Jonah and Beyond

There are so many nuggets in the book of Jonah, but a couple of things stood out to me the most…one of which took my brain on a crazy rabbit trail.

The first thing that grabs my attention is the fact that Jonah thought he could outrun God.  Adam and Eve were hiding from Him in the garden – clearly there is no outrunning God or hiding from Him, yet we all do it.  I guess we think it’s easier to hide in our shame or selfishness…if we are lucky, we come to our senses and realize God is always the first place we should run – even in our darkest hour.  Jonah was running away from God because he didn’t want to be obedient.  I’m not certain that I have ever run from God because I didn’t want to be obedient to what I knew was a direct command.  I have, however, spent many years running from God because I was ashamed of myself and felt void of all hope.  Honestly, I wasn’t even aware at the time that my loving  God could make it all better.  I certainly know that now, and as hard and lonely as my years away from Him were, they made my love for Him so much sweeter and deeper and intimate.  Thank God He didn’t give up on me.  Jonah reminds us that God’s love is for all of us – even the worst sinners – all we have to do is turn our hearts to Him and repent.    God will receive us over and over and over…He is that merciful and loving.  Hallelujah!

The second point that stands out to me (and thus begins the rabbit trail in my head) is the fact that Jonah was angry because he didn’t want God to forgive the wretched people of Nineveh.  Have you ever found yourself in this place – the place of not wanting God to forgive someone?  I’ve certainly found myself in the place of wanting God to defend me by unleashing on those that have hurt me…even those that I knew were His children.  I don’t know why Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved.  There are scholars that say Jonah truly believed that only the Jews were God’s people, and that the Gentiles shouldn’t carry the same weight.  I think sometimes our selfishness and our hurts get in our way, and we want to feel like we are the only ones that God sees, and that He sees us as the most special.  If He (or others) sees those that hurt us as special, then it must mean we deserve the horrible things that were done to us.  Of course this isn’t the truth, but it is how we receive it.  It’s like looking in a tarnished mirror that is being held up for us by Satan himself.

When I was younger (high school age), I was very much a goody-goody girl.  I have no idea why I was that way – the only thing I can chalk it up to is that God had His hand on me and was guiding me down the right path.  I had friends that started experimenting with things – sex, alcohol, drugs – I remember driving them home when they had too much to drink.  I was so angry by their actions.  I didn’t wish harm on them or God’s wrath, but I was disappointed that they chose to partake in these activities.  This is what I mean by the rabbit trail…not sure why the story of Jonah brings this memory to my mind.  I guess I was angry that people I loved couldn’t see what was right in front of them – even though I don’t think I even understood it myself.  Maybe Jonah was angry too – because the people of Nineveh had a choice, and they didn’t choose God until His wrath was forewarned.  Maybe Jonah was angry because he had chosen to serve the Lord of his own accord, so how could those that chose otherwise get the same place in God’s heart?  I had a friend once that was so angry with God because several of her single friends were getting married, and they had JUST started following Christ, whereas she had been a good and faithful Christian for a long time.  That modern day story very much reminds me of the story of Jonah.

We all walk through this earth experiencing pain, often times from people we love the most.  It’s so easy to get clouded with our own hurts and insecurities that we forget the most important thing of all – God’s love is for all of us.  We don’t deserve it more or less than anyone else – no matter how blameless or sinless we think we are.  It’s not our performance or righteous choices that earns us God’s love.  It’s only by God’s grace that we are loved.

May all of God’s people (present and future) fall head over heels in love with our Lord and Savior and taste the sweetness of His divine love – so much so that we want to laugh, love, share it and proclaim it with the world!

 

 

 

Everything Under The Sun

We recently  moved, and as I was packing up our old house, I found a notebook in which I had written this post in 2008.  It was the only thing in the entire notebook.  I’ve certainly grown a lot since I wrote this, but it amazes me knowing where I was at in my life at that point that these words flowed.  This post intrigued me so I wanted to share it here.  There is so much wisdom here – so much truth!  Still a timely piece.

Everything Under The Sun – Memories have faded ~ and with them so have pieces of your heart.

Rainy days, lullabies, memories of days gone by. A smile, a hello ~ where has all of the time gone?  So much has changed.  The face that stares back at you still resembles pictures of your youth ~ where did all of those grey strands come from?  When did those creases appear?  You don’t recall them being there yesterday.  Your heart feels sad, but you don’t understand why.  You choose not to relive the days of old ~ some of them were just too painful.  Then again ~ to be able to visit those moments that you wish you could have frozen in time ~ to see their faces again ~ to be in their arms ~ to open those areas of your heart that you closed off ~ what would that be like?

