Posted in Faith

Darkness

Darkness settled in.

It’s not the first time, and I know it won’t be the last, I tell myself.

Instead of wearing warmth and joy, my bones are clinging to darkness.

Such weight.

Why do I enjoy these garments of pain?  I know better.  I know each and every time the enemy shows up to harass me, and I give him my joy so willingly.  Instead of removing the heavy chain mail of the past, I opt for shifting my weight and adjusting the heaviness until I can just barely manage to walk.

For a full day, the darkness consumes me.

Call a friend, text someone, reach out.  But I can’t.

I can’t put a name to the darkness that is swallowing me up.  I don’t know how to explain what I’m feeling.  Old images of painful memories are coming to the surface and I can’t stop them.  I can instantly feel like I did in those moments: helpless, scared, angry.  Won’t anyone defend me?  Won’t anyone come to my rescue?

And as the memories and images replay over and over in my mind, I begin to get angrier. They are images of those who have bullied me, hurt me, left me, abandoned me, hated me, slandered me.  Clearly my heart has not forgiven them.

I begin to accuse: Weren’t you supposed to be there for me, God?  Weren’t you the one that told me you’d be with me always?  Where are you?  Look at how my enemies are positioned, laughing at me and hating me?  How can you allow this to continue?  I feel unloved and unwanted yet again.

In my mind’s eye, I am on a cliff, that is stretched out across a huge abyss.  All I can see for miles is desert and drop-offs.  There is one clear path, but it begins to crumble underneath me as I walk.  Panicked, I begin to sprint, only to have the rocks fall faster and heavier to the openness beneath me.

And as I sit in darkness that is all-consuming, fearing the end of myself, my mind transitions to the book of Psalms.  David is a master at crying out to God.  He is so persistent, unafraid to scream at the Lord, begging for answers and wondering of His existence.

The mirror shifts to me.  I am David.

I want to know NOW where God has been.  Why are all of these old memories here again, taunting and hurting me even as I have moved forward? Why is this allowed??

So I reach for my Bible in the stillness of the house.  I am alone, yet I know that I’m not.

The darkness is still here.

And in the recesses of my mind, I know the Lord says He is too.

I open to book of Psalms.

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I journey to Psalm 94, unsure why.  I am just looking for hope.

Any shred of light to take me out of here, out of the darkness that surrounds me…

Verse 14 begins to bring me comfort.

“For the Lord will not reject His people; he will never forsake his inheritance.”

As I move further through the psalm, I see Him providing protection and confirmation.

“Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.  Who will rise up for me against the wicked?  Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?  Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.”

And then verse 18 happened:

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me great joy.

He heard me.

In the darkness, He heard me.

He saw what was happening in my mind, with my feet giving way to emptiness, and gave me a direct Scripture to combat it.

Tears coat my face.  When did I start to cry?

I make an instant choice to accept His answer, and I repent of my selfish focus, for allowing the enemy to use the past to remind me of who I was.  I accept His consolation.  His comfort.  His joy.

And the warrior in me, though loving the chain mail, begins to shed the heaviness.  I peel off layer after layer until there is just me.

The daughter of the King.

The one He died for.

The one He rose again for.

The one he defends in the darkness that I can’t see.

The one that He loves.

The one He watches over constantly.

The one He never forsakes.

I accept the TRUTH.

And with my new Spirit armor, I walk from room to room, declaring my home a sanctuary of His peace, His love, His joy, His presence. I rebuke and cast out anything that isn’t from Him, and explain that it isn’t allowed here.  ANYMORE.  EVER.

A peace rests on me.  I didn’t know to ask for it.  I didn’t know how.  I just know it came.

I try to re-imagine the thoughts that just haunted me, but they are gone.  Mist and fog replace the concrete memories.

He has come for me.  He defended me.  I sense joy in my heart again.  The veil is lifted.

The Lord is the Lord of my Home, my Heart, my Marriage, my SOUL.

.

