Heart Scars

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How can it be that scars still cause pain? Surely, once the wounds are healed, the pain should no longer exist.

This is logical, I guess. But my heart defies logic. Because sometimes my heart scars ache.

Like today. 3 days before Mother’s Day.

It isn’t a searing; gut wrenching pain like it was years ago, now it is more like a dull ache that intensifies at times. But it is pain nonetheless.

I really try not to dwell on the fact that we do not have children. I try not to let myself be consumed with the “WHY?” And I try to be grateful. Because I am grateful, beyond words, for this beautiful life God has given us.

And y’all – Please hear my heart. I don’t hate Mother’s Day. My Mama is amazing. And I am so very thankful for her. And I LOVE to celebrate her on Mother’s Day.  I love to celebrate lots of Mamas on Mother’s Day. But can I just be real?

Mother’s Day makes my heart scars ache.

More than any other day of the year….because there is no escaping the obvious on Mother’s Day.

I am not someone’s Mama. And I may never be.

So, may I ask you a favor this Mother’s Day? As you celebrate your motherhood and your mothers, could you say a prayer for those of us who are tending to our broken hearts?

Rejoice in your blessings, please, and know that we rejoice with you, but remember those for whom those blessing have not come.

Father God, we come before you in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, that You are the God of all comfort. Thank you that You meet us where we are and minister to us there. Help us Lord and heal us. Give us opportunities to minister to others and as we rejoice in our blessings, let us also show compassion for those whose lives may lack what we have in abundance. We love you Father and we thank you for your great love for us. Help us to love you and love others more. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Love One Another – Giving when we are Empty

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I stood in line at the patient check out desk listening to the admin congratulate all three of the women in front of me on their pregnancies.

I was praying with all of my heart that I could hold myself together until I could get to my car. I didn’t want to dampen their joy with my sorrow and I certainly didn’t want these women whose wombs were full of life to pity me because mine was not.

I barely made it to the parking lot. By the time I got to my car, my body was so racked with sobs I had to concentrate on not getting sick. I just wanted to get home, crawl in bed and forget this day. Finally, my sobbing abated enough for me to drive home. I prayed as I drove, begging God to give me peace in my grief.

I thought surely I was misunderstanding when I felt Him impressing on me to call a dear friend of mine with a newborn.

“Really, God? Right now? I don’t want to do that. Please don’t make me do that.”

Like a petulant child, I tried to convince God to change His mind about this. But the impressing on my heart got even stronger. So, even though I was quite sure there was nothing left in me to give, I obeyed and I called her.

I heard the raw emotion in her weary voice. No one had reached out to her in weeks. She felt like no one cared, and she was forgotten and alone. We were both in the midst of a famine, hers after becoming a Mom again, and mine as I was so desperate to be a Mama of even one.

In my obedience to call my friend when I felt my heart couldn’t handle it, God gave me strength to love on and encourage her.

As I prayed with her, I asked Him to come alongside her during this difficult time and I asked Him to bless her children. I praised Him for these blessings because He is the God of all creation and He is the One from whom all blessings flow.

I wish I could tell you that my grief and pain ended with that call. I wish I could tell you that I have become someone’s Mama in the months and years since then. But neither of those things happened.

What did happen is my God reminded me that He has empowered us and commanded us to love others, even in the midst of our pain. Even (especially) when we feel we have nothing left to give.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35 (NASB)

Father God, thank you for your great love for us. Thank you that because you first loved us, we can love one another. Help us to seek ways to encourage and build each other up even when we ourselves are struggling. Help us use our struggles to gain compassion for others who are struggling. Help us give when we feel we have nothing left. Help us to serve others when we’re tempted to pass up the opportunity. We love you Lord, and we want to honor you with our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Weed Free

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My husband and I are stewards of a little slice of awesomeness we call Manna Homestead. So, I guess technically, we are homesteaders. But that is whole other post for another day. 🙂

There are a few (read several) places on our property where we are in a constant fight with nature. We want the areas to be orderly and contained. Nature wants them to be wild and unruly.

