The Good Shepherd

Even now, my counseling sessions have been extremely difficult. I have had a few helpful glimpses into the dark corners of my past, but I just cannot seem to gather enough courage to face the true story of what really happened to me as a child. Though I have made progress, the deepest part of me is still numb, and I cannot dispel the extreme fear that I feel. But when I needed encouragement before attending another counseling session, God directed me to A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

As I read this book, I stopped often to pray what I was learning over one of my daughters. Oh, how I want her to know the Good Shepherd and to know how much he cares for her personally. She bears the broken, hurting heart of her own trauma. So, I stand in the gap for her and pray God’s Word into her life. On one particular day, I prayed over her the lesson from Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures (NIV).” Keller, a real-life shepherd, writes that sheep will not lie down and be at rest unless they are completely free of fear and anxiety. The only person who can give them this assurance is the shepherd himself. His diligent management and care makes it possible “for them to lie down, to rest, to relax, to be content and quiet and flourishing” (Keller 42).

At this time my daughter, who had moved to a new state and started a new job, had fallen ill. She was already experiencing doubts about her job and her future, and being sick only added to her misery. In his book, Keller relates a story about how he responded once to sheep rustlers who threatened his flock. He, the shepherd, did what it took to keep them safe: he camped out with his sheep night after night until the rustlers became discouraged and left the area. So I started praying for this type of protection for my daughter, for the Good Shepherd to do whatever it took to keep her safe from the “rustlers” of this world. I entreated Christ to be present with her, to “dispel the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown” (Keller 44).

As I prayed over my daughter, I was standing on a chair, cleaning a light fixture that probably had not been dusted in decades. I prayed and cleaned and hoped that I would not fall off the chair or break the light fixture. When I finished cleaning it, I stepped off the chair and took a close look. Wow! I could not believe my eyes. The cut glass of the fixture, newly cleaned, threw a beautiful pattern of light onto the ceiling and the room was suddenly so bright! I was amazed.

Then I heard God say, “You are like that light fixture.” I realized that, as I prayed over my daughter, I also needed to have my own fear and anxiety “dusted” away. Looking at the bright light now illuminating my ceiling gave me hope. I knew God was telling me that, when I eventually work through my situation, I will be like that light—clean, bright, and beautiful to behold. The Good Shepherd is working diligently in my life so that I will one day find contentment and be able to “lie down in green pastures.” My fear and numbness will be replaced with flourishing feelings.

Oh, dear Friend, the Good Shepherd will also do whatever it takes to protect you and allow you to lie down in contentment. One day our dust-covered hearts will be fully cleaned so that our lives can give forth a beautiful light to those around us. I am thankful for the Good Shepherd. Aren’t you?

Blessings – Lisa

A New Mindset

I experienced a genuine breakthrough at my latest counseling session. I have been struggling to understand the various personas who live inside me, not really understanding my fractured state. Please understand that I do not “lose” portions of time or have multiple personalities that take over my life, but, in my case, different personas live inside me, safeguarding some of my emotions. In particular, the little girl who lives in me is especially withdrawn and emotionally closed down. She is the one who took the memory of my sexual trauma away from me, along with the feelings associated with that abuse. In effect, she has been protecting me for over 50 years by blocking those memories.

However, I have been able to reconcile some of my other splintered pieces and gather them back to myself.  I have even learned not to fear those other personas but rather to love them for the roles that they have played in keeping me safe and sane through the years. Now that I acknowledge and recognize them, they have appeared to me during periods of fear or anxiety and helped me through those difficult times. But I have a different sort of relationship with the little girl.

I have not been able to allow her to come forward, because I have been deathly afraid of what she will reveal to me. If what happened to me as a child was so horrible that I completely blocked it out of my memory and consequently my personality fractured, then how am I going to handle the memory today? To be honest, I have been horribly afraid to learn the truth of what happened to me as a child. During the past year, bits and pieces of that devastating experience have risen to the surface of my consciousness, and they have been extremely difficult to handle.

I am amazed at how the body remembers things from the past so vividly that it is as if you are actually reliving and feeling them again. When this has happened to me during a counseling session, I have unintentionally—or maybe intentionally—put a stop to it and refused to go any further. I did not want to relive the pain and horror of the past. I was perfectly content for the little girl to go back into hiding and she was perfectly content to retreat behind that closed door.

