Unexpected Graces

 

1-1234699141PRLF

Well, here I am sitting in the saddle.  It feels good!  I have missed this place! I’m glad to be back.

It’s been a rough and tumble couple of months since I last sat down.  When I took a break right before Christmas, I never anticipated the journey I would embark upon.  Frankly, it was like someone gave a monkey a match.  It has been quite a ride.

12716211_10209143679655648_1404086195426651687_o

I needed this time to regroup and set my heart and mind right.  I have been too afraid to write, honestly.  Afraid of what just might come out.  But, it is time.  And, I am grateful.

In an effort to cope with our pain and lighten the mood, our family began to refer to this season as a “plot twist”.   In stark reality, our lives have dramatically changed.  Due to painful circumstances, my Love resigned his position at the church we pastored for over seven years.  Sometimes, it is just time to move on.  There comes a time when you realize the odds are not in your favor and for everyone’s sake, you have to make an exit.  You just hope to do so with grace.

I do believe it has been one of the most hurtful seasons we have experienced in life and ministry.  After 25 years, we have experienced our share of disappointments and set backs.  But, this, by far, was the one of the biggest gut punches of them all.  The only other to compare would be the sexual abuse of our son by a trusted friend and church worker.

her-tears-grey-puddle

I have learned quite a few lessons in our time here in Virginia.  Some are pretty tough.  But all have been for my good.

Our time in Virginia has been anything but easy.  We have endured some losses.  But, I also can look and see some beautiful gains.  I would be shallow if I didn’t recognize them.

A few years back I began my own One Thousand Gifts journey.  It was a life saver, really. Each day I would count out my gratitude, line by line.  I am beginning a new one.  It’s important to remember the gifts from our journeys.  If not, it could get terribly discouraging!  So, it is time.  Time to refocus my attention.

journal

One lesson I’ve learned is, “God gives good gifts.”  Some seasons we just have to look a little harder.  Many times they are hard gifts.  I look back at our journey…it is unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever experienced…yet, I still find beauty in the charred rubble.

Light only shines through cracked vessels. 

So, when people ask me if I had known then what I know now, would I still have relocated to Virginia, I’m never sure how to answer.  In the natural, it does not seem worth it.  We have paid quite a high price.  We certainly didn’t know all we were taking on.

Truthfully, I don’t like that question at all.  My first instinct is to scream NO, of course not!

Injustice,

hatred,

jealousy,

abuse,

unfair expectations,

rejection,

financial loss,

illness,

anxiety and depression,

plots and schemes,

abandonment,

betrayal.

Who would?

df26c006fa5aa6c371c195a58fbf0918

When I look at that list of pain, it would seem hardly worth it.  I could easily drown in that sea of loss and hurt.  I do see, however, the gifts from God’s hand that He gave in the middle of such ugly hard.

So, I choose to look at the gifts.  It is time. 

11947605_10208016280711379_5278790613076934361_n

Friendships,

children discovered their gifting,

memories made,

bound family ties,

new dreams inspired,

spiritual growth,

loyalty,

a sweet canine companion,

hope,

peace,

increased faith,

grace from unexpected places,

deep kindness,

lessons learned,

lives changed,

wisdom,

provision,

protection,

opportunity,

divine encouragement.

I am most certain I have forgotten many other blessings.

I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in this listing.  We are not unique.

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

We all have experienced our share of pain and loss.  I simply refuse to get stuck here.  I don’t want to live in the muck and mire.  I will not suffer needlessly.  I want free of it.  And, the only place I know to start is with gratitude. 

Christ does not promise a trouble-free life.  No, indeed.

EGYPT-POLITICS-UNREST-CHRISTIAN

This world is fallen and is coming undone.  People disappoint.  No amount of dancing can undo that fact.  But, I have learned something else.

Light shines out of my broken places.

God is mending in such a way that light will warmly glow and draw others in.  They will meet Him there.  It isn’t about pretending to have it all together.  No one understands such living.  It is a fairy tale and too great a weight to drag around.

12346402_10208592832404811_4671665384202200831_n

So, once again, I have picked up pen and tablet and will scribe my gratitude.

I won’t forget our pain, for it has left a mark.  But, mostly I will remember with a heart of gratitude all God is and was to me in the pain.  The strong arms that have held and carried.  I will remember.  All that was meant for my harm, is turned to good.  Nothing can ever take me from His hand.

That is what I will remember.  That will be my focus.  There is beauty to out-sing the ugly.  For it is well with my soul.

12615664_10209001008088948_3467437942845045546_o

Forgiveness…..It Makes Me Sweat

Forgiveness.  The word makes me sweat.  

I am an emotional person.  I feel things deeply. I take things to heart.  My heart gets bruised.  And, it’s not just about me.  I am madly in love with my husband and children.  They are my world.  When they hurt, I hurt. When bad things happen to them, it might as well be me!  I am very emotive….so much estrogen.  Just ask my family.  (Think mother bear!)

The biggest lesson of my life came in October 2011.  Desperate to end his nightmare, our child spilled his hurt and pain to my husband.  We knew this person.  We thought she was safe—she wanted to be a youth pastor and we were mentoring her towards that end.  We thought we knew and understood her well.

Apparently, we didn’t.

The days that followed were full of rage, pain and complete shock.  We navigated the legal system, detectives, and victim advocates in a haze of unbelief.  Not unbelief of our child’s story.  We never doubted him.  Sitting in the detective’s office, trying to answer endless questions, we just couldn’t figure out how we had gotten to this point.

How could someone do this to one of our own and to our family?

