Images

That was a low blow!

M-W1-cellblock of Norfolk County Jail, Connecticut
Norfolk County Jail, Connecticut

When I wrote my “Jail Break” post in April 2019, I was recalling a conversation I had recently had with a dear friend. As we shared our hearts and more than a few cups of coffee at her kitchen table, I prayed the Lord would give me the right words to inspire her with revived hope and faith for a jail break… but this time with help of the Escape Guide, Jesus Christ.

Little did I realize at the time that she was not the only one who needed a jail break.  I also needed a jail break, except that I hadn’t yet realized I was being held captive!!

Did you take some hard hits in 2019?   I did, and while the enemy of my soul was unsuccessful in his ultimate goal (to get me to deny my faith in God and turn away from the One who sustains me), he did land enough sucker-punches to have me “tagging out” and sitting on the side lines for a while.  A long while!

I was weary of soul. I was saddened in my spirit. I was low in my faith for certain areas and concerns of life. And so I sat; catching my breath, licking my wounds.  And the longer I sat, the more comfortable I was sitting in my small-but-known little resting place. My wounds healed, but there I remained in my now familiar and somewhat comfortable (or at least tolerably comfortable) surroundings.

I knew I wouldn’t (couldn’t) sit forever, but I was in no hurry to get back up.  And while I sat, perhaps mildly depressed in my self-reflection, the enemy built up bars around me!

Turns out I was actually writing to and about myself back in April!  I’m the one who needed a jail break!!!!

We all get sucker-punched from time to time, and when the hits are especially hard, we may need to take a little time to recover.   That’s what I have been doing, and maybe you are too.  But let us not stay there, seated on the sidelines!  And let us not get so familiar with being pressed upon that we forget that we have a Champion Friend who will not only help us bear up under pressure, but helps us through to the other side!!

“Do not be afraid-I will save you.  I have called you by name-you are mine.  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you.

When you pass through the fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you.  For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you.”    (Isaiah 43:1-2  GNT)

Thank God for the turning of a calendar page, for as 2019 drew to a close, a restlessness awakened in my spirit and a still small voice whispered to me “speak to the bones”.

The Valley of Dry Bones
“The Valley of Dry Bones” http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

Friend, God has called us (you and me) to a life that is full of purpose, joy and victory!  So let us speak to the dry and dead bones in our lives, and let us get back into the game!! There is just too much at risk if we don’t – victories that won’t be tasted, destinies that won’t be fulfilled, lives that won’t be changed by the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ!

“He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the LORD … I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life.” (Ezekiel 37:4 GNT)

Truth be told, I’m still a little weary of spirit – a little “wobbly” (wobbly-ness circles back to all of us from time to time).  And as much as I long for and pursue spiritual confidence, I am learning to appreciate wobbly-ness as well.  Wobbly-ness reminds me of my need for a Shepherd, a Shelter from the storm, and a Savior.

As I prayed about “getting back into the game” in 2020, among other things I felt prompted to commit to write 2 blog posts a month throughout 2020.  More as inspired, but at least 2/month.  So here’s the first.  I hope it speaks to you.  And I hope you come back to read one or two more (I will publish the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month), especially if you’re also a “wobbly” soul with “dead bones” buried in the backyard.

Not literally, of course!  That would be creepy!!

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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.

You need a “jail break”

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 ❤

Dear friend,

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.

M-W1-cellblock of Norfolk County Jail, Connecticut
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.

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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.

Spring Cleaning of the Heart

I’ve not been writing much this year – in part because I was unclear if I was to be writing on a particular subject (or using a particular format) like I did in 2018, but also … and perhaps more truthfully, because I was heart weary.

For the first time in many (many!) years, I started dating again. It was delightful, and I’m so grateful for the awakening that took place in my feminine heart during that time. In many ways, I liken it to the re-opening of an old house that hasn’t been lived in for decades. It may look a bit of a mess at first, but as you remove the sheets that covered fine furnishings, polish up the woodwork and light fixtures, etc … your eyes behold a beautiful and inviting home filled with character and memories that welcome you in.

This was my experience. Rooms of my heart have been re-opened, spring-cleaned, and are now ready to welcome the man that has been praying for such a woman as me (just like I’ve been praying for him).

And I learned something amazing about myself through this recent experience of discovering attraction, engaging in vulnerability, lowering the drawbridge of my heart, moderating emotions, engaging in honest communication, and practicing prayerful discernment.

