These writings are for the imperfect person searching for more of the Perfect God.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dear daughter

Dear sweet daughter,

With each passing day, each passing mile stone, each passing birthday, each passing.... you're going to become keenly aware of a hole in your heart.  A hole that has desires, has needs, has demands, has passions, has opinions.  But this hole, honey, it will lie to you.  It will deceive you. It will trap you. It will drown you.  It will seek to sell your soul.

This hole will tell you that you need a boys attention to make you feel worthy, valuable & loved.  It'll tell you to conform your body into the image of those on the magazines in order to obtain an ounce of self worth.  It's going to tell you that you're inherently flawed.  It's going to tell you to live by your feelings.  It's going to tell you that gossip is harmless and will not destroy a friendship.  It's going to tell you that deceitfulness will never be found out. It's going to tell you outward appearance is significantly more important than character. It's going to tell you that a human being has the resources to fill an internal ache.  It's going to tell you what you sow you will not reap.  It's  going to tell that quantity in friends is more signifiant than quality.  It's going to tell you that money has the potential to buy happiness.  It's going to tell you that loneliness is to be avoided at all costs.  It's going to tell you to do work for God instead of  Him working through you.  It's going to tell you to care more about the opinion of others than that of your own convictions.  It's going to tell you your worth is found in possessions and achievements.  It's going to tell you.... and then tell you more.

You see, sweetheart, this hole begins to manifest itself at birth.  We live in a fallen, difficult, hard, disappointing world.  A world system owned & operated by the enemy. With each form of rejection, betrayal, unmet need, disappointment, hurt, loss, confusion & injustice, this hole grows deeper, higher, longer and wider.  It feeds on the illness of the world- and unfortunately, if you choose, you could feed it consistently and habitually.

But keep in mind, my precious girl, what you refuse to feed will die.  The enemy of your soul, satan, has been prowling around you like a lion since initially first hearing the gentle and tender cry at your birth.   He knew the plan God has on your life.  To change this world- to feed this world- to provide hope to this world- to love this world- to care for this world- to share truth with this world- to be an accurate representative of Jesus to this world.  Oh, he knows all the beautiful details of what God is capable of doing in and through you, sweetheart, and he will stop at nothing to deceive you otherwise.  Nothing. And so, he goes right for the heart.  The heart that so easily is deceived.  A heart that so easily is injured.

And yet, through the messiness of life remains the goodness of Jesus.  The power of His cross, the tenderness of His voice, the severity of His justice, the patience of His love, the enormity of His forgiveness, the beauty of His work, the certainty of His presence, the faithfulness of His promises.
My dear daughter, God is enough.  He is sufficient.  He is all the human heart yearns and hungers for- He is the only One who can satisfy the desires, demands & passions of the inner soul.  HE IS ENOUGH!

God delights in you, my sweet daughter.  He is offering you a life of freedom.  A life of hope.  A life of purpose.  A life of passion.  A life of peace.  A life of restoration.  A life of meaning.  A life of LOVE.  I plead with you to not taste from the craftiness of the enemy of your soul.  His title is the father-of-lies and his native language is deceit.   He will tempt you and then accuse you.    He will violate you and then shame you.  He will offer you instant gratification and then deplete you.  He will place decoys in your path and then trap you.   He will offer love & entangle you in the web of codependency.  He will offer counterfeit joy and then depress you.

Daughter, the enemy knows who you belong to.  He knows you are the daughter & princess of the King of Kings.  He knows you are stamped and sealed with the preciousness and sureness and power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, this serpent knows.  He knows he lost.  He knows he's doomed.  He knows how this story ends.  And so, your job is not to lose your sure footing in the messiness of his sticky web of chains, weight, darkness & deceit.  But to use that footing to stomp on him and claim your right, your place, your hope, your anchor, your home in the arms of the Only One who loves you simply because He made you- You are His masterpiece.  You are perfectly designed and crafted into the perfection of beauty He desired when he first pictured you in the core of His heart.  Cling to your Maker, sweet daughter.  Cling to Him and refuse any path, no matter how well is glistens and glows, choose His path.   A path where He levels out the mountains and builds highways over the valleys.

"And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
It will be named the Highway-of-Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
It will only be for those who walk in God's ways.
Fools will never walk there.
Lions will NOT lurk along its course.
Nor ANY ferocious beasts.
There will be no dangers.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to this path.
They will enter singing, crowned with everlasting joy!
Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness."
Isaiah 35:8-10

My sweet daughter, in every season, in every situation, and in every circumstance, may you know who you are.  May you know your name- the princess of the One whom by His stripes you are healed.


All my love,

Mom
















Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What's in a name?


What's your name?

The world gives us names.  All sorts of names.

Not good enough.
Not beautiful enough.
Not smart enough.
Not creative enough.
Not _______ enough.

What's the name you're believing that the enemy is whispering in your ear? In your heart?

If we don't know our God-given name, we're going to believe the name our enemy chooses to label us with. And trust me, he's naming us at this very moment.

Only those with ownership of us have the right & ability to name us, as our earthly parents did.  Satan works over time to speak a name over our lives so that he has ownership of our mind, will and emotions.

God has given each one of us a name! A name different, possibly, then the names our earthly parents chose.


Biblical names had meaning, direction and purpose, I'm recognizing as I flip through these pages of His word.
Biblical names were the authentic identity of a person, I begin to recognize.

Interesting, isn't it, how satan desires to name us a lie while he and his army work creatively & deceitfully to fully and completely convince us of this name?
We NEED to know our name! 

What's your name?


There's an epidemic of teen suicide right now in this country.
Within a 15 mile radius of my home, there has been a suicide in almost  every high school in the area within the last year.  Three of which have taken place this school year, and the first semester has not yet even ended.

We NEED to know our name!

What's your name?

These precious children do not know their name.
We're falling prey to the enemies lies of the name he labels us with.
We're falling prey to the world's name that has been placed over us as our identity and worth, or lack of.

We need to know our name so that when the enemy tells us who we are or who we are not (and he will) we can immediately, unequivocally speak back to him our God-given name which speaks of HOPE, REDEMPTION, PURPOSE, VALUE AND VISION.

What's your name?

God has a name that he has hand sowed into our spirit.
It's a name that identifies us as who we are in Him.  
Our name represents our authentic identity.

Not the identity the world gives.
Not the identity our status gives.
Not the identity our teachers or classmates gives.
Not the identity our vocation gives.
Not the identity our wealth gives.
Not the identity our poverty gives.
Not the identity others' opinions give.
Not the identity our past gives.


Our name is our identity; the name God chose while being knitted in our mothers womb.

We MUST know our name!

What's your name?
Be relentless in the pursuit.  Don't give up.  Ask God, plead with God.  We must know our name to win the every day battle of life in our belief system, in our thoughts, in our feelings & in our mind!