Unfortunately, the negative consequence of my refusal to face the little girl was that, when she went away, she took some of my feelings away with her. For years I have struggled with feeling numb inside, but now I am just tired of feeling that way. I have worked on my marriage, using exercises designed to improve my relationship with my husband, but the numbness remained. I yearned to be different from how I was, and finally came to the conclusion that the only way to be truly whole again was to let the little girl step forward during counseling. I had to meet her face-to-face.

So I went into counseling the next time with a new mindset. I made up my mind not to be afraid. I would let the little girl say everything that needed to be said. Joshua 1:9 admonishes us, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go (NAS).” I had trembled before, but not today! I would be strong and courageous because I knew that God would be with me and help me face anything that the little girl shared. So I allowed her to share, and she did. As a result, more healing came into my heart and mind. And, though it was hard and worthwhile, it was not terrifying or horrible.

Is there something in your life that you are afraid to face? Is it something that would bring healing and move you toward wholeness? Know and believe this Truth: God is with us wherever we go. No matter how hard or how terrifying you think it will be, God is with you. Stop trembling. Do not be dismayed. Do whatever it is that you need to do to bring healing to those hurting places.

Blessings – Lisa

Are You Ready and Willing?

I have been reading the novel Rooms by James L. Rubart, the fictional story of a man who enters the rooms of his heart, soul, and mind, a story of restoration and breaking free from the chains that hold him captive. In the novel, the main character encounters himself as a child. By holding and crying with his child-self, he begins to find hope for healing from a traumatic childhood incident. Then God asks him whether he is ready and willing to heal that part of his heart that is still nine years old and still bound by the lies surrounding the event.

That question perfectly captures what has been going on in my own life. The little girl inside me is still six years old and in deep pain. In counseling, I have been trying to convince that little girl that all is okay now and that we can start feeling again. We do not have to keep our emotions locked away in a corner room of our heart. But I cannot seem to find her when I try to address this, and sometimes I wonder if it is because I am not quite ready and willing to follow through.

I agonize over the fact that as a defense mechanism I have splintered into different people who are all living inside me, and sometimes I wonder if it is just too weird. But like the character in the novel, I know that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, those whose hearts are literally broken. According to Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners” (NAS). This is the same verse that Jesus read when he stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth one Sabbath. Then he sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” Luke 4:21 (NAS).

As I read these verses, my heart came to some understanding of what was going on inside me. My counselor and I had discussed this very issue, but somehow the novel made it more real to me. As I kept reading the story, one more thing spoke loudly to me: The main character in the book speaks directly to God Himself, and the LORD tells him, “You have been chained. You’ve hidden your heart in the dark places. But I came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free […]. Your heart is the treasure of My Kingdom. And I have done everything to set it free. And I love you with an unfathomable, unquenchable love” (Rubart, Rooms).

Oh, to really believe that and to be totally set free from that traumatic event that happened so long ago. Oh, for the little girl in my heart who has closed herself in that corner room and is unwilling to come out to hear and believe. Freedom at last! Oh, Dear Friend, do you need to have a face-to-face encounter with that part of yourself that is still hurting? I know that that’s what I need. But I also know this: I don’t have to do it by myself, and neither do you. God will be there with us every step of the way. In fact, His Word promises that He will even go before us.

“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars. And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name” Isaiah 45:2 (NAS).

What a promise! He will help me shatter the door of hiding, emerge from the corner room, and receive the treasure of a full life that has been hidden away. Then I will know Him more fully as the God Who calls me by name. Restoration. Chains broken. Freedom. Am I ready and willing? Are you?

Blessings – Lisa

Content with the Person God created me to be

I have been struggling with who I am as a person. Though I have advanced far in my journey toward wholeness and freedom, there are still some things—particularly my introverted tendencies—with which I struggle. I found an article in Guideposts magazine about overcoming depression, written by a woman who had difficulties going to the grocery store! Of course, this caught my attention. I now had written documentation that I was not the only one who suffered with this embarrassing, heart-breaking dilemma.

Two other points in the article also spoke to me. The author asserted that God had made her introverted and that being introverted is okay. She also emphasized that she has had to accept herself as she is and not as she wishes to be. She writes, “The very things I like least about myself, indeed, may be those He values most” (Sherrill 64). What a novel thought. It is okay that I am content to sit at home and pray and write cards. Lately, I have felt the most urgent need to write prayers, words of encouragement, words of wisdom, and Scriptures to my children and grandchildren. (Now, if I sat at home all day every day and never left the house, that would be a whole other story. Rest assured that even though I spend more time at home now than in previous years, I still spend intentional time with my friends.)