I’m absolutely NOT the woman I was!

That might not mean much to some of you … but if you have read some of my older posts or dared to read my story (see sidebar category), then you know that there was a long season of my life when I was making need-based relationship choices, and those need-based choices nearly were the end of me!

FacelessFather www.puttinghopetowork.com
FacelessFather http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

But this time, I experienced something different!! I experienced dating from the place of emotional health and wholeness!!

I’ve never done that before! Ever! (seriously, ever!!)

“Better late than never’ they say, and at 58 years old I finally dated without handing over my value and worth to be weighed and measured by another person (as I have done countless times in the past). Instead of offering my Identity (worth and value) to a person … my Identity remained nested throughout my river-walk with this gentleman in whom the Lord says I am His beloved, His daughter, His bride.

“I will lift up my eyes [and my heart] to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121: 1-2 (MEV)

What a delight to my soul and spirit!!! To experience the transformation that I have worked so hard for all these years!! Not that I’ve ever run a marathon (and believe you me, I never will!), but I imagine it’s kind of like the difference between training for one, and actually placing in one!

“I Lift My Heart To The Hills” http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

God is so good, isn’t He?! If we will just keep with Him, keep surrendering to His gentle regenerating and healing work within us, He is faithful to complete the work He has begun!! Amen and so be it!

If you have had a similar epiphany or experience, I’d love to hear about it. So, I’m sure would others.

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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.

Morning Sips: A Renewed Mind

In his book “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day“, Mark Batterson makes a simple but profound observation:

It’s not enough to LEARN new thoughts … you also have to UNLEARN

Never have truer words been spoken, and it has taken me several decades to both learn and unlearn from my past.   For example:

It’s not enough to learn about the love of God … I also had to unlearn fear.

It’s not enough to learn to trust His love … I also had to unlearn rejection.

It’s not enough to learn to hope in His word … I also had to unlearn doubt.

 

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world,
but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.
Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good
and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”

(Romans 12:2  GNB)

A dear friend shared an image with me that she found via Google (yay Google!!).   I followed the link and was utterly delighted to read the associated post “Daily Affirmation: Take Every Thought Captive” by Jenny (a different Jenny), author of “The Littlest Way“.    I highly recommend you read it through … lots of resources on her site too!

take-every-thought-captive (www.thelittlestway.com)
Photo credit to Jenny of “The Littlest Way”  http://www.thelittlestway.com

 

Every time I read this, I can’t help but smile!  It’s not my artwork, but it does rather feel like she created it just for me.  Don’t you think?  🙂

I’m so grateful that God did the work of “transforming me inwardly by a complete change of my mind.”   (YAY GOD!!!)

As the truth of His Word began to take root in my heart, not only was I learning of His love, character, trustworthiness, faithfulness, mercy, patience, joy, etc. …..

"Of Dreams and Nightmares"  www.puttinghopetowork.com
“Of Dreams and Nightmares” http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

…but I was unlearning fear, doubt, terror, distrust, self-protection, judgement, etc.  And over time (unfortunately, over a lot of time – but hey, at one point in my life, I was pretty messed up!), He changed me from the inside out!!!!

            Learning and Unlearning.
They are both required for true transformation.

Over the next few days I’ll be gathering some of the resources I’ve created over the years and share them with you in an upcoming post (or maybe on a new tab?).  In the mean time, please feel free to comment below with a prayer request or to share of your own “transformation / change of mind.”

2018: A YEAR FOR HOPE! (closing post)

Have you ever been hoodwinked?  I know, I know.  It’s an old term that no one uses anymore, but I like the sound of it.

              hoodwinked:  bamboozled, duped, hoaxed

Of course you have!   So have I!    I’ve lost count of how many pieces of exercise equipment or magic pills or other resources I’ve purchased over the years that promised to help me loose 10-15 pounds in four weeks while burning away belly fat like it was wax thrown into a raging fire.    Or what about that “very reliable and in excellent condition” used car that seemed like such a wise (even frugal) purchase at the time but turned out to be a money pit of repairs!    Snookered!  Hornswoggled!  Deceived!

Generally speaking, “hoodwinked” isn’t a term used in the context of something positive. But when GOD is doing the hoodwinking … well that’s another story.

And that’s exactly what I feel happened to me this year … I got hoodwinked by God!

