Thursday, November 28, 2013

Drop the bootstraps

The holiday season. Holy days. Days of spending time thinking of holy things. eh not so much.

We live in a world of great expectations and judgement. Don't believe me?  Next time someone asks, "How are you doing? Respond honestly - I hurt. I'm alone. I'm scared. I think I want to die. No one cares.

Don't answer - Keeping busy. Doing good. Same ol, same ol.

And watch the response. Watch kindly, and watch prayerfully.

Now try this. Ask someone how they are, and don't accept a pat answer.  Gently, and in love, say, "No, really how are you doing? How is your heart, your faith, your hope, your family?"

Then listen. Then pray. And be there fully.  See the hurt in their heart. See the joy too. The hope.

In our busy world we forget that we are not HUMAN DOINGS but we are HUMAN BEINGS.

And the being is what Jesus cares about. And what we need to care about.

The importance of our story is vital. The value of our scars incalculable. The power of prayer and love enormous.  And on the flip side - our silence is costly. Our hiding away in the busy is brutal. Our reliance on self so destructive.

So many people feel utterly alone. And we let them!  They feel their pain in isolation because we fear sharing our story. We fear speaking the hurt. We fear opening up and saying, I know pain like this. You are not alone.

The monsters lurk behind the glitter of the holiday season.  We can out them. Drag them into the light.  We can, and should.  Drag them out and name them. Pull their teeth. Say what they are - lies. Shadows.

We need to drop the bootstraps, you can't use them to pull yourself up.  We need to set aside the grindstone, it only grinds us down. We need to embrace community. We need to wipe away tears. We need to clean wounds. We need to acknowledge scars.

There are a lot of emotional traps during the holidays for me. The illusion of the perfect family.  The reality of being unwanted. And the utter stress of wanting to be included and feeling like I should stay silent, invisible.  I fall into them less easily than I used to. I dropped the bootstraps. And the expectations that somehow I was responsible for everyone's happiness (or for their angst).  

I'm not responsible for them. Or you. But for me. And knowing that changes everything!  When I rest on Jesus. When I hold them up in prayer, and I surrender expectations to Him - I find peace. When I embrace healthy community I am no longer as alone.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35-35

Find that community. Be that community. Reach out. Be ready for tears instead of false joy. Be ready for dirty instead of surface clean. Be ready for open hearts instead of fictional busy. Be ready for something amazing.

Linking up with the #VoiceBloggers as we work our way through When A Woman Finds Her Voice book study with Jo Ann Fore.  Join us, won't you?  Link up your posts, share in the comments here and at Jo Ann's page. And read posts. Leave love.

Jo Ann Fore

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sisterhood of the Scar Clan

If you have lived at all you have scars. You've had wounds. You've been wounded.

The cool thing about scars is that they are wounds that healed and are a sign that we lived to tell the tale!  Or lived to keep the secret. But we lived!

So now what?  How do we use those scars for the glory of God?  How do our old wounds become encouragement for those who are still freshly wounded? Or are still wounding?

I don't really share so much of my story. I tried that earlier this year. It did not go well. I think for all their intentions it was too much.  I get that. A lot. You are too _________! Can't you be a bit less ______________? 

I have to laugh. Don't they think I've tried?  And then I wonder at why God wouldn't change that.  Those stripes that seem so loud in a tame garden or living room are actually perfect in the wilds of my life. They helped me survive.  They still do. But in a different way.

There is one important thing about my story, about your story, that needs to never be forgotten. You ready? Really ready?

You made it through. God brought you through. You are beautiful. 

Yes you. Even you. Especially you.

I don't care if you walked, crawled, snuck out in the shadows, swam down a river of tears - the scars say you didn't quit. You could have. I could have.  God kept His promise.


Sister, in your wounds be encouraged.  Still feeling pain means you are alive.

Sister, in your scars be encouraged. They mean you are healing. Aching reminders of getting through.

Why do you think Jesus showed us His scars after the Resurrection?  To show He made it through. He won. He bore it all for us, and conquered.  Thomas doubted, and put his hands into the wounds. Others saw the scars with their own eyes. And those who never saw them believed.

Scars can have a high price. They cost us in pain, in blood and in the original wounding. Denying them, covering them up with clothes or makeup doesn't erase them.  Scars show a victory that, if we choose it, can glorify our God.

Some days I look at the scars on my body - two saved my life, and were enormous blessings. The others sometimes ache in the damp or cold. They are not pretty. But they are mine.

And I can say to a hurting sister - see these?  I made it through. I'll stand by you in prayer. I'll stand shoulder to shoulder in silence. I'll interceed on my knees. You are not alone.

Sometimes I think about the scars inside, the ones no one sees but me. They are the hardest because no one sees them unless I speak about them. And then how do I share the darkness in such a way as to point towards the Light?

Sisters, and brothers - we all bear the scars inside and out. My scars are here to let you know I can bear to hear your story. You are not too wounded, too bloody, too betrayed or too ANYTHING for our loving God, and not for me either.  

We, as the body of Christ, can be the loving arms of the church embracing our wounded, anointing scars with love, bearing one another's burdens and showing love. Showing grace. Showing humbleness.

