Mess of Me

Are you ever frustrated with your life? Do you ever find yourself wondering how you got to where you are? Hopefully, you are thinking “I am very happy where I am.” My fear is that there are more people who saw a far different future for themselves – who are struggling with their current situation.

There is hope – no matter where you are today. I know this from personal experience. I met Hope when I was much younger – when I was a complete mess. I hated myself. I had very few friends. I associated with the wrong kind of guys. My sleep was wrecked by nightmares. My days were haunted by memories. I was standing on the edge of a precipice filled with hopelessness, crying out to be saved.

The song Mess of Me by Switchfoot reminds me of that time in my life. The writer of the song is crying out. It is healthy to cry out! It is healthy to identify the messy parts of your life and to cry out for something better. “I’ve made a mess of me. I wanna spend the rest of my life alive.” I have cried this out in pain. And, as I mentioned, Hope came to me and rescued me. His name is Jesus. He set me free from the prison cell of my past. He has helped me to make better choices and has blessed my life.

This hope and rescue is not just for me. Jesus longs to rescue you and give you hope too. He loves you more than you can understand. If you do not know Jesus, you have never experienced true love. His love is beautiful. If you are struggling, I encourage you to ask Jesus to save you today. If you do, you will never regret it.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” ~ John 3:17 NIVUK

Choose to Live

My relationship with my grandmother was a strange one. We were never close. I’d say we had a love-hate relationship; however, our feelings were never that strong. Maybe it would just be considered lukewarm? Not sure.

While her and I never discussed it, I am certain that I hurt her emotionally when I was young. Whenever my family would go to visit her – rather than spending time with my grandmother, I would ask permission to visit with the elderly lady who lived two houses down. She was the grandmother of the children who lived between her and my grandmother. There are days I wish I could apologize for being so insensitive. Yet, the issue really was not with me. The issue began with my grandmother’s heart towards me. While this side of heaven I will not truly know why she treated me as she did, I have a theory of two ugly situations melding together into a dark cloud over our lives.

The first began with my grandmother’s own childhood. Her father died when she was quite young. When he died, his family rejected my great-grandmother and her two children as the family had not approved of their marriage. My great-grandmother was not good enough for their son, at least in their eyes. Rejection is challenging and scarring at any age; however, I believe children feel it more acutely. My great-grandmother did remarry though her children were never fully accepted as part of the new family. My grandmother shared a small part of this story with me close to the end of her life. Even though at the time she told me her mother was still alive, she said that she was an orphan. It seems evident that she was still carrying the scars of grief and rejection from her early childhood. From personal experience, if these scars are not healed, they make it extremely difficult to develop relationships – even with your own children and grandchildren. There is an inclination towards self-preservation that prevents the level of trust necessary to build healthy relationships.

As a child, I could not have comprehended this backdrop in my grandmother’s life even if it had been known to me. I simply ran to where I felt wanted without a thought to how it would impact my grandmother. My strongest memories of my grandmother’s house include the glass jar of pink candies on the counter and playing alone on the floor with a collection of boxed toys. At the other grandmother’s house, I was welcomed with a hug. She was always sincerely happy to see me. She would make us tea, and we would sit at her kitchen table and talk until we could hear my mom calling for me to go home. I have absolutely no idea what we talked about. What I do know is this sweet lady was filling an empty void in my life. She treated me as someone, and she was happy to just sit and listen to me. In her kitchen, I had value. I do not blame the young me for wanting this.

Yet and unfortunately, there is more to this sad tale. There is the second situation casting its dark shadows. While the other grandmother was her wound, this one is my wound. I believe that part of her coldness towards me was because of who my father was. This is probably a horrible mix of her being rejected as a child in light of my mom’s own unapproved marriage and who my father proved to be. During my grandmother’s lifetime, I discovered that she knew either before I was born or shortly after that my father had a history of molesting children. One of my father’s prior wives had been trying to locate my mom without success. The woman was able to share her warning with my grandmother so that she could tell my mom. This did not happen. For whatever reason, my grandmother decided that my mom had chosen her path and the consequences that went with it.

It is difficult for me to imagine such a coldness of heart that would cause anyone to treat their own children in such a way. Yet, I do fully understand how our past can twist our mind and actions without the healing grace of Jesus. A part of me hopes that my grandmother was blind to the consequences to me, as the child of such a monster. Learning of my grandmother’s betrayal was not as crushing to my spirit as you might think it should have been. Again, as we had never developed a love relationship, there was little emotional loss only the regrets and sadness of what should have been. And also, by the time I learned about the whole situation, betrayal felt very normal, even expected.