One of the spots is the flower bed in front of our house. And I do use the term flower bed loosely.

Last year, the lines between flower and weed were so blurred, we just tore everything out. And it was rewarding. I loved seeing the fresh dirt just waiting for its new inhabitants. How exciting. It was a fresh start for new, beautiful things to settle in and put down roots.

But life got in the way and nothing new and beautiful got planted in this space. Fast forward 3 seasons and we find this ‘flower bed’ is completely overrun with vines, weeds, and other craziness I cannot even identify. It’s like there was never anything ‘good’ in this space at all.

So these last several evenings, I have donned my work gloves and worked at trying to bring some semblance of order back to my ‘flower beds.’   It is tough work, but I like the reward of seeing the fresh soil void of weeds and vines, just waiting for another fresh start.

As I was tugging at some particularly stubborn vines, I felt God urging me to pay attention to the task at hand. As I really looked at this area overrun with weeds, vines and stickers, I was reminded that this area is an example of what can happen when we allow the world to take over our hearts. Those weeds, vines and stickers take root. They choke out all the good and overrun our hearts with ugly, prickly weeds. And our thoughts become dark. Our words become cutting. Our lives become games of comparison and discontent. And we find ourselves wondering why everything seems so off kilter. Why life has lost its meaning and our souls have lost their hope.

But God.

But God is able. And when we surrender our hearts to Him, and allow Him to mold us, shape us and change us, our hearts begin to resemble the fresh soil. Void of weeds and vines, just waiting for a fresh start. Full of hope for what God will do and full of peace because we can trust that He is faithful to complete the work He began in us.

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:22-23

Father God, weed out our hearts. Take away the vines and prickly things. Replace them with Your peace, Your love, and Your hope. Let Your Truth take root and yield beauty. Help us look to You to fill us and complete us, and not the things of this world that will only leave us wanting. You alone are God and You are worthy of our praise. We love You. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

We Don’t Fit – Guest post by Rebekah Ann Champion

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I love packing. I love having my clothes organized and neatly folded. Each thing catagorized and put in its own place. It makes me feel accomplished. I just fit ALL those clothes and shoes and hairsupplies and makeup and who knows what else in this one bag and it looks NICE. I get satisfaction in that. I get to the airport feeling confident and prepared and I realize that I missed one small detail. You can only have 50lbs per bag. I don’t fit on the plane. I can’t go with all the baggage.
I feel like in life, we all carry baggage. We all carry bulky bags of past hurts and mistakes that, later down the road, hinders us from what we should be doing. We can’t accomplish the things God is calling us to do because of one small detail.

We. Don’t. Fit.

Who doesn’t have baggage? I mean, if we’re completely honest with ourselves we all have have past regrets, past sins and past mistakes that we carry with us everywhere we go. That boyfriend we went too far with, that situation we’re still bitter about, that “thing” that happened to us or that we did that CONSTANTLY plagues our mind. That baggage feels like it ruins every relationship or situation we’ve ever been in and we can’t just seem to get rid of it.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We have a Savior that DIED so we wouldn’t have to carry our burdens, and yet we still refuse to put it down. We refuse to quit lugging around these dusty, disgusting, filled up bags and hold on to them for dear life. We’re afraid to put them down and throw off the baggage that weighs our hearts down, and keeps us from living life to the fullest.
Sooner or later we have to come to a point where we realize that the dealing with past hurts is so much easier than carrying them. The problem with that is that the baggage feels secure. It lets you leave up the walls that seemingly protect you. Throwing off the baggage means tearing down walls, and that equals vulnerability in our minds.

When airlines see that you’ve gone over your weight limit, you have to do one of 2 things. You either lose some of that baggage or you pay more money for an extra checked bag.
What are you willing to pay for your baggage ? Your job, your relationships, your joy? It seems simple enough to answer, but most of the time we end up paying for our bags instead of just getting rid of things inside of them. You don’t want to end up paying for your bags with these things, and suffer that cost just to carry around your past.

