Name.

I have been waiting for this day for almost eight years now – the day all my pain and illness would get a name. Well, that day came, and to my surprise, it didn’t feel near like I thought it would.

Today, I found out I have Lyme Disease.

Those words, this name, doesn’t quite hold the magical power that I once thought it would. I have clung to the fact that a name would give me instant peace in my circumstance, instant validation of the pain, and instant release from the unanswered questions. In my mind, that day would be filled with me skipping out of the doctor’s office, arms thrown up in elation, and celebrating with a Name Party! (You would have been invited, of course.)

Yet, today my heart is filled with something entirely different.

I’m fumbling around in-between shock and collapse. I feel nauseous and as though my insides are shaking uncontrollably. The peace I was hoping that came attached to a name has eluded me, and I sit trembling. How could I have gotten this so wrong? I just knew having a name for my core illness would solve everything, so why hasn’t it?

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and this is a tough blow. I am, indeed, thankful for the answers, the wonderful doctor who has walked with me though this squall, and a husband who has held my hand the whole time. Yet, I’m having a hard time letting it all soak in. I am an expert, after all, at building walls no one can get through, not even myself. So here I sit, the day before Thanksgiving, trying to stay too busy to shed one tear in my acceptance. This isn’t how it was supposed to go… A name was supposed to fix everything.

But, you know what? It had already. I was just looking at the wrong name.

See, it didn’t take too long after that doctor said those words to me, that God started working on my heart. I soon realized, I was clinging and putting my hope into the wrong name. No name, no diagnosis, was going to heal my heart and give me the peace I so desperately longed for in this lengthy journey, except one.

Jesus.

God so graciously showed me today that this was one area I still needed work on. See, God has already given me more names for my brokenness than I could ever count. For, He is my Mighty Comforter, Prince of Peace, Healer, and Provider. He is my Strong Tower, my Shepherd, Messiah and Redeemer. He is my own personal Physician that not only wants to heal my soul, but my wounded heart and my struggling mind.

You see, I realized that putting a name to my illness held no power at all. All I needed, this whole time, was to put a name to my heart’s cry for peace. Only the name of Jesus can bring me the peace I so desperately craved in the middle of this storm called life. We all have real fears, and pain and struggles that only one name can solve. Jesus.

Jesus.

Lyme Disease.

Fibromyalgia.
Supra-ventricul tachycardia.

Ulcerative Colitis.

Gastritis.

Gastroparesis.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Mercury Poisoning.
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.

Hypothyroidism.

 

Jesus. The name above all names. And that is the only name I will ever need.

– Jodi

Defined.

I am defined by my struggles.

Not what most people would want to claim, right? We fight this battle of NOT being defined by our life circumstances and the storms we perceive as weaknesses. Being weak is the last way we want someone to see us, but do you know what is real weakness? Wanting to seem strong by hiding those struggles, and worse yet, not helping others by sharing the lessons we have learned and the wisdom we are so graciously given through those storms of life.

My family knows storms. My family has had to set another place at the table for our storms – like an unwanted guest who just won’t leave. Even though hurts and pains of life seep into every crack of our daily lives, I am not ashamed. For through these struggles, I now know just how loved we are. Through these struggles, God has revealed my calling. Through these struggles, my defining in this storm is made clear.

Time and time again, God has reached out and shown His presence. And do you know the path He takes to show me? He guides me along my struggling, stumbling, painful trail. He uses my rough days. He uses my tears. He uses my newly softened heart for those suffering by sending me pain-filled women in parking lots. He sends me lonely women who just need a stranger to say hi – to show them they are seen, not only by me, but by our God.

Yes, our painful struggles are all different. My struggles doesn’t include cancer or losing a child, as yours might. My struggles are filled with chronic illness, a child with quirks, and our fear-stricken children being abused by another’s words. So our struggles may differ, yes, but the pain – the pain is the same. Pain recognizes pain, doesn’t it, dear one? Yet, when we walk right past another one suffering, do we keep walking and bustling through our time-crunched day, or do we stop and interact with the all too familiar pain radiating from their weary heart? Once engaged, how then, can we share Christ’s hope for their circumstance?

Simply by sharing ours – that is defining our storms.