What's your name?


God originated names to speak as our identity.  
In the bible, God shares His chosen name for people, over and over.

For instance, He changed the name of Abram to Abraham (meaning 'Father of many')
He changed the name of Sarai to Sarah (meaning 'His princess')
He changed the name of Jacob to Israel (meaning 'Prevails with God)
He changed the name of simon to Peter (meaning 'The rock')
He changed the name of Solomon to Jedediah (meaning 'Hand-in-hand with God')

Can you imagine walking through life knowing your identity as "Father of many" or "Gods princess" or "I prevail with God" or "The rock" or I'm "hand-in-hand with God?"

Every day we are going to be faced with challenges, circumstances, storms, negative opinions, rejections, pain, betrayal, uncertainty... all of which the enemy will use as prime bait for us to grab hold of the name he calls us, in order that we fold under the excruciating weight of the negativity and deceit his name carries.

It's time to take a stand and know our name.

To scream it back at satan and use our lives to fulfill a greater calling and purpose than we could ever begin to know or imagine, when we live out our true authentic identity of our name.

What's your name?









Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The coffee beans of lies




And so I'm left face to face with myself asking....

Why is it I can "know" I am loved by God and yet feel so unloveable?

Why is it I can "know" I am His masterpiece (Eph 2:10) and yet feel deeply inherently flawed?

Why is it I can "know" God is enough and yet revert to an old faulty counterfeit coping mechanism?

Why is it I can "know" my circumstances shouldn't dictate my reality and yet they do?

Why is it I can "know" God is trustworthy and yet use control instead of faith?

Why is it I can "know" my security is found in Christ and yet experience great waves of deep rooted insecurity?

Why is it I can "know" I am adopted and heirs with God (Rom 8:17) and yet think and operate as if I'm an orphan?

Why is it I can "know" His promises and yet allow the grip of fear and worry to consume me?

WHY?


Staring deep into this dark-colored hot water, filtered by Starbucks roasted coffee beans, I can't help but think how this warm cup of coffee was once pure, clean, clear, un-clouded, un-filtered, simple, transparent and pellucid-- That is, until it went through the filter of fresh grounded beans in my coffee maker.

But, what if the pure, clean, clear, un-clouded, un-filtered, simple, transparent, pellucid water represented me, you, us? 

He took this insecure, flawed, controlling, idol-worshipping, self-consumed, angry, broken, wounded, prideful, out-of-order heart of mine and stripped it naked and clothed it with the shining armor of His love and His presence (Romans 13:14.)  I was left holy and blameless as I stood before Him without a single fault- pure, clean, clear, un-clouded, un-filtered, simple, transparent and pellucid.

And not because of anything I did to deserve His cleansing- but because out of His undeserved, incomprehensible kindness, He poured His spiritual drano into the ugliest, darkest, hidden areas of my heart and washed it clean- clean as this coffee once represented BEFORE going through the filter of the coffee maker.

The filter.  Something so simple and yet so powerful.

The filter changes the color.
The filter changes the taste.
The filter changes the texture.
The filter changes the smell.
The filter changes the purpose.

The filter changes.


So I hesitantly and cautiously ask myself & dare ask you:

What is the filter of your life?

1. Could your filter be a lie?

for example: The filter of my heart may be discolored and coated to say I am flawed and not good enough.  I'll never measure up.  I'm un-fixable and unloveable - even though, because of God's undeserved kindness and love, He has made me pure, holy and blameless as the purest of all water.

2.  Could your filter be a feeling?

for example:  God has snapped the heavy chains of bondage, sin and strongholds, yet my filter coats   this truth with overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame.  His word says "even if we feel guilty, He is greater than our feelings... If we don't feel guilty, we can come to Him with bold confidence."         (1 John 3:21)

3.  Could your filter be a memory?

for example:  Did something happen in the past that spoke negative messages into the heart?  Does this particular memory/memories over-ride who God says you are and who He says He is?  Maybe this memory engrained into you a false inaccurate identity.

4.  Could your filter be a label?

for example: Did others label you less-than, not good-enough, un-worthy, not valuable, broken beyond repair-  even though God has permanently stitched a label on you of being worthy,     precious, restored, redeemed, renewed, rebuilt and transformed?

5.  Could your filter be a failed relationship?

for example: A relationship, which claimed to be built on love, rejected and denied you instead.  A relationship, intended to represent the love of God, hurt and wounded you instead.  The faulty filter now repeats itself  in the core of the heart that God, too, can't be trusted- often at a deep subconscious level.

Could your filter be a wound?
Could your filter be a broken heart?
Could your filter be shame?
Could your filter be un-forgiveness?
Could your filter be past pain?
Could your filter be un-dealt-with grief?

Could your filter be _______ ? (fill in the blank)

Filters turn pure, clean, clear, un-clouded, un-filtered, simple, transparent, pellucid water of our hearts and pollute it with the coffee beans of lies-  where a simple message, suggestion, statement, opinion, thought from others or within ourselves is processed first through the coating of a faulty filter system.

A filter that perverts God's clean water within our hearts with deceit in order to keep us from living in freedom.

A filter that keeps us in bondage to self-protection.

A filter that keeps us in the web of doubt.

A filter that keeps us in the snares of hopelessness.

A filter that keeps us in slavery to our feelings.

A filter that keeps us entangled to chaos and confusion.

A filter that keeps us in head knowledge and not heart experience.

"I am holy and blameless as I stand before God without a single fault... but I must continue to (1.)BELIEVE this truth and (2.)STAND FIRM in it.  (3.) NOT DRIFTING AWAY from the assurance I received when I first heart about God" (when He purified my heart into a clean, clear un-clouded, un-filtered, simple, transparent, pellucid glass of life-giving water.) Colossians 1:22-23.


My mind races back to just this morning when I removed the old, wet, soggy, used, stale, dirty coffee grinds from the filter of the kitchen coffee maker.
I, too, must allow God to remove the old, wet, soggy, used, stale, dirty, deceitful, harmful, counterfeit filter of my heart.

He has the dirty job of removing and the beautiful job of restoring.

My job is to: 
1. BELIEVE- I am forgiven, holy, blameless and worthy in His sight.

2. STAND FIRM- in who He purified me to be.

3. REFUSE TO DRIFT AWAY- under the weight of the soggy grinds of my past, my shame, my feelings & the lies of the enemy.


Father,  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, become my filter system.  Eradicate any and all forms of faulty and deceitful filters of my heart that do not project the truth of who You are and who I am because of your undeserved love on the cross.  You came into the middle of my sin, and plucked me out and gave me life- life in abundance.  Please enable me and all who are  reading this today, to stand firm in the truth of who we are because You live in us.  Please provide each of us with a view of how You see us so that we can live a life of honor, purpose, security, hope, love and glory to only You, Jesus.  Please remove any and all barriers that keep us imprisoned to the head knowledge of your love and grow our roots deep into You so that we "know" our value, our worth, our authentic identity in the deepest depth of our heart, in the powerful, perfect, good name of Jesus.





