In Her Brokenness to Stand Alone, She Found Her Freedom

I have a special bond with nature.

I admire it probably more than I should. I drive the same route to work, to church, to town just about every single day and there’s one piece of nature that I can’t help but think about and admire as I drive. In the middle of an open field, the field surrounded by a multitude of trees and a creek and houses as a fence around the barren area, stands one lone tree.

pablo (5).pngI love lone trees. I enjoy watching them throughout the seasons. I relish in their beauty in the fall, and feel a tinge of sorrow for them in the winter. Oh, I know all the trees that surround this tree and the open field will all lose their leaves as the snow approaches but this lone tree loses them obviously sooner than the others. The limbs no longer reach upward toward the heavenly skies but jut out in a random array of mangled twigs and gnarly branches. It is not a pretty tree by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s loneliness is a haunting beauty that one can’t help but wonder about the “life” it’s lived.

But to stand alone.

Standing alone is a brave task.

It’s this standing alone that brings me to this post today.

Have you ever felt alone? Like no one could understand you? Like no one wanted to understand you? You stand alone in an empty field, barren and broken.

The tree I like watching through the seasons reminds me of myself. We all go through our own seasons of growth and we go through our seasons of dying off or feeling alone and we suffer loneliness and brokenness in this life. But often, I feel like that tree and believe no one could ever truly relate to the events that have taken place in my life.

I’m also reminded of a story which took place in the bible thousands of years ago. Jesus and His disciples had been walking along ministering to people over the course of days, weeks, maybe even months at the time of this story. Their feet, possibly bare, and wearing flimsy sandals at best, had traveled over dirty roads, dusty pathways, and rocky terrain. Their feet and the feet of Jesus were possibly scarred from injury, possibly wound infested, but most definitely dirty and smelly at the introduction of this story.

As found in Luke chapter 7, here the story goes as follows:

Jesus had been invited for dinner at the home of a Pharisee (one of the traditional Jewish people, and a religious leader of the Jews). As the dinner was about to be served, Jesus reclined at the table in wait for the meal. In comes what the bible describes as a “sinful woman”. We don’t know how she was allowed into this Pharisee’s home or if she had crept in quietly, unbeknownst to the men gathered there. But she had heard that this Jesus was here in this home and she had made her way to Him for one purpose.

To wash His feet.

But it was the woman who received

the best gift that night.

She knelt at Jesus’ feet and we are told she brought her alabaster jar of perfume (alabaster is a fine white material used to carve ornaments and jars into). This jar contained the woman’s perfume, possibly the perfume she used in her sinful life. Some commentaries deduce that this woman was a prostitute or “woman of the night.” She had seduced many men with her charm, her appeal, her looks, her perfume. And yet, this woman thought she could bring that alabaster jar and anoint the feet of the Messiah, the Savior of the world. In fact, she brought to Him all she had to offer. She had no riches, no fame, no true reason to believe Jesus would even see her, let alone greet her with a holy kiss or warm compassionate embrace.

Still, she came to those dirty feet of the Master.

And as she knelt, she began to cry over His feet. We aren’t told why she cried, but we can believe that she cried out her sins to the Man who knew her sins already. He knew her sinful life and loved her unconditionally. The woman then used her hair which should have been put up and covered, as was customary, to dry her own tears from Jesus’ feet, kissed his feet, and poured her perfume over them.

The Pharisee, indignant, asked himself how Jesus, this self-proclaimed prophet, one who could see into the future and knew things a simple man or even a religious leader did not know–surely this Jesus knew that this woman was sinful and should not be near such a religious bunch of men. She was not allowed to associate with such people; surely Jesus knew her sins and her lifestyle. How on earth could He allow this woman to touch Him, let alone become so intimate and close to Him?

We pick up in verse 40 of chapter 7.

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Jesus then goes on to speak directly to the Pharisee, keeping His eyes on the woman, comparing the woman and what she offered versus what he had offered.

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

And again, to the sinful woman, Jesus replies,

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This woman. How dare she! How dare she come into this Pharisee’s house and act the way she did in front of his guest! How dare she bring her sinful perfume used to lure men into lust and pour it out over Jesus, this religious teacher!

Yes, how dare she.

I love this woman. I’ve been this woman. Oh, I’ve never lived her lifestyle, but I have been reduced to my sinful nature and have hit rock bottom before the Lord. I have made mistakes and committed my own sins that Jesus has forgiven me from. And if the truth be told, I’m still a sinful woman. I sin likely daily. Whether it be my attitude or my thoughts or my actions, I know I’m far from perfect in the eyes of the “religious leaders” and in the sight of God. But still, I come. Like this woman, I come and bring whatever I have to offer at the feet of Jesus.

But here’s the kicker.

The woman came alone.

Like the tree in the middle of the field I described, she stood, rather knelt alone. Like the tree, exposed, this woman came to Jesus, knowing He knew her sin before she could even utter one word. Like the tree with gnarly limbs and ugliness in appearance, this woman came to Jesus broken and “useless” in the sight of men but was embraced as precious and even forgiven in the sight of the Savior.

And yet, she approached Jesus alone.

No one forced her to attempt this act.

She came alone.

And in her loneliness and vulnerability, she was forgiven immediately. Her faith in Jesus made her whole and worthy of His love and grace and mercy.

But she came alone. Standing alone is a brave thing to do. And this woman came to Jesus.

Alone.

 1003156_10201726984241357_35129205_n*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

 

 

 

 

Little Heart; Big Miracle

turtlesToday is a very special day in the life of our little family. Today, November 20th, is the day we never want to forget, for it is the day we witnessed God’s mercy and compassion and perfect way for our youngest son.

Now that 12 years have passed, we see every day the miracle that God gave us, but today especially, emotions run high with praise, adoration, amazement, and true thankfulness for what God allowed to our little guy.

The day we found out we were pregnant?  No.

His birthday?  Nope.

The day that changed our world forever though.

