Stubbed Hearts

There’s nothing quite like a stubbed toe. It can bring out the inner sailor mouth in any of us. You can be in a hurry, just minding your own business, trying to get things done, when….BAM….your poor unsuspecting toe hits the corner of the wall, the leg of a chair, or a bed frame. Ouch! 😵

The pain can be searing and you think your toe might just fall off. Actually, you kind of hope it does  just so the pain will alleviate. My initial instinct is to kick the object of my pain again, because,  it hurt me!😉  Then your whole body goes on temporary  lock down until the pain subsides.   It seems certain that the toe has been crushed,  given the intensity of the the pain, but it’s most often just bruised, and will heal over time.

There is no thinking clearly or communicating with grace in these moments. Just intense, overwhelming pain. How can something so small, cause so much anguish? I surrendered my inner sailor mouth years ago, when I became a Jesus follower, so I’ve had to create new vinacular for moments like this. If you hear me say “crumb bucket”…it’s serious! 😜 (Occasionally the pirate in me will still escape, though, if the conditions are just right…or maybe just wrong. 😉).

But there’s something far worse than a stubbed toe, even more painful, and that is a stubbed heart.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I experienced the trauma of a stubbed heart once again.   We were on the recieving end of hurtful words, accusations, and blame….followed by what feels like complete rejection from a few people we have called friends.  So painful!  It happens in life. We know in this life we will have troubles, but there are occasions, when like an unexpected stubbed toe, it seemingly comes out of nowhere, hitting you by surprise and knocking the air from your lungs. It feels more like the shattering of our hearts into pieces. It can cause that sinking feeling, out of complete disbelief, in a free fall of hurt, and initially it feels as though the heart might just give out altogether.  Life becomes temporarily on lock down, for my mind and heart feel high jacked by hurt; an unwelcome intruder.  There is no shaking off this pain and nothing but time and clinging to God’s gracious hand will lessen the ache. Kicking the source of my pain won’t fix it, though I have to admit, I’ve visilualized that a time or two…or three or four. 😉  We have to deal with our stubbed hearts, but we won’t die from them,  contrary to my feelings.

Ever felt accused and betrayed by people you care about?  We’ve experienced this kind of pain more than I’d like to remember.   I doubt I’m alone in this, given that even our Savior,  Jesus, experienced the heartache of interrogation, accusation, rejection,  and ultimately, condemnation from the religious “elite”, and yet, Jesus was and IS perfect. Even His closest friends  failed Him, as He prepared for His painstaking journey to the cross.  Remember Peter? He denied knowing Jesus to protect himself.  Or how about the two “sons of Zebedee”? They fell asleep instead of praying like Jesus had asked. Jesus was literally sweating drops of blood, and they couldn’t even pray?? How unbelievable! How wrong! How selfish!! How HUMAN….

Then there’s the obvious…Judas.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Yes, Jesus understands being let down by people, being labeled, rejected and accused. I wonder if the emotional lashes that He acquired were as painful as the physical lashes? Sometimes it seems that heartaches are intolerable.  When my heart feels teetering on fragile, torn strings, my Jesus, He holds my heart so tenderly, until I’m completely tethered to Him. It is at this point I’m reminded that “if God is for me, who can be against me?” Oh to be loved by Him! He restores my soul to wellness and peace.

Stubbing my toe can cause me to jump up and down with tears in  my eyes….grabbing the wounded little piggy in hopes it will cease its torment. A stubbed heart can illicit similar kinds of reactions. My inclination is to throw a tantrum of teenage size, throwing accusations back, pleading my case, while covering my heart so as to safeguard it from further injury. But then, Jesus…..

He reminds me of His response when accused. His was often silent, for no justification was necessary from Almighty God. When insults and accusations were lashed upon Him in His final days on earth, His words were few with the occasional, “yep that’s who I Am”, or “yep, that’s what you said about me.” (Pardon my paraphrase😉). No denials, just acceptance, for He knew their hearts and minds.  There was no rationalizing with them. A heart determined to find flaw will inevitably find it.  Besides its so much easier to see the mistakes in others; then we don’t have to look within.  Jesus knew His calling in life was ultimately in His death for all of humanity and so He went quietly, willingly.  He modeled surrender and sacrifice.  Ouch!

The truth is Jesus WAS the King of the Jews (as they mocked), the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is, in fact, only guilty of being who He said He is. But you know what? At the end of the day, I am guilty. Guilty of all kinds of imperfections, some intentional, some not…..and so are you.  But God knows our hearts. He alone knows our every thought and intention.  With that knowledge I can sing “It is Well with my soul.”

