Growth and Healing

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Like most of us, quarantine has given me a chance to do some of those things that I always say I want to get to but never have the time to actually do.  One of those things was to clean and organize my bedroom.  I am sorry to say that some things in there haven’t been touched in years!  Today I decided to tackle my nightstand.  I started going through some of the stuff on top of it and as I opened one of the drawers to put something away,  I saw a whole stack of cards.  Greeting cards that were addressed to me by my ex-husband.  I had honestly forgotten that they were even there.  As I pulled them out of the drawer, the memory came back to when I put them there.  It was not long after he had left.  We both had always been the sentimental types that kept everything.  We had memory boxes filled with stuff from movie stubs, to cards, to little notes that we had left each other and things the kids had made.  I had gone in the boxes looking for something and found all the cards he had given me.  I took them out and read through them one by one.  I tried to make sense of the difference in the man who had written me such beautiful cards and the one who had just walked out on his family without even a thought.  As I cried more tears than I wanted, I ended up tucking the cards away.  Often after that day, I would take them out and read them and then put them away, but I could never bring myself to get rid of them.

Fast forward years later and I honestly had completely forgotten about the cards.  As I took them out I almost laughed.   I thought about how much those cards had meant to me at one point and how little I cared about them now.  As I walked downstairs to throw them in the recycling, I couldn’t help but pause at how far God has brought me.  I don’t remember when the last time I had looked at those cards was, but I know that there was a time that I would not have been able to let go of them.  God in his mercy knew when the time was right for me to come across them again.  What at one point in time would have brought me to tears, now didn’t move me at all.

I have spoken many times about the steps of healing that God has brought me through.  I have by no means completely healed from the trauma and grief that my kids and I have suffered from abandonment and divorce, but I have come a long way!  I am thankful for the times when God shows me how far He has brought me along this path.  When he brings me up yet another stair, helps me get over another hurdle, and closes up one of the many wounds on my heart.  Growth and healing don’t come easy and they certainly don’t come quickly, but they do come. While I will never experience complete healing from all this in this life, I know that my hope is in something far greater!

“And the King says, “Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped away every tear from every eye!”  Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones

 

 

 

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Maybe This Changes Everything

As I woke up this morning and looked at the clock, my first instinct was “oh no, I need to get moving.” But, as I became more fully awake, I realized that I had no need to rush, I had no lunches to make, no need to wake my boys up right away, no need to do all the things that I normally need to do to get this family out the door and me off to work each morning.  On normal days, my morning starts at 5:30am and rarely do I really stop going until around 10:30 at night.  Can you say exhaustion?! On normal days, I rush from one thing to the next, from one kid to the next, from my job to their jobs, and the list goes on.. grocery shopping, appointments, go, go, go! Then you get home and it’s cook dinner, do the laundry, help with homework, and get ready to do it all again the next day. Life moves at a pace that we often don’t get to set and we rarely get to change. And somehow in the midst of all that, I am supposed to find time for me.  Time to rest and relax, because the life of a single mom raising 3 teenagers is crazy and can easily drive you to your breaking point.  Believe me, you don’t want to go there…I just came from there and I have no desire to ever go back!

Enter, COVID-19.  Amidst all that craziness, in a matter of moments, all of life came to a halt.  School was closed, professional sports stopped, businesses were shutting down, and most recently, we are all quarantined to our homes.  While that does bring its own anxiety, for me, it almost feels like a much-needed break.  I have seen positives come out of it already, things I would never have imagined.

I have watched as my daughter has started to look up recipes and cook things.  I have been able to take her driving every day when before there was never the time. I have been able to be here for her all day as she is struggling through some very real heartache.

My sons have asked about learning how to do laundry and other things around the house.  They have spent more time reading, more time relaxing, more time watching movies together, and yes, more time on x-box with their friends.  It has given me a new appreciation for their version of socializing with friends, because not only is it the only way they can do that right now, it also made it so the impact felt by them was much less.

People are tuning into online church services more.  Praying more.  Groups are being organized to help those in need.  Communities are coming together.

Yes, I know, there is a whole other side to this.  People losing their jobs (both my kids lost their’s) shortages at the store, people without food,  people being totally alone.  I am not naive about those things, nor am I untouched by them.  However, I am learning that we can do with less than we think we can.  We can make the best of this time, and maybe, just maybe, when things start to go back to normal, we can do things differently.

What if we didn’t rush all the time?  What if when this comes to an end, we still make time for the important things like checking on our neighbor?  What if we spend more time with friends and family? What if we care less about the “almighty” dollar and more about our ALMIGHTY God?  What if we still ate dinner together as a family?  What if sports on TV took a back seat and playing some basketball outside with your kids took over the front seat? What if we went to church and became a member of that community instead of just a bystander? What if companies cared more about their employees’ well-being than they do about their bottom line? What if?

