What an incredible few weeks! Once my heart recovered from a recent romantic break-up, I (again) began to seek out what God would have me do in 2019. Twice last year, writing a book was spoken over me. That resonates deeply with me, but since I’ve never done it before I put it on the “someday” shelf. But in recent weeks, some things have happened to re-awaken this desire and prompting. Hmm. I’d appreciate your prayers on that.
But today, I’m writing for a friend … actually, a few friends. You know who you are ❤
We’ve been talking about your jail cell for a long time. How hard it is to live there, how stifling and oppressive it is. You want out, but you feel trapped – bound – unable to escape.
You’ve cried yourself to sleep there countless nights. You ache to breathe the fresh air and wander open spaces you hear visitors talking about. Oh, the stories they tell!
Your longing to be free (like them) is so strong that on a few occasions, you actually managed to leave the confines of your small cell and sneak past the guards to catch a glimpse, a rare and intoxicating taste, of the freedom that belongs to those on the other side of the barbed wire fence. But the Prison Warden and his Oppressors always manage to drag you back to captivity – and the repetitive and increasing punishment for your attempted escapes have eventually trained you to (more or less) resign yourself to your fate. You have been charged (justly or unjustly) and found guilty. You were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. You are a captive of the Warden, live with it.
Norfolk County Jail, Connecticut
And so you have. You’ve killed your dreams (well, almost). You’ve even managed to find slivers of contentment in this life of containment and drudgery.
Does that sound familiar? I bet we’ve all been there … and more truthfully, we all have places in our lives where we are still imprisoned. Imprisoned to fear of failure, to someone’s disapproval, to being alone, to self-doubt.
You need a jail break!
Friend, there is a way out, and you can leave that jail cell and be forever set free from the torment of the Prison Warden!!! But to do so (and not be recaptured again) you’ll need a helper and guide – and His name is Jesus! He’s has helped thousands upon thousands to escape, and He is easily able to do the same for you!!
Are there areas of your life where you still feel stuck or imprisoned? Of course there are! Welcome to the human race (grin). But there is hope, so please come back soon for the next post and an introduction to your Escape Guide, Jesus Christ.
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.
When I started this series “2018: A Year For Hope” in December 2017, chronicling my story was definitely not what I envisioned doing. And yet here I am, picking over and kicking over memories like rocks that haven’t been disturbed in decades. Truth be told, all this wondering down memory lane has been a little exhausting.
But I’ve also been rejoicing in the recognition of all that God has brought me through. He redeemed the pain of my childhood, rescued me from cruel and abusive husband, healed my/my children’s hearts, and completely re-directed the spiritual trajectory of my seed line. All that would be plenty enough – but He didn’t stop there. He also blessed me with a successful 20+ year career that I love, inspired me to Entrepreneurship in 2014, and continues to lead me into new and exciting adventures of business as a ministry including a side-gig that launches this month. He alone has transformed my life and truly given me beauty for ashes.
For those readers who know me personally, you can attest to the fact that I work hard at being a “glass-half-full” type of person. Occasionally, life will kick the stuffing out of me and leave me a bit ‘wobbly’, and I may take a while to rally back. But give me some time, and I’m gonna get back up, dust the dirt off my boots and hat, and get back at living life with a positive attitude. I’m gonna “take another swing!”
Hey, I bet you have ‘wobbly’ days too. We all do.
So today I’m going to take a short break from my life saga to share something else. A revelation or epiphany. I’ve had it before, but I had forgotten it (as we are prone to do).
Buckle up and get ready for another spaghetti trail story. 😊
A few weekends ago I went camping – the first time I’ve camped in probably 20 years. And along with a car load of borrowed gear, I took my rarely-used fishing pole and the saddest little tackle box you ever saw in your life. I was living the dream, baby! I fished Saturday morning. I fished Saturday afternoon. I even fished Sunday morning before it was time to tear down the campsite. It was liberating and refreshing, and I had such a great time I committed to going again in a few weeks.
I returned home on Sunday and by Monday afternoon, my right shoulder started hurting – and I mean REALLY hurting. Can hardly move my arm hurting. Winced and yelped a few times hurting. Can’t get to sleep hurting. By Tuesday, I seriously considered cutting my PJ’s off because I couldn’t manage the shoulder movements.
“PAIN IS LIKE A MIST”
Now most of you probably know where this is headed and what was going on. But I’m a little slow on the trigger sometimes, and I’ve also got an enemy. Oh wait – you do too!