One of the last times I saw my grandmother, she was in the hospital due to cancer with all of her children surrounding her bed. At one point our eyes met, and she hoarsely whispered my name. There seemed to be such a desperate sadness in her eyes. I longed to tell her that I really did love her and give her a hug. She reached out an arm towards me; though as I started to move forward, my aunt blocked my way so she could comfort my grandmother. I wish my aunt had not interfered. I understand she was trying to care for her, but I believe there was a greater opportunity for peace lost in that moment – for both of us. I hope my grandmother was able to read the love and forgiveness in the tears forming in my eyes. I also wish I had been bold enough to step forward regardless of my aunt and say out loud that I loved her and that all was forgiven.

Thankfully, this is not just a story of woe. While it is tragically unfortunate that my grandmother lived her entire life under a dark shadow, she had at some point placed her faith in Jesus. Knowing this, I can say with confidence that she is now in glory and completely healed of all of the scars from her life.

Reader, I hope you learn from my grandmother’s mistakes. Please don’t hold on to the hurts and pains of your past. Our relationships with our families and friends are so valuable. Our lives are short, and God means for us to really live each day he has given to us. We cannot really live if we are shackled by our past. While we cannot free ourselves, we can be saved by Jesus and His Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can heal us and free us from all of our hurts and wounds – none are too great for Him to conquer. With Him, you can really live!

Blessings. ~ Deb

Do Not Despair

As life pours out hardships, struggles or pain, the world tells us to fret and despair. It can be tempting to throw up our hands and give up when things get tough. The evil one wants us to believe that we have no hope. “See, there is always something horrible happening. There is no hope for you.” I remember hearing these lies as a child. “Your life will always be filled with pain. You will always be trapped in this hell. There is no hope for you.” The devil uses these lies to diminish and defeat us, keeping us from our God-given purpose.

For many years, I believed these lies. When I met Jesus, He started to reveal to me His truth. First, He showed me that He cares for me by rescuing me when I asked Him for help. And He did this when the world considered me to be nothing just a poor, weak child.

Second, He began to help me understand why I had gone through such suffering. The world is broken. It is not as God created it to be. And people are broken, filled with sin, and not as God intended us to be. In our sin, we hurt each other. This hurt destroys relationships which creates a domino effect of pain and sorrow which flows through our families, communities and nations.

Third, He showed me that I did not need to stay trapped in my despair – current or past. In fact, I could use my experiences to help other hurting people and to fight injustice. My painful experience gave me empathy and compassion for other people – people I have never met and even people how have hurt me, intentionally or not.

Finally, Jesus has given me great hope. He has shown me over and over again that He will never leave me. He is always with me even during the darkest days. And He reminds me that “joy will come in the morning.” He has filled me with His Holy Spirit so that I can rely on His love, His gentleness, His kindness, His strength to walk-through any situation. I am never abandoned to face situations in my own weakness as long as I rely on Him.

There are times when life still overwhelms me. During those times, I quiet myself before God. He lovingly reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness. He restores my soul and my hope. Hope in the Lord will never disappoint us as it is a gift out of God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love and His hope are available to anyone who will ask in faith. Will you ask Him for hope today?

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ESV

O, Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and You have healed me. Psalm 30:2 ESV

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 ESV

Rescue

As a child, I felt isolated and alone.  To me, there were no visible signs of hope – no one to rescue me from my situation and my distress.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I was never alone – not really.  I was just blind to my help.  And my natural state and free will (which, as a child, I wasn’t even aware of) kept me separated from my one source of hope.  Who was there to open my eyes so I could see?  Who was sent to help me?  Who came forward with a message of hope?  Hidden away in the deep woods of Appalachia, there weren’t many who could come or would be able to find me.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””
Romans 10:15 ESV

There were arguments between my parents that brought up the name, Jesus.  By my father’s attempt to drive Jesus out of my mother’s life, he introduced Jesus to mine.  And every year, like clock work, my great grandmother would send me a birthday card with a track.  “What is this?” I remember asking my mother.  It was another introduction, and my eyes were slowly opening to the presence of another – unseen – the one who could truly save me. The one who could save me not just from my situation but also walk me through the healing of the scars I would carry.  The one who would save me from a life of shame and give me a life of blessing and purpose.  The one who would show me grace and teach me to love as He loves. 

He was always there even in my darkest days.  And because of His great love for me, He sent messages to me through people and highlighted the work of His great hands in the world around me so that I could find Him.  What messages is He sending you?  Do you hear?  Can you see?

His great army fights all around us, in the heavenly realms, to save us.  And He uses people – those who love us and sometimes even those who don’t – to reach out to us.  

He hears our cries to Him!  Do you need rescued?  Cry out to the only One that saves.  He is waiting for you with open arms.