I broached this issue with my counselor, and she shared with me the concept of analyzing my SHAPE as a person. SHAPE is an acronym representing different aspects of one’s being. As we talked and she quizzed me in depth about my likes and preferences, my SHAPE emerged:

            S—Spiritual Gifts                     Teaching and encouragement

            H—Heart/Passions                  Prayer

            A—Abilities/Talents                Organization

            P—Personality                          Introvert

            E—Experiences of Life            Molestation, my children’s struggles

Wow! I look at that list and feel such freedom. Because I have a passion for praying for my children and others, it is okay that I am being more diligent, organized, and intentional about doing it. Don’t writers go away to be by themselves to write and painters slip away to be alone to paint? So I have permission to find a quiet place to pray and to write cards of encouragement to those whom God brings to my mind. It is okay for me to forego buying conventional souvenirs when we take trips and to get thinking-of-you cards instead. My family thinks I am a little nutty now, but that is okay with me because I am becoming more and more content with the person God created me to be.

What about you? Are you depressed about your SHAPE because all you see are weaknesses or undesirable traits? Do you ever wish you could be someone else, or not have had the life experiences that God allowed in your life? Remember that even my molestation and all the problems it has caused over the years are part of my SHAPE now, and God can use even that.

Read this verse carefully, looking at it phrase by phrase. Colossians 3:15 assures us with, “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts—deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds—(in that peaceful state) to which (as members of Christ’s) one body you were also called (to live). And be thankful—appreciative, giving praise to God always” (Amplified Bible).

Friend, embrace the peaceful soul harmony of knowing that God created you to be the SHAPE that you are. Once you know and accept yourself as He created you, those questions are settled forever and you can live in the way He designed you to live. But always remember to give Him praise for His infinite grace, mercy, and wisdom in your life. How I pray that we can settle the matter in our hearts and live in the peace that Christ has for us. I am praying for you even now.

Blessings – Lisa

Elizabeth Sherrill, Guideposts, April 2014, pp. 60-64

SHAPE: developed by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church

The Quilt God is Making

For weeks following my surgery, I found myself going through a season of weariness, unmotivated and unable to write. Instead, I became consumed with reading a series of novels. I love to read mystery novels, but this time I left my comfort zone and picked up a book about quilting and quilters. And I don’t even like to sew! In fact, I gave my sewing machine away to my daughter-in-law, who uses it to create clothing and gifts for our grandchildren, for herself, and for others. Unlike my mother, who could visualize and then realize all sorts of sewing projects, I just cannot make sense of the patterns or the instructions. Fabric stores make me want to run out screaming.

So I do not know why I was drawn to this particular book at the library, when all I wanted was another mystery novel to read. But this particular book spoke to me, and I knew I had to read the entire series, and read it in order. And that’s what I have done, even though I have had to go to different libraries in different towns to find all of them. To date, I have finished fourteen of the novels. These books are all about women and their relationships as they struggle through tough situations. And today, finally, after all these weeks of apathy and aversion to writing the lessons that God places on my heart, I feel the need to write.

As I finished the fourteenth book, my heart was just bursting with gratitude to God for letting me see and believe a great truth and for giving me a word: quilting. That’s right. Quilting. But I had to ask God to explain what that word really means. God, what do you want me to see?

I have discovered that a quilter can use diverse materials including fabric from a store, hand-me-downs, old clothing, rags, scraps from other sewing projects, fine silk. Just about anything can be used to make a quilt. And quilts have many different uses. Quilts can tell stories, keep people warm, or constitute a dowry. They can be used as secret signals or be entered into competitions. Quilts are used for bed coverings, clothing, and art pieces.

Sometimes quilters work alone, and sometimes they work in groups. God, what are you saying to me through these books? The recurring theme through many of the novels is the idea of withstanding hard times. Even though troubling times come to every person’s life, a beautiful quilt can be wrought for that particular season. In the books, sometimes generations had to pass before the quilt was found and its story told, but the outcome was still beautiful.