X

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Dark Corners



She's been pacing the floor for hours, this black cat of ours.

Something under the kitchen oven has stimulated her inherent cat-family mentality and she's on the prowl.

But I don't dare look under this oven.

No, I can't bring myself to see what's lurking under the dark corners of my kitchen range- just waiting to blink it's big rodent eyeballs straight into mine, all the while foaming at the mouth & desiring to eat me, I'm quite sure!

I'm certain it's big, it's ugly, it's vicious, it's lethal.  I'm certain.

Immediately I panic and think only in terms of survival.  "Ok, Joy," as I take a deep breath of air saturated in absolute fear, "What do I do?" I anxiously ask myself.

I quickly jump into an emergency plan of action that sounds so very right at the time:


I'll ignore.

I'll deny.

I'll walk away.

I'll put the cat outside.

I'll pretend this cat's going senile.


And...
As I proceeded to accomplish each one of these action plans, I found myself to be back in the exact same predicament hours later.

Back and forth.  Back and forth she prowls across the kitchen floor never ceasing to take her steadfast gaze off the kitchen range.


As I found a safe spot far, far, far away from the kitchen oven, I sat to contemplate what to do about this peculiar situation I've found myself in.

I've ignored... but it's still there
I've denied... but it's still there
I've walked away... but it's still there
I've put the cat outside.... but it's still there
I've persuaded myself this cat is senile... but it's still there

All the while...My heart is pounding.
My hands are sweating.
My mind is racing.


And instinctively, out of raw fear, I locked myself in this room where I felt protected and safe.
But it was here, in this moment, in this chair, in this space, God's voice filled my spirit with clarity.

He plucked me out of my panic-stricken reality, for a moment, to observe a window side view into the reality of this situation.  To look underneath the current cat-issue and to see a scared woman, in a dark room, behind a locked door, with a racing heart, paralyzed by fear.

ah.

The tears began to flow down my face.  And no longer because a vicious rodent was just steps away lurking in the dark corners under my oven.  No. It's because we, they, I have lived so many years like this & I find myself overwhelmed by the similiarities this situation is to that of a life built on fear and denial.

And so we protect.  We find a room that looks safe and lock the doors of our hearts so that the rodent lurking within the dark corners of our mind, heart, soul, spirit, life, relationships, no longer torment us.

But it's still there.  They're still there.  The memories are still there.  The pain is still there.  The rejection is still there.  The ugliness is still there. The monster lurking under the kitchen range is still there.

But, if I just could..
ignore.
deny.
walk away.
pretend.
repress.
bandaid... maybe it'll go away.


Only to find out the safe haven of iron bars built around my heart, is actually a prison.
Only to find out I've rejected a victorious, fulfilling, loving, whole, purposeful, peace-filled life in order to stay safe.
Only to find out my own version of safety is in fact a trap of uncertainty, unprotection and insecurity.
Only to find out the vicious rodent, which controlled & stole my life, may actually be a harmless shadow.

It's a picture of reality for most of us, isn't it?  This scene I'm experiencing in this chair, in this room, in this uncertain safe haven of counterfeit security.

But what if we chose to courageously, purposefully, radically, prayerfully, audaciously step out of the locked rooms of our heart and walk towards the kitchen range to where the dark corners hide the thing we most fear.

What if we chose love, over iron boundaries?
What if we chose forgiveness, over resentment?
What if we chose understanding, over critical judgement?
What if we chose courage, over cowardliness?
What if we chose vulnerability, over self-protection?
What if we chose humility, over pride?
What if we chose wisdom, over foolishness?
What if we chose His word, over psychology trends?
What if we chose honesty, over self-deceit?
What if we chose peace, over confusion?
What if we chose freedom, over bondage?
What if we chose prayer, over control?
What if we chose God's power,  over manipulation?
What if we chose grace, over condemnation?
What if we chose hope, over despair?
What if we chose bravery, over deep rooted fear?
What if we chose surrender, over addiction?
What if we chose release, over denial?
What if we chose restoration, over broken relationships?
What if we chose security, over jealousy?
What if we chose tenderness, over rigidity?
What if we chose restraint, over anger?
What if we chose TRUST & FAITH in the Only one who can prove Himself faithful?


As I meditate on the overwhelmingly & unending "what-if's" of my life, He draws my attention to a sentence in red at the very top page in His word:

"If I am filled with light, with no dark corners, then my whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling me with light." -Jesus (Luke 11:36)

He wants all of me, doesn't He, I whisper to myself while sitting in this locked room far from the kitchen. If I'm willing to face the dark corners of the kitchen range of my heart, my WHOLE life- not just some or a portion- but, my whole life will be radiant.


Radiant because of His massive light which can only be revealed in human words as a floodlight- simply because there is no other light that's...
more powerful,
more bright,
more potent,
more brilliant,  than a floodlight.

It's simply impossible to have a dark corner in the presence of a plugged-in flood light.

My internal dialogue with Jesus continues as I realize He doesn't want just the pieces that look presentable enough, or lovable enough, or acceptable enough.

No, He's after the wounds, the habits, the destructive inner vows, the defects of character, the tormenting memories, the pain, the violations, the unhealthy dependencies, the hurts, that lurk and reside in the dark corners of the heart- unexposed and held captive to the power of secrecy.

His greatest desire is to plug in His Healing floodlight and light me up!


Where He has access to the infection in the wounds.
Where He has ability to eradicate the anger that's held the heart captive.
Where He has permission to smother His healing ointment of love under the bandaids of denial.

And until I'm willing to give Him permission to light-me-up, fear will continue to be the control tower of my life, I think to myself.

Yes, it's in this very act itself, where the depth, width, height, length and enormity of His kindness and love becomes an anchored reality of certainty, security and hope in the areas that once housed dark corners of shame.

The dark corners are not met with condemnation, shame or harshness. Never.
Instead, met face to face with a God who's character of tenderness, kindness, loyalty, compassion and love is now fully revealed and understood as a result of  my choice to let Him plug in and light me up.... by the Only floodlight that will and can give me life, freedom and of course, Radiance.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

To tell you my story


We sat in the last row of a Florida movie theater one rainy vacation night.

The movie 'Son of God' was playing and the five of us snuck-in just in time to the sold out theater as the first scene began to play.
The movie was powerful & message impactful, yet it wasn't the movie that sowed a transformational seed in our memory that late Florida evening.

