Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saddle that horse

This week has been one of challenges for many of my friends of faith. Attacks. Feeling lonely and invisible. Feeling like there is too much to do and too little of us to do it.  Originally this was a comment on a post, but after a few messages about it I decided to make it a post of its own.  Be encouraged children of the Risen Lord. You are never alone. Never unseen. And never without His love.  And while it was written to a sister in Christ, it applies equally to you my brothers in Christ as well.
If we were face to face I would hold you by the shoulders. I would tell you this simple truth: you are not alone. Your absence is noted, and prayed upon. Your struggles make you one of us, women who keep trying. My husband says it makes us special when we aren't quitters.
You know lonely. So do I. You know feeling unheard. (When do we finally get the Audience of One lesson, instead of fretting over the Audience of None or the No One Saw Me Gone?) When doesn't 300 hits and no comments not hurt? Never I think because it isn't about THAT is it? It’s about HIM. And us. And us and Him.

Your ministry, your voice, is in a place of struggle right now. I see that. I hear that. It hurts my heart, and drives me to prayer. I wish, oh how I wish, we could talk for real. I have so much to say that typing and texting cannot express well. But what it boils down to is this:
Saddle that horse girl – you are riding for Him anyway.
Ride with the bunch, or ride alone – you are riding for Him no matter what.
The horse will walk or buck – it doesn't matter which, how you ride does. 
Get back on and ride. Don’t worry if someone is following. Or if they are impressed. Don’t worry if they want to argue. Let them argue alone, it is on them. Not you.
The more they want to fight you, to argue, to make you question what you are doing the more you know you are doing something right. And you are being attacked for it.
You are not alone. You are NEVER alone. Reach out, and even if you think no one notices at least One always notices, and He sends the saints to prayer, and the angels to comfort you and the Holy Spirit to minister to you.
Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Be bold beautiful, be bold!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A woman alone no longer

I am happily joining in with Jo Ann Fore's link up once again this week - prayerfully sharing my heart, along with the others who are also sharing. When you are finished reading, I invited you to go to her blog and join us.

Confession: I don't want to talk about this.

This being how we connect with other women, in community, even when we have been hurt.  How does a woman alone, who was a girl alone, find community?  She has a small seed of hope planted in her heart by a loving God.

Do I tell you about my most recent community of women friends, or the first one, or perhaps going back further why I thought I never would have one?  Maybe we'll share those all another day.  Today my heart is somewhere else.

My heart is on those still looking for a safe place.  A place where they can be safe from gossip, judgement, fear and more importantly they are safe to seek prayer.

So often in my attempts at being a part of a community of women have failed.  In part due to who I am. In part due to their expectations of their sisters. In part due to the expectations we have of women's groups in general.

I seem to fit in until I open my mouth. Or I share. Or I am not going to their church, my child is not at their school or my husband doesn't work in jobs like their husbands.  We seek common ground outside of the two things we should be using: our status as women and our status as women of faith.

I am a woman. I have worked in a man's world. I have earned respect and shown worth.  It is easier to work with men in some ways - their world is achievement and respect oriented.  That is how you manage as a farmer or fire fighter or a cowboy or horseman.  It is how you do what you do that shows your character.

Women being more relational are significantly more complex.  Okay freakishly complex to someone who was raised without models of healthy women's circles. To someone who was working and living in a man's world. To someone who failed to fit in every time she tried.

I used to thing there was something wrong with me. That I was not woman enough. That I messed up what God made.  Don't you just loathe how the master of lies works in us from childhood?  I do!  I took every negative message straight to heart, and missed every positive one. Out of hurt. Out of pride. Out of anger.

When I started finding my voice again I started to listen. To what was being said. By whom. And how. And when. I started to advocate for women to speak up and seek community.  I started to speak up about how we treat out sisters who are coming in from the cold.  As one who had come in a number of times, so often it felt like I had a patent on door hinges!

