Thursday, July 28, 2016

because you are not alone

--I may or may not have had to take a minute to dance around and sing "You are not alone" with my best MJ voice and moves.  Sorry, or perhaps you are welcome, if you have to take a minute yourself to get a similar experience out of your system.--

A few months ago while preparing dinner I tested myself.  It had been a great stretch of time since my last emotional meltdown, so obviously I assumed the hurt was all gone, I was all healed up and ready to go.  The root digging experience had come, my milestone day was circled in my heart and head, so why not see if I could handle it.
I immersed myself in a past hurt and it took only seconds to feel myself begin to slide...

Six plus hours of constant tears,  numerous text message conversations, a threat of bodily harm from my best friend if I ever did that again, and more than a few hugs from my love took up the rest of my day and the wee hours into the next. But as He always promises to do, Good came.  I can never screw up enough to keep that from happening, neither can you, amen and hallelujah.
Hurt can trigger countless things, but in the midst of the past memories emerging, thankfulness pops up as well, and it's friend courage follows close behind as you are reminded again of His faithfulness and the long road you have already walked.

The next morning, after weeks of debating, chickening out, then thinking about it again, I told Zach I needed a not so small chunk of money to invest into my future, after getting the you should absolutely do it response I needed, I registered for SheSpeaks and also requested to be placed on a list to meet with two publishers during the weekend.  Deep breath.

This past weekend I drove through Atlanta rush hour traffic complete with thunderstorm to Charlotte, checked into a hotel all alone, sent more than one frantic tear-filled, fear-filled message describing how completely unequipped I am and how I think I'll just leave because obviously this was a mistake, received more than one "you can do this" message in return, and then fell asleep feeling like a teenager all over again getting ready for her first day of high school.

Over the next two days full of freezing conference center temperatures, beautiful decorations, fantastic food, poignant messages, and 800 other women four words were whispered into my heart over and over again...

I walked in completely alone, received my registration packet, then took my husband's advice and found a table that appeared to have another girl flying solo.  After initial hellos, conversation started and after 15 minutes I found myself at a table full of seven other singles who God turned into a group.  In less than an hour I was taking a picture with said ladies at a cutely decorated spot for photo ops that after passing first thing that morning had left me pondering how pathetic I would look taking a picture there alone.

These lovely ladies and I shared meals, stories, social media accounts, email addresses, phone numbers, hugs, pictures and even car rides.  They are now not only friends, but coworkers for Christ across the country.  Ladies who share similar thoughts, aspire to similar roles, and feel similar feelings of hope, anticipation, and for sure more than a little doubt for the future.

You are not alone.

Standing in the hallway of a hotel conference center two states away from home I glanced up and saw a familiar face.  A woman who runs in a similar circle, a woman I bump into constantly in the oddest places, a woman that until this weekend I might not have described as a friend but now is not only that, but a woman I would call on for prayer in any situation.

You are not alone.

At the first session, after the inward debate of where to sit, I found myself right in front of another Sarah May also from the Atlanta area. No joke.  We laughed, we talked, we took advantage of a photo op, we waved in passing, we even found ourselves twinning on day 2 in our kimonos.

You are not alone.

My entire weekend went a similar way.
One speaker shared a marital past that compares to mine.  Another shared about waiting for her calling to be revealed and then waiting again for it to come to fruition.  Over and over again more words lovingly and transparently shared that encouraged and spoke to specific fears, specific needs.

You are not alone.

In the hotel lobby before leaving for the second morning of the conference a conversation was struck up over the coffee/tea bar and an offer for a ride to the center was extended from me to two ladies from San Francisco.  A lengthy conversation between myself and one of them was about foster care and the cycle of abuse that goes on and on and both of our hearts that ached for the people caught in the vicious circle.

You are not alone.

Before one publisher meeting a stranger stopped by to hand me a hug and a jar of mints with a note attached.  Before another, I was stopped in the hall and prayed for by a fellow attendee who initiated conversation in a previous meeting. Then while waiting for our appointments, the woman sitting next to me and I discovered that she knew my husband's parents quite well and had attended his church and was also a youth leader for one of my sister in laws years ago

You are not alone.

Recently my PCA pastor Father in law shared a mini sermon with us at our family reunion.  In it he suggested that in a way we each wake up every morning as unbelievers, needing to be reminded of the gospel, of the Truths we know we know but can't always remember.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves daily is a necessity so that our hearts are available to see the times we need to share that gospel with others.

Yes, take homes from the She Speaks conference included an adorable necklace, a conference notebook full of things to ponder, a renewed passion and assurance that I might possibly be traveling in the right directions, contacts, networking, and a core group of co writers for Jesus to lean on for support and pull from for inspiration.  But the number one take home was the reminder that my God, my Creator, the one who sent His Son who placed His Spirit in my heart, is unendingly faithful.  He holds me, little bitty me, in the palms of His hands, and loves me.  He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:17) Even me.  Even you.  Even us.  Especially us.

It is not necessary to travel to a conference, or travel anywhere for that matter, to realize the Truth of not being alone, the tangible feeling of never being left or forsaken.  All it takes is a glance around to see what has been placed before you, to see who is before all of your things and who is holding you together.  Can you see it?