I never dreamed, in all my days, I would be sitting

in a courtroom listening to all the graphic details of the abuse.

Who does?

Betrayal of any kind is painful. 

At this level, it was hard to breathe.  We had done so much to better the life and future of this caregiver; providing opportunities for a future that would not have come anywhere else.

We did receive justice in the legal system. We are grateful.  It started the healing process for our boy and for us. We felt heard and understood.  Unfortunately, in today’s culture, male victims of female perpetrators many times don’t receive equal justice.   But, we did. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

But, see, this is where it gets gritty.

As Christ Followers, we are taught to forgive.

  For the longest time I wasn’t in any place to forgive.  I needed  time and space to process and heal.

And I honestly think God was okay with that.  I learned something important.

Everybody moves at their own pace and the journey is cyclical—just like in the grieving process.

FORGIVENESS   IS   NOT   EASY   NOR   CHEAP.

I have to say, there are some days I don’t feel as if I have forgiven very well.  Most days, three years isn’t long enough to pay for the level of trauma, fear and pain he endured.  And, if I am really honest (please allow me),

I can’t understand how God could forgive this, much less me.

 

I know this: If I surrender my deep betrayal and pain to God, and follow His lead, He will walk me through this difficult journey of forgiveness.

I am learning that forgiveness is a journey.

This past week was a perfect example of how much work I have left to do, but how far I have come!  It was a milestone in our journey.  He knows we are human.  We are not perfect in this earthly skin.

I think forgiveness isn’t a one and done type of thing either.

It is a process—a lifelong journey that brings great peace.  I imagine I will work the rest of my life to forgive fully and completely as I know Christ does.  I know God knows my humanity.

He gives me strength and power to do what I can’t seem to do on my own.

As you can see, it makes the top 10 of the hardest lessons I will learn in life.  And I’m still trying to figure it all out.  It is a team effort with God leading the way.  I’ll follow in His footsteps and I know all will be alright.

What about you?  Do you have something that screams for forgiveness but you just don’t know how?  Can you give yourself grace knowing God does when you are walking hand in hand….moving in His unhurried rhythms of grace?

 

My friend, I know it is hard.  I hate the cliches.

But, God is jealous for you and is aware of your pain.

Sit and listen for His rhythm of grace.

The Shadowlands

Life has a way of taking you on unexpected journeys.

Sometimes your way is smooth, flowing from one moment full of gratitude to another.  All you see are blue skies and silver linings. Other times the way gets bumpy as you encounter gray skies and thunder.  You are stopped in your tracks…BUT you quickly regain clarity and keep moving.

And yet, there are other times, where the sky is so dark and the terrain so rugged that you feel the darkness surrounding you.  The journey feels overwhelming and unfair. You question how you got to this place. You check your rearview mirror, trying to find what led to this place.  You might even do an inventory of your life choices.  It’s dark. It’s scary and you can’t seem to find any light through the clouds.

I’ve been there, and I’m willing to bet some chocolate you have, too. Maybe you are right smack dab in the middle of it even now.

A year after learning of our child’s abuse, I sat down and thought through some of the lessons I learned while traveling through these Shadowlands.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I want to share with you what I learned, in the hopes that my pain will help you in whatever you are going through.  So, each week (at least for a while) I will post a blog focusing on these lessons I learned.

My child still faces  emotional repercussions of what was done to him….the abuse, isolation, and fear the abuser used to control him has very real moments of rearing its ugly head.  But he is learning to deal in healthy ways and is not allowing it to control his life. Everyone’s pain looks different.  It comes in all shapes and forms. But, it’s there.  Waiting in the shadows to control and devour.

One thing I learned is not all things can be fixed.  Nope.  Wouldn’t that be great? A simple, easy and quick “how do ya do” and it’s all better.  I have learned that ALL things can be redeemed, however.  The beautiful part is you don’t know how the ragged and torn pieces are all going to fit back together, much less with any beauty and grace.  I know this to be true; time does not heal all wounds. The only healer of wounds is God.  I marvel at how He has chosen to put our jagged pieces back together.

The beauty that comes from pain can be exquisite.  I’m not sure how it works.  Give Him the shredded and broken.  Give Him the messy and stinky.  Give Him the confused and lost pieces. And He takes them, heals them, reshapes them and gives them back to you in the form of something absolutely amazing.

I remember sitting on the counselor’s couch.  My head in my hands.  Life and ministry had been incredibly difficult, unlike anything I had ever experienced up to that point.  Then this was thrown on top of the pile.  We had followed God.  We had given our lives to follow Him.  We were raising our kids to be Jesus followers.  And yet.  I could hardly grasp the depth of our pain and the dark we were entering.  I could only cry.

If I had to go through it then something good was going to come of it!

On our journey through this very ugly and dark place, I decided if I was going to go through this terrible, horrible, no good, hard season then I was going to do something with it.  I was going to be better for it!  I knew someone needed to hear my story and know they are not alone.  It may not even look like my pain.  Pain is pain.

The Shadowlands can be a scary, lonely place. 

But, there is much peace and gratitude to be found if we only look beyond the Shadowlands. 

We may not know what life will look like on the other side of the dark, but we know who will walk with us through the dark.  And He never leaves.

I’ve learned He can take ANYTHING and redeem it.  Not everything can be fixed.  But EVERYTHING can be redeemed.

Where are you? Are you in the middle of the Shadowlands? Are you coming out the other side and all that is left is a broken heart and shattered dreams?  What do you need redeemed?  He will.  I know it….as well as I know anything.  He just needs you to let Him….stop trying to piece it all back together by yourself.  And what beauty He will create!