God once brought me a woman in a parking lot who had had 3 brain tumors. She just needed to talk and I just needed to listen. Have I ever had a brain tumor? No and I’m very thankful for that. But, since I could relate to the pain and exhaustion a long storm carried, I understood her heart’s cry.  The beautiful thing is God will bring people into our lives to connect our hearts upward to Him. Just saying “I’m here. I understand. How can I pray for you specifically?” is God’s way of using my newly softened heart towards suffering women.

However, I once asked the Lord, in a season of deep physical pain, why He kept bringing women who needed to talk. (Not one of my proudest moments.) I just wanted to put my head down, shuffle into the store, and ease my way back into the car. I felt I didn’t have the energy or strength to walk alongside anyone as I was trying to endure my own teetering cliff walk. In His sweet, soft whisper to my heart, He simply told me that women opened up to me “Because you ask”. Wow – still makes me teary-eyed today. Women are broken, hurting, all alone in their suffering and would give anything to feel seen. Someone looking them in their beautiful eyes, noticing them, and speaking sincerely is all it takes to allow them the opportunity to open up and share their struggles. And if you’re like me, you might me amazed at how many women have your same story.

So don’t hide the path you are walking. Stop for a minute and look back at the person you used to be before this storm entered your life. In so many ways, God has changed you and molded you into the woman He is intending you to be. Do you see it? It may hurt, dear one, and it may seem like your world is turned upside down at the moment, but you were made for this moment. You were made to take these hurts and share them with others walking the same road. Let these softenings and reshapings make you proud to be defined by them.

Be proud you are a fighter, for your strength is drawn in Him. Be proud you are wiser, to the ways of God’s own heart. Be proud you are just putting one foot in front of the other, for someone else may be paralysized in their pain. So why not let others see that you actually are defined by your struggles? Share where God has moved and what you have learned. For in those moments, grace abounds and true heart healing begins, for you both.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV

Jodi

Fearful.

Our dog, Crosby, is a bit of a hot mess.  Some would say he fits in perfect with our family, which is pretty much the truth.  When we adopted him, he had been rescued from an abusive home.  We aren’t sure what happened there, but we do know that whatever it was, it left him fearful of pretty much everything and everyone.  I mean he gets scared of rugs, y’all – bless his heart.

I’ve never been a dog person, so I find it funny that God gave me one that would steal my heart.  That dog loves me so much that on days I can’t move well, if I call him over to my side of the bed, he knows I need help.  He simply turns around so I can grab hold of his collar and he proceeds to pull me out of bed.  God is THAT good to give me an animal to show His all encompassing  love through. And sometimes, He uses that pup to teach me a much needed lesson.

While visiting family, our cousins noticed that Crosby hadn’t eaten since we arrived, despite his food dish being full.  We had been there for two days and he hadn’t touched it.  When they asked why he hadn’t eaten yet, I explained that he was too scared to eat.  His surroundings had changed and he wasn’t used to the new environment yet.  “But he must be so hungry!”, my sweet cousin responded.  And I, being the expert of this quirky dog, reply, “Yes, but his fear trumps his hunger every time”.  

The moment those words flowed so freely from my lips, my sweet Savior pressed into my heart.  

I, too, know deep-rooted fear.  I, too, get paralyzed by the hauntings of the past.  I, too, will let my heart starve instead of facing that fear.  But when we allow that fear to overtake our hearts, we can miss out on all that God is trying usher us towards.  

Sometimes our hearts are crying out for peace, in the midst of a hard-fought battle.  Other times, God may be gently nudging us to step out on faith and trek down a new, uncut path.  And then there are times when simply laying down that fear time after time, is the next rung on that ladder of trust our hearts are needing to take.

Have you been there?  Are you hungry for what only Jesus can bring, yet waver when He reveals the next step?

Lord, how many times have I been hungry and called out to you, only to be too afraid of the answer to move?  Sadly, too many.   I hunger for Your words and Your ways, yet fear, too easily, keeps me from the callings the seeking brings. Open my plugged ears to Your calling and thaw my frozen feet to swiftly follow Your paths.  Jesus, today, may we not only have a fresh desire for YOUR Bread of Life, but may we not FEAR the paths You are revealing to us.  May we put our total trust in You and not be so afraid to move, that we miss out on our role in growing Your Kingdom.  Move in us, Jesus.  Stir in us, Savior.  Change us, our gracious and mighty Conqueror. Let faith trump our fear, and peace fill it’s place.  We ask all these things in your precious and mighty name.  Amen.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

* Don’t worry – Crosby eventually stopped shaking and ate his food.  He is happily sleeping next to me now, resting in the presence of his master.  Just as I am happily resting in mine.

