness and courage he never had before or might not have had any other way.
  • He got to experience what the rest of us have to take on faith. He believed God, but he actually got see his faith realized with his own eyes, ears and hands.  That would definitely give you a new certainty most people don’t get.
  • He was free when he died and went to Heaven, but he was liberated when Jesus called him back to this world. One of the definitions of being liberated is “releasing someone from a state or situation that limits freedom of thought or behavior.”  By coming back after experiencing Heaven, Lazarus was liberated from fear and anxiety over death.  He was liberated from any doubt that God’s word was true.  He had seen it and it changed him.

So back to present day and all the troubles we endure in life.  I don’t have the big view that God does.  I know that His word tells me that “all things work together for good to them who love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  I know that God loves us and cares about everything we are going through.  When we cry, He cries (remember how He was moved by Mary’s grief).  He knows exactly where we are, all the time.  Jesus knew Lazarus was dead without anyone telling Him.  He told it to the disciples even though he had not received that message from anyone.  God knows what we’ve endured to get to those pleasant places in our lives – places HE has actually created.  So why call us back away from those places?  Because it can change us for the better if we let it.  It can liberate us if we look at things differently.

shutterstock_293580959When things are going well for me, I need to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m sure Lazarus wasn’t worrying about things on earth after he died.  He was simply enjoying being in Heaven.  I need to do the same thing in life’s pleasant places.  I need to just sit back and marvel at how true God’s word is, and that He has taken care of me just as He promised He would.  I need to just relax in that place and not worry about what else might or might not happen.  I’ll be honest, that is NOT a natural or easy thing for me to do, but it would be so much better for me.  When we worry about what might be coming next, we drain all the joy and peace out of the pleasant places in life.  When we do that, we wring the joy and confidence in God out of our lives as well.  Then we wonder why we are so stressed or why God feels so far away.

In those times when we are called out of the pleasant places back into difficulties, it’s so easy to be frustrated and even angry with our Heavenly Father.  We may say, “it’s ok because I know He is working this for His glory and my ultimate good,” but it often becomes just words.  It hurts to be pulled back from the pleasant places.  It hurts when we have to endure challenges after we think we’ve conquered them already.  It is frustrating and so often causes us to immediately lose sight of everything God has done for us or how He has, in the past, brought us through trouble TO the pleasant places. We need to learn to think differently about the challenges.  Rather than seeing them as a punishment or reprimand, we need to recognize that God needs people in this world who have seen first-hand what He can and will do.  He needs people who have unshakable confidence in our eternity so that we can live liberated lives here.  He needs people living courageous lives, in spite of their circumstances, because that kind of life touches and changes the lives of others.  Through that kind of life, we have opportunities to share what we have seen and know to be true about our God who loves us so much.

One last thought about this story:  Notice that Jesus called Lazarus by name.  He didn’t just come back to the grave and say, “come out.”  Do you know why?  Because if He had done that, everyone who was dead would have come out.  He specifically called to Lazarus because God does not operate in generalities.  He operates specifically, personally, on a one-to-one basis.  He has specific plans for each of us, and each of us has a different journey to walk. In spite of our different callings, God wants ALL of us to have peace, confidence and joy.

shutterstock_82458775So the next time I hear, “Deanna, come forth,” I’m going to take a quick look around before I leave the  amazing place in which I’m standing, and consider all He did to deliver me from trials in the past. By doing that, I can walk back into this flawed world with complete confidence and security in the truth of His word.  Only then can I live a liberated life, free of worry and fear in my circumstances, because I have seen His glory and His fulfilled promises first hand.  THAT knowledge and experience in the pleasant places is what will change the way I live in every place else.

Blessings!

Living in the Center of His Wheel

shutterstock_164791247Many people of faith are familiar with the story of the potter and the clay found in the Bible (Jeremiah chapter 18).  We’ve heard the account of how the potter was working to create something, but the clay became marred.  Instead of thinking the clay was ruined or worthless, or instead of getting frustrated and giving up, the potter simply started over remaking the clay into a useful vessel.   Often this story is used as an example of how God never gives up on us, and that is a good and proper picture, but I was thinking about a more specific aspect of the work of the potter that stands out for me.  Pressure.

