Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Child of Mine: My "Sweetly Broken" Journey (Introduction)



Child of Mine: My “Sweetly Broken” Journey

Table of Contents
Foreword                                                                                                        

Part I              Growing Up
Chapter 1        My First Official Grown-Up Summer                                    
Chapter 2        Fast Forward 13 Years or So                                                
Chapter 3        More Than You Wanted to Know                                        
Chapter 4        A New and Ugly Me                                                            
Chapter 5        First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage                             
Chapter 6        Then Comes...                                                                      
Chapter 7        Lessons from the Battlefront                                                  
Chapter 8        Lessons for Life                                                                    

Part II             Growing Down
Chapter 9        The Final Frontier                                                                 
Chapter 10      The Breaking Point                                                               
Chapter 11      It is what it is!                                                                       
Chapter 12      Adding One More to the Mix                                                
Chapter 13      Oh, Give Me a Home . . . Please!                                          
Chapter 14      The Heart of the Matter                                                         
Chapter 15      From “Good, Adult Step-Child”. . .                                       
Chapter 16      . . . To Child . . .                                                                    
Chapter 17      . . . To Humbled!                                                                   

Part III           Growing Faith                                                          
Chapter 18      The Desert                                                                              
Chapter 19      Blessed Be Your Name                                                          
Chapter 20A   Your Will Be Done?                                                               
Chapter 21      Digging Deep                                                                         
Chapter 22      In Jesus’ Name                                                                      
Chapter 23     Keeping the Faith                                                                    
Chapter 24      Sweetly Broken                                                                                 
Afterword                                                                                                      
Bibliography                                                                                                   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Child of Mine Chapter 1 (COM Ch 1): My First Grown-Up Summer

Part I  Growing Up  

Chapter 1:  My First Official Grown-Up Summer

            This was before kids, before marriage.  I was twenty years old.  Almost twenty-one.  And I was going to the other side of the world in a huge leap of faith.  It was a ten-week trip and my first summer away from home.  Away from anything and anyone familiar.  I walked down the boarding ramp to the plane, plodding along in a tan shirt, peach skirt and a big, ugly pair of construction boots.  As I cast a last tearful glance back at my boyfriend, a tangible feeling of aloneness came over me.  (I come from a family of eight.  You never get a chance to feel alone in a family of eight.)  And not just aloneness, but loneliness.  I was all on my own in a way I had never been before.  This was just me . . . well, just me and God.  I would leave home a girl and come back all grown up.
            [FYI: This chapter is long and boring.  So go ahead and skip it.  All you really need to know is this:  I went on a mission trip when I was a young adult, and it grew me up in so many ways.  I grew in my self-confidence and I grew in my faith.  But I would later discover that I had a lot more growing to do and that my faith and confidence were not as hunky-dory as I thought.  Now you can go right to chapter 2, if you don't want to read a really long, boring chapter.  You have my permission.]   


Sunday, October 28, 2012

COM Ch 2: Fast Forward 13 Years or So

Chapter 2:  Fast Forward Thirteen Years or So

            I was having one of those moments - a moment that pushes you to your limit and threatens to break you.  I had spent thirty-two years carefully constructing a world of comfort and contentment.  (I didn’t plan the alliteration, but it does sound poetic, doesn’t it?)  And this moment came out of nowhere.  No warning, no preparation.  In fact, I was probably the opposite of prepared. 
            It’s like a flower.  If you plant a seed and grow it carefully protected from any wind, the stem won’t be strong.  The slightest breeze could knock it over.  But if it grows with the wind moving it back and forth, it is forced to grow a strong stem that can hold up in severe weather.  I was a weak-stemmed flower. 

COM Ch 3: More Than You Wanted to Know

Chapter 3:  More Than You Wanted to Know

            So you may be asking, “Who is this Heather and what gives her the authority to write this book?”  (Or you may not be, so I’ll ask it for you.)  In answer to the latter question: “Nothing!”  I just felt like writing down some thoughts that kept circling around my pretty, little head.  I don’t know everything or even part of everything when it comes to being a parent or a Christian or a spouse or a daughter or a person or anything. (Despite the many times that I may act like I do.)  And I am not a Biblical scholar by any means, so nothing I say here is expert advice or “gospel truth” (unless it is actually the Gospel’s Truth).  These are just my reflections on life and God and faith.  And I invite you to listen to my thoughts, my fears, my struggles, and my unanswered questions.  Now, I don’t know if anyone else will find my story as endlessly fascinating as I do, but here it is.       