I’m taking my stubbed heart to Jesus and asking Him to soothe the pain, and to help me move forward in spite of the hurt. It’s easy to get stuck in the throbbing aftermath of accusations and rejection.  We can be consumed by it, debilitating us from God’s purpose and plan for our lives. It clouds the mind, and lingers like a fog, that effects our focus and ability to find joy.  Fog can be dangerous. We can lose our way, or rather, His way, if we aren’t careful.  I know I’ve lost my way if I’m more concerned about what people might think about me/us than what God thinks.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my 40ish 😉 years of life: stubbed hearts won’t kill you, but they can propel you toward the arms of Jesus. His loving, grace-filled, forgiving, perfect, patient, humble, gentle, comforting arms will enable us to rest in the storms, trust in the uncertainty, forgive the unforgiveable, offer grace to the most ungracious, and love until our last breath. If heartache is what it takes to trust Jesus more, then bring on the pain! There’s nothing like knowing Jesus and being known by Him.  He loves us in ALL of our imperfections. ❤️

In coping with heartache, I’ve opted for silence and prayer. I’ve written letters to our “friend” and those entertaining negative perceptions about us, and I’ve kept them: usually a good idea after a stubbed heart. God can handle our “crumb bucket” moments, but people usually can’t.  Feelings can be controlled through the power of the Holy Spirit. I will refuse to villainise those that have hurt us, because God’s grace is as sufficient for them as it is for us.  Thank you Jesus!

I’ve cried and cried, and then cried a lot more, releasing the pain, but also allowing myself to feel it. Ignoring our pain just saves it for later and it ends up spewing out on innocent bystanders….usually those we love the most. After buckets of tears and sometimes through them, I praised God. I mean like hands fully extended, heart fully exposed, with passion and assurance, praised His name. In my bathroom. In my bedroom. In my kitchen. In my car. Anywhere and everywhere I’ve been praising Him, because He is good! He is not responsible for my hurt but He will use it to His good and for my growth. When I praise Him, my heart feels lighter, taking the hurt away, even if only temporarily.

Aches and pain seem to return at night. Why is that? What is it about bedtime that brings out every hurtful thought, worry and anxiety? 😳  The enemy seems to delight in the darkness, so we must engage The Light. I’ve opened up my bible when dark thoughts tried to creep in.  I’ve paused to pray, read articles that are helpful for our situation, and looked for ways to reach out to others. A few nights ago I was wrestling with my hurt, so I baked pound cake for some new friends and took it to their home. It got me thinking forward instead of dwelling on the pain and sitting in misery. What could have been a night of basking in my sorrows, became an evening of friendly conversation and the smell of coconut pound cake….the smell alone helped distract my weary heart.😉

Are you feeling hurt, accused and misunderstood this week? Remember it’s just a stubbed heart.  It won’t kill you but it can make you stronger in Him. This momentary pain won’t last forever, but God’s grace will. In the scope of eternity, this is a tiny, itty bitty, owie….your heart is stubbed, not shattered. He will work this to His good, even if you can’t see how right now. Have faith for what you can’t yet see. The fog is going to lift at some point and it will all become clear. With tears and the Son comes a beautiful rainbow!🌈🙌

Know this, Jesus is empathizing with you. He’s felt the sting of accusation, speculation and condemnation of others. Take your wounded heart to Him. He understands.

Be prayerful. Be patient. Get to praising. Press into Jesus for His power, and bake pound cake for friends…😉 He’s got a plan and a purpose for our pain. 🙌  We can do all things through Him!

Matt. 27:12~When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.

Psalm 34:18~The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Hebrews 11:1~Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

John 16:33~”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Phil.4:19~And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:31~What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Matt.11:29~Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

