My Beautiful Story

Music triggers me.

I was leaving work and the song “Against All Odds” came on by Phil Collins.

As I sat waiting in traffic, I remembered…

Sitting on the riding lawn mower listening to this song on my Walkman and crying my eyeballs out. I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade and a girl in high school had committed suicide in our town. They said she did it because her dad had died and she missed him so much. I remember imagining her laying still on the ground with pictures of him all around her.

With the music playing in my car, I could almost smell the freshly cut grass and I felt the emotion like it was yesterday. What would I do if he died? What if he killed himself? I would feel so guilty and be so sad. It would just be awful.

I didn’t want him to die, and if I ever told anyone our secret, then he would die. And, it would be all my fault.
I knew I could never tell a soul.
It would be too risky, and besides, “he’s the only one who really knew me at all.”

“So take a look at me now…”

As I pulled out of the parking lot my eyes filled with tears. The emotional part of the abuse is so painful. The burden. The shame. The heavy responsibility.

I was just a child in elementary school thinking and believing that I would be responsible if he died. My fault. My problem.

I was still crying when I got home because I couldn’t imagine or fathom how anyone could put that on a child.

Worry was my normal.
Will he kill himself?
Will it be my fault?
Will anyone find out?
What will happen to me?
Will I die?
Should I die?

Eventually my tears stopped. My sadness turned to anger and then later turned to sadness again.

This memory has been triggered before, but this time it was as if the heaviness of it crashed onto me in a new way. A deeper way.

It just seemed so overwhelmingly cruel to threaten a child with suicide – but it certainly kept me quiet for a very long time.

But not forever… because “he wasn’t the only one who really knew me at all.”

That’s one of the many lies that shaped my identity.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse has helped me to untangle those lies, one lie at a time.

On this journey, I discovered the truth. I was intricately known and loved by my Creator. He did not create me to be abused. He did not design me as His masterpiece to be violated.

I’ve had to lay down the lies, surrender the worry and cling to the Truth daily, sometimes hourly.

I am seen.
I am known.
I am loved.

He’s writing my beautiful story.

It’s beautiful because Jesus has personally delivered His light into the darkest parts of me. He’s given me the Courage to take every step and He’s never let go of my hand. His Truth breathed fresh Hope into my soul. He’s gracefully torn down my walls, he’s broken the chain of lies that bound me and through Him I’ve experienced true Freedom.

I’ve given Him the paper and the pen. This beautiful story is His story.

It may not always look beautiful or feel beautiful, but it is because He’s taken the messiest parts of my life and created purpose.

Nothing makes my heart pound so wildly in my chest than when I’m taking the next step of faith with Him.

I don’t know what lies were whispered in your ears in the darkness or what freezes you in fear. I don’t know if you struggle with anxiety or what all you deal with, but I do know His grace is sufficient.

Where do you start? I didn’t pray eloquent prayers. Sometimes I just sobbed, “Help me. Help.”

That’s still my go to prayer, and He’s still faithful. Every single time.

He’s a good Father.
He is faithful.
He rescues, redeems and restores.

He knows everything about you and He’s writing your beautiful story too.

Will you let His strength give you courage when it seems so impossible?
Will you be still and let Him breathe wild, fresh Hope into your soul?
Will you let His Truth chip away the walls and lies that have held you back?

This story… His story is going to be beautiful.

I can’t wait to read it.

Ephesians 2:10

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works  we would do to fulfill it!

Pause in His Presence

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I took a break from social media.  It was not planned. I just stumbled across a post by Pastor Laura Lee that said “Social Media Sabbatical – 21 Day challenge”.  

Just reading the word Sabbatical sounded like a vacation on a shoreline to me.  I scrolled on to the next post, but I kept coming back to hers. I am a big fan of social media. I love it and I use it personally, professionally, and in ministry so stepping away would be a big deal for me. 

Reluctantly, I took the plunge and removed all of the apps from my phone except the Bible App.

