My Heart's Home

September 13, 2011

Extreme Makeover

Filed under: Encouragement,Freedom,Healing,joy — My Heart's Home @ 4:33 pm

unwanted. unloved. unworthy.

Rejected.

I used to feel this way.

All because I let others define me. When they weighed my worth, the scale was always in their favor and I was viewed as a deficit. I never measured up. Trying to earn their love was like trying to lasso the moon. Futile, but I didn’t know; I was just a child. So I kept slinging that rope—trying different tactics, different strategies, different angles—but, of course, nothing worked and never would. It was impossible, but I didn’t know. I figured it was my fault when I was flogged after every failed attempt, so I kept trying harder and harder and harder to lasso that forever evasive moon. I needed to prove my love so I wouldn’t be rejected by the love I thought I needed most. But I always failed. It was hopeless.

Thus I grew up feeling like a tumbledown barn—splintered on every side—about to implode, crumble and bury myself beneath moonbeams.

discouraged. despaired. defeated. dispensable. discarded. dismissed. devalued. depressed. disowned. disheartened. dejected.

SLICE. DICE. SPLICE.

At some point we’ve all experienced the painful sword of rejection stabbing us with its brutal blade. (Some of us more than others.) Whether it’s in the form of a pink slip, a returned ring, a failed grade, a deformity scoffed, a parent’s neglect, a teacher’s jab, a skipped promotion, an absent father, a sister’s slander, a brother’s betrayal, a vow broken, a cold shoulder, a belt’s bruise, a schoolmate’s snub, an abandoned bassinet, a barren womb…

Maybe an alcoholic, workaholic or rageaholic raised you… Or perhaps your sister was the talented, pretty and scholarly one… Maybe your bank account, square footage or Friend’s List didn’t tally up…

Rejection, in whatever form, chops a heart like ax to log. 

Satan’s deepest wound is rejection’s arrow piercing our heart. Because he was ostracized from Heaven and knows his reign on earth is short term, his goal is to project his rejection onto mankind as fervently as he can, while he can. Especially women. Why? Because we by nature are nurturing. If he can wound life bearers, causing them to reject their offspring, then generations upon generations will be limping on crutches forever scarred. Meanwhile, Satan will hammock swing, sip his Red Devil and revel in all the chaos he created.

Satan thrives on chaos.

I love the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition where designers perform jaw-dropping makeovers on someone’s outdated home. As an artist myself, I love taking something old and transforming it into something new. It’s more valuable to me than any tagged item for sale at Macy’s. Mainly because I can patiently and lovingly restore it or possibly increase its original value. For example…

Does this wicker furniture look beautiful to you? Does it appear valuable? Is it still useful? Or should it be overlooked, forsaken and tossed in a junkyard?

What about now? 

Before I purchased this shabby-looking furniture, I noticed the label and discovered this is a Henry Lane, quality, built-to-last brand of wicker furniture. After realizing its true value outweighed the asking price—and envisioning its beautiful transformation after a few coats of paint, new upholstery and a little TLC—I snatched it up without hesitation.

Do you realize your own value, worth and beauty? Do you look in the mirror and see shabby, dirty and discarded or Priceless, Perfect and Precious?

Do you see beautiful?

What label are you wearing?

Is it time for a wardrobe change? Is it time to adjust the aperture on your heart’s lens? Is it time to rebuild the barn?

If you’re not sure how, let the Master Carpenter help you.

Notice I started this post with ‘I USED to feel unwanted, unloved and unworthy.’ REJECTED. But now? Now I feel Priceless, Perfect and Precious because God says I am.

The opposite of rejection is acceptance. How do we move from feelings of rejection to the joy of acceptance? We accept God’s overwhelming love for us.

Satan can try to force feed me his poisonous lies—pointing out all my failures, flaws and faux pas—but I refuse to swallow. I only focus and feast on the truth now. The truth that tells me: You knit me together… I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I am a precious jewel (Malachi 3:17). Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I absolutely, without a doubt, am a new creation because of Him!

Let’s shed, scorn and scorch old junkyard duds and worn out labels of ‘unwanted, unloved and unworthy’ and clothe ourselves, instead, in our Designer’s truth. We are Priceless, Perfect and Precious. God says we are because of Jesus and our faith in Him. We may not always feel it, but that’s OK. Our feelings may change, but the facts don’t and never will. The truth is the truth.

Never again will you be called ‘The Forsaken City’ or ‘The Desolate Land.’ Your new name will be ‘The City of God’s Delight’ and ‘The Bride of God,’ for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as His bride (Isaiah 62:4)

Thank you, Lord, for your truth, which counteracts lies and restores broken hearts to wholeness.

Thank you for your transformation.

Thank you for your restoration.

Thank you for your beautification.

I don’t know why we sometimes suffer the way we do, but I DO know God will use our pain for His glory, if we let Him and surrender our lives totally and unreservedly to Him and His purpose.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up and adopt me as His child (Psalm 27:10).