So, this morning, when the enemy brings to mind some past experiences to condemn me, I fight back.  I’ve put on my new armor in Ephesians 6 which is so light I can’t even tell it’s on, and my voice is ready for praise.

The power of Jesus and HIS NAME is something I cannot forget.

Demons do exist.  They shudder and tremble at the name of Jesus.

Do you ever say it out loud?  Do you ever scream it in response?

JESUS conquered death and all that is coming for Christians, because He is the VICTOR.

There is power, strength, deliverance, mercy, grace and joy in HIS NAME.

THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES.

Darkness has no place in the light.

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Posted in Faith

Seeing purpose through pain

Fellow Bible readers: How many times do we read passages in the Bible over and over, but just once we seem to read it differently and where there once were just words, suddenly there are intricate jewels that are aimed directly at our hearts?

Gleaning wisdom

While reading a passage from Scripture this morning, my eyes were opened to an incredible characteristic about our Father.

In 2 Peter 3:9, the passage begins, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is PATIENT toward you…”.  I couldn’t even read on. The light bulb went on!

spiritual connection

I want to share with you two revelations I had.

My first thought was the countless times I perceived God as being slow.  Many times in self-righteous anger I had cried out, “What is taking so long?!”  I was also reminded of other times when Christian friends talked about making a difficult decision, but were still undecided because they felt God wasn’t answering their prayer.

We’ve all been there.  Don’t we initially blame God when things don’t happen the way we want them?  But oh when they do–to our unbelieving friends, we proclaim the goodness of God and miracles, answered prayers, yada yada yada…it seems we’re ready to parade Him when the outcome is what we want, not so much when we are told to wait.  We really need to check our hearts and be careful of how we “sell” Jesus.  That is certainly not His intended goal.

Let’s take a look at something about God we may have never noticed before.  In the above passage, it begins with the Lord.  God wrote the Bible using humans. He took the time to speak to all of us and state that He is very aware of our desire for him to “speed things up”.  How do we know this?  He stated how some count His being slow as slowness.  He is not a fool.  We are the created beings.

However, He also clues us into something more detailed about Himself.  He elaborates to say where we consider Him to be slow, it’s not that He’s taking his sweet, old-time delighting in our agony.  He is actually being patient.

So what is so significant about this revelation?  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break that down.  What does patience mean?  We’re usually waiting for someone or something, right?  So where we’re becoming impatient and restless, God is being patient…for who?  US!  He isn’t moving or fulfilling requests like a genie because He has a well-developed and thought out plan!  Imagine that!

Are you feeling as humbled as I am now? I can remember so many times that I’ve doubted God heard my cry, but maybe, just maybe He was waiting for ME to do something.  This reminded me of a time that I didn’t understand where my life was headed, and I was getting tired of waiting.

I was twenty-one years old and hating life because I had found out that my boyfriend of two years had allegedly cheated on me with a married friend of ours.  The pain I felt inside was pure anguish.  I uplifted this guy and thought so highly of him.  Maybe it was the “idea” of him, and not his true self that I was worshipping, but nonetheless, the hurt was unbearable.

I was working at an office in Broadview Heights then and I was on a break all by myself in the back of the office, facing the woods. It was snowing outside and I was freezing, but at the time I was a smoker.

I hadn’t had a serious relationship before this man, and in my fear of being alone, I didn’t want to leave him, though I knew I deserved better.  I was scared, because he was five years older than me, and I didn’t have the best self-image.  I figured it would be best to talk it out with him, forgive him and move forward, but the anger of betrayal kept eating at me, and I was afraid I would never be able to trust him again.

Somehow in the midst of trying to think about how to solve my relational conflict, a voice inside me said, “Maybe you should just end it.”  And I knew the voice wasn’t talking about my relationship, but more severely ALL of them….as in, my death.