I'll be praying that you can see countless ways that you too are not alone.  Praying that you know how much you are loved by an Almighty Father.  Praying that you know that you are being held right there in the palm of His hands.  

I'll be praying for you.  Pray for me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

for when you are digging up roots

We had lived in this new house for less than six months.  Walls had been painted, furniture set in place, and decor was somewhat coming together.  Plenty was still left to do but considering decorating, revamping, and freshening up my home has a significantly high rank on my lists of favorite things, that is a job that is delightfully unending.

The yard we inherited is beautifully green with spans of open grass suitable for all things sports that three boys fine appealing.  There are also private set aside spots for a soon to be coming chair, the perfect spot for spring and fall reading.  A variety of little spaces give an illusion of rooms in the wide open space where yard games are played, water balloons filled, birds visit feeders, berries picked, or trees climbed depending on in which section you find yourself.

My greatest challenge will not only be adding pretty flowering color but also to not destroy this green haven that has been around for decades. I am not nearly as handy in the outside home world as I am on the inside.  Vision is never a problem, but the results can end up a little brown and crispy more often than I would like.
Although most of the spots out of our doors are ones that I love there was another that stuck out every time I stood on the porch and glanced around the yard.  It cried out for help, or maybe I was crying out to help it, because staring front and center in my view were 30 year old boxwood bushes.

It is a mystery to when my hate/hate relationship with these bushes began, but ever since childhood I would stare at these boxy things cornering curbs, lining up on house fronts, and blocking fences and scowl at their trimmed shape.  Maybe in the elaborate garden of an English manor they have their place but in every home I have lived as an adult they are on the list to go.

One Sunday afternoon while the boys were resting and Zach and I were feeling our Sabbath rest needed to be more active of body to help quiet the spirit, we began tackling the task of ripping out those eye sores of mine. We spent little more than an hour trimming, digging, pulling, and then hauling away.  In little more than an hour this spot that had occupied my line of sight was left clear of debris and ready to bear something new in its space.

In little more than an hour God granted me a milestone moment.   A day where my heart was changed, and I saw more of what He was doing, what he had done.  A day where so many struggles and prayers were whisked away and answered as pieces came together in my head and heart.

 In one afternoon, I learned four fundamental truths at the exact same time...

     1) Roots have to soften if you want to dig them out.  Difficult situations produce growing roots inside your heart just like Truths do.  The longer they live within you the deeper and stronger they grow to the point that they can almost feel permanent.  Ripping them out can be painful, exhausting work.  You can dig all around or you can wield and axe and turn them into shards but either way you will be spent and torn apart.  

The bushes we dug out had been soaking up rain for over a week.  The water had seeped in and softened so that the roots let go of the dirt around them and were able to be lifted out.  The Holy Spirit and the Truth it reveals serves the same purpose.  It can soak into and around the roots in your heart, softening their hold, so that they can be lifted out.  There's still a hole to fill no doubt, and making a hole of any kind does not come without some effort, without some pain.  However when it is not made through violent force, but with tender care it makes all the difference.

2)  Digging out roots is hard work.   Clearing out, digging out, is good.  It provides clean slates, level footing, new beginnings but it is not easy.  It takes effort but more importantly it takes getting started.  My wonderful Mary Poppins said, "once begun is half done."  Standing on the porch staring and grimacing at a bunch of bushes accomplished nothing.  Getting down in the dirt is where I had to be to complete the task.

 C.S. Lewis said "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  The metaphorical roots that grow within us can be even more difficult and painful to remove but once gone it leaves more space for Truth to root down inside you and "Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong." (Eph. 3:17)

3)  You need help.  Uprooting is not for the faint of heart and it is not a job done easily alone. My parents will drive four hours to spend a weekend digging flower beds, trimming trees and planting new things.  I have a friend whose parents have done the same thing several times as well.  Friends will mow your grass when you're sick or out of town, check on your pets, gather your mail.  God places people in your life for community, for bearing one another's burdens, for digging roots out of the ground.

There are people in your life who love you and are willing to drop almost anything to come to your aid, accept their help.  You were not mean to live life alone.

4) The finished result is well worth the work.  One of my favorite feelings is sitting outside all fresh and clean from a shower after a long day of work and enjoying the fruits of the labor.  Getting started might take awhile, there is obvious hemming and hawing sometimes, procrastination at it's finest but in the end when the job has been done the statement "I wish we would have done this sooner" is often uttered.  

I don't always understand God's timing.  Often I feel as if He might have wanted to show me things sooner but was just waiting until I was paying attention, but He is sovereign over all and I pray to accept His perfect plan as it comes or as I notice.

On October 4, 2015, one of my milestone days, I was given the gift of being able to completely forgive, submit to the command to love another even when the world would tell me not to, and just as that space was now cleared and ready for new growth, so was my heart ready to completely heal.  It can still take time, just as it can for you.  Weeds can pop up when the right care is not being taken but Hope remains as the promise of new mercies is ever present and the Divine Gardener is a much better care taker than I.

This is the last of this three part series of days and dates, joys and sorrows, milestones and newness.  I hope at some point my story and my words drifted away and you saw your own in it's stead.

I'm praying for you, pray for me.