Precious

There have been many dark days in my life.  I understand the pain of betrayal.  I have lived where no child should have to live without some basic needs.  I know the fear of being on the wrong end of a gun.  I have been verbally, emotionally and physically beaten down.  

Yet, I now know I was never alone.  I could have been brought to an utter end but was not.  And this was before I knew Jesus.  Now that I know Him, He shows me his love for me over and over again.  And I have a new perspective looking back on those dark days.  Jesus has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.  He has blessed my life.  Each day, He helps me to move closer to wholeness through Him.  There are no words to express my love and gratitude to Jesus for the peace and hope He has lavished on me.  

Why would He do this for me?  Because He loves me, and I am His.  I am precious in His eyes.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you”        

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV

Oceans

As a pre-teen, I was so overwhelmed by the pain and betrayal in my life that I was at the point of committing suicide. I was drowning in an emotional ocean of despair and hopelessness with no one to turn to for help. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t bear to keep living either. In a moment of desperation, I called out to Jesus for help. And amazingly, He responded. An unexplainable sense of peace descended on me in such a powerful and tangible way that I looked over my shoulder to see who had wrapped their arms around me. No one was there. And though I didn’t realize it then, I took my first step of faith that night by handing my situation over to Jesus and going to sleep. If I had not, I would not be here to tell my story.

He did not fail me. And while my story of healing spans decades, He has never left my side. With each new ocean, He is always there.

Matthew 14:22-33

The Reflection in the Mirror

For too many years, I focused on the negative and broken parts of myself. I bought into all of the lies ever said about me: you are ugly, you are trash, you have no value. And I believed the unspoken voices that I was unloved, unworthy of protection, and that women are just for sex. I hated myself. I hid in corners in social settings. I hid from cameras. I even hid in clothes that were way too big for me. And these were baked in beliefs and reactions, not conscious. It was just who I was. And without even knowing it, I was carrying on my own abuse.

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I got a glimpse of my own destructive behaviors. It happened sort of like a two-by-four to the back of the head. Sometimes, we really need to feel it for our wake up calls to move us into action. Each year my church would create a space for spiritual reflection along with a book of readings and questions to help guide you through the process. My favorite spaces were those filled with plants and bubbling fountains. There were others with images of the cross to help us start to grasp what Jesus really did for us. Those were always tough spaces. This particular year, the tough one for me though only contained a chair and a mirror. The guide simply instructed me to look at my reflection, and thank God for creating me. It broke me. I couldn’t bear to look at myself. And I certainly couldn’t thank God for making me. Instead of responding with a grateful heart, I was filled with anger. Why did He create me? The weight of my self-loathing crushed my spirit and brought me to tears.

Now here comes the two-by-four. Several days later, my friend at church asked me if I enjoyed the spiritual spaces. I shared my dislike for the mirrored room, and how I couldn’t even look at myself. What I expected from her was an “I get that.” Her reaction caught me totally off guard. “Who are you to insult God’s handiwork? You were made exactly as He intended you to be.” Inside, my emotions swirled from disbelief to anger to reflection. Her words rocked my world. I had never thought of myself as God’s work of art. That He had planned for me to be a certain way. After all, I was no one special, right? But God doesn’t make garbage?

Others may consider my friend’s words to be harsh, but they were exactly what I needed to hear. Her words started me on a new path of seeing myself through God’s eyes. And while life tore the edges of my canvas and slashed scars through me, I was still His masterpiece. And the more time I spend getting to know Jesus through prayer, reading my Bible, and listening to worship music, the more He restores me. He is taking my tattered form and revealing someone beautiful.

Raising Up the Broken

Most people who know me don’t know my story. I may occasionally joke about growing up in the woods, but I like to keep it lighthearted. There is no need in most circumstances to bring such pain into a relationship or give glory to the devil’s handy work. Here in this blog, however, I would like you to be able to see the great things Jesus has done for me. My deepest wish is that others will find hope in my story and that they will continue to persevere, and ultimately, find their own path to healing.

There are great tragedies in my life which left me with sadness and scars. Some of the sadness and the pain of the scars surface from time to time; yet, I do not live there. My life now is filled with blessings. Before, I could not sleep for fear of the nightmares that haunted me. I lived in fear of being found. I was afraid to venture out of my home without my husband or a relative. My heart was filled with anger and distrust, and I hid from people, basically, refusing to socialize. In fact, my dearest friend in the world became so only because she forced me to interact with her. For that, I am very grateful.

Today, I have many friends. My home is filled with love and laughter. I am blessed with a great job where I have the opportunity to help our company and our employees grow. In a business setting, I have the awesome privilege to apply what I have learned about love and empathy to help nurture a work culture of trust. I am involved in business groups in my local community. I am involved in several ministries at my church, and I volunteer in my community. My acquaintances see a person of success and blessings – not the scars I carry. All of this is through the grace of God. Jesus has saved me; and with each day, He makes me more and more whole again.