The truth is we CAN make this happen.  We can as a society choose to make changes.  We have been given a great gift in seeing another side of things.  In seeing what we are really missing we can see what is really important.  So maybe, just maybe, things don’t go back the way they were before,  Maybe just maybe, when this is all over we look back on it with eyes of thanksgiving for what it taught us. Maybe this changes everything.

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God Knows What We Need to Hear

Have you ever noticed how God has a way of using even the simplest and smallest things in life to speak to you?  Maybe it is the voice of a small child that says something profound. Maybe it is a line on TV; or maybe,  as is often the case for me, it is a line from a song.  I know last week I had referenced how God had used a song to speak to me about being there with me in the place where he had me.  This morning, He did something similar, but the  strange thing about what happened is that the song was by far not a worship song, it wasn’t even a Christian song, and the words I heard aren’t even the actual words to the song! However, they were  words I needed to hear.

Honestly, I am reluctant to even post the actual song.  Most people are going to think I am crazy, but to me, what happened shows how God is the ruler of this earth and He can and will use unconventional things to speak to us.

Now  before I go any further, I would like to preference this by saying  I know that God speaks to us mainly through His word and anything that doesn’t line up with that is not of God.  Sola Scriptura, (scripture alone).  If you don’t know what that means below is a quote from The Gospel Coalition stating what it meant to church leaders during the reformation and what we hold to today.

“Sola Scriptura meant Scripture was the supreme authority over the church. The Bible ruled reason and tradition because it alone was infallible as God’s word. All other authorities (including church leadership) were fallible and must submit to Scripture”.
The Gospel Coalition

The Bible is the word of God. It is the supreme authority over the church, and in the life of a believer.   All other authorities must submit to scripture.  If it goes against the Bible it is not from God.  I just wanted to make that clear, lest someone think I am off the deep end and telling people to listen to less than wholesome music to hear God speak.

Now, back to this morning’s song.  I was bringing my son to work and he likes to flip through the radio stations. As he was flipping, I caught a brief snippet of a song.  He turned the radio off at that point, I turned it back on to listen to the chorus.  The song was Hemmorage (In My hands), by the band Fuel, I wouldn’t recommend looking it up.  The words I heard start out as the actual words…which are  “don’t fall away”.  Then, it changes. The next words I heard were… leave yourself in My hands again.  Now that is not what the song actually says.  I looked it up as soon as I got home.  But, in that moment in time, that is what I heard, and honestly, that is what I needed to hear.

I have had a lot of dark days as of late, but none as dark as yesterday.  Another cut was made on my heart at the hands of this same situation that has been plaguing me for months.  This one cut deep, too deep.  Deep enough to make me question who I am, question if I am listening to God, question if I am where God wants me to be, question if I am a good mother, question if I even know what I am doing in life.  I pretty much questioned everything in my life EXCEPT God.  I spent the majority of the night crying.  I was truly ready to just give up.  I slept fitfully and in a state of  exhaustion  and depression I was driving my son to work this morning.  That’s when I heard:  don’t fall away, leave yourself in My hands again.

Like most of us, when tough times come, I run to God.  Far too often, I try to  jump out of God’s hands and handle things on my own.  This time I felt more like I was ripped out of God’s hands,  thrown on the ground, and stepped on.  Now of course that isn’t true…the Bible tells us in John 10:28 that we can not be snatched out of God’s hands  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28 (emphasis mine) but, that is how I felt.  When feelings don’t line up with God’s word, that is when we know they are wrong. I know that God loves me, I know He has his hand in this situation, He has told me that.   Others, who I have gone to for help, leaders who I trust have told me that.   Friends, who I hold myself accountable to have told me that.  Then how did I get from the place of trusting God,  to laying on the floor in a pool of my own tears doubting everything about who I am?  Honestly, I wish I really knew, but all I can say is when we allow hurts to come in and take over,  it gets our eyes off God and that is when trouble comes.  When those hurts bring confusion and deep pain, it can make it hard  to see or think clearly.  It was being in this place that had me make a poor choice earlier this week.  It was this that had me wanting to run away,  to get away from everything to do with this whole situation. It was the hurt and pain that had me feeling like I was going to explode from all the anger that has built up inside of me. It was getting my eyes off God and allowing the exhaustion of the constant battle I have been in to catch up with me like never before.  But, in that place, in that state, out of darkness, through darkness God said, don’t fall away, leave yourself in my hands again.

 

 

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Be Still and Know…

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I know I mentioned in my last post that I had a situation that had been causing turmoil in my family for over 6 months.  I would love to say that the situation is resolved, but the truth is it isn’t and although I am taking steps to try and do what I can on my part, most of the stuff going on is completely out of my control.  It is so hard to watch your children and people you care about be hurt and know that there is really not much that you can do about it.  It is even harder when you are the only parent and the only one they have to go to and often that hurt gets taken out on you.  I have just been tired more than I can say.