We all get to choose what we carry. It’s not easy to drop our bags and tear down those walls but it’s worth it. I hope you choose to fit on the plane by giving things up, rather than paying for them. Then next time it’s easier to pack light, because you’ve already gotten rid of something. You can make it. Sooner or later you’ll be boarding that plane with nothing more than yourself and what you have on you, no checked luggage required. Following Christ requires us to give up all we have and follow him. Drop it right there and go. Let go of the things that are so heavy that they hold you back. Loosen your fingers, stop holding your breath, and unclench your jaw. Stop trying to change the past by holding on to it, and instead embrace the future of what you can do NOW. Stop trying to fix with glue, what God can replace fully new. We deserve more than washable glued pieces that don’t quite fit together anymore.
So decide today, what baggage do you need to give up?

Resolution or Redemption

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Oh, the sweet anticipation of a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate.

Historically, my resolutions each year were to drink less, smoke less, spend less, and cuss less.  To save more, go to church more, be more, and love more. I resolved each year that I would do better.

And I failed.

Every. Single. Time.

Oh, I did fine for about the first 24 – 48 hours.  Until I got over my new year’s hangover, and found myself once again with a drink in one hand and a smoke in the other spending money on booze and tobacco and cute clothes, shoes, and handbags to look the part I was so desperately trying to play.  Missing the mark once again and trying to convince myself it never really mattered in the first place.

Eventually, I stopped making resolutions all together.  I mean, good grief, why set myself up for failure?  Because each year, the anticipation of “new” began to tarnish quickly and that fresh start was short lived.  The clean slate was only an illusion, because all of those things I wanted to erase continued to eat away at my soul.

As I read the words I have written above, my heart aches for the lonely soul that was me.  Tears leak from my eyes as I remember how it felt to be lost.  The constant ache in my heart.  The all consuming pursuit of something that always seemed just out of reach.  Like a hamster on a wheel, running, running, running and getting nowhere.

I finally found what I was looking for all those years.  And it has forever changed me.

I no longer dedicate my life pursuing the temporary things of this world.  When the new year comes around, I find myself grateful for another year and in awe of the endless possibilities the new year will bring.  My lonely soul has found it’s perfect mate.  My wayward spirit has found a home and it wanders no longer through darkness.

I have found grace and forgiveness.

And I find myself still in awe that the God of all creation would love me enough to save me from myself.

And I find myself eternally grateful He did.

I don’t know what your life looks like.  I don’t know your struggles.  But I know God does.  And He is the answer.

Every. Single. Time.

“…….I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”  Ephesians 1:17-19 (the MSG)

Father God, thank you for salvation, redemption, grace, and forgiveness.  Thank you that you make this available to all who come to you believing.  I believe Lord, that you are who you say you are and I thank you for your sacrifice that I may live. Thank you that I am not who I was and that you have given my life hope and purpose.  I pray you will use these words I have written today to help heal the broken and bring you glory.  You alone are worthy.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Closets full of skeletons

My past is riddled with scores of bad decisions and multiple closets full of skeletons.

Honestly, I have often prayed that those skeletons would remain hidden away, out of sight, forever. But good grief, those things seem to clatter out when I least expect them to, and Lord have mercy on whomever happens to be around when those skeletons of mine start rattling around all out in the open and such.  EEEEEEKKKKK!!!!

Because ya’ll some of my past is shocking and shameful. And there are things I have done and said that STILL cause me great embarrassment.

But because of God’s great love for us…..ALL of my skeletons (and yours) are covered by His grace.

Every. Single. One.

Considering this soul cleansing, amazing grace, one would think it should be easy to talk about our past mistakes and the grace that erases them.

But it isn’t.