Our son had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome while we were still pregnant, so we knew God would definitely have to walk with us through many trials and challenges.  But knowing that sometime between the age of 6 months to a year, he would have to undergo heart surgery.  As with many babies with Down Syndrome, he had heart problems, specifically atrioventricular canal defect.  In essence, our son had only one valve connecting his upper and lower chambers of his heart, instead of two.  Children who don’t have this defect dealt with, end up with congestive heart failure, and eventually die.  So, the inevitable operation had to occur to save our baby.

And that fact terrified my husband and I.  November 20 will never be forgotten.  Today marks a miracle.

Today marks the day of his heart surgery.

A couple years ago, I felt God calling me to write about this day for others to experience our miracle and the following is what I some of what I submitted for publication to our church’s book of miracles:

While I was carrying our baby who would face many challenges in his life, I also had a very intelligent, inquisitive two-year-old who wanted to be a part of his brother’s life.  He overhead our conversations and one day asked me, “Mommy, what is Down Syndrome?”

              “Oh, Lord, please help me with this one,” I prayed.  Only God could’ve given me the words I shared that day with this big brother.

              “Well,” I began, “you know how you like to hop and jump and run?”  He nodded.  “Well, you’re kinda like a little frog. Pretty fast, right?”  Again, a nod.  “Buddy, your little brother . . . he’s kinda like a turtle.  He may not jump as high, or run as fast, but guess what?  He’ll still be able to do all those things . . . it just may take him a little longer, just like a turtle.  Turtles get where they want to go, it just takes them a little longer.”  The answer satisfied him.  From that day on, our baby has been our “Turtle.”

              Six months later, when we knew his heart began to fail and the valve could not take any more pressure, surgery loomed.  While this surgery was fairly common, the cardiologist detected one of our son’s chambers as significantly smaller than the others, meaning this surgery was even more critical.  I remember getting that call and sobbing on the dining room floor.

              “Lord, if I have to perform this surgery myself . . .” I cried, “please, God, give us the best doctor for our baby.”  Money was going to be a challenge, and while the surgery could occur in Indianapolis, the severity of the defect and the chamber size led us to take the recommendation to travel to Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Michigan.  God would find a way to make it happen; we trusted in that promise.  With our church, family, and friends behind us, we made the trip for a miracle that would change us and our faith forever.

              The night of our journey, our vehicle’s engine needed checked, so while we waited, my husband meandered into the bookstore to pass time.  Discovering a book in the medical section, he found a list of “the best” lists from over the country.  His findings led him to the number one leading surgeon to perform AV canal defect:  Dr. Bove—the doctor scheduled to perform our son’s surgery a few days later.  Our drive to Michigan was full of humble praise to a God who always had His perfect plan for us.

              The first day in the hospital was full of routine tests, scans, and blood work for the following day’s surgery. My parents were there to help with our oldest son and be our support during the long day; my in-laws met us later that day.  Before we all retreated for the night, we met in one room of the hotel to pray over our baby’s body and for the doctors.  Early the next morning, we gathered at the hospital, along with a church friend and the brother of one of my college friends (both pastors in Michigan at the time) and Dr. Bove.  My friend asked if we could pray before the surgery; we surrounded our son, and felt God’s hand touch our little boy.

              The nurse led my husband and I to where our son was to be prepped.  We made the lonely walk back into the surgical bay area, where we were directed to one particular bay—there were six or seven bays but we were the only family present.  Above each of the bays, beautiful paintings of animals decorated the room; neither of us paid much attention, but God knew what He was doing. 

I took our precious baby in my arms and began singing:

“God will make a way

Where there seems to be no way

He works in ways we cannot see

He will make a way for me.

“He will be my guide

Hold me closely to His side

With love and strength for each new day

He will make a way.  He will make a way.”

              Rocking my baby, tears streaming down my face, I looked up at the bay where we stood with our boy.

              “Hon,” I said, smiling now, “Just look up.”  Turning to look at the animal paintings, we knew God was in control, for above our assigned bay, of all the bays we could’ve been assigned, we were under a painting of turtles.  God would watch over our Turtle and He would make a way, even when we couldn’t see how.

              His surgery was miraculous; his valve did not rest 50/50 over each chamber, but more like 30/70, but the nurse reported Dr. Bove was able to use our son’s own valve to create two separate valves, leaving only a slight murmur which would not be a major concern.

              When I think about our heart being the size of our fist, and then I consider the fist of a six-month-old—the size of a walnut—and then the valve that Dr. Bove had to surgically separate?  God’s hand was in that operating room.

              We were expected to stay in the hospital for ten days, but he was released five days early due to the success of his recovery; this allowed us to be home just before Thanksgiving that year, truly thankful for all that God had made happen.  It really was the best Thanksgiving we spent together, just the four of us, in our own home, thankful for God’s miracle.     

 1003156_10201726984241357_35129205_n*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

There is One Who Rescues Me

I am a writer.

I tell stories.

I would love to share one with you today, if you would indulge me.

I’m 44-years-old at the time of this writing. I have seen a lot in my life. I have met and known hundreds upon hundreds of people. But there’s one who stands out in my mind–my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Bryan.

See, my abuse happened between the ages of 8-10 and I hadn’t told anyone what was happening to me so frequently by a boy several years older than I. But I would like to believe Mrs. Bryan knew.

How? Because she read my story.

While in her class, we were given the assignment of writing our “book”. Now this book isn’t anything like what I just finished writing and am working hard at to publish. This was obviously, a children’s book, written by a child. We were to write a story, if you will, and take that story and put it on what was basically onion-skinned typing paper and staple that paper inside a cardboard-like material, and finally wrap that story in wallpaper, which provided the book’s cover. We were to illustrate the story as well. (A writer I am, an artist? Well, I am not).

My story was about a teddy bear in a toy store who wanted someone to buy him and take him home to love. Ironically enough, the bear’s name was Teddy (Hey, I hadn’t honed my creativity yet–be gentle). Teddy had 16 brothers and sisters (and oh my, the illustrations I drew to accompanypablo (13).png this book? To draw 17 teddy bears on several pages? It was a sight to see, needless to say). One night, as the bears came off the shelf to play (remember, this is pre-Toy Story, so I am thinking I was pretty clever and ahead of my time), Teddy’s eye popped off.