If you’ve ever worked with pottery (and I have), you understand that it takes complete and total focus.  You also understand that one of the most frustrating things is when the clay gets off-center and becomes out of balance.  You are going along, trying to create something beautiful, but the moment it is out of balance, everything starts falling apart.  Sometimes it happens so quickly, and you find yourself with nothing but a lump that is unrecognizable.  Or maybe as the wheel spins, you find a rock or some other hard substance that can’t just be worked around, and you have to stop everything to remove it and then start over from the beginning.  Either of these things can be disappointing or downright maddening because you only have two choices: 1) Get mad, give up and throw the clay away, or 2) form the clay back into a lump, put it back on the wheel and start over.

shutterstock_97981301It is interesting to consider the change in the amount of pressure a potter must use in order to make the clay into something recognizable, useful and beautiful.  In the beginning, even if the clay has been placed in the very center of the wheel, it starts to become out of balance when the spinning begins.  The potter uses water to make the clay easier to mold, then wraps his hands around it and puts strong pressure in a confined manner to guide it into balance.  A vessel cannot be created until the clay is balanced and centered, but once that happens, the true artwork begins.  Throughout the process, pressure is continually applied in one way or another or to one degree or another.  It is pressure that creates the beautiful intricacies or restores the balance.  But this one thing is for certain: the potter must keep working until the vessel is complete.  There is no stopping in the middle and coming back to it later.  It must either be completed or abandoned.  And the pressure, whether great or barely noticeable, is continually necessary because even with the most masterful artist, the clay can become out of balance at the slightest touch.  When that happens, he must stop creating and spend a little time applying just the right pressure in just the right way to bring everything back into balance.  The same is so true in our lives.

We all endure pressure in life.  It may come in the form of circumstances beyond our control or as a result of poor decisions we make, but it WILL come.  When we feel the pressure, our human nature causes us to become out of balance.  We worry and fret over what we should do.  We get angry over how we have been mistreated.  We get depressed over our lack of ability to change or fix something.  We spin and spin and eventually realize how out of balance we really are.  If only we would realize that God is the master potter and we really are the clay.  He isn’t some mean ogre who is trying to make things difficult for us or punish us.  He actually said He came so that we could have life abundantly!  This world is full of situations and circumstances that will wear us down if we focus on them, but God has promised over and over that if we will simply seek Him first, He will take care of everything else.  That doesn’t mean our lives will be free of trouble, but it means we have a loving Father who is masterfully, patiently and continually creating something amazing, no matter how many times He has to start over.

shutterstock_130134731Pressure in our lives never feels good.  We try to avoid it any time we can but maybe we just need to change the way we think about it.  When we start feeling pressure in our lives, it isn’t time for us to stiffen up and fight against it.  It’s time for us to relax into the potter’s hands and let Him use that pressure for our good.   The most difficult and challenging times for us may be exactly the pressure we need to restore our balance.  The bad decisions we may have made in our lives don’t render us useless or of no value.  Our circumstances don’t destroy us because the Potter has promised to never abandon us.  (“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5) He has also promised to finish what He starts!  (“He who began a good work in you is faithful and just to complete it.”  Philippians 1:6).

It is important for us to remember God doesn’t cause problems or imbalance in our lives; He simply applies loving pressure when necessary to RESTORE balance.  He continually has us in His loving hands, purposely working all things out for our ultimate good.  Whatever any of us are going through right now may not feel good.  The pressure may feel unbearable and no matter how we try, we can’t seem to find a way to make things work out. We spend our energy focusing on all that’s wrong or what we don’t have and then wonder why we are fatigued and depressed.  If only we could realize the only job of the clay is to be moldable. If only we were more willing to relax, the pressure wouldn’t seem so unbearable.  If only we would spend more of our time being grateful for the fact we are in our Father’s hands, and realize He is working to make our lives amazing and abundant, we would find it so much easier to breathe.   After all, being in the center of His will really means being in the center of His “wheel.”

And the sooner we soften under the Potter’s touch, the sooner our lives shift from becoming a work of restoration to becoming a work of art.

Blessings!