I am honoured to have some amazing women friends.  We have connected in person. We have connected on line. We stay connected.  We have relationships. We have community. We have each other.

Jo Ann in #WhenAWomanFindsHerVoice tells us about healthy community and relationships. And she speaks very candidly about how hard that can be. For us to trust. For our sisters in Christ to be open to someone not from their comfort zone.

We need to be willing to not only drop our stones and our walls, but we need to be willing to reach out our hands and hearts.  And most importantly for us who are seeking community - we need to reach out as well!  And do not despair of online connections, while they cannot replace the warmth of face time, they are still incredibly valuable!  Where else can we find someone to pray with us almost anytime, day or night? Or someone to celebrate with us? Or to mourn with us? Or to be there when we feel alone in the middle of the night?   

Jo Ann Fore

This post reminds me of my  WWRWW group that I connected with back in the '90s.  It also reminds me of my TRD sisters, my Army of Women sisters and all the others I can reach out to whether it is us two on a 'mom break date' or many of us praying on line together.  I celebrate you, I thank you and I am thankful for you!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

behind the mask of me

Masks. They are a part of life, no?

Cloaks and costumes. Also part of life?

There is a quote by W.H. Auden,

"Private faces in public places

Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places"

 Sometimes we assume the need for a mask when there really isn't one.  We are trained, conditioned even commanded to look and act a certain way.  No matter what keep the mask on.

Later on we learn there is a sense of safety behind the mask.  We learn to use the mask to change our face, our voice, our visible self.

It is seductive.  This mask wearing.  It feels safe.  And it is.  Safe and lonely. Safe and isolated. Safe and imprisoned.  Wear the mask long enough and it can become more of you than you think.  And be impossible to completely remove.

Sometimes we wear many masks. One for family. One for friends. One for church. One for public. One for _______________.  Soon we find that when the mask is off no only does no one really know us, we don't know ourselves either.

I was raised in a mask dominated world where the public faces mattered more than private faces.  Where the image of us was vastly more valuable than our actual selves.

It is more than that though. We are trained by culture and society to wear masks and capes. Make up. Girdles. Bras. This kind of coat. Those sort of earrings. Those shoes. That music. Those books.  Not fitting in becomes not an option for so many of us.  

And yet we rebel.  And yet we cry out. And yet we seek Him who seeks us.  And He asks for no masks. No costumes. We can't hide from Jesus.  

It can be terrifying to lose the mask. And freeing.  And lonely.  Change is not easy for us, even when it saves us.

I fell into a trap though, when I sought the return of my voice and I shed the masks. Layer by layer I let them go.  Until I found my own visage.  And with my voice ready to use, my face free of masks I was faced with another challenge - no one wanted to see or hear me now.

What do you do then?  I assumed a cloak of invisibility.  And it works. Because they let it. And I let it.  They let it because it is easier for them.  I let it because it is easier for them. and for me too!

And I struggle with it.  Going through Jo Ann Fore's book When A Woman Finds Her Voice I am struggling still.  Layers are peeling back only to reveal more layers.  It reminds me of the onion joke - the way to not cry when peeling an onion is to not get emotionally attached. ha ha but it is true.

Don't be attached to the masks. To the cloaks. To the silence.  It is not meant to be ours forever!  

Finding my way through Jo Ann's book has been like peeling back the layers. Knowing each one can be shed safely. And I don't need to cry over them.  

We are sharing today with a whole bunch of amazing women who are finding, using and sharing their voices. Click on the linkup to join in with your voice! Visit the blogs. Leave some love. Always leave love!

Click to join us!

Jo Ann Fore

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

God's timing with my voice

It confuses me sometimes. I confess that freely.  God brought me through the voiceless times to having my voice again only to have me muting it.  Not stifling it. Not silencing it.  After all I am still writing and creating.  But I am not being heard as loudly as I was a few years ago when I used my voice for the causes of others.

It bothered me.  God put it on my heart to share, and I did.  To the resounding echo of silence.