The next day, a little girl and her mother came in the store and after gazing at all the teddy bears, the little girl wanted the one with no eye. She wanted the one who was damaged. She wanted Teddy. The managers and the workers didn’t see the imperfect bear but her mother did. Her mother told her daughter that she was not paying for a broken toy. With that, they left the store. Teddy was sad that the little girl couldn’t take him home.

At home, the little girl and her mother got into a heated discussion about the little girl’s expensive necklace because somehow, she had lost the necklace. She didn’t know where she had lost this precious item. Her mother told her if she found the necklace, she might buy the bear for her. The girl looked everywhere for that necklace and in fact, started doing chores to raise money to pay back her mother for the piece of jewelry, and perhaps buy the bear she saw in the store. She looked and looked and looked, but couldn’t find the necklace. She didn’t know where it was.

But Teddy did.

That damaged bear had found the precious necklace on the floor of the toy store and had put it on, in case the little girl came looking for him again.

And she did. She had earned enough money to buy the bear herself. She and her mother walked in the toy store and saw the bear with no eye. The little girl squealed with excitement to see the bear was wearing her necklace! Immediately, she asked the worker to get the bear down so she could take him home with her. When she got the bear home, she sewed on an eye for Teddy.

Cute story, huh?

But there’s more to my story than just telling about a children’s book written by a child many decades ago. It’s about a little girl who wanted to tell her story to someone, anyone, would listen. Mrs. Bryan listened to my story as I read in my little fifth grade voice. The plot line was simple, the pictures amateur at best, but hidden deep in that story was my story. My voice was hidden inside the bear and the little girl. I was Teddy so much because I felt like damaged goods and I was the little girl, trying to find a way for her mother to accept the bear, even though it had no eye and was imperfect.

Did I plan on the story being that deep? I would like to think I did. I would like to think that even then, I desperately wanted someone to find me, to listen to my story, and to hear me and what I had been going through with my childhood sexual abuse. I wanted someone to notice me, just like Teddy.

And Mrs. Bryan was my angel that year. She went on and on about how wonderful the story was. She never made me feel less than perfect in her eyes. She didn’t criticize the pictures; she didn’t judge the lack of depth in the characters; she saw a little girl writing her story and Mrs. Bryan praised every aspect of my little book. She saw beauty in the rough pages of that children’s book.

Here’s the kicker. For years, I have thought of that book. I have wondered where it was. Was it stashed away at my parents’ house in old memorabilia from my childhood or was it somewhere in my own home that I had never looked before? Where was that storybook? It was the single most significant item I owned that shaped me as a little girl who was hurting to having such a vision at that young age to become a writer, a storyteller.

I found that book.

And it wasn’t where I thought I would find it. Like the necklace, the book was in a place I never would’ve expected to discover it. See, my paying gig, my daytime job, is as a teacher of English. One of my students asked for a dry erase board. I keep those in one of my cabinets. As I went to the cabinet, I opened the door, reached down to the boards and sitting right there beside the container, was my little book. It was like it was meant to be found by me that day. Just like the necklace, the bear, and the little girl all reunited, so was my story and me.

And it felt good.

I’m reminded of a parable in the bible that talks about a shepherd and his sheep. Let me remind you of the story:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost”. (Matthew 18:12-14 NIV).

I’m also reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son. Here is the story.

A young man came to his father and asked for his inheritance. He was the youngest, having one older brother. His father gave him the inheritance which the young man squandered and spent recklessly. He was eventually found living among the swine. The man came to his senses and thought he could at least go back and beg for his father to allow him to live with the servants. The father, looking at the hillside, saw his son coming home. Instead of turning away from the young man, the father ran to him and treated him like royalty. (Luke 15:11-24 NIV).

I like these parables. They give me hope that no matter where I am, no matter how “damaged” I feel on the inside, the good Shepherd will come looking for me. Just as the little girl looked for the bear, the necklace, so does God go looking for us. In contrast, me finding my book without really searching long and hard for it, God knows exactly where I am and will come after me to save me and rescue me.

I had a friend recently ask what she should do with God because she had lost her faith in Him and wasn’t sure if she could get it back. I guess I have to direct her and you to these passages again. God will go after you, will go looking for you, will find you. Even if you don’t know you’re lost, like this sheep that wandered off, He will find you. All you have to do is be still and wait for Him. Just like the father in the Prodigal Son parable, your father is waiting to embrace you and welcome you home.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom,1003156_10201726984241357_35129205_n.jpg teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement. Please feel free to follow me using your e-mail or the follow button on the right side of this post. Thank you for your readership and support. I am humbled.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

What You See Is Not Always What You Get

I have just finished reading one of two books I’m into these days. One is a book about finding your purpose and basically kicking fear in the teeth; the other is a book  called Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud.

My life coach lives and breathes by that book, among others, and recommended it to me when we first started our sessions. I read the first couple of chapters but never finished it. She suggested I try again and not to speed read, as is my tendency with books (I like to get as many books read in a year as I can and then share those results with my social media “family.”) But with this book I am really trying to take my time reading, highlighting and underlining and taking notes along the way. I am trying to slow down to take it all in.

As I finished reading this morning, I sat in my most comfortable arm chair, one I’ve written about before as being my comfort for days when I feel stressed, sensing the arms around me envelop me in a warm embrace. I feel safe there.

I rested in my favorite chair, worked on finishing up my once-hot coffee, now turning to a cool, almost cold beverage that I could barely swallow, and looked out my front picture window.

Across the highway, stands my neighbors’ house. The couple who live there moved in several years ago and the husband was one of my elementary teachers. The couple are both retired now and have much time to keep their lawn perfectly mowed all throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons. It makes our lawn look like an episode of Hoarders (ok not that bad, but you get the picture–my husband and I both work full-time jobs so household work gets put on the back burner much of the time).

I looked across the country road to our other neighbors’ house, and their niche is landscaping. They have been neighbors to me and my family of origin for over 40 years. They have a multitude of trees, plants, shrubs, flowers galore, and they are both well into their 60s and 70s. They work hard every single day to maintain and keep their yard trimmed and well-groomed.