Saturday, October 27, 2012

COM Ch 4: A New and Ugly Me

Chapter 4:  A New and Ugly Me

            All through high school, I never gave much thought to dating.  In fact, I avoided it.  I really only dated one wonderfully sweet guy for four months.  But I didn’t have any feelings for him.  I dated him because my mom liked him so much and made me go out with him.  Which was precisely the reason why I broke up with him.  (But honestly, Rodney, you were such a nice, sweet guy.  I’m sorry for what I put you through.  It wasn’t fair, and I wish you the best.) 
            Other than that, I only went on a very small handful of dates, and it was never with someone that I really liked.  (Okay, it was two dates.  Once to the homecoming dance and once to the fair along with a group of friends, so I don’t even know if you can call that a date.)  If I really did have a severe crush on any guy, I would never let it turn into anything.   

COM Ch 5: First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

Chapter 5:  First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage 

            Jason and I were getting married in a few months.  And as a last hurrah, my mom offered to take me, Gina (my maid-of-honor), and Gina’s mom, Donna, on a cruise.  We would get to spend some time in Ft. Lauderdale and then board a ship for a one-day trip to the Bahamas.  I had never been to the Bahamas before or on a cruise.  What a wonderful treat and a great way to finish out my single years!  But it’s amazing how things don’t always go the way you plan!   

Friday, October 26, 2012

COM Ch 6: Then Comes . . .

Chapter 6:  Then Comes . . .

            I married Jason a few weeks before I turned twenty-four.  I was attending graduate school, and I was finally learning to relax and trust after working out my issues and my fears.  I was enjoying setting up house for the two of us and learning to cook.  Basically, I was just having fun being young.  And I had clear plans for my future.  I was going to get my counseling license.  I was going to work a few years to pay down school loans.  I was going to enjoy the unbridled freedom that comes with being on my own. 
            I was going to get a big surprise! 

COM Ch 7: Lessons From the Battlefront

Chapter 7:  Lessons From the Battlefront

            Alright now!  So, here I am - a mother of three little boys.  I never did go back to work.  (Yet, I have done nothing but work since they arrived.)  Instead, I enlisted.  I enlisted in the ranks of the sleep-deprived; the worn, ragged souls serving at the front lines of the battle.  God bless them!  I was neck deep in Motherhood.   And the battle raged on, as it does in many homes around the world, between mother and child.  Who would dominate?  Who would rule?  Sometimes the battle is too close to tell. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

COM Ch 8: Lessons for Life

Chapter 8:  Lessons for Life

            That list of rules is a humorous one . . . humorous, but true.  However, on a more serious note, there is another list of rules that I try to live by.  These are beliefs that I have formed, though not executed perfectly, from things that I’ve read and by watching how people (including myself) interact with their kids.  They are ones that you probably will see in some parenting books.  They may not fit for you, but they do for me.  (These do not include specifics or advice on discipline.  There are numerous good books out there about that.  These are just some general principles.  And many of them also speak to how we should relate to all people, not just our children!) 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

COM Ch 9: The Final Frontier

Part II  Growing Down

Chapter 9:   The Final Frontier      

            Have you ever prepared a big holiday meal, say Thanksgiving?  I host Thanksgiving every year for my husband’s family.  And it’s always interesting!  Even though it’s basically the same menu every year, things always happen a little differently. 
            One year, I woke up Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. to get the bird ready when I had my first bout of serious morning sickness.  I have a chiropractic problem that causes a pinch in my neck when I’ve slept wrong, but only when I’m pregnant.  And if I wake up with that pinch in my neck, I know that I will be tossing my cookies every half-hour and completely unable to do anything but lay still and try to rest my neck until the pinch goes away. 