So yesterday, as I try to do every Friday during the winter season, I take a couple hours for myself and do one of the things I most enjoy doing and that is go snowboarding. Usually, during the hr or so that I am there, my phone goes off constantly, I try to ignore what I can and just relax and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t but yesterday, yesterday was different.  I was at the mountain for 3 hours.  And in that time, not one text about this current struggle came through.  Not only that, but as I put on my music it seemed like God had a playlist in mind for me to listen to.  I usually have a certain playlist of songs I listen to while I snowboard, but God just seemed to stop it on songs I never listen to snowboarding.  Not only was it one of the most peaceful times I had ever had, but one where I really felt like it was just God and I on the mountain.

One of the songs that came up was “Word of God speak” by Kutless   

There is a line in the song that says ” ...to be still in know, that your in this place….”  It was strange but as I heard those words yesterday, they had a very different meaning to me.  It was like God was saying to me, you know that I am in this place right, not “place” in the sense that I am here with you snowboarding on this mountain, which of course I am but, place as in the hard place I have you in right now, this situation that you are fed up with, this circumstance that you just want to go away…I am in that place.  I am there, I am with you, I know you don’t see it, I know you don’t understand it , I know you can’t feel it, BUT I am here, so be still.

I always said if ever I was to get a tattoo, it would say “…Be Still…” God uses those words to speak to me so very often.  And when I stopped and thought about the verses I had posted prior to this yesterday morning, that phrase was right in there….

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way lo the Lord trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and patiently for him; yourself over the one prospers way, over the man out evil Refrain anger, and forsake Fret yourself; it tends only to For the evildoers shall be off, but those who wait for the ord shall inherit the land. Psalms 37:4-'

God NEVER ceases to amaze me, He never ceases to show up when we take the time to be still before Him and He is there even when we don’t take the time to listen. Now, I wish I could say I saw an end in sight to this situation, I don’t, I wish I could say the rest of my day was peaceful but as soon as I got in the car to leave, there came the texts but I KNOW that God gave me those 3 hours of peace and stillness to connect with Him, to hear from Him , and to be strengthened by Him to keep going and not give up hope.  What an awesome God we serve.  While I know that tough days are still ahead, I know that God is in this place with me and He will act, I just need to trust Him and Be Still!

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Re-fix My Eyes

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As I write this, it probably isn’t going to make much sense.  My mind is a jumble of too many things but, I just feel it is important to write it because I think we all get to the place I am at and knowing that we are not alone can be a bigger help than we think.

Lately my life has felt like nothing but turmoil.  One situation after another has been causing hurt and pain throughout my household.  One particular situation has been ongoing for the past 5 months and has been so stressful at times that I have literally had chest pains.  It has caused dissension in my family and I often feel like I am literally in a war zone.  While many of the things are just the growing pains of 3 teenagers in the house, one of which just graduated and turned 18,   there have also been things that have happened that are hurtful and I have no control over them. I have watched my kids hurt in ways I have never wanted them to hurt and I have watched people I love suffer at hands similar to ones I suffered at. Much of it rekindles anger inside me that I am constantly trying to give to God.  However, raising 3 teenagers on your own often brings the sense of loss, hurt , and pain that you weren’t supposed to have to do this on your own.  Over an over people have prayed for me, people tell me they are worried about me and the truth is at times I worry about myself.

Well yesterday was the day.  Yesterday I reached my breaking point. As a torrent of tears poured over me as I screamed and cried I reached a point where I just couldn’t see past the hurt I was feeling.  I didn’t eat, I didn’t make my kids Valentine’s Day candy, I didn’t want to talk, I just shut myself in my car and then in my room.  I went to bed thoroughly spent.  Every last ounce of energy I had was gone.  I slept  fitfully during the night my body still trying to get rid of the stress that had held it captive throughout the past weeks.  Then morning came…..

Not just  morning as in the next day, morning as in the kind that only God can bring.  Morning as in the sun that comes out after the rain.  Morning as in “...His mercies are new every morning”   Nothing in my circumstances has changed except my view.  What happened yesterday happened because I allowed my eyes to be taken off of the only One who could help.  My eyes were on my circumstances, my problems, and of course the more I focused on those things, the more bad thoughts came until my eyes were so filled with hurt and pain that I couldn’t see the eyes of my savior.  I took on other peoples hurts instead of allowing them to flow through me to the arms of the only One who can carry them.

So as I awoke this morning, God made sure that the verses that awaited me were ones I needed to remember.  He spoke to me and broke through the darkness that had me so ensnared yesterday.