Then I began to think about it…car accident, slit wrists, etc.  How would I do it?  I can’t even believe that I was entertaining details about how to die, because I knew I could never do it, however facing my boyfriend and our mutual friend was the hardest thing I’d ever faced, and I knew mentally I wasn’t ready for it.  Instead of dealing with the hurt, I wanted OUT.

Bear in mind, I realize the selfishness of these thoughts left no room to consider my parents, siblings, friends, etc.  I wasn’t worried about how my death would affect anyone else. I  just didn’t want to deal with my relationship.  Looking back, it’s absolutely absurd.

And as I was contemplating all of these crazy ideas that I’m certain now was one of Satan’s deliberate attacks on my soul, it began to snow slowly.  I was still standing outside, half of a cigarette to go, watching the snowflakes land on cars, trees and eventually my coat sleeve.

I began to cry, because I didn’t know what to do, and my feeling of being helpless was overwhelming.  I took another hit off the cigarette and then looked down at my brown Carhartt coat.

All of the snowflakes were beautiful.

I laughed to myself.  How could I find beauty in these flakes?  And inside my soul, I heard another voice, again-not my own, say, “I make each of these different for a reason.”

I almost choked.  I coughed a few times.

And I took a few minutes to see the designs and patterns of these crazy, beautiful snowflakes before they were absorbed into my coat.  I put out my cigarette and just let out the cry that was at the corner of my eyes.

I knew it was God telling me that He knew my problem seemed so enormous at that moment, and I was unprepared, but in the scope of my life, that one moment learning about the betrayal would not define me.

My Lord did.

He designs snowflakes so distinctly and unique from each other.  I am not sure if I ever took the time to pay attention to that fact, but God sure had my attention that day.

I was a new believer.  I had just given my life to God when I was twenty, and was still not fully surrendering all parts of my life to Him.  But I knew of His presence and I definitely knew His voice.  That day, I stopped the thoughts of suicide in their tracks.  That is the only time I ever considered something like that, and am thankful that God made it snow.  He took a situation that I deemed overwhelming and unbearable and gave me purpose.

I went home, talked with my boyfriend, forgave him and told him that we had to cut ties with those “friends” if we were going to stay together.  I also told him that I had trust issues and was scared.  Forgiving him and starting over at that point didn’t save us from a divorce six years later, but it definitely started a course of action in my heart that I would depend on God and choose to see the designs and intricate patterns of His creation–including myself.

The second revelation I noticed in the passage listed above is the purpose of that passage.  Second Peter chapter three talks about the end of days, or the day that the Lord returns.  To state in verse nine, that God is “not slow to fulfill His promise” means that He will not return until everyone has had a chance to hear of His love and mercy.

He is being patient in not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to have an opportunity to see Him through general revelation and meet with Him through special revelation.  He has revealed Himself, as Romans 1:20 tells us.  He definitely has constructed a well-maintained world that He is a part of, and He still interacts with.  However, He is promising that the reason He hasn’t come back yet is because there is still work to be done on our parts.  We are to continue to spread the message (Matthew 28:16-20) and when everyone has heard, through God’s patience, He will return to collect His children.

God does indeed love all of us.  John 3:16 tells us that He loves us so much that He gave His only Son Jesus Christ, a part of Himself, yet completely separate, to come to the Earth and die for us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a picture of the Milky Way, but it’s where we live.  For some reason unbeknownst to us little Earthlings, God chose this planet and our people (red, yellow, black and white), to be saved from the lives we didn’t choose through sin.

This amazing God who created the universe, the stars, planets, people, species, water, atmosphere, etc.  is the same God who is calling you to know Him.  He wants you to see what He’s doing, He wants you to see love in His people and come to know the truth about true love.  I live in the United States and unfortunately here, a lot of us are blessed beyond measure but we take it for granted.  We have so much, and yet still want more.

Jesus didn’t die for us to have happy lives and live until we die with no use for anyone else.  He died and rose so that we could see the power of God through the defeat of death!  Without death to fear, WHAT IS THERE TO FEAR!?  NOTHING!  May you know Him and the power of His love.  Remember that He isn’t slow in anything, but He may be patient because He has a purpose…one that includes YOU.