COM Ch 10: The Breaking Point

Chapter 10:   The Breaking Point

            Okay, so what was this terrible crisis of mine?  What is this great trial that reduced me to rubble?  The one I’ve been building up to this whole book?  Chronologically speaking, this came before Ryder’s toddler years that I talked about in the last chapter.  So I guess, those years weren’t pulling together all that picture-perfectly like I led you to believe.  It’s more like I was desperately trying to pull all things together and maintain control over anything I could . . . because everything was on the verge of falling apart. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

COM Ch 11: It Is What It Is!

Chapter 11:   It Is What It Is!

            The closest thing I ever had to a “daddy” was my step-dad #2, Bob.  My biological father, Bill, was a good man, but he had his own life and his other kids.  And I wasn’t a part of that life.  I rarely heard from him or saw him, though it was enjoyable whenever I did.  Step-dad #1, Tom, was my step-dad for a couple years.  He, too, was a good man.  But I stopped going to his house after I was thirteen years old, and we lost contact when I was in my late twenties.  But Bob had been my dad for most of my life.   

COM Ch 12: Adding One More to the Mix

Chapter 12:  Adding One More to the Mix

            This one really threw us for a loop!  Now, when we got pregnant with Kody, it was a surprise, too.  A good surprise!  And the last two pregnancies were very planned.  But we just weren’t ready for this one. 
            We had always said that we wanted four.  That sounded like the perfect number.  But my third one had really worn me down, as you already know by now.  So I had started to think that ending with three sounded pretty good.  I was just so exhausted and stretched thin. 
            But God had other plans!  And I think, semi-unconsciously, so did I.  And we got pregnant again.  (I blame it on a mathematical error.  And I realized it mere moments after “the act” when I went, “Wait?  What is the date again?”  And I ran to the calendar, recounted, and went, “Oh, crap!”  I never was good at math!) 
            Big Stressor #3!  (A good kind of stress, but still stress.)  

Monday, October 22, 2012

COM Ch 13: Oh, Give Me a Home . . . Please

Chapter 13:  Oh, Give Me a Home . . . Please     

            Deep down, I am a country girl at heart.  Some people love the fast cities and meeting new people and big parties.  Not me!  I love the quiet country.  I love the idea of a small town where neighbors know each other, where they get together for block parties (whatever happened to those?) and visits at one another’s houses (whatever happened to those?).  For me, the epitome of homey and welcoming is a large front porch with a creaky swing on an old farm house where a small group of friends could chat over lemonade or apple pie.  (In so many ways, I am an eighty-year-old trapped in a . . . uh-hmm . . . “young” woman’s body.)

COM Ch 14: The Heart of the Matter

Chapter 14:  The Heart of the Matter

            A few years back, I went to a family reunion at my grandparents’ farm, a great big barn dance.  Good food, campfires, lots of people, my wonderful grandparents!  Always a fun time.  My biological father, Bill, was there with my two half-brothers and half-sister.  He’s a musician and, during the barn dances, he plays his guitar for the crowd, singing old country songs. 
            During one song, he invited my half-brothers to come up with him and sing in the background.  I sat there around the campfire holding one of my children and swaying to the music, listening to my half-brothers accompany my dad with “whaa-ooo-whaa-ooo-whaa-ooo.”  It was peaceful.  It was enjoyable.  It was . . . disturbing. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

COM Ch 15: From "Good, Adult Step-Child"...

Chapter 15: From “Good, Adult Step-Child”. . . 

            When I was about eighteen years old, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom looking over some old letters from Bill, my biological father.  Letters from my early teens, the first letters that I ever got from him.  And for some reason, a thought popped into my head out of nowhere:  I never got to go to a Daddy-Daughter dance.  Without expecting it, a sense of loss and sadness swept over me that I had never felt before.  (And I had been doing so good before that.)
            This was a turning point in my life, a turn toward emptiness and longing.  Before that, I was so happy-go-lucky, but this was the first time that I felt the pain left by the divorce.  For the first time, I realized that I actually had a desire for a “daddy.”  And that’s when it hit me that I had never even called anyone “Daddy”. . . Ever!  And suddenly, there was a tangible ache in my heart.  Having a relationship with several dads could never equal one whole daddy.             