Well that enemy (of my soul) was busy whispering into my ears everything that could possibly be wrong with me:
• I got a mosquito bite and am now suffering the initial effects of West Nile Virus
• I somehow dislocated my shoulder while sleeping on the hard ground for 2 nights
• Tent camping triggered a family history of arthritis and I’ve not got arthritis in my shoulder
• I’m an old woman and my body is starting to decline
• I have tendonitis in my shoulder that will take 8+ months to heal (that’s how long it took for my hand to heal after a gardening incident last year – but that’s another story)
And on and on and on. Taunting me. Ridiculing me. Trying to make me afraid. Trying to get me to open my mouth and come into agreement with him.
I’d like to say that I’m much too spiritual to fall for that old trick. Basically, it’s the same old trick he’s played me with about 5,497 times over the course of my life. And unfortunately, he’s had a greater than 50% chance of my taking the bait (pun intended) … at least for a little while. It was no different now. I’m not going to embarrass myself by telling you how fear-filled my response was, but I will tell you that at one point I broke down and cried a little for the frustration that my body isn’t doing as easily (and painlessly) in my 50’s what it could do in my 20’s and 30’s.
Eventually, I figured out that I had overworked some unused muscles with all that casting and reeling I was doing to haul in my ‘big fish’ pictured above! Pfft!
By day number six I was settling into a pattern of icing and muscle rubs and pillow cradling at night when the miraculous happened. I woke up one morning and my shoulder didn’t hurt.
And here is the revelation. My epiphany.
Pain is like mist. The more attention you pay to it, the more it closes in on you. Blinding you. Choking you. But if you will just relax into it, and breath through it, the wind will carry it away.
Isn’t that so true? Not only about physical pain (such as a fishing-shoulder injury) but true about emotional and spiritual pain. Our tendency when hurt is to recoil, withdraw, self-protect. But friend, you and I make lousy protectors of our own hearts and souls. We are easily duped and confused and misdirected to people and circumstances that are not really the source of our pain.
But there is One who is a most excellent Protector. One who will give you the strength to “breath through’ the pain of transitioning from the place of hurt and fear to the place of forgiveness and liberty.
In hind sight, I realize that what brought me to tears wasn’t the actual shoulder pain itself. It was listening to the voice of fear tell me that my life was going to be “less” because of this. That I would have “less” healing and mobility. That I would have “less” joy because I would be able to do “less”.
Grrr – I fell for it again!
But thank you Jesus, it was not very long before the Voice of HOPE spoke up in a louder (and more familiar and loving voice) and said “Not so, daughter. For I’ve purchased an abundant life for you, and you are Mine.”
So much of my life has been spent in fear and/or influenced by fear. Fear of danger (and for too many years as a child, there was good reason for that fear). Fear of rejection. Fear of shame. Fear of failure. Fear of the possibility of being alone, and later the fear that comes from actually being alone. And so on and so on.
I’ve written about it a lot in various blog posts (see side-bar for category “Fear Not). And while I’m not immune to fear -no one is- it has lost it’s stranglehold on me.
If you have been following with me through this current blog series, you know that in my last post I mentioned a feeling that the season of wobbliness and soul fatigue I’d been in was ending. My Bible reading plan currently has me wrapping up Deuteronomy, and imagery is forming in my spirit about venturing into lands of milk and honey.
But just like the 10 spies who saw giants in the land and counseled Moses not to go in to possess what God had promised, you and I can’t take possession of the things God has promised us if we are bound by fear.
And so before my writings take on the shape and colors of new things God is whispering to my heart, I would like to share (reblog) another excellent post entitled “Becoming Fearless” by Jennifer Arimborgo, Feeding On Jesus.
I have loved this song since I first heard it in the early 90’s. It was my anthem during a particularly difficult time in my life, but lets face it – everyonehas a past! Everyone has been hurt by harsh words and experienced the disappointment of broken promises. Everyone has experienced the pain of loss, disgrace, shame. Everyone has watched dreams die and grieved for missed opportunities. Everyone has said and done things they deeply regret and wish they could take back.
Everyone hurts! The question is – what do you do with that hurt?
Some of the most personally impacting lines of the song come at the bridge and poignantly speak to the way we so often try to isolate ourselves from the risk of future pain by building walls of self-protection and even self-deception. I did this for years, refusing to come to terms with my past and doing everything in my power to convince myself daily that the truth that was staring me right in the face did not exist; in effect creating ‘my own reality’ so that I didn’t have to deal with the actualreality that hurt too much to acknowledge. And like the song said, it was killing me.