There is no competition here. Everyone bears their wounding, their healing and scarring, differently.

What I walked through, might have brought someone else to their knees.  What you walked through I cannot imagine bearing.  I can't know your pain but I know pain. I can't walk in your shoes but I can be there to walk beside you.

It's not an exclusive club, we are all scarred.  It's an inclusive club that we all can be redeemed. It's an inclusive club that not one of us is unworthy of love, of forgiveness or for grace.  If you seek it, God won't deny you. He seeks our hearts and souls earnestly.  He wishes for reconciliation to His children.

Thank you Lord for loving this bloody mess of a sinner. This surviving, scarred up cowgirl, farm wife and imperfect mama.  Thank you Lord for each eye that reads this that is drawn closer to YOU.  It is all about YOU. Not me. 

Are you hurting? Are you wanting to find the way through to the healing?  Can I pray with you? For you? Over you?

Linking up with Jo Ann Fore and the Voice Bloggers as we work through to the healing.

Jo Ann Fore

Thursday, November 14, 2013

That voice you hear

That voice you hear is me.
That silence you miss
was never really me.

If this question from Jo Ann ( had come last week my response would have been very different.  It would have been a bit more of a powerful voice and yet God did not will that.  Instead He has me writing from here and now.  And this place is one where I am still hurting and still reeling. Still wondering at the cost of using my voice.

When silence has been the norm then your voice becomes a strange sound.  For some a welcome sound and to others something they would happily miss.

Dr. Temple Grandin, an amazing woman whose voice I treasure, has explained it this way: when something becomes bad gradually we tend to adapt. To make the bad the new normal. And this is wrong. Bad is always bad, adapting for survival should be a short term strategy, not a long term life choice. For people and animals 'bad as a new normal' is always going to be bad.

Getting to a new, healthy normal takes a tremendous amount of work - prayer work, heart work, body work, soul work and mind work. It's work. Our voices are a like a muscle - they need exercise.  Consider this: if a long distance runner lets their exercise program be controlled by a power lifter will they be a better runner or a poor version of a power lifter?  It is the same with our voices!  If we want to be heard, we can't ask those who would rather have us be silent what our voices should sound like!

My voice has gotten me into more hot water than my silence.  Apparently my body language also gets me into hot water. It would be better, they said, to be quiet and still.  And inside my spirit howls: WHAT! WHAT! WHAT?

I'm an advocate. I'm a humble prayer partner. I'll speak up for you when your voice isn't strong. I will not be shy about my faith. I won't be ashamed of who I call friend, and whom I love. I will ask questions. And look at you to seek your own answers. I will set boundaries, and burn bridges. I will also sing you home when you are lost. I will call your name friend when you feel alone.  I will comfort you when your voice is broken. 

As a child of God, the redeemed beloved of Jesus, I have a stern duty. I have a joyous task. To use my voice to help others.  To encourage. To pray. To be present when all others leave. To show up. To say to the devil: NOT TODAY!

I am also an imperfect woman. I'm a sinner. I'm a failure. Sometimes I fail, and raise my voice. Sometimes I fail, and I get frustrated. Sometimes I fail, and I fail badly. 

The one thing I cannot forget is that God me. He made you. Including your voice. So it might not seem loud to you, but to someone living in silence you voice can be the sweetest sound they hear!  Pray. Love. Be there. And when your voice is needed - loud or quiet - speak! 

It saddens me greatly when I hear sister bloggers saying they are afraid to comment on posts they personally agree with because they are afraid to voice that when their church does not share the same opinion.  Jesus did not tell us to encourage one another when it suits congregational doctrine.  Jesus did not tell us to be praying constantly for those who are in agreement with us. 

Jesus told us to get in to the ditches and help the wounded, the dirty.  Jesus told us to put down our stones and lay gentle hands upon hurting people.  Jesus told us to love one another. Love one another. He did it with His hands, His voice and His blood.  How can we do anything less than use the gifts He gave us?  Don't be ashamed of your voice, He gave it to you!

As a survivor of abuse nothing is more soothing than the voice of someone who knows healing is a journey, the voice of someone who recognizes and respects our scars, the voice of someone who rejects judgment and embraces the empathy of a loving advocate.

When they tell it is more 'comfortable' for you to be silent and still - JUMP UP AND SING! DANCE! PRAY!!

Stretch your voice and share with us at the link up!

Be blessed by hearing other voices by reading the blogs by the courageous women who are sharing there. Be sure to leave some love. And pray for one another. Encourage our sisters, and brothers, to use their voices!

Check out Jo Ann's book here:

and join us for the free book study which begins November 18th!!
Jo Ann Fore

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

challenging happy endings

Today my sister blogger, and sister in Christ, Nina wrote about happy endings, or rather the lack of happy endings, on her blog.

Rather than fill her comment box with a blog post, I'll share my link with her, and this response in blog form, with all of you.

Happy endings. In books and in movies, plays too and in dreams. Happy endings. Can you imagine standing at the check out and NOT seeing a headline about someone's missed happy ending or lament of an imperfect life?

