That’s How I Know…

be still and knowHelpless and hopeless!

One of my close friends describes it as feeling adrift in a vast ocean with absolutely nothing in sight.  Another said it was like being surrounded by miles of desert in blazing heat with no sign of relief, and I will never forget my favorite DIY genius friend telling me she felt like a speck in the bottom of an empty, blindingly white, 5-gallon paint bucket…and I totally got it!

I only wish my picture of ‘Helpless and Hopeless’ was as sanitized, artistic, or even poetic.  But even now what I see is me, face down on threadbare carpet, wailing like a wounded animal, tears streaming down my face, and rivers of snot pouring out my nose.

There were bills I could not pay, my children had legitimate needs that I could not provide, and wounds from years of verbal and emotional abuse were still exposed, raw, excruciating, yet invisible to the world.  The sting of betrayals piled on for good measure, and a stamp big enough to cover my entire life reads “FAILURE!” in blood-red letters, and the largest font-size possible.

Fast forward about a decade and one child is facing surgery, my six year-old stove is dead per PG & E, the car needs hundreds of dollars of repair and a chance encounter triggers memories of the abuse, but… I’m still standing; no tears, and not a drop of snot.   Instead, all I feel is quiet confidence. That’s how I know… that I KNOW.

“But now says the Lord, He who created you, … ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…’” Isaiah 43:1-4.

I know that every word of God is true because every time I have relied on it for direction, searched it for revelation of who God really is, thrown my life on it in desperation, or leaned into it for comfort, I have never been disappointed or come away empty.

I know that God is my healer, because while the internal scars remain, silent witnesses to all I have experienced, every debilitating pain is gone.

I know that God provides because every need has been met, not on my panic-driven timelines, but often in ways I would never have imagined, and with the kind of creativity I could only wish for.

I know that looking back over my life I am overwhelmed by the concrete evidence that God is faithful, He does not have a measuring stick, He loves me beyond all logic or explanation, and what He wants is for me to love Him back, and keep on…just living the thing.

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The Fine Line Between Safety and Danger…

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

A couple weeks ago my husband Dave and I visited a local Wildlife Refuge about thirty minutes from our home. Friends said we would be amazed by all the birds and the beauty.  Well, we must have gone at the wrong time because we saw the beauty, but no birds.  Not one.

I had to laugh at Dave because he said he would rather have a shotgun with him than a pair of binoculars.  Apparently the landscape is ideal for hunting pheasants.  I reminded him that it was a wildlife preserve so the birds were protected.  Pointing to the refuge he said,

“They stay there and they’re safe, but over here,” pointing to the next field over, “they are dinner.”  Such a fine line between safety and danger.

That made me think of the provision and protection we have from God when we stay within His refuge.

Years ago, when our kids were little, one family devotion talked about the following verse:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you will enjoy long life on this earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

Our son Jacob was about 5 years-old and our daughter Kelly was 3, so to help them understand this lesson a little better, I made this poster that I hung in the hall outside their bedrooms.

boundaries

I wanted them to know that because God loved them He set boundaries to keep them safe. When we choose to obey God and live within those boundaries this brings blessings.  Choosing to live outside them was what we called the danger zone.

Learning to live with rules and self-control is hard for a child and it doesn’t always get easier just because we grow up.  Our sinful nature thinks we know what is right for us, but let’s ask Adam and Eve how that turned out.  From the beginning God set limits for his children because he wants what is best for us. For those who love him, his commands are not a burden but a gift that gives freedom.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.   1 John 5:3

What freedom and peace there is in knowing the path you are following brings life and the very best that God has for you.

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved….I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10: 9-10

For some years we used that poster to help them think about their choices and God’s protection. It was a great visual.  Actually it still hangs in the hallway right at eye level for a 3 and 5 year-old.  They have grown some since then but I pray they always remember the lesson of God’s protection and love for them while they are… just living the thing.

