The nightmare and the warrior

I have spoken a little about my past in other posts (under the Fear Not category).  Perhaps not in great detail, but I have not kept silent out of shame.  I know full well that my past does not define me,  neither shall I allow it dictate the course of my life – present nor future.  This non-negotiable fact is born out of the revelation of my true identity, and I bless God for walking me through the difficult journey from victim – to survivor – to victor!

That is not to say that I don’t still face challenges today that are a result (direct or indirect) of my past.  I do, but there has been so much healing and transformation during the last 20 years, that most days I give no thought to either my childhood or the abuse of my marriage.

But there are days …. or more accurately, there are nights.  Last night was one.

Provided by Dez Pain
Provided by Dez Pain

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had nightmares.   As a very small child, I had recurring dreams of a stick-figured man who hovered over me at night, of hands that reached through walls and from under the bed to grab me, of knives that pointed at me throughout the night, threatening the safety of my bed.  Even while those dreams provided a form of protection, they terrified me and influenced me deeply for decades.

Other childhood dreams mystified and thrilled me.  In my favorite dream, I would head over to the side yard of the house, reach my hands up like Superman and start kicking like a swimmer  .. and in no time at all, I would have lift off!  Once off the ground, my arms would reach out to the side, and my continued kicking would propel me higher and higher – up over the house, soaring high over neighboring streets, daringly maneuvering in between power lines and tree branches and an occasional airplane.  I found freedom in those dreams.

As I grew older, other dreams emerged. These dreams seem to be some sort of ‘cloaked remembrance’, a strange mixture of past and present.  Besides the content of these dreams, what sets them apart is the feeling that comes with them.  I imagine it is similar to a drug induced state, and it is sometimes a challenge for me to wake from them.  But about 20 years ago while living in California, I met a wonderful woman who had a similar past, and her testimony of transformation had a huge impact on my life.  As she prayed for and discipled me, greater breakthrough came, and eventually those dreams stopped.  For a season.  About 12 years ago, they started again.

Mighty WarriorI remember calling my Pastor one morning after a particularly brutal night.  I sobbed as I told him how completely violated I felt, victimized all over again as these dreams come upon me when I am asleep and completely without the ability to protect or defend myself.   I shall be forever grateful for his quick but loving correction.

Then he proceeded to teach me that I am not without defense, even when I am asleep.

And that, my dear reader, is the purpose for my writing this post.  There is no life (no life-giving impact) in simply telling you about a strange dream or new spiritual attack I experienced last night.  But there can be life-giving impact by sharing with you, as I believe I have been instructed by the Lord to do, the breakthrough I have experienced by learning how to sleep under cover.

Or more accurately, by learning how to sleep under the covering!

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.  Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.  My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:6-8)

So for the next post or two, I will be sharing with you what my Pastor shared with me, and how implementing these practices has trained me up to be a mighty warrior of God and has given me greater victory over all the attacks of the enemy-of-my-soul … even in the wee hours of the night.  I hope you will join me, and be blessed by it.

Until then, sleep in peace!

Jenny

From a full heart

I’m a new blogger, still finding my way and learning what works and what doesn’t.  Which is why so I appreciate the great advise that is so freely given by those who have gone before and succeeded.   In fact, just a few weeks into my blogging adventure, I read a great tweet by Ninie Hammon reminding her followers of the importance of appreciating your audience.  It may even have had a link to an article or post, and had I known then how impossible it would be to find that tweet now – I would have “starred” it!  (a Twitter feature I am sure to use more frequently from now on!).  And what about those who have inspired, such as Liz Ryan of Human Workplace, whose blog posts and artwork gave me the courage to share some of my artwork and also pursue a business dream (but more about that later).  I shall be forever grateful for that!  There are more, but you get the idea.

Well, I just celebrated 3 months of blogging – and I’m amazed and oh-so-humbled by the reception I’ve experienced.  Not only has my blog gathered a following, but I’ve met so many amazing people as a result.   Some have overcome much.  Many are still in the process of overcoming.  And if we are being honest, aren’t we ALL in the process of overcoming something!  Some days we’re brave.  Some days we just want to pull the covers over our head and stay in bed!   But of course, you can only get away with that for so long – eventually feet must hit the floor, and the world spins on.    But my heart is enlarged by each encounter.

And so if you’re reading this, wherever you are in your journey, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for giving of your day (and story) to read and share in a bit of mine.   

Thank You

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:3)

Or to quote my daughter, “my love tank is full!”

