God Still Speaks

 

 

 

 

I beckoned hope to come and soothe the fractured places of my life. It eluded me like sunshine on a cloud filled day.

The winds of change and uncertainty blew destruction over my life in 2018. Like a fragile mosaic it shattered in a million pieces. I sat stunned-broken among the shards of what I thought was my carefully constructed life. I was emotionally paralyzed by an overwhelming crushing sense of fear and sadness. I couldn’t put the fragments back, yet, I had no idea how to live amongst the unrecognizable shattered pleces of my life.

Where was God in all of this? I couldn’t see or feel His presence.

My trustworthy envoy of friends and family served as the scaffolding that supported me and held my shaky faith together. I needed people to believe in me and the depths of my of faith. Their words-their prayers carried me when I could not carry myself. For that I am grateful.

No soul should journey life alone. The pain-the loneliness can be soul crushing.

In the words of Lysa Terkeurst from her book, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way, “ Even the most grounded people can feel hijacked by the winds of unpredictable change.”

I don’t claim to be fully grounded but I do seek God, His will, and His word. Crisis has a way of shaking out the untruths we have staked our faith upon.

I have painstakingly discovered that I judge God’s goodness by the self proclaimed outcomes I want to occur in the situations of my life. On this side of Heaven, God doesn’t always tie a shiny red bow around our cirumstances. Life is messy and relationships are complicated. We don’t always get what we want.

I know He is sovereign, but I straddle the fence between belief and unbelief. I I try to reckon God’s sovereigty with the choices of other people. When the two collide I want Him to shield me from pain; make it go away. However, God in His wisdom honors free will. Sometimes, the choices made by those we love carry grave consequences. Sadly, we may be the collateral damage of their choices. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I know somewhere deep inside my heart that He is the Redeemer-the Restorer, but I grapple to find Him among the ashes of destruction. I tend to process His goodness through the tangled mess of my confusing thoughts and emotions. They seem to drown out the whispers of his comfort. And, comfort is exactly what I need. My heart needs a safe place to land-to heal.

John Eldredge says, “In the midst of crisis, heartbreak, or tragedy, you can seek God or you can seek understanding but you rarely get both. In time, usually after some time, God can help sort things out. But not in the midst of the storm. In the maelstrom, seek God. Interpretation comes later. Trust the Larger story. “

I have wrestled with God; fought hard for my healing. I am trusting there is a Larger Story. Now, a year later, hope seems less elusive; I see glimpses of it gingerly appearing on the horizon of my life. I am choosing to believe that my story isn’t over, there is more to come.

Good. will. come.

I still struggle to hear from God. Like a relentless child I keep asking Him to speak, to restore, to rebuild. I am choosing to trust that God is creating a brand new beautiful mosaic out of the shattered pieces of my life. I imagine Him tenderly picking up every broken piece, not a single one will be overlooked or discarded. God sees and creates in ways I don’t understand.

For me, this belief is a huge step of faith…

The other day, I went to the YMCA to attend a class. Movement is cathartic to me. The class was unexpectedly cancelled. I could feel disappointment seeping into my heart. It has become a far to familiar friend. When your beating heart is bruised, every challenge large or small irritates the healing wounds.

Choosing hope, I found a treadmill to walk on instead. As I looked down someone had left a scripture verse on a slip of paper. As I read the words of the psalmist, “ Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11) I know this was providential. God was speaking encouragement and validation over my life.

He still speaks… My heart knows it well but sometimes I need tangible evidence of His voice. He knows me and how I crave to hear His heart language of love. He encourages me to cultivate hope and praise Him again even though the pieces of my life are still a holy mess,

Friend, if within the context of your life, you find yourself broken in a million pieces… God will put you back together. I offer these comforting words from the song Defender, by Rita Springer.

When I thought I lost me
You know where I left me
You reintroduced me to your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart.

Still Surrendering….
Maryanne

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A Little Deeper

Life is really hard right now. The harsh winds of this season have dramatically changed the shoreline of my life. Honestly, I detest this season; its been grievously forced upon my life by the choices of another.  My heart is decimated. The collateral damage continues to pile up. I’m in a wrestling match with God. I don’t want to face the pain. 

