Victim to Veteran

Writing on this blog now seems a little dangerous. Sitting on a witness stand, being forced to testify that I'm not suicidal and unsafe for my children can do that. A few of my blog posts and journals were printed and photocopied, highlighted and taken out of context with the intent of making me look like an unfit mother. Divorce, even the kind that is necessary, is a brutal process.

Scare tactics. It happens in the animal kingdom all the time. Plumage and hair stand up tall in an attempt to make an animal look bigger. Gorillas pound their chests and big cats and dogs show their teeth. Growling, roaring, stomping, snorting; it's all used to frighten and intimidate. Animals do it to protect themselves and their young. People do it to gain power and control. Posturing and threatening, a man I once trusted used the information that he'd collected during a convenant relationship to destroy me. It's as if he could only see the trophy with the inscribed words of "Full Custody of the Three Children" written on it. His freshly polished shoes stomping ten years of my life into the ground without a moment of hesitation.

Predators are quiet, beautiful, stealthy, and before you know it they're on top of you. The weak and helpless can't keep up with the herd so they're picked off as easy prey. Captured in the powerful jaws of a stronger creature, the vulnerable is robbed of life in order to feed the appetite of the corrupted. Blood and guts. It's almost like I could see it flying around the courtroom that day. I was sick with the carnage I witnessed. I was ripped apart. But I walked away whole.

Death was not part of the original design for this world. The "circle of life" came about when man rejected God. Born, live, die, replenish the earth with decaying matter that once was living. The ways of this world always return to the dust from which they came. I tasted dust that day in court. My mouth dried up and my words sounded distant to my ears. With intense pain I faced reality. The judge favored the predator. With God-given bravery I refused even then to play the game their way. I wouldn't attack him.

"Do not resist an evil person." the words of Jesus whispered silently in my spirit. Oh, how I've wrestled with my God! I've cried out in sobs, "Why would you send Your precious sheep out amongst vicious wolves?" He answered me with a call to courage. He addresses His little children as mighty men and women of valor! Small and surrendered to Him in our weakness, we have no choice but to take His word for it. He knows how we'll do out there. God knows what Satan doesn't know about us.  God knows what we don't know about ourselves.

I look like easy prey. I make a lot of noise and draw attention to myself. Predators awaken at the sound of me carelessly rustling the bushes near their dens. It's true, I was clueless and fell right into the trap. I was torn up and down and left for dead. You could almost say I walked right into it. Like a child, I believed I could make it. I knew my Shepherd waited for me on the other side.

The wounds I carry are still shiny and red and cause me pain. Other predators smell the blood. But there is something new in my eyes now. I'm not a victim anymore. I'm a veteran. I was rescued from the dinner table. The death I experienced gave me new life.

I would never wish for anyone to go through wrongfully losing custody of their children. The shock of watching their father and his lawyer unabashedly lie under oath; the incredulity of realizing the court was swallowing every twisted untruth on their plate; the system that rewards people who exploit honest mistakes and use them to their own advantage. No grace. No mercy. Just the law. Down came the gavel.

There was a time that I was unaware that my husband was manipulating me and taking advantage of my weaknesses. I wrote things about him that sounded like praise and adoration because I sincerely believed that deep down he meant well. But he only ever meant to win. There was never a time when he loved me. I can write that now without tears because... it won't be wasted time.

God is doing something mysterious. I have never trusted Him more than I do now, even after all the destruction He's allowed. His plan has little to do with the temporal and everything to do with the eternal. I pray for His unfathomable mercy for the people who tried to eat me alive. The LORD God will fight for me. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to stop Him.


Take This Life

The world won't make me a star. When I was a young girl I thought I'd be on stage or on the big screen by now. I thought my place was in front of everyone, entertaining them and creating feelings in the masses. The future held such fantastical possibilities.

That future is now. I'm not one of the well-known names that is also a product that sells itself. Not because I'm no good at what I do, but because I'm becoming good in what I am becoming right where I am. I didn't master the industry's machine. I refused to manipulate people to try and further my career. Also, the way wasn't paved for me. Opportunities have so often passed me by because I won't compromise my conscience. The cost was always too high so I walked away.

Our time is spent every second. We can either invest in Kingdom priorities or we can invest in all that is passing away. Look around you today. Look beyond the cars, the homes, the opportunities to advance, and look at all the faces. Look at the frustrating people, the unlovely people, the celebrated people, and the rest of the people. The people are what is eternal about any situation. The rest is passing away.