COM Ch 16: . . . To Child . . .

Chapter 16 . . . To Child . . .  

            Learning to be a child - after fighting it for so long - did not come naturally to me.  While I was beginning to understand that I had been a step-child all those years, I was still a little unsure of how to be His child.  What does being a child look like?  God was showing me that honesty and transparency were a major part of it, but there was more.  I needed to move from a relationship based on fear to one based on love.  But how do you let others love you when you are used to protecting yourself from vulnerability and closeness?    

COM Ch 17: . . . To Humbled.

Chapter 17 . . . To Humbled.  

            The first life-changing prayer in my room was when I began to really learn that complete honesty with Him is okay.  Not just okay, but necessary.  I was learning that nothing I say in honesty can separate me from His love and forgiveness.  That transparency, especially about the painful things, brings me closer to His healing love.  I didn’t have to bear the weight on my own, to keep a stiff upper-lip or be ashamed of the doubts and fears inside.  I just had to admit them to Him and seek His comfort and truth. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

COM Ch 18: The Desert

Part III  Growing Faith

Chapter 18:  The Desert

            When I was a junior in college, I went on a week-long hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains.  It was a college mission trip to clean up the paths as we hiked.  And a group of about twenty of us took an overnight bus down.  After we got there, we broke up into four teams that would all be hiking different paths.  My team consisted of all tall people, except for me.  I was the only five-footer (well, five feet and three-quarters of an inch) in a group of at least five-foot-eight-ers.  My brand-new backpack and the sleeping bag that I wore on my back were about as big as I was and weighed about as much, at least a hundred pounds.  (Ok, not that much.  But close!)  It was going to be a long week.

COM Ch 19: Blessed Be Your Name

Chapter 19:  Blessed Be Your Name           

            Ten long years of waiting and we finally found the house that we had been looking for.  After months and months of searching and praying and waiting through God’s silence, God brought us a good one.  I had always wanted the opportunity to find a house where I could say, “This is it!”  And when I saw it on-line, I had to say, “This is it!”  Lord, You have been so good to us!  Blessed be Your name! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

COM Ch 20A: Your Will Be Done?

Chapter 20A:  Your Will Be Done?

            Over the two decades that I have been a Christian, I have tried really hard to learn Scriptural truths and to apply them to my life.  I tried too hard.  I was missing the forest for the trees.  I ended up missing out on a rich, secure relationship with the Lord because I was too busy trying to do it right and meet His requirements.  I was so afraid of the wrath of the Old Testament God that I couldn’t enjoy the love of the New Testament God. 
            And the Bible wasn’t a way to get near to Him and to enjoy getting to know Him, it was a “To Do” list.  Do this, don’t do that, do that instead, do it again and do it right, and I’ll give you what you ask.  But when things didn’t seem to be working out the way that I wanted, I ended up disappointed in God and confused about why my “faith” wasn’t working.  I had thought that I was doing it right.  What happened? 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

COM Ch 21: Digging Deep

Chapter 21: Digging Deep

            By this point, it had been a couple years’ worth of waiting for God to bring us a house.  I would even take an inkling of guidance in any direction.  But there was none of that.  Nothing but . . . well, nothing.  We had found and then lost one house.  We had severe mold issues in the downstairs of the rental and then got mold in an upstairs bedroom.  (And, yes, I did notify the landlord, several times.  But no one else seemed to smell it.  And then when they did do something about it, it was done wrong.  Twice!)  So we were sleeping on separate floors just so we could fit, the boys on the downstairs floor with Jason, and me and Jackson in the boys’ bunk bed upstairs.  We had stopped inviting company over because of all the boxes and the mold.  And during the day, we would spend hours just sitting outside, trying to stay out of the house.  My tonsils had become very swollen and rock hard, and my arms would go numb if I was in the back room too long.  And still . . . we were getting no direction from God. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

COM Ch 22: In Jesus' Name


Chapter 22: In Jesus’ Name          

            Okay, so how does someone like me - who was (or who, at times, still is) so self-sufficient, self-protected, and proud - end up desperately driven to prayer and God’s Word?  As I read through my near-finished draft of this book, I realized that I was leaving something out; something that really helps explain why I have become so passionate about and committed to prayer and God’s Word, and how I have come to tenaciously cling to Jesus.      

