Tough As Sand

In the past, I thought of myself as a kind of diamond in the rough. But here lately, I realize I’m more a lump of soft coal that wishes it could be a diamond. Coal that is under the heaviest of pressure can, in part, become a diamond. In the past I’ve compared my life’s hardships as what coal experiences as it then becomes one of the very hardest substances known to mankind. Hard circumstances formed a hardened heart within me and a toughened, hardened exterior. I thought that was what I needed to protect myself, to make sure I could withstand more pressure from circumstances outside of my control.

Today I realized what I believed about myself may not even be the case— if it ever really was. God softened my hardened heart after I met my husband. He chipped away at that outer layer of toughness, like an emotional callous, and He took down the walls I had built up, brick by brick.

Nothing I do will protect me like God does. Walls trap the yuck inside, and keep the positive new things out. Before God fixed my old hardened heart, it could have easily been one of the rocks that praises God when people fail to.

It was that hard.

Today, I talked with someone about something I haven’t really thought deeply about in years! I’m not sure what I expected, but I left that conversation feeling as though all that hardness I still managed to cling to is crumbling away into dust. A trauma I experienced as a child re-emerged into my memories, and God has been so deeply at work within me, my reactions are different. My walls are gone. My heart feels soft, crushable and exposed.

I had myself so figured out before, I had every one of my reactions to my history carefully planned out. And now— I let go of my control. I feel like I’m just going to completely crumble as I now deal with old trauma mixed in with something new that was unexpected.

Maybe my life is a series of diamonds made from my spirit being crushed, over and over again. Maybe it’s all still just a lump of coal that has been broken into so many pieces, it more resembles charcoal powder. Maybe it’s a piece of coal used to keep the fire of difficult circumstances stoked at it’s hottest. Maybe it’s more like the ashes and residue left over.

I don’t know.

What I do know is— I am not the same person I started on this journey as. I thought situations had helped shape me. Turns out, maybe God has handled me differently than I believed He had, and maybe my opinions kept me blind to that. No trauma I have or ever will experience could possibly match what Jesus endured on the way to, and on, the cross. He was wounded for our (my) transgressions.

My walls and self protection have to crumble in order to allow His healing process to be thorough in me.

By His wounds I am healed.

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Forgive Them? Why??

This is a recurring theme in my life, it seems. And not just little things— really big, hard issues. When things start to finally relax, suddenly it becomes necessary to exercise my forgiveness muscles again. I have lifted some of the heaviest issues with these muscles. I don’t see a need to flex them for vanity purposes— these are the necessary muscles for living a life that keeps me close to Jesus. They are the strength that is unseen, coming from an unseen force— Jesus, Who is my Mediator, my Intercessor— my reason for living. He keeps me continually moving forward.

I’ve been dealt some difficult cards throughout my life so far, most seem to fall under the category of betrayal. I don’t know if I can even categorize them all. The one thing they have in common, besides intense pain, is an attack on trust.

When the burden of offense against me is so heavy— a crushing weight, God reminds me that forgiveness lifts that burden off of me and puts it at the foot of the cross.

We can’t take anything with us when it’s our time to move on from earth— that includes the offenses and hurts from others. When we surrender them to Jesus, Who bore the crushing weight of every offense, past, present and future— we walk in the truest form of Grace and Mercy.

When we come face to face with the knowledge that Jesus said, while being crushed by all of the sins of this world— “Father, forgive them because they don’t understand”, we then have the tiniest of glimpses into what Jesus endured on that cross, in our place. He willingly surrendered to every betrayal we’ll ever experience.

That is why we forgive. Again. And again. And again…

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…” Matt 18:21-22

Inside the Broken

I’ve had this post bouncing around inside my head all day, wanting to just get out.

As a kid, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a sudden inspiration for writing. It was usually a poem. I recall just looking at the words I had written down, marveling at the picture they painted–amazed that they had come out of me! I wasn’t a clever person. I wasn’t anything special. I was just a kid, a pre-teen, with no special writing training.

I was inspired. I believe, by God. He gave me what to write. No way I could come up with all those phrases and word pictures all by myself.

So, as a child, I was inspired.

I also suffered from PTSD. As a child.

Everyone has hardships in their life. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, people who don’t believe in them– situations beyond their control to push through.

Not everyone has the same things, situations– people– to push through.

For instance– not everyone has survived a cougar planting its teeth in their skull. I have survived this. I’ve lived to tell that story.

That’s a story I can freely share, an injury I can point to that people show interest in hearing about.

Those scars can be seen by anyone, even felt by someone who cannot see. Those scars filled in what was broken, they made it stronger, tougher. But, even though I’ve been healed, which is what produced my scars– the scars still ache sometimes, reminding me that where they provide more protection than the skin surrounding them, there is still weakness within them.

What’s broken is not the same as it was before, after it’s fixed or repaired.

That got me to thinking about the word “whole”. How it has the appearance of being complete. But– inside of the word “whole”, is hole. The word itself defies its own definition.

On the outside, we appear whole. In reality, we might be broken.

My hair hides my cougar bite scars.