Keep me as the apple of Your eye, hide me in the shadow or Your wings (Psalm 17:8).


August 26, 2011

A Clean Slate

Filed under: Encouragement,Freedom,Healing,Inspiring — My Heart's Home @ 3:38 pm

Could you go a year without junk food, mirror gazing or channel surfing? (My Father, a voracious reader, went a decade without TV!) I’ve been reading about folks sacrificing these indulgences and it inspires me to challenge myself in some area.

My Number One New Year Resolution was to read more, at least one book a month, and so far I’ve been successful. I’ve read eleven. Considering the following survey done by the Jenkins Group, A Premier Publishing Services Firm, I feel pretty good:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

(Yikes. Not the greatest news for this blogger who is writing her first book!)

Wow. I love browsing bookstores. I love bedtime with my first grader on my lap in rocking chair, my arms circling his and giggles shared and curious boy questions asked. I love reading “I Spy” books with him, searching for that elusive key, thimble or rolling pin blending chameleon-like into the background. And nothing makes me smile more than watching his Daddy do the same. It’s always a Kodak moment in my heart and when he’s most attractive in my eyes.

Because we want to instill in our little wordsmith a lifetime love of reading, we make an effort to unwind nightly with a book. I also feel it’s important to model this behavior by becoming a lover of books myself.

As my Need-to-Read book list grows long enough to keep my eyes darting for decades, I discovered another area I want to challenge myself: decluttering. Yes, I am a clutter bug and it’s an area I’ve struggled with for years.

My decluttering process began with my purse. I bought myself a beautiful handbag and every evening I clean it out, so I’m not carrying excess baggage. (Now I no longer lean when I walk from the bowling ball dragging my shoulder.) Next I tackled my SUV. I spent four hours detailing it in June and so far I’ve kept it clutter-free, juice stain-free and~almost~Cherrios-free. It’s amazing how in control I feel of my life now, just from driving a cleaner car and having an organized purse! These accomplishments gave me the courage to tackle more challenging areas inside my home. My main struggle has always been the kitchen. Seems there’s always dishes filling sink, clutter on counters and sticky pans, fridge shelves and stovetop. Well, guess what? This week we have all awakened to clean counters, empty sinks and a crumb-free stove. It’s so refreshing! With each success I feel even more empowered! It’s amazing.

A newfound energy has begun to fill my life. I believe my success conquering my clutter lately is directly related to my hard work this summer decluttering my heart. I cleaned out numerous cobwebs that had me enmeshed and weighed down. I needed to get unstuck and that meant clearing basement spiders before I could attack attic gossamers. I dared to lift that rug every dysfunctional home has lurking in the cellar, the one where sticky issues reside that always get swept under. Why was rug lifting necessary? Because feelings buried alive never die and denial is cancerous. I refuse to live in falsehood. I was also showing symptoms of anxiety, so I needed to grab spade and dig deeper. I had to uproot the root causing these symptoms. So I started connecting the dots as I hop scotched backward to childhood. As I did, I discovered the empty spots that were left blank, never crayoned in. I started to color outside the lines. I faced excruciating pain from my biological Father abandoning me, being absent from my life for 20 years and, later, committing suicide. I faced welts still scarring my heart from a leather belt beat against my flesh from someone who claimed to love me. I unlocked the door to face sexual abuse that lay in darkness for decades. It was brutal, but necessary for me to take control of my life. A life that involved repressed childhood feelings of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, fear, shame, rejection, violation, heartache, loneliness…

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It’s over. It’s in the past, and the past is over.”

“Except,” Father John said, “it has a way of hanging around, demanding we understand it and weave it into ourselves so that we can go on.”

THE EAGLE CATCHER, by Margaret Coel 

“Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” – Sir Winston Churchill

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

Looking back at the past allowed me to color in those empty pages to heal a child’s broken heart. I needed to validate and acknowledge what was dismissed, deprived and denied. I began to grieve my lost childhood for the first time and it was hard, heart wrenching work. I shed tears for a little girl whose Daddy left her. I wept for an innocent child who endured torturous beatings from a rageaholic. I cried for a pre-teen exploited and used to satisfy an older person’s lust. I sobbed for teenage years where more abuse occurred. My heart ached for that sweet, shy, insecure, girl without a voice, who learned at an early age to play by the rules and remain compliant, obedient and docile or else.

Maybe everyone would leave me like my Daddy did and abandon and reject me. But didn’t the abuse mean I had already been rejected?

Too lofty a thought for a little girl to comprehend.

Or perhaps I did. Why else would I keep trying harder to earn the love that should have come freely, unconditional and without reserve? My reality became ‘if others’ needs come first, I must come last.’ So I played the role and dressed the part assigned to me for too many years. Too many years. Too many years.

I remained silent because I was raised mute.