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

COM Ch 23: Keeping the Faith

Chapter 23:  Keeping The Faith

            Now, I’ve already looked at several very important ways to “keep the faith” when times get rough and the wait gets long.  Prayer, Bible reading, praising God, being thankful, getting rid of expectations of how God should answer, focusing on our job today and letting God do His, embracing the fact that we are needy, helpless and dependent, etc.  These are all ways to keep up our faith in the hard times.  But there are more.  And sometimes when the wait gets long, we need to use each and every last resource that God gives us to make it through. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

COM Ch 24: Sweetly Broken (and Afterword)

Chapter 24:  Sweetly Broken

            You know the scenes in shows where a little girl is running toward her dad, and she jumps into his open, waiting arms.  And he scoops her up and hugs her and cuddles her, while they are both smiling.  And they both look just so happy.  I have no idea how that feels.  I’ve never done that before.  The most I’ve ever had was a slightly awkward, slightly uncomfortable hug from a dad.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Child of Mine Fellowship Questions

Child of Mine Fellowship Questions
            If you choose to read Child of Mine alongside other people and have “book club” meetings to discuss it, here are some questions to help the conversation along.  I call them “fellowship” instead of “study” questions because this isn’t a book that you necessarily have to study.  But I hope that it will encourage self-introspection, conversation and openness, deeper faith, and deeper relationships. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Through The Furnace: Your "Sweetly Broken" Journey (Intro 1)

Through the Furnace:  Your “Sweetly Broken” Journey
A heart-and-faith-changing workbook for people who like to think deeply, tackle the hard questions, challenge themselves, and journal. 

Do You Want More?
            In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

            Okay, now, let me ask this:  How many of us really feel that we are living our lives to the fullest?  Abundant lives?  Vibrant lives?  Eternally-effective lives?  I’m going to suspect that most of us are just hoping to make it through the day, maybe accomplishing one extra chore on our To Do list.  Just so we can fall exhausted into bed, and then wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
            We are overloaded, stretched-thin, and ready to break . . . or we’re just plain bored.  We feel alone, unimportant, and overlooked.  We go through the motions each day without any sense of deep joy or satisfaction or accomplishment.  Does anything we do really matter?  We desperately want life to be “more”. . . or we just really want a vacation.   

Through the Furnace (TTF) Intro 2

Starting the Journey 
 
            Psalm 14:2:  “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”   
 
            Maybe you’re thinking, Okay, so I am ready to start this challenge.  I want to become diligent in my relationship with the Lord.  I want to draw ever nearer to Him and to live a life that is glorifying to Him.  I want to be humbled at His feet.  I want Him to prune away anything that may be hindering my relationship with Him, so that I can have a deeper, more genuine, more vibrant relationship with Him.  How can I do this?  How can I become Sweetly Broken?       

Thursday, October 11, 2012

TTF Piece 1: Desire to be Broken

            Psalm 51:17:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 
 

            Okay, if you are still reading this then I would guess that you have a genuine desire to be broken, or at least you’re curious about it.  And the first step to brokenness is seeing your need for it and desiring it.  During this step, all you need to do is pray.  It does not need to follow any formula or specific words, just tell God of your desire to be humbled.  (There’s a sample prayer at the end of this post.)  He doesn’t need fancy words or long prayers, but He does need us to open our hearts to him.  He needs our invitation.  He needs us to express our willingness to be molded. 

