I just read my very old devotional “God Calling” which I have used since the year 2000. In it, I have little notes about events that were significant to me at the time.
As I was reading, I noticed a note I wrote in 2006 that talked about having deep concerns because of the raw truth of my life being revealed as I began writing my first book, Twist of Faith. I was having sleepless nights and anxiety just thinking about what others may think of me after they read my story. I guess I was surprised as I read the notes in my devotional because 2006 marked 30 years after my abuse began.
The truth is our choices and behaviors have far-reaching effects and to face them takes courage.
I’m glad for the notes I kept because they remind me that the journey of confession is a long process and it’s difficult for women to tell their stories.
In 2006 I had already dealt with all my stuff and I was well on my way to a life of freedom from secrets. The process was difficult and many times I wanted to run away from my own pain. (Which, by the way, how do you do that? It’s really impossible!)
The lie we believe is we can self-medicate to relieve the pain but the truth is when the medication wears off, the pain is still there and hasn’t subsided. It seems like over time the pain increases rather than decreases.
In 2006 I was no longer living with any secrets and yet to expose my life through my written story was still a very high risk and emotionally draining!
Today, as I reflect on the note I had in my devotional, I am reminded of the delicate emotions of a woman living with secrets and how frightening it is to be open. In the beginning, it almost feels like you’re somehow imposing on another’s life when you begin to tell. It almost takes your breath away or you feel like you might collapse because of the anxiety you feel when you begin to talk. It’s easy to talk about being transparent but it’s hard to become transparent. When you take a step towards transparency, it will provoke anxiety just like I had when I started writing my book.
The question is, what do you do with your emotional pain? If over medicating doesn’t give you permanent relief, what will? There really are no other options except to share your story and our tendency is to do anything but that.
If you do not tell,
You cannot be well.
But as you reveal
You will be healed.
In my past, I did all the wrong things. At the very top of my list was never talking about what’s really going on in my life and never taking any responsibility for my thoughts and behaviors.
If I didn’t talk, that meant I kept ignoring how I felt. If I stayed busy enough I could actually forget my pain. Being busy was my medication of choice. It had no side effects. (Or at least I thought it didn’t.) The truth is the side effect of silence is a slow death to being fully alive.
Dr. Richard Dobbins says, “The tragedy is not in dying but what dies inside of us while we live”.
That’s exactly what was happening to me. In my silence, I was dying a little more each day. As I reflect on my journey toward healing I clearly see the miracle that came from my pain – A life of freedom and purpose! It was certainly not a supernatural miracle that happened with a quick prayer of faith but I still consider my freedom a miracle. I live in my miracle every day with a grateful heart because God gave me the ability to be strong and courageous.
What happened to you may not be your fault but how you respond to it becomes your responsibility.
We can either use the victim card and stay stuck in our pain or we can use our God-given power to respond in ways that will lead us to a life of purpose. Years later, it’s still hard for me to believe all the ways I hurt the ones I love the most. There are still thoughts of remorse I feel for the pain I caused. My life of abuse took me down a path of selfishness and inflicting pain on my family for which I could not forgive myself for many years.
Today I am able to remember it all without going into a full-blown state of depression because I have learned the secret of walking in the light. In the light, I see things clearly and there is no place to hide or isolate.
My husband says, “The rich things I’ve learned from the worst days of my life makes me thankful for the memory of them.” The memories connect me to all the places in me that we’re extremely sad, or happy. I am able to remember them with my emotions intact instead of a walking dead person with no emotion.
Your mind forgets nothing! It’s an amazing thing. Reflecting on your past is a gift God has given us. Today I can remember it all without feeling the pain and that’s the miracle.
This lifestyle of confession is a lifelong journey and cannot be exhausted.
Yes, my journey has been long and difficult at times and I wish I could give you a quick fix solution. On the other hand, I wouldn’t exchange my life for a pain-free life because today I see the beauty of my entire journey.
I look back over my life and see the times God clearly held me and carried me. I know He is truly a God who comforts the broken-hearted, helps the weak and forgives all my sin. As I remember my life, I remember my God.