– Jodi

Bypass.

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:30-31

I have always been insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin, even from an early age.  I don’t feel like I have much to bring to the table, or as the world points out, a college degree to stand behind.  I over-analyze the words that come out of my mouth and even the way I was standing as I said them.   It’s a stressful way to live, really.  Yet, God’s immense grace has overflowed on my heart as I dug deeper and deeper into His word this past year.  The harder I pressed into Him, the more I have felt those insecurities slowly fading away and for the first time, I found myself able to gently unclench the handle bars and rest in who HE says I am, instead of what the world calls me out to be.  And that was a big feat for me!  The peace that came with it made it easier to hand over those insecurities before they even formed. 

 Funny, though, how one day can make all our work, and my peace, completely undone.

Damage to our children and hurtful words pierced my heart.  One left a burden my heart couldn’t carry, while the other brought me back to an insecure girl feeling worthless, and a young wife being treated as such every day.  Funny how an instance can open old wounds and bring up so much emotion, isn’t it?  What was once healed, was now free flowing, and don’t you know it – Satan took notice. The nightmares started back up again and no matter how hard I tried, I felt like I was drowning in the ugly words being hurled at my heart.  

Yet, in the midst of my tailspin upon deep waters,  my sweet Savior whispered to my heart… “Stand up.  You aren’t drowning dear one, stand up – your feet will find the solid ground. It’s been under you all along.”   Oh, Lord, you’re right.  Why hadn’t I seen that?  Sigh.  I was flailing about for no reason.  HIS truth was there the whole time – it was me that was listenening to the lies of the world instead of to HIS truths.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

 But, sometimes the volume of the world can be deafening, can’t it?  It bombards us with plenty of examples of what we aren’t: thin enough, smart enough, tidy enough, our job isn’t important enough, our house isn’t big enough, and our kids aren’t good enough at sports (because that’s somehow a direct reflection on us, right?).  So how can we cast out these destructive words constantly being hurled at our heart?  God has so graciously pointed out that it really is pretty simple – we just need a bypass.

Just like a surgical heart bypass, sometimes our hearts are just too broken or too injured to continue in their current state.  Sometimes we need assistance with our heartbeat while changes are being made – changes to improve our lives and to let the healing begin.  As I cried out to Him, completely undone and broken, I heard my God’s urgency to allow Him to bypass my heart.  I was trying so hard to heal it by sheer will or by firm bravery,  that I missed the real truth God was speaking into my tangles.  Bypass. It was time – nothing I can do can drown out the lies and the hurts that had fractionated my heart.  It was time to allow God to control the weak heartbeat of my injured heart and do the work that needed to be done.  We can’t operate on our own hearts can we?  Then why do we try so hard to?

Yet, while God does His work, I have mine.  TRUTH.  Earmuffs to drown out the lies have been strategically placed over my under-construction heart, and Truth is being imputed into my veins.  The world tells me I am not – God proves that I am:

I am LOVED: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I am CHOSEN: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

I am NEVER ALONE: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:5-6

I am SAFE: “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him.” Psalm 91:2

I am PROTECTED: “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you , no disaster will come near your tent.  For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:9-12

I am HEALED: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our sufferings, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

As I go before my Savior tonight, I lay His Word physically upon my chest.  The weight of it soothes my anxious heart, as I let the words penetrate and heal the damage that was done.  I remind myself of HIS truths and HIS promises, instead of what the world tries to guarantee for my life. A spirit of refreshment wells up inside me as I realize that not only will this bypass heal my damaged heart, it will correct my eternal perspective and priorities my soul has been screaming for.

 Slowly, the lies of the world fade away, along with the pains of the past, and even though my bypass is still underway, I can already feel the glimmer of that once-known peace and security only found in the very Word of my Savior.  And what sweet peace it is.

“But the LORD says, ‘Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.’ ” Isaiah 43:18-19

Jodi

Tears.