Blessings,
Jenny

But God

I recently attended a fund raiser for women in crisis and watched a video in which several young women shared their stories of abandonment, abuse, and failed relationships.   My heart ached for each woman, and my mothers heart wanted so very badly to be able to give them a long and comforting embrace.    Thankfully, their individual stories are gradually being transformed on a day-by-day basis.

And listening to the stories of these brave women reminded me of my own.  I don’t often stop to think about it, but every so often I’m reminded of the girl I once was.

It took me a long time to get to this place of understanding, but I now know that the people who inflicted the most pain on my young soul were each dealing with their own family histories and experiences as best as they could.  The truth is, when you put broken and wounded people together in a relationship – you usually get a big ol’ mess that often spills out onto others.   I should know, because for a long time, I was broken and wounded … a big ol’ mess just waiting for a place to happen.

And happen I did.   Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, from my current vantage point I can practically pinpoint the precise moment when the wheels first came off the track.  It was during my early teen years, when while watching my parents play penny poker in the kitchen with the neighbors, I came to the brilliant conclusion that all my personal pain and sadness would be solved … by getting married.

Photo by nazreth (RGBStock)
Photo by nazreth (RGBStock)

When I got married, I would have a voice.

When I got married, I would be loved unconditionally.

When I got married, life would be full of roses and lollipops, and we would live happily ever after.

Honestly, I don’t even know where that came from – because my parent’s marriage wasn’t exactly the model of perfection.  But in any case, that’s what I thought, and so as soon as I got old enough to date – I started looking for my future husband.  I met him at 14 1/2.  He was my 2nd boyfriend, and he was almost 4 years older than me.   We married shortly after my 18th birthday.   I’ll give you one guess how that turned out.

I divorced a few years later, and at 21 years old I took another spin on the wheel-of-marriage.  Not a wise move, because all the pain and desperation I felt growing up (and thought marriage would somehow fix) was now multiplied exponentially … making me a prime candidate for the type of man they write country songs about (and not the good kind of country songs).  I stayed in that marriage just shy of 10 years.  It was almost my undoing.

There is a little tiny phrase in the Bible that I love to read.  BUT GOD.

BUT GOD had other plans for my life.  BUT GOD interceded.  BUT GOD rescued.  BUT GOD healed.  BUT GOD transformed me from the inside out and completely changed the trajectory of my life.  BUT GOD!!

Yes, the lives of those dear girls are being transformed on a day-by-day basis, just like mine was and continues to be … all because of those two little words.

Are you in need of a BUT GOD moment?  Drop me a note or post a comment below and I’ll be happy to pray for you.

Blessings,

Jenny

 

Water Walking

In a previous post, I spoke of having a recurring stream of thoughts, ideas, and scriptures for the last several months.    It’s been rather like something is trying to be birthed within me … but how does one go about giving birth to something when you don’t yet know what it is?  As I opened my heart to new possibilities, I also opened my Bible and began to look for instructions in His Word.  After all, if God is truly leading me down a certain path, that path will be in agreement with His Word.

I am still in the process of seeking out those answers in full, opening my heart and my ears to receive instruction for the birthing of this new thing, this new season.   As I do, I discover that I am most surely being led out into the deeper waters of faith.  And eventually the time for investigating, praying, and consulting culminates with a decision.

Recently, the song “Oceans” by Hillsong UNITED has taken on a whole new meaning for me, especially the first two lines.  We’ve been singing it at church for many months, but it was during a women’s event a few weeks back that the lyrics really clicked in my heart.  I felt that I was most clearly being invited to step out onto the waters.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a risk taker, but lets face it – the bigger the risk, the harder it is to take that first step.  Especially if that first step is off the dry land and onto the wet!

And as we worshipped to this song, the Lord began to speak to my heart in images – something He often does (images which are frequently inspiration for my watercolors).  And this is what the conversation He and I had during worship that night sounded like.

Water Walking
Water Walking

 

LORD:  “Daughter, you are a delight to my heart and I am thrilled that you are putting your foot out over the waters for that bold first step.  But if all you do is hover your foot over the waters, you will never reach the destination I’m calling you to.  No, my daughter, you must actually put your full weight on that foot and begin to move forward, or you will remain at the shoreline.”

Me:  “But we both know I can’t walk on water, Lord.”

LORD:  “Look down, and tell me what you see beneath your feet?”

Me:  “Dry sand, that eventually gives way to wet sand, that eventually gives way to water above the sand.”

LORD:  “Give thought to that very fragile line of delineation, the very point of transition when the water ceases to be below the sand, or even equal to the sand, but is now above the sand.   The water is only a few centimeters deep, but the water is above the sand line, correct?”