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Good Endings

I love a good book, especially if it ends well. When I get swept up in the words of a novel, it seems I can hardly wait to find out how it will end, and yet, I hasten to finish it. I mean, when it’s over…it’s over! I can re-read it, but it’s not the same, since I already know the ending. There’s a bit of a let down when finishing a book that has captured my heart. I guess I’ve always struggled with endings. It’s a love/hate relationship.
We are nearing the end of a chapter in our lives this week. Well, it’s more like finishing a book in a volume of books. It’s our last week pastoring a church my husband and I planted eight years ago. I remember the day we moved to the city of Modesto so clearly. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it hasn’t always felt that way.
My initial feelings towards Modesto were, ummm….less than thrilling. 😬😉Yet, I knew we were called and I’ve always desired obedience to the Lord. We came to this city excited about what God might do, and terrified about what on earth we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know a single soul here and we had benchmarks to meet in order to meet our basic necessities. My husband and I agreed we would hold it all with an open hand and trust God to bless it. If things didn’t work out, no shame in that, we would just pack it up and move on. So, we pressed on, seeking Him, meandering through this unknown journey, getting glimpses of God, as He revealed the story of this exhilarating chapter. (“Terrifying chapter” would better describe how I used to feel, but now as I look back at those early pages I see them more as an adventure ride. I’m so glad we hopped on and didn’t let fear hold us back!😄) Honestly, that first year, was harder than I ever could have imagined and also more thrilling than I can explain in a few sentences. To trust God weekly for His basic provision, was a nail biter, but my faith grew immeasurably as I witnessed miracles from living a life surrendered to Him, even when it hurts.

We cashed out 401k’s, sold one of our two cars, prayed tirelessly, reached out to every stranger, cried a lot (at least I did), adjusted to quiet holidays where the only people at the dinner table were the same people we saw every day….our party of five. Those were some lonely days. I eagerly anticipated the next chapter in those early pages, even praying that God would bring us back home, but God is infinitely smarter than I am and when we allow Him, He writes the most beautiful stories through the challenges of our lives. He’s a far better story teller than I could ever hope to be and so it’s best to let the author of life create our stories.

Over time God brought people to The Well that loved us like family. We saw many surrender their lives wholeheartedly to Jesus; an experience that makes the whole journey worth the pain. Life became full of meaning and loneliness subsided. God faithfully filled this chapter with people that will forever be in our hearts. We grew in numbers at the church, but more importantly, we grew in Jesus. Each milestone was so miraculous, we couldn’t possibly take the credit. Christ alone is the Cornerstone. The church became a beacon of light in our community, drawing people in need of hope and healing. While we are still far from perfect, grace abounds at The Well….most of the time. (There is no perfect. Thank goodness, or they wouldn’t let me attend.)😉

This story has unfolded rapidly as I’ve watched our kids grow and thrive, both at church and at school. We’ve experienced the blessing of baptizing two of our kids at The Well, and all three of our children asked Jesus into their hearts during this chapter of life. Kids have a way of making time move at the speed of light. If only I could freeze time….sort of like you can when you put a good book down, forcing the ending to wait a little longer.

It’s Saturday night. Tomorrow morning will be the last time I wake up early to drive to that cute little church on the edge of town. It figures that tomorrow is “Spring forward”…if you know me, you know I’m allergic to mornings.😉🤧 I usually dread when we lose an hour of sleep! Yet, it feels completely appropriate on our last Sunday at The Well. God’s going to catapult us all forward into our next chapters; no more dog earring those pages and saving them until later. It’s time to finish, so we can start anew.

Here’s what I know for sure; He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It won’t be easy, but it will be faith building, hope filled, and soul refining. God will do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine and the pages of our lives will be rich in His stories of grace, healing, restorative power and above all, His love.❤️
I can’t wait to read the beginning of the next book in the volume of our lives, but first, I will savor the ending of this one. I love a good ending.🙏❤️🙌

Phil.1:3-11~3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Miracles and Madness

(This post was written last Sunday. I contemplated about whether or not I should share it, as it was more for myself, but felt lead to share it. Enjoy my Mommy madness.😉) 

Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush; it can color any situation.” -Barbara Johnson

I’m feeling a little bluish today…with a shade of grey, and a swirling bunch of colors that start to look like a muddled mess. The kind of mess that happens when we mix to many colors at once and they become this ugly blob of brown/grey. Yes, it’s been a rough week. I listened to my husband preach today about what to do when having a “bad day” and honestly my insides were pouty and I had an overwhelming urge to stick out my tongue at him or roll my eyes, like a temperamental toddler. 😝😂 Either that or burst into tears. My feelings are a little erratic this week, to say the least. Don’t worry, I resisted the urge, though no one would have seen me since I sit in the front row at church. Oh so tempting!

Moments like that reveal the condition of the canvas of my heart and mind. This heart and mind of mine is….well….tired.

It’s been a week of miracles and madness as I had to tend to my 3 sick children, a home I had to prepare for viewing to about 20 prospective tenants, a house in escrow with a mountain of paperwork and details to attend to, as we prepare,emotionally, for a big move…not to mention, meals to make, kids to tote around to doctors, school, sports, laundry, dishes…you know, Mom stuff. Add to that my own allergies, congestion and asthma; keeping me awake at night. I felt like I was managing the madness fairly well, but this week Momma slipped into overdrive and nearly burned out my internal engine.