There is not a one-size fits all approach to forgiveness because the magnitude of offense is different from situation to situation. So, when attempting to explain the how-to for understanding or applying forgiveness, I immediately question the magnitude of the offense a person experienced. Larger offenses where life is changed forever cannot be treated the same way as small things that we can easily overlook.
The goal of forgiveness is to get to a less painful place after you have been hurt, to diminish the stress, anger, and other negative side effects unforgiveness brings. Below are a few principals about forgiveness to help us understand forgiveness a little better.
Forgiveness is a choice.
Forgiveness is a conscious choice we make through our volition, motivated by freeing ourselves from the bondage of unforgiveness. The direct result of forgiveness is peace within and peace with God. But remember, a direct result is not always instant.
Dealing with the emotional aftermath is a process. Depending on the magnitude of the offense, working through the experience of what happened could take a long time. You start by sharing with a friend something simple like, “I’m struggling with this but I choose to forgive.”
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself.
It has nothing to do with the one who caused the offense. Forgiveness does not change the perpetrator or the one that committed the crime, but it can help releases the hurt of your past. Remind yourself occasionally you’re not doing this for the person that hurt you. You’re doing it for yourself. Self-care is not a selfish thing; in fact, taking care of yourself so you can reach your God-given potential is very important.
Healing Begins When We Share
Helping others with forgiveness is not as difficult as it may seem. Simply allowing people to share their story is the beginning of the healing journey. As a counselor, I would initially get people to tell their story. The things that seem to be deep in our spirit and trouble us from time to time begin to have a less destructive influence on our lives when we find somebody we can talk to and open ourselves up to.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation
We have to make a separate decision about reconciliation. Whether to reconcile with the person we are forgiving or keeping our distance is something that you have determine yourself because to be reconciled is a cooperative effort of more than one party. Don’t allow reconciliation keep you from forgiving. Forgiveness is not ignoring, disregarding, tolerating, excusing, overlooking, or closing one’s eyes to the mistakes and hurt of another person. You have to remember that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not something we do for others.
Forgiving Doesn’t Mean Forgetting
I steer away from using phrases like “forgive and forget” because there are very few times that applies. Oftentimes, we forgive because we cannot forget.
Learning to forgive is hard work but when you begin to understand some of the principals of forgiveness, my hope is that it will become easier with time.
Living most of my life in Pennsylvania. I’ve always enjoyed the four seasons and have very fond memories of the winter season. However, after a few months of playing games, enjoying outdoor activities like ice skating, sledding, and drinking lots of hot chocolate we always began to look forward to spring. The cold temperatures, snow, and high winds began to dwindle and as quickly as winter came it disappeared.
Just as nature has a winter season, we experience winter in our lives.Sometimes the season may seem harsh and cold but we can always look forward to Spring.
We often need connection with others to get through the winter seasons of life. Sitting by a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and a friend gives us the courage to hope for a better tomorrow.
One of my fondest memories was when my mother lived with me during the “winter season” of her life. When she first came to our home she was 92 years old. My mother was so tiny and fragile, weighing a little less than 70lbs. We settled her into her very own room full of windows and lots of sunshine. I didn’t know during this season I would experience a love for her that I never knew I had. A nurturing kind of love. Maybe the same kind of love she had for me when I came to live with her as an infant?
Every night, we would tuck ourselves into bed with the covers pulled up around us. We snuggled, giggled and talked for the five months she lived with me. We talked about all the things we never had time to talk about. We would laugh and sing old songs she taught me as a child.
Although her memory was fading she always wanted to talk about family and often ask the same questions. We never had deep conversations but we connected deeply. Many times she would look into my eyes and simply say, “thank you.”
When I took the time to ask her questions about her past she had the ability to tell stories with great clarity and sing songs to me her mother taught her. It was during this time we talked about the seasons of our lives. I felt like we were two little girls getting to know each other.