I recently heard someone speak on healing, and he shared what I’ve known personally for quite some time. Our physical issues can be the fruit of having been wounded in our spirit, but never getting full healing.

Outside, we give the appearance of being whole. Inside– there is a hole that needs God’s healing touch.

Outside defies the reality of what’s inside. Because it’s not seen with eyes, or felt with physical touch.

Except– it is.

It’s often what is rejected, abhorred, resisted, and can cause hard-heartedness.

It can be defined as quirky, character flaws, or just out right unacceptable. It exposes the lack of compassion of a dying world.

I’ve sometimes wondered what we look like to God, Who sees all, knows all, and is everywhere all the time.

He sees what the appearance of wholeness attempts to hide or disguise.

He sees the brokenness.

Like the doctor who examined my wounds and wrapped my head to stop the bleeding and protect my wounds from infection. God has done this for my spirit.

But, that doesn’t mean there is no sensitivity to what caused the brokenness.

I don’t go out of my way to seek out mountain lions to embrace, to face my apprehension of cougars.

I don’t go out of my way to seek people who are abusive, who break the spirits of others, to form relationships with. And trust me– there are far too many of those types out there!

I have, for years, openly sought out the people who would not do that. In my doing so, I’ve found very few that make the time or effort to look past my quirks, personality deficiencies and obvious flaws. I don’t form friendships easily– never have, I’m guessing never will.

I have scars on the outside of my head, and scars on the inside of my head.

Sometimes they both ache.

Worshiping in Spirit, in Truth

I’m not a performer.

While I got over “stage-fright” years ago, I don’t like the spotlight. If I could plug in my violin and play from the next room, unseen by anyone, that would be my ideal situation.

Since my husband and I married, Worship has kind of been our “thing”. We’ve been involved with several ministries and churches the past 2 decades. While every experience is different, the focus has most often been the same– God.

At this point in my life, I believe I’m settling into who I am in Christ more. I don’t have to prove myself, I’m a seasoned Christian, with a solid understanding of Scripture, unwavering in my belief and understanding of Who I serve.

But, as settling has occurred, my understanding of certain concepts is changing.

Like the concepts of worship.

The Bible says we worship in spirit and in truth.

My church family says we worship with music.

Do these two ideas contradict one another?

As my husband points out in his latest blog What Worship is Not, there really is not as much emphasis in Scripture about music worship as we sometimes make it seem. There is not an office for Worship Leader.

Do we focus too much on our own definition and understanding of worship?

I know it’s easy to go on the defensive and stop listening when something we believe in strongly is challenged. I’m not set out to challenge, I’m just re-thinking things a bit.

Where in our current recogized system of worship does in spirit and in truth fit in? Sure, we can claim we do these naturally as we focus on God with our spirit, and sing verses written about Biblical truth, and that makes it all fit in a neat, nice little package that is easy on the ears and heart.

But.

Is it all really for God?

Does God need the sound system? Does He need the lights? The projection screens? What about the music and perfect-sounding voices– does God need that?

Is that what worship is to God?

What if we just didn’t have the worship part of the service one Sunday, and just dove straight into the preaching? Would that affect God at all?

If we are honest, our system of worship is really for ourselves. We like the concert-type atmosphere, with our favorite coffee off to the side when we finish. We believe we are ushering His Presence into ours– isn’t it really us just becoming aware of His Presence that is everywhere all the time, and living within those of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, sealing us with the Holy Spirit?

Individually some do bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. But, do we corporately? Do we even know what that really means?

How do we worship in spirit? Does it have to involve music?

How do we worship in truth? Do we have to sing to do so?

When I think about Julie Andrews having her voice taken from her, I can’t help but wonder– what would happen if our music abilities or apparatuses were taken from us? Would we stop “worshiping” altogether?

Caught In The Middle

I just caught a live sermon from Elevation Worship about transitioning. As I listened, it hit me– that’s what I’m going through!

I’m in such a weird place right now.

I don’t mean physically, or emotionally. Not really mentally– just in life in general.

I’m not young anymore, but not old. In my heart I feel maybe 15-20 years younger, but in my body I feel way older than I am. Maybe that’s part of that thing I was diagnosed of years ago.

Maybe not.

I’ve got two grown kids, and two at home. I’ve been a spouse and home educating mom for so many years now– much of that kind of isolated.

I think I’ve grown up now. Transitioning into a different mindset, a newly focused one– who did I grow up to become?

I’ve been defined by what I do for far too long now. I’m not satisfied with definitions and labels deciding who I am for me.

I’m caught in the middle of a transition.

And, sometimes that makes me a bit weepy. Sometimes I feel impatient for it to just be finished so I can step into the newness of being transformed into a better, wiser person.

Being caught in the middle feels chaotic, tumultuous– even ugly.

Looking through pictures to post here about transitioning, I found some interesting ones that helped me change my own perspective on being caught in the middle of a transition.

Like this dandelion caught in the middle of transitioning from a wildflower to seeds carried off by the wind.

Or the transition of day into night, with the sun captured, creating a breathtaking view– caught in the middle of the daily transition.

