March 31, 2011

Where Laughter Melts Like Lemon Drops

I'm a chamber maid, careening the halls of life, at the ready with my cart, looking for...

Keys to your lonely heart. To vacuum the day after wreckage. Strip tear stained linens into the hamper. Wipe the mirror hollow eyes have questioned. Throw daylight into grim bleakness. Scoop your heart up - get away from it all.

Truly, only, really there is just One who can do that.

But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone
Edward Shilliot

He is a man of sorrows. Familiar with suffering. He knows. He bore it.

Your 'it.' Gnawing loneliness -- famished loneliness -- jagged toothed ravenous loneliness. He bore it.

Perhaps you're on the platform of a barren train car, cascading the tracks of life, years blurring by. The air smells of regret. Chagrined that love - time - hope have slipped through fingers, too full of loneliness to hold much more.

One winged foot teeters off the edge of the box car, ready to get away from it. Desperate to soar over the rainbow where dark clouds are far behind and laughter melts like lemon drops. But the other foot is a pregnant worry, birthing 'what ifs.' What if I put myself out there and I'm hurt? Rejected? Still feel alone?

One step will begin to answer these bottomless questions. One jump off will be a step away from it all. Into the arms of wounded Love. Wounded to clean the hurt, clear the pain, carry the heart. Wounded to heal. Wounded to bear it. If we never jump, we'll never know.

Nothing is easy to the unwilling
Thomas Fuller

I don't know your exact circumstances, but I do know alone is isolating, wrought with despairing pain. I know we have to start somewhere and friend, I have a feeling that today is as good a day as any. God invites us to work in tandem with Him. May I encourage you to pray and seek what step to take to get away from it? Here are some ideas:

o Host a swap meet {purses, accessories, books, decorations}
o Have a comedy night. Rent a DVD & pop some Orville! {may I suggest Jim Gaffigan & Brian Regan}
o Join an online Bible Study {check out Melissa Taylor, Wendy Pope and Wendy Blight}
o Invite a friend to coffee & really listen to what's on her heart
o Call a family member. How can you pray for them today?
o Recite all the things you know about the Lord when loneliness comes a' knocking
{He's good. Faithful. Trustworthy. Caring. Loyal. Righteous. Holy. Sweet. Tender. A Father. Redeemer.}

What ideas do you have? I'd love for you to share encouragement for us as we jump off the train of negative thought?

xoxo, sam

March 28, 2011

It's No Secret He Speaks

Hi friends, we have some special guests with us today from Melissa Taylor's online study of It’s No Secret, a treasure of a book by my dear friend Rachel Olsen {Preview Chapter 1 here}. Please welcome our guests as we take a small detour on our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought}. Thanks y'all!

One thing I enjoy about close friends is how we develop our own way of communicating over time. Certain words or phrases take on special meaning for us… Likewise, befriending Jesus –
drawing close to Him over time – develops our ability to recognize His still, small voice. Our heart grows familiar with and closer to His…

The Bible
assures that no matter where we go in life, we are never out of earshot of Jesus’ voice. If we’ve gotten to know Him, we’ll always recognize it. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). ~Excerpt from It's No Secret, Rachel Olsen

He speaks. In the howling whirlwind of emotions. He speaks. In the tedious duties of the mundane. He speaks. High above the fierce boom of shame, doubt and accusation. He speaks.

Along with her free online study, Melissa is hosting a series of accompanying conference calls. Have mercy, Carol Davis and I are her first guests tonight!! Mel posed this question to me to talk about tonight. I've been in your home. From the first step inside, I felt warm and welcome. Please tell us how your share God with those who visit your home without ever saying a word.

He speaks. My knees kiss bare wood in eager pleas that I'd be a minute decibel in His melodic tune. Oh that ears would dare to flutter open, like a newborn's eyes welcoming the light of day! Before precious feet cross my threshold, my feet pitter patter to the threshold of Heaven. I speak: Please, draw hearts to partake in Your peace under the shelter of my roof. May Your still small voice reverberate on delicate ear drums. I don't take lightly that He could use my home to softly, quietly lean down and speak to my guests. I tend these desires in several ways…

Welcome to my home! This old window greets guests by my front foyer.
Anchoring truths are scripted on the panes with window markers.

My petite powder room!
Please note the bowl on the left and frame on the right

I snagged this bowl from my parents {it's from Ethiopia... I love it!}
Tore a variety of paper, crumpled them & covered them in verses
p.s. I edged paper with coal & dipped in coffee for an aged appeal {yes, they smell slightly funky}

Torn, layered scrap paper bears the invitation to hear Him speak
Framed in a $1.00 beaut

Is she a cutie pie? Love my lil’ jam jar that once graced me with my sister’s homemade blueberry jam

A bit of glue and rub-on letters label my jar that I filled with these below

Tags from my precious old roomie Elizabeth
I christened them in coffee & penned sweet scriptures on either side
This jar makes its home in my guest room bathroom

I have a thing for jars!
This one rests on my living room coffee table & fills and empties seasonally
This is Valentine's Day and here is Easter!

And here is a neat idea to make with or for guests!