Posted in Faith

Taking chances

Five years ago today was a sunny, cool Saturday in North Olmsted, Ohio.  I was twenty-six years old and scared, yet excited.  Around ten in the morning, I was standing in the living room of the house that my husband and I had bought two years earlier, and was starting to move boxes into cars and trucks of family members and friends.  All of my belongings had been stacked into the corner of the room for quick and easy loading.  I was moving into my new apartment down the street.  My husband knew that I was leaving him, so he went into work that day.  He was still in shock that I had signed a lease to move out.  I knew he didn’t hate me, but he wasn’t supporting my decision.  It meant we would have to admit we truly had marital problems.  So, at my insistence, we were going to attempt a separation.  To me, it was the Christian solution to an unhealthy marriage, to see if we could salvage any part of our seven year relationship.

After sipping some coffee to get started, my mother, sister and brother-in-law helped me load up their vehicles.  Two really good friends grabbed furniture and loaded a pickup truck.  We worked tirelessly until every piece of furniture was in the apartment, and then everyone left me to unpack.  Within four hours, everything I owned was in my new apartment and I was free from my husband.  That last sentence might sound puzzling to some, but to me, it is justified.

The feelings I had in that initial first moment alone were incredible.  I was frightened, fearful and doubtful.  Had I made the right choice?  I was also excited because I knew some friends were taking me out that evening to celebrate my new step, but I was also feeling sorry for my husband.  He would return home to an empty home and hardly any furniture.  It would be a new step for him too.

My now ex-husband and I had many differences and we had allowed alcohol and distrust to separate something that quite possibly could have been something of value.  He was controlling and manipulative.  He was insecure in his own skin and overbearing.  And the worst part was that he didn’t see it, nor did he want to address it.  I too, had a laundry list of sins that I was working through and some that I was also not addressing, and it was just a toxic environment.  Something had to give.

I had to leave to grow. 

I felt sheltered and stepped on.  I was insecure as a result, and completely empty.  I believed in God and knew that He loved me, but I wasn’t living a noble life, nor was I proud of the shell I had become.  Leaving my husband to seek some peace was my first step at doing something out of the ordinary and I was hoping to have a resolution with my then husband.  I figured time apart would heal wounds, create love where there wasn’t any, and maybe God could fix us.

In the weeks that followed, my husband would call me to tell me that he was so alone, that he couldn’t go on without me, that it was hard to live…and for a while, I believed him.  Three weeks after I had moved out, he invited me out to have a drink with him (it was his 32nd birthday) and we talked.  He was still remorseful for his controlling behavior, for his lack of knowing how to love me, and for his lack of trusting in God.  My biggest complaint was his need to get affirmation from his coworkers who had drinking problems.  He chose them over me, and broke our covenant.  I was forgiving, but also run down from the mental and verbal abuse over the years.  His words meant nothing to me at this point.  I told him that I wasn’t seeing anyone, that I was still faithful, and that I was hopeful that our year apart would be fruitful and not without some merit.

I had just been let go from a job due to lack of work for me, and was waiting for unemployment to kick in.  I didn’t ask for money from him, even though he was still financially liable for me.  I sat next to him at the bar watching his mouth move, but inside I felt so sorry for this person I once thought would be the father of children I was certain the Lord would bless us with.  As he played his game of trying to woo me back to the house so that we could “kiss and make up”, I remember feeling a strength inside of me that I didn’t know I had, and for the first time, I stood up before he did, said, “No thanks” and just left.  It was his birthday and I’m sure he felt I owed him something, but I was beginning to change internally.  God was working in me, and even though I wasn’t constantly aware of His presence, I knew that I was spiritually protected.  Walking down the stairs of that bar leaving him with his mouth open was priceless.

