Sweet Surrender

I’ve had two moments recently that made me stop. Made everything around me go a little blurry and lose myself in those moments.

The first was reflecting back five months to 2 things God had asked of my husband and I. The first request was that I quit my job and go back to working at Crossroads. The other request came in April. Leave the church we loved so much and go to a completely new place, where we knew one person.

I don’t mind change, so long as it works within my comfort zone.

To make a long story short, we did obey both things. At the time they seemed small-ish. Nothing life changing or crazy. How I was wrong.

I have had a perspective change, because of obedience in those two things. The change has been my perspective of my past. Some of you know parts of my life. The heartache of a broken home. The heartache of a childhood of abuse. I had bought into lies of shame and guilt, of worthlessness, of loneliness, and so much more.

I have found myself at a very new level of openness, vulnerability, and healing in my life. I have found people who have been where I have been. Some are further along in the journey than I and some are not. How incredibly beautiful is that?!!! Through my husband, who seriously is amazing, and these two new communities “my mind is being blown” to quote a friend. I have been with and around these people for 2 months and I have been able to open up faster and more than ever before. I have been able to share my story and my hurts and the lies that I believe about myself. I have found love and grace. I have also found truth. Beautiful truth, that my past is not baggage or crap, it’s stuff and it’s ok to have stuff. It’s actually great to have stuff.

I know you’re dying to know what the second moment was.

It was a quote…

Upon realizing the gospel for the first time, one woman said “I know why I want my morality to save me. If I’m saved by good works, then like a taxpayer, I have rights. I’ve paid into the system and God owes me a good and decent life. And there is a limit to what the Father can ask of me. But if I’m saved by sheer grace, then my life belongs entirely to the Father, he owes me nothing, and there is no limit to what he can ask of me.”

Still, hours after hearing it, there is this stopping to attempt to soak that in.

So blunt.

So truthful.

I have been saved by sheer grace. On the cross Jesus said “It is finished.” The debt had been paid. There was nothing more that I or anyone else could do to pay the debt.

The debt has been PAID.IN.FULL.

How willing am I to live in obedience with the last part of that sentence? To be very honest, not extremely. More often than not I find myself fighting, arguing, or negotiating along the way. I’ve found myself in a small group with some really amazing people. One is a semi-new Christian. She is sweet and wonderful. Full of questions I would never think to ask. Questions she asks without fear of judgment and questions she asks until she understands, even if it takes a while. She has this crazy awesome desire to soak everything up and constantly says “I don’t know about all this other stuff, I’m just saying that Jesus is my dude.” Gosh, how I love it! It’s so final and how it should be.

That last sentence is true. Now to stop fighting and surrender, which has proved to be much sweeter than the fight.

“My life belongs entirely to the Father, he owes me nothing, and there is
no limit
to what he can ask of me.”

My life long lesson… forgiveness

A few months back a dear friend and I were talking. She asked me “How do I forgive them? After everything they’ve done, how can I forgive them? Forgiving them is just saying that everything they did is ok.” I knew all the right things to say, but deep in my heart a part of me was saying the same thing. What is forgiveness really all about? How do I dig up all this pain and heartache and move past it? How do I start living, not from my past or my pain, but from my heart? Will this forgiveness thing ever get easier? Or will it always be this hard?

When the pain is too much and all I want to do is run from it, how do I find the strength to forgive?

How is it that letting go and moving on seems to be so much harder and more painful than holding onto the pain? On the other hand, how is holding onto the pain and reliving it everyday easier and less painful than letting go of it? It’s like scraping your knee and as soon as a scab begins to form scraping it off and never allowing it to heal, but expecting it to go away or getting angry at that uneven pavement that caused you to trip. Or like my mom says “Failure to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Last Thursday I read something my best friend had written:

…I had barely gotten the word “India” out when she threw all the money in her hand back into my case.
“You go!” she said forcefully. “I vanted to see the verld vhen I vas young but I came here and got distracted by life. So you go and see the verld.”
I asked where she was from and she shook her head at the question, then paused momentarily as she peered closely at me.
“And you vemember that ve are all human ok? No matter vat de outside, ve are all human.”