This home, I’ve been in several times in my life, as their girls were friends of mine growing up. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been inside their home. I know they have done home improvements and have created a unique space for themselves inside and outside their house. I can only imagine what it looks like now compared to what I remember from my childhood.

The first neighbor I introduced, well, I’ve only been in their house a handful of times and that was when I was really young. The people who owned the house before my former teacher and his wife were an elderly couple who had a basketball goal on their driveway and me and my dad and my middle brother would go play there from time to time. I only remember being in the house a few times; since the newest  owners, I can only imagine what the inside looks like.

That’s where this writing takes me today: does the outside match the inside?

I sat in my comfy chair, just looking out my picture window in the living room and across the highway to my neighbors’ house. What was it like inside these days? I can imagine it was a spotless and clean as they kept their yard–neat and tidy. I wondered if they sat in their living room, drinking their coffee, and after their quiet reading time, looked across the highway to our home. What would they imagine seeing?

Last summer, I made it my project to paint all the shutters on our house (that’s 10 to be exact). We live in a grey Cape Cod house where the white porch posts stand erect as they march across the front like soldiers fighting in a row in the Revolutionary War. Add two turquoise rocking chairs perched on either side of the front door, and on one side, an end table to match and you have my front porch. The shutters used to be a burgundy but I chose a more friendly yellow to paint them and freshen up our house a bit.

As I painted and listened to music, drinking an occasional sweet tea, I would have the opportunity to look inside the house, into one of our three windows on the ground level. There I would see our youngest son in the middle window, waving at me or asking me what I was doing.

I was trying to clean up the outside while the inside remained . . . well, not so tidy.

Don’t get me wrong . . . our house has it’s moments of being clean but with two boys and full-time jobs and with me and my writing gig, the house gets neglected more often than not.

So what would my neighbors see if they looked inside one of the three windows today?

The first window on the left would be my dining room/office. It’s where homework is done and writing gets written. Bills get paid here and books are arranged on one of two bookshelves in the space allotted as “the library.”  And I have MANY books. My husband frequently inquires about the elimination of books to create space for literature I see as really essential. However, how can I possibly part with any of my “babies?” I have tried over the years, but I never know when I will begin reading a book purchased years ago or if I’ll wish to re-read a book I have read more than once already. I just can’t seem to part with any of them.

The far right window, if the blinds were open, would reveal the master bedroom. It might find the television on with a football game playing or if in the evening, a popular and amusing sit-com. The bed would not be made and there would be a mountain of my clothes (right, I readily admit they are mine and my husband does not contribute to the  pile, but in my defense, I have a hard time deciding what to wear to work every morning–these are difficult decisions, you know?)

The middle window would open up to a view of my catch all room for laundry. Yes, it’s also the living room, but we seem to make it a room without a view. We excuse the piles of clean clothes folded, ready to be put away by the fact that we don’t get visitors or have parties of people coming in the front door for an evening of entertaining. We just live so far away from town that if we engage in social activities, they are with our friends in town and not in our country home.

I cleaned up the outside, but the inside was still a mess.

That’s how our lives look from time to time. Clean on the outside; messy on the inside.

From scripture, we see the time to anoint a new king of Israel. Samuel, saddened that the Lord would not allow Saul to be anointed, hears from the Lord that he is to go to the house of Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint a son of that man to become the new king. He was to “fill [his] horn with oil and be on [his] way” (I Samuel 16:1 NIV). When Samuel arrived the house of Jesse, he was to sacrifice a heifer and tell the household that the Lord that he had come to anoint the new king.

As the sons of Jesse were examined by Samuel, the Lord rejected each one. Samuel, in his confusion as to where the Lord was guiding him, heard God say, “Do not consider his appearance of his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 NIV).

Samuel asked if these men were all Jesse had to offer; in response, Jesse tells him there is one more son tending the sheep in the fields. When the last son arrived, Samuel noticed “he [David] was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (I Samuel 16:12 NIV) even though he was the youngest.

The other brothers looked more kingly than the youngest brother, but God saw David’s heart and knew what David would look like as a king. He knew David from the inside out.

Does God know me from the inside out?

The answer is “yes”. Whether you are a believer or not, God knows you so intimately; more than you think you know yourself.

So, you can try to clean up the outside, but if the inside is not tidied up, God still sees the inside of man. He knows not only the outward appearance but

He Looks at the Heart.

What are you trying to hide today? What are you trying to fix up on the outside but your inside is falling apart? God sees our faults and loves us just as we are. We don’t need to fix the inside before we invite Him in.

We just have to open the door.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, 1003156_10201726984241357_35129205_nmom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

Repercussions on the Road to Trauma Recovery

So, when I was asked to guest blog, I was completely humbled by the request. I’ve read blogs and am impressed by what I read each week. So, I start this post a bit curious if it’s going to stand up to the expectation and standard already given by other guest bloggers and the blogger himself.

Let me tell you my story. I was raised in a conservative, Christian home but one that was riddled with some dysfunction. I never received a hug from my father and was actually told that the first child he had wanted was a boy.

I am the oldest.

So, I tried to impress him however I could. My mother, as I’ve come to realize, is a covert narcissist. A covert narcissist is the most dangerous of the narcissistic individuals because they are disguised to the average person. They wear the mask of an introvert or as an individual with low self-esteem. But we need to be careful interacting with a covert narcissist. They will draw us into their trap of “pity me”, “feel sorry for me” scheme.

Now that you have a back story . . . let’s get on with why I write.

I write to tell a story. Here’s my story of abuse and recovery and the repercussions of sharing my story with the world.

I can’t think of the exact age I was when it happened. I think between the ages of 8 and 10. He was a few years older than I and knew better than to do what he did to me and with me. My mother was best friend’s with his mother and we were thrown together for play dates quite often, if not every week, close to every week.

We would play ball, superheroes, house, etc. But his type of play involved more than what evil I bargained for and more than my young body could tolerate.

My grandfathers had built an A-frame structure for me to play in. I have two brothers and this was my personal space to play with my dolls, to find refuge from the house, my bedroom, my brothers, my family. It was built just for me to enjoy. And I spent many summer days playing in the tin and wood oven called “The Playhouse.” But it was MY space.