TTF Piece 2: Honesty and Transparency

Honesty with Yourself and Transparency Before the Lord

            Proverbs 12:22:  “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

            Matthew 5:8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  

            Pure.  Being free from impurities.  Impurities are those things that pollute what is true and genuine and good.  And what pollutes a true, genuine, good relationship with the Lord (and pollutes even our own lives) are falsehood and lies.  Hiding from truth and hiding the truth.  Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one.  These keep us from being able to really experience, see, and know God.  But if we will live authentic, transparent lives before God, we will know Him (and ourselves) in a way we never could before. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

TTF Piece 3: Listen and Be Still

            Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
 
            That is one of my favorite verses.  I’m working on a goal right now to find my top five “life verses” and that is one of them.  And it’s funny because when I was in high school, I went to a Christian retreat and that was the key verse for the week.  And all I could think was, How boring!  What a boring verse to pick to inspire, challenge, and “activate” the teens for Christ.  Be still?  Blah!
            But now, this verse has become so dear to me.  So, I guess I’ve come full circle.
            To me, this verse is all about humility.  A humble person is one who has learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that, despite the storms that rage around, they can “be still” because God is God!  A humble person desperately desires to be near the Lord and to bask in His presence, and so they have learned the importance of being physically and mentally still with the Lord at times.  And a humble person also knows that everything is about God’s glory!  He will be exalted!!!
            Oh, I love this verse!!!
            But it took me a long time to learn to be still because, deep down, I couldn’t trust others, not even God.  I couldn’t “be still” before Him because I was too busy and concerned with keeping all the balls up in the air.  And as a consequence, I never knew the incredible joy and delight and peace of resting in His arms.  Of being still.

TTF Piece 4: Radical Obedience

            I would have to say that of all the pieces, I think that this one is the most important.  (If any one of them can be considered more important than the others.)  And I’m not saying this like God necessarily needs our obedience or else He’ll be at a helpless loss.  But because obedience says the most about our relationship with God.  Obedience tells us if we are able to hear His messages and if we know His Word, if we trust Him enough and are willing enough to do what He says, and if we love Him and have really made Him God of our lives.  Let’s take a moment to explore some of what the Bible says about obedience:


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TTF Piece 5: Word of God

            Before I went through the furnace, I loved God’s Word.  And I valued it immensely.  And at different times in my life, I would immerse myself in it.  But at others, I would realize that I didn’t take it out for weeks.  I knew it was important . . . I just didn’t live like it was important enough to be read every day.  (I’m just being honest here.)  I was so busy with life that I convinced myself that it was enough to listen to godly music and read godly books.  Scripture was extra.  Beneficial, but not as inspiring as music and inspirational books.  And frankly, it was so familiar that it was boring and just not doing much for me anymore. 
            And as far as prayer was concerned, when I used to have my insomniac-ish nights, I would lay there and quiet my mind and pray, asking God to speak to me . . . in the hopes that by silencing my mind, I would actually be able to fall asleep.  I didn’t really want to hear from Him.  I just wanted sleep. 
            But now, after the furnace, the Word has become so alive to me.  And prayer has become a life-line - an intimate, mind-boggling connection to my Heavenly Father.  In fact, now I find that I have a hard time falling asleep because I don’t want to miss anything that He might want to tell me in the quietness and stillness of my heart and mind.  It’s amazing to me that I, a lowly little worm, could communicate with the God who created the heavens and the earth, and that He actually wants to hear from me all the time.  It’s very humbling. 

TTF Piece 6: Importance of Prayer

            If we do not see the immense value of prayer, it could be because of misconceptions we have about what it is.  (Or it could be because we are preoccupied with self and being self-sufficient.)   

            So, I want to take a moment to review some misconceptions that many of us have about prayer.  (Many of these I looked at in the “Understanding God’s Will” series.)  I believe that, in general, we see prayer very differently from the way God sees it. 

            We want it to be a “magic button” that we can push to get what we want; whereas, God wants us to pray so that we can remain close to Him and accomplish what He wants.

            We want prayer to be there when we need it; God wants us to pray because we need Him. 

            We want to be comfortable and not have to spend too much time in prayer or get up too early; God wants prayer-warriors. 

            We want the easy road; God wants people who can boldly storm the gates of hell.

            We want to build the greatest entertainment center in the world; God wants us to build His kingdom. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

TTF Piece 7: Correct View of You

            In Child of Mine (at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com), I wrote all about my insecurities and fears and about how they affected my relationships with people and with God.  But the thing is, I know that my story isn’t any different from so many other people’s stories.  Many, many of us come from broken, hurting pasts.  And so we all carry around scars and defense mechanisms, and we have walls that we put up for self-protection.  Walls that keep people and God an arm’s length away. 