Me:  “Yes, Lord.”

LORD:  “Can you walk on water, daughter?”

Me:  “No, Lord.” 

LORD:  “And yet, if I stood directly in front of you, and called you forward from dry land to stand upon even as little as 1 centimeter of water, would you believe me for it and take that first step?”

Me:  “I believe I would Lord – I would respond to Your invitation.”

LORD:  “Daughter, if you were able to walk on top of even as little as 1 centimeter of water, the limitations of your mind and body would not even be able to register or perceive such an infinitesimal elevation.   You have the faith to trust me for 1 centimeter of water-walking power, but what I want you to remember is that once you are walking on the water, the depth of the water is irrelevant.  I’m asking you to take the first step from dry to wet.  Do that, and leave the ocean to me.”

On my own, I know without a doubt that I am completely incapable of walking on water, regardless how shallow the water is.  But in Him, I know that all things are possible … even walking on water (a symbol of walking in His empowerment over the circumstances of my life).   And so are you!

In the weeks since that dialog, I’ve taken the first step forward out onto the waters, and then another after that.  And this morning, as I pondered again the insanity of this journey, the Lord reminded me of other times when I’ve dared to trust Him and “water walk”.  I first read the following scripture some 20+ years ago when I dared to “water walk” by leaving an abusive marriage.  There were some mighty big waves in that ocean, let me tell you … but here I am, safely resettled on the other side!

I will bring the blind by a way they do not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known.  I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight.  These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.   (Isaiah 42:16)

There have been many other “water walking” occasions since and in all of them, true to His word, He led through ways I did not know and has made dark places light before me, and crooked places straight.  He has not forsaken.

And He still leads!

I would love to hear your thoughts and read about your stories (from either side of the ‘water walking’ adventure).  Please take a moment to post a comment below.

Blessings,

Jenny

Dining With Jesus

It’s a quiet morning at my house, and I’m grateful for this time of reflection after a very busy few weeks.    With worship music playing in the background, my Bible beside me, and a cup of coffee at the ready, I simply want to share the gratitude that is in my heart this morning – this Resurrection Sunday morning.

A few years back, my family started celebrating Good Friday with a Christian Seder dinner.  True, we are not Jewish, but it has become such a precious time for our family.  An occasion to pause and recall the bondage from which we have been ransomed out of, to worship our God for His faithfulness, and to renew our faith in Him for victory over the circumstances of life.

It is good to praise you, Lord, to sing praises to God Most High.
It is good to tell of your love in the morning and of your loyalty at night.
It is good to praise you with the ten-stringed lyre and with the soft-sounding harp.
Lord, you have made me happy by what you have done; I will sing for joy about what your hands have done.  (Psalm 92:1-4)

This year, all three of my granddaughters sat at the table with us – but as you can imagine with three little ones (ages 4 months to almost 4 years), there were lots of interruptions.  It was awesome!  My heart was just so full watching my daughters and sons-in-love tend to their little girls, allowing them to participate as they are able.

And isn’t that just like what our Father God does with us?  He invites us to His table, and allows us to participate as we are able.  He always meets us where we are!

He meets us where we are, but because of His great love, He doesn’t leave us there!    No.  Just like my granddaughters will, over time, learn by the loving instruction of their parents (and Nana) to increasingly participate in our Seder celebration, so does our God continue to invite us into greater and greater knowledge of Him and all the Blood of Jesus secured for us.

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.  (Colossians 2:13-15)

Have you ever tried to feed a fussy baby something you know they will enjoy if they will just trust you enough to take the first taste?  I think that is sometimes how Jesus must feel with us.  He has set before us at the banquet table every good thing, including things we desperately need and want.  But so many times we’re too fussy to partake!

This morning, I pause to reflect on what the Blood of Jesus purchased for me.   Because of Jesus, I now have a seat at the banquet table, a table that has been set with everything I need to live victoriously on this earth.  And its all been paid for!  

I’m hungry Lord!  I need a hearty serving of everything you set out for me at the banquet table!!  I need freedom!  I need healing!  I need joy, and peace, and provision!   In short … I need everything that your Word promises is mine as a daughter of the Living God!

I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad that Jesus isn’t stingy with the serving sizes … and He never says no when you ask for more!!  In fact, it is His greatest joy to give (and give again) out of the abundance of His great love!

In 2014, my family and I shall eat heartily of all that the Blood of Jesus has paid for.  How about you?

Blessings,

Jenny

 

Psalm 92
Psalm 92

 

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