Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today my story appears on author Mary DeMuth's website as I share details of my rescue from "slavery." Come meet the Hero of my story and find Him the Hero of your own! (click on the title above to view)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's Not What You May Think

I wish I could say that forgiveness has always come easy for me, or that it always comes easy even now. But that is not so. Granted, it comes more “naturally” in some areas than in others, and as I learn and grow and mature, it certainly gets easier (in all areas).

It is notable that the very topic of forgiveness is a touchy subject for some. Like many other issues, there are times it has been mishandled, misunderstood, and lorded over the hurting without compassion or understanding. As a result, in our quest for healing and freedom, we’d sometimes like to avoid the forgiveness issue.

But if we are to be truly free, we must come to understand and embrace the act of forgiving.

Don’t stop reading please! For those who followed the beginnings of my blog posts on healing and restoration, you know we’ve been dealing with very real and deep wounds (at the bottom of this post you will find the links to all posts pertaining to the subject). Some of us may feel that to forgive is to relieve the offending person of any responsibility and somehow sweep their offense under the rug. That is not the aim here.

In the aforementioned posts on healing and restoration, it has been explained that when we are wounded (both other and self-inflicted), something is lost, stolen, or given up. Innocence. Joy. Security. Trust. Just to name a few.

Realizing our loss, we often hold the person who wrongfully took what was ours responsible for giving it back. The problem is they cannot. The reason is we are not talking about material possessions, but rather, the sacred. These are things only Jesus can give back to us.

“I [the Lord] will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25

How many years have we spent demanding the “locusts” in our lives give back what they’ve eaten?

A person’s sin against us is the taking of something that cannot be returned by the offender. Lord knows I’ve wanted to grab hold of some of my offenders and shake the living hound out of them, demanding they give back what they’ve taken! But forgiving is to release them—and to no longer demand from them the debt they owe. It is recognizing they cannot return what has been stolen, and turning to the only One who can.

Understanding this makes forgiving easier for me.

Over the next few posts, I will share openly from some of my personal journals as we explore the ins and outs of forgiveness—the next vital step of healing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

To Experience

When my three girls were younger, they had a large assortment of small dolls and more accessories than you could imagine. Several large tubs full. In the world of pretending, they were inevitably drawn to create the perfect wedding, complete with the perfect bride and groom. Today, the older two love reading books with great adventure and purpose, and, more importantly to them, two characters destined to fall in love.
As a child, I was more apt to be riding bikes, climbing trees, and racing the guys in the neighborhood on my 4-wheeler! But I had a strong affinity for horses. I was drawn to their strength, and daydreamed often about the intense love a girl and her horse seem to share. I longed for that experience. I ached for it.

Whether we were a girly-girl or a tomboy, our desire for romance found a way to express itself when we were young. Now that we are women, it finds its way into the movies we love and the stories we enjoy. It’s the sigh of our hearts in The Proposal when Andrew realizes his love for Margaret, and returns for her after she runs away, and when Edward returns for Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. It is Jack and Rose in Titanic out on the bow of the ship.

I’m well aware that for most of us, our hearts have been mishandled, maybe even abused and misused. We may have buried this longing, or even abandoned it altogether. But it cannot be fully silenced. Can you at least see that you long for this?

We want to know that we are the center of someone’s attention. Do you see me? Do you delight in me? We want to know fully, and to be fully known. To know beyond any shadow of doubt that we are, indeed, loved. This is written on our hearts by the One who created us in His image! 

While man was intended to love a woman in this way, the fulfillment of our longings for romance doesn’t have to wait for a man. God wants us to know that HE loves us this way! He wants you to know that you are the apple of His eye. (Psalm 17:8, Zechariah 2:8) Yes, He will sometimes love us, romance us through a man, but He also longs to bring this to you Himself.

Now, in order to understand this and embrace it, we must remove the religious veil and see the heart of God as Lover. The Lover of our Souls. Jesus refers to himself as the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; Matt. 25:1-10; John 3:29), which simply means fiancĂ©. “Lover.” This metaphor is an invitation to the kind of relationship and intimacy Jesus longs for with us. (Stasi Eldredge, Captivating) If your heart fills with question and hesitancy in this, as mine once did (given my wounded heart), it just means there is healing for your heart here.

For most of my life, I felt like I had to be doing everything “right” in order for God to love me. Consequently, I lived in a hopeless state of believing I was a constant disappointment! Sometimes we feel He loves us because He “has to.”

A few years ago, during a time I struggled to understand how God loves me, I brought my anguish before the Lord. In the quiet with my eyes closed, He gave me a vision of myself as a newborn baby. Having felt the intense, almost inexplicable love for my own children as newborns, I could sense Him smiling in deep delight over me then. Pictures of my childhood flashed, and once again I could feel the love of God smiling over me.

Then He brought to mind a picture of myself in the present, as a woman. It felt as though the lights had gone out. I had no problem believing He loved me when I was a baby and even as a young child…but as a woman? How could He love me the same now? With all my failures and weaknesses?

Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3:18 that we would be able to understand the love of God. How high and deep, how wide and long it is for us! God wants us to believe His love endures all things, even our failures and weaknesses, and that it will never fail us even then. (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8)

But how will we know?

To understand God’s love is to experience His love. All day long my husband can tell me that he loves me; but if he never puts actions to his words that show his love for me, if there is never any experience of his love, then I cannot possibly believe or understand it.

Our God longs to heal us and mature us through His love into mature women (and men) who actually know Him. He wants us to experience verses like I mentioned in my personal testimony (click here to read): “Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14). To experience what it means to be quieted by His love, as I did through a time of restless questioning (click here for more). And, “you have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.” (Song of Solomon 4:9)

Oh how we long for this!

Our Enemy does not want us to experience God’s love in new and fresh, tangible ways. He tells us that we must be productive and useful to be loved by God (and sadly, even by others, especially in the church). Shame exaggerates our hearts, and we are pressed to believe that we are not enough, or even that we are too much to be loved. So we settle for less through duty and productivity, believing obedience is all we have left. We are convinced that understanding God’s love is simply an acquired knowledge of the mind, and we shut down our hearts.

“Faithful obedience to God is vital, but it is not all God draws us to. It is not sufficient for our healing, no more than doing the laundry is sufficient for a marriage. And it will not be enough in the long run to carry us through. The persecuted Church is vast today. More Christians are being martyred in our lifetime than in any other time in church history. It is not obedience that is carrying our brothers and sisters—unwavering, steadfast, eyes ablaze—to their deaths. It is holy, fierce passion. Hearts afire.”

“What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about His heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for.”
(Stasi Eldredge in Captivating)

We are no longer children, and we’ve put away childish things such as our dolls and toys. But we are called to be childlike—there’s a difference. Our longings as a little girl are not far off base. They are not so foolish after all. In fact, they are telling us the key to experiencing God.

These longings cause us to ache; to ache for the love we were made for. And to ache is to be alive; it is a good thing. We must ask Jesus to come for us here in these longings. To rescue us, to romance our hearts. Keep pressing, keep asking. Love is His specialty—and He wants to experience it with you. New. Fresh. Everyday.

The She Speaks Conference is about women connecting the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God. My heart is to serve Him and His daughters, as He leads. If you'd like information on how you may apply for a scholarship to SheSpeaks (as I just did through this post), click here. To find out more about this conference, click the button below.

She Speaks Conference