            But I never knew the incredible freedom that came with letting God break through them … until I fully opened the door of my heart to Him!  And now I want so much to help others do this, too. 

            The thing with people who have been hurt in the past is that we spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from being hurt ever again, even by God.  (Except we don’t always know it.)  We don’t let people get too close.  We’ve learned not to expect too much from others, not to cling too tightly or to desire too much from them.  We’ve learned not to need others or to let ourselves be loved by others.  It would just hurt us anyway.  And so we sabotage relationships with other people in many different ways. 

TTF Piece 8: Correct View of God

            One reason that I have so strongly stressed our need to be in the Word daily is because this is where we find God, as He is.  And if we are not relating to God as He is - as He has revealed Himself to be in His Word - we are relating to Him out of falsehoods, misconceptions, preconceived ideas, and half-truths.  And many times we are relating to Him in unhealthy ways because of our broken pasts and broken hearts. 

            We just don’t know it. 

            But if we continue to do this - if we do not put the effort and thought into correcting our unhealthy views and our unhealthy ways of relating to Him - our relationship with Him will always be stunted, shallow, or damaged. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

TTF Piece 9: A Time of Waiting

            As I reflect back on my time in the furnace, I have to say that the most growth seemed to happen during the times of God’s deafening silence.  As we waited for years to get direction from God about a house, it seemed that the greater my need for an answer and for God’s leading, the quieter He got. 
            At first, I pleaded with Him for a sense of direction and for a house.  But by the end, I was just pleading to have any sense that He was even there, that He cared and was listening and hadn’t abandoned me.  What started out as a search for a home ended up as a search for knowing that I mattered to God. 
            It’s ironic to me that the greatest level of growth that I have ever had in my relationship with the Lord came out of a time when I doubted everything about my relationship with Him.  The most growth I have ever experienced in my understanding of prayer came from feeling like I totally failed at it.  And by embracing the unworthy truth of myself (the truth that we don’t have to be “worthy” of God’s love because it is free and available and all we have to do it accept it), I finally found the acceptance that I desperately wanted.
            And I could only get to this point by facing the walls and fears and doubts that I had inside.  And I could only do that when God hid from me.  Because the more He hid, the more I pursued.  It wasn’t that He had abandoned me (even if it felt that way); it’s that He knew I was ready to dig deeper and pursue Him more.  And this wouldn’t have happened if I was pampered by His presence and by His blessings.
 
            I think that there are at least five reasons why God remains silent for stretches of time: 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

TTF Pieces 10 and 11: Looking Back/Additional Challenges

Piece Ten:  Looking Back on the Journey
 
            There are no guaranteed results from this trip through the furnace.  (If you haven’t done this self-and-faith-exploration “workbook,” go back to the beginning to see what it’s about in the post “Through the Furnace: Intro 1.”)  It all has to do with your willingness to be honest, transparent, and obedient, and with how much you invested in self-introspection, prayer, Bible reading, and learning to listen to the Spirit.  And once again, there is no real end to this journey.  I would love to be able to say, “Congratulations on working your way through the Graduate School of Faith.  Here is your diploma.”  But that can’t happen.  Because we will never graduate until eternity comes for us. 
            But as you climb higher and dig deeper with the Lord - as you shift your focus from the temporary to God’s kingdom and His righteousness. - your life will become more vibrant, alive, and fulfilling.  We will end up in the furnace again from time to time.  We will slip.  We will at times get tired of digging and climbing.  (Oh, don’t I know it!)  But we will be drawn back to God, because we know the blandness of life apart from Him and the exhaustion of trying to do it on our own.      
            Before we get into some ideas for future challenges, I would like to pose a few more questions for reflecting back on the whole journey that you have been on up to this point. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why These Books Are Free!


                                       Why These Books Are Free!
            So why did I decide to put this book on-line for free?  Especially when, by doing so, I don’t get any income from it?  I want to take a moment to explain some of the conflicting feelings that I had when deciding whether to put this book out there for free or to seek publication so that it could get sold in bookstores.  And you’ll see why this issue is so important to me in a moment.