You reminisce of favorite moments ~ there are so many moments that defined you ~ but how many moments did you define?  There are moments that took your breath away ~ there are moments that warmed your heart.  You wonder how many moments you impacted for others.  How many lives and hearts have you touched without even being aware?  Sometimes you  just sit and wonder what your purpose is in life ~ sometimes you think you may know, and other times you just keep moving forward without a clue.  There are things that you do know for certain.  Perhaps this is where most of your time should be spent in reflection.  You know that your heart has never changed.  It has been wounded, scarred and closed off throughout your life.  But do you remember your youth?  Do you remember the tenderness and the love you felt?  It is still there ~ You strive for that feeling everyday of your life.  You long for what you know is true.  All of the bad layers can be peeled away ~ closed areas can be opened again.  Your heart is beautiful.  It was created with such a deep love.  It was created and admired as being good and perfect.  Even if you hide your heart, there are those that still see its beauty.  Find peace in that.  Find peace in the things that don’t ever change.

Have you ever had a moment when everything was still and silent and you felt consumed with peace?  That feeling can always be felt if you just close your eyes and relive that moment.

Sometimes life is so hard.  You have so many dreams and desires ~ you have faith that you will see them fulfilled.  Dreams give you hope to keep going and keep reaching.  But how do you enjoy where you are and count the present time as a blessing?  You have to give your dreams and desires to the one that gave them to you in the first place.  You have to fix your eyes and your heart on your first True Love.  You have to give Him all of your burdens, all of your worries, all of your pain.  You simply have to love Him with pure abandon ~ worship Him with the heart He gave you.  Follow Him and know that He won’t lead you astray.  Define your moments with your truth and convictions.  Stand firm and walk in truth and light.  Define your moments – don’t let them define you!  Only your True Love defines you – and that was done before the beginning of time.  Reflect on what is good and pure and true ~ search for THAT in your heart!  It has always been and always will be!  Yesterday – today and tomorrow!

 

Buried, but never forgotten…

I sit here scared to write this post…truly no idea what words will end up on this page when I’m finished…this one little piece of my heart is so hurt and so damaged.  I’d rather not dig out all of the gravel that I’ve used to fill up this hole because I know it is going to hurt like hell.  This hole has been in my heart for 26 years.  God has already started the process of digging out the gravel and bringing this nasty, ugly, hateful piece of my heart to the surface.  He has been exposing it.  This is not something I’ve wanted to revisit.  I haven’t wanted to feel this pain again…truthfully, I’ve been feeling the pain for 26 years and it has wreaked so much havoc on my life.  I’m beyond tired of being a victim to it.

I’ve often thought about my testimony and how in the world I would speak about it if asked because there is just so much to it…so many nuances.  I’ve had so many twists and turns in my life, and God has so beautifully taken me on a drive down that winding road called my life letting me visit those things that crushed my soul in the safety of His arms while He took charge of my heart – making it new – replacing wounds with flesh.  It’s strange how I sit here today realizing that this one particular ‘relationship’ has been at the root of so much pain in my life.  I always thought my father’s death when I was 8 shaped my life – I thought most of my scars were born at that time.  I’m sure a lot of scars were born on that sad day in April – in fact I know that they were, and honestly, maybe those scars set the stage for this one – the dreaded one of which I keep referring.

This person stripped me of my innocence.  He stripped me of hope.  He stripped me of worth.  He made me dirty.  He made me feel so ashamed.  I’ve been carrying all of this around for 26 years never even realizing the depths of this and the branches that grew from it.  I loved him – I honestly don’t know how that was ever possible – but I did.  It was an unhealthy love, and it was clearly never returned.  My heart sought after him for a good year, maybe it was even two years – so hard to remember now – he would pop in and out of my life as it served his needs…and I always welcomed him with open arms…and I was always deeply saddened when he went away again never knowing when or if he would be back.  Every time I saw his car or saw him, my heart would skip a beat.  I don’t understand how I got so sucked in…so charmed by him and his lies.