It took dissecting losses to locate vocals.

I’m glad I had the courage to dig and unearth the not-so-pretty-dirt swept under rugs. Now my life isn’t so dark, grey and cobwebby. The spiders are gone. They will no longer bite. My heart has been reclaimed, restored and redeemed by a healthy love God instilled in me for myself. The broken pieces are becoming whole by His healing hand. Now I want my outer world to reflect my inner world and slowly it is. It’s so exciting!!

Scars healed are life changing.

Scars healed are transforming.

Scars healed are the steps toward new beginnings.

And there’s a little more spring in that step lately.

With every piece of clutter I unpack now I ask myself:

Is it bringing me joy?
Is it filling a need?
Has it benefited me in the last year?
Is it still useful in some way?
Does it make me smile?
Does it hold any true value?
Do I want it in my home?
Do I want it in my life?

If the answer is no, I need to question why it’s taking up space, why I’m still holding onto it, and why it hasn’t been thrown out with the rest of the refuse.

Maybe it’s time to take a final look, release, then let it go once and for all.

Maybe it’s time to say goodbye.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What unnecessary clutter is taking up space in your home or, more importantly, your heart? 

Is it time for a clean sweep?

An old man once said, “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”


“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor. 5:17

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21


August 7, 2011

Let God Chisel

Filed under: Encouragement,Faith,Freedom — My Heart's Home @ 1:15 am

While on vacation down south a few weeks ago, I heard New York Times best-selling Christian author, Lysa TerKeurst, speak during a weekend conference I attended with 650 other women. One topic she spoke about was titled “Let God Chisel.” Her message revolved around her recent visit to Italy to view Michelangelo’s world-renowned 17-foot marble statue of David. She explained how the artist spent three years chiseling the stone and while creating this masterpiece, he never left its side. He slept nearby on a cot until it was complete.

He never left David’s side, until the masterpiece was complete.

For three years. Now that’s commitment!

I accepted the Lord as a child and just like Michelangelo never left David’s side, I know God’s never left mine. Looking back, it’s so evident how He’s protected, molded and shaped me because…

 I let Him chisel.

Not always, but mostly.

This summer has definitely been a season of refining and chiseling. God chipped away at my heart–tampering with the unpolished, marred and brittle pieces–and I felt every gouge of His pruning blade cut deep.

It felt like someone shoved my heart in a blender and pushed frappé

I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it was brutal. It was heart wrenching. For days the pain was relentless.

But like David, I no longer feel I’m carrying unnecessary weight.

Lysa showed us photos of several other statues that were unfinished cuts of stone, where only partial limbs, half  torsos and foreheads emerged.

These statues were called “The Prisoners.”

They were haunting images.

People half alive. Half dead. For a lifetime.

Never fully tasting freedom.

Will we let God chisel or stay forever imprisoned behind hardened hearts of stone?

Will we run from His healing hand because it may mean facing feelings that make us uncomfortable?

Will we remain complacent and stagnant in our faith, or desire to draw deeper into fellowship with our Creator, no matter what the cost?

Oh, God, please keep chiseling in our hearts! Help us trust you are a God who wants to set us completely free from any bondage and unnecessary weight we may be carrying. Help us understand…

You’re a God who loves us too much to let us stay stuck where we are.

You’re a God who will never forsake us or leave us incomplete.

You’re a God who only sees the masterpiece hiding within unfinished slabs of stone.

Thank you, Lord, for every work of art You have created, are creating and have yet to create. Amen.

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2  Corinthians 5:17

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

 

July 30, 2011

Summer’s Snowstorm

Filed under: Christian,Encouragement,Faith,Healing,Trials — My Heart's Home @ 1:28 am

I envisioned a vacation-packed, hammock-swinging, ice-filled cooler kinda summer. All sunshine, butterflies and lemonade stands. A season of park bench Kindle reading, oars lapping lake and soggy chlorinated swimsuits. Although these delights overflowed, this summer’s also been grueling, heart wrenching and as brutal as a three-digit heat wave.

Except I’ve been pummeled by an avalanche in the heat of summer.

Healing can have that effect. Awakening from years of denial and facing the truth isn’t for pansy wansies. It takes grit. It takes fortitude. It takes digging deep and unearthing dormant heartache and pain then unraveling the mystery of its origin.

Can I have a rain check, please?

Facing the truth feels like dropping head first from a trapeze bar smack dab into concrete. It’s easier to hang in denial than lose one’s grip on ‘reality’. A ‘reality’ defined by others, which I never dared question, until recently when the fog and smokescreen began to dissipate and I yanked my blindfold and removed my muzzle.

God’s word tells us: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Suffering and surrendering to winter seasons may make us uncomfortable—either experiencing our own chill or feeling goose pimply around others—but we often bear the most fruit during the bitter cold, white-knuckled, teeth grinding seasons of our lives. Let’s not discount winter, as less sacred than life’s seasons of spring, summer and fall.