Today, I miss my beloved Dad. He would have had wise and calming words for me to draw strength from. I imagine myself walking with him along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean where I grew up soaking in his commanding presence and his deep abiding faith. 

 I feel the tide of time  pushing me forward against my will. I am  attempting to surrender to the current of suffering, slowly, painstakingly I paddle forward. Betrayal brings a grief of its own. It’s like a catastrophic tidal wave that is violently crashing along the sea walls of my heart spewing its destruction.  

 The powerful undertow of grief is threatening to drown me in the sea of despair, robbing me of life. Joy. Hope. But, I know from other  life losses that grief, though an unwelcome presence, is a guide and a teacher. I know I must  journey across this ocean of heartache in order to reach the shores of healing. 

From past experience, I know that this crushing pain will ebb and flow like the tide. I tell myself, “ Ride it out.” “Breathe.” Grief and heartache are the underbelly of love. We pay a high price to choose to love. Jesus showed us that. So, I sink into it, surrendering, and God brings a memory that acts as a soothing balm as well as a spiritual lesson to my soul.

My sister and I loved the many lazy summer Sunday afternoons our little family spent on New Smyrna Beach. Our dad would take us out in the pristine waters of the Atlantic in spite of the protests of our mother. I imagine she gave him an intense glare that meant, he better return with both of “her” daughters.

Dad would take us out in water well over our head, a feat we would never attempt on our own. It was exhilarating and scary, but his presence always made us braver, we knew we were safe because our dad was trustworthy and he loved us with every fiber of his being. We had an unwavering faith that he would keep us safe. 

Until we were old enough and strong enough to tread water on our own, we would hold on to Dad’s broad athletic shoulders. He would say, “ I’ve got you.” Of course, Dad was 6 feet tall and while the water was well over our heads, it came to his chin and his feet were substantially planted on the ocean’s bottom.

I sense God is speaking through this memory.  He knows my throbbing heart is overwhelmed  in the swirling riptide of grief. I need His expansive durable shoulders to hold on to; carrying the burden of my pain which is to hefty for my grown up heart, which now feels small and lost

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God in His faithfulness isn’t going to allow the grief to drag me under and drown me. This doesn’t feel true right now but I know from my past history with Abba, that I must hold on, ride the surging waves of grief and pain with an unwavering childlike belief that Abba’s heart is trustworthy and good, even if His sovereign ways are mysterious.

The waters may be  threatening, and the swell of heartache may be crashing  over my head, yet His feet are firmly planted. It will not overtake me.  I must believe this deep within the marrow of my bones. I can trust Abba’s  unyielding hold, sturdy footsteps, and His timing to guide me-carry me to the safe soft warm sandy shores of healing and wholeness.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When your go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown…” (Isaiah 43:2)

 

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Finding Hope in the Unknown Space of Life

As a child I loved reading, especially on the sizzling hot humid afternoons so characteristic of a typical summer day in Florida. I would comfortably nestle on to my bed with a propped up pillow and devour the words of the latest Nancy Drew Mystery.

I loved the way Carolyn Keene developed intriguing characters that were skillfully woven into the twists and turns of the plot line. But, I hated not knowing the story’s end, so I would go read the final chapter before I was even half way through book. Crazy! My young heart couldn’t stand the suspense of the unknown.

This is even more unnerving when it plays out in real life. Presently, I am living in a season of unknown space, anxiously wading my way through the land of ambiguity. My young heart is screaming; my grown up heart is unnerved and wavering.

The winds of uncertainty have come. They are rattling the windows and shaking the foundation of what I know. Circumstances have appeared like unwelcome dark heavy clouds that threaten to rain on the picnic of my familiar. I haven’t a clue what to do with it.

I receive these small revelations that seem to expose the underbelly — the cracks of a complicated relationship. They are dots of truth that aren’t connecting; yet, instinctively I know that they are part of a bigger picture that has yet to be revealed. I am still processing.