My middle brother is 4 years younger than I am and although he wasn’t my favorite playmate, he would occasionally join me to play house. Of course, he wanted to be the maintenance man who would fix everything broken in my “house.” So I allowed him this pleasure while he was still young and not really “house” material.

But around the age of 8 or 9, something began happening that would forever shape my life, my way of living, my way of thinking. The boy who was my mother’s best friend’s son began to play more at my house, like I said, weekly. The playhouse designed for my personal entertainment became a den of manipulation and mind games, twisting the truth for his grooming purposes to lure me into his evil schemes and torture. And while our play was fun for a while, it quickly turned into a living hell. My nightmare that would haunt me to this day.

For a long time, I couldn’t even talk about it. I would not call it what it was, and for this writing, I will simply call it sexual abuse. I went for a walk one day last summer over to my parents’ house where the playhouse still stands to this day. I walked around it, looking inside, but not going in. The A-frame was made of a tin metal and the front and back walls of wood. It used to have a door that locked from the inside and the outside, but years of wear had damaged it so the hinges had been torn off and the door eventually removed. The lower part was obviously more spacious than the upper level.

Yes, there was a second level of sorts where I played once the abuse happened. I wouldn’t and couldn’t play in the lower level. He had ruined that space. He would lock the door, leaving me inside down below, walk around to the back side of the house, climb the stairs on the outside of the house to the upper level and then lower himself to me as he jumped down with a tween thud. There, in the darkness, in the heat, he would do unspeakable things to me and with me, all the while telling me that I couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing because we would get in trouble.

Well, that I would get in trouble.

I don’t know why he singled me out . . . actually, I guess I do know why. It was part of his grooming.

But I didn’t stay silent.

Oh, it was years, two decades, before I would really share my story with anyone.  I shared with my college friends and felt safe telling them. But they didn’t know how to help me or what to say to get my recovery to wholeness started. I went to my first therapist in my 30s and it took two years before I actually shared the fact that I was abused as a child, or at least had memories of the abuse. My first therapist’s reaction and response?

It was a classic case of “kids just being kids.” Yep, she minimized what I knew deep inside was more than the classic case; it was abuse. I knew it and thought and hoped she would know it.

So, it was more years before I would talk about the abuse with anyone else. I would feel close to friends, but found quickly after I shared with them that they were not the safest people with whom to share. They treated me differently or didn’t talk to me at all about what I shared.  They would act like they cared at first but then I found out they really didn’t care about me getting better. Other than my husband, I decided to keep my secret a secret for the rest of my life.

Until one of my college friends shared with me that she had also been abused but had no lasting memories of the abuse. She suggested I start following some other survivors on twitter and to follow a podcast on Youtube that would help me see I was not alone. So, I did just that and through that experience, I was able to find a way to plug into safe community of other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I also found a therapist in whom I trust whole-heartedly and who believes in me and my story. She recognizes the abuse for what it is.

A word on my parents and family. I had never shared with them what I had gone through. When I told my brothers, they were very empathetic toward me and asked if I was all right now that I have faced some of the demons. Remember, my dad was a man who didn’t show his emotions very easily. And my mother is a covert narcissist who would find any way to have this fall back on herself. Or she would gaslight me, making me feel like what I knew to be true to feel like I made it up.  This was what I was I was afraid of.

But I knew I had to tell my parents, regardless of their reactions or feelings toward me or the boy. It was January when I decided to tell them what had happened to me. My mother simply said she didn’t think any differently of me, but asked if it was more than one time (I believe to this day, she thinks it’s only been one time, when in fact it was multiple times).  My dad said, “Ok, so it’s out there. We don’t need to discuss it ever again.” Well, I didn’t think I could agree to that and told him, “There may be a time when I need to bring it up again, for my own healing.”

The truth is, I’ve only brought it up one other time (and at the time of this writing, it’s almost been a year since I first talked about my abuse with them because I find them unsafe people to share my story with) and my mother’s response was, “Are you referring to ‘the incident’?” Um, mom, it was more than “an incident, but I digress.

So, the purpose of this blog? For you, the survivor, the consider a few things before you share your story.

  1.  You will need to determine if you are ready to handle the repercussions of the person handling the information the way you think they should or not. If you can’t honestly say you’re ready to deal with other people’s acceptance or denial, it may not be the right time yet.
  2. Be prepared to be hurt. But know that you are not alone. This reaction of others is NOT for you to take on upon yourself. It is ON that person. They need to and should OWN their reactions.
  3. Know who is a safe person and who is not. This may take a while to establish. Not everyone in your circle of friends or family are safe people. Think carefully and choose wisely. Tighten your circle so you don’t get hurt as easily.
  4. Establish and maintain healthy boundaries with the people in your life. Not everyone needs to know your story. I told my story to more people than I thought I would because of the work I want to do with survivors. If I don’t or can’t share my story and deal with the repercussions, that work will be hindered.
  5. Know yourself. It may not be time to share your story. I know it’s time for my story to come out and be shared in more than one medium; it’s just a matter of time. And I will follow my own advice and know myself first and know how much I wish to share with whom and how much I share.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

What to Do While You Ride the Struggle Bus: She’s got a Ticket to Ride

pablo (8).pngI have to admit, I’ve been on the struggle bus lately. Getting up early in the morning, showering, picking out something to wear to work, driving to work, doing my job (I’m a junior high English teacher for my paying gig), coming home to find myself too tired to do much of anything, let alone write, well . . . it’s getting to me.

All I want to do is write.

Write for myself.

Write for God.

Write for friends.

Write for you.

So getting up to do my paying gig? Not something that gives me passion any more. It used to. I used to love teaching but the demands that are placed on us every year and now it seems each week and each day get more and more challenging to handle.

I wish my non-paying gig would start paying so I could resign from my paying gig. I wish more than anything that you would love my writing so much that I could write all day, reaching out to you, sharing with you, spreading a message of hope to more readers and to a much broader audience.

But I have my ticket punched. And it’s to ride the struggle bus.