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79

Shadow of death is exactly how I felt.  And His peace was exactly what I needed.

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20

My situation seems impossible, but God!

“for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.”  Luke 1:49

God has done amazing things in my life, but somehow in all that pain I forgot, as we all do I suppose when our eyes become transfixed on the trials and troubles of this world rather than on him.

So what do I do,  I take a step back, I get down on my knees and cry out for forgiveness.  I humble myself because I know I can’t do this on my own, I know I am not the one in control of my kids lives, He is!  He is the one who needs to lead, not me.  I ask for forgiveness from my kids, because humbling ourselves and letting our kids know when we are wrong is one of the most important things we can do.  I remind myself of Who God is and I re-fix my my eyes on Him!

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My Steadfast Companion

Yesterday morning, as I sat down to read my devotional and wrote the date in my journal, it struck me that it had been exactly 6 years since the day my life was forever changed by my husband choosing to walk out me and our 3 children.  It was stranger that it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and it happened to be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when he left.  None of this really shook me in any way.  I am long past those days and honestly, if I hadn’t written the date, the day probably would have past without me remembering at all.

As I read the devotion I was doing(Jesus Calling by Sarah Young), one of the comments spoke about Jesus being our “steadfast companion”.  As I read that, it really resonated with me.  As I thought about my life over these past 6 years there have been a lot of ups and downs, and often more downs than ups because raising three kids on your own is no easy task.  However, as I read that, what stuck with me was the truth of that statement.  As I look back, whether in good days or bad, whether in times I feel like I am ok, or times when I feel like I can’t take another step, regardless of the circumstance, one thing I can say for certain is that Jesus, has been and will continue to be my steadfast companion.  On days when I honestly do not think I can do this a minute more, Jesus is there, saying don’t worry if you can’t, becasue I can and I am with you.  When I am sure that I am failing and doing a horrible job, he not only reminds me that it’s ok, He is the savior of my children, not me, but he also sends someone to tell me that I am a good mom and am doing a good job.

There are a lot of things I have had to learn to live without over these past 6 years, but I have never had to live one moment without Jesus!  He promises me that  He is with me ALWAYS (Matthew 28:20). He promises that He will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6) and He promises that his “..steadfast love never ceases” (Lamentations 3:22) Jesus truly has been my steadfast companion and as Thanksgiving Day approaches I can do nothing more than thank Him for the many, many blessings he has so generously bestowed upon me, all of which I in no way deserve.  I am thankful for my kids that may make my life crazy at times, but I wouldn’t trade being with them for anything in this world.  Much has changed over these past 6 years, but the faithfulness of my God has not.  Thank you Lord!   I love you!

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Surrender

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photo credit: Veronica Matthews

I sat down this morning to write this post and honestly, I feel like I didn’t know which direction to turn.  I have about 10 posts floating around in my head, from things about the open wound of abandoment, to the constant struggles as a single mom, to the hurt of watching your children hurt, your friends hurt, your family struggle.  Anger that never seems to fully go away, financial strain and stress, insurmountable debt that I can never see the bottom of, fear that I am going to fail, fear I can’t take care of my kids well enough, and the list goes on and on and on.

Then as I sat down to write, and I had some worship music playing in the background.  The songEverything and Nothing Less by Jesus Culture ft Chris McClarney was on. (you can listen by clicking on the song title) As the words “I surrender all” were being sung, it really hit me, like the Lord saying to me, Kristen, surrender it ALL!  All the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the anger, all the worry,  all the doubt, your kids, your house, your money, every wound that still bleeds, give it ALL entirely to me.

The word surrender has so many negative connotations, but when I googled the definition, one that came up said “..to abandon oneself entirely”  As terrifying as that sounded, it also sounded wonderful when I think of WHO I am andonding myself to!

I surrender all doesn’t just mean, ok God, I am going to give you my sins, or God I am going to try harder, it is knowing that there is nothing we can do apart from Him, God I can’t deal with all thats going on, I can’t make my hurt go away, I can’t work hard enough, I can’t fix my kids, my friends, my family, I can’t support my family, I can’t be enough….but Lord, You Are!  You are more than enough, you are everything, you own everything, you see everything and you love me, you love my family, you love my friends.  You have ALWAYS been there for me, every step of the way, even when I turn away, even when I get angry, even when I lose my way, Lord you are there!  You know every part of my story.  You have carefully planned every step I will take.

So rather than write a post about all the things I can’t deal with right now, I decided to write about doing the only thing I can do….surrender, surrender all of it, every part.  Abandon myself entirely.  When I think of doing that, I see myself standing in an open field, or on a hike among the trees or on a mountain top.  I see my arms outstretched to heaven and I think of Psalm 46:10

“BE STILL, and KNOW that I AM GOD…I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”

 

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