Only God can connect my collected dots and bring order and truth and an appropriate response to my life circumstances. My job is to collect and rest in His wisdom, and timing. Ultimately, He will reveal the truth accompanied by direction.

I believe this on some level but answers don’t seem to be on the horizon. My heart is sinking as my head struggles to stop the mental gymnastics of fear as I run with breakneck speed to a future filled with outcomes created in the recesses of my fear-filled vain imagination. I entertain possible outcomes as I wrestle with a myriad of “what if’s.” I’ve stop living in the reality of my today.

It’s exhausting. It’s maddening. It’s immobilizing. And, it reveals a lack of faith. Jesus told us, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). I should know better, but today I can’t muscle my heart to accept His command. I don’t feel strong, brave, or faith-filled. I feel like an anxious child clinging to her teddy bear of certainty in the dark of night in need of her Daddy’s presence and reassurance.

I call out to my Abba in quiet desperation, posturing my heart toward Him. Like the welcoming warmth of sunshine on a bitter cold day, I begin to feel held in His comforting presence and strengthened by the truth of His words. It’s only then that I can quell my racing thoughts and the voice of the deceiver who fuels my fears with words of hopelessness and uncertainty. I find my heart shifting—moving from the isolating island of despair to the firm shores of hope.

I recall the prayer of author Jan Meyers from her book The Allure of Hope, “Putting aside the gymnastics of our heart, we rest in a place that turns to the heart of God, ‘Let me rest in Your strength,’ we pray. ‘Let me be desperate in Your presence. Let me give life. Find me in spite of my wandering heart, and please speak on my behalf.’”

I will choose trust; even in the unknown space. My Abba will move and speak on behalf. Still surrendering…

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

 

 

 

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Trusting the Storyteller

“I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a storyteller.” (G.K. Chesterton)

They lived happily ever after…

As a child, that was my favorite line in the fairy tale. With dreamy thoughts, I imagined myself holding on to my beloved prince, our hair flowing in the wind as we rode on the back of a magnificent white stallion into the radiant sunset.

Unfortunately, in this fallen world, our rides into the sunset may resemble an evening cruise into the middle of a category five hurricane. The crashing waves and gale force winds shatter the fairy tale ending. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we imagined. Maybe the husband or wife you hoped for is no where on the horizon; maybe the one who pledged to love you forever has left; maybe the child you poured into has rejected everything you believe; maybe you have suffered great loss; or a family member is plagued with a financial, emotional, or health crisis. The list is endless.

Sometimes the carefully crafted story we have written for our lives has gone so far off the desired path we don’t recognize the plot line. We ask ourselves, How did I get here? The onslaught of pain weakens the binding that seemingly holds our story together. The pages become threadbare, ripped, and tear stained. This isn’t the way we would have written the story.

My journals are the barometer of my heart. The pages hold both the sorrows of devastating losses as well as the dreams imagined for my life and for my family. Thoughtfully, I wrote carefully constructed scripts for our lives, imposing personal expectations on my family and me. My family has deviated from my script; they are the stewards of their lives. The dynamics look much different then I envisioned. It is here, on the tear-smudged pages of disappointment that I have felt the tender kiss of God.

However, I have wasted time nursing my disillusioned heart, as well as acting like a petulant child in a full-blown temper tantrum demanding answers and change. Certain circumstances remain unchanged for reasons only God understands. My mindset holds me hostage as I dig my heels in the sand of immobilization forfeiting the life and grace right before me. My repentant heart has received more patience than I deserve. Gently, He reminds me that He holds my heart in the disappointment and whispers words of love.

Through the encouragement of a wise mentor, I am choosing to bless that which is good in my story. These are the provisions from a generous God. Gratitude doesn’t deny what’s wrong: it brings a deeper awareness to the thread of goodness that holds us. It’s the soft pillow of rest that helps the soul surrender.

Today, I relinquish the myriad of life scripts that have tangled my heart in knots of discord. I loosely hold the pen inviting the Storyteller to write the story through me. His version is magnanimously redemptive. As we write, I choose to lay down my expectations and wait in a posture of expectancy. There is a freeing difference.