As the last line was spoken and the last tear was wiped from my tear-stained cheek, the credits began to roll across the screen while the light remained dimmed.

No one moved in this filled-to-capacity theater- not a word spoken besides the silence of pounding hearts filled with the enormity and beauty this film just revealed.

It was as if the 250+ people were temporarily paralyzed.
We couldn't move, speak, catch our breath.
So we sat and we sat in silence.
Any other response seemed cheap and dishonorable to the experience we just encountered.

But then it happened.


A voice broke through the thickness of the silence as I heard a faint, quivering, young man's voice say "Excuse me."

As his voice penetrated through our momentary paralyzation, fear immediately gripped me as I impulsively pulled my kids into my arms, attempting to protect them from what just may happen.

To my left, my eyes strained through the darkness to view a young man ten rows in front of us, slowly lifting his body into a standing position amongst a completely filled room.

He cleared his throat, pausing as we anxiously and nervously anticipated what the next second would reveal.
He slowly turned his body towards the crowd and then spoke.

"Can I please have everyone's attention...?"  Again clearing his nervous, shaky voice.  "I've never done something like this before."

"I'm just a kid.  I'm not a pastor, I'm not a public speaker, I'm not anyone of importance.
But God freed me, unchained my captive heart, gave me life, healed my pain."

"His love transformed my life and I want all of you to know how deeply He loves you.
He told me to stand up and tell you of His love.
I'm more uncomfortable and nervous than I've ever been in my entire life, but I know God wants me to tell you He loves you."

As he embarassingly wiped the streaming tears from his face, he said one more thing, "Can I pray for you?"
And as if all 250 of us rehearsed this moment many times over, we, in perfect sync nodded our heads yes.

But this prayer was unlike any prayer I've experienced.

Perhaps because I was amongst hundreds of strangers in a movie theater that now became my family.

Or perhaps because his words carried super-natural weight simply because they weren't his, but God's.

Or perhaps because Gods power is only fully activated in the presence of genuine humility.

Whatever it may have been, this prayer, through a humble obedient teenage boy, ripped through the core of my being and thawed out a heart that ices over so easily living in this broken world.

As he melted back into his movie chair, we unanimously began to clap.

Clapping with purpose, with joy, with hope, with love, with gratitude.

Clapping in response to his courage.

Clapping in response to his obedience.

Clapping in response to his humility.

Clapping for what we've all wanted to be and do, yet folded under the pressure and weight of cowardliness.

Clapping to represent our bubbling over grateful spirit for experiencing the power of God, first hand, through this young warrior.

Clapping to encourage a teenage boy who chose to exceed his comfort zone and live for an audience of One.

And just when I thought we were in this theater to be entertained by a movie, I quickly realized we were there to witness the actual presence, humility, courage, love, strength and power of Christ through this young, brave, courageous man.


Just yesterday, while driving home from dropping my youngest son off at a friends home, the song "My Story" played through the speakers of the car.

The words were fresh and new to my ears, and they flooded my heart with memories of the night in that Florida movie theater.

The songs lyrics repeatedly sang "To tell of my story is to tell of Him (God.)"
I paused and owned this question as my own.

To tell of my story is to tell of who? Of what? Of where? Of when?

What is the story of my life telling?

Is it telling of His courage, in spite of my fear?
Is it telling of His endurance, in spite of my impatience?
Is it telling of His strength, in spite of my weakness?
Is it telling of His humility, in spite of my pride?
Is it telling of His love, in spite of my selfishness?
Is it telling of His kindness, in spite of bitterness?
Is it telling of His beauty, in spite of my ashes?
Is it telling of His wisdom, in spite of my foolishness?

Is it telling of Him?

When this young man tells his story, his story will tell a story that will tell of HIM.

A story which tells of going beyond what is deemed right, proper, reasonable and tells of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit that breaks chains, brings dead back to life, straightens twisted paths, levels out the mountains, fills in the valley's and pours flowing rivers of life-giving power into the dry lands of our hearts.

Yes, if and when this young man tells of his story, you would hear freedom, victory, hope, love, life and courage that fought through and conquered the thick bars of fear.

I ponder how bold, how fierce, how passionate, how purposeful my everyday life would be if I lived moment by moment with the filter that my story is to tell of Him.  Not my job, my ministry, my friends... but Him.  All the other gifts are just that- precious undeserved gifts.

But, He is my story.




"If I told you my story, you'd hear hope that wouldn't let go.
If I told you my story, you'd hear love that wouldn't give up.
If I told you my story, you'd hear life that wasn't mine...
Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.
This is my story, this is my song.  Praising my Savior all the day long..."
*My Story* Big Daddy Weave










Monday, July 20, 2015

Peanut butter fills in the cracks of the heart


Yep, it was hot last night!  A 90 degree Michigan summer evening on the back porch with the family eating dinner.

And just as the thought flooded through my head how perfect this moment, this weather, this meal, this company, this conversation was, my middle child shares he once had heard from a movie that eating peanut butter filled in the cracks of his heart.

So, he ate and ate it every day to fill in the aching cracks of his hurting heart- for years he disclosed wtih me.
Why?   Because a movie told him so.... and he believed it!

He shared at first he thought it worked, which is why he ate more and more with each passing day. Only to shockingly and devastatingly realize the peanut butter never reached his little hungry heart.

In this moment, I was trapped between two intense emotions of wanting to weep over his cracked heart and questioning my own failure at parenting him.


Unfortunately, it's the cracks in our heart that often drive our decision making, our choices, our thoughts, our feelings- I quietly thought while sitting across the table from my son.

It's the cracks in our heart that fling us into the web of a destructive and toxic relationship, or compulsive shopping, or over-eating, or obsessive perfectionism, or substance addiction, or workaholism, or addictive porn, or passive-aggressive controlling ways, or codependency, or stinkin thinkin.... the choice is ours and they are ripe for the picking, unfortunately,

But could it be, this crack in our heart, was inherently sown there by God who desired to be the peanut butter?
To be the remedy to the breached heart?
To be the glue that makes the heart whole?
To be the stitch that binds the broken heart back together?

Could it be, we've given into the enemy's lie and believed peanut butter could fill in the cracks, all the while we have access to the Only One who can actually fill and make us whole, set us free, heal the internal brokenness, eradicate the soul sickness, and release the negative strongholds?

I also wonder had my boy, Shea, never experienced a crack-in-the-heart, he'd never been on the search for a sticky substance to put his heart back together.
Than the deep truth surfaced in my thoughts... the inherent need to be whole is a gift from God.
It's His fingerprint on our hearts saying "Seek me and I will be the only and final peanut butter you will ever need."

Traverse City last week oozed with opportunities to sample anything cherry and I was glued to a booth that offered free samples of cherry flavored peanut butter.
Some containing remnants of juicy cherries, while others with honey, cinnamon and cherry.
The diverstiy of the flavors made my mouth water and my heart happy!