I felt forced into overdrive as our youngest daughter had an allergic reaction to something.   We thought it was due to the antibiotic she was taking for her bronchitis, but now aren’t sure. She had hives ev-er-y-where. I’ve never seen such a rapid transformation to skin, but it was quick and awful, causing swelling over her ENTIRE body, hands, feet, cheeks, tummy…you name it, she was covered from head to toe. She saw the doctor three times last week and I called Kaiser so many times that I likely exasperated the nurses. When Benadryl, Zyrtec, ice packs, and cool showers don’t work…there’s just not much more to try. (Except showering in Cortisone, which I knew was not a good idea). I truly felt at the end of my rope last night when those pesky lumps, bumps, stinging red welts rose up once again. It was 10:00pm and I was already tapped out, but Mom’s don’t go down without a fight when their kids are sick, and so the war against hives ensued.

I’d love to tell you my attitude was steadfast in the Lord, but yesterday it was more like stomping my feet internally and demanding He fix my kid. I vasilated between tantrums and despair, wanting to raise my white flag of surrender and crawl back into bed. Yes, Pastor’s wives have temper tantrums…at least this one does, on occasion.😉

On Thursday I soared with gratitude from Him answering my prayer and completely healing my daughter of all her stinging itchies, (It really was a miraculous healing, at least for that evening), and yesterday I sank to the depths of despair when those irritating welts returned, feeling helpless that I couldn’t help her. It’s a good thing faith isn’t feeling based!

So, I want to re-paint my attitude today, right now, and maybe help you re-paint yours. Miracles abound in each day, but I have to choose to see them as I reflect on God’s goodness. Here’s what I see today….God is good. He answered my prayers this week when Ashlyn was at her worst. God is good. We opened our bible while she was transforming into a swollen, red lobster right before my eyes and we read scripture together, reassuring us that God works all things for the good. (Can you believe her Jesus Calling devotional was about “Embracing Your Problems”? Ash and I had a good laugh about that last night. How do you embrace hives?😂) God is good. We stayed up late into the night sharing stories and my introverted daughter talked my ear off. God is good. We got the hives under control about 1am this morning.🙌 God is good. She woke up this morning without a single hive or bump. God is good. We went to church and had people hug on us and shower us in love. God is good. My husband came home earlier than usual to bring us lunch. (Pasta and bread…be still my beating heart!❤️🍞❤️). God is good. My kids are quietly watching a movie they ALL agreed upon…that is a miracle in itself!!👏👏👏😜

God is so very good, in the miracles and in the madness. Some of His best work is done in the madness of our souls. He is good when people and circumstances aren’t. Even if Ashlyn had continued to have hives, He would still be good. He never changes and He sustains us, empowers us, and loves us, no matter how blue we feel or how out of balance our lives get. He helps us find balance, even amidst the storms, if we reach out to Him.

Each reminder of God’s goodness is like a stroke of brighter colors on the canvas of our hearts and minds. He’s adding brighter colors to my attitude today…hues of red, orange and yellow, that of a sunset. 🌅 There is nothing quite like a sunset, especially by the blue of the ocean. It’s brilliant, calming, and peaceful; just like Jesus. I love how God takes my blue blobby mess and shapes it into something beautiful….but I must have eyes to see His creative masterpiece.

What’s your attitude painting today? Try giving Him the paint brush and ask Him to color your heart and mind with His goodness. We choose what we allow our minds to ruminate on.  Think about His goodness. He makes all things beautiful in His time and in His way. We can do all things through Him!

Romans 8:28~And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 5:3-4~Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Phil.4:8~Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Psalm 150:6~Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Barefoot

Honey, why are you standing on your tiptoes? My youngest daughter shrugged her shoulders and said, she wanted to look taller….and she’s just sure she’s never going to grow. Oh, how I understand that feeling. I remember being one of the shortest girls in 5th grade. How I wished I would grow faster, but some things can’t be rushed or manufactured.

There have been times in my life when I’ve tried to do the same spiritually. I put on spiritual stilts of sorts and try to seem bigger, or more together than I really am. Being a leader, and pastor’s wife, seemed to require a certain level of spiritual “have it all togetherness”. It’s been a challenge given my personality, which is more of a “wear my heart on my sleeve” kind of person. In the 22 years of leading multiple ministries I’ve tried on a variety of fancy, high heel shoes, and did my best fitting into them. Often I felt like a teen wearing stilettos, awkwardly moving about without confidence. (I’m still not comfortable in heels.😉) It’s the pull of wanting to look one way, but inside feeling very differently. There is a lure to the adoration and idolization that can happen when you look spiritually taller. It’s nice to be looked up to, rather than looked down upon.

