Layer by Layer

We get to know a person better over time, because we see their layers. Like an onion before you, they peel back layer by layer. How they act when they’re mad, sad, happy, scared, lonely and what gets them that way….We learn what they prioritize, what they don’t, what they’ve been through, what they’ve learned, and what they struggle with. All layers.

When we are born, we have only the layers applied by our genetic DNA. These layers may predisposition us towards certain behaviors, but circumstances haven’t happened yet. Brand new, clean slate, fully loved, and fully open to our Creator. The One who loved us and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13). Then, life starts. Bumps, bruises, brokenness, betrayals. Layers are added one by one. Individual and personal like our unique fingerprints, these layers are added to our cores. Our innocence, openness, and view of the world around us changes.

The way I see it, the world adds layers and the Lord longs to remove and replace them with His blessed layers of grace, love, and peace. The devil wants us weighed down and covered in fear, anger, and hurt over the layers added by ourselves and others. Ask God daily to remove what needs to go and replace what He wants us to have.

I also think that the layers that bring the most tears and are the hardest to pull back, bring the sweetest relief and relationship with our Savior. Only God can turn our most bitter onion layer into our dark chocolate or raspberry layer. A layer we wouldn’t trade because it drew us to Him and keeps pointing us back to Him. Our hardest layers become our sweetest layers. Because we bring it to the Light and let God in, our relationship deepens. He wants us aware that we are just as fully loved with our layers as we were fresh from the wombs. Then, His replacement work starts…

Like the prodigal son’s return, each layer that we ask God to remove brings Him enormous pleasure because we are that much closer to Him. The relief and joy it brings us pales in comparison to His excitement for asking Him in. He already knows each layer, it’s up to us to come before Him, allow Him in, and ask for His help. He wants us at our cores before Him. That was His plan since the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t until sin entered in, that Adam and Eve felt any need to cover themselves with leaves…layers.

When someone gets to know me, may my layers of pain and shame be a testimony to God’s redemptive power. May He get the glory for replacing those layers with His own. And, may God continue to peel away what is keeping me from being as close to Him as I can be. Bosom to bosom, heart to heart.

 

That Doesn’t Feel Good!

heart

I look at hearts for a living. This morning as I was scanning a rather large patient, a parallel came to mind. The larger the patient, the harder I have to push with my probe to see what I need to see. I usually say “I know this doesn’t feel good, but I have to push pretty hard here. Just know, I’m only pushing as hard as I have to in order to get good pictures. I’m not trying to hurt you.” I say this quite a bit in my job. Some of my patients can’t take the pressure and I have to let the doctor know why the pictures look like they do.

Today, I thought isn’t that just like God? The bigger the problem, the harder He has to push to get His outcome. The pushing and pressing doesn’t feel good. He pushes and pries into our inner most beings to cleanse and transform us. This process doesn’t feel good at all. Matter of fact, it is downright painful, when He makes it crystal clear what the problem is. What our specific problem is.

Some of us ask Him to stop or do whatever we can to avoid the painful pressing. We’d rather have “bad” pictures or no pictures at all if it feels like that. The pushing and pressing is for our own good, just like my patients. If they don’t let me press, I can’t do the study. I can’t give the doctors the images they need to assess their hearts.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

When He presses, He’s pointing out and removing what needs to come out. When He releases, we have more room for Him. It hurts, but the filling is the change. We have to be pressed to be changed. So, squeeze Lord. Push. Press. Do whatever you need to do in me so I can have more of You. There is more room for the sweet fruits of the Spirit like joy, peace, patience, and self control after a good pressing. Make room, Lord. I want to look like You. I want to act like You. I want Your wisdom and Your courage. I want to love myself and others like You do.

If you’re in a situation right now where you are feeling pressed on all sides, remember that the bigger the person, the harder I have to press. The bigger the problem, the harder He presses. Cry out to Him in your discomfort and know that He is at work. It doesn’t feel good to be pressed, it’s not a massage. It’s a painful inner pressure when He is working inside you. He is pointing out your specific problem and it takes humility and willingness to allow that pain.

Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue.  And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. James 1:3-5 9 (NIRV)

Braces hurt, but lead to straight teeth. Working out hurts, but leads to a better body. If you are willing to stick with Him through the pressing, you will come out the other side with immense relief and more prepared for the next press. You will have Jesus. All of Him. And He will have you, all of you. And, that’s the prettiest picture we could ask for.

Out With a Sigh

gift box

I turn 39 next week. My 30s have been tough. So much so, that instead of dreading turning 40, I’m ready to turn the corner.

I’ve raised babies, which we all know is wonderful and HARD. I’ve gone through a painful divorce, which was HARD. I’ve moved. I’ve navigated the scary seas of dating after divorce and as a single mom. This decade of my life has been chock full of HARD lessons and difficult scenarios. I’ve felt the pain. I’ve felt the fear. I’ve grieved the loss. I’ve grown stronger. I started this blog. I also started a Facebook ministry page to share these lessons and my story. Sharing and connecting brings me so much joy. I don’t know where it will lead, but I know it’s helped me heal and helped others in the process. I praise God for that!

I’m ready to take these lessons with me. I’m ready to love all over again. I’m ready to trust. I’m ready to build. I’m ready to help and love on others who have been through what I’ve been through.

I’ve learned what love is and what love is not. I’ve learned how to speak up for myself. I’ve learned that my feelings and opinions matter just as much as the next person. I’ve learned that marriage should include teamwork and family time should be enjoyed as the blessing it is. I’ve learned why I was attracted to my ex-husband in the first place and why that was a huge part of why our marriage was doomed before it even began. He was selfish and I was needy. So needy, in fact, that I accepted far short of what I should have, even from the very beginning.

I’ve learned my worth as a daughter of God. I don’t feel needy for love anymore. I’m thankful to those who do love me, but now I know that I’m already loved more than I could ever imagine and that will never change. I’ve learned that no matter what comes my way in the future, Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. And, I’ve learned the joy that comes with that realization!

I’d say I’ve learned some of these lessons the really hard way, but thank GOD I’ve learned them. They are lessons I want to live out in front of my girls. They are lessons that will help me in the future, come what may. I know I’ll have my share of tough times in my 40s, but knowing Jesus loves me will truly help me through. I want nothing more than to continue to grow in His love and share it with others. He has shown me that His Love is the only remedy for life’s hardest trials.

I’d like to take the love I’ve lost, the love I’ve gained, the friends I’ve lost, the friends I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, the personal relationship that’s grown, the soul searching, the rediscovering of who I am and who I want to be into my next decade. I want to teach my girls what I’ve learned. I want them to know their worth. I want them to see my joy. I want them to know Who got mommy through. They are still young, 5 and 10. But, each and every day, I know their minds are being impressed, tugged, prodded, pulled. I know because mine is. I can’t force them to follow Jesus, but I can continue to lean on Him and pray with and for them. I can do that. I will do that. I can show them joy. I can show them strength. And, I know now, more than ever, where mine comes from.

Thank you and I’m ready, Lord. Let’s tie this difficult decade up with a pretty bow. Let’s finish not just with a bang, but with a sigh of relief and a smile.

Diagnosis: Panic

panic

The phone rings. The phone doesn’t ring. The news is not what you expect. The news is what you do expect. Our hearts race, mouths go dry, every heart beat is amplified in our ears. Fear. Fight or flight. Sheer panic sets in. This is an all too frequent condition that I deal with. Panic. Even seeing the word provokes what it means to me.

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Can I tattoo this on my forehead? Who’s with me? So, when I feel attacked or misunderstood, don’t panic. When my manager wants to “talk”, don’t panic. When the doctor arrives who seems hell-bent on criticizing me, don’t panic. When my daughters come home with news about something, anything at their dad’s house, don’t panic. When he refuses something seemingly ridiculous, don’t panic. When my plans fall through. When I can’t be two places at once. When I don’t get the reaction I want or expect. When it takes me two hours to get to work because of traffic, don’t panic. When these things happen, my first instincts and emotions go haywire. I want to yell and scream…”It’s NOT RIGHT!!” But, that won’t change any of it whatsoever. What will? Who can?