This same time last year, as is my practice, I was talking with Daddy God about the ups and downs of 2017 and questions I had about 2018.  In truth, I was a little bit discouraged on a few fronts – particularly the blogging front.  I’d been inconsistently posting throughout 2016 and 2017, in part because I was very busy launching a WOSB, and in part because I was discouraged by a low readership.   Questions like “who am I writing this for?” and “if no one is reading this, why am I still writing?” were at the forefront of my mind.  I asked the Lord if I should just shut down the blog altogether – and obviously, His answer was no.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard Him clear His throat (ah-hem) and say “I never told you to stop writing”.  Ouch!  And that’s how I came about committing to a weekly blog post throughout the year 2018 – and since HOPE was what I needed to experience, I chose the subject “2018: A Year For Hope”

               HOPE:  a desire accompanied by confident expectation

During the first few weeks of 2018, I often included internal/external dialogs of fictional characters to set the stage for a subject that was on my heart (perhaps inspired by something I or a friend was going through).  And over the course of those first 12 weeks, I struggled to complete an art piece to illustrate my heart in response to a dream someone had for me (posted in week #12)

Fast forward to April 2018.  Readership was increasing (what a balm to my heart!) and I was painting again.  “OK Lord, I think I can keep this up … what is the next subject?”  

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Wanting to honor my commitment to Him to post weekly, I did my best to listen to what He was impressing on me and then post about it … but I still felt there was a bigger subject, something that would take a few weeks to cover (like some of my 2014 and 2015 posts).  But I wasn’t hearing what it was … so I just kept doing what I was doing.

And then, after a chance encounter with a young woman at a BigBox store, the Lord impressed upon me to tell my story (top to bottom) in chronological order.    There was a part of me that quickly said “Yes, Lord.  If that’s what you want me to do, I’ll do it.”   But then there was another part that was slightly less enthusiastic about that whole idea.   I mean it’s one thing to reveal all your warts and bruises within the context of a known audience (be it a group of trusted friends, or a group of fellow believers, or in a setting where there is still some level of intimacy and perhaps even anonymity).  But to put the whole mess out there in cyberspace for anyone to read??   That caused me to pause, and to prayerfully think about it.

I have shared bits and pieces of my story many times over the years, but rarely (if ever) from start to finish.  Lets face it, it’s a long story! 🙂

I started sharing my story in week #20 and it took to week #34 to get my story out, and to week #41 to wrap up some loose ends.   That’s 21 weeks … about 5 months!  That’s a lot of time to be digging around in the dirt of the backyard of your life.  But I did it.  I obeyed.

When I wrote the prologue for this blog series last December 2017, I had absolutely no idea what God was going to ask of me in May.  If I had known, I might not have been so quick to say yes – might not have said yes at all – but by May 2018 I had already committed to writing a weekly blog post and was in desperate need of new subject matter.  

Funny, God!  Really funny!

He pulled the old bait-and-switch on me!  

I got hoodwinked!

And how glad I am about it!  As a result of this blog series, and more specifically the posts between #21 and #41, I’ve connected with many amazing people (some still walking through their journey, some on the overcoming side of the fence) who were blessed and encouraged by my candidness in sharing about a neglected and abuse childhood which set the stage for my disastrous choices as an adult.  I never would have made these soul-spirit connections if I hadn’t have obeyed.

I also think God has an incredible sense of humor!   He must have been smiling big when I prayed for multi-week subject matter in April!   (Oh don’t you worry, daughter.  I’ve got a subject in mind for you alright!!!!)

He is also extraordinarily kind to me, because never in a million years would I have imagined how healing (even after so much healing already) it would be to chronologically lay out all these pieces of my life.   But it was, and in doing so I was able to put some pieces of the puzzle together in a way that I had never seen or understood before.  Thank you for that Father!

 

 

My prayer in December 2017 was that 2018 would be a year for hope to come alive again in new and exciting ways. That dormant areas of my life would spring to life. That victories prayed and believed for would manifest. That breakthrough would swallow up constraint, and that my eyes would behold in 2018 the marvelous works of God in my life and that of my family.

It truly has been an year of hope for me and I pray it was for you too!

And where we need more hope still for 2019, let us be encouraged that He who began a good work is always (and I mean ALWAYS) faithful to complete it, through Christ Jesus! (Philippians 1:6)

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year. See you in January 2019, writing about … well, I’m praying about that now 🙂 God bless!