When was the last time you cried?  Do you have to think back hard on that one, or has this question caught you with puffy eyes in the aftermath?  Were your tears born of a broken, wounded heart or the overflow of pride and joy?  I would have to admit I have recently had both – and they happened on the very same day.

Oh, summer…  those three months of heat that warm my body and joints also warm my soul.  All year, I look forward to rising temperatures.  Sounds crazy, right?  But it’s in those heat waves that my body finally releases some of it’s pain and some of it’s limitations, and I am free! I am free to can everything the garden supplies (plus some).  I am free to be outside at fairs and tractor pulls and enjoy the warming rays of the sun.  Most excitedly, I am free to leave my bed that, at times, feels so imprisoning.  

Yet this summer, the pain hasn’t eased up and that freedom I long for hasn’t arrived.  Frustration consumes my heart all too often and suddenly without warning, the tears flow freely.  I cry for all I feel I have lost and for the disappointment of the unfulfilled expectations of the joys I have come to look forward to.  Anxiety wells inside me, for the release in pain was also the release my heart needed to recoup it’s weary, burden-ladened pulse. 

One morning, pain caused tears to come faster than I expected and disappointment consumed me.  Yet, there was no time to settle into their release, so I quickly wiped them away and distracted my pain.  After all, there were more important things going on that day.  That morning was the first swimming lesson for our 13 year old son. 

He and I were both nervous as we walked to that pool.  My son didn’t want to take swimming lessons and he kept begging me to not make him go.  I gently told him it was going to be easier than he thought and he is going to learn so much.  After all, I wanted him to tackle his fear and settle into the water with joy and the satisfaction of conquering that overwhelming fear.  

What followed was exactly what my heart needed to see.  Our son, who has never even had his face in the water, was swimming under water within 10 minutes from the start of that lesson.  And do you know why?  He trusted the instructor and he listened and obeyed his every word.  Even if he was scared, he took a breath and did it.  Not one word of complaining or fear came out of his mouth.  The sweet instructor just taught and my sweet son obeyed.  I cried that day.  I cried hard that day.  Yes, because my son was tackling a deep rooted fear, yet also because I understood what God was whispering to my heart.

I love how God can use the very words out of our mouths to impact us in our own brokenness.  The conversation my son and I had before his lesson rushed back to me as those flood gates released.  I understood the fears and resistance my son felt, as I felt the weight of their overwhelming burden, too.  I, too, found myself begging to not go through this.  So the tears flowed all the more.

Yet scripture reminds me that Jesus was overwhelmed, too, in the garden of Gethsemane.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Matthew 26:38.  Then Jesus, when facing a certain, horrific death, in his humanity, fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39.  Jesus showed His readiness to bear that load of suffering, and submit to the will of God.  And do you know why he was so ready to submit?  Because He knew the bigger picture.  He knew it was for our eternal redemption and salvation, which was so much larger than His momentary suffering.  He did this out of obedience to His Father, not because He wanted to endure that pain,  but because He knew it was needed to fulfill the will of God.  I can’t imagine the strength that must have taken to submit to that cross, especially knowing the immense pain He was about to suffer.  Yet His willingness to submit to God’s will overcame His human nature to bypass suffering. 

None of us want to suffer, do we?  Even swimming lessons to a scared teenager felt like suffering too intense to bear.  Yet, in my own hurts, God was promising me that it’s not going to go in vain.  He can see the bigger picture, as I could with my son’s fear.  Though I may be scared and overwhelmed, I am going to learn so much, as my sweet boy did.  Yet, the key is to obey and submit to his will, whatever that may look like.  My son didn’t second guess or complain, he just complied.  He didn’t freak out in that pool and say he didn’t want to do what was being asked of him, he just listened.  He just trusted.  He just obeyed. 

My heart needed to slow down and receive this message. Submit, comply, trust and don’t complain.  Is it really that simple?  Yet, my heart was caught in a net of dissapointment and suspended in pain and I couldn’t seem to break through.

Have you ever caught fish with a long net stretched out across a river?  Me neither, but I have watched it on one of our favorite shows.  The part that looks the hardest is getting those fish untangled out of that net.  Sometimes it takes them a while to get them free and sometimes it’s very easy.  That seems to be true with our brokenness.  Sometimes I find that my painful dissapointments are easily released back into the unknown (or into the frying pan), yet every once in a while, I have one get so tangled in my heart’s net that I can’t let it no go matter how hard I try.  