This realization spoke to me today, for I have been struggling with the ugliness of life. I wrestle with the reality of the vicious, senseless pain that people inflict upon one another. Lives are broken, and all around me families are struggling with the same questions. God gave me this series of books about quilts to show me that something truly beautiful can come from the scraps of our lives if we choose to give those scraps to Him. Then He can cover us with His quilt, clothe us in His righteousness, and create a beautiful new story from the broken pieces of our lives.

God uses the good times and the bad times of our lives. He pieces together the different shades and hues just so, and the variety of His quilt patterns is endless. Each person’s quilt story is uniquely her own with her own patterns and colors. One day, when I am gone, my quilt will be a testimony of God’s working in my life—but only if I let Him quilt it. I can either refuse and run away and rip out the work He has done in my life, or I can trust in His handiwork and believe that the result will be beautiful to behold.

What about you? Are you struggling with all the pieces of your life? Is it hard for you to believe that God can use the bad as well as the good to make your life a beautiful quilt?

When I was in Boston, I attended a quilt exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. The quilts were magnificent! The color choices, materials, and patterns seemed limitless. I was amazed by the time and effort spent on each quilt. Even the smallest detail was not overlooked as the quilter completed his or her masterpiece. That is just like our God. Every single second of your life, God has been working on your quilt and He will not stop working on it until He has decided that it is finished and complete.

Ephesians 2:10 begins, “For we are His workmanship.” Isn’t that a wonderful picture? God is working on us, and we can see why He is doing that, for the verse continues, “created in Christ Jesus for good works […] (NAS).” Believe with me today that our heavenly Quiltmaker knows what He is doing and He will not finish your quilt until every single stitch is just as He wants it to be. And then, it will be a beautiful thing to behold.

Blessings – Lisa 

Faithful and True

Even after years of counseling, I was still fighting a black presence in my life that lingered on. I was stuck, unable to move on, unable to overcome. I needed a quiet time again, and so God gave me one. After a long battle with health issues, the time finally arrived for me to have a hysterectomy. Following the surgery, I stayed on the couch in my pajamas for two weeks, and God used that time to work on my heart and to share some of His Truths with me.

In particular, God led me to a devotional in the book Come Away, My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts. This is the passage that spoke directly to me:

“You are in My hands. You are not keeping yourself; I am keeping you. If I choose to hide you away, it is for a purpose. If I wish to give you a time of rest, it is for thine own good. Nothing is amiss that is in My will. Do not think that it will be as times in the past. I have deeper lessons to teach you.” (Page 148)

So I began to wonder just what deep lesson God meant for me to learn concerning the black presence in my life. And, when I least expected it, I found the lesson on TV, not from an evangelist but from a character on a television drama.

This fictional character had been shot in the chest and bore a terrible scar on her chest that symbolized the incident and reminded her of the fear that now filled her life. Throughout the episode, she battled her fear alone and would not accept help from anyone. At the end of the episode, her conversation with a counselor caught my attention and I rewound the scene and wrote down what was said. In essence, the character believes that being wounded by a gunshot has defined her and made her who she is. She longs to be more than that, but she does not know how to make peace with the scars on her heart. She asks, “How do I do it?” Thoughtfully, the counselor replies that the real question should be, “Are you ready?”

For some reason, that dialogue opened a dam within my heart and my tears began to flow. I was in physical pain at the time, recovering from surgery, unable to lift anything, and confined to the couch. I wanted to do more than just take it easy. But I knew that I had to be patient and let my body heal, and that afterwards the scars would just be scars and would not hurt any more.

Similarly, I had let the emotional scars from my past define who I was and was still suffering their painful effects. I said that I wanted to be different, but in reality I feared learning the whole truth of what had happened. I live in pain, asking myself, “How do I do it?” when perhaps I should be asking, “Am I ready?” I searched my heart and knew that the honest answer was no. I was not ready. In fact, I was afraid of the memories and the emotional trauma that my black persona holds. So, what next, Lord?

Another passage from the devotional book answered that question for me:

“I would spare you if I could do so in love; but this kind of protecting love would be false, and would rob you of much treasure. I only love you truly as I give you My best. My best cannot come to you without pain, even as it could not come to the Lord Jesus without pain. Pain is the result of sin, true, but sin is still an existing problem to be dealt with. It must be grappled with. I want to make you strong. I have brought you to this place. Make the most of it.” (Page 148)

What happened to me as a child was the sin of another person, but I needed to deal with it, to move on and become strong. And I needed to address my own sin of not trusting God to be with me through the healing process and to ask forgiveness for my fear and doubt. That was the real issue, the deeper lesson that God was trying to teach me.