I nodded, slightly stunned by her outburst. She stoped talking for a moment and looked deep in thought before speaking again.
“You know vat it is that chanches the verld?”
She charged ahead not waiting for a response.
“Forgifness. Too many people hold hurts in their heart and tey hafe no love. They cannot grow because they cannot forgife. You remember tat inside and tell everyone ok? Forgife, forgife, forgife”
She closed her handbag and turned to talk away suddenly then stopped and looked back at me “And you hug tem. People are afraid to be loved. You hug tem and tell them forgifness.”
Then she asked my name and said goodbye before turning and walking briskly away without looking back….

“I Think I Met an Angel Today” by Rebekah Cassinari

In light of all the above, I’m stepping back, wiping the slate clean. What is forgiveness? I won’t say that I have all the answers or even have a great grasp, but here’s what I’ve come up with…

In our world we want everything right now. We want to feel a certain way. If we don’t feel something, it must not be real. Forgiveness is a great idea. However, we stop too soon. We forgive and still feel the anger, the pain, and the desire for justice to be served to those who have wronged us. We don’t feel any different from before we forgave. So, we think that it didn’t work and give in to those feelings.

Truth is the key to forgiveness is time. It is a long and often painful process.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)

Just as it takes time for a physical wound to heal. It takes time for wounds of the soul to heal. When we forgive we “absorb the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death. … Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of the evil.” (The Reason for God)

Forgiveness confronts the pain and hurt. It does not excuse the wrong, but says that I am no longer going to let that anger and pain control my emotions. Forgiveness chooses to love and refuses to hate.

Forgiveness is a choice to love. “Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences nails, blood, sweat, and tears.” (The Reason for God) Forgiveness is the ultimate reflection of the most incredible act.

Forgiveness brings peace and rest, and our fears start to fade.

Saying all that is great, now it’s time to put it into practice… The hard part. Choosing to forgive and let go. Allowing time to heal the pain and dissolve the anger.

the simple beauty of a dandelion

There is a strange and intoxicating beauty to a dandelion. The leaves are… well not so lovely. And the flower itself is not all elegance, nor is it breath taking. However, in it’s own right, it is stunning. With their brilliant, sunny yellow petals they brighten up a yard, a room, or a face. Who could refuse a smile when seeing a cheerful little child, dirty and ruffled from playing outside, holding in their hand a bouquet of lovely, bright yellow dandelions? Or what about a field of dandelions contrasting so stunningly against the dark green of the grass, how does one go by without noticing their beauty?

It is pointless to point out to me the fact that a dandelion is not a flower, but a weed. I will not listen. To me… they are a flower. You’re right they may not have the elegance or fragrance of a rose. Nor do they have the variety in color like the cosmos. But to me, in a strange sort of way, they are just as wonderful.

There is a lot to be learned from a dandelion.

They have intense roots, that are very difficult to dislodge. They go down so deep and hug the ground beneath like their very life depends on that tight grip, which is does. The longer they are allowed to grow, the deeper their roots go, the tighter they hang on, and the harder they are to remove.

Their faces display a beauty that is contagious and spreads to bring about more little rays of sunshine. The sight of one immediately brings back happy memories of childhood, a time which now seems so much simpler. As they grow, they change and become wispy seeds, that spread and become new dandelions.  If one breaks off the root, the part left continues to grow and forms a new dandelion.

They are very difficult to kill. They can survive almost anything, weather can rip at them, people and animals can mutilate and attempt to destroy them. So long as there is a little piece left, they grow back.

Two years, 8 months, 6 days…

Two years, eight months, six days ago my family experienced one of its saddest and lowest moments. One of the most important family members had passed on, my grandpa. He was the glue that seemed to hold us all together, he was our rock. He went above and beyond what was required of him, being more than just a grandfather. He loved deeply and was always there. He hid his teddy bear-ness under a mask of intense sarcasm, that all who knew him loved so much. We affectionately nicknamed him, Grumpy.

I can remember that morning like it was yesterday, the 4am phone call from the hospital, the drive to the hospital that seemed to take hours, trying to remain strong for my grandma, sobbing like nothing else. The thing I love the most… was the nurses, who kept coming in and out of the room. Nurses on that floor and from the other floors he’d been on in the hospital. The sweet card they gave us. The hugs and tears they cried over losing him. They only knew him a short period of time, but they had come to love him deeply. He was truly an incredible man.
(The one bright spot in that terribly sad day… We had to find a funeral home, so they could release his body and we could get it cremated. On the way back to my grandma’s house we stopped at a funeral home. The name of it? T.P. White. I sat in the car, I just couldn’t go inside, and belly laughed for quite some time. That day, every time I thought of the name of that funeral home it made me laugh.)