God leads me down paths that I assume are for the betterment of my temporal circumstances and then they fail. I question His faithfulness as if He promised me success. Disappointment can be such an obstacle when holding too tightly to expectations. What God promised was Life and that I would share it with others in my path. He creates/allows certain needs that cause me to reach out for certain people. When I am with them I sense that God made the appointment for purposes that are far beyond my own needs being met. I thought I was in the mom's group because I needed to make friends. God had His own plans for my time spent there. When I was there, He was able to move within that place through me.

Obedient children of God are extensions of Himself. But we are each unique in our "packaging". The Holy Spirit in our spirit is a unique combination that results in a specific manifestation of God here on Earth. In other words, God can only express Himself in this unique way when He's working through our unique spirit, soul, and circumstances. For example, we fit into designated areas reserved only for the type of person that we were created to be. Jesus, the Son of Man, could not participate in an open mic at the local pub without drawing a special kind of attention. But Jesus, by His Spirit operating through me is subtle enough to work His way into the hearts of listeners at the same pub without the sort of resistance He might have faced as He was in Galilee so long ago.

Jesus Christ will return in His glory and every knee will bow. But until that day we, His bride, are to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in our covert missions for God the Father. The enemy is crafty and he knows an adversary when he sees one. He will do his best to discourage, distract, or destroy us. But God will have His way in the hearts of His children, despite all that. We bring the fire that ignites the hearts of the chosen. Then we just walk away and let the Spirit do His work in them. Praise God who is almighty in power, grace, and love and who chooses to live in and work through His beloved creation.

There's a world within this world. The illusion is that I'm suffering hardship and inconvenience. But what God is doing is creating more need in me so my reach becomes wider. People I never thought I'd depend on are now hearing my story and are opening their hearts to my words. They'll want to know where I get my hope and strength. My temporal needs will be met as God leads me to each person He has placed on my path. But my eternal needs are already satisfied and I have an overflow of abundant life to hand out.

Thank you, to the ones who have filled my temporal needs. The cup of cold water was not lost on me. Thank you also for giving me the chance to offer you what I have which is more of a blessing for me to give! Take the Life of this Spirit that loves you so wildly. His love for you has caused me to endure the hardship that brought me to your doorstep. For God's sake, take His love!


We All, Like Plants

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4,5

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:9-11

Jesus talks about a growing plant, a vine. When's the last time you saw a plant do anything to make itself grow? Or when did you ever see a branch decide one day to jump off of the main shoot and dry up out of stubbornness? Plants don't do stuff like that. They need elements to align or influence to converge in order to have anything happen within them.

I have a brown thumb. It's a fact that plants are safer if they grow under the care of someone far from me. But I've taken it upon myself to have another garden this year. The kids and I planted some bush beans, radishes, spinach, chard, and some pumpkins. We don't really care about anything but the pumpkins. Our pumpkin plants are getting bigger and taking over the garden. We're going to pull everything else up and make it a pumpkin patch. Yeah, it's so much more fun to watch pumpkins grow than bush beans!

The other plants weren't doing well anyway. Lots of bad things have happened. The beans are pasty and small, the radishes were tiny, and the chard was severely chewed. There are many factors that contributed to the demise of the plants in our vegetable garden. I couldn't tell you which one is the main culprit, but the pumpkins are the winner. 

Plants are vulnerable to the elements. If they don't get enough nourishment they will start to wither or dry up. If they get too much water they will die or if they get a bad balance of nutrients in the soil they will die. If animals chew on them, they die. If the sun is too hot, they die. If I forget about them over in the corner of the room, yep, they die. Plants can really be a lot of maintenance and work, especially when they're dying. But they aren't the ones that do the work of changing their environment. They need God's natural laws or people to care for them if they are to survive and thrive. Sheep, too, but plants especially are dependent on so much outside influence. 

Winds blow, heat bakes, and other creatures attack. The plant is vulnerable to being ripped limb from limb, literally, by outside forces. If we are the branches on a plant and our job is to stay on the plant, there must be something trying to pull us off. So many things come to mind! Temptations, the sin around us, guilt by association, the circumstances we were born into, and lack of spiritual nourishment. All of it can act as elements to pull us from our Vine. 

Yet, we have one job: to stay put. The storm rages and our house needs to be solid. The lies whisper to us and we need to stay true. The devil lures us and we need to resist. There is plenty for us to do as branches, but it's more about holding ground than crusading. People get burned out so easily by giving into the distractions around them. The well-meaning distractions are the most dangerous. Those are the ones we convince ourselves we're doing for Jesus but that He never led us into doing. It's when we sacrifice obedience to His Spirit for personal glory in our abilities that we start to remove ourselves from the Vine. The connection becomes weak and feeble and brittle. The nourishment stops because we have the power to refuse it.

