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Afraid of the storms

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This is CJ, our new dog.  He’s 62 pounds of solid muscle with a scary sounding bark to those who don’t know he’s really a softy who loves people.  He seriously enjoys taking me for a walk and will approach with confidence any other living thing we encounter.  But he has a secret.  He’s scared of thunder.  He’s had a difficult time lately as we have experienced week after week after week of severe thunderstorms where we live.  He paces the floor in an effort to find a safe place, his whole body shaking in fear.  This is what he chose one day last week – to stand in the corner and face the door.  I imagined he was saying to himself “Just don’t look and it will all go away…”  He stayed there for over an hour.

I’m new to this whole dog ownership thing in that this is the first time in a long time I’ve had a dog I actually wanted to interact with.  Before adopting CJ, I had never walked a dog on a leash, taken one to a veterinarian, considered whether or not the dog food was acceptable, or been willing to tolerate the hair that now seems to be everywhere.  I find myself strangely concerned about how he feels and if he is happy in his new home.  And I hate it when he’s scared.

I am there with him through the storms and I do everything I can to let him know it’s ok.  But short of learning how to speak dog, I am at a loss as to how to convince him that he is safe.  The scary sounds are louder than the truth.

I spent a great deal of my life trying to hide the fact that I was scared.  From my earliest memories, fear has been a predominant emotion, many times undefined and most certainly unspoken.  How can you tell someone you are afraid when often you don’t even know what you’re afraid of?  A vague sense of impending doom always seemed to hover near.  Through the years and some pretty major life errors, this fear grew and I became afraid of life’s storms. Past failures were the thunder that boomed of my incompetence in life and deepened my dread of the failures that were surely ahead of me.  I’ve paced when the inevitable storm was approaching, I’ve trembled during its onslaught, and I’ve crumbled in the aftermath.  And for the most part, I’ve kept it to myself.

It was easy to hide my secret because I’ve always been an optimistic and generally happy person.  But this only accentuated the inward conflict.  I was a strong and confident person in so many ways.  But when I found myself alone, particularly at night, the clouds would roll in and the thunder would sound, and I would succumb to the fears once again.

I even attempted to let down my guard and ask for help a couple of times.  The ones I entrusted with my secret found it impossible to either understand or believe as my personality and attitude were more convincing and they didn’t take my fears very seriously.  They offered simple advice and familiar scriptures and I politely walked away believing that this kind of vulnerability just wasn’t worth it.  So I stayed silent. And afraid.

CJ reminded me of these times as I watched him shake in the corner.  He was safe but he didn’t know it.  I shared a bit of these experiences with a bible study group last night and this very familiar scripture:

…and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free…  John 8:32 

Many who do not believe in God or Jesus or the bible often quote this scripture, but they only quote the second half – that the truth will set you free.  If that were so, then everyone would be living free lives because the Truth has come.  The existence of truth is not what sets us free.  It’s the truth that we know that sets us free, and this knowing is more than the intellectual acceptance.  It is truly believing the truth because it is the truth and not based on how we feel.

I’d quoted the scriptures and spoken the prayers, seemingly to no avail.  I did all that I knew to do and nothing worked because I didn’t know the truth upon which all others are based:  God loved me.  I intellectually accepted that He loved me because the bible said so and let’s face it, He is God and God is love, so He had to love me at some level.  But in the dark hours when the fear swelled, I didn’t really believe the truth of His love.

Too tired to run and hide from the storm that was upon me, and in my most desperate hours, Truth came to me:

And we know – understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and experience – and believe the love God cherishes for us.  God is love and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God and God dwells and continues in him.  In this union and communion with Him, love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment – with assurance and boldness to face Him – because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love – dread does not exist – but full-grown (complete and perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!   1 John 4:16-18b

The scary sounds were no longer louder than the truth  – God loves me and His love abides within me.  I have the power to drive fear away and to live an abundant, free life, because now I know:  God loves me.

Afraid of the storms” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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The End

 

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The End.  Two words that say “It’s over.  There is no more to this”.  Two words that have caused me to mourn for something beautiful that was lost, even if its beauty existed only in my imagination.  Two words that could make me feel like a complete failure if the ending was not what I had in mind.  Two words that could throw me into panicked attempts to revive what once was, even if it was bad for me.   Two words that would provoke others to ask questions I had no answers for.  Two words I dreaded to hear even when I was the one who spoke them.

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Beauty for ashes.  By faith I envisioned the wonderful life He had planned for me, one that I couldn’t possibly make a complete mess of.  A plan for something beautiful where fear of The End could not steal my love and my peace.  The scriptures told me it was there for me, this life of beauty instead of ashes, but when The End would come and I had no glimpse of the new beginning I did what I had always done.

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Fear distorting my vision and direction, I would take matters into my own hands and choose my own new beginning.  I never planned for it to go badly, who would do that??  And since I was confessing my belief in God’s good plans for me and what looked so perfect for me presented itself so quickly, surely it was from Him…surely it would be right…surely I could make it work this time and it would protect me from my greatest fear – that there was nothing for me at The End and I would have to face the profound emptiness of the unloved.

But it seemed always to return.  The End.  Again.  Finally, I was just too weary to fight it.  And just as I had feared, there was no glimpse of a new beginning when I reached The End.  But I fell into the emptiness of the unloved only to discover that I was extravagantly loved!  It was only in the emptiness that He had room to fill me with the very thing I had longed for – true Love.  It was only in this time between what was and what would be that I would find healing.  This Love became The End, not of itself, but of what had plagued me for as long as I could remember – the fear that I was unworthy of love.

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“…the Lord earnestly waits – expecting, looking, and longing – to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you…Blessed are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him – for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”    Isaiah 30:18

He is waiting for us to be empty of everything else, so that we can be truly filled.