Are You Recovering or Relapsing?

shutterstock_178294598Recently I was reminded of a statement I heard years ago: “If you’re not recovering, you are relapsing.”  Although this statement often applies to those who have had issues with addiction of some kind, whether drugs, alcohol, food or any other substance, I believe it also applies to many other things we struggle to change in our lives.  It might be relationships with other people.  It might be aspects of your spiritual walk or relationship with God.  Whatever it is, we can all relate to having things we want or need to change.

This summer, I will have been in “recovery” from an eating disorder for 25 years.  I say recovery because for the most part, I have been extremely successful.  That being said, there have also been relapses here and there along the way.  Even recently, it reared its ugly head and manifested itself in an entirely new way I would have never expected.  I was caught completely off guard, though it eventually started becoming clear what triggered the downward progression.  Like most people who don’t want to admit something has gotten the better of them – even if only momentarily – I initially denied, then rationalized my behavior.  “But I’m not doing it the same way most people do,” I said.  “I am in complete control and know full-well what the risks are.  I’m not stupid!”  I kept saying it to others, and to myself, but eventually it reached a point where I could no longer deny it and started making serious steps to get a handle on it once again.

shutterstock_65434666My experience with this made me think about all the other mindsets and ways of thinking we all have about things in our lives.  It might be an actual addiction to a substance or it might be an addiction to a particular behavior or routine.  Sometimes our addictions involve the old tapes playing in our heads that are easier to leave playing than to make an effort to turn them off.  We get used to the familiar even if we know it is bad for us.  We gravitate to old coping mechanisms and techniques even though we know the end result will actually make it more difficult for us to actually cope!

We all have these ways of thinking and if someone tries to tell you they have never been touched by “addiction,” they are lying.  It may not look like what many people think of when they hear that word, but an addiction is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.”   Maybe you overeat or under-eat because you are doing it out of emotion.  Maybe you constantly gravitate to people who do not treat you well because you’ve been convinced you don’t deserve anything better.   We spend money we don’t have or over commit to projects or people because it’s been beaten into our heads that saying “no” somehow makes us bad or selfish.  We go to church because someone told us that God will be mad at us if we don’t.  We wear elaborate masks because we think it’s easier than looking in the mirror and facing the truth.   We turn over a new leaf and make a commitment to ourselves (and even to those around us) that we are going to change but eventually find ourselves right back in the same boat again and again.

shutterstock_147867770We relapse!  Yes…I said “WE” relapse…all of us.  Sometimes we relapse because we are lazy.  Sometimes we relapse because we become too confident in ourselves or our abilities.  Sometimes we relapse simply because we are human.  We are imperfect people in an imperfect world.  That fact does NOT excuse us or our behaviors, but I have learned that it doesn’t do any good to beat ourselves up when we fail.  We have a God who loves us and forgives us completely when we simply ask.  Are there consequences of our behaviors?  Most certainly, but He has even promised to give us the grace and strength to endure the consequences as long as we lean on Him and trust Him to do so.  That is where our recovery begins.

Recovery is not easy…not from any behavior we seem to struggle with.  New habits are hard to form, and we are impatient creatures!  Recovery is sometimes very slow and methodical even though we want things to change right now!  Once we truly realize how warped our thinking or behavior is, we want it to be different but we don’t want to spend the time (and sometimes pain) it takes to get there.  Unfortunately things do not just happen on their own!  It takes effort.  It takes us being continually aware and making conscious choices to do things differently.  It is a life-long “recovery” process!

It’s been said that life is all about how we move forward.  I like to think of that a little differently.  I believe life is all about how we move forward AFTER we have fallen backwards.  If I am continually striving for perfection, I will continually be a failure in my own mind.  If I believe I am a failure when I stumble in life, then I will become fearful of getting back up.  And when I believe it is safer or easier to just stay where I am than to get up and risk falling at some point in the future, then I am choosing to become a slave to “relapse.”  I am choosing to give control of my future to the very things or people that want nothing more than to steal that future from me.  On the other hand, if I believe life is all about an ebb and flow, falling and soaring, then I know it is possible that success may lie in the very next step that I take forward.  That is what drives me on toward the next breath sometimes when I am struggling under the weight of my all-too-familiar weaknesses or faulty thinking.  Recovery is a choice.  It is believing that falling does not make me a failure and stumbling doesn’t mean I will never succeed in changing the things I want to change.  It isn’t about sitting on the shore to avoid being knocked down by the waves; it is about learning to recognize the tide so that when we lose our footing and fall down, we are not pulled into the depths of the sea.