 

Embracing My Inner Sappy…

Author Sonna Evans & Friends
Author Sonna Evans & Friends

I think I may be succumbing to a chronic case of ‘Sappy’!  I’m not talking about maple syrup kind of sappy, but the quick-grab-me-a-tissue Hallmark channel kind. While this may be frowned upon by today’s society, (and I must admit I have been guilty of that as well), the older I get the more I am leaning right on in to it, running mascara and all.

When I first moved to Modesto, I knew no one. We had moved from a city in the Bay Area where I had lived since Junior High. I knew people, and people knew me. It was not uncommon to run into people I knew at Target or the supermarket, or to see acquaintances while driving around town.

When I first moved here people were kind and friendly, but I didn’t know them. Fast forward 19 years, and the other day I ran into two people I knew (well enough to give hugs to) at Winco, and then driving down the street recognized another couple in the car behind me.

So here’s where the sappy part comes in. It made me tear up a little when I saw the familiar faces in the car behind me (don’t judge!). You see, it made me think about how grateful I am to know people, to be a part of a community. It reminded me of the days when I first came here and longed for a time when I would see someone I knew in the grocery store.

I remember praying, asking God to give me new friends and a new community. And, I remember the first time I ran into someone I knew at the store, there was probably a tear or two at that recognition as well. It was happening, I was building a community. Sappy huh?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

It also caused me to think of my relationship with God. There was a time when I thought He was nice and all, but I didn’t know Him. When I got to know Him, I would begin to see Him more and more wherever I went and that made me feel like I belonged. Guess what? I’ve known Him for so long that know I see Him everywhere and that is as it should be.

I am embracing my sappiness as I cry at coffee commercials, as I cry when I see other people cry, and, well, sometimes for any old reason. I guess I am taking literally Romans 12:15 where Paul says to,

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I think it is the Lord living in me softening my hard old heart as I am… just living the thing.

 

Cast Down But Unconquered…

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

I woke up with huge, painful bags under my eyes this morning. Why? I have been tasked with living authentically, so I confess that crying has recently become a normal part of life.

Also included in this delightful authentic-life package is lack of sleep, no direction, intense hurt, and a dab of hopelessness. Can someone please start playing a violin? But we have all been there, or will be there, right?

Sometimes I experience pain because of what someone has done to me, but sometimes the hurt is compounded when I believed God gave direction, and then didn’t come through for me. Abandonment. So how does one trust God? Who do I really have if the One who lead me down a path seemingly abandoned me? Trust issues are so hard to deal with.

I had a really good friend recently Vox with me (get the app, it will change your life) and she said something profound that gave me peace:

“Adrienne, I think you need to accept two truths right now:

First, you did hear God.  Second, what you heard is not happening.”

Contradictory, right?! But it gave me freedom from having to understand everything. I don’t understand God’s ways. He gives and he takes away. He knows the future, I only know a fraction about this moment. He gives free will, but He also predetermines what is best. I don’t know how that all fits together, but I give up demanding to understand everything in this moment. And in a few minutes when I try to recapture my “right” to know, I’ll have to surrender again.

Last week I was hanging out with a young teenager in our local juvenile detention center. We were talking about Jesus and the subject came up about how Jesus was betrayed by a kiss from a ‘friend’, and even while He was being betrayed, He still healed the ear of one of the men capturing him.

The kid shook his head in disbelief and amazement. How could a man who did so much good, continue to do good after He had been betrayed and abandoned, by those closest to Him? I wondered the same thing. Jesus had been abandoned, and soon after, He cried out on the cross,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”

This tells me that Jesus can empathize with heart pain. Do you hear me?! Jesus, Savior, King, can feel my pain because he experienced it to the ultimate extent.

While I have breath, I have reason to give thanks. I have chosen to follow a God that has experienced hurt too, and I will choose to trust him with mine. It is a daily, often hourly, choice. And believe me, sometimes I have to say it out loud, as a declaration, “I choose to trust You right now!” Because while I speak it out loud, my thoughts cannot contradict me. And for today, that’s what it looks like when I’m… just living the thing.