But if swimming lessons taught me anything, it’s that it’s not up to me to get those tangled hurts free.  It is God who I have to allow to untangle the pains hurled at my heart, whether that be physical pain, disappointment from unfulfilled expectations,  or emotional hurts.  And just like the fish in the nets, some are larger than others, yet the key is to hand them over to our Father and submit to His will – His perfect and peace-filled will.  It’s only there that we find the peace our hearts so desperately seek.

I’m not a swimmer myself,  yet as I submit and hand over my expectations to my Father,  I imagine Him sitting in a lounge chair with those same tear-filled eyes I had with my son, watching as I navigate through the deep waters of my pain, fears and burdens.  I imagine the smile on His face as I pop up, amidst the deep, to shout the same words my son exclaimed, “I didn’t know I could do this!  I didn’t KNOW I could do THIS!”.  

Sometimes I still cry over my unfulfilled expectations of summer and of life, yet now I can acknowledge the need to quickly allow my Savior to take hold of them and untangle the hurt they are causing.  Yes, at times I still feel overwhelmed, yet held.  I still feel broken, yet surrounded.  For I know that although Christ suffered on this earth, He served a grand purpose made complete by submitting to the will of God.  And that grand purpose saved me, it saved you, and it saved that beaming 13 year old boy in the pool.  And if my suffering can bring God glory, then I will just grab my heating pad and my Excedrin and be content to submit to His will – His perfect and loving will.  After all He’s done for me, I’m happy and honored to let His will be done.

My sweet Jesus, thank you for loving me so intensely and so personally that you could use everyday circumstances to speak to my heart.  Thank you, Lord, for always making your voice clear, and your words piercing to the wounded heart this fallen world has created.  As I crave your insight and your ways, please help me to not judge my own brokenness, but to simply hand it over to You.  When I am overwhelmed, Comforter, help me to seek your guidance.  When I am distraught, Savior, help me to seek your peace.  When tears are all that will fall, my sweet Jesus, help me to surrender to your perfect will.  Help me to rest in your grace-filled arms when this world seems too much to bear and the weight is too heavy.  And the days I can happily shout “I didn’t know I could do this!” are days that taste the sweetest.  Thank you for your unending lessons Lord, that may seem overwhelming and scary at the time, yet joyful as I am freed from the nets.  In your precious and beautiful name I pray. 

 “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:4-5

– Jodi

Overwhelmed.

This world is full of so much hurt, isnt it?  Dear friends of mine all over the country are enduring trials that are trying to consume their weary, battered hearts.  It’s so easy to get consumed with our life cirumcstances, especially when we keep taking beating after beating. It can leave us feeling broken, deflated and overwhelmed.  Sometimes, we even feel alone in our stumbling journeys and think no one could possibly understand what we are going through.  Then God sends us someone to come along side us, teach us and take care of our wounded hearts.  That happened to me, only he was in the form of a raccoon.  Sounds crazy, right?  It was.

One night we noticed a crippled raccoon eating cat food outside on our back deck.  We have all kinds of wildlife (that apparently love cat food) that crash our deck and if they don’t bother our cats or trash our things, we just let them be.  But on that night, we noticed this particular raccoon was struggling to even walk.  He only had two good legs – one in front and the opposite one in back (because God is gracious that way).  He hobbled to eat and hobbled away.  Every night after that, he would appear, yet each night he looked more battered and bruised than the day before.  Chunks of fur would be missing and deep wounds would be evident. One evening, we even thought he had lost his eye in a battle, yet when the swelling went down, we could see that it was, indeed, still there.  We grew fond of the raccoon and lovingly named him Dually, in honor of his two working legs.  He even starting coming around during the day and would curl up like one of our cats.  He was enjoying the peace and security our deck brought him.