I knew she was in the winter season of her life and on any given day, her final season on earth would end. I knew she was going to Heaven, a place where the sun always shines. There was no need to pack because she had already prepared for this season. She had prepared her heart to face death and she knew Heaven was her next and final season.
As she took her last breath I could not comprehend the moment. As quickly as her winter season had come, it was gone. I am grateful beyond words to have been able to sit with my mother during her winter season.
Our lives are full of many seasons. There are some we cherish and some we wish to forget. The beauty of changing seasons is that no one season last forever. If you’re in a winter season and feel like it’s never ending and harsh, take a moment, sit by a fireplace, and call a friend. Find a connection with others no matter what season you’re in. Be sure and have a cup of hot chocolate ready to enjoy, engage in good conversation, and as you do, hope will spring forth in your heart.
A new season is just around the corner. Are you ready?
Most of us have experienced things in the past year that we need to forgive so we can start this year with a clean heart. However, the old mantra “forgive and forget” needs a refresh because while forgiving is possible, forgetting is not.
I love the quote, “We forgive because we cannot forget.” That makes more sense to me than trying to forget.
Going into the new year, what is it you would like to forget?
It’s amazing to me how hard we try to forget things that hurt us or things we’ve done to hurt others. Dr. Richard Dobbins says, “Our mind is an amazing miracle of Gods creation. It forgets nothing.”
Even as I’m writing I am remembering a number of times in this past year that I have said or done hurtful things to others. Even though I’ve apologized I still remember. When I remember it again, I forgive myself. I’m determined to always be mindful of my behaviors.
The new year gives us time to reflect and learn from the experiences we had.
I am not a great fan of new years resolutions because I’m not able to keep them for very long. I am a believer, however, in reflecting on my past so I can keep from making the same mistakes again.
As you begin this new year, let me encourage you that forgiveness is the right thing to do. It is good for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health even though it can be difficult to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice and something that all of us can do. It doesn’t come automatically though.
Choosing to forgive has benefits that will help you through this new year and will keep your slate clean throughout the whole year.
Life is a journey and there are things that will happen that may cause you pain. When that happens, and you are able to forgive, then healing becomes your journey. Live your life today so that when you look back in one year, you will have no regrets. You may not be able to forget, but you always have the option to forgive.
Most likely the first Christmas carol I ever learned was “Away In A Manger.” It’s a favorite of many, although it was originally a children’s hymn.
Did you know there was a misconception that the lyrics of “Away in a Manger” were actually written by Martin Luther? We actually don’t know who authored the song but we do know that the music was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there
I don’t remember my Mom teaching me that song. I actually don’t remember my Mom teaching me how to sing at all, but I’ve always known that song. It may well have been the first lullaby that my mom sang to me as she rocked me to sleep.
Dr. Richard Dobbins says that the strongest form of teaching is through role modeling. In other words, what we do as parents are more important than what we say. What Mom did every day of my life, which I remember clearly, was to sing no matter what she was doing. Her singing instilled into me the importance of having a song in your heart.
We had no radios, record players or television, which meant we entertained ourselves. Because Mom role modeled singing, at Christmas time, caroling is what we did. To this day I love Christmas carols and start playing Christmas music the first day of December each year.
Away in a manger paints a sweet picture of the birth of baby Jesus. When our grandson Ryan was three years old he became intrigued with manger scenes. Anytime he saw a manger scene, in a book, on TV, on an ornament, framed picture on a wall or any type of manger scene, he would stop and gaze at the manger.
I had one displayed in our home and he would stand and stare at it for long periods and at times I would hear him say, “there’s that baby again.”
I would tell him the Christmas story and sing “Away In a Manger” just like I learned it as a child. Although I never quite understood his intrigue with the manger scene, I believe the Christmas story stole his heart as a child.
I can’t imagine Christmas without singing this song. Listen to it, learn it and allow the words to transport you back in time to the manger scene in Bethlehem when unto us a child was born.
I spoke recently at an event in Lawton, Oklahoma. Their event brought business women together at no cost to them. The luncheon was meant to encourage them in their business and to appreciate the community they serve. They also gave a contribution to a nonprofit in their community. I was impressed by their mission of giving back.