What do I do as I wait for my writing to take off? I do what I have to do until I can do what I want to do. I work. I go to my job and give the best I can give until the next time I sit at a computer. I wait. I wait sometimes impatiently. I just printed off the first draft of my first book that I’ve been working on for the past year or so. 190 pages and 41,000 words to be exact. I want that book to take off so badly because I know my audience would learn about themselves and about God. That book has been a lesson on God and who He is and who I am in Him and I have learned more than I thought I ever could.

Writing that book has

stretched my faith,

stretched my learning,

stretched my belief.

It’s my life’s passion.

So other than work my regular job, what do I do as I wait? I practice. I try to write every day. Even if it’s not good. Even if it’s just me writing down random sentences that don’t connect and aren’t tied to each other. I write. I write every day. I have to keep practicing to keep my passion alive. I write for you.I write for myself. I write for therapy. I write to get my thought out. I write to heal. I write to laugh.  I write to see if there’s anything worth reading tucked inside me.

But I practice.

I share. I reach out each week to you, my reader, and hope I can share some positive truth about life with you. I show up each week with a blog for you to enjoy. To learn from. To make you think. To make you more compassionate.  To make you draw closer to each other and to God. But needless to say, whether I think the words I am writing are “special” enough or not, I show up and I share. I hope that you are able to share your truth with those in your life and with those you come in contact with daily. How can I share more with you? What would you want me to address? I’m not a bible scholar nor do I claim to know it all, but I know in writing my book, my bible has gotten quite a workout and now it’s tattered and torn around the edges. My bible has been beaten up and it stands the damage and lifts me up when I feel stuck and discouraged.

One of the verses I have been holding onto lately comes from Psalm 121:1-2

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Another verse to encourage you as it does me throughout my struggling day is from Psalm 3:3 “But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.”

So as I ride the struggle bus, what do I do?

  1. Wait.

  2. Work.

  3. Write.

  4. Show Up

  5. Encourage

What is it you would like to read from me? What topics or discussions or ideas do you have for me to tackle? I would love to see your suggestions in the comment section on this blog site. I look forward to hearing from you.

Until then, I wait.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement. You may also follow me thru e-mail or the follow button on the right hand side of this page.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

15 Truths I Need to Hear Every Day: Listening to the Voices in My Head

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Oh, really??? Let’s try these on for size:

“I’m too fat.”

“I’m just stupid.”

“I can’t do ____________.”

“I’ll never be able to __________.”

“You don’t know my story.”

“I’ll never have __________________.”

“I’ll never be loved by ________________.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be _______________.”

“I’m such a loser.”

“I’ll never be good at ____________.”

What words do you say to yourself every day? What words come out of your mouth ABOUT yourself that you know you probably need to re-think?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I talk with other survivors on a weekly basis. Often it’s through one of three weekly Twitter chats, but lately, it’s been through messaging on Facebook.

As a survivor, one of the most common sayings you’ll hear from us is, “I don’t deserve to be loved, cared for . . . I don’t deserve the very best God has for me. I deserved the abuse I endured. I must have done something to deserve what I got and what was done to me.”

I have to say, those sayings are flat out lies from the pit of hell. That’s exactly what I told one of my new friends and fellow survivors on Facebook about her own life. She was sharing about how she must have done something to deserve the sexual abuse and the physical, verbal, and mental abuse she survived all these years. I had to stop her and tell her she did NOTHING wrong and in fact, DID NOT deserve the abuse–any aspect of it. No one deserves that.

But what do I tell myself?

I tell myself the same lies that she was telling herself.

Self-talk–how we talk to ourselves–helps or hinders our journey to healing. If we speak the words, negative, harmful, hateful words about ourselves, they become a god in front of us, holding us back, holding us down. As the great poet and writer, Dr. Maya Angelou, once said about writing, “I don’t speak about ‘writer’s block’ because to speak the words means to give power to them. I say rather, ‘I am finding it difficult to write.'” Well, the same is true about our self-talk. The words we say about ourselves become the power that overtakes our lives and our very souls. That power we give words we say becomes what we listen to and find ourselves believing.

There’s a song by Casting Crowns called “The Voice of Truth” that goes as follows:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out his hand
But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win”But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me (Calling out to me)
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe
I will listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe

Because Jesus you are the voice of truth
And I will listen to you
You are…

And because Jesus tells me a different story, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth. 15 Truths for My Listening Ears:

  • The truth is I’m a great mother and wife.
  • The truth is I am a great friend.
  • The truth is I am a great listener.
  • The truth is I don’t have to be perfect.
  • The truth is I was created by God to encourage others.
  • The truth is I am created in God’s image.
  • The truth is God sees me for my beauty.
  • The truth is I’m beyond blessed.
  • The truth is I am worthy of love.
  • The truth is I can do all thing through Christ Who gives me strength.
  • The truth is I am a daughter of the Most High.
  • The truth is I deserve a life of happiness and joy.
  • The truth is I did nothing wrong to “deserve” my abuse.
  • The truth is my abuser will have to face God for his own sins.
  • The truth is I am loved, and I am called beloved by God, my Father.

So what are you willing to say about yourself? TO yourself? Will your self-talk change and what power will you give the words that come from your mouth? The words that form in your very thoughts? How much power do you want to give your abusers? To those who mistreat you? To those who are not in your corner? To those who don’t believe in you?

My hope and prayer is that you will listen and believe the voice of truth. The truth that you are set free in Christ’s eyes. You are precious to Him. And you are not alone. Not ever. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.

What voice will you give power to? Which voice will you listen to and believe?

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

God is our Comfort

When I write or read, I find myself in the same place in my house. With a house full of boys, finding quiet “me” time away from video games and wrestling matches and keep-away and the “natural” atmosphere of testosterone is a challenge to acquire. Being outside during the warmer seasons lures me out into nature and peace away from the “Mom, can you (fill-in-the-blank request)” demands. But when the temperature changes and I just need some rest and relaxation, my body somehow surrenders and sinks into my favorite overstuffed chair in our living room. In fact, the chair is where I enjoy taking my weekly Sunday afternoon nap. The cloth touches my skin with ease and the arms fit around me just perfectly. Combine that with my favorite throw blanket that portrays a lighthouse on the front and a cup of coffee and an ocean breeze candle, and I am home.