Interesting, isn't it, that this world offers faulty remedy's to the cracks in our heart- different flavors of peanut butter all representing deceiving counterfeit coping capabilities and skills, while the world insists there's an answer to the internal brokenness outside of God.

Just try this.
Just do that.
Just one more time.
JUST.

And so we take our 'just' in the form of a peanut butter jar and consume it each time the ache in the heart presents itself.

A spoonful here.
A spoonful there.

Only to lick our peanut butter coated lips and look up recognizing we are worse off before we swallowed it.
Before we believed the lie of the enemy.
Before we looked for an outside substance, person, place, thing, food, to fill in the cracks of the heart.

The truth, none of it has the ingredients to permanently, indefinitely, perfectly fill in the cracks.  Not one.  Which is why many people live an entire lifetime consumed with finding and obtaining the peanut butter that will finally make them whole.  Unfortunately, to no avail.

As my dinner grows increasingly cold and my thoughts grow increasingly in number, Shea's raspy pre-teen voice abruptly cuts into my pondering....

"But a couple years ago, mom, Jesus told me He was my peanut butter."

And there it was.

The answer.
The key
The joy.
The hope.
The wholeness.

As he went back to eating his dinner with a content and satisfied smile across his precious freckled face, I too experienced this in the reservoir of my heart.

Nothing satisfies the soul better than truth out of the overflow of a child's heart.




Sunday, June 28, 2015

How to forgive the unforgivable

"I forgive you.  You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again, but I forgive you. And may God have mercy on your soul. "
These were the words which effortlessly & yet achingly flowed from the lips of a Charleston S.C victims daughter.

I was temporarily paralyzed, as my ears fixated on her words which tangibly provided momentary life and drenched the court room with the sweet fragrance of forgiveness.
They made-no-sense, based on the violation.
Yet, they penetrated my own heart and coated it with a soothing ointment that changed me in that very moment.

Just yesterday I read a statement spoken by a Christian psychologist that forgiveness is a choice. Not a feeling.  But a continual, on purpose choice to forgive- even suggesting to tweet the thought.

I camped out on this statement.  Spent time climbing through its words, swimming through its meaning & hunting for the root of truth which gave birth to her suggestion.

I deeply desired this to be truth. I desperately wanted to receive this into my core belief system.
To believe it could be this simple.  
To believe I could choose to release an anger, a hurt, a heartache, a violation, a rejection, an unmet need, a memory, a tormenting pain.....all by a simple on-going choice of the will, regardless of my heart condition.

But from my experience, I've found it to not only be impossible, but painstakingly frustrating.  I also found it to cause further harmful and deceitful shame- that I once again could not "do" something.... Like forgive. Just one more thing to my already long list of what I'm incapable of doing.

If forgiveness ushers in freedom (which it does).....
If it releases me from the toxic residue of anothers harmful actions (which it does)......
If it restores my strength (which it does)....
If it renews my joy (which it does)...
Why would I NOT choose forgiveness?

Could it be that God specifically & purposefully designed and orchestrated forgiveness to go deeper than our own human power of a will-fill choice?

Could it be that the enemy of our soul desires us to believe the deadly lie that forgiveness also means reconciliation or restoration?  When in fact, the default button of forgiveness is not always reconciliation or restoration to a particular toxic relationship.  The only restoration God is after is the restoration of the heart, mind, soul and spirit.

If choosing to release someone of their debt seems impossible & certainly more complex than a simple willful choice, you might be asking, so what now?

It's possible some of you, like me, have found it nearly impossible to forgive on purpose.
Not just the kind of forgiveness that stays in the shallow end, but the kind of forgiveness that is genuine, real, authentic.
The kind that bears fruits of true life-giving freedom that goes much deeper than speaking the word forgiveness and hoping our minds will finally one day be convinced enough to believe it.

No, not the kind where we persuade ourselves through will power that forgiveness is the right thing to do, yet each time that specific persons face enters the mind, all the pain bubbles up again.
No, I'm speaking of the kind that indefinitely, sincerely, legitimately frees me from the snares of chains of an unforgiving spirit.
The chains that get tighter each year and heavier each footstep.

The kind of forgiveness where the persons face no longer ushers in grief and despair, but compassion & grace.

Whoa. Is that even possible with someone who has taken an emotional knife to the heart and ripped it  up, down, left and right through viscous words, violent abuse, tormenting rejection, debilitating betrayal?

Yes. It IS possible.  South Carolina proved that to be true this past week.

But I'm also the bearer of bad news, on this summer evening, when I share there's most definitely a choice involved, but not the kind we think of when we make every day choices.
No, this type of 'choice' involves that of the heart.  The soul. The spirit. Gods territory.

The book of Luke shares a story about a woman like me, like you, that found herself less than perfect.  
Her strongholds, her poor decisions, her defects of character, her brokenness, her woundedness, all led her to this moment. A moment that DEFINES the richness, beauty & remedy to genuine forgiveness-

(Jesus speaking) "I tell you her sins-and they are many- have been forgiven, for she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love." (Luke 7:47)

Could it be it's impossible to unlock & release the undeserved gift of forgiveness without first being forgiven and fully loved myself?
Is it possible that I can't give what I don't have?

This one little line of Jesus' words holds enough weight to transform a life, a soul, a generational line.  I'm mesmerized at the raw beauty of recognizing that a person simply is incapable of choosing to forgive when they themselves are not forgiven.
Forgiven like this woman. 
Forgiven where the very core of my being sings the tender song of knowing how deeply, undeservingly, transformationally forgiven I am for my past, which then naturally ushers in the enormity of Gods crazy, pure, make-no-sense kind of raw love.

This & ONLY this is when & where I can forgive.

If I could choose to forgive someone based on my own free-will or by convincing my mind I've forgiven them, why would I need Jesus' supernatural make-no-sense kind of grace filled power?

It's only by His power, His presence, His kindness, His grace, given freely & lavishingly to me that first cleans & purifies my own heart so that I am primed & prepared emotionally, spiritually & physically to forgive the unforgivable.

So, what is the answer? 
Make a willful choice to forgive even though I have very little grace in me to give?  Even though my inners are beat up, bruised, dark, skewed, twisted, angry & bitter? No, it's just not possible. 

First, the heart must be purified, cleansed, bandaged, loved-on by our maker before it's capable of true genuine, authentic, sincere, make-no-sense kind of forgiveness.

Out of the heart flows the well-spring of life.  If the heart is left in a stagnant & stale state of being shattered, broken, damaged, messy- without the healing touch of Gods fingerprint, how can it be capable of providing something as pure as forgiveness?