Don’t be scared.  In His hands, The End is just The Beginning.

The End” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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She just doesn’t know it yet

He’s been watching her all her life.  He’s whispered to her time and time again but she didn’t hear.  He yearns to hold her and comfort her as she struggles.  It’s going to be all right, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She trembles with the fear of the unknown as her circumstances have stripped her of her identity.  She is strong, she just doesn’t know it yet.

The love that had been her foundation has been ripped away.  She yields to the new identity that presses in on her:  the unlovable.  She is immeasurably loved, she just doesn’t know it yet.

This roller coaster ride of choices makes her sick.  She hates herself because of her weakness.  His opinion of her remains unchanged, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Loneliness is her constant companion as no one wants on this ride with her.  She is not alone, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She goes through the motions of living while she entertains the thoughts of ending it all.  Her earthly life has eternal purpose, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Defeat hangs over her like a thick black cloud as she cannot go back and change the past.  Her knees buckle under the weight of the consequences.  She is redeemed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She grasps to find hope in the words she reads and the messages she hears, but it seems she is grasping at air.  She is full of hope, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Her tears are constant from the pain of this deep, gaping wound from which she believes she will never recover.  She is healed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She heard the words again today.  The same words she’s heard over and over, but this time something is different.  Can it really be true?  He loves her?  Something stirs inside her as she considers this possibility…something life-changing…

Her life is changing, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

She just doesn’t know it yet” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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This hope we have

 

 

I could hardly understand what she was trying to say, her words were so choked and broken by sobs.  In the aftermath of choices that have irrevocably altered her life, she is powerless to stop the ripple effect throughout the waters of those who love her, a ripple effect that has produced their choices as well.  No doubt she will never return to the way things were.  The damage has been done.

“You have destroyed your life.”  This is the lie the enemy relentlessly screams to her as if her life is over and there is no point to her existence any longer.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  Others have even voiced those words.  It must be true.

What do I have to offer this one in the grips of despair?  Hope.  Not empty words of the sun shining again, although it will.  But a deeper hope that transcends the multitude of mistakes we make.  Hope that is the very answer to despair.  Hope that holds the future in His hands and Hope that is unwilling to settle for less than the impossible.  It is why He came to earth.

Here is a portion of a beautiful song by Kathryn Scott entitled At the Foot of the Cross that captures the wonder of this hope we have…

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

This is the hope we have:  that we can take all the ashes of our choices, our mistakes, our sin to God and He does the impossible – He turns it into something beautiful.  For this burdened friend of mine, her mistakes have brought her to His feet where her suffering meets His grace, where He lifts her head and crowns her with His loving forgiveness, and where her life will begin again.  She will grieve over what is lost, but will rejoice in what is found as she discovers the mercy that is new every morning.  She will find Hope.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of all His benefits— 

Who forgives every one of all your iniquities, Who heals each one of all your diseases, 

Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption,

Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy; 

Who satisfies your mouth – your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation – with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!   Psalm 103:1-4

 

This hope we have” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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Nothing prepares the heart…

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…for this kind of love or this kind of loss…

there was a time i was afraid i would not love them enough

these beautiful souls He had entrusted to me

then discovered it was a wellspring that could not be stopped

depths that could not be spoken and

bonds that could not be broken

by the mere limitations of this earth

i celebrate this love we share

i hold tightly the memories

and the wonderful hope that one day we will all be together again

in His love

in His presence

forever

“Nothing prepares the heart…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on ourpassionatepurpose.com   

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and Andi Campbell and cannot be used without permission.

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When the tears will not be stopped

For the better part of my life I have been a closet-crier.  Tears did not come often but when they did I hid them.  Whether they were tears of sadness, anger, or frustration, as a child I lacked the ability to clearly communicate why I was crying and in our home tears for no good reason were tears that should be stopped. I became very good at stopping this unwanted watery overflow.  Through the years I prided myself in my ability to withstand this messy display of emotion, seeing myself as a rock of self-control.  So when the dam gave way without warning, I was caught quite off guard.  I found my previously strong will was no match for this deluge that had broken through, years of suppressed emotion flooding my life.

This most unwelcome event happened at the lowest point in my life.  Angry, sad, and depressed at the bleakness of my circumstances, the tears poured forth without mercy and I no longer had any resistance.  My only consolation was that I was alone.  No one saw the red nose and puffy eyes day after day, no one was privy to the anguish of my soul as I stayed hidden from the world.  I cried more than I believed humanly possible and I hated it.

Much occurred between me and God during this time.  In His goodness He drew me close, renewed by faith, and restored my hope.  But He left my heart more tender than it had ever been and He didn’t stop the tears.

I cry so easily now.  I won’t say that I always welcome the tears and I can’t say that I am entirely comfortable when they fill my eyes and run down my face in the presence of others.  But I have learned to yield to a heart made tender through difficulties and know that I am powerless to resist these tears that will not be stopped.  They give expression to things within that cannot adequately be described in mere words. They offer release from pain that would consume me were there no outlet.  They express the depths of the love I hold and the joy that rises from within.  They remind me of my desperate need of Him.  They usher in the Comforter and the Healer.

Sometimes they offer another a safe place to let their own tears flow with no need for explanation.

It is a difficult time of year for me and I cried as I stood at the counter of a store today.  I didn’t apologize as I would have in the past, worried that I had made someone uncomfortable and couldn’t offer them an explanation.  I simply reached for my tissues and continued with my purchase.  As I finalized the transaction, I saw from the corner of my eye that the gentleman waiting on me was wiping a tear from his own.  An uninvited, compassionate response of a stranger that will not soon be forgotten and which reminded me that we humans need tears when there are no words.