Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing we ever have to do!

While I have been sitting here on my back porch the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to decide what to do with In His Grip.  Over the last several years it has been a great outlet for me to express the things I have been learning from the Lord while walking through this huge valley of Olivia’s second transplant.  But now, it seems life is turning to a new and wonderful place in life and what would I do with this place.  In His Grip is very close to my heart.

Well, the Lord reminded me that I have been writing Bible Studies these last few months.  I would just get inspired by a character or an event I was reading about and start writing them.  So, if you will indulge me, I think I am going to put parts of them here.  The great thing is that I have written a lot.  The bad thing, well, they can exceed that 500 word limit that lose people’s attention.  But, I guess if God is a part of it and you are gleaning something from it you will read on.  So, let me know what you think.  I am going to be able to do it at least once a week and if you like it I actually have enough to go twice a week.  Drop me a comment if it you want to journey with me.  I just like to affirm that I am hearing correctly from the Lord.

Forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing we ever have to do!

What does it feel like when you feel love for the first time?  That moment when you finally know that someone loves you beyond the moment, the imperfections, how you see yourself, and they love you with all your mistakes.  They even love you enough to help you forgive yourself for not making all the right choices.  What a day that is.  The most beautiful part is God loves you even more than that.  Even the best of love here on earth carries only a tenth of the love of God.

Forgiving is a huge step towards receiving love. There are times in our lives when having that ability is so hard.  We have to really work at it.  There is our past, our past hurts, our past mistakes that are huge hurdles for allowing someone that close into our heart.   Sometimes, forgiving ourselves seems to be the cornerstone of not receiving love.  Our expectations and our mistakes are the keys that stand in the way of truly receiving love. When you finally release all that unforgiveness the overflow that you feel is a sense of cleansing.  That old things have past and new things are possible. Love can feel like freedom, the freedom to be ourselves, the freedom to live unhindered by our past mistakes. Love can feel like forgiveness and overwhelming amounts of grace.

Forgiving yourself just might be the culprit standing in the way of receiving. It can be one huge piece of baggage.

 As I sit here on my porch reflecting on all my years of struggle I am so happy where I am today. The heart that God has formed in me overflows with compassion and grace.  But that took some mighty work and heavy lifting on my part and God’s.  I had a huge pile of luggage that I liked to drag around with me.  A lot of it had been around so long it was battered, dented and the rollers had fallen off so I had to truly drag it with me.

The key, which does not come with the instructions to our baggage, is to let Jesus in all the way. We have been so proud of our luggage that we have yet to allow Him in our hearts (or luggage) for fear of what He might see.  We are sure if He saw it, He really wouldn't love us as much. Our feelings of guilt and worth start playing with our mind and we cannot seem to let it go. The reality is, He already knows what’s in it. If we never open it for him it doesn't matter. Remember love sees all and loves us anyway.  In the end, the tighter we hang on we may never realize the forgiveness we have been extended and the love that He has for us. We may never really allow that forgiveness to free us.

In time, we put that baggage away with all the "stuff" in it.  It becomes like the linen closet.  You know no one will ever see it so you just keep piling blankets in there, stuffing them in until you are afraid of what might happen when you open the door.  But, as long as you just keep walking by it, everything is safely inside. Hidden from view and really just a little tug in the back of your mind that one day you are going to get in there and deal with that closet.  It might be cluttered and you might be scared to open the door.  But all is safe. There sits that luggage of unforgiveness in our hearts.  Nicely tucked away in a "safe" place that at times you don't even remember it's there. We have taken painstaking efforts to hide it.

We all have seen this reflected in so many different areas of our life. It could have been in our past. It could be something unintentional, or it could be feeling like we failed someone or even failed our own expectations for ourselves. Guilt and unforgiveness is a powerful tool that is used to keep us bound and a huge chasm that gives way to not truly receiving all the love of a Holy precious Father. Dare I say it even builds a wall around being able to receive love from a wonderful spouse, unconditional love of a parent and even children?  It also hinders our ability to give love freely. If we don't know how to fully receive love then we don't always understand the full extent of giving free, unconditional love to someone else. 

Receiving love allows us to understand our own imperfections.  It allows us to give grace, forgiveness, a helping hand and wise advice to help one another.  I may not have walked your path and I need that advice.  You may not have walked mine yet and could use an encouraging word.  Words that heal, give hope, and send love.

At times, we have allowed some love into our heart.  We have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we have dear friends, we love our spouse and children but only you know if the wall is up and surrounds you to keep them all at a bit of distance.  Just in case they may want to walk in and really know your heart. We only allow their love to go so deep in our hearts because we have still not allowed God in to wash away all that unforgiveness.

One of the most heart wrenching stories I have ever heard was in my own home.  My dear sweet husband came from another faith that believed that sin was the root of not receiving blessings. They were more in the "name it and claim it” idea of God and felt that if you did not receive what you claimed then you were in sin. In time as he grew spiritually, he decided that the denomination he was ordained through might not be the way God would have him lead.  So, in time, he changed to another denomination and another, deeper step with God.  It was after this change in his life that we met.