As we entered the very festive ballroom with Christmas music being played I was immediately drawn into the spirit of Christmas. One of my favorite songs, “Silent Night”, was playing and I was struck once again with the lyrics.
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
This is the story of why the song was written.
“On Christmas Eve in 1818, a blizzard stranded the tiny village of Ogledorf, nestled in the Austrian mountains. That same day the people of St. Nicholas’ church found their organ broken. So the priest and organist began composing a song that could be sung without an organ, yet beautiful enough to express their Christmas joy. All day and all night long they worked and at midnight the gentle carol ‘Silent Night’ was born. The pure clear tones echoed through the hills and the world has been captured by the beauty of that simple song ever since.”
In a very noisy world, I love sitting back and listening to this carol. It calms my heart, stills my soul and gives me hope.
It’s the message of a silent night over 2000 years that in some way still has the power to arrest my heart every Christmas season. The message that the angels announced on that quiet hillside where shepherds were watching their sheep. “Behold, we bring you tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior”.
It was the silent night when God gave us His very best, His only son, to come and live with us. I still cannot comprehend the depth of Gods love for me in all of the Christmas seasons I have experienced. One truth that is renewed in my own heart each year is the gift that was given to me. Each year I receive this love gift with a grateful heart. I pray this gift impacts the way I live and the way I give.
This week during our time in Lawton, as we were waiting for our flight which was delayed for several hours I found an opportunity to give. There were two ladies in the airport cafe and as we had a conversation about their lives they told me their children would not experience Christmas this year. One was a mother of four children and the other a foster mother of two. Both single moms.
I was struck by the desperate and dire needs of these two mothers. They were not complaining. They were simply telling me their stories. As I listened I was prompted to help them have Christmas for their children. I went to the ATM but it was out of order! I tried to figure out how I could find some cash for them and my sister Fi suggested we use the cash from the book sales we had made at our speaking event. We counted the money and we’re thrilled we could give. I went back to the cafe and gave them the gift and watched as their countenance change when they realized their children can have Christmas after all.
The thrill of giving is an actual high. Something inside of me explodes whenever I give of myself either in deed, in word or financially. I feel alive whenever I give.
Giving is the very heart of God and I can only imagine how He felt on that silent night 2000 years ago. He knew His gift would change the course of humanity. He gave because He saw the desperate need of a world He created and loved. He knew His Son would be the answer to the needs and the cries of people, and so He gave.
May you discover the gift of Christmas this year and find ways to give to others.
This is the first Sunday in December and it is the month of Christmas. Many retail shops announce Christmas before Halloween, which makes Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas blend together and by the time Christmas arrives it can feel like just another holiday.
Christmas is not just another holiday.
Yesterday as my husband and I attended church, the first song that was sung during worship was “Joy to the World”. I was reminded of the beauty of this Holiday as I sat back and reminisced about the truth of Christmas.
I have many favorite Christmas carols and “Joy to the World” would be at the very top of my list. The song was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. He is credited with around 750 hymns. He wrote hymns at a time when the Church of England sang only the Psalms.
This particular Sunday, however, these lyrics really got my attention.
Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let earth receive her king
Let every heart prepare Him room
Let Heaven and nature sing
I learned this song as a little girl in the Amish Mennonite church where we attended church every Sunday without exception.
Christmas in my home and church was very simple but meaningful to me as a child. The Christmas story was so full of wonder! My imagination always took me to the town of Bethlehem each year.
Joy to the world was one of many songs that I would hear my mom sing as we entered the Christmas season. In those days there was no frenzied shopping at the malls or lights hung on our tree because there were no shopping malls and in our culture, Christmas trees were off limits. Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, singing carols, lots of family time, and preparing food for the festive holiday.
As a child, I experienced Christmas in a very different way than most children in the 21st century. The gifts we received from our parents, very often, were limited to one gift for all of us to be shared. I clearly remember my grandpa setting me on his lap and giving me an orange and a silver dollar. The simplicity of it warms my heart even to this day.