shutterstock_155808656Relapse or recovery?  Whichever you find yourself in today, or at this time in your life, take heart in knowing you are not alone.  We are all moving one direction or the other when it comes to our “addictions.”  No matter how big or small the change you are trying to make may be, just remember this:  If you are not moving away from those negative things or behavior, then you are moving toward them.  The beautiful reality of it all is that every breath is a new beginning and every heartbeat is a chance to start again.  That is what life is all about.

Blessings!

Light at the End of the Darkness

Annette Ness blur cropOn Saturday, it will be 17 years since I lost my best friend, Annette…however, it was a Thursday evening 17 years ago today, January 16th that I saw her for the last time.  Even the days of the week this year coincide with the days of the week when she passed away.  I had no idea our time together that Thursday evening would end up being the last moments we spent together and I suppose that made it all the more beautiful.  I told someone yesterday that I could not have been blessed with a greater or more perfect “last” visit with Annette.  Every single thing that happened that night was beautiful and complete.  It truly was completely perfect.

When we lose someone, we long for completion.  We long for closure and finality instead of unresolved situations or feelings.  Unfortunately, it is an extremely rare occasion when we actually GET the completeness we so desire.  I have lost many people in my life and almost all of these situations did have some kind of final closure for me.  That doesn’t mean I have forgotten these beautiful souls, but it means that I was able to experience some kind of commemoration of their lives that made me feel like they had truly been honored…or at least I had honored them if no one else did.  It is important to me.  It is just as important as my perspective on the brevity of life.  It is that truth that we are not promised another day that has always driven me to ensure the people in my life know how I feel about them.  I am not morbid; I simply think it is SO extremely important for us to express our love and gratitude for those special people around us.  It not only makes goodbyes more tolerable, it can actually add a sweetness to it.  It doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it more complete.

Annette and I did not have a perfect relationship, but we had a perfectly beautiful connection.  And in the end, our final time together truly was perfect.  As I reflect back to that night…this night, I am immersed in beautiful sensations.   There are no earthly words to truly express what I feel in my heart and soul when I remember that evening.  One of the things that stands out in my memory is a song I sang to her that night.  She wanted me to put on a tape I had made for her of me singing her favorite songs, so of course I did exactly that.  The music was playing in the background but then she asked me to sing along, even though it was already my voice on the tape.  There was one song in particular that Annette always loved.  It is called “Light at the End of the Darkness” and over the years she often asked me to sing it at church for her.  There was just something about that song for Annette that spoke to her and lifted her up from whatever difficulties she was enduring at the time.  It’s quite an old song, but it was never outdated in Annette’s mind.  I haven’t sung that song since Annette died and today I realized just how much I miss it.

Saturday, January 18th, is a day often filled with the memories of Annette’s actual death and of the terribly heartbreaking experiences of that entire day, but Thursday, January 16th, brings memories of the most beautiful kind.  It reminds me of how blessed I am to have been given such a night of perfect completeness with someone so important to me.  It makes me appreciate every single moment, word, touch and breath of that night.  It makes me thankful to God that He knew what was coming in less than two days so He provided me a night that, for most people, only exists in movies.  It brings back the sights and sounds of that night and brings such a sense of completeness that my heart doesn’t know what to do with it.  And then it hits me…I miss her so much it hurts.

So today, I have been listening to that song…but this time, I hear the words coming in the voice of my dear friend.  I see her smile and feel the warmth of her spirit…and truth be told, it is a special gift that continuously, simultaneously breaks and heals my heart.

Blessings!

When the Words Won’t Come

I sat down several times to write a post over the past week and the words just wouldn’t come.  I thought I would have time to reflect and share things with you over the weekend but that still didn’t bring the words I sought.

lightning sky2Sometimes we have those days or weeks (or even longer) when we want so badly to express ourselves but cannot find the words to do so.  We are faced with so many different situations and emotions that our spirit seems to swirl like a massive cyclone in which we can only catch glimpses of things as they fly past.  I have longed for the eye of the storm over the past few days but instead found the cyclone swirling even faster.  It certainly makes it difficult to find words when you can’t even find footing.