Although, my heart may pound and my mouth feel parched, my knees will hit the ground. My heart will cry out for relief. For guidance and the self control necessary to prevent the tidal wave of emotions crashing all around me from taking me down along with the ones I love. And, I will let the tears fall when they come. Tears are safe. Tears are cleansing. Tears are proof that we are alive. Because, life is hard and seems extremely unfair sometimes. Only with God’s perspective can we trust that the hard stuff is not because of His lack of love, but rather to draw us closer to Him. The closer the better.

I can’t make people do things. I can’t make people not do things. I can’t defend a misunderstanding if someone is convinced otherwise. I can’t change people’s minds. I can’t make someone care if they don’t. I can only pray and ask for the help that He promises me.

I still struggle with anxiety and panic, but I know the best prescription for this diagnosis is written in Isaiah 41:10. So, today I will take my medicine. My Ultimate chill pill. And, another one tomorrow….My guess is I need it every day.

When the Clouds Part

clouds

The last couple of days have felt extremely refreshing. I can’t think of any particular reason why….Have you ever had a few good hours, days, or weeks, and wondered when the clouds will return? There is a discipline to enjoying the good days rather than waiting and anticipating the next storm to roll in. Joy is a gift from God. It’s a fruit that He wants us to enjoy and partake of as much as possible on this earth. Give thanks for relief, peace, and laughter when they show their lovely faces. Enjoy and rest in what God has already done in your life. He’s still on the job and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

He carries us when we need to be carried. He fights for us when we turn it over. He weeps with us in our grief. AND, he smiles with us when we are happy. What a beautiful thought. When we have joy and peace, it’s from Him. When we need help, He’s there. Just like the parent we wish we could be for our kids, He is omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-loving. He rejoices over us.

The Lord your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you. He happily rejoices over you, renews you with His love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy. Zepheniah 3:17 (GW)

He celebrates us! Not just WITH us, but He celebrates US. In the NIV version, the same verse says He will “rejoice over you in singing.” Can you even imagine that God sings over each of us? Our very own personal love song from the One who died for us. Now, that’s a beautiful love story.

When your life is good, let it be good! Soak in the sunshine and take in a big, deep, beautiful breath. Exhale, smile, and repeat. When the next trial arrives, He’ll be there. He always is. Relish in the good days and remember that when we are smiling, our Father is too…

Do the Hard Thing.

hard thing

When I got married, my dream was to stay married. I know that’s the shared dream for the majority of us when we marry, but my dream of a lasting marriage may have been for different reasons than some. I wanted to know that marriage really could last forever. I needed to prove it to myself. I was very much pro-marriage and still am. 

My parents divorced when I was in the 8th grade and it was hard. Divorce is hard on everyone. I’ve heard that research has shown that kids from divorce tend to divorce more often because they see it as an option. I was the opposite. I felt like my parents’ divorce fueled me to stay together come hell or high water……no matter what. I was in it for the long haul. The last thing on earth I wanted to go through or put my kids through was a divorce. I’d lived it and I knew the difficulties and pain involved.

I wanted a happy, healthy, and whole family for my husband, kids, and myself. Our marriage wasn’t happy, healthy, or whole because the people in it were not healthy or whole to begin with. I wanted so desperately to break the cycle of divorce that I displayed and permitted behavior that shouldn’t be accepted as normal in a healthy marriage. The example we were modeling for our children was neither healthy nor happy. It was quite the opposite. The marriage disintegrated while I prayed consistently for it to be restored. I poured my heart out to God over and over again pleading with Him to step in and save the marriage for the sake of our children and my dream to just stay together. Instead, the divorce happened. Looking back now, I know it needed to.

The reality of divorce has been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through thus far in my life. Now, in the aftermath, it’s still hard. It’s hard because of too many reasons to list. It’s hard because the girls have another woman in their lives now. It’s hard because they go back and forth between homes. It’s hard because we don’t have the same rules at my house as he does at his house. It’s hard because our priorities are different. It’s just hard and I know as a child of divorce that it always will be.  It will take a daily surrender and annointing of grace, mercy, and forgiveness to prevent the devil’s stronghold of anger, bitterness, and resentment to fester. I know now more than ever that I need a daily dose of Jesus every single day for my children and myself.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt God tell me that He wants me to do the hard thing again. And that is to forgive and extend mercy to all involved. Forgive for the love of God and for the love of my children. When we have “every right” to be bitter and wish the worst, God asks us to do the hard thing. I know I can’t do it on my own, my flesh is entirely too weak. But, I’d rather forgive than suffer. I’d rather forgive than let the magnitude of what happened affect what will happen in mine or my children’s lives. I am willing to do the hard thing. But, I can’t do it on my own. He’s going to have to prop me up and do it with me.