Today as I reminisce I can still feel the joy of the Christmas season nearly six decades ago.
As I sang this one line of Joy to the World in church – Let every heart prepare Him room – it took on a new meaning. I found myself in church responding to this invitation. Prepare your heart. Make room for Him. I experienced joy as I opened my heart once again to the Christ of Christmas.
There are so many things to distract us during this most joyous time of the year, to the point that we are in a complete frenzy as we prepare. The “to do” list is longer than the time we have to do what’s on our list. It’s easy to get caught up in the things that make Christmas a time of stress with no room for the joy of the season.
So, how do I prepare a room for the Christ of Christmas in my heart?
First of all, believing the truth about His birth. He was born in Bethlehem to a couple named Joseph and Mary. The angels announced His birth to the shepherds. The wise men saw the star and followed it to Bethlehem. They came to where He was and worshipped Him.
Just as the wise men found Him and worshipped Him, we too can find Him. And when we do, we will make room for him in our heart because we understand His reason for coming was to save us. He truly is the savior of the world.
As you allow His truth and grace to fill your mind during this Christmas season you are “making room” for Him in your heart.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
We seem to be surprised when tragedy or trouble comes knocking on our door. Yet, Jesus said, “In this life, you will have troubles”. It’s what happens on this imperfect planet called Earth.
Troubles and tragedy impact us and can change our destiny. The choices we make, accidents that happen, or unexpected illnesses we may experience can alter our hopes and dreams, leaving us feeling confused and hopeless.
I remember talking with a friend who was in the beginning stages of ALS. We were discussing his disease and the power of prayer for God to heal him. He wanted to be healed but I remember him saying to me, “Who am I that God should heal me? What about all the people in this world who are suffering in greater ways than I am? Am I more deserving than they are?”
My friend believed God could make his life all better, but he also understood something about troubles in this life. This helped him endure the deterioration of his body for over ten years with a smile on his face and faith in a loving God to help him get through to the other side of this disease.
He understood that Faith in God did not exempt him from troubles that shattered his hopes and dreams.
He understood that troubles strengthen your Faith. He understood that Faith in a living God is the safest place to be and he believed the rest of the story which says, “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world”. In all the years of his suffering, I always knew him to be smiling.
He knew that one day he would overcome and that day did eventually happen. He left this world and went home to be with the Lord. I believe his faith has now taken him to a whole new world of perfect understanding and the faith he practiced every day to overcome is no longer needed. He knows what it means to overcome it all.
We may want a trouble-free life, but troubles are necessary because they help us stop and notice God. How can you stop and notice God today in your troubles?
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” It’s the line my Mother said many times as she tried to teach all eight of us kids to learn the art of getting along.
I was reminded of this while stopping for a cup of coffee at a little coffee shop in Prescott Valley. I think I heard Mom again. Sometimes I think she’s watching me cause I often hear her quiet whispers.
I ordered my coffee and the barista served me with kindness and a beautiful smile at 7:30 AM. I commented on her pleasant demeanor and thanked her for being kind. She said, “my coworker and I were just talking about customer service and how important it is to be real and genuinely nice. You don’t see that very often anymore”.
This comment came from a young lady who understands the benefits of simply being kind. I asked her where she learned how to be kind and she responded by saying she was taught at home by her parents. Her parents were not mean, but they wouldn’t let her get away with bad behavior, which taught her how to be kind and to respect others.
Being kind takes very little energy or effort if you practice it every day. It will become a good habit. Habits are formed over time and eventually they become a part of who you are.
The habit of kindness has no bad side effects that negatively impact you or those around you. Sometimes, we see the results of bad habits leading to many forms of bad behaviors and addiction. But the habit of kindness is only good and you can be kind to your heart’s content and have no regrets.
Rome was not built in a day, but it was built daily. In the same way, our character is not built in one day, but it is built daily. Once a habit is formed, it’s hard to break.