Anything outside of this IS self-willed forgiveness which bears no fruit of genuine, real, true, transformational, life-giving, radical, can't-wrap-my-head-around kind of grace.

You find a forgiving person & you find a forgiven person.

They not only go hand in hand, they simply can not exist unless they co-exist.

Until I'm willing to step out from the illusion and lethal trap of denial or open the dead-bolted closet door containing my own shameful past choices & decisions, than choosing to forgive & offer grace is not possible.

When we make the courageous, conscience & brave step to unlock the door, crawl out of denial & hand deliver all the areas I'm hiding, then can I experience & taste the sweetness of being forgiven and released from something I don't deserve to be released from.
The kind of release that frees the heavy chains, which in return frees my heart to love and to receive His love- the remedy and answer to life.

It's only here I can give to another what I DO have... forgiveness in it's rawest, truest, purest, make-no-sense-est kind of form.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Hiding Place

I'm haunted by the repetitive words over the years, months, weeks, days, moments that I foolishly purge from the mouth "life is too busy, too chaotic, too hectic, too over scheduled to have time each day with God."

Most days I dare not share this verbally, but within the confinement of my heart, I think this... I use this... I stand by this as truth.... or, as an excuse.

And not just the kind of time I use to cram for a bible study or a teaching, but the kind where I'm coming before Him to simply rest in His presence...
As the nourishment of my soul.
As the key to my joy.
As the strength to my bones.
As the remedy to my life.
As the restorer to my brokenness.
As the healer to my depravity.
As the father to my needs.
As the love of my life.

Before anyone is awake in my home.
Before attempting to climb through life.
Before interacting with anyone or anything.
Before checking my phone, email, texts.
Before wearing the label of mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend.

Before.


He has life-giving power, Jesus says.
Life-Giving.

It's here I sit and meditate on the rawness and truth of this foreign word my ears hear and my mind attempts to comprehend.

What in life is Life-Giving, I quietly ask myself.
Life is full of life-taking, life-depleting, life-exhausting.


But God is promising...
life-giving hope.
Life-giving nourishment.
Life-giving joy.
Life-giving peace.
Life-giving rest.
Life-giving love.
Life-giving hope.
Life-giving refreshment.
Life-giving NEW life,
Pressed down, shaken together, making room for more, running over and poured onto my lap (Luke 6:38.)

Interesting how soon I forget the beauty of spending time consistently, vulnerably, transparently, genuinely, intimately with Him fills me to the peak of overflowing-love, which enables & infuses my spirit to give out to others that which was given undeservingly to me.

And with this thought deeply surfacing round and round in my mind, I open to the back page of a treasured bible with words containing a powerful, yet a simple truth from Philippians:

"Don't worry about anything.  Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what I need and thank Him for all He has done.  THEN- I will experience God's peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  This peace will guard my heart and mind."



So, in the elementariness of my thinking, I recognize a pattern, a theory, a recipe for a healthy soul:

Prayer = Gods peace = guards my heart= guards my mind

(Spending time with Him ushers in peace, which ushers in protection of both my heart and mind.)


I'm beginning to recognize a pattern in God's design.  
Could it be that spending this daily time with Him not only ushers in His overflowing radical love, but pours in His unfathomable peace which then provides a protective mechanism over my heart and mind?  

And doesn't it just so happen to be that these are the two key areas in which satan seeks to destroy the most?  They certainly are in my life.  

Could it really be that God, in His incomprehensible simplicity, asks only of my time, my dedication, my loyalty, my obedience to seek Him before all else; resulting in health and protection for my mind and heart? 
For my mind that's prone to wander? 
For my heart that's dictated by unstable emotions?  

Prayer, according to the transformational book of Philippians, is the natural remedy to a stable mind and a decisive heart that's fixated on the Only key to life.

And if all this wasn't enough, while sitting here on our well-used family room couch in the early hour of this Tuesday morning, I hear Sarah Groves angelic voice usher through the faint speaker of my phone. singing...
 "You are my hiding place... early when the day is new, before the stirring I will come and talk with you...and confess the ways I am broken to recall the words you've spoken.. and try  to comprehend the love you have for me... You are my hiding place."

That's when my eyes drift up to view the make-shift wall of blankets just footsteps from this couch.  A wall of blankets the children used to make a tent, a hiding place of their own less than  24 hours earlier.

Memories flooding back to the innocent joy I found in making a hiding place of my own as a child. Still seeing and smelling the fabric of each well-loved blanket that tapered over the old wood  chairs that were used as the infrastructure of my tent.

It was a place of safety & refuge.  
Untouched from outside reality.
Empowered by its solitude. 
Silenced by its peace.
Strengthened by its boundaries.
Refreshed by its simplicity.
Protected by its coverings.

Could it be that Jesus desires, above all else, to be my hiding place? 

To give me an opportunity each day to climb back into my child-hood tent and find rest, refreshment, safety, hope, love, protection and acceptance?  

A hiding place that is marinated in life.  
Desiring nothing but for me, for you, for them, for all- to choose and experience refreshment for the soul, rest for the mind and His love to consume the heart.

It's here, I find life.


Psalm 32:7
"For You are my hiding place.
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wisdom of a child

Sitting in the over populated, stiff-chaired auditorium of my first born's 8th  grade graduation, a school slide show displayed each graduate's "life goal" along with the students picture.

Slide after slide, we were given glimpses into these precious hearts and their "life goal" desires.
Some desiring to become a doctor, some a marine biologist, others hoping to contribute at making this world a better place, while another planning to marry a rich man...

But there was one.

One in particular that pressed the mental pause button in the moment and struck a cord in an uncharted territory of my heart.

"To be a daughter of God," it read.


My heart digested it in with slow-motion-fashion, primarily because the answer didn't match the question.

Or did it?

Could that be it?
Simple- no plans, no expectations, no strategies, no ideas, no details?

Could it be this 8th grader just revealed the key to success?
Could it be this 14 year old just revealed the heartbeat of God?
Could it be this rookie-teenager just revealed the simplicity of life?
Could it be this child just revealed the rest & refreshment God designed, orchestrated and originated for me to taste?

Sitting in the 15th row of the uncomfortable hard seat, my own conscience soon matched the pressing uncomfortableness of my aching back.
Questions rushing through my thoughts and dropping like buckets of rain in my heart...

Why do I complicate things?
Why do I not trust?
Why do I stubbornly plan my own way?
Why do I seek my own desires?
Why do I inherently live like an orphan, forgetting I'm His daughter?
Why do I pursue my own needs, wants, desires?

When all along, all He wanted from my lips were the simple words from the overflow of my heart... "To be your daughter, God."
To be Yours.
Nothing more.  Nothing Less.  Nothing in between.