One day, we were heartbroken to see that he was now dragging himself on his stomach, using the only one good leg he had left. I don’t know how he was physically making it, dragging himself up the stairs to our deck. It broke our hearts to see him struggling just trying to move.  Eating proved to be such a challenge, also.  He would drag himself over to the bowl and eat the pieces on the ground so he wouldn’t have to lift his head.  It was so sad to see him so broken, and knowing later that night that whatever was attacking him was going to make it worse.   One evening, my sweet husband and daughter decided they needed to make a house for him – a sanctuary where he could rest and be safe from the attacks that were wielded upon him night after night.  They made some sweet memories that night as they constucted Dually’s home – memories my husband says have been imprinted in his memories forever. And this home… it turned out beautiful.

My daughter was in charge of decorating, so the front was painted with four colorful, tall flowers beside a drawn-in window (in case he wants to look out, I’m told).  The back has a huge rainbow filling it, yet the side is my absolute favorite.  You can’t see it from the sliding glass doors, so I didn’t notice it at first. My sweet daughter had carefully painted a big sign in green glitter paint on a separate piece of wood and attached it to the side of the house – it simply said Welcome.  When I asked her why she had put such a beautiful sign on a side no one would see, she explained, “That way when Dually drags himself up the stairs, he knows he is welcome here”.  And just like that, tears welled up inside me and began to fall and I could see, so clearly, what God was whispering to my heart. 

Dually’s life wasn’t easy – he was the weakest link in his world and that world was beating him down. He was overwhelmed with pain, overwhelmed with suffering, overwhelmed with fear of what lied ahead every evening. He was all alone and had no one to help him (I mean, not many people would love or help a raccoon right?). Yes, I know he’s just a raccoon, but stay with me for a minute.

That sanctuary that my loves built was screaming to my heart. You see, the very next day, Dually entered his house and has barely left it. We look out and see him sticking his head out to let the sun fill his battered face, and he even lays on his back spread-eagle, enjoying his restful shelter. Dually didn’t know rest. Yet, once he found it, the sanctuary from his overwhelming world, he never wanted to leave. Maybe he felt welcome, and maybe for the first time, peace.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with life?  I sure do. Yet, that crippled raccoon reminded me of something very important my heart had temporarily forgotten. Even though there is so much hurt in this world that can be so ugly at times, we have a shelter from our overwhelming circumstances. God’s arms are stronger than any shelter we could ever construct ourselves. Those arms withstand all storms, no matter the severity. And, when this world beats our hearts raw, there is a shelter where we can find true rest. Guess what – there is even a welcome sign for you, dear one, because He wants us to come to Him. His arms have constructed a shelter just for YOU! I’m pretty sure I know what mine looks like – it is identical to the one built out of love and tenderness that my family built for a young, battered raccoon. 

So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. Romans 15:32

One evening, my kids, while watching Dually drag himself to the food bowl, excited exclaimed, “Mom! Dually looks like you somedays!”. We laughed and decided he was my new mascot. But, as the laughter died down, I realized just how true that was and what honor that statement brought. Like Dually, I, too, feel overwhelmed with a world where survival of the fittest reigns. I, too, feel wounded and battered from all the world’s hurts and disappointments. I, too, feel alone and weary. 

Yet, even though it could take me entirely longer than the rest to drag myself up the stairs of life, I now remind myself to look for the welcome sign at the top on my restful shelter – a shelter found only in my Father’s arms. For only in His shelter, can I truly rest. No worries of the outside world are found there and on a good day, I can even lay on my back, spread eagle, in true submission to His peace – a peace only possible from the restful shelter of His arms around my overwhelming-filled life. From there, I even feel safe to poke my head out and let the Son fill my wounded, battered face. It’s a warmth unlike anything I’ve ever felt…

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25

Jodi

P.S. Please don’t worry about us and our raccoon. I am a country girl and I KNOW better than to try to pet him. I KNOW they carry diseases and we have watched him very closely for those signs. He’s just weak and worn and has dragged himself into our hearts. We love him… but from afar. ❤️

Lament.

I feel so pierced – like little tiny razor blades ripping into the smooth surface of my heart.  What do you do when you are watching your children being defeated by someone who loves them?  Tears, so many tears are falling, yet I feel so bottled up.  It’s not sitting well with my soul – I’m being ripped in two. Seeing their tears, their faces of disappointment… it’s haunting me.  God, why does it seem you have forsaken us?

Words have such power.  When spoken in love, they carry joy and strength, yet when words are spoken in anger, they are all the