There is always a lot going on in the middle of a transition, but even if it feels awful, when we surrender our control– or lack of control– to God, He makes it a beautiful thing, with a beautiful change.

So, while I’m in this place that feels weird and lonely, often designated as the listener with nothing of value to say– God sees beauty in the process, and hopefully in me.

Transformed By Transcendence

I used to hold the collateral damage in

Stuff it way down deep

Keep it out of sight

Like it was nothing but a junk heap.

I used to care about

What people thought

But then I woke up

I’m different– so what?

I’ve lived an intense life

There are depths I know

Created through strife

I’ve been embarassed to show.

When I began to embrace

The pain and emotions

The trials and the breaks

The personal notions–

I realized others were in need!

I could share what God’s done!

How He’s made that difference

I’m thankful He’s the Healing One.

You see, rejection and I

We go way back– years!

We’ve been intertwined

Tied with dread and fears.

I used to surrender

Just accept the defeat

Now my spirit is strengthened

I forced it to retreat.

Oh, it still pops up

Tries to drag me back down to submission

But I know it’s a lie

I know it’s a fake prison.

I walked away

And found my acceptance

I have risen above, no longer blind

Transformed by transcendence.

I’ve embraced my purpose

I accept it’s about more than just me

Others need my experience

To identify with their need.

My pain, my wounds

My steep pile of stuff

Belongs to other

Diamonds in the rough.

I don’t matter to many

It’s ok, I accept it

Those lives most affected

Are puzzles my life fits with.

My views are intense

I embrace pain till it runs it’s course

Ignoring it seals it in

Confronting it gets to the source.

I thought I had to apologize

For being more sensitive than most

Yet, I owe no person anything

Except to the encroached.

My life has been open

My story a book for the broken

No more apologies

My understanding is now awoken.

Tapestry

One strand

One life

Interwoven

With other lives

Intersecting with strangers

New strands

Intervening

Interceding

To the eye it looks random

Like a bunch of tangled, messy strings

Being brought to order

Composing a theme

One step at a time

One stitch purposely sewn

A picture emerges

The goal’s being shown

As it progresses

The outcome’s unknown

Images are messy

Haphazard, disjointed– monotone

The longer the strand is

Woven in and out

The motivation’s

Revealed throughout

At times it looks abstract

Like Van Goph tried…

But if I look closely

If I squint my eyes…

Is it Jesus in the center?

Or me that I see?

I hope to weave Jesus

Into people I meet

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

Wound’s Protector— The Scar

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have scars on my scalp from a “friendly” domesticated adolescent cougar “playing” with my head as his chew toy. I’m thinking about that today because they hurt. Kinda bad.

So that got me to thinking– if my physical scars hurt so badly at times, what about those deep emotional scars? Sure I’ve gone through all those rituals of forgiveness, repentance for my part in some things, and trust in God for healing. And He has healed me– so much! (I’ve even felt Him heal my esophagus as I praised Him through singing– what an amazing, warm, wonderful feeling that was!) I wouldn’t be married again if God had not done major surgery on my mind and my heart. We just celebrated 20 awe-inspiring years!

Those of us operating in the American mindset think we have everything all figured out. We put things in neatly labeled boxes, organized by category, decorated prettily with descriptions, definitions and diagnosis.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we take a box out of the organized line-up, sort through it and realize it really isn’t the way we believed it to be?

What if emotional pain is not always as explained? What if it’s the manifestation of pain from emotional scarring?

The tough thing about emotional scars is no one can see them. Only the person who lived the experience can feel and remember.

Incidentally– that’s exactly the experience of Christianity. Only the person who has experienced Divine interactions can feel them and experience their reality. That does not invalidate that person or experience, just like it does not invalidate one who has emotional scars. The experiences did happen, they did have an impact on the person they happened to. Jesus did Save the Christian, His actions and the Holy Spirit interactions continuously impact the Believer, though it’s deeply personal.

Do emotions exist? Do memories represent past experiences? Does pain from emotional wounds and scars ever manifest in our reactions, responses, emotions and beliefs?

I think maybe the “professionals” are really just guessing– and maybe they have guessed wrong in some things.

Maybe we look at mental health the wrong way. I don’t think PHD’s have all the answers because I don’t think they have been asking the right questions– many times they are just masking the symptoms, not getting to the core and root of what they diagnose– not looking for a healing solution.

Only God has all the answers, only God knows all things, sees all things and understands the “why” of all things. He has promised in His Word that we can call all to Him and He will answer us– He’ll show us great things we don’t know. Do we believe that?

I think I do. Sometimes. When we step away from the bindings of what has been explained to us with human understanding, and seek Divine understanding, God will show us, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to empower us.

How much of that have we stepped out in faith to embrace?

We cling to our diagnosis, definitions and descriptions as though those have life for us. The One Who holds all knowledge is life. My desire is to cling to Him.

I fall short.

Do my emotional scars manifest sadness through their pain? Anger? A desire to be comforted? A lack of trust in others?

I honestly think maybe they do. Maybe that’s part of their intended function as God has designed them to protect where we once were wounded.