This young lady didn't choose to say "To be loved by God, or to love God, or be known by God, or to know God.... But to be   His daughter.
To live her life knowing she IS His daughter, fully adopted and embraced by Him.

My mind drifts to a treasure I read & stuffed in the pocket of my heart earlier that particular morning...

"I must learn a new way to think before I can master a new way to be."


This 8th  grade child chose to learn a new way to think- one that aligns her with truth so that she can master a new way to be.... Being His daughter.



I can only imagine the life awaiting this simplistic yet wise individual.
Nothing hindering Gods plan and purpose on this life.
Nothing blocking the richness and provision predestined for this life.
Nothing clogging the pureness of His flow in this life.
Nothing inhibiting His presence and voice as He guides, leads and speaks in this life.
Nothing depleting His life-giving breath from this life.
Nothing ceasing His enormity of overflowing love in this life.

Nothing- but Jesus and His plan... not mine.
His desire....Not mine.
His way... Not mine.
His story... Not mine.

Could this be a guarantee to success- true success?
The kind that fills the depleted soul with wholeness.
The kind that fills the shackled spirit with freedom.
The kind that fills the tired bones with joy.
The kind that fills the anxious mind with peace.
The kind that fills the dissatisfied life with refreshment.
The kind that fills the inconstant thoughts with rest.
The kind that fills the weary strength with purpose.

And then I recognize this is a moment my experience matches the words of Jesus.

"Unless I change and become like a child, I will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And whoever becomes as humble as this child will be the greatest in Heaven."

There is something about this word, humble, as my mind wanders back to just moments before when I witnessed the simplistic wisdom and beauty of her life goal.
Humility...  it's geniune leadership, isn't it?
True reverency.
True love.
True selflessness.
True life.

Could this 8th grade child possibly been the only wise soul in a room full of adults?
She taught me humility, right order and simplicity, this child on that June Saturday evening.

This child led me to the doorway of life and reminded me of my purpose during these short and fragile years on earth... to be His daughter.
Powerful.
Simple.
True.

Life-giving supernatural love now has the opportunity to manifest itself in the reservoir of my heart and release this selfish, goal-driven mentality to rest in the guidance and protection of my Father.

Oh, how grateful I am to be taught the lessons of life by a child.

"We may throw the dice, but God determines how they fall."
Proverbs 16:33



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Love- the problem and the answer?


It rings in my ear at the oddest times, a statement I once read... "Love is both the problem and the answer."  It was during a feast on a book by author Stephanie Tucker, where she posed the simple, yet complex question...

If love is the problem, could it also really be the solution?

Could it be that because of love, I've endured my greatest pain and yet my greatest joy?

Isn't it love, or lack of, that catapults us into the arms of something or someone to fill the gaping hole in our soul?

The black hole, I call it.  It's the hole that drives us into the muck of destructive choices, the web of harmful people and the enticing trance of decietful hope.

Little do we know these false gods not only flow directly through and out the hole, they increase its depth, width and length, leaving us in more pain than where we began.

Love deprivation, love starvation drives our soul to find nourishment and satisfaction as intensely as if we were desperate for water after countless parched days in a desert.
Desperation for a drop of water on the tongue puts my ethic, moral and personal integrity at risk.
Desperation often erases virtue.

Love, both the answer and the problem.

I once heard a story about a young boy who was adopted by a loving family.  This boy had been mistreated and starved in his prior life, both physically as well as emotionally.  However, after adoption, the survival mentality wasn't immediately erased.  He knew he was no longer being mistreated or malnourished, but his mentality told him otherwise.
His cupboards were full of food and his new family were full of overflowing love.  But his deep engrained memories responded out of fear, even amongst the safety of his new adopted, nurturing, warm and fully loved new family.

I often respond to life as an orphan, fearing the unknown and staying in survival mode.
While the truth being, I am fully adopted and been given access to the purest, deepest love imaginable to mankind; cupboards overflowing of the purest food to saturate every need.

The love of God has the power to not only love passionately, uniquely, intimately and fully, it empowers with the actual presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  They go hand in hand.
This is precisely why the love of a human being does not fully contain the strength or power to change another person.

On the other hand, the love of God, undoubtedly, unquestionably, unsurpassingly does!
This is the first, and possibly only revelation needed to break free from an out-of-order lifestyle.

But let me tell you with great confidence-  the enemy of our soul will work overtime to convince us that God is not enough.  Not sufficient enough.  Not big enough.  Please allow me to speak directly to your spirit for a moment...DO NOT BELIEVE THIS LIE.

So, the question is, how do we take this theological head knowledge regarding the immensity and sufficiency of His love, 18 inches down to the heart?

2 Peter 1:3 gives the exact answer to this well searched question:
"By His power, I have everything (not somewhat, not a little, not a portion) but everything I need to live a Godly life."
And if living a Godly life requires experiencing the magnitude of His love, how do we obtain it and abide in it moment by moment?
The book of Peter answers this question directly- "we receive ALL of this by coming to "know" Him.

"Knowing" anyone requires transparency, vulnerability, trust and time.
This is the same recipe for "knowing" Jesus.

If I hide and refuse Him access into the very areas that have been dead bolted shut, whether consciously or unconsciously, I am refusing the ability to "know" Him.

God's greatest desire is to reach into the depth of our spirit and free us in order to experience His radical love.  But often there's memories, circumstances, issues so deeply repressed, it may take time in the arms of God to reveal and expose the root of the fruits being experienced.

For example, if the fruits of my life are continual disconnection from God, fear, anxiety, worry, just to name a few, than there must be a root feeding these fruits.


Jesus' desire is to not only gently and firmly yank out the root, but to penetrate its prior position with His healing ointment of love.

God enables Love to be our armor and protective mechanism (1Thes 5:8).
And then... the gift of love is no longer the problem- it's now the solution.
Marinated and infused with the love of  God, who IS love,  I'm now enabled to love others from the overflow of His pure, intimate, sweet, healing, fulfilling, true, merciful love.

Another promise my eyes fixated themselves on while sipping my morning coffee... "Keep on loving others... then you will not become spirituality dull and spiritually indifferent."
Could this be yet another key, another law, another promise, another guarantee into having a fully ignited relationship with Christ?

So, lets see... a lack of love for others has a natural byproduct of making me "spiritually dull and indifferent."  A guarantee. A promise. A law.

My thoughts flood back to Revelation where God states He will spit out of his mouth those who are neither hot or cold.
Can you picture that?  Have you ever took a sip of coffee, but unknowingly it's right on the verge between hot and cold.  We do just that, don't we?  That's how detestable we are to God when we are "indifferent"- neither hot or cold.


The tricky part here is that it's impossible to accurately and fully love others with out first experiencing and overflowing in God's love.  We simply cannot give what we don't have.
Otherwise, any other form of love, without first being from the reservoir of God's love, will be inherently flawed.