Thanks for being here today! If you have any questions or ideas you'd like to share, please do. And we hope you'll stick around!

xoxo, Sam

March 23, 2011

A Hushed Place to Unfurl

War weary hearts need a hushed place to unfurl from the self-preserving fetal position, away from the battle.

Long seasons on the front line brutalize. Extended stays in foxholes traumatize. We need seasons of rest and refreshment. And thus, I pray. For you. For me.

Familiar thoughts?
I can't do this another day
I'm exhausted
- I don't want to fight anymore
This is too much to bear

Yes? And thus, I pray-
Refresh Lord...
Feverish foreheads adorned with a chilled rag
Tippy-toes dunked in a brisk mountain brook
Deeply filled lungs expanded with spring breezes

I wonder, friend, what would a snapshot of your soul tell? A thousand words of rest comfort peace trust security? A thousand words of doubt fear loneliness angst pain? Are you breathing deep, drinking long? Or are you huddled, ducking your trembling head between knees as flaming arrows scathe your back, simply longing for an escape from the fight?

Has this become your battle hymn; your war cry?

Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest. {Psalm 55:6-8

Loneliness volleys to isolate and hold us captive in the battle, feeding us dehydrating scraps of lies
God is not big enough
I'm Abandoned

Oh, but Love. Love rescues the cries, cradles the tears and refutes the lies. Love will not betray, dismay, or enslave you. It will set you free. {Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More}

Battle for thoughts gets dirty. There is a "no holds bars" policy with the enemy. That's why we must know that

Loneliness is not a time of abandonment…it just feels that way. It’s actually a time of encounter at new levels with the only One who can fill that empty place in our hearts.
Tim Hansel, Through the Wilderness of Loneliness

Poisons require antidotes. Wounds require balm. Freedom requires a victor.

Even the darkest night is chased by the dawn. Friend, refreshment is yours. A spacious place for you to stretch is found only one place: the presence of the Lord. Sing a new battle hymn to Him who says

I give abundant showers
I refresh My weary inheritance
Jeremiah 31:25

I bring you out into a spacious place; I rescue you because you delight in Me
Psalm 18:19

fear not; you are mine
when you pass through the waters, I will be with you
when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you
when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned
for I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you
do not be afraid, for I am with you
Isaiah 43

Mindful prayers are the most, not the least we can do. Shall we join ranks with the Lord and lift each other up in prayer? I would be honored if you leave your prayer request for us to pray over (it's ok if it's not about loneliness). And will you please pray for me? We're in this together!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We're jumping off negative train of thoughts! Join us {here}!

March 21, 2011

Carried in Rest

{Bert Hardy, Clyde Rescue}

Convert your thoughts into prayer
As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer
The difference is not that prayer is thinking about other things
but that prayer is thinking in a dialogue with God
~Henri Nouwen

I am your Shepherd; you have all that you need
I let you rest in green meadows; I lead you beside peaceful streams
I renew your strength
I guide you along right paths, bringing honor to My Name
Even when you walk through the darkest valley
You will not be afraid, for I am close beside you
My rod and My staff protect and comfort you
I prepare a feast for you in the presence of your enemies
I honor you by anointing your head with oil
Your cup overflows with blessings
Surely My goodness and unfailing love will pursue you all the days of your life
and you will live in the house of the Lord forever

With love and freedom,
Your God
{Psalm 23}

Join us as we jump off the train of negative thought! Read about it here~

March 20, 2011

This is Not an Easy One to Slay

What is the sound of your heart? The natural rhythm of valves opening and closing, pattering a confident whoosh, whoosh; whoosh whoosh? Or does your heart quietly scrape by, too hampered by loneliness to fully open?

My two tons on wheels should naturally purr and hum. But, like molars grinding, my car scraps metal against metal. A year later, three mechanics and I aren't sure why. The grind has become white noise; so familiar now I drive along in Pavlovian conditioned oblivion. I'm lulled into forgetting an underlying problem persists.

So it was with my heart for years. My problem was named Loneliness. It quietly grinded within my heart, begetting general despair; a gloom that lingered. Its white noise created the soundtrack of sadness that gave the melody to conversations, decisions, emotions. How long my heart's eyes and valves refused to open!

No definitive moment turned me around or caused Loneliness to back down. I can only say I simply came to the point where

the pain of staying the same was worse than the pain of change

Change asked soul-shaking questions. And morphed the once comforting white noise into squawking gulls, hungrily dive bombing at my exposed heart.

Which emotion is more comfortable: self-pity or courage?
When is the last time I invited friends out or over?
Where do I turn more: Worry or the Word? Tears or Truth?
Would I rather hold onto loneliness than love?

The questions hurt. I realized though, that the answers were hurting me {and my relationships} more. Change begets change. And so an awareness of the sedating noise of loneliness meant a new perspective was needed. Instead of a dirge as my theme song when:

facebook informs me friends hung out- without me ... again
checking "attending solo" on the party invite

listening to wedding plans that aren't my own

there's not one familiar face at church

facing bumps in the night alone

I choose to sing a harmony with the Lord. He's the most effective antidote to the poison of loneliness. For he himself is our peace {Eph 4}. I could rationalize out the wazoo why my friends didn't include me; why I'm single; what the noises are. But none of those answers bring me peace. Only Jesus and His truth does.