Many well meaning friends offered advice.  Some made sense. Some saddened me terribly. Some was just really weird!

It makes sense that we need to treat our voices like a speaker or a singer does - using them with care, not injuring them and giving them rest.

It makes a sad sort of sense that when we find our voices, and even when we use them and we are correct in what we say people will be afraid of our voices.  They will be more upset that we found them, and are using them, than when we had none.

People tend not to be good with change.  You changed from being silent, stifled to being heard. Sometimes small and sometimes loud. But we found them!  We did the work and got our voices back!

To the utter dismay of those whom we thought would be most proud. Or most supportive. Or the most encouraging. They didn't know what to do with this new person in front of them. This person, this woman, who has her voice back.  It is no longer their job to speak for us, or at us.  Conversations no longer have to flow around our silence, or absence.

One of the saddest things I heard, and it has been seen in recent blogs, is how difficult it is to be seen agreeing with someone because of fear.  Being afraid your pastor or ministry leader won't agree and discover you do.  Or being afraid to agree when it is right but the minority.  Or being afraid to say, Hey this is what I think about this and why...

Most sad, and almost impossible for me to do anymore, is to quiet my voice in order to play dumb or to apologize for having a voice again before speaking.

It is probably good my Pastor is as outspoken as I am about using our voices and talents, and is pretty open to discussion.  So many are afraid they won't fit in with their church friends or faith leaders if they find and use that beautiful voice of theirs!  You know the one God gave you back again.  Yeah that one.

When Jo Ann Fore told me about her When A Woman Finds Her Voice book launch I was so excited!  Reading the review copy of the book has just moved me so deeply!  They get it. They really do.

All those years of being quiet so no one could be wrong or embarrassed by me.  All those years of using my voice for others with nothing back but their silence when I stopped. All those years of longing to share what God put on my heart.  Jo Ann and the contributors to the book understand. They get it.

It is an amazing thing to read the book, and hear the echoes of truth ringing in your spirit.  Knowing you knew it but was still voiceless.  Getting through the healing is a process, but once we are past the hurting and moving into the the healing we find somethings that are just amazing!  I won`t spoil it, come on Wednesday and we`ll have another edition of my rolling book review for Jo Ann`s book and you can enjoy the other blogs who are linking up with Jo Ann to celebrate the launch of When A Woman Finds Her Voice

Come over to Jo Ann's page and meet the other bloggers linking up with us today.  Be sure to leave some love!  Bless you!

Jo Ann Fore

A slow down prayer

I have written about it before. How we can't be digging up seeds after we have them planted.  We have to do the weeding and wait for the harvest.

Slowing down seems to be a constant topic.  We all have so much to do. I wonder - do we?

From shirts to books from pastors to the boys from Duck Dynasty the message is becoming pretty visible - if you don't have time to spend with God or with your family doing what you love you are doing too much.

And those of us who wait. 

On healing. 

On husbands in fields of harvest or war.

On doctors. On help.  

We wait and we are so tempted to rush. To make things hurry and go faster. I'll just put my head down and plough on through until I get to point B.  We say when Point A seems so far distant from our Point B.

We forget that God doesn't need to rush things.  Time has no spaces to Him. It has no dividers either.  It is one long continuous spiral of life!  We need to break it up, to measure it, to put spaces between the moments to hold on or speed it up.

God does not want us rushing either.  Not through life.  Not past the blessings that bloom, fly, giggle and scream into our lives every day, every hour, every moment.

Are you nodding, knowing the verses, about seasons, and time? Knowing the verses for God's timing. For patience.  Are you wondering if there is anything new under the sun?

Think about this for a moment.  Jesus did not rush His trial.  He did not rush His walk with the cross.  He did not rush His time there either.    We think about what He did dying for us there, but really the true miracle is that He took His time from that moment to the empty tomb doing something utterly amazing.