It will contain toxic remnants of:
selfishness
envy
pride
greed
idolatry
and any and all areas of our flesh.

But Gods love, on the other hand, is:
pure
kind
selfless
patient
honest
enduring
forgiving.

As John1 states, the only way God's love can be brought into a full expression in my life, is if I also love others through the love He is providing for me- and then, and only then, can He live in me. (1 John 4:11)

"Those who love God must also love others (1 John 4:21)
Those who are abiding in God's love will naturally, effortlessly love others from His overflow.
John is stating here it would be an oxymoron, an impossibility, to love God and not naturally love others.  They go hand-in-hand.
The love is a fruit from my root being deeply imbedded in Him.

Interestingly, my heart wanders back to the passage I read this morning in Revelation which reveals that the leaves which grow on these fruits also hold value, great value.
They represent healing- the mind, body and soul.
So, not only are we receiving righteous character through fruits of abiding in him, we also receive healing which co-joins with the fruit!


These thin pages of His word- how they erase the heaviness, the burdens, the anxieties, the weight of life.  My eyes scroll down this life- saving book to the sentence that shares that my love for others is the proving grounds, to the world, that I am God's disciple.
Not my knowledge of the bible?
Not my degree?
Not my gifts?
Not my talents?
Not my personality?
Nope.
It's LOVE.
wow.
I need to sit on that for awhile and let it sink into my belief system that speaks contrary to this truth.

And then I hear it.... the simplicity & magnitude of His voice,
"You are free to love others, Joy, because I first loved you."









Monday, June 1, 2015

A ball of chaos

Ah, there it sits in all its beauty.

Hand crafted with intricate detailed carvings into the refined polished wood.  Flawlessly dressed up in symmetrical lines of elegance and charm.  Propped up in place of honor in the master bedroom so that its beauty can be displayed and seen by many.

But I don't dare open it...for inside this charming and delicate jewelry box lies...
A ball of chaos.
A tangled mess.
An enmeshed headache of never ending disorder and confusion.

Oh, it started out with such high hopes, this jewelry box.  Filled with empty wonder at the thought of the beauty that could one day fill the velvet lined drawers within.

16 years later, three kids later, this once unsurpassed piece of charm does not match the ball of ugly chaos lurking within its walls.

My thoughts flood back to the moments of each piece of jewelry being safely and delicately placed in  the box.  The beauty within once matched the beauty of the hand crafted exquisite jewelry box.


Then it happened.  It just took one time.

A careless shove of a necklace.
A hasty toss of a bracelet.
A negligent cram of an earring.

Before I knew it, I had myself a cluttered, disordered, chaotic, tangled ball of mess!

The irony of my jewelry box is overwhelming that I almost dare not share.
How I work so hard at getting the outside jewelry box of life to look appealing, likable, perfect, acceptable... in hopes, consciously or unconsciously, that others will accept and embrace what they see.

I, too, started off with such high hopes of desiring the inside jewelry of my heart, mind and soul to exceed that of my outside.  All the while, the outside "box" portraying itself flawless on social media.  Perfect at church.  Secure in public. Strong at work.  But inside, don't dare open the box....

A necklace of regret..
A bracelet of bitterness.
A ring of fear.
An earring of envy.
A charm of inadequacy.
A pearl of doubt.
A diamond of unworthiness.
A watch of pain.

And then I did what should of been done years ago... opening the box and begin the process of unraveling.  Unraveling of the precious jewelry with ease and patience, right?

I begin meddling through it as I hold onto a glimmer of hope that I can unravel the ball of chaos effortlessly and flawlessly, on my own.
But, it only takes a matter of a few frustrating moments to understand this process is not only difficult, but has the potential to strip me of every sane remnant left in my life.

Jewelry, once held as delicate and precious in my eyes, now is screaming and begging to be thrown out the window with full aggression and frustrating release.

I imagine, for a moment, a someone, a hero, coming into my home and gently assuring me to release the white knuckle tight fisted ball of chaos into their care.  They release me from this position and assure me they will unravel the mess and deliver back the original treasured, delicate and beautiful pieces of jewelry, restored to its original design and beauty, free of charge!

I'm now,
free from the frustration,
free from the insanity,
free from the ball of chaos,
and overflowing with hope and gratitude for the undeserved kindness of this helper.

Overwhelmed with this accurate representation of life, He gently reminds me of the preciousness, the treasure, the delicacy, the beauty His eyes see when He views this ball-of-mess of mine, just as I once viewed the pieces of jewelry entangled together upstairs in my jewelry box.

That's when He precisely asked me to bring the tangled mess to Him.  To cease the agitating process of unraveling myself so that He could take each entangled, each enmeshed piece of life and make sense to the chaos, one by one.

In His patience and deep love, He finds joy in the unraveling process.

Could it be that the pivotal fork in the road is here, is now- the very opportunity for God to pour Himself in the recess of the heart of the chaos and patiently, perfectly unravel the mess?  This takes time and uninterrupted intimacy in the lap of the Great Physician.
And then I ask the obvious, but also the most confusing question of all... why is the unfathomable working of the Holy Spirit penetrating His power deep into the depth of my being, shaking the chains loose, breaking the enmeshment of shame and unraveling the pain of loss and woundedness? The enormity of His love, I will never fully grasp.

And, more often than not, the busyness of life has significant weight which tends to pull & lure me in different directions, making time with God limited and often interrupted.
But through more error than success, I've come to the firm conclusion it's only when I get to a place of solitude, of quietness, of rest, of time out, can I begin to hear the gentle whisper of God's healing voice and strong presence of His Spirit which pours out His unspeakable, transformational love for me (Romans 5:5).

Could it be this is an opportunity to...
Peal off the masks.
Abandon the facade.
Leave the masquerade...
and come before God transparent, raw, exposed?

Could it be that just this simple act has enough power to radically free the chained heart and usher in beauty of order and transformation within the jewelry box of my soul?

My eyes stumbled on James 4:7 yesterday.  Oh, what an accurate depiction of choosing to come before the healer and grieve losses, acknowledge defects of character, face past violations, release strong holds, confess fears... and profess anything that is separating me from God.

"So humble myself before God.
Resist the devil and He will flee from me.
Come close to God and God will come close to me.
Wash my hands.
Purify my heart for my loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Let there be tears for what I have done (and/or what has been done to me).
Let there be sorrow and deep grief.
Be sadness instead of laughter.
Gloom instead of of joy.
Humble myself before the Lord, and He will lift me up in honor."

And it's exactly here in this hour, in this moment, in this time, in this place, where He reaches down, wipes my tear stained cheek and brings order to my mess.  It's here He surpasses the beauty of the outward with the unmatching grace of the inward.