I have no doubt God could have saved our marriage, but He chose not to. That wasn’t a part of His plan. I do know His plans for me are good. I do know He wants me to forgive and continue to love. I do know He wants me to live an abundant and joyful life.  To live the life He desires me to live, I believe I will have to once again do the hard thing. I believe that forgiveness equals freedom and I also believe He loves me enough to help me do it because He has forgiven me.

 

But Why?

question

The ultimate question when things go wrong…….but why? I have my fair share of the same question. There are so many whys in this world. Why did she get sick? Why didn’t I get that job? Why didn’t he love me? Why didn’t God save my marriage? Why didn’t that relationship work? Why did a tornado hit that neighborhood? Why did it hit mine? Why does that person have a problem with me? Why did that child have to die? Why???

These questions will boggle our minds and test our faith. They can make us turn TO God for comfort and refuge or AWAY from Him in anger and disgust. Consider the story of Job in the Bible. God allowed him to be tested above and beyond what most of us have ever had to experience. Job was a Godly man with a blessed and happy life. He was a better person than most of us and the Lord allowed him to be tested more than most of us. First, his livestock died therefore his income was gone, then his children died (all of them), then his body was covered in painful sores, then his wife and his friends turned on him in disgrace, and he was left to wonder WHY Lord?? His story will leave us scratching our heads as well. What on earth did he do to deserve this? Why on earth would God allow that? How much can one person take? It’s just not fair!

I love God’s response to Job’s questions: “Job, have you ever walked on the ocean floor? How large is the earth? Who carves out a path for thunderstorms? Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper? When lions are hungry, do you help them hunt? Can you count the clouds or pour out their water on the soil?” These questions are all from Job 38 (CEV). Wow! I mean, touché.

These answers may come off as insensitive when we are grieving and craving only comfort and need relief. The truth lies in the fact that an explanation won’t comfort us, only the presence and love of  God will. Some of the questions we want so badly to know the answers to may actually cause us more pain. Do you REALLY want to know why he or she doesn’t love you? Do you REALLY want to know all the details? I mean….ouch. The pain is already bad enough. Take the pain and turn it over to a God who loves you unconditionally. Ask Him to carry it because it is just too heavy and hurts too much. When our hearts are broken, He wants in so badly.

I believe one of the ways God loves us in a crisis situation is by sheltering us from some of these answers. Instead of demanding answers, maybe we should ask different questions.  Questions like: How do I forgive him for that? How can I show her love when she treats me that way? How do I stand up to him the way You want me to? How do I respond to that? What do I do with this broken heart? How do I deal with this anger? What do I do with this pain? How do I move forward from this? I believe His response to these questions is always positive. First, He’s thankful we are turning TO Him no matter the reason. Second, He wants us to be honest with Him and get real. Tell Him how much it hurts and tell Him why. This is how a relationship is formed. Yes, He already knows, but He wants us to come to Him about it. He wants to have dialogue, even if it’s messy and angry. Any communication is better than none.

Questions and pain are something we all have in common. How we deal with them is what sets us apart. We need to make peace with the fact that only God may know why and that’s for the best right now. And, we need to RUN to His arms when we are hurt. Don’t run the other direction. Let Him hold you and comfort you when the pain runs deep.

When our children get hurt, they naturally crawl, limp, run, or cry out to us for help. We should be just as inclined to cry out to Him when we are hurt. Sometimes the pain is our fault, sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes it’s inflicted by someone else, and sometimes we’ll never get our answer this side of Heaven. What matters most is that we turn TO our Heavenly Father when it hurts. This will not only heal our hearts sooner but it will also prevent us from hurting others in the process.