God led me to Revelation 21:5, “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true’” (NASB). Yes, God alone can make all things new, heal all scars, and take away all pain. He alone can make me more than I am today. I believe that the words He has given me are Faithful and True. I truly do want to make the most of my counseling and confront the black enigma in my life.

What about you? Do you have a scar that will not heal, that keeps you stuck in your pain? Is the real issue your readiness to heal? If so, let’s ask God for the strength to be ready. Let’s ask Him to take away our fear and replace it with action. Only then can we ask the question, “How do I do it?” and really mean it. Let’s do it today, for He promises that He can make all things new. I cannot wait. How about you?

Blessings – Lisa

The Hope of a Whole Life

For many years, I have been looking for a picture of a tree to hang in my dining room—not just any tree, but a specific image that I have in mind. It has to be a leafless tree, a large tree standing alone in the middle of a hazy winter day, an image that fills most of the space within the frame. Every time I visit a shop that sells prints, I look for my tree, but for the longest time I could not find the exact picture that I have conjured in my mind. But today I did find just the image for which I have been searching. I found my tree in the music video for the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. There it stood, leafless, alone, on a sunless day.

As I watched the video and listened to the words of the song, I began to understand why this lonely tree held some meaning for me. My counselor has diagnosed me with Dissociative Identity Disorder, a condition formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. This diagnosis has been difficult for me to grasp, to understand what it really means. Through counseling, however, I have come to realize that there are different parts within me that are making my walk to wholeness more challenging. As my counseling sessions have progressed, I have come to understand that my child’s mind could not process what had happened to me, so in response my personality “splintered” for my protection. But I have begun to work through this issue and I feel happier and literally more at one with myself. I am happier and freer, but there is still a black spot inside me that is numb and emotionless.

This brings me back to the “Worn” video. As I looked at the tree in the video, I realized that it looks exactly like what my black place feels like. For an instant in the video, the tree is surrounded by a black mist that bubbles and whirls, reminding me even more of the dark entity that is inside me. The black mist is visible for only a moment, before being dispelled by the sun, but I see it clearly in that brief time. I have watched the video over and over, and I see that black mist every time.

The song lyrics have also spoken to me:

            I’m tired, I’m worn

            My heart is heavy

            From the work it takes […]

            Let me know the struggle ends

            I wanna know a song can rise

            From the ashes of a broken life

            And all that’s dead inside can be reborn

Last Sunday our pastor preached on I Thessalonians 1:3: “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father” (NASB). I heard God speak to me through the words of the song and the scripture. I have been feeling heavy of heart from the work it is taking for me to become a whole person. It is a struggle. But God’s Word says that our past work and our present labor will result in a Hope because of our steadfastness!

The song lyrics ask for God’s assurance that a song can rise and that what is dead inside can be reborn. That is my plea also, that one day that tall leafless tree standing in the middle of winter will be transformed like the one in the video, soaking up the bright light of the sun and full of glorious green leaves. Isn’t that a wonderful picture to behold? Through our hard work and steadfastness, we have the Hope of a whole life. Do not grow weary. Do not be worn. One day we will be made whole, if not on earth then in heaven, where we will be in the presence of our God and Father.

Blessings – Lisa

Changed

There is a song by Rascal Flatts called “Changed” that has been running through my mind. The lyrics and the melody have sort of gotten stuck in my brain. Changed—yes, I am changed because of what God has been doing in my life, but I have started asking myself, “How have I changed?” Why is this song playing over and over in my head, even keeping me awake at night? In the middle of one of those sleepless nights, I finally got up to tackle this question.

When I got up, I felt a real need to write about this issue, but I was not sure where to begin. Eventually I decided to begin by examining the prayers that I have been praying for my children. For weeks, I had been praying specifically for their physical healing, because each of them was dealing with ailments that were causing real distress in her life. But, rather than seeing positive results from my prayers, I was seeing disasters in their lives instead. It was crazy. One of my daughters seemed to come down with a new ailment every week and had even been diagnosed with a mild heart problem. The other daughter suddenly came down with the flu and sent me an SOS for help. Of course, I immediately packed a bag and headed out the door to take care of her, but before I could leave the house I received a text from my daughter-in-law (my third daughter) saying that she was in the midst of a miscarriage. I could not go to be with her, unfortunately, because of distance, but I did begin to pray for her and her family.