Shhh... listen. What do you hear? The white noise of loneliness or the grace and truth of Jesus' voice? Today, may I encourage you? Now choose life... listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life... {Deut 30}

Friend, I know... I know... loneliness is a consuming fierce beast; not an easy one to slay. I'm jumping off this train with you by soaking in the Word. Today, can we open our hearts and ears to hear the Word and allow it to fill what loneliness has left void? Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you {Deut 31}.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Are you ready to jump off the train of negative thoughts? Leave behind thoughts of being unlovable, wounds caused by sexual abuse, ties to old {unhealthy} relationships, and more with us. Click here to read more, and welcome friend! We're so glad you're here.

March 16, 2011

Remain in His Love

Willowy winkles cupped my chin -- her palm a reservoir for my tears. 118 tearless farewells thus far. 119 released the levy. Miss Emma's weathered hands caught the scattered pieces of my heart, blown about by the scurrying of nurses' white pleather steps.

Her family, or lack thereof, rendered her anchorless; adrift in the lonely seas of "The Brick"... a cold hard nursing home. My first "real" job at The Brick was bleak and dreary except for Miss Emma and a few others.

365 days many things remained on the surface of my heart. Names learned. Stories memorized through repeating forgetfulness. Smiles given. Yet one name, one person chiseled on my heart. I ended one year after I begun with my farewell to Miss Emma.

Who'll sit in the sunshine with you? Who'll listen? Who'll sing hymns with you?

Worry wrung my heart. Visions of Miss Emma, alone... lonely... made my jaw tense, ache. A square hit by sadness will do that to a girl.

But not her. Beautiful brown saucers brimmed with confidence. I waded in those refreshing waters of her eyes, rich pools of wisdom and confidence. I'll be fine Sugar... I'm never alone.

Christ beside me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ within me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
~St. Patrick

Tucked away from the world, Miss Emma changed mine by living for another. A heavenly world, her heavenly home. She looked beyond the bleak beige of The Brick to a road paved with gold. Sounds of sorrow were surpassed by sounds of praise she longed to join in with. Long, lonely, loveless days paled in comparison to the long, lovely, love-filled eternity Miss Emma knew was hers.

Might I encourage you to wet your toes in Christ's abiding love?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.

#1: Write "Jesus" on small paper

I will remain in you.

#2: Write your name on an envelope {made mine with scrap paper/tape}
Tuck #1 paper {Jesus' Name} inside

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

#3: Write Jesus' Name on a slightly larger envelope
Tuck #2 envelope inside

I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

#4: Write God's Name on an even larger envelope
Tuck #3 envelope inside

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete.

~John 15

#5: The final product will be one big envelope with "God" on the outside!
Wherever loneliness lurks, tuck this confidence snug away. You are not alone. He is there.

Bless you dear friend as you jump off the negative train of thought {loneliness}. I'm praying for you!

*Thank you Anabel Gillham and Melissa for this idea!

March 15, 2011

Are You Lonely Tonight?

Don't look his way, my friend extols.

I don't want to. Then again, I do.

He's wreckless. A havoc, a hound. I know better.

I avoid eye contact, I must trick him: she doesn't need me anymore. Until another joined-at-the-hip couple walks in the party. My resolve walks out. He walks up to me, extends a knowing, cruel hand. Fingers entwine; my stomach lurches. I hate Loneliness. I hate being alone more.

We float from couple to couple. Each person is Charlie Brown's teacher. Their marriage baby vacation lifeisgrand "Wah wah woh wah wahs"run together like watercolors, muddied from mixing blues, greens and reds. Only thing I comprehend: Do. Not. Cry. I inhale and don't let go. He mashes my hope against the glass of the candy store: so much sweetness you can't don't won't have. You'll be lonely for.ever.

I feel his venom seeping into my pores. Wiggling my fingers out of his, I try to shake him. Yet I feel his lure, always around the corner, causing time to elapse slowly. Adieus finally chime on the clock as I'm turning blue in the face. One step out the escape hatch and my guard can lower. Barely am I able to exhale when his traitor hand pushes. A stampede of lonely, alone, and all by myself's trample me facedown. Familiar hooves kick up choking dust that my tears create mud out of.

A different Hand extends through the cloud; a voice so calm and quiet the crashing beasts sound as mere songbirds. Let me help you up. Rough night, huh?

How'd You know I was here?

A teardrop on earth summons the King of Heaven
{C. Swindoll}.

He knows, yet He asks anyway for details, dreams, despairs. The tears bucket brigade dust particles until my vision is clear. Natural rhythms of breathing return. Every syllable He speaks I am able to process.

Brittle, hollow bones fill with the lavish warmth of His courage. Truth soldiers through my thoughts, throwing force fields around the lies. And somehow I know, Loneliness can't be my Plus One; my Go To. I need to rely on my Only One; my Always Near. It's time to wash my hands of Loneliness.

I hope it's your time too. No matter the reason of your loneliness, there is healing and freedom. Will you join us on this part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series?

My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
~Psalm 25

March 14, 2011

Check In / Next Train to Jump Off / Winners

{My Clever Titles Button apparently broke! Haha!}

We gingerly picked our way through mine fields last week, led by Melissa, Wendy, Mary and Stephanie {twice!} For even more encouragement, please visit my amazing She Seeks friends! Nicki wrote a raw, poignant post that I believe many will find healing in.