Are you hurting today? There is hope.
For me, it was only when the train-wreck of my life reached its lowest possible point, that I finally surrendered and cried out to God to be the Lord of my past, my present, and my future. I pray you don’t have to get to that low a point before you reach out for the hand of Love that is reaching out to take yours. There is no judgement in His eyes, only deep compassion for you and a longing to restore you. And if you will allow Him, He has promised in His word to transform even the most painful aspects of your past, and give you beauty where there was once only ashes. He is able. He can do anything. Truly, He can.
Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone
Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past
All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone
Well I picked up all these pieces And I built a strong deception And I locked myself inside of it For my own protection And I sit alone inside myself And curse my company For this thing that has kept me alive for so long Is now killing me.
And as sure as the sin rose this morning,
The man in the moon hides his face tonight.
And I lay myself down on my bed And I pray this prayer inside my head
Lord of the here and now Lord of the come what may I want to believe somehow That you can heal these wounds of yesterday So now I’m asking you To do what you want to do Be the Lord of my Past You can do anything Be the Lord of the Past
I know that you can find a way
To heal every yesterday of my life
Be the Lord of the Past
This is the conclusion of a short series of posts. If you’ve been following along, we’re at step 3 now, which is my favorite part of the lessons learned!
I had the opportunity to hear Lisa Bevere last summer, what a mighty woman of God! As she shared from her book Fight Like A Girl, she held up a charmed bracelet, designed to be a daily remembrance of the lessons in the book. The charm I like most is the boxing glove – to remind us to “strike when the enemy draws near”.
STEP 1: prepare – prepare for battle by putting your armor on!
STEP 2: position – position yourself for the greatest advantage over the enemy!
STEP 3: PUNCH!
Friend, when the enemy draws near you, you’ve got to ball up your fist, and PUNCH – HIM – OUT!!
As I shared in a previous post, my victory over nightmares didn’t come instantaneously. But what happened over a fairly short period of time, was that my human spirit – (the part of me that got reborn when I accepted Jesus as Savior) – well, grew a spiritual backbone! Yea baby. Uh huh!
With the increasing understanding of who I was in Christ, came a new and bold attitude and I determined in my heart that if the enemy was going to bother me with a nightmare – I was going to bother himright back! So the next time I had a nightmare (once I was able to wake up from it), I swung my legs off the bed and began walking around my bedroom, commanding devils in the Name of Jesus to get out of my house, and off my property! [punch!]
Then I called out for God’s hulk-iest “big @$$” angels to come stand in military position around my house (“back to wall”), so that no power or principality that was acting in contrast to the Word of God could enter back in! [punch!]
And I cranked up the worship music!! Not the sleepy-time stuff, but the loud, full-on worship!! I wanted to make sure the enemy knew that I knew who’s house this was! [punch!] I am a daughter of the Living God! And having made my dwelling place in Jesus Christ, I dwell in the shadow of the Almighty!! If he wanted a fight, he was going to get one, and I wasn’t the one he was going to be fighting with!! Are you getting the picture? [TKO!]
Finally, once I was confident that the enemy was black and blue, humiliated, cast out, and cut off … I went back to bed, and went back to sleep.
Within a few weeks, I noticed I was waking up quicker into the dreams, their power over me weakening with every encounter. When I did have a dream, I’d go through the process of making my enemy pay for disturbing me, and then go straight back to sleep again. The dreams got shorter and shorter, and less frequent.
That’s not to say that I don’t still have the occasional dream, I do. But they are few and far between, and nothing like they used to be. It’s as if the Holy Spirit that lives within me sends an alarm to my human spirit, which then tells my body to wake and call on Jesus’ Name for rescue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken just enough to mumble “Je-sus” in a sleep-slurred voice, maybe raise a sloppy arm towards heaven while doing it, and them promptly roll over and go right back to a night of peaceful sleeping. Usually, that’s enough to do it – but if not, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m still firmly committed to making my enemy pay, and pay BIG, for daring to mess with this daughter of God! I know who I am, and I know whose I am! I sound that Heavenly Alarm, and worship my Savior while the armies of Heaven swoop in and kick the crap out of him!
If you are experiencing nightmares or panic attacks, I pray that my simple story will give you encouragement. Through Christ, you can experience victory over your enemy, making nightmares, PTSD and panic attacks part of your past, not your present! Implement these steps. Get plugged into a life-giving church. Pursue God and pursue His promises for the better days that He has planned out for you. He is faithful, and He will get you through this!