Two weeks later when I thought we were going to meet to go over the separation paperwork, he invited me to the same bar to talk (I probably should’ve been skeptical at that point) and as I entered the establishment, there was a blond girl sitting extremely close to him, with her hand on his mid-thigh.  I was taken aback and was caught completely off guard.  I sat down next to his friend and ordered my beer.  It was awkward to say the least.  These two guys had gotten off work, met up with a woman who was comfortable enough with my husband to stroke his thigh and I was obviously the soon-to-be-ex-wife.   I was the outcast.  Why was I sitting there with them at all??

Then a light went on for me.  This was his way of showing me that he could move on.  I realized we would not be speaking about lawyers or separation terms at all.  I proceeded to drink beers (many of them) and do shots with the bartender.  I said some things I didn’t need to, but it didn’t matter.  My husband and this woman got up to leave, and so did his friend.  I could hardly see straight I was so angry.  I kept drinking while they left.  Then I started drunk texting him some horrible things.  I became self-destructive.  And I let Satan win that night.

After probably six drinks and multiple shots, I drove (assumedly all over the road) to the house that I had moved out of a month prior, threatened his new girlfriend and asked her to leave since my name was still on the house.  She refused and I grabbed my ex and physically pushed him against the side of the house and told him that he didn’t know who he was messing with.  He was three inches taller than me, and at least seventy pounds heavier.  He looked scared and I was asked to leave, so I got into my car, peeled out of the driveway and drove back to my apartment a complete wreck.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.  I realized that I was the one who wanted out of the marriage. I was the one who left.  I had chosen to rent another residence so that we could repair what we had built.  I believed he was able to be trusted and that he was still being faithful to me.

I, however, was the only one who wanted a commitment that would last. 

And for the first time, I also sadly realized that I had chosen a man who didn’t want anything I’ve listed.   He was simple and only wanted a woman on his arm.  And because I was asking for him to consider my feelings and goals, I was in shock because he had replaced me within a month’s time frame.

There was a woman in my house, laying next to my husband, who had a Harley in MY garage parked right next to his.  I could never compete with that.  That would never be me.  I wasn’t that type of girl.  I was a Christian who wrote short stories, downloaded music, met up with friends for drinks here and there…I would never be the barhopping wife he wanted who would help him please his ego.  He had chosen what he wanted, and since he couldn’t control me anymore, he moved on.

And the next morning, I woke up to a restraining order.  This quiet Christian woman who just wanted peace, had created havoc the night before, and now was being told to not return to the home my name was still legally attached to.  I was never violent with him; my words are my sharpest weapon.  What had I done?  And yet, it was a wake-up call I needed.

I write all of this to help myself see the difference in who I was five years ago, and to reassure myself that even though my intention to leave my husband was initially temporary, it was also the step I needed to see who he truly was.  We screamed and argued for years.  We dated (if you call it that) for six full years before getting married, and I still chased after him for a year and a half even after obtaining his last name.  The man didn’t want a devoted wife, he wanted a trophy.  He wanted someone who would dress provocatively so that it would draw attention to him.

I wasn’t that woman.  I still am not that woman.  I didn’t/don’t need public affirmation.  I just wanted a home with a dog and a family.  I wanted to write and serve God and do things with family.  He wanted parties every weekend  with friends sleeping over so we could rehash the craziness of the night before after we woke up with hangovers.  We were living two different lives under the same roof and I was oblivious because of my dreams (delusions?).

I believe I fell in love with the idea of being in love with him, but not who he was.  I’m not the first woman to do that, and I won’t be the last.  But we really need to know these things before entering into relationships with men.  They don’t need the expectations, and we don’t need the heartache.  We need to step into relationships when we know that the man is a man of God who will treat us as God would.  Or the best he can, this side of Heaven.

I also write this as a way of therapy.  This morning waking up and looking at the date, I am reminded of my independence.  I am reminded of my family reassuring me that God would forgive my divorce because I was biblically released, that I would be blessed for leaving an unhealthy marriage, and for starting over so that Christ could live in me and manifest Himself through my life without fear of what my ex would think.  I wanted to grow spiritually.  Living in that home, I was never able to do that.