Confession time: this is a post that is HARD to write, and being written during a HARD time. A time I'd like to know has an END that I can see. But I can't. None of us can. So onward!

Happy endings. Happily ever after. I always wondered - after what? 

It should be Joy filled journey!  or Walk the road together!  It is all about how we get there, and who we go there with.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Act justly.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly with our God.

No happy endings prescribed here. No fairy tales. No pot of gold. Just a walk along our life with our Lord. And the people who are in our lives. 

He asks us to do three things - DO being the key here.

Act Justly - with our children, our spouses, our families and friends. With strangers. With those we've set boundaries with. With those who hurt us.

Love Mercy - the kind of mercy that Jesus showed, and shows us. The kind of mercy that is worthy of love.

Walk humbly with your God. Personal time, walking with God. Not behind Him. Not ahead, yelling over our shoulders. Beside. With.

So in our happy journey we can let go of the fairy tale.

(and as a side note, if you make a study of fairy tales the 'happy endings' are often lessons in unexpected consequences and warnings of traps that stop us from having a full life. Trust me. Fairy tales are almost always, in their early or original forms, cautionary tales. We are so used to the Disneyfication of them that the warnings, cautions and teachings are lost.)

When we let go of the I WANT or WHERE IS MY then we can act justly. We can love mercy. We can walk humbly.

If we are to love our spouses, and respect them, then we need to understand how Jesus loves us.  And how He wishes us to journey. There is no need for a wistful 'happy ending' when we can have 'the most amazing journey ever' instead!

Don't ask for a happy ending!  Don't buy into any happily ever after that does not include eternal salvation!  Instead, join in the journey. Live each day acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You there, speak up!

Uncommon Courage, that is what Jo Ann is asking us to consider over at her blog link up for #WhenAWomanFindsHerVoice. We have been sharing our hearts for the past few weeks, I encourage you to read some of the past posts. You'll be blessed, as I have, in reading what these wonderful women have shared!

Being a silence breaker can be the hardest thing to do with your voice!  Many would have you remain silent for their comfort and God would have you speak to serve His will.  

Like my husband's sweet dog Feathers who is trapped in her crate by the terrible terror kittens she need only use her voice to be freed.  If she would bark or growl those kittens would puff up and scatter!  If she would get out of the crate she could come to me, where I would protect her.  But her house is her comfort zone and she is loathe to leave it. And they think they have her trapped. 

And the door is open!  They are kittens. 

Certainly their Mama is a force to be reckoned with, but them? Hissing hair balls!

Sitting on my lawn, holding a sign saying I will be Silence Breaker seems rather funny, no?  But our voice can be heard when we don't speak a single word. Our courage can be in showing up. In doing God's will. By serving. Through gentle hands. Being scared to death and doing it anyway.

Fear is a beast we all struggle with. Sometimes it is a wee kitten - a hissing hair ball.  Sometimes it is a red light and siren screaming DANGER DANGER DANGER

The thing with fear is that it isn't all bad all the time! Sometimes we need fear - it gives us a jolt of adrenaline to get us going to get away from danger.  Sometimes we need fear - it can tell us when our courage is needed. Sometimes fear is an old memory. A shadow. 

I'm a bit of a prepper.  I try to be ready for things. Most of the things I fear the most have NEVER come to pass.  And those that do ended up being bigger blessings than I could have imagined.

Oh my heart trembles in my chest like a terrified bird.  Oh my soul feels small and distant from my Lord. Oh my courage sinks into a puddle of fear. Oh my knees lower me down. And then when all seems utterly confusing and full of fear I'm in the right place to pray. To listen. To let Him soothe my soul. To lift my spirit. To strengthen my resolve.

The hardest thing about finding your voice isn't knowing when to use it, it is accepting that some would prefer you remain silent. And with love and grace, letting them go.  My husband taught me something wise a long time ago, the people who you fear the most, the ones who keep you up at night are probably not up at night thinking about you.   Pray for them, give them back to God and move on.  Simple to say. Simple to type. So VERY hard to actually do!

What do I fear the most?  That woman I see in the mirror every morning.  I fear her weakness will let those who count on me down. That her sharp tongue will cut. Her empathy will fail. That she will utterly and completely drop the proverbial ball.

Who was the hardest person to learn to love? Me.  Imperfect woman. Working on respect and submission wife. Working on patience Mama. Working on more faith, more gratitude and less worry. But I do love her. She is amazing. God has wrought something special in her.

Silence breaker! Sister warrior. Princess, daughter of the King. We are attacked by the dark designs of a fallen angel because he fears our voices!  He fears our prayers. He fears our love.   The more he designs traps to discourage us, to distract us, to disturb us the more he thinks he is winning.  Dear ones, God loves your voice!  He made it, tuned it through life like a fine instrument.  He wants to hear it. So do we!  Share with us on the link up, won't you?  Be blessed by reading other blogs and please leave some love. Everyone needs to know that their voice is heard. You may not know how encouraging your one comment may be to someone who is writing her heart into the open!  Be the blessing!

Jo Ann Fore