It felt as if time had stopped. He was so sick and suffering so much, it was too harsh to wish him still here; yet, this knowledge wasn’t enough to ease the sorrow that surrounded us with such intensity. What were we going to do? How could we survive without him? Who would we go to whenever something went wrong? The rock was gone; it felt as if we were going to fall to pieces.

But time hadn’t stopped. We still had to keep going. There were jobs to go to, bills to pay, classes to attend, life to keep living. So, mechanically we kept going. I didn’t want to smile or laugh or joke. It was bittersweet; my humor is exactly the same as my grandpa’s. I constantly reminded myself of him. I hated it. Family gatherings were painful and almost mechanical. There was this deep emptiness. We laughed and joked and told stories to force ourselves to keep going and focus on something else. However, the laughter and jokes and stories were not as enjoyable as they had once been.

This year (two years and 4months later) for our Christmas-after-Christmas family gathering, the women decided they did not want to cook. So, we went out. Now this may not seem like that big of a deal; however, when you have a family with 7 children plus spouses and children and their spouses and children it gets a little more complicated. More than half the family was not able to make it and so only 22 of us showed up at the restaurant.

Second problem is that we have all inherited a bit of our grandfather’s humor. Ah yes, we don’t always behave very well… And when you combine us all in a small space, it can compound the uh… “problem.” Now I will say that usually the *cough* mature and uh… wise adults start things and then of course us “youngins” must join in! Why let them have all the fun?! Problem three, we don’t all see each other all the time and thus change seats frequently to chat with other family members catching up on all the news. We are a very chatty bunch. All this translates to…. not a quick dinner.

Then there was desert at our house… A little ice cream (we’re only slightly addicted to this stuff), some wine and out come all the “family secrets.” We hadn’t laughed that hard or that much since my grandpa’s passing. Maybe it was the non-traditional get together. Maybe just enough time had passed for us to be able to talk about and remember the good times fondly. Or maybe it was a combination of the two. All I know is that, though we still miss him like nothing else and family gatherings aren’t the same without him, simply the mention of his name is no longer followed with an intense mixture of emotions, sadness winning out. Once again, we could talk about him and laugh. His stories could be retold, for the millionth time, without bringing anyone to tears.

“You’re in this moment, time, place for a purpose and you’ve got what it takes to fulfill it.”
“The world around you is waiting to be improved, asking for it.”

Things may be hard. It may feel like you can’t keep going. Give it time. Allow yourself time to grieve. Don’t expect to be happy all the time or even part of the time. It will come. It make take 2 years and 4 months, but healing will come. Joy comes back and you grow and change and learn to improve the world around you.

An Old Friend

There she sits. Alone. Off to the side of the room. Silently watching, silently listening to the hustle and bustle going on around her. No one speaks to her. No one notices her as they walk past. She waits patiently, hopeful. Maybe someone, anyone, will come and sit with her. Once… once she could be heard. Once her voice was loud and beautiful, and those people they used to take notice of her. Now, they just walk by. Day after day, she sits there. Silent and alone.

Oh, if only. If only she could speak! The stories she could tell, stories of love and anger, laughter and tears, children’s voices that grew up into adults; stories of life, the lives of the people, who now carelessly pushed her to the side.

Days turn into months, which turned into years. No one notices her. No one sees her. She is resigned to this life of solitude.

Then one day. The house is still, all the people are gone, all but one, the girl. The girl walks into the room, searching for something. And then, the girl stops. She looks longingly at her old friend and walks over to her. The girl gently runs her fingers along the old wood that covered those beautiful keys. The girl gently lifts the lid and presses down one of the beautiful ivory keys. Oh, the joy! She can’t believe it! She can barely contain her excitement! Will the girl sit with her? Will the girl make her voice sing once again? But wait… The girl stops and looks across the room, then bends over and whispers, “Don’t worry, old friend. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

A few minutes pass, they feel like an eternity! She closes her eyes and tries to hold back the agony she feels. It would have almost been better if the girl had never touched her or given her voice again! She had forgotten how wonderful it felt to sing. That girl had to remind her how incredible that feeling was and then she walked away! How could she be so cruel?! But wait, what was that? The small vibrations of footsteps; they are coming down the hall. As the vibrations become stronger and stronger, she knows the girl is close by. She forces herself to look and there in front of her stands the girl. She can feel the excitement start to build. She came back, the girl really did come back!