So I want to check in. I can't help but wonder, with such a tender topic, did you step on any land mines of ancient memories? Buried deep in the soil of your heart, thought to be defunct? Often, other's war wounds strip the scab off our own. Friend, if you are bleeding, please please call out to the One who heals.

My words are mere paper tigers. No match for the predator of pain inside. ~{Indigo Girls}

But His words. His Word. His ways. They are pure. Peaceable. Peace - Able.

Listen for His voice and wisdom. He may show you a verse that liberates. Or a friend adorned with a garland of freedom... your freedom. Or a counselor proffering wisdom tailored for your circumstances. Or a doctor with a prescription that will help. Or an older woman who bears a beautiful scar that mirrors your still oozing wound. Or a prayer group that circles the wagons 'round you faithfully. Jesus can and does offer healing in infinite ways.

Friend, if you are limping, crawling, paralyzed in your mine field, listen for the steady tread of His feet. Coming to rescue. Heal. Redeem. He's near.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ~James 3:17

She wandered aimlessly in the wilderness ... And as she sat there, she began to sob. God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard..." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. ~Genesis 21

Would you like to catch up on our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series? Click here! As I've prayed about our next thought, loneliness flirts incessantly. Is this something y'all would like to tackle together?

Shifting gears a bit....I used's generator to select our Winners!!

Michelle is taking home Rachel's It's No Secret and the accompanying Conference Calls to Melissa's Bible Study {Starting March 27... you won't want to miss this one... sign up here!}

Lisa is diving in with Wendy's book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner!!

Terrie Todd is the new mama of Mary's book, Thin Places!

Congratulations gals! Please email me at with your mailing addresses.

March 12, 2011

You Can Heal - Part 2

Yesterday Stephanie posed this question, What on earth do we do about automatic negative thoughts? Are you struggling with letting them go? She offers wonderful words of wisdom here!...

Well, the ineffective untrue negative thoughts need to go. (No matter how attached you are.)

It starts with being aware of your negative thoughts when something happens. You may begin to notice a pattern; a filter that exists in your brain you use to sift experiences. Next, once the negative thought is identified you can create an adaptive response. For example, a negative thought may be “I feel like I can’t do this.” The adaptive response would be, “The Bible says ‘I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.’ It may be difficult, but it’s probably not true that I can’t do it at all. What is the worst that could happen? I will go ahead and try.”

Sounds simple right? Yea. The hard part comes when you actually have to use these adaptive responses in negative thought patterns to change behavior. The hard part is to ACT on your adaptive response even though you may not FEEL like it. Remember, our feelings are not necessarily what we need to follow; after all, the heart is deceitful above all else.

What we CAN always trust as truth is God’s Word. If He says something about us, even though we don’t FEEL it, we can CHOOSE to believe it. It becomes necessary to cry out “help me overcome” and to attack the negative thoughts and beliefs - constantly. Every time the negative thought pops up, you must CHOOSE to create an adaptive response, and act differently despite feelings.

Over time, negative thought patterns can be phased out, and replaced with the TRUTH of God’s Word. CBT is an awesome therapy - and when paired with the truths of scripture - it becomes one of the most powerful tools in finding freedom from negative thought trains.

I cannot tell you how much CBT counseling from a Christian counselor helped me. Strongholds that existed in my brain for years were demolished. Freedom from my past was found. I overcame depression and rediscovered who I was. Walls had to be torn down in the process, which was difficult, no doubt. But the rewards were huge.

If you are struggling on the negative thought train, the good news is you can jump off. You don’t have to stay on any longer (any automatic negative thoughts popping up right now?). Christ longs to give you freedom from what holds you captive. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Do not let yourself be burdened by negative thoughts. Seek Christian counseling if that is where you feel God guiding you. Sometimes it takes someone walking beside you to notice the negative thoughts, and let you know they aren’t true.

Christ designed you to live in freedom. Don’t sell yourself short or settle for anything less!

Thank you so much Stephanie!!

This post is part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series. Join us for the rest here!

March 11, 2011

You Can Heal - Part 1

If a brood of fierce tigers lunged at me, I imagine Stephanie Clayton would jump in front to protect. I think this because her words ward off the tigers of life that relently stalk -- darkness, pain, and hurt. Stephanie co-leads a Christian based support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. She holds a BS in Pyschology and a Masters in Counseling; she's certified as a LPC-Intern and I'm honored she's agreed to share her expertise. Jesus offers many ways to heal; one way is counseling. Please tune in today and tomorrow for Stephanie's wise words!

Tickled pink to introduce to you... Stephanie!

I fell apart. Right before graduating. The little girl inside started screaming so loud I could no longer drown her out. She had been raped at 15, the culmination of an abusive relationship. She had to breathe. She had to speak. I had to find a way to let her. It took many hours of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but eventually that sweet 15 year old emerged with strength I never knew she had. When allowed out of the dark, God lavished her with a beautiful crown of grace and mercy. Any faithful instruction from my lips is because God has given it to her, to me. She speaks.