In the Bible, Jesus has been given many names. To me, these names are promises, and I claim all of them! Jesus is the God of Comfort, our refuge and strength, Wonderful Counselor, Father to the orphan, Prince of Peace, The Potter, the Light of the world, and our Everlasting Father just to name a few. He loves us even when we don’t yet love Him. He is faithful. His mercies are never ending. He is a help in trouble. He comforts us in all our affliction. We need only to reach out to Him; ask Him for help.

“All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty handed
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord

I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your life in me

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Oh I can see you now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life”

These words in the song Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong remind me of how much Jesus has done for me. If you are on the way to healing already, I hope this song helps you see how much God loves you. If you are still in the midst of pain, may this song give you hope. May it give you the courage to reach out to Jesus and see what He can do in your life.

 

Don’t Lose Hope

This year a young friend of mine took his own life.  He did so because he was so grieved and overwhelmed by mistakes from his past and pain from his childhood.  It breaks my heart that someone so young should have so much pain and no hope.  Having experienced a similar hopelessness as a child, I understand what he was going through and his choice.  I just wish I could have shared with him that there was hope for him and that healing and relief from his pain and past was possible.

No one is too far gone to be saved.  At one time, I thought I was unable to be saved – that I would always have to live with pain and a broken soul.  One verse that really gave me hope is in Isaiah.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

If God can make rivers in a desert, surely He can restore life in me as well.  I do not have to be a slave to my past or continue to live in the pain of my past.  Look!  He is making me a new creation.  The more I believed this and trusted Him to restore me; the more healing and peace I found.  Today, I am not the same person I was 30 years ago, and I am truly blessed.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them”  2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

You are never too far gone.  You are loved more than you can possibly even understand.  And there is always hope if you are willing to reach out to Jesus.

Tender Heart

I learned early on that I could shut myself down physically and emotionally. I could build up a wall that separated me from what was happening to me outwardly and to any possible response within myself. By shutting down, I could hide from some of the abuse while it happened. Sort of. It enabled me to “protect” myself from the horrible things that were happening to me. And I could hide my despair in a heart of stone. All emotions could be locked away, and I would feel nothing.

This seems like a fairly marvelous survival mechanism; however, it came with a huge cost. Consider turning yourself off like a switch so you feel nothing, Nothing. That is no pain, no sorrow, no joy, not love. Nothing. If it is an emotion of any kind, it is buried deep within you. You truly become stone on the inside. I was thankful for this ability to shutdown while I was being abused. Unfortunately, it became how I lived even after I escaped the abusive situation.

This trick also effects memory. If you can remember, the memories can be clouded and almost as if you were more of an observer of a scene. Again, this can seem like a good thing when who wants to remember the bad stuff? Unfortunately, even though the memory is shadowed, it is still there. As long as we keep these bad memories locked within us, they tear at us emotionally and spiritually. And this inward tearing can eventually grow into physical issues.

By exposing our painful memories with someone we can trust, we start to shed light on the destructive memories, face them, let them go and find freedom. I found that I was afraid to face my memories. Having all that was buried inside of me bubbling up to the surface was overwhelming. I, instead, would recoil and continue hiding in my heart of stone not realizing I had become a slave to my own pain. It wasn’t until I met Jesus that I was able to move past my fear. He held me close as I faced my demons, and then He took them from me. He asked me to trust Him and to hand Him my pain, And through this process of facing my pain and handing it over, I have found healing and peace. This was a long process as it is not once and done. Each memory that surfaces requires these same steps; however, it does get easier as your trust for Jesus grows each time you feel His peace. Face it, share it, give it to Jesus, and live free of it.

It was difficult for me to start the journey of stepping out of my heart of stone, because I thought I was safe there. With every stressful situation, I would retreat within myself. In fact, I didn’t even know I was doing it. Hiding within myself had become a reflex. Jesus opened my eyes to my destructive pattern and started showing me what I was missing hidden in my fortress of despair. I was unable to love or grieve. Years ago, I traded my heart of stone for a heart of flesh. And now, I can love with all that I am. And I can truly live. I even welcome the tears of grief and allow myself to feel the love I had for the person and honor their memory. And Jesus, the God of Comfort, always meets me in those moments creating a bitter sweetness.

Having given up so much with my heart of stone, I refuse to hold back my tears now. I would much rather allow others to see my emotions instead of holding myself prisoner in a dark cell. I choose a tender heart. If you are concerned about exposing yourself to risk and are hesitant to move out of your own internal cell, consider all that you are losing. Don’t lose another moment to love and be loved.