It is hard to explain the sensation of feeling alone in the midst of people or trying to let go of the pains we don’t understand.  It actually hurts to not be able to find the words to express the depth of our emotions…but what hurts more is to actually have the words and not be able to say them out loud.  I think that is one of the greatest pains of all.  Those situations bring a unique kind of pain…a hurt on top of hurt…a loneliness wrapped in isolation.

 

shutterstock_150535259It is not wise to say everything you think, believe or observe, but to feel censored because of the fear of confrontation or being belittled can be challenging.  Bullies don’t always use something tangible to attack others, but the injuries are just as deep.  Whether real or perceived, these things cause us to “clam up” and curl up into the corners of our soul where words are hard to find.  I have found it impossible to try and force words to the surface when the surface is not within reach, and I have found it too painful to reach down into the depths and grab them.

Personally, I struggle to understand why some people think or do the things they think or do.  I struggle to understand why some people seem to thrive on controversy, contention or confrontation.  I struggle to understand why it hurts so much to not understand.  I struggle just like the rest of you with these things and maybe there is comfort in that fact.  Maybe it is our collective struggle to live in peace that binds some of us together.  And maybe…just maybe that makes a difference.

Since hurt is made bearable by the salve of love, I pray we all feel that love in a way that binds our wounds and helps us heal…

even when there are no words.shutterstock_154402385

Blessings!

Shelter the Innocent

child_abuse_symSome of you may be aware that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  I was very fortunate and blessed to have had a childhood where I was loved and safe but many people I know personally were not as fortunate.  They endured terrible abuses of every kind and yet most of them have become some of the strongest people I have ever known.  It is a difficult thing to watch the people we know and love endure these scars in their lives but I have been inspired to see them come to places where they realize just how beautiful they are and have always been.  It is such a process but it is one that is well worth going through.  Healing never comes easily but it IS possible for it to come.

About a week ago, a song came to me in a matter of minutes as a result of reflecting on situations that some of the people I love have had to endure.  Since this is Child Abuse Prevention Month, I thought it fitting to share the lyrics with you so I have added them to the end of this post.  The song is titled, “The Mirror” and it speaks to what is seen when we gaze at our reflection.

shutterstock_92486212Children really are so innocent and need protecting.  We all hope they are raised in loving and caring homes, by good and loving parents but we also know that is not always the case.  It is our responsibility to step forward not only when we become aware of severe abuse but we should also pay closer attention to the children in our lives no matter where we encounter them.   They are a treasure and we should strive to be good examples to them in every way.  We need to love and encourage them whether they are “ours” or not.  We need to talk with them and listen to them and when there are concerns, we need to voice them!  We need to always remember what it felt like to be a child and how real our fears were to us, regardless of what any adult may have thought.  We need to be the ones who genuinely care and help lift them up to be all they can be.  It doesn’t matter where they come from or where they are.  Even if they come from seemingly wonderful homes, they can never have too many supporters and encouragers in this life.  Life can be hard no matter how old we are and I still have people in my life today who listened to me as a child.  I still go to them sometimes.  I still feel warmth and love from them to this very day and it strengthens me continually.

shutterstock_76099252So reach out to the children around you.  Be available.  It doesn’t take much for us to provide a rock to hold onto when their little worlds are crumbling.  It simply takes a willing heart and a few moments of time to make all the difference in the world.  Give them the greatest gift of life they could ever have.  Give them you.

Blessings!

The Mirror

Just a little child broken and abused.  Treated like a rag doll – utterly confused.  Focusing on nothing, she stumbles through the door and looks into the mirror as she hides there on the floor.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone pretty looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the ugly finally fades and all the pain I’m living now turns into yesterday?”

Just another woman haunted by the past.  Survival left her empty ‘cause she had to grow so fast.  Afraid to trust another – afraid to ever tell that all she sees is ugly when she tries to see herself.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone worthy looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the shame will fade away and all the pain I’m feeling now is lost in yesterday?

Down through the years, now when I look, I see I’m not defined by what they took.  And though there are scars, they’re beginning to fade.because I can see I am wonderfully made.