But I almost felt as if my prayers were jinxing my loved ones rather than blessing them, and I really struggled with what was happening in their lives. And there’s that word again—“Changed.” How does this word fit into what is happening in my life and my daughters’ lives? I asked God for an answer. But at first there was no answer, only silence. It was the middle of the night, so I thought about something else that had been keeping me awake. Maybe God wanted me to write about lost jewelry.

I do not wear much jewelry because I am allergic to most of the metals that are used in jewelry. But there were two particular pieces that were very special to me, a ring that my grandmother had given me and a necklace that my husband had given me as a wedding present. Some years earlier, I had given these items to my daughters as symbols of our bond and pledges of our love. But sadly my younger daughter later lost my grandmother’s ring during a very stressful and challenging period in our relationship. Even now I want to weep when I think of the heartbreak that she caused me, not because of the lost ring but because of the alienation and betrayal that I felt during that time. My older daughter, on the other hand, cherished the necklace that I handed down to her, until it was stolen. She was devastated, and I want to weep for her, too, because of the sadness that she experienced when the necklace was lost to her.

Changed. Oh, how I have changed. The ring represents a time of depression, bitterness, unforgiveness, and hurt as my younger daughter moved further and further away from me emotionally and spiritually. The necklace, though, represents a tender and loving heart moved by loss and sadness but full of hope, joy, forgiveness, and healing. I am beginning to see the change. I am not the person I once was. Now I am the mom who diligently prays for the healing of my children and believes that God will make a difference in their lives no matter what the circumstances seem to say.

Changed. How thankful I am that I don’t have to stay stuck in the misery and depression of yesterday. Instead, God is at work in my life, changing those things that I cannot change. I Thessalonians 5:23-24 promises, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (NASB).

Oh, what a promise, that God Himself will sanctify us, will change us, because He is Faithful. Dear Lord, thank you for the changes that You have brought to pass in my life. The road to recovery is full of changes. Can you see them? Believe, even when your prayers seem to jinx your loved ones, believe that He can heal hurt and broken lives and make us blameless at His coming. We are changed!

Blessings – Lisa

Sabbath Rest

At times, my counseling sessions can be intense and hard, both emotionally and physically exhausting. As I remember more and more of the horrible events of my “blackout years,” I feel psychologically drained and bodily taxed. When this happens, I sometimes neglect my journal and my writing. Then, when I don’t write, I don’t get to release all those feelings about what I am going through.

As I write this devotional, it is Easter, but I do not feel up to the holiday season. I am struggling still with who I am as a person, and just coasting through my life. On a typical day, I rise early, have a short devotion, walk with a friend, spend a few moments with my husband, drive my sister-in-law to work, have breakfast with my daughter, clean up the kitchen, do some chores, and take a shower. By the time I get myself ready to face the day, it is time for lunch! So I have lunch with my husband and daughter, and clean up the kitchen—again. On paper, this routine does not look like much, but it wears me out. I am always ready for a nap after lunch, but I rarely get one.

This month in particular has been filled with so many medical appointments, crises, special events, and chores that I hardly have the time to think or breathe. In particular, I recently received the disturbing news that I have a mass in my breast and need a biopsy. I have peace about this situation, but it nevertheless weighs on my mind and heart. Yesterday, I spent the entire afternoon on the couch. I could barely move. Eventually, I picked up a book and decided to read a few pages before cooking supper.

Those few pages addressed the subject of Sabbath rest, a time for sitting still before God and resting in Him. Later that night, I glanced through a few pages of my Guideposts magazine, and the one story that drew my attention was about having a Sabbath rest. Wow. God did it again. So I thought, “Okay, God, what about this Sabbath rest thing? What do you want me to do?” But before I got my answer, life happened.

My biopsy was scheduled for a Thursday, and on the preceding Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday my days were filled from morning to bedtime. When Thursday arrived, my life came to a screeching halt. Having the biopsy forced me to stop and rest for a little while, to sit at home and not to move, to be still and to listen for what God had for me to hear. As I listened, I heard the comforting message that He is in control, whether the mass is benign or malignant. (It is benign, by the way, but I had to wait from Thursday to the next Monday to get the pathology report.) In the meantime I was to rest in Him and to give Him all of the what-ifs that were trying to creep into my brain.