We’re enamored with fairy tales because they echo the heart of the Storyteller and His abiding commitment to our restoration. Sally Lloyd Jones articulates this well in The Jesus Storybook Bible, “The Bible is most of all a Story…It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”

Our surrendered stories will end well in His timing. When we see the entirety of our lives within the context of the eternal, we will fully understand. I suspect when the plot line veered most the Storyteller rescued with an extravagant tale of redemption. It will be something to behold.

In the mean time, I take baby steps, daily entrusting my life and those I love into the hands of the Storyteller. He knows best.

“God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes.” (Psalm 18:24 MSG)

 

I was a privilege to write this for Directions Ministry. To read more about Directions Ministry visit http://www.directionsbybridges.org

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Riding in the Rain….

Celebrating the New Year at the beach has become a family tradition I treasure. However, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. One particular year, it rained five of the seven days of our stay. Sigh…

By the end of the week gratefulness had dramatically dropped on my emotional barometer. A serious case of cabin fever had set in, and I was downright irritable. So, with a languishing spirit, I set out for a bike ride ignoring the steady cold rain that was falling from the imposing steely gray winter sky. My restless heart was determined to get out, be close to the ocean where I find solace and peace.

Initially, I was miserably wet and cold. Not to mention my hair, which now resembled a drenched mop; truly an unflattering look for me. The farther I rode though, the better I felt. Exerting energy pedaling was both warming my body and releasing all the pent up frustration of the week. It was quiet because most people with a lick of sense were inside.

As the rain subsided, a peaceful holy hush fell afresh over the beach. Strangely, I felt grateful to be in this foggy drizzly mess. The beach with all of its vastness was still majestic. As my heart began to settle from the chaotic tangled cords of discontent, a thought strongly rose up inside of me, “Sometimes, you just have to ride your bike in the rain.” I sensed this was a nudging of the Holy Spirit- a teachable moment.

Expectations of myself, my family, and life in general cause me great struggle and grief. Certain circumstances I hold close to my heart haven’t turned as I had hoped. Ominous rain clouds haved dumped buckets of rain on them. I struggle to stay on my bike and find the blessings riding through the rain storm.

I’ve wasted a lot of time getting off the bike of life because life didn’t turn out as I had envisioned. Even after a period of acknowledging my pain, hurt, and grief I get stuck, putting  real present living on hold.  I forfeit what God has right before me obsessing-striving-arranging-waiting-hoping- focusing on what I don’t have.

Perhaps you have found yourself saying, “ Life will be good; I will be content when I marry, when my husband changes, we have more money,  the kids grow up; or when I finally have that house, that baby, or that job.” The list goes on and on…

I recently heard, John Morehead, a physician nearing the end of his life interviewed by Ransomed Heart Ministries. He made this profound statement that has deeply resonated with my heart, “ We never know what life really has to offer until we manage to let go of what we believe it should offer.”

I have written these words in my journal for further reflection. My hope is that they will wash over-penetrate my heart and mind. I want Jesus to show me how to assume this posture this year; learning to live unencumbered by my own agenda and embracing the gifts life offers me, even if they are different than I had hoped or imagined.

I sense Jesus’ invitation to approach situations with less expectation and more openness; trusting that His goodness and love will hold my bruised heart when life’s plans go array.

I invite all of us  to let Jesus make that real to us. I suspect freedom come from this kind of living.

I pray that we learn to ride our bikes through life with boundless fearless freedom, whether it’s sunny and warm, or cold and rainy; believing that rainbows come when the sun peaks through the gray skies. And, in due time, they do come…

Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. (Philippians 4:11 AMP).

Jesus, thank you for orchestrating every detail of our lives. Help us to trust Your goodness and Your love in all circumstances. Teach us how to approach life with a posture of openness, free of expectations.  May we live with hope knowing that You hold our hearts in the joyful, the difficult, and the painful.  In your name, Amen.

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As I walked in the beauty of the autumn afternoon the wispy clouds gracefully danced across the expanse of blue sky. The leaves were playfully being blown by the light wind. It was a perfect day, yet stinging tears were falling down my face as I felt a deep sadness. It  had been my hope that this therapeutic walk would shed this unsettling overpowering residue of heart heaviness.