Now in the mirror on the wall, I can finally see someone beautiful and strong smiling back at me.  And should there ever come a time when the doubt begins to rage, I’ll let it go and turn my eyes away from yesterday.

The winds of change have carried me on the wings of love and grace to where I’m free to live beyond my world of yesterdays.”

© Deanna Kay O’Leary 2013

For more information on Child Abuse Prevention Month, please visit:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/

http://www.brightfutures4kids.org/blue-ribbon-society/

God Chooses the Vulnerable

shutterstock_86702158If you are breathing, then you know very well that life is not without struggles. They are certainly going to happen and usually the most control we have is simply how we react and respond to them. If you choose to hide your struggles, God will most certainly give you the grace you need to get through it. What you LOSE is the positive influence you might have had on those around you. The reality is that you are going to be “in it” no matter what. You are going to have to live through it no matter how you react to it. The problem is that if you hide yourself and your struggles or weaknesses and God does something great in your life, you’re the only one who truly sees it.  You don’t know how God is going to choose to bless you and you don’t know who may be watching. He’s capable of healing everything. He’s capable of making you completely whole on every level.

Not hiding your struggles, ailments or disabilities means you are vulnerable. You can be vulnerable in two ways: 1) you can do it by choice or 2) you can be forced into it. Forced vulnerability is never comfortable and it certainly doesn’t feel good. For example: Let’s say you are a physically strong and independent person but suddenly become paralyzed and can’t walk anymore. You no longer have the choice of whether or not you are going to be vulnerable. You ARE going to be vulnerable but you do have a choice in whether or not you leave your house again.  This same principle applies to mental health struggles as it does to physical struggles or ailments.  shutterstock_102250687If you choose to never leave your house, there are people who have known you that may not even realize to what extent you are now struggling.  This is so important (and may even be labeled controversial) but because you’re not willing to let people see you as you are in your weaknesses, you may miss out on being healed. If God is going to choose somebody with which to do something great and to be a great example of what He can do, He’s not going to choose someone who hides. He’s going to choose someone who’s visible…and sometimes being visible is painful. It can be painful for the one who is struggling and sometimes painful for the people who care about them. But being visible allows for help to be given. Being visible brings experiences that cause you to “expect” and it’s not always negative expectations. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be great. Sometimes our greatness is our infirmity. Our greatness is in our willingness to not hide. Our greatness is in living with our infirmities, our failings and faults, our quirks and imperfect bodies, our rejections and our wounds. Our greatness truly lies in our smallness.

God chose a lame man who sat at a city gate and begged. He chose a man who had nothing and no way to help himself. As a matter of fact, he had an infirmity that everyone could see but no one could resolve. God chose him and then did something no one else could do so that everybody who knew it or witnessed it had no doubt that it was God who did it. That’s why this man was chosen; because his infirmities were not hidden. So for us, we need to remember God is going to take care of us day to day no matter what because He has promised that He would and He cannot lie. But He’s not going to choose someone or something that’s hidden to show His power to others because He can’t. If you hide your weaknesses then it is impossible for others to see the amazing way they are resolved. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable and open, you may miss out on a life‑changing blessing! The best thing we can do is to live day to day being open and expecting God to take care of us for today. Expect God to take care of you in THIS moment. Expect God to take care of THIS situation or need, no matter if it is physical, mental or emotional.  shutterstock_59477860You can have peace by knowing, expecting and believing that God will take care of you right now in this moment. You can live openly and vulnerably by knowing He has you in the palm of His hand and will take care of you no matter what risk is involved in the exposure of your weaknesses. If you live this way, you are in a position where God can use you for something amazing, something great, something that shows HIS power whether it’s physical, mental or emotional healing. And when He does it, there will be no doubt it was Him because the ones who witness the change are the same ones who have seen your infirmities first-hand and understand that what was “wrong” was genuine and valid. So then what went right was miraculous.

So the next time you think your struggles are without purpose, think again.  It may not only be something to help you grow personally but it may just be that God is getting ready to do something AMAZING in your life so that the lives of others are changed. You never know who is watching and you should NEVER underestimate the power of your God!  Nothing is without purpose and nothing is beyond repair!

Blessings!