Survivors of abuse or assault often use words & thoughts in ways God never intended. We can beat ourselves black and blue without realizing it. In the depths of my depression, I journaled. The pages are filled with a plethora of negative thought patterns. At one point I even wrote, “Some people cut themselves with blades and knives, I cut myself with words and thoughts.”

Negative thoughts I battled: I am worthless. I am alone. I’m not capable of loving or being loved. I am stupid. I will never get better. I deserved it. It’s my fault. It’s not okay to still be struggling. What is wrong with me?

I slugged everything I saw or did (or anything anyone else said/did) through the filter of these negative thoughts. I pulled anything through my muddy pit & made it look nasty. The power of belief and thought patterns is amazing! They become so ingrained in our brains’ wiring, we refuse to see anything outside their filter.

Sam asked me to talk about negative thought patterns from a CBT viewpoint. Basically, our emotions and behaviors are a direct result of how we perceive events in our lives. For example, as you read this…

…on the one hand you’re thinking about what you are reading
…on the other hand, “automatic thoughts” may be occurring

Perhaps they are:
I will never understand this CBT junk
Nothing can help me stop negative thoughts; why am I wasting time reading this?
I am not smart enough to understand this
Hey, this makes sense
She kind of gets me

These automatic thoughts could be ANYTHING and are unique to every individual. Based on circumstances and events that happened throughout your life, you developed automatic thoughts that stem from “core beliefs.” We might not even be aware of “core beliefs.” A couple of mine were “I’m unlovable” and “I’m worthless.”

You can see how negative thoughts & beliefs quickly affect our behavior:
We experience an event
We have a thought about the event
The thought directly relates to our core belief
We automatically act based on what we believe to be the truth

So what on earth do we do about the automatic negative thoughts? Tune in tomorrow to find out! Oh, and be sure to pop over to Stephanie's blog for loads of encouragement!

This is part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} Series. Pop over to read the rest here!

March 10, 2011

Feeling Weak?

600 women. 100 wait staff. Scurrying. Shifting. Shuffling. Everything moves at warp speed during the She Speaks Conference. Everything but Mary DeMuth. The first time I met her, she was a delicate oasis of calm, patiently waiting for rolled up silverware at lunch. I imagined a thought bubble above her head, exhorting {{The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. ~Psalm 116}}

Once you read Mary's gracious offering, you too will relax into the way she encapsulates calm in the midst of chaos. Don't be mistaken though, this came at a formidable price of pain. Mary's book, Thin Places, shifted my world in the best possible way. Please leave a comment to be entered to win a copy for yourself.

And now, it's my honor to introduce peaceable, peaceful Mary. May you find rest for your souls through her holy reasons of redemption....

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. ~1 Corinthians 1:26-29

I didn’t know that when those older boys pinned five-year-old me to the earth, my backside poked by brambles, that someday God would choose that frightened little girl, sexually abused for a year, to shame the wise. But He chose a shattered me.

I didn’t know that as my childhood home filled with drugs and unsafe parties, God would rescue weak and scared me. But, eventually, He salved my fears.

I didn’t know that as I ran from other predators, the boys’ marks on me like a beacon, I’d someday limp into the arms of a Savior. I felt debased, unworthy, ugly, dirty, ruined. But He welcomed me.

I didn’t know that as my earthly father slipped from this earth, my Heavenly Father stood nearby, open armed. Though my earthly father’s death left me fatherless, my Heavenly Father didn’t orphan me. He grafted me into His family.

I didn’t know that as I considered different ways to kill myself in junior high, as I faced a third parental divorce, that Jesus’ own beautiful death provided a way of new life for me. He rescued me from taking my life.

I was all the things the apostle Paul wrote about in today’s key verse, and then some. Neglected, needy, pained, lost, small, frightened. And yet God took those negatives and beautified them with Himself. That’s the great paradox God brings to all of us, no matter how “easy” or hard our upbringing. It’s not that we’re strong and sufficient and wise, it’s that He is.

Perhaps you’ve looked back on your past and shuddered. Perhaps you’ve questioned God about why He’d allow atrocities in your life. But consider this: God gets the most glory in the life fully surrendered to Him, and it’s hard for a self-sufficient person to submit. He does the most work in our helplessness. (See 2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10).

Our weakness and frailty are not merely places of desolation; they are dance floors—holy places where the God of the universe is allowed to freely move in our lives. Our own lack allows for and welcomes this sacred dance where God’s talent outshines our capabilities, where only He receives the glory.

Will you lay down your past today? Will you trust Him with the mess, the memories, the mayhem? If you do, He will take the marred pieces of your life, reassemble them, and make you fly. So you (because of Him) can shame the wise.

Lord, I confess I’ve seen my own injuries as reasons to blame you and keep You far from my heart. I’m sorry. Help me instead to see my weaknesses as a place where You can demonstrate Your strength. I welcome You into the painful places. Do something new and miraculous. I don’t want to be embittered. I want to be free. And I want to give You all the glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. ~Isaiah 43:18-19

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Thank you Mary!

This post is part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series. Read the rest here!

March 9, 2011

Do You Want to Get Well?