Oftentimes, heartaches and adversities are the means God uses to reveal Himself to us.

And oftentimes it feels like icicles piercing our heart. It’s never a walk in the park.

Whenever trials arrive flooding my heart’s mailbox, I am tempted to slam lid or stamp deliveries with ‘return to sender.’ I put up my dukes, dig in my heels or run like the dickens the opposite direction whenever they blindside curbside. I rein in tears instead of releasing them. I prefer head in sand, like sun kissed toes, rather than facing pain head on. I’m a pearl solitarily confined within oyster’s clam. Shell clenched tight and inflexible like my heart, fists and jaw.

I prefer shade instead of light because sometimes the dawn delivers deeper darkness.

During my Hurricane Katrinas, I don’t want someone serving me a pep talk or warmed-over platitude like yesterday’s stale hors d’oeuvres. I don’t need someone to understand, to try and fix or relate, because unless you’ve been there, you never truly can. I do need someone to listen, wrap her arms around me and ask, ‘How can I pray for you?’ Wouldn’t that mean the world to you, too, when you’re snowballing downhill and you’re world is as cold as an iceberg and only dark clouds loom?

All the Super Glue in the world can’t fix a broken heart.

But GOD can.

If we let Him. Or perhaps we can become the arms of Jesus circling our wounded sister’s shoulders when she needs a shoulder to cry on.

Philippians 1:29 says that not only were you called to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake.

Suffering is part of the Christian faith. It’s not all rainbows, sunset cruises and rose colored gardens. As Christians, we are going to face brutal winters, even more so as we draw closer to our Lord. But take heart…

Suffering shows us the eternal is more important than the temporal.

Character is more valuable than appearance.

Relationships mean more than money.

People mean more than things.

We adopt a new value system through suffering. We have a choice to become bitter or better.  To close ourselves off or reach out. To live in denial or face the truth.

Suffering is not something to be shunned, but embraced. It requires surrender. It requires patience. It requires dependence. It’s a way God reveals Himself deeper to us. He becomes more than a creed, more than a series of theological doctrines, more than a church building or Sunday school verses we rotely memorize. He becomes, in reality, by demonstration, a loving Father, a sympathetic Savior, a compassionate God.

He becomes more than a fair-weather Friend.

He becomes unconditional love incarnate.

If you are going through your own snowstorm right now, how can I pray for you?

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 

“My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18

 

July 2, 2011

Empty Jars

Filed under: Encouragement,faithfulness,Love — My Heart's Home @ 12:47 am

Years ago our pastor challenged us to step beyond barbeques, porch swings and curb-hugging hostas and outreach to our neighbors. I, for one, am a curb-hugger. I prefer my comfortable cocoon, so when someone challenges me to spread wings and fly into unknown territory, I’m taken aback. My instinct is to circle wings and cling tighter to four walls.

But I chose to step out in faith and I’ve never looked back. It’s been an adventure. Just yesterday my elderly neighbor confessed she’s drifted from the faith. Through this revelation I was able to sympathize and tell her I’ve been there. Now there’s a Bible on her nightstand.

A bridge replaced a gap between lawns.

It wasn’t my words that made a difference, it was my actions. I took time to get to know her. John Maxwell says, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I used to take pride in my independence, my self-reliance, and my self-sufficiency. But God has been showing me lately that my I am an Island mentality is nothing less than pride and selfishness. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

We need each other.

Ever read a story or passage from the Bible you’ve never read or seen before? That’s been happening a lot to me lately and it’s so exciting!

Today I was reading in 2 Kings chapter 4 about a newly widowed woman whose sons were about to become slaves to pay her debtors. In her despair she beseeched the prophet Elisha for help and advice. He inquired about items of worth in her house. She replied, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a little oil.”

Olive oil was a valuable and necessary commodity in ancient Israel. It had many practical uses, from the holy to the mundane. It was used for various anointings, for medicative purposes, for cooking, and to fuel lamps for light. Notice she says, “Your servant has nothing there at all … except a little oil.” This widow had barely enough oil for herself, how could it be useful? She disparages what little she has, but God has a plan!

Aren’t we like this doubting widow? We question our resources, our talents, and our seemingly unworthy nothingness. We wonder how God can use our sack lunch, our crumbs, to feed thousands of famished strangers (Matthew 14:13-21). Yet He does, miraculously!

Elisha tells the woman to “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She does as he instructs and jars are filled to the brim with oil. She sells them, pays her debt and lives off the remainder.

Can you imagine yourself in dire financial straits, every Nosey Nelly knowing you’re bankrupt and yet you need to humble yourself and beg door-to-door for spare change? Wouldn’t be easy, would it? Yet that’s how this widow must have felt. She could have chosen to sit behind locked doors with ‘shades’ drawn and wall herself off from her community as she wallowed in grief, but she didn’t. She acted in faith and humbled herself by reaching out. It took humility. It took transparency. It took heartache. In doing so this widow gave others the opportunity to cooperate in God’s work in her life, as well.