Besides the obvious benefits of having more time and being fully present and engaged, the one thing that shocked me the most was feeling my anxiety levels decrease.  

Who knew?

I felt lighter, slept better and was able to breathe easier.  

I had no idea how much being on social media caused me to worry. 

I worry about you.  

I genuinely care about your crisis, your online business, your milestones, and I especially worry about what you think of me. 

None of this is bad, but when it all piles on in 30 minutes (which easily becomes two hours), it makes my heart feel a lot heavier when I finally x out. 

The tape in my mind starts playing on repeat, “People are hurting. They are offended.  They need to sell just a little bit more. There is a birthday, an anniversary and more.”  As the tape continues to play, I worry did I miss someone’s birthday? Did I say enough? Should I comment? I don’t even know which emoji to add because I am not even sure how I feel.  The pressure builds and it is overwhelming at times.  

I worry about myself. 

I wonder if I said enough, or did I say too much.  Now that I have teenagers, they read what I post and they don’t always like the pictures I share of them so I am more sensitive to their eyes and hearts. I start to doubt my calling and it slows me down. I see others celebrating huge victories and I am thrilled for them!  It encourages me at first, but then comparison creeps in, followed by insecurity and ultimately I am filled with doubt. I worry about what I think of myself.  

The tape in my mind starts taunting, “Did God really say? It will never happen for you. Why bother? Who do you think you are?” Am I saying enough? Am I doing enough? It is too much? 

But there is One… 

When I was able to escape the awkward high school halls of social media for a bit, I was able to pause in His Presence. It was there that I discovered this truth: 

There is only One whose opinion of me matters. Just one:  Jesus

My word for the year is Joy, and the verse is Psalm 16:11:

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” 

Taking a break from Social Media helped me to see the Bigger Truth in that verse.  

Joy will come in His Presence.  He will make known to me the path of life in His Presence.  

When I am in His Presence I am fully aware of who He says I am, and what He has called me to do. I am fully aware of His strength, His power and His healing.

When I am in His Presence, it is not about me.  

In His Presence, I believe all things are possible. Doubt, panic, worry and anxiety wither away in the fullness of His Glory.  

When I reached day 21, I put my little toe back in the waters of social media and I quickly retreated. I wasn’t ready. So I took a few more days and I waited a bit longer.  When I went in, I stayed in the shallow end for a bit but it didn’t take long for the waters to rise and the tapes to start playing.  

So, I am stepping away again. 

I have tasted.  I have seen.  I believe.  

He will show me MY path and fill ME with joy in His Presence.  

I want to be intentional to meet Him there.  Join me? 

For he alone is my safe place.
    His wrap-around presence always protects me
    as my champion defender.
    There’s no risk of failure with God!
    So why would I let worry paralyze me,
    even when troubles multiply around me?
God’s glory is all around me!
    His wrap-around presence is all I need,
    for the Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving strength.
 Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment!
    Tell him all your troubles and pour out your heart-longings to him.
    Believe me when I tell you—he will help you!
Pause in his presence 

Psalm 62:6-8 The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Gift

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Someone brought me a gift.  They knew I loved Gardenia’s and they brought me a Gardenia to plant.  They took the time to carefully gather the roots and put them in the bottom of a grocery bag filled with fresh potting soil. It was watered and ready to be planted. 

It was time. 

But, I was busy and I put it away fully intending to get to it eventually. 

A week later, I realized it was still waiting to be planted.  In fact the bag had been ripped open and some of the soil had spilled out.  The roots were still there drying in the heat.  

It was a gift!  

I was on my way out the door to get to work, and I ran back in and asked my husband where the shovel was so I could plant it.  He knew I was in a hurry and he planted it for me and sent me a picture.   

It reminded me of another gift.  

God gave me a gift.  He knew I loved to write and He gave me a message to share.  This wasn’t a message I would have hand-picked but there is no other message in this world that gets my heart fluttering and pounding like the one he gave me. He healed me from the devastation of childhood sexual abuse, and He gave me the courage and passion to share it with others. He’s patiently walked with me and gently encouraged me every step of the way.  