He gathered up every sin. PAST. Present. FUTURE.  Every single one, in what I call a 'net of love'.  He took His broken body and blood, and like only one with perfect richness and timing can bought our debt. Forever.  He bought it, carried it and if we asked Him about it He would say, "It is gone."

He knew that He could not rush.  His human body screamed for fast forward!  His Holy Self knew what had to be done.

The testimony of His walk. His crucifixion. His death. His resurrection would be meaningless without the purchase of our debt.  He died for us. And He took exactly the correct amount of time doing it.

I could go on about seasons. Planting. Harvesting. All of the things that show the stately order and timing of things.  But I won't.  

I want you to think about why you are rushing?  The devil drives us blindly past the blessings of the now for the ever moving point called 'there'.  And it works!  In our rush we are blind. We are voiceless. We are stuck in a rut.  We are moving too fast to read a devotional, to read our Bibles, to pray with a friend, to offer help when help is needed.  If I can fit it in.  Instead we need to make it first, and fit in the rest!

Some flowers bloom for a single day. Babies are babies only once. If you don't look out the window you'll miss seeing something amazing.  Like a late blooming sunflower. Baby hummingbirds learning to fly. Migrating cranes. Kittens just opening their eyes. 

Dear Lord. 
Please help us to slow down. 
Let us see Your works in a
way that brings us to You in
praise and not in a rush.
Let us be able to say, Lord,
"Yes Lord! We saw that!" 
Instead of , "But I was doing." 
Or "I was hurrying to..."
Lord let us see the blessings
small and wonderful that
You abundantly bless us with
in every hour of every day.
Even through our tears and
our loneliness let us slow
down enough to see them
and know they are from You.
Thank you Lord, for the
blessings we see and forgive
us for the ones we hurry
past. Especially those.
Your children pray.

See another poem here at Sunflower Poetry

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Finding My Voice

This is something new, a 'rolling' book review, inspired blog series and conversation I hope you will join in on.  My friend Jo Ann Fore has written an amazing book that I am honoured to be on the Launch Team for!  I invite you to see it on Amazon, and get ready for it's October Release.  In preparation for it we are reading and sharing.  Instead of doing a single post of 'book review' I believe that this book's message is important enough for multiple posts. Follow along on Wednesdays as we discover our voices again!  If you follow on Pinterest or Twitter check out "When A Woman Finds Her Voice"!

Now that our introductions are done let me share something with you - this book is no quick read.  Finding your voice is hard work. But it is work well worth the effort.  This is a journey, alongside some amazing women who have found their voices and their way through to the healing.

Today reading through my review copy I found this gem: 

"I am the ultimate “Serenity Prayer” failure. Not a fan of accepting things I cannot change."

Well didn't THAT just smack me right in the memory banks!  To a time when my voice was not shushed but slammed shut by someone who believed her view was the only view, and therefore the right view.

"Only fools trust God. Or anyone but themselves.  Don't accept what you can't change, if you can't find a way to change it or manipulate someone into changing it you are a fool."  I can still hear her voice, and see her angry glance at the framed plaque on the wall.  How could something as important as a prayer bring out such a response?

As a young believer the first in my family this was savage.  I ached to trust. I longed for it. I wanted to share that faith in God to take care of what I could not.

The gift of this book - and we are going to be talking about a few of them - is that Jo Ann and her contributors know the pain of being invisible and voiceless.  They also know the power of finding what God wanted you to have all along - a voice!  Strong, confident, vibrant and faith-filled.  Your voice.

One of the reasons the review of Jo Ann's book will take me sometime is that I am doing the work you will be doing when you use this book!  This is no quick skim review.  I am testing the waters.  Going to go deep.  

Now, of course, you can't do the book without the book but I am praying this will give you some time to prepare for getting your hands on it.  And to prepare for doing the work.  This journey is one of the few you will unpack to take!  And it is AMAZING!

See you back here next Wednesday for another peek behind the covers of When A Woman Finds Her Voice.

You are invited to follow on Pintrest for inspiring images and quotes!