On the second day after the procedure, when I removed one of the bandages and took my first shower, I realized how far I had come concerning my body and medical check-ups where it was necessary for me to undress. I was very anxious, but I was not wearing that “I have been molested” badge, so therefore “I freak out if anyone sees or touches me.” That epiphany was great news to me. I thanked God that He had removed that apprehension from my life; I no longer become a basket case when I have a mammogram. I never expected to cross that hurdle, but in reality I had jumped cleanly over it and won that race with flying colors.

The other lesson that God showed me was that my husband and daughter love me to the extreme. Lately, I had felt unloved and unappreciated, losing myself because I was doing so much for the two of them. My husband’s job had become demanding, and I felt as if I were in second place in his life. Plus, all of my daughter’s medical issues had worn me out. But my dear husband and daughter rose to the occasion, doing my chores and waiting on me while I recuperated. What a gift!

God showed me that I need to practice this Sabbath rest more often. He used an urgent medical issue to make me slow down and stop, and now I am thankful that He did. God taught me to rest. Like the women who went to Jesus’ tomb to prepare his body for burial, but were forced to wait before they could accomplish their goal, I too had to abide by the instructions that God gives us in Luke 23:56b: “And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (NASB). 

I still have biopsy results to hear, I still have a busy husband, I still have a daughter with her own medical challenges, but I can walk so much easier now, because I have rested. Do you need a Sabbath rest, too? Do you need to stop and let God take over? Don’t wait until your life goes crazy. Plan your Sabbath rest now. Oh, the marvelous things that God will reveal to you when you step aside and wait. I would not have recognized and rejoiced over the victories in my life if I had not taken a Sabbath rest. Isn’t God good?

Blessings – Lisa

God is Faithful Today!

Today I made an important discovery: After years of work, I am now on the other side of the mountain on my journey to freedom.

I was not able to go to counseling for about four months during my daughter’s recovery from foot surgery, and during that time my spiritual life was just on autopilot. I did not do much journaling, and I did not work on what I had learned in counseling. During those four months, I essentially became a recluse. But finally an opportunity arose where I could return to counseling. To prepare for my session with my counselor, I looked back through my journal. And I was awed by how much I had changed during the previous year, before my daughter’s surgery. I had resumed teaching Sunday School and singing in the church choir. I had begun to reconnect with people whom I had neglected.

Sitting face to face with my counselor, I tried to talk about what I had learned about myself and my relationships with family members, but instead I was forced to admit that one area of my life was just a train wreck. During my four months homebound with my daughter, I had gained weight and was wearing baggy clothes again. I had exercised less and eaten more than I should. As a result, I was depressed and even felt ugly again. But, sitting in my counselor’s office, I made up my mind not to go that route again, not to beat myself up and let Dumb, Stupid, and Ugly rule my life. So, instead of going off the deep end this time, I asked God for help with this dilemma. I needed some word, some encouragement.

God gave me the word that I needed, by reminding me of an incident in my life that had recently occurred. A few days before the session with my counselor, my daughter and I had actually started on a weight loss program together, one involving a point system. But I had experienced a disastrous failure early in the program when, in just one meal, I used not only all my points for the day but also wiped out a whole week’s worth of “extra” points. It was the first day of the week, and I had only the bare minimum of points left! Needless to say, I was upset with myself.

But here is where God spoke to me. He showed me that letting my spiritual life slide during my confinement at home was just like using all those weekly extra points at once. In the weight loss program, even if you use up all of your extra points, when a new day arrives you still have all of the points that you need for that day. I heard God say to me, “Today, you have all that you need for today.”

How I needed to hear that message. So today I reject Ugly and live again in the truth. Even though I messed up, I am able to start again. Lamentations 3:21-23 tells us, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (NASB). Every day—every morning—I can walk and live and breathe and know that God is faithful, even when I am not.

What about you, dear Friend?  As you walk on the other side of the mountain, have you backtracked a little and feel frustrated? Take heart in this promise: His lovingkindness and compassion are new every morning. His grace, love, and mercy are new every morning. Therefore, we can start new every morning and know that today we have all that we need. What a happy thought for today. 

Blessings – Lisa