The girl pulls out the bench and slowly sits down. She gently runs her fingers along the old ivory keys that are starting to yellow. She picks up a piece of music from the rack and unfolds it. She places her fingers on the keys and starts slowly and hesitantly to play. She makes it through the piece one time, making a few mistakes. It had been a while since she had sat with her old friend. She starts again, this time with more confidence, quickly pressing the keys and pedal in unison. The old friend is ever faithful, and her beautiful voice is heard once again. Then… then that note is struck. She watches as the girl cringes, but the girl continues on. Oh, but then there again, a different note this time, equally as painful. The girl ignores it and continues to passionately play on; pressing each key with emotion, letting everything flow out through that one song. The old friend can feel the heaviness, pain, and sorrow. A tear slips out and slides down the girl’s cheek, landing softly on one of those ivory keys; she doesn’t stop, but continues to play.

The girl becomes lost; lost in her music, lost in her heartache, lost in her old friend. Time flies by so fast. Before she knows it the other family members are starting to return home. Can it really be that late? Oh dear! There is so much to do and not enough time. She finishes her song and whispers, “I’ll be back old friend. Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to… Well, you know. I’ll be back.” The girl gently closes the lid and pushes the bench in.

She watches as the girl goes back about her business and breathes a happy sigh, the girl hadn’t forgotten her. Her voice, once again, had sung out loud and clear. She could sit off to the side and wait patiently for the day when the girl would come back. Now, she understood that the girl would never forget her dear, old friend. The girl would, once again, need to sit with her and let all the unspoken emotions flow out through her old friend. She would be content to remain silent, until the day the girl needed the comfort of her voice once again.


this thing called life…

this thing we’re doing called life… it’s an adventure full of…

…people…heartbreak…hopes…tears…happiness…strength…dreams…

…relationships…joy…disappointment…peace…weakness…love…

in this adventure, we envision our life. dreaming of how everything will go. we make plans, striving to achieve our dreams. however, life is not perfect. things don’t always go as planned. we come across bumps, some tiny and others ginormous. some are not so bad, we can see beyond them. others we can’t see beyond and have no idea if there is a beyond. we then face heartache. disappointment. fear. and questions. what do we do now?

we may cry. fall down. despair. pray. try to find some reasoning in it all. maybe even quit for a while. but life does not stop.

so, we dig down deep and find somewhere in us the strength to get back up and try again. or maybe we just find the strength to smile and carry on. our questions remain answerless. we can’t see where the other side is. and doubt it’s existence.

but we still keep going… living in our own bubbles. keeping the bad to ourselves and only showing the world the good. but in doing so we live not seeing, really seeing the people around us.

some have the courage to stop. they look past the smiles and nods and meaningless “i’m fine” answers. looking into the soul of the person next to them, seeing disappointment, failure, sadness, longing, etc… they stop for a minute. they offer a hug or a helping hand. but inevitably they continue on their way, still in their own bubble.

a few. a very few have the courage to pop their own bubble. they see around them and strive to make a difference. they love and are betrayed. forgive and move past. they are hurt, but continue to love from the deepest part of their heart. they live with hands held high and arms wide open. they recognize failures, but never stay down. they keep trying no matter how impossible it may seem. they don’t see a change in plans as a dream dying, just morphing into something better. they are the last to pass judgment and the first to give support. they know how to laugh when it seems like nothing is going right. when they smile it comes from somewhere deep inside, somewhere real.

this thing we do called life… is an adventure. a terrifying ride. a choice. a journey.

in it we celebrate successes, birthdays, friendship, and love. make new friends. catch up with old friends. we experience heartbreak and sorrow. we build walls to protect ourselves and tear down walls to find love. and in that we find hope, new dreams, happiness, and acceptance.

this thing we call life… is beautiful.