It was time.  

I started the work, and then I hit a hard spot.  The hardest spot.  

And as hard as it was, I clearly saw His redemption and how he brought full circle healing to the absolute worst memory in my life.  It was gloriously painful.  

And I stopped. I closed it.  

I got busy, and I put it all away fully intending to get to it eventually.  

Just like the plant.  

The plant was a beautiful gift, but I needed to do something with it.  In order for it to flourish, I had to plant it in the rich soil, water it and tend to it. 

His gift to me also requires my attention and more importantly, my faith.  

His plan is my best gift for me, and at times I am guilty of thinking my plans are better. I am guilty of comparing my gifts to others and thinking I just don’t measure up. I don’t have what it takes. I am guilty of thinking why this gift? Why me? Why bother?

But, oh His grace.  When I think about His grace, I am reminded.  

His love and grace reminds me that He has redeemed me. He calls me by name. I am His. His daughter. He has washed me clean. I am not alone. I am wonderfully made. He knows all of my days. He has a plan, for me. By His power, not mine.  

Oh me of little faith! 

Today, I am planting His gift to me by faith.  By His strength, I will tend to it and for His glory may it flourish to bring beauty into the lives of others.  

It is time.  

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:11 MSG

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Crying out to Daddy

IMG_4163We had almost finished setting up our tent, when we saw the red truck back into the campsite directly beside us.  As they started to unload, the Dad came out first, then the Mom along with a toddler, a baby girl, and a large dog named Abraham who was apparently celebrating his birthday.  

Later, as we sat around the crackling fire under the stars, we heard the baby cry out from their tent, “DAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDYYYYYYYYYY.”   After a few minutes, the Mom joined the Dad and toddler by their fire. 

It was quiet and as the fires dwindled, we all made our way into the tents to rest under the dark sky.  I fell asleep reading a book on my Kindle and was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night to a familiar cry, “DAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDYYYYYYYY” and then  a few minutes later another, “DAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYYY”. 

The baby soon fell back asleep and I did too. Just as the sun started to rise, again I heard her belt out, “DAAAAADDDDDDDYYYYYYYYY.”  

He was always there.  He always responded.  

She continued to cry out, and he was able to quickly soothe her.

As we all settled in our tents on the second night, I fell asleep waiting to hear her cry.  At some point I woke up again smiling as I heard her cry out, “DAAAAAAAADDDDDYYYYYYYY.”  

It didn’t upset me at all to be awakened by her cries.

The imagery made me see how I go to everything but DAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYY. 

Do I cry out to my Heavenly Father? Yes, but not nearly enough! It made me realize I need to be more intentional to cry out to Him first. 

Cry out to my Heavenly DAAAAADDDYYYY when I am stressed.
Go to Him and be filled when I am overwhelmed and anxious.
Say His name: “Jesus” when I have a bad dream or flashback.
Whisper “Help me DAAAADDDDDYYYY!” when I am sad or angry.

For that baby girl, it was completely natural to cry out. 

It doesn’t come easy for me. 

Somewhere along the way, I believed the lie that I had to fend for myself.  
I learned to cope by crying out in other ways.
I stuffed myself with food, relationships, alcohol, and staying busy.  
I replayed scenarios in my mind and worried myself into a panic over and over.
I stuffed things deep down, and I pretended like everything was fine. 
There was no need to cry out when nothing was wrong, right? 

But, I am no longer living that lie. 

In the quietness of that tent, I smiled and whispered “Daaaaaddddyyyyyyyy.”  It literally felt like I was practicing, and I wanted it to feel natural. 

It was both awkward and beautiful.

“Daaaaddddddyyyyy.”

It was intimate, personal and real.  

“Daaaaaaadddddyyy.”

A beloved Father and His beloved Daughter, together.

And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!”
For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”

Romans 8:15-16 TPT

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