Wendy Blight has the funniest voices she does. Like quirky comic strip characters coming to life, she inflects, pitches, deepens or sing-songs simple sentences. I would gander she's not aware she's entertaining me, but she's always a great joy to listen to!

Wendy's heart, character, and relationship with the Lord are a great joy as well. She is truly a woman of noble character, though she has a story that many would say grants her permission to be otherwise. Like a babbling brook tucked away in the sunny dense woods that you stumble upon, Wendy is a true delight and it's clear her source of joy runs deep... straight to the heart of God. Please visit her blog to join her in one of her fabulously rich Bible studies... right now she's preparing her heart for Easter! My copy of her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner is underlined out the wazoo. I bet yours will be too! Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy!

And now, it's my great delight to introduce our guest blogger today, Wendy!

Pick up your mat and walk. ~John 5:11

Are you familiar with the story of the man on the mat found in the Gospel of John? As the story opens, we find Jesus entering Jerusalem after a tiring journey. His Father led Him to a dirty, smelly pool of water. Every day the lame, weak, and sick gathered at this pool, believing an angel would come down, touch the water, and fill it with healing powers. Whoever entered the pool first received instant healing. As Jesus wandered through the crowd, God drew his eyes to an invalid lying on a mat.

Jesus looked deep into his soul and asked, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Have you ever felt like this invalid? Are you paralyzed by fear, despair, isolation, or self-pity? Do you believe you are the victim of unfortunate circumstances?

I lived like that invalid for over a decade. In 1986 at age 21, I was raped by a masked stranger hiding in my apartment. Before that day, I loved my life. I had just completed four years of college and graduated with honors. I had dated and become engaged to a wonderful man. I had even been voted a homecoming princess and had an amazing job waiting for me. After that day, worldly praise and blessings meant nothing. My attacker’s vile and cruel act shattered my hopes and my dreams.

After that I lived in a prison of fear and despair. Then I encountered Christ in this gospel story. The words Jesus spoke to the crippled man pierced my soul. I realized that I was the man on the mat. I enjoyed being the victim. I had become accustomed to my place of sorrow. Worse, I was comfortable there.

I came to know the truth of Hebrews 4:12: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word spoke personally to me. I knew I needed to take a first step.

I surrendered my fear, my pity, and my grief, and opened my heart to God’s Word. I learned He had a plan for my life and a purpose for my pain. I knew I would never see it until I had the courage to get up and walk.

If you find yourself on a mat, will you trust me and open God’s Word? God will speak into your heart promises of hope and healing. However, before you can take that step off your mat, you must surrender your fear, self-pity, and despair. Sweet friend, God is waiting. Will you take the first step?

Dear Heavenly Father, I humbly come before You, My Creator and my Savior. I love You and thank You that You love me with an everlasting and unconditional love. Since You created me and chose me as Your own, Father, I give myself to You now, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I give you permission to come in and wash me clean. Heal me of my hurts. Take away my pain. Remove anything in my life that hinders my relationship with You. Fill me with the fullness of Your Spirit and enable me to take the first step off my mat. Show me the great plans You have for me. I ask this in the powerful name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. ~Isaiah 41:17

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. ~Psalm 40:1-2

Thank you Wendy!

This post is part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series. Read the rest here!

March 8, 2011

Stained and Ruined

Paul aches for his friends' nearness in Romans 1, "I long to see you ... that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Oft times weariness sets in as we battle to see God's purpose in the pain. We need mutual encouragement, hence my invitation to our guestblogger today, Melissa Taylor. She has walked a painful journey, but as Renoir said, The pain passes, but the beauty remains. Her holy redeeming reasons beautify her family, her friends, her blog and her online Bible studies. I so hope you'll sign up for her next one, It's No Secret by Rachel Olsen {Stellar study, stellar author... love this book and Rachel!}

Sign up for Melissa's It's No Secret Bible study today, and you'll be entered to WIN an autographed copy of Rachel's book & the accompanying Conference Call Series {courtesy of Melissa...thanks girl!}. Just leave a comment letting me know you signed up!

And now, without further adieu... here's Melissa!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
~Isaiah 53:5

Looking back, it seems like I’m viewing the story of another person. I hardly recognize the little girl I became in that dark moment.

I was walking home from the bus stop. The walk took about ten minutes unless I stopped to talk to a friend or neighbor, which I usually did. Mr. Parks, a retired man, was sitting in his driveway waving to all the kids walking by. He was so friendly. On this particular day, he invited me into his garage. He said he had some candy to give me. I walked in that garage an innocent trusting little girl. I walked out scarred for life.

Mr. Parks sexually violated me. I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t know what to do. He became someone else; I didn’t recognize the man he changed into once that garage door was closed. He did things to me and made me do things to him that I never imagined existed. I was absolutely terrified. When he was done, he said, “Come back tomorrow.” And I did.

The experience of being sexually abused left me devastated, feeling stained and ruined. In my mind, what I had done was so bad, I couldn’t tell anyone. And because it happened more than once, I felt like it really was my choice; my fault. That’s what he told me. I felt dirty and I was filled with shame. Shame is a joy stealer and my joy was gone.

Over the years I perfected the art of wearing masks. On the outside, I looked great. However, on the inside I felt completely unworthy of any good thing. When I experienced success, I would usually sabotage myself or quit. I apologized for being good at something and downplayed my God-given strengths.