I suppose that's how we differ from plants: the will within us to refuse God's life. The original sinful choice to reject God's way in order to pursue our own. That's what stops the flow of life to our branch. That's the only internal factor that plants don't inherently have. Jesus spoke to a fig tree once as if it were a person. He addressed it in Matthew 21 as "you" when He said, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" Immediately the tree withered. Was He casting judgment on a part of His creation that doesn't make choices? The fig tree was a symbol just as the story of the vine and branches were. The "branches" that wither and fall off are the ones that refuse Life. The "fig trees" that aren't ready for their Master to come and ask of them their fruit do not belong to Him and are fit for the fire as well. Abiding every moment means being ready every moment to give an account to your Maker. 

Is it humbling to be referred to as a plant? Talk about vulnerable! I thought it was humbling enough to be called a sheep. But sheep eat plants! Well, they eat grass anyway. We are at the mercy of so much and yet we think we're so powerful. Our choices only matter for what they mean to God. The other choices are chaff ready for the fire. The choices to abide and  to be ready are the ones that matter most. They are our only work.


The Jackhammer

The kindness of strangers is like a rare jewel hidden in the darkness and crags under a mountain. Was there ever a time that it glistened on the open ground like a sunstone? But even then it could have been mistaken for broken glass or some other piece of trash.

Today a man bumped into my eight-year-old girl with his cart and didn't apologize. She nearly cried when she saw the look of complete disregard on his face. In her sweet and innocent world, anyone who hurts another person should apologize, even if it was an accident. But as my child held her elbow I saw her face harden a little. I asked her, "Are you ok?" and she just said, "Yeah, I just felt scared." It was heartbreaking to see the anger in her fear. She carries around so much guilt and anxiety because of reasons I can't say. Also, because of her perfectionist tendencies and her intense sensitivities she is in danger of caving in on herself. I fight alongside her in this battle for her sense of worth every chance I get. But it feels kind of hopeless in a world that doesn't seem to value children.

Dear daughter, I'm sorry that people trample diamonds into the mud and toss precious gold onto the waste pile. Pearls beneath the feet of filthy swine, I tell ya. They only seek to devour the giver and are blind to the value of the gift. I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm sorry for them. They don't see you because they can't see beauty. Don't be afraid of them, be sad for them. To their darkened minds a sunset is merely a backdrop for their personal agenda. Your interference in their day is like a work of art that is keeping a road from being built. They will destroy it for the sake of advancing their tiny kingdom. Pity them because they won't stop. Their hired jackhammer would cut into the golden streets of Heaven itself if they were allowed in.

I wish I could stand outside their circle long enough to judge them a little more. But I quickly find myself among them when I remember where I came from. Once upon a time I was a trampled treasure. But I did my share of pounding beauty into the ground with all I learned from my devourers. Fortunately for others, it was mostly my own beauty that I wasted and exploited. I was a temple prostitute for the idol of human approval. It wasn't long before I was blind to all beauty, especially my own. Then Jesus opened my eyes and like a baby I thought all beauty was for me and about me. As I matured in the spirit I realized what I'd squandered. Many years would pass before I'd be ready to face the loss. Denial would keep me cushioned in a special ignorance reserved for the young and vulnerable. I grew up and became ready to face my own jackhammer.

Becoming acquainted with the destruction you've caused is not like meeting an old friend. It's like  the morning after a tornado and every thought you have blames yourself like, "What have I done." Slowly the light spreads across the scene. I see drops of blood, a nail through flesh, life draining from a face, breathing rasps of pain, and tears dripping down the bloodied and bare chest of an innocent man. It isn't just any man, though. This man is Life itself, dying in front of me. As I behold His innocence I also realize my guilt. But before it can crush me under it's weight, He steps out of the tomb. Light cuts through the middle of me like a sword separating soul from spirit. I'm saved! He has mined me out of so much hardened rock and so begins the purifying process. My name is now written on golden streets.

Dear children, Jesus will look into your eyes one day and He will see the treasure that you are. Then you will see Him. You will see your value reflected in His eyes. Not only will He never see you as a road block, you are part of His road. Your place in Heaven is secured. He's not looking past you, He's coming directly for you. He knows what many do not: that you are worth it. So when people don't see your value it's because they aren't seeing you with Jesus's eyes. When they do, it's because Jesus did first.