Her boldness, humility and faith saved her sons from slavery and herself from destitution.

This story speaks so clearly to me. We aren’t meant to carry our burdens ourselves. We must not build isolating picket fences in our hearts distancing others because our pride won’t admit we need them. If I plaster on Sunday school smiles every time Debbie Downer has Susie Sunshine in a chokehold or just wave passively to passerby from my air-conditioned SUV, I’m not being real and transparent or allowing others to be real and transparent with me. I’m not serving anyone by mask wearing and retreating. I might even hinder and interfere with God’s plan to bless my friends and neighbors by broadcasting His faithfulness through burdens shared and answered prayer.

It takes humble hearts to remove masks and say “I need you.” Maybe in doing so, we can give others permission to remove their masks and say they need us, also. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength…HIS strength flowing through our weakness. In turn, we become blessings as God pours out through our emptying.

We are the body of Christ to believers and unbelievers.

In the hustle and bustle of our busy and hectic lives, it’s easy to become self-absorbed, cynical and superficial. Let’s reach beyond manicured lawns and nails and get to know others on a deeper level.

When our neighbor’s lantern’s oil runs low, lets shine our light and become beacons of hope amidst the darkness.

Let’s speak words of encouragement to the weary and heavy laden.

Let’s anticipate our neighbors’ empty jars before they come knocking on our door.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31


June 11, 2011

Do Small Things With Great Love

Filed under: Encouragement,Faith,Freedom,Healing — My Heart's Home @ 7:23 pm

“What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”  ~ Mother Teresa 

Sometimes I feel miniscule. I am swallowed up by this big ol’ world, rejected and spit from its mouth like a worthless watermelon seed. No matter how hard I try, some individuals always pronounce me guilty. I feel like a puzzle piece trying to squeeze myself perfectly into that empty spot, but I’m constantly rejected. My edges are bruised, frayed and torn as a result. I never fit. I’m the wrong piece, wrong color, wrong shape.

I’m tired of trying to fit in.

Besides, it’s not my job to fill someone’s empty places. I can’t fix what is broken. I can’t mend what’s frayed. Only God can. It’s His job, not mine. 

When others cut deep with their words because I choose to stop playing God, I remind myself: I don’t belong to this world. This is not my home. I am only a tourist, passing through. The Judge (Jesus) , The Ringleader (Holy Spirit/Comforter) and Master Gardener (G0d) are my guides. It is these Three whom I serve and pledge my allegiance. I cannot place anyone above God in my life and I cannot try to be anyone’s God. That’s a burden too heavy to carry, so I must walk away and leave my stethoscope, defibrillator and bandages behind. The rejection comes and stabs its blades deep into my heart. I bleed, but the Master Healer is nearby, so I will learn to breathe again. I may feel battered, broken, and bruised, but as long as I continue to kneel at the foot of the cross, I will always find my way and never get lost. This heart will heal and I trust it in His hands. In this dark, cold and foreign land, The Judge, Ringleader and Master Gardener are my lamp, my shelter and my compass. I am never alone, abandoned or forgotten as long as these Three abide in me. My orphaned heart has found its home.

The Judge lowers His gavel: innocent of all charges.

The Ringleader shouts I belong under His Big Top.

My seeds always bear fruit in the Master Gardener’s hands.

I don’t need to prove my worthiness; He already did. I am worthy because He says I am. I am His child. His precious daughter. I am adopted into His family. I have been given a new name, Hephzibah: “My delight is in her.” I am spotless, forgiven, cleansed, pure, holy and accepted.

Just as I am.

Always.

I don’t need the world to confirm it.

That’s FREEDOM!

I am only one, but I can make a difference…because of The One within me.

Dear children, you belong to God. So you have won the victory over these people, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4

Out of His abundant love my spirit overflows:

to do small things with great love.

Like bringing flowers to a stranger who tragically lost her husband.

Like buying a brand-spanking-new bike for a neglected 10-year-old boy who’s never had one.

Like making this painting for my elderly and childless Catholic neighbor who loves on my son.

The closer I grow to God the more I begin to:

…pray for my enemies.

…refuse to let seeds of bitterness take root.

…choose to extend grace.

I want to view the world through His eyes, reach out to others with His hands and touch others with His heart. Not because I need their approval and acceptance, but because I already am approved and accepted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I want the recipient to feel His redemption and grace, as well. I want them to feel better about the One who sent me. I want others to see Jesus in me. I want to be His eyes, His hands, His feet.

Because only I can do what God has called me to do.

And His is the only voice I will heed. All others are mute.

In His eyes I’m the perfect piece, perfect color, perfect shape.

For His perfect plan.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9

“He told them: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” – Luke 10:2

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 & 21-23



May 27, 2011

Never Give Up

Filed under: Encouragement,Faith,Healing — My Heart's Home @ 8:55 pm

                                                                                                                   “Never, never, never, never give up!” – Winston Churchill

Years ago I gave up. I stopped believing. Not in God, but in myself. My dream. All because I allowed someone to bulldoze my confidence. Subsequently, I lost faith in myself…my talent…my gift…my calling.

To write.

Now that dream is alive and well, despite setbacks, roadblocks, detours and a few flat tires along the way. My career careened off course all because I believed a voice that told me, “I couldn’t…I wouldn’t…I shouldn’t…”

I wish I could erase the lies I believed from someone who didn’t believe in me. Someone who had an agenda, ulterior motive, vengeful spirit. Someone who used feathers from my clipped wings to help them fly. Someone who would rather watch others trip over their own two feet instead of hailing them victor when the race is won.

Through this experience I learned to regret. I regret giving someone permission to distort my dream, weigh my worthiness, pummel my passion. It wasn’t the first time someone looked at me through a distorted lens and blurred my vision. Why did I let them drown my confidence like a rose petal in battery acid? Because I believed they knew better? Because my well of doubt already ran deep? Because they were older and wiser?

Older maybe, but not wiser.

Wisdom doesn’t automatically grow with age, only wrinkles and gray hairs do.

Why didn’t the encouraging voices drown out the ones that were drowning me? Why didn’t their sweet melody out weigh that discouraging dissonance? Why did I accept the lies all tied up with their ugly bow and discard the truth like a soiled diaper? I don’t know. Maybe it was just easier to believe and wrap my mind and heart around lies because they were all too familiar. When you live without the light of day for so long, your vision learns to adjust to the dark.

Sometimes I’m tempted to regret, but I have confidence God works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

          So I can’t. I won’t. I shan’t.

REGRET THE PAST.

Because the plant of bitterness is watered with regret. With “should haves, would haves, could haves.” Instead, I will choose today to start anew. To believe the truth. Leave lies behind like paper dolls I’ve outgrown and don’t play with anymore.

Never, never, never, never again will I give up…

MY dream, which is God’s ultimate will and plan for my life.

This ‘dream’ might not come in the wrapping paper I choose, but it is always the perfect gift in the end. I will never exchange it for another. I will never demand a refund.

God’s word says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4) This doesn’t mean we come to Him with our shopping list of requests like He’s ol’ Kris Kringle. But when we align our heart with His and surrender totally to His will, our dreams take a shape only His hands can mold. “Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the Potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 His perfect plan mysteriously unfolds in us as we allow the Master Potter to shape our lives. But first we must let go of everything that is holding us back.

 No holds barred. 

I believe today: for every naysayer who says you can’t, there will always be someone in your corner who says you can. And He has so many blessings He’s just waiting to pour out to those who seek Him with their whole heart.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

He wants nothing more than to see you cross that finish line victorious! It’s your choice whose voice you will listen to, believe and trust. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

He has a plan for our lives. Along this road called life, we all experience setbacks, detours, roadblocks and flat tires. Fortunately, God allows U-Turns and it’s never too late to get back on the right path and let Him steer us in the right direction.

“I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress. Abiding love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. So rejoice in Him, all those who are His, and shout for joy, all those who try to obey Him.” Psalms 32:8, 10-11)

With God there is no expiration date on our dreams.

“God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn; He will never go back on His promises.” Romans 11:29

So today I choose to believe:

I CAN, I WILL, I SHALL…

Overcome. The. Past.

For God’s TRUTH tells me:

“If God is for me who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31)

“But He was pierced of my rebellion, crushed for my sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. By His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

 “For God hath not given me the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

“Delight myself in the Lord and He will give me the desires of my heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Now I am learning to accept His truth like a precious gift and discard the lies like garbage. I KNOW I will cross that sweet finish line of victory, because I will never doubt again: Someone believes in me.

And I promise to help those limping along the sidelines cross their finish lines, too, by being encouraging, supportive and a believer of dreams.

For dreams can only come true if one truly believes…in the One who never gives up believing in us.

I believe.

Do YOU?

CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO WATCH AN INSPIRING VIDEO CLIP:

Never Give Up

Click this link to read an inspiring story about a best-selling novelist: Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

“In the same way, the last will be first, and the first will be last, because many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 20:16

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1





May 6, 2011

Mother of Pearls

Filed under: Encouragement,Grace,Parenting — My Heart's Home @ 1:44 pm

Nacre pronounced /ˈneɪkər/[1] or “NAY-kər”, also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up pearls. It is very strong, resilient, and iridescent.
Let’s be honest, mothering is a thankless job. There are no promotions, no holiday bonuses, no end-of-the-week paychecks, no raises, no Going the Extra Mile awards, no sick days, no vacations and no leave of absences. There is no thunderous applause at the end of the day for a performance well done. We wipe noses, tears and butts day after day, month after month, year after year. We comfort, cook, clean, cater, chaperone, chauffeur, calm, chase, cleanse, challenge, cajole, compliment, congratulate and once a year get a card on that mother of all days.