This walk was occurring the day after one of the most contentious elections of recent history. The election results have ushered in a new swirling firestorm of deep divides, anger, unrest, and distrust. It’s fierceness threatens to tear us all apart. Maybe, you have felt the weightiness of this, too.

How do we live in these unprecedented times? How do we hope for something more for our kids?

I don’t pretend to have  answers. The issues of the day carry great complexity. I will spare you a lengthy discussion. We are all drowning in the tidal waves of ongoing news, editorials, commentaries,and social media posts, which have created a vortex of negativity and fear. Perhaps, stepping back from its exposure will bring a clearer perspective.

As I walked in the silence of that moment, I recognized that my heart had lost the bigger perspective-the eternal perspective. There are many things that are unclear-uncertain, yet  I can choose to rest my heart in what I do know: God is good. God is sovereign. God is all powerful, and He will have the last say on all the chapters of history.  

Now, as we enter the season of Advent, may we rekindle our hope as we reflect on the birth of Christ and the promise of His return. This reality offers to propel us beyond the swirling political chaos of the day.

In light of circumstances, Isaiah’s words, spoken thousands of years ago brings comfort and a renewed eternal perspective. Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message says it with breathtaking beauty: “ For a child has been born-for us! The gift of a son-for us. He’ll take over the running of the world, His names will be Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness He brings” (Isaiah 9:6).

These words leave me breathless with wonder especially as I apply them to the uncertainties of today. Wholeness appears to be lost to this divided country. But, anything held in the hands of the Prince of Wholeness is not lost, so wholeness is possible.

Let us move forward in revived hope, knowing that Jesus-the Prince of Wholeness is still in the trenches of life with us, writing the redemption stories of our country, our world, and our own personal histories. His redemption brings unlimited ongoing wholeness to all who know Him and stake their lives on His promises.

Friends, as we  approach this season of Advent, may we take a few quiet moments to ask ourselves a few reflective questions: How can I cultivate wholeness in my life? How can I bring wholeness to my family? And lastly, How can I be a conduit of wholeness and peace to those in my sphere of influence?

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 ESV)

 

  

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Remembering Our Stories

Forever engraved on the walls of my heart is the profound experience of visiting Yad Vashem, which is the living memorial to the six million Jewish adults and children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Every exhibit speaks volumes of honor to the victims and powerfully tells the story of this tragic period in history. It’s a grave reminder that bigotry and hatred will always lead to unmitigated heartache.

I was struck by the resolve of the Jewish people to remember these horrific events. These words are inscribed on the entrance wall of the living memorial, “Has the likes of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs. And their children the next generation” (Joel 1:2-3).

They remember, and they want the world to remember, so this heinous slaughter won’t be repeated.   

The bleak chapters of history can serve as guides to a better path—a better future. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Similarly, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River making their way into the Promised Land, the first thing God commanded them to do was gather rocks and build an altar so that, “…When your children ask in times to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).  

This memorial served as an observable symbol of God’s faithful providence that safely led His people through the harsh desert into the long awaited Promise Land.

This place would help the next generation understand their ancestral history  and serve as a tangible foundation on which to build their own faith.  It was also a visible reminder of Israel’s rich history with God.

Our stories matter too. Remembering our pasts, helps us to move forward into the promise of our futures. We are reminded of God’s presence in all seasons. It allows us to cultivate thankfulness during the difficult desert seasons as we recount His provisions in past seasons. Recalling our mistakes, hopefully, keeps us from repeating them. And, we can remember how they were met with His unending grace.

Friends, as we gather in the coming weeks around holiday tables, let’s courageously recount our faith stories that highlight God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. Tell even the hard stories with honesty—they matter, too. It is in the trenches of these stories that the thread of God’s grace often shines the greatest.

Our children need tangible examples of cultivated endurance and courage that is evidenced in a long abiding history with Him. They are gifts that will leave sustaining blessings long after we are gone. We will never fully know how they will impact the generations to come.

* My thoughts were inspired by the thoughtful words written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

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