In the Longing

I look at happy people differently now. It's not that I'm not a happy person, I really do enjoy this existence most of the time. But lately I have been bombarded with darkness and evil so much that I just long for kindness and love... a lot. When I scroll my social media feeds and get updates from far-away friends, I see the highlights of their lives and their happy selfies. There was a time when I was envious and self-pitying because of the many trials I faced. Now I see something different.

I see hope for my kids and the people I impact that still have a chance at building the right foundation for their lives. Sure, I feel anxiety over the possibility that history will repeat and I'll watch them make the same mistakes I did. But because of God's redemptive plan, the hope outweighs the fear.

His presence is everywhere in my story, even when I couldn't sense it. He has a view of each generation as though a thousand years has already passed. I am a blip on His radar, that's all. And yet, He counts my hairs. Each of my days is so known by Him that it would take a thousand years for me to analyze the data He's gathered from each of them. Still, my limited view antagonizes me. Blinded by my finite mind that can't fathom His eternal purposes. I just grow weary not knowing, when I should grow more relaxed in trusting.

The devil hangs around a lot these days. He hangs on my every word, looking for where he might twist and pervert the truth or pressure me into feeling hopeless. I'd be accustomed to him if his spiritual stench wasn't so foul. I spend time in the sweet and comforting embrace of my Lord and then I get a whiff of sin and it throws me off. It's like enjoying a nice meal in a bakery café and then walking by a garbage bin on your way back to your job. What a contrast! I don't know what the devil is even up to most of the time, but I smell him.

The longing is what gets me all worked up. It's a subconscious and spiritual pull that makes me hunger for Heaven and eternity. I want to make the time go by faster so I can see fruit pop out onto the branches. I'm watching the little buds as their petals fall off, knowing what comes next. Then they have to grow... then they have to RIPEN... and then, only then, will they be good for food. But when you take that first juicy bite, it's like... Heaven.

Nothing great ever came quickly after the fall. Before the fall, God spoke things into existence. One word and, BAM! In one day, the world was ready for life. The trees produced an abundance of fruit that the first humans lived off of. It was a life only of endless possibility, discovery, worship, and fellowship with others and God Himself. This waiting, longing, and hoping... these things were a non-issue. We were living in perfect harmony and contentment without a need or lack of anything.

So here I am walking in eternal Life and eating of the Tree of Life, that is Jesus Christ, and yet I live in a fallen world of corruption, toil, and a bittersweet longing that I can feel deep into every part of this body. Every encounter I have with sin, the devil, those who love ignorance, and death leaves me wanting to wash out my soul with God's cleansing water of Life... every moment of every day.

I suppose I'm at the brink of something because it's at times like these that I can't find rest or peace until I've wrestled like Jacob for that blessing. Lord, take me to the next level! Bless me! I won't let go until You've replaced that part of me with Yourself. It's the part that wants to hold on to this so-called reality. It's the self-indulgent part that believes in the power of man over You. It's the part that still takes the devil's threats seriously or even considers them!

I need Your Spirit to face his temptations. He approaches me with the same temptations that You faced in the wilderness. He offers me creature comforts and dainties galore if only I will do it his way. He throws scripture at me and threatens me with a scarlet letter or a witch trial if I don't conform to his established religious order and seek the so-called truth about You on his or mankind's terms. So I guess the next level is getting me to worship my own faith and lose sight of Your guiding hand. The temptation is to place my trust of You on trial with an ultimatum. That's when the devils thinks he's calling my bluff. "If you trust God so much, make some showy display to prove your faith!" No. God has been patient with me as I tested His faithfulness as much as I could. Now I simply obey.

Lately, I don't understand everything about the path He has me on. Sometimes I try to carry the burden that He carries for me and I get instantly squashed. He reminds me gently that I can't stop trusting Him now, especially because my trust transcends my own understanding. He hasn't called me to this place to abandon me. When it looks the scariest, He is near. His revelation draws closer and closer even as He walks toward me on the water. Everything in me wants to explain it away, even with my own silly superstitions. No, that's not some ghost coming at us on the waves. It's not something from my imagination or from the devil's horrors. It is my Lord! I got myself all worked up and He was right on time. If only someone had reminded me or encouraged me. Well, He did. My insatiable longing led me to write this. Writing is an ever-faithful means of getting outside my own chaotic mind to put things in order. When I can read them to myself I can grasp them. He brings me peace and all of the other things that He is.