If our kids don’t forget.

Hyperbole, perhaps, but similar to Bad Hair days motherhood can dish up some harried bad days! We’ve all been there: Leggos lodged between toes, Cheerios scattered on floors and chocolate pudding smeared on doors. Tempers, tongues and tears can’t be tamed. We ride the ups and downs of child rearing (and potty training) like a never-ending seesaw. Sometimes we need a Time Out. But overall motherhood is the best job in the world and we wouldn’t switch titles with anyone! The hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the laughter, the joy our children bring to our lives is priceless. We wouldn’t trade these bountiful benefits for all the world’s accolades and applause! (Do I hear an amen?)

I’ve only been a mommy for six years, but I’ll never forget the day that title was bestowed on me: April 2, 2005. As I held my newborn in my arms I promised to take good care of him, protect and unconditionally love him for the rest of his life.

And I meant every word.

That doesn’t mean he never irritates the heck out of me. Sometimes he does.

That doesn’t mean I don’t lose my patience with him. Sometimes I do.

That doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He’s not.

Neither am I.

Show me a perfect parent and I’ll show you the Holy Grail. Not happening. Like mothers everywhere, I will make mistakes, fail and wish I had a gazillion do over make-up days accrued on my timecard. But I don’t. That’s why grace and forgiveness are so vital to our relationship. I must be an example of God’s unfailing love and be willing to ask his forgiveness when I fall short.
I must treat him with respect and dignity, as I would want to be treated. I must be willing to let him grow into the individual God created him and not try to stuff him into some preconceived mold. I mustn’t clip his wings, so he’s fearful to fly. I must become his greatest fan, cheerleader and advocate, so when life’s blows try to knock the wind out of him, he’ll know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—someone stands in his corner, offers him a refreshing drink and won’t let him fall. A little voice inside will whisper silencing all others, “Stand steadfast with your slingshot, son, and slay Goliath!”

If I want my precious boy to sprout wings soaring confidently into the unknown one day, I cannot do this alone. I must seek wisdom, discernment and guidance from my Heavenly Father daily. I need God’s strength, grace and mercy. Some mornings I can barely open my eyes, let alone my Bible, so I’m grateful God covers me with His merciful blanket and doesn’t expect perfectionism. I just do the best I can leaning on His strength. Parenting is a huge responsibility. My most important job on earth will be:

To point my son to the One who will forever wrap him in His loving arms, long after he’s outgrown mine.

And I don’t want to be caught sleeping on the job.

My child is bound to get under my skin and irritate the heck out of me like a nasty splinter. And sometimes I’ll crawl beneath his flesh and poke and prod like nobody’s business. Living within close proximity year after year it’s inevitable we’ll grate on each other’s nerves.

As his mother I must remember my character is being shaped, molded and refined just as I am trying to shape, mold and refine his character. I need to model Christ at all times, so he will grow to reflect and mirror Christ to his family one day. This can only be accomplished on my knees in humility and reverence before my Maker and by reading and obeying His Word.

Otherwise, as an imperfect person living in a fallen world, I am bound to make a mess out of motherhood.

So next time your little one (or big one) gets under your skin (or you get under theirs), remember you are both pearls in the making:

Unlike gems that are mined from the earth, pearls are formed from living organisms.
And no pearl is ever formed without a little irritant.

May we all display shimmering iridescence, luster and a soft inner glow so we become unlike any other gem on earth.

And our children have the freedom to grow likewise.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18


April 16, 2011

Pink Azaleas

Filed under: Easter,Encouragement,Faith — My Heart's Home @ 2:41 pm

Across from the only gas station in town it stands.

Barely.

Worn, weathered and weary. It’s an eyesore to passerby. Old, abandoned, dilapidated. Trellis broken. Pillars stained. Windows cracked. Everything about this tumbledown home is unappealing except…

On one side of the structure—amidst all the weeds, briars, vines, limbs, bushes and debris—is a patch of azaleas. The most beautiful pink blooms you have ever seen. A juxtaposition of beauty amidst squalor.

It’s a reminder to those who view the property with disgust that it wasn’t always a demolitionist’s dream. Once upon a time it was a place of love, beauty and care. Someone painstakingly planted those azaleas on bended knee. They tended them, admired them and cherished them. Gentle hands no longer prune, pluck or primp. The owners have since passed like the seasons. Cobwebs fill halls and rooms ransacked and picked over by strangers like the cotton fields nearby. The only residents are mice. Everything about the place screams ‘forsaken’, yet flowers bloom despite all.

Spring has come and with it breathes new life weeds cannot choke silent.

Hope’s reborn.