It must break God’s heart when we allow shame to steal our sense of worth. Jesus gave His life to prove how valuable we are. We were created to walk in God’s confidence, not our own.

Our key verse tells us “By his wounds, we are healed.” Jesus became stained and ruined on our behalf. We don’t have to live in fear or condemnation over anything that has taken place in our lives, whether it was our fault or not.

When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I also accepted freedom from my past hauntings. Still, I have to remind myself of this every day. My thoughts must center on Jesus or they can easily slip back to the darkness of that garage. Yes, even 35 years later, I still have flashbacks of what happened to me. That’s when I look up to heaven and say, “By Your wounds I am healed. Thank You, Jesus. I am not stained and ruined. I am clean, pure, and precious. Mr. Parks has no hold on me anymore.”

My final triumph in this horrific ordeal was the most difficult: forgiveness. I claim forgiveness for my sins everyday through Jesus. In doing that, I am faced with the fact that I’m called to forgive. “Mr. Parks, I forgive you. I know you must have been very sick and your heart was stained with sin. I hope and pray you accepted Jesus before you died. What you did to me was the worst thing anyone could do to a little girl. I want to hate you. Instead, I choose to hate what you did, but forgive you.” I can only do this with Jesus at my side. I’m not capable any other way.

No longer do I believe I am stained and ruined. I am clean. I am worthy. Jesus has set me free. “By his wounds, we are healed.” I believe that. I hope you do too! For more on becoming free in Christ, visit here.

Dear Lord, I need You every day of my life. Please remind me that I am worthy and delete the lies that haunt me. Help me live to the fullest for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. ~Isaiah 45:3

This post is part of our Jumping off the Train {of Negative Thought} series. Sure would love for you to join us for the rest here!

March 7, 2011

Is There Purpose in Pain?

{Section of a Renoir painting, zoomed in and cropped}

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8

Stand too close to a Renoir and it's nonsensical. No rhyme or reason can be rendered.

Step back. A little more... A little more... Sporadic details and colors come into focus. The totality of each minute brush stroke takes its place in the bigger picture.

Holy reasons of redemption whisper to draw us one step back at a time. Quietly they woo us out of our foxholes to see each painful stroke is a thing of beauty in the bigger picture. Foxholes fill with doubtful debris, painful pasts and shameful soot. Entrenched with these things, we're too close to see Love's holy reasons of redemption.

Ironically, each step back is actually a step forward. Stepping back {from negative thoughts} opens our minds and hearts to see the rhyme and reason of the road we're on. This gives freedom to totally step forward in the redemption of Love's bigger picture.

Step by step, I've crawled out of my foxhole over the past year. Part of me wishes I had listened to the voice of Love sooner; accepted holy reasons of redemption as truth quicker. Yet therein lies the glory of the bigger picture.... everything can be used; even our own fear, timidity and stubbornness. Miraculously, I now see how the pain is being redeemed; I see how the pain is a thing of beauty. I never thought I would.

How about you? What circumstances and thoughts are you entrenched in a foxhole with? Do you feel hopeless; do you fear your pain is without purpose?

May I humbly invite you to step back with me and a few very special friends I've asked to Jump Off the Train {of negative thought} this week? Whatever the root of your pain, my hope is you'll hear Love's voice and the holy reasons of redemption in their stories. And that you are able to see your bigger picture, and how each stroke of pain is a thing of beauty when redeemed by Love.

This week's exciting line up!
Stained and Ruined with Melissa Taylor
Do You Want to be Healed? with Wendy Blight
Feeling Weak with Mary DeMuth
Stepping Stones with Stephanie Clayton

{Can you see the bigger picture?}

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it."
~Isaiah 30

March 6, 2011

Beauty for Ashes - Replay

As part of the Jumping Off the Train {of Negative Thought} series we're doing, I am reposting this blog from last year. It'll kick off a very special week lined up with rich, wise guests! Hope you'll stick with us as we continue our ride! Love, S


August 30, 2010

This last year has been hard. Heart-stompin' hard. Unruly really.

An exciting life-changing expectation I nurtured for years went up in flames. It burned me bad. Hope. Faith. Daring. Belief. Happiness. They were consumed in the blazes with me. We smoldered, then fell down in a heap of cold ashes, surrounded by why's and how come's.

The expectation I waited on was not a passing flight of fancy. It was solid and sure. A promise I earnestly believed was from the Lord. Believing it would happen…staying the course…was fierce and exhausting, exhilarating and thrilling. Then, in a flash, years of intense hope, excruciating faith, and dogged tenacity disintegrated to lumps of coal. My heart was done. My soul crushed. The ashes seemed a proper place to fall as I took account of the damage done.

Watching my expectation waft away, a keen awareness the ash heap isn't where I'm meant to be flooded me. But I haven’t mustered the umph to get up quite yet, despite the great encouragement I’ve had. The Lord has unwaveringly kneeled in the soot next to me this past year, promising me "This isn't the end. Get up. It's time to leave this heap. If you give Me the ashes, I'll do something with them. Something beautiful."

Just the other day, He reminded me again. In the midst of 18,000 others at a concert.