Because despite the amazing grace and compassion we have received, it is often not grace and compassion we choose to give. All too often we choose judgment.

I have been praying about this a lot lately. I have been asking God to help me replace my tendency to judge with a desire to choose grace and compassion. I am asking Him to help me speak life giving words and to withhold judgment on things that I was never meant to judge in the first place. Things like the skeletons in your closet. And mine.

Yesterday, God showed me grace and compassion in action.

I was having a conversation with a woman from my church. We were discussing ways to help another woman who is in the midst of a very difficult season. As she shared how this woman’s past is coming back to haunt her in the midst of her struggles, I felt led to share part of my story. I shared with her that I had an abortion when I was in my twenties.

My heart skipped a few beats as soon as the words left my mouth. And I waited to hear the shocked gasp. I waited to see the judgment in her eyes.

Neither came.

Instead, I saw tears fill her eyes as she chose grace. I felt compassion pour from her as she hugged me.

And something inside of me shifted a little. That something reminded me that it is important for me to share my story. Because my life is a wonderful example of a God who chooses grace and compassion. A God who has taken all the ashes of those skeletons in my past and has given me beauty.

For this I am forever grateful.

And to the woman who chose grace and compassion yesterday, thank you. God used you to inspire me to do the same.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14 (MSG)

Lord, thank you for your grace and your compassion. You are the example we are to follow, help us to be more like you. Let us give grace, compassion, and kindness. Help us to love you and love others more. Thank you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Help My Unbelief

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I thought I had gotten through this brokenness. I thought I had released this to God for the last time. But alas…..I find myself holding onto broken dreams, dashed hopes, and doubt. Again. I despise this place. And I am frustrated with myself for falling back into the darkness when I know how beautiful life is in the light.

From the outside, I’m sure things look as they always do. I still get up each morning and go about my day. I still serve in the ministries God has given me. I still laugh and love, and find joy in my life. And I am grateful….eternally grateful for this beautiful life God has given me.

But my heart.

My heart aches for the child I do not have.

Does it negate all the blessings in my life when I continue to desire the one I do not have? Does this make me ungrateful or discontent?

Does it taint my prayers with a tinge of doubt? Because surely, if God heard my prayers, He would answer…….

But we remain childless…..despite the desires of our hearts to be parents. Despite all the requests by us and others for this blessing. The answer has not come.

I recently read a blog by a great Christian author about unanswered prayer. I desperately hoped this blog would help me understand how to move forward when prayers go unanswered for months, years, or lifetimes. But the blog ended with an answered prayer and happily ever after. YAY God. And YAY for those for whom the prayer was answered.

But what about the prayers that remain unanswered? The healing, the salvation, the child, the job, the marriage that never comes to pass? What do we do with those prayers….and what do we do with the brokenness they leave behind? I am struggling with this ya’ll. I really do believe God is who He says He is. And I know He loves Todd and me beyond all we can imagine. And I know His plan is good and perfect. But as much as I believe, I am begging Him to help my unbelief.

Because if I am not careful, I will view my lack of children as a chink in God’s armor. Making Him imperfect, impotent, untrustworthy, or uninterested. And this, my friends, is dangerous ground. Because God is none of those things and allowing myself to believe He is will slowly chip away at my faith. So like the father in Mark 5:24, I am asking God to help me overcome my unbelief.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 5:23-24

Father God, we come before you today in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Father, Thank you that you can handle our doubt and our questions. Thank you that you love us enough to meet us right where we are. Lord, you are good, even when we don’t understand. You are good, even when life looks different than we planned. God, I know you hear the prayers of your people. Today I pray on behalf of myself and others who have continually lifted prayers in your holy name.   Prayers that from our finite human perspective have gone unanswered. I pray you would touch our hearts today Father. Help our unbelief. Bind up our broken hearts and encourage us in our walk so that we may draw nearer to you through this and not drift away. We love you, Jesus and we trust your perfect plan. In Your name, Amen.