I made many mistakes.  I drank a lot.  I smoked more cigarettes than I had in years.  I craved the bar scene and couldn’t stand to be alone in my apartment.  I worried about my ex, what he was doing, what he wasn’t doing, etc.  I filled my hours with beer, “friends” and “friends with benefits”.  Some nights, I was alone, other nights, I let the alcohol numb me and I shared myself with a few men in drunken situations because it filled my carnal needs.  Total shame.

Thankfully over time, I developed the realization that I was a person of value.  I was/am a child of God and God desired for me to be loved, but not like that- not in the arms of men who wanted my body but who didn’t care for my soul.  It has taken five years to let God revitalize the shell of who I was, and I am forgiven.  I am new.  It feels awesome to write that!!

I took a chance to save my marriage, but six months after I left, I lost it.  My ex husband and I were finalized by May and my name was off the house as of 7/7/07.

The road I’ve walked to get to where I’m at now is paved with a lot of tears, bloodshed, regret and sadness, but during that time, I was being renewed through Christ.  I lived on my own for a time, worked some bartending jobs, and met a lot of new people.  I never got an STD or ended up pregnant.  I put myself in some scary situations and had to learn how NOT to tell lies.  Slowly over time, I was growing in the Scriptures.  I learned the value of communication.  I learned to love others.  By April of 2007, I was going to a church in Elyria, Ohio.

I craved God.  I craved being around people who would help me instead of help me hide my pain.  I struggled with drinking the moment I left my ex-husband.  I got a DUI three months after leaving him.  I spent a weekend at a hotel as part of my sentence.  I met a man who was a great friend, but who had his own issues.  I started a new job.  I started dating said friend and began to learn many new things.  I had a love for cooking and being in the kitchen.  My brother and his wife had a new baby girl and I was craving time with them.  I began to spend more time with my parents.  I was reading my bible.  I was broke at times, and rich at others.  But this entire time, God was changing me and renewing me.

Reading Joel chapters 1 and 2 gave me a perspective of God’s great love for us.  Yes, US…every single one of us, who has walked (sometimes stumbled in a drunken stupor) off the path, and questioned His greatness, His presence, His judgement, His love…HE LOVES US.  He is slow to anger and abounding in love.

I was a wreck when I almost had a second DUI.  I had to do another weekend for 72 hours and attended the same program.  The coordinator of that weekend class was in awe.  He remembered me.  His first question was why was I there, and why would I attend the same class again?  Had I learned nothing?  I remember sitting across the table from him saying that I did indeed learned something, and I was on the road to recovery.

I had taken chances by walking away from a marriage, I had taken chances on drugs and alcohol, and I had taken chances on people I know would leave me the next morning.  I was ready to take a chance on love and hope.  He said he was proud of me, and I walked out of that hotel a changed woman back in September 2008.

I’ve rededicated myself to Jesus Christ.  I am a sinner who was once lost, but MAN have I been found!  I still mess up.  My words are still my worst weapon.  But I am aware.  I am now a wife and stepmother who knows the meaning of selflessness all too well.  I am simply me and I have forgiven my ex-husband.  I have forgiven myself and I have forgiven my past.  I have married again simply because I believe in love, forgiveness, trust and hope.  And I believe my new husband believes the same.  He is a man of God who has taught me much.

I guess through all of these ramblings, what I would like you to take away from it is if you are ever uncertain on whether to take a step, take the chance.  I’m not saying to walk away from your marriage or a job because you get mad at it.  But I am saying that if you are feeling that something is out-of-place, it’s okay to question it.  It’s okay to step out in fear, but end up leaning on Everlasting Arms.  Life is risk.  Love is out there.  Fear halts us and removes hope, but Jesus gives life.  He restored the years the locusts had eaten, and then some…simply because I took a chance…