My Mother knew if she taught us to be kind as children, it would become a habit and eventually a way of life for us. That one simple principle being taught by my Mother has served me well in every aspect of my life. There are so many benefits of being kind at home, at work, in our travels and in all of my interactions.
In our homes, the benefits create peace instead of chaos. In our place of work, kindness creates an atmosphere of working through difficult issues instead of taking the route of litigation. In our travels, the benefit of kindness prevents road rage. In all my interactions, kindness reminds me to be understanding and patient instead of being biased and critical.
As I’m writing this I am reminded that I am not “perfectly kind”. There will always be times when I don’t feel like being kind, but because I have formed this habit, I will always revert back to “be kind to one another”.
I believe the influence of kindness could change the world in which we live. It all starts with me being kind to those I love the most – my family. Then it spreads to my friends, my neighbors, co-workers and all the people I meet each day.
I’m always surprised by the lack of kindness I sense in this world but I’m equally surprised by the simple kindness I receive from someone at a coffee shop. I’m convinced, the act of genuine kindness is a power that is underestimated but when it is practiced would revolutionize our homes, churches, workplaces and our world.
“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgiving”.
This is a simple concept but it is not easy to practice unless you form the habit of being kind. How about you? Do you notice kindness from others? Are there relationships you need to be a little more kind in?
Do you hope things would be different? Can you accept your life as it is?
Life doesn’t always go as planned, does it? There are many situations we wish wouldn’t happen and sometimes we find ourselves hoping and praying that things would be different? It’s not easy to let go of our own hopes, desires, and wishes. To release something you want or believe you need for survival can be frightening.
One of the hardest things to do is to let go of the way things use to be.
A child weaning itself from its mother is a picture of the necessity of letting go. The child eventually understands it cannot have what it wants and releases its grasp from the mother. It’s not a pretty picture. There is lots of crying but eventually, the child will accept the fact and detach itself.
We face similar struggles. Our life suddenly becomes different and we’re hungry for the way things were. The change can be so traumatic that we think we’ll die. We aren’t accustomed to letting go.
Anytime we lose something, we begin the process of letting go, adjusting, and recovering. There are many things we attach ourselves to that have been a source of joy and support. When these are gone we begin to look for other ways to fill our need.
My mother-in-law was a great example of how to let go. At the age of 30, she had her fourth child and she was living her dream as a young Amish wife and mother. Her baby girl was six weeks old when she was rushed to the hospital with a gull stone. She had surgery which turned into a life and death situation. At one point the family was called in to say goodbye to their mother. My husband, who was two and a half, can remember taking a little yellow flower to the hospital and holding it to her nose.
After 12 days of being in a coma and fevers higher than the fever-glass could record she opened her eyes. What the doctors called a miracle was also the beginning of a lifelong struggle of letting go. Her fever had burned out all of her motor skills and left her with no muscle mass or the ability to do anything on her own. Her mind was sharp and her will was strong, but what was would never be again.
Instead of being a mother to her children she watched others take care of her baby and three young children. Instead of sitting at the dinner table with her family, she was in bed being fed by a caregiver. Instead of doing the things she enjoyed – baking, cooking, sewing, and gardening – she only wished things were the way they used to be. She longed for the days that had passed.
Her plan was to have a large family, as is the custom in the Amish culture, but there would be no more babies. She struggled and fought hard to simply learn how to feed herself, dress and walk on her own.
It took years of effort and she never regained all of what was lost. She experienced lots of depression but continued to make life as good as it could be for her family. As she and I talked about life and living with the losses she experienced I saw the beauty of her strength and acceptance of the things she could not change.
She had a motto on her kitchen wall, the well-known prayer:
“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.
She lived her entire adult family life accepting life “the way it is”. The process of letting go eventually produced a life of peace within. She was one of my very favorite people. Her acceptance of life’s experiences gave me courage when I needed to accept life as it is. It gave me the courage to let go of the way things were or the way I thought things should be.
Can you accept the fact that you will never have some things in life you want? What is it that you are fiercely holding on to and simply cannot let go?