I’ve tried living out my faith both ways, in heels, looking polished, and barefoot, worn and honest. What I’ve come to understand is God uses imperfections much more than He ever uses manufactured faith. When we approach Him barefoot and dirty, He cleans us up and uses all our fissures and fractures to make a beautiful mosaic of our lives. In sharing my pain, mistakes, fears, and the miracle of God’s glorious grace, it encourages people to take their own shoes off and get honest. They can risk removing their polished shoes baring their humble feet. Healing and growth take place in honest bare feet, not manufactured perfection.

Offering honest, bare feet to people can leave us feeling exposed, and exposure can lead to pain, as people will poke at your flaws and honesty. They can either choose to get honest and barefoot with you, or point judgemental fingers at your dirty feet, gossiping and casting stones. Do it anyway. Your bare feet have room to grow and their feet will remain pinched in phony high heels. When the turbulent winds and storms of life hit, you will have the confidence of solid footing….they will slip and fall. The higher the heel, the farther the fall. Jesus didn’t wear fancy shoes. He wore dirty sandals, and I’m no where near worthy to fit into His shoes, let alone glossy heels. I’ll stick with bare feet, even if it means getting stepped on.

My faith doesn’t need dressing up and neither does yours. Kick your shoes off, make yourself at home with Jesus,  and share honestly. You will grow faster and the people in your life will have the opportunity to grow with you. If they choose to step on your dirty feet, He will wash and heal your wounds. Have you been dressing up your faith? Trying to maintain an image that you’ve got it all together, while secretly hiding your “dirt”? Remove your self made shoes of perfection, and bare your dirty feet before Jesus. He’s masterful at cleaning feet. Lord, help us be barefoot and humble before you.🙏 We can do all things through Him!💪👣

2Cor.12:9~But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2Cor.12:10~This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
John 13:14~Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Grace Exchange

“But you just seem so perfect.” Had she actually just said that to me through her tears of inadequate feelings and conviction? If it wasn’t so serious, I would have laughed out loud! Me…perfect? The thought was ludicrous, an illusion that many have of Pastors and their wives. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The myth is that we “have it all together”, that we are immune to the pull of this world, the trials and strife. We. Are. Human. My heart felt broken in that office as I listened to the dark assumptions and gossip that had been lurking in quiet corners and living rooms. Apparently, in my presumed perfection, there was a need to find flaws, which turned out to be easy. (Jesus had the same experience with people, only He WAS perfect.) This person assumed that, and that person assumed this, and by the time I was alerted of rumors, it was a distorted mess. As I listened beyond the words, I heard something deeper, pain. Pain in my friends heart from her own past. In those moments I listened beyond my own wounded heart and heard her brokenness, and I offered comfort and understanding, grace. This grace was not of my own doing. The more I encounter God’s grace, the more I can give it…and in those moments while being accused, I did what I could not do on my own strength, I exchanged grace for accusation. Grace was followed with truth, since the Truth sets us free. She needed to be set free from the assumptions that had bound her.

To be honest, in the days and weeks that followed, I would wrestle with the seeming injustice of those moments. How could I be accused of such things? Who does she/they think I am? There was SO much I could have said! Why didn’t I say…..(Insert lots of inner dialogue). But, i refused to act upon my inner bear(pride). In those moments of wanting my “pound of flesh”, I turned to Jesus and found comfort, validation, and strength to carry on by His grace…because, He is for me, and if He is for me, who can be against me? It would be dishonest to say this process was easy. It seemed I cried an ocean of tears in the aftermath. This was one of the hardest experiences I’ve dealt with in my 23 years of ministry, but we can either get stronger through our struggles, or we can cave to our human urges, repeating patterns and getting no where. I can certainly bench press more now…well, at least spiritually speaking.😉

Are you feeling wounded and misunderstood by someone? We all go through it. Ask God to help you listen beyond your own feelings. Can you exchange grace for their accusations? Are you taking your hurt to Jesus or are you releasing the bear(pride)? Don’t be held captive by other people’s actions or words. Be set free as you set others free by God’s empowering grace. He will heal your broken heart and He will bring justice in His timing and in His way. We can do ALL things through Him. Are you listening?

John 8:36-If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Romans 8:31-What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
James 1:19-My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…