I know this place well. I strolled porch steps in Mary Janes and high heels. I swayed in that rusty swing. I roasted pecans culled from backyard limbs. It was my paternal grandparents’ home. It’s where I gulped the sweetest tea, gnawed the saltiest ham and satiated hunger pangs with boiled peanuts. It’s where my grandma quilted, sewed and knitted. Where her fingertips tap danced across piano keys and wrapped around my heart. It’s where my grandpa, who died before I was born, practiced his sermons. It’s where I played Scrabble and tried couscous for the first time. It’s where my biological father lived at 69, surrounded by wall-to-wall books, his only prized possessions. It’s where we once shared a 12-hour phone conversation. It’s where I slept. It’s where I stepped into a porcelain bath.  It’s where I walked creaky floors. It’s where my grandpa and his bookworm son took their last breaths.

It’s where my grandma tended garden.

This home may be forsaken, but never forgotten.

Those beautiful pink azaleas are like my grandmother’s voice whispering hope to me: Never give up. Persevere. Despite life’s ugliness…beauty and love transcend all.

Before we know it life can fall apart at the seams. Heartache can strip away our joy like peeling paint. Sin and sorrow can engulf our heart and mind like twisting weeds and vines, depriving our spirit of nourishment and life. Will we plow through trials, tragedies and turmoil to triumph against the odds? Will we sink in muck and mire or boldly stand our ground, flourish and thrive despite our surroundings? Will we be overtaken or overcome? Will we uproot evil with good?

Easter is a reminder that God’s love is boundless…It even trumped the grave.

Let beautiful azaleas also remind us love and beauty are more powerful than all the depravation of the world. Amidst the sin, darkness and evil lurking to pull us under and do us in…love, hope and joy must always persevere and overcome.

Let Christ restore, transform and resurrect the broken, forsaken and lifeless. Spring has arrived. He is Spring. He redeems the dead.

Let the flowers bloom.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13


April 1, 2011

Dirty Ovens

Filed under: Encouragement,Grace — My Heart's Home @ 8:15 pm

I confess. My oven is filthy. It’s way overdue for a good scrub down.

Even self-cleaning ovens need a little elbow grease.

Maybe it’s last on my priority list because it’s a hidden mess. Unless you’re Hansel or Gretel I don’t expect you to peer inside my stove. (Only a white-gloved busybody would do that and I know better than to invite them to my home.)

My ‘To Do’ list runs a mile long:

Finish reading ‘Life of Pi’ and half a dozen other books.

Make dental appointments.

Schedule mammogram appointment. (Yippee.)

Finish homework for two Bible studies.

Prepare to lead next Monday night’s Bible study.

Sell items on Ebay.

Buy items on Ebay.

Find out the sex of my baby guinea pigs.

Get the daddy fixed, so there will be no more surprises.

Finish writing my book.

Pull weeds.

Plant flowers.

Pull more weeds.

Pack away winter and unpack summer clothes.

Reupholster my wicker furniture.

Replace garbage disposal.

Organize walk-in closet.

Catch up on three years’ worth of scrapbooking.

Upload photos to order books online from now on.

Paint deck.

CLEAN MY OVEN.

I have a dirty oven. What area are you hiding behind closed doors? Maybe it’s your basement, closet, garage, fridge, attic, under your bed.

We all have messes we don’t want exposed.

Last weekend we had guests. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their older daughter. It was great motivation to whip out the vacuum, broom and duster, since they’ve never visited before. I cleaned from top to bottom, east to west. All except one area. I figured: “they’ll never look inside my stove.”

We ordered pizza, but unbeknownst to me, my sister-in-law is now on a special gluten-free diet. Subsequently, she brought her own meal. Then those dreaded words were spoken:

“Can I use your oven to heat this up?”

~ GULP ~

“Um, sure, just apply this blindfold first.”

We laughed, I apologized, then she confessed her own dirty messes. Sigh.

No judgment.

No criticism.

No finger pointing.

After all, doesn’t everyone have areas in their lives that could use a little Spring cleaning? Nobody’s life is spotless.

On some level, don’t we all have dirty ovens?

Everyone harbors invisible mites, dust bunnies and cobwebs in the recesses of their heart. (If you don’t agree, let Jesus remove your blindfold.)

I told my sister-in-law I love being around her because she’s always so encouraging, positive and non-judgmental. She replied, “Life is hard; we’re all just trying to do the best we can.”

GRACE

Gotta have it. Gotta give it. Gotta love it.

Isn’t it refreshing to be around others who exude grace?

Do you wear white gloves pointing out the messes in other people’s lives, yet conceal soiled fingernails? If so, it’s time to remove them and extend grace-filled hands today.

Maybe the person you need to show the most grace to is yourself. Be your own best friend and allow yourself some slack.

Remember, Pobody’s Nerfect.

We’re all just trying to do the best we can.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

“He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” John 8:7

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” Psalm 145:8-9

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