There was one night in particular that he had told me that he really needed to talk to me.  He came over and told me how much he missed me and that he wanted to be in a relationship again.  He was drunk, but he hadn’t been drunk earlier in the evening when he so desperately needed to talk to me.  I wanted to believe him.  I needed to believe him.  He kept trying to have sex with me, but I just couldn’t do it.  I was too exhausted by him.  My heart was weak and weary.  He was on top of me drunk and heavy – he kept persisting – kept telling me how much he wanted to make love to me.  I told him no over and over and over, but he never gave up.  He wore me down until I gave in – powerless – no fight left.  I didn’t open up to him longingly.  In my soul I knew I couldn’t trust him.  I wish I would have had the power to fight him off that night and rid him from my life, but I didn’t.  Honestly, I don’t remember when he left.  What I do remember is waking up and going to the bathroom the next morning and feeling sick.  Something was different.  I felt different.  I still loved him but it wasn’t with a hopeful heart.  It was with a heavy heart, a violated heart, a heart that had been torn in half, a heart that was so damaged that it is still in desperate need of repair this very second as I write this.

The string of events that happened over the next 2 months compounded the nastiness of that night.  The same day I found out he was engaged to someone else (and had been all along) is the day I found out I was carrying his child.  There I was – in the situation I swore would never happen to me…after all, I was better than that.  I was a good girl.  I felt crippled…I felt afflicted.  I just wanted the nightmare to be over.  I had no one to confide in – no one to talk to.  For the first and really, the only time in my life, I seriously contemplated suicide…not just contemplated it, but was in the moment when I was about a millimeter from moving forward with it.  The only thing that stopped me was the thought of breaking my mother’s heart – she had already been through too much in her life.  I also new this pregnancy would disappoint her – I was so ashamed of myself – so depressed – so distraught.  I decided to do the only thing I thought would fix it.  I ended my pregnancy.  I gave a fake name. I knew I was a bad girl and needed to be punished, so I wouldn’t let the doctor give me anything for pain…I laid there and felt every last bit of the pain from that procedure – physically and emotionally.  The procedure took my baby away – the procedure allowed me to keep my secret – but that procedure never took away my pain.  That pain is still very much alive today.  I’ve lived all these years with the shame of what I did.  I’ve lived all of these years with guilt – not just because my baby was gone but because I couldn’t claim her.  I’ve publicly claimed my babies that I miscarried after I was married – saying that they are waiting for me in heaven…but I’ve never been able to claim this baby because she was kept secret – buried and hidden.  I’ve been angry for a long time – angry at him because it was his fault that I couldn’t claim my baby.  I realize that I get very angry at anyone that slights me and makes me feel helpless and defenseless and invisible.

What I’ve been realizing over the past couple of weeks is that I still feel so ashamed and so dirty.  I imagine myself alone with God, and I can’t even look at Him right now.  I’m not worthy to look at Him or be with Him.  That’s not normal.  God has always been my safe place…the place where I’m always delighted in and beautiful and adored.  This revelation is what led me to the point of dredging all of this up – I know God wants to heal my heart.  I’m so thankful for that.

I’ve been keeping this piece of my heart hidden without realizing it.  I’ve given everything to God, but He has had to dig through so many layers of my heart and slowly bring me to this point…this point where I could finally handle this deep pain that altered everything about me (or so it felt).  God has been with me all along even through the years that I deemed myself unworthy to feel His presence.  He loved me all along – all of me –  my hurts, my wounds, my imperfections…He saw my heart not my sins. He saw my brokenness, and He caught my many tears and wept. He has been in the dark recesses of my heart – clearing a path for the light.  I’m finally understanding that these were my circumstances, and yes, they were awful.  No, I didn’t make the best choices…but these circumstances never defined me.  My identity has never been tied to what I did or didn’t do.  That is very freeing.

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

He prepares a feast for me in the presence of my enemies…my enemies are shame, guilt, worthlessness, sadness, anxiety, death, fatigue, emptiness.  These enemies have haunted me since that dreadful time in my life, but it’s time to say goodbye to them…time to remove the shackles that I’ve been dragging around.  May I have the faith and love of Paul and Silas moving forward, and may I always grab ahold of my Love for my Savior in remembrance of all that He has brought me through…famine and feast…and know who I am.

Today I tell you that I am the daughter of a King.  I am the mom of three children:  Paxton Ann, Geneva Grace and Jack Charles.  My babies are the lucky ones – they are being raised with God and the angels and will never know anything except for Love.  One day I will be with them all, but for now and always, I will hold them in my heart and love them with all that I am.

The truth is what sets us free, and as scary as it is to hit publish on this post, I know it’s what I need to do.  It is my sincere prayer that other ladies with similar struggles will be led here and will find healing in these words…most importantly, I pray that they will find themselves in the arms of a Savior that loves and adores them, and that they will know no shame as they gaze into His loving eyes.