It was barely noticeable on the outer edge of her right foot, propped up in my line of sight. Permanently scripted in a swirly feminine font. Contrasting with the black masculine tattoo ink....

Beauty for ashes

I can't deny that tattoo was a spring breeze to my scorched soul. And I heard Him say again, "If you give Me the ashes, I'll do something with them. Something beautiful."

It's tempting to tie this up with a pretty bow and a big, "Woo-hoo! I saw that tattoo and now I'm getting out of the ashes!" But I won’t. Cause I want to be real, and real is the fact that I can't see redeeming qualities from the years spent waiting and trusting. Or how any beauty can come from such disappointment and confusion.

But real is also my commitment I made to keeping this blog as a way to share testimonies of God's goodness. Even if it's from the viewpoint of the ash heap. And what I see is a faithful God. One who stands by me. One who redeems - all things. One who trades beauty for ashes. One worthy of my trust. And I'm trusting that that knowledge is the spark I need to light a new fire...

How about you? Can you relate?

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see." ~Hebrews 11

March 3, 2011

All We Need Is Love

God told them, I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!
~Jeremiah 31

I have loved you.
~Malachi 1

I love you simply, without problems or pride:

I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
~Sonnet XVII, P. Neruda

March 2, 2011

Tug of War

My heart rode the threshold. One foot in, one foot out. Invisible forces painfully tearing me in a cruel game of tug of war.

No excuses were given, no explanations wrought. He simply stopped calling. Each passing day with no word from him helped loosen the ties that bound our hearts together.

Those ties were precious in the making. He was renovating what was to be “our” home. And though 120 highway miles separated us, we grew closer each day. As the miles ticked away and the pages of the calendar turned, each weekend rotten floor boards blazed into bonfires; new studs stood at attention; sooty fireplaces gleamed, revealing former homeowner’s initials from the 1800s. Faithful, feverish work fastened the ties of love between our hearts. Yes, the ties were sweet in the making as we picked out the front door, dreaming of a lifetime together, welcoming family and friends to our home.

But those ties were fiercely determined to maintain their grip as we broke things off. And so ensued a tug of war as my heart rode the threshold of holding on and letting go.

Holding on to what could have been. Letting go of what wasn’t going to be.

Holding on to the belief that I’m not lovable. Letting go of the lies that I’m not lovable.

Holding on to the pain and confusion. Letting go of my quaking soul's recession of hope and trust.

Eventually he and I connected to meet for The Exchange: Christmas decorations, sweatshirts, CDs. Yet what I really wanted… needed… was to know why my commitment to rock together on the front porch for 80 summers wasn’t enough? How come my hopes to hold his hand tightly and heart lightly, and never let go of either didn’t make him stay? Wasn’t my love that would battle to protect him and weather a thousand storms worth his love?

What I needed was to know: Am I enough? Am I worth it? Am I lovable?

My heart and feet stood on the threshold of the door, leaving to go meet him. My phone rang. There’d be no dinner at our favorite darling Italian bistro. There’d be no exchange. There’d be no answers. Something about his dad being in town. Click.

And the tug of war ripped harder. You can guess which side I landed on as wet pain soaked crisp linens. Maybe I’m really not lovable.

A conversation with my mom days later shifted the balance of power in the ruthless tug of war within. She mentioned she’d run into my friend Nathan’s mother. “She asked if you were okay -- a few days ago Nathan had an overwhelming urge to pray for you. It was so intense he had to stop what he was doing that very moment and pray.”

Nathan and I hadn’t talked in almost 10 years. Not to mention he was serving in the military. In the midst of an international war. In Iraq.

Do you know the exact day and time he fell to his knees on my behalf?

Yep. The moment I was riding the threshold. The moment my phone rang. The moment the tug of war raged.

The God of all creation stooped to whisper to one of His sons, caught in the middle of a war overseas. He asked His son to whisper a prayer back for one of His daughters, caught in the midst of a war for her heart and thoughts. The Lord Himself loved me through the loving prayers of another. Why? Because He thinks I’m lovable.

And so are you.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. ~Psalm 107

March 1, 2011

Say a Little Prayer

I couldn't stop thinking about y'alls comments to the post Unlovable. I get the sense the question, "am I lovable?" weighs heavy on your heart. It tethers you to the negative train of thought. Which is a mighty big train to jump off, huh? My heart hurts with and for you sweet friend. I'm so sorry.

Often, I have wished I could hug people so tightly that Jesus' love in me would ink out, spilling onto them, bathing them in His lavish love. If only that were possible...

Instead I hug with words. I say prayers. I listen to pains. All in the hopes that Jesus' love lathers on, rich and pure, delightful and wholly.

I use other's words as well. Words such as Pete Wilson's.

To be honest, I've never met Pete. Never heard of him before a re-tweet I read today. Glancing through his blog, a pair of beautiful brown eyes arrested my heart. Puja's eyes. I had to read more...

I hope you will too. Because I would gander though your story is in many ways far removed from Puja's, it's also fairly similar.

Lied About

Pete leads us in a tenderly powerful prayer. Would you please pray with him for Puja? And then repeat that prayer for yourself?

I'm saying it for Puja... for me... for you too. Because He loves you. Because you are lovable. Amen.