How do you find comfort? A blanket wrapped around you? A warm fire in the fireplace? A tub of ice cream? Oh, I know it’s a word that we “know” how to define . . . or do we?

Comfort is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “to cause (someone) to feel less worried, upset, frightened, etc; to give comfort to (someone)” and “to give strength and hope to; to ease the grief or trouble of”. Perhaps you are in a constant state of worry or fear, need energy, hope—perhaps you are in a mourning stage of your life. I speak with survivors of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, often and they speak of grieving a lost innocence. The thought of ever finding that true comfort that does not have an agenda behind the “kindness” becomes a trigger into those haunting images. A hug from a sincere, safe friend, a compliment, an act of compassion from someone who really just wants to offer support often is received by survivors as a tactic to lure them into yet another dangerous and deceptive trap. They know no comfort without agenda.

But God offers comfort with nothing to gain and nothing to be expected. He simply wants to comfort you. He knows you hurt. He knows you grieve. He knows you worry and fear. And He offers comfort because He IS comfort.

In Psalm 119:50, the writer, David, reminds us of this truth as he prays out to God: “Remember what you said to me, your servant—I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me” (MSG).

And the promise He gives is as follows: “He [God] heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 MSG).

This week, allow God to wrap His arms around you and comfort you.  Rest in His warm embrace. In His promises, we can find freedom through God, the Comforter.

 

TODAY’S PIECES:

  • All scripture is the absolute truth.
  • God wants to comfort you.
  • He expects nothing in return.
  • God’s promises rejuvenate and revive us.
  • Freedom comes in His warm embrace of comfort.

 

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for coming to this earth to live among us and for dying on a cross to save us from our sins. Thank You, Jesus for being our comfort in trying times. Thank You for Your promises of comfort to our weary and tired lives. Allow Your Spirit to wrap us up and to wrap Your arms around us as a comfortable blanket and allow us to bask in Your comfort and in Your safe arms. We love You and all that You are. You are our comfort this day and we thank You for comfort. Thank You for loving on me today. Amen.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

 

Succomb to the Waves or Fight for My Survival

My name is Phoenix.

And I am a storyteller.

Can I tell you a story?

I’m writing a book. That bit of knowledge is not to make me seem bigger than life; on the contrary, I feel very humbled in the process. But writing of any kind, tears at the soul, eats at thoughts, devours energy. It is to be raw and real. For me, that’s how my writing feels to me, whether others get that sense or not. I write for me first and if an audience outside of me follows, reads, reacts, then I feel again, a sense of humility, not one of pride or boastfulness.

But in the writing comes a frustration level. As one of my favorite authors, Kaye Gibbons, once said, “People tell you to write what you know. I tend to write what I don’t know.” And the great poet and novelist, Dr. Maya Angelou, said, “I don’t wish to say ‘writer’s block’ because to say words aloud gives them power. Instead, I wish to say ‘I’m finding it difficult to write.'”

Well, there have been several instances this past week where I felt I didn’t know what I was writing and I was sure finding it difficult to write. So what does a writer do when they feel stuck?

I had to walk away.

I had to step back and do something different.

I either took a nap or read a book.

Now the book I chose was about writing, and about writing my story, so I’m not sure how helpful or how harmful that choice has been in getting away from my writing.

But my story begins today with where I was reading, not what I was reading.

I like the comfort of my living room couch and actually, my comfy overstuffed chair. I could read for hours there, cozy with my blanket and a good book. The arms embrace me like a loving father wraps his arms around his children. The arms wrap around me keeping me warm and content as I read (or sometimes write–I tend to be a writer in front of a screen more than on paper, but on occasion, that raw writing must come out, no matter how the task is accomplished).

Well, today, I was reading on the couch, as the chair didn’t seem to hold any interest to me. I have been reading Dan Allender’s book To Be Told, and I stated earlier, it’s a book about writing your story and the process behind the writing, and how God is to be our co-author of our story.

I took a break from my reading to look around the room. To come back to reality a bit before reading the next chapter or if needed, to take a much needed break and take a nap. I was trying to establish my surroundings and to sit with the truths I had just read about fasting and prayer in the telling of our stories. I’ve never been one to fast, so that chapter was a hard one to read and swallow, if you will.

The chapter on prayer hit home because as I’ve been writing my book, writing the prayers for each day’s devotional have been the most difficult to write, so hearing about how sincere and raw our prayers should be really hit a nerve too close to home, but it was something I know God gave me to read for my writing to become more real and personal. I need my prayer life to expand and become more personal. I need to share my innermost being with God in order for Him to obtain the glory He already has possessed.

As I looked around the room, I realized or was reminded of something about myself: I collect lighthouses.  I love lighthouses. I couldn’t tell you how many I have. (Well, I guess I technically could, if I took the time to count them all). I have some that look exactly like the actual lighthouses they represent and I have some that some artist created from his or her own imagination. I have pictures and paintings of lighthouses; I even have a book on lighthouses. My blanket I use to get comfy in my living room chair? Yep, it’s got a lighthouse and verse woven into the material. I have so many because there were several holidays where that’s all I got for Christmas from friends and family. But that was years ago . . . I’m due for some new pieces perhaps.

Years ago, before I was married (so this is like 17 years ago), my then fiance, now husband, invited me to spend a week on the Jersey shore with his family and extended family from Florida and Arizona and New York for a big family reunion that was desperate in the making. Of course I went, knowing that just being with him would satisfy my longing to be with him over any desire to go on a vacation. I didn’t know what to expect, as I had only seen the ocean one time in my life and that was when I was two, so I don’t remember anything about that adventure.

I was excited to go, also, because my fiance’s grandmother had told me about a lighthouse that we could go see. I love lighthouses, as I said before, so her exposure of this fact sent chills up my spine, as I was so excited not only to see and be on the ocean, but also to see in person my first lighthouse.

The day was one of adventure, because other than the trip out to Jersey, this was our first driving excursion as a couple. Listening to our GPS tell us where to turn, where not to turn, where to u-turn, made for an interesting trip and one that we laugh at to this day. We knew we were close but couldn’t seem to get to the lighthouse.