We were married and then after four years we had Olivia.   But, when she was three years old things started going horribly wrong for her.  At first she seemed to stay sick.  We had been through test after test being told she had a brain tumor to she only had a virus.  Then the day came when we were told she was in total organ failure.  Finally they revived her other organs but her liver.  Through all this time, both Dean and I struggled with what God would have us do.  How were we to take care of this precious gift?

But lurking in the back of my husband's mind this whole time, without one word to me, was what "sin" have I committed that God would bring his wrath on Olivia.  The pot kept getting stirred more and more as we walked through each day of more tests, a liver transplant, a horrible attempt to save the transplanted liver and on the story goes.  All through this time, my husband was silently suffering.  His guilt was overwhelming at times.  His ability to forgive himself was beyond words. Finally, one day he re-read the scripture about the boy that was blind.  The disciples asked Jesus, "Who sinned?  The mother or the Father that this boy is blind?"  Jesus answered and said "neither, his infliction was so the Glory of God could be shown"…..that was the first time Dean finally opened up to me and asked for forgiveness.  He had been angry at himself, at his friends that had told him it was about him and at God a bit because he did not know what to do.  But for me, my heart just broke to think that he had been tormented so long. Finally we were able to work through all of that and he is free from that unforgiveness and guilt but the years of torment were just agony for him.

Today we know that God has ordained our steps.  We would not trade one day of these last eleven years for a different life.  We have celebrated more miracles at God's hand than I can even count. The freedom of love and forgiveness is just one example of a miracle we can celebrate.  Believe me, we have had many.

Today is a great time to open up that luggage.  Just a little if that is all you can do.  Are there area's the Holy Spirit is talking to you about right now?  Is there anything you need to pull out of that luggage and get rid of?  Is there someone you need to talk to and ask for forgiveness?  Or do you just need to have a talk with God and yourself and forgive yourself? 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Live, Laugh and Love….Really? Hold on, In His Grip

One of my favorite sayings is Live, Laugh and Love.  If you stand in my kitchen you will see that saying right over the entrance of the archway into the kitchen.  Because that is what I picture in my kitchen. The smells of baking in the oven, my sweet husband sitting in his chair delivering his news from his day and of course Olivia interrupting about fifty times to get in her every single thought that she has ever had.  This is life evolving around us. Listening to life, laughing at our life and loving each other because we are in each other's life.  Living, laughing and loving each other.  Some of our greatest memories are made in the kitchen.  Honestly, a lot of weight is gained in that kitchen but we lived while we were in there.

 Living is hard these days for all of us.  Some days we are all doing well to put one step in front of the other.  I am amazed at the friends that surround me and how they survive life.  Between cancer, sickness, job loss, home loss, lives lost ,each day brings a day of truly living.  Not the fairytale but the realities of life.  Where we take that life, where we walk in that path of life, the decisions we make along the way and how we get through it is our testimony of living. 

My testimony touches those different facets of what we call life.  I have walked down some hard, difficult roads that have led me to greater heights than I can ever imagine.  I have walked through some valleys that I thought would never end.  This does not make me an expert in life it just gives me a testimony that might come alongside someone else and pick them up and help them keep walking.  My joy is to share my life so someone else may be a little stronger, a little happier and a little more closer to the God that has been ever faithful to me.

A friend reminded me this weekend that the model of prayer Jesus gave us was "Our"  Father in heaven.  She told me how God showed her that the "our" part joins us all together as a body.  In that joining, my testimony of life, may touch you…your testimony of life will touch me and someone else and so on.  So, if we want to really touch someone, we have to open our lives to others, we have to share our victories and failures and we have to be alone with God. That alone time leads us to hear Him and understand our journey so much more.  Really the saying should be Learn, Laugh and Love because in the love part is where we get to hold on to someone else's hand.  Giving them something they needed out of the abundance of what we have learned and been given.

So come join me in my quiet place .  On my back porch that overlooks the pool and my garden.   In my swing, with my coffee steaming and listening to the quiet of the morning I listen.  Come visit with me  and the Holy Spirit as we talk.  Yours will be your own conversation. Telling Him all the things that you need …all the things that hurt…all the things you love. On my porch swing I will be doing the same.  I will pour another  cup of coffee.  I want to tell you all about the God who loved me, laughed at me and with me, and more than I can imagine loves me.  So that when we meet maybe my story will help you and I know your story will help me. 

The scripture for my life is  Proverbs 3:4-5 "Love the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, and all they acknowledge  Him and He will direct your paths." I have found that to be true more than I can ever even discuss with you.

Unfortunately for me ,today is a one way dialogue. I have  been doing all the talking.  But if you knew me, personally, you would know the first question I would ask is " tell me about you. Tell me how you are doing?".  Because that is my heart.  To know you.  To be a part of your life.   Maybe, as the coffee starts to get cold you will hear from the Holy Spirit something that swells in your heart to make life just a little brighter today that you will share with me.  Living  can be one of the hardest things to ever learn. Sharing your life can be a milestone for you and yet, when we do, it is the closest I believe we can get to knowing God.


In His Grip