We saw a police officer directing traffic, as the traffic light we were approaching was not in working condition. We rolled down our window, leaned out the space and asked, “where’s the lighthouse?”

The officer looking at us with an incredulous look asked, “You mean the Barnegut light?” in his thickest Jersey east coast accent.  Of course we meant the Barnegut light, but we didn’t know the exact name or location of such a structure.

Hmmmmm . . . knowing the location of a lighthouse? I find that a little ironic since the lighthouse’s job is to guide sailor’s from the shoreline. And yet, we couldn’t FIND the darn thing.

We weren’t too far off the beaten path but needed to go a little closer to the shore to park our car and walk up the way to the light itself. As we walked closer, the more anticipation rose in my gut. I even got butterflies about seeing it for the first time. Would it be as big as I hoped? Was it a short lighthouse or one that spanned the sky? Could we go inside? Could we climb the steps to the top?

We got around the bend and there she was. A tall structure, and one that I had to lift my eyes to see clear to the top. It was a rusty red colored lighthouse at the top and a dingy white halfway down on the bottom and as we walked closer, the thought of climbing any steps to the top waned considerably. My fiance and I took several pictures, one where we stood at the base of the lighthouse and stretched our necks and our camera to the very top. We took pictures beside the wall where there was pertinent information about the light and what purpose it served and how it was now not in working order and hadn’t been for years.

But that was a day I will never forget.

And a year later, we did climb steps to the top of a lighthouse–one that we saw on our honeymoon. This lighthouse was on Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina and we did in fact climb 119 or so steps inside the lighthouse and walked on the outside of the light, watching the boats come in from the day into the harbour below. The lighthouse was not as tall as the Barnegut Light but it is by far one of my favorite places. It’s candy cane colors radiate as the light itself and serves as a marking point for tourists and shoppers and visitors alike.

Why lighthouses, Phoenix? Well, there’s a picture I saw years ago of the base of a lighthouse and the waves crashing around the bottom. I’ve loved this picture and lighthouses ever since this picture crossed my path.la-jument-76

Look at the picture closely. There is a man, the lighthouse keeper perhaps, standing in the doorway. While we can’t see his expression on his face, we see he is out of the structure itself as the waves crash all around him.Perhaps the man is quoting this scripture: “The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” This verse and this picture have stuck with me on so many fearful occasions. See, I live with anxiety and depression so when the anxiety is high, I have to remind myself of this painting and of the verse that I shared.

We have nothing to fear when God is our everlasting lighthouse. And with that light, Jesus goes on to tell how WE are to be the light to others. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus declares for and to us:  Matthew 5: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Not only is Jesus our light, but also we are to be the light to the world. How brightly is your light shining? I know mine grows dim so I remind myself in this story I share with you that my light must shine for the world to see. I must trust my very life to Him Who gives me light, a hope, and a future. To share my story, I must shine for the others to see.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

Sound the Battle Cry: Picking Up the Excess to Prepare for Battle

Ever feel like you’re climbing an uphill battle? Ever feel like you’re fighting a losing battle? Ever feel like you’re alone in your fight? Ever feel like no one is around to even listen to you?

For me, depression is a battle that is not easily fought and won. And I fight it often alone. It takes a strength and courage that not everyone has in their arsenal  of battle weapons. Trust me, I’m not saying I have those weapons, but I’m learning how to fight.

I took a walk the other day and thought about what I could share with you in this blog of mine that started almost a year ago. So much has happened in my life in the last year. So much has happened in your lives too, I’m sure. My walk revealed that I am not the same person I was a year ago. And I shouldn’t be the same, should I? Shouldn’t I have changed in some way, hopefully in a positive way? Shouldn’t I have changed in some regard to make myself better over the past year?

In some ways, I have improved in my journey. I have faced demons that have battled for my soul. I have battle scars to prove my fight. But what does my journey have to do with what I’d like to share with you this day? Why has depression come to my life and my soul in all the greatness that I have experienced in my journey into my trauma and recovery from childhood sexual abuse?

Because Satan doesn’t take a vacation.

He’s always at work.

My walk reminded me of the scripture that talks of “girding your loins” in the face of the battle. I never knew what it meant to “gird my loins” and quite often just skipped over that part of the bible. However, I’ve been in two bible studies now where there has been a focus on those verses. The phrase is mentioned three times that I can find. Once in Ephesians 6:14, the New American Standard version commands, “Stand firm then, having girded your loins with truth . . . ” and I Peter 1:13 in the King James version reminds us, “Wherefore gird up your loins of your mind . . . ” And in Job, “Gird up your loins like a man . . .” So what are these verses telling us to do? And how am I going to connect the dots to my battle with depression?

Let me see if I can put this clearly from what I’ve learned in my bible studies.

Soldiers of bible times wore a long robe/tunic in their every day lives. But when an enemy would threaten them or their country, that long robe became a hindrance and would trip them up, rendering them useless and defenseless. So, girding their loins meant grabbing the long parts of that garb and tucking it inside their belt, allowing their feet and legs to move swiftly and move ready for battle. Now, of course, there was more to their uniform than just girding or tucking their garment into the belt they wore. That’s why the scripture goes on to discuss the breastplate, the sword, and the helmet. But girding your loins is the first order to follow.

As I walked the other day, I thought about girding my loins, tucking in those lengths of my every day life. What does that entail? My every day includes the following: my husband, my kids, my church, my family, my friends, my work, my writing, my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and I could go on and on . . .

So when my depression rears its ugly head, I have two choices: one, to allow it to trip me up and halt any progress I’ve made in this journey of life. Or two, I could gird up my loins, my loincloths, and prepare for battle. The every day of my life, as I mentioned earlier, deserve my very best. They deserve me fighting and battling. So, I pull them up and close to me and tuck them in my belt of truth, and begin to fight with the weapons my Jesus has commanded I take up and use against the enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

I can not allow the every day to trip me up; I must gird my loins, pull up the every day and tuck them inside my belt of truth. They can trip me up or they can be protected as I begin the fight against the enemy called “depression.” And I must sound the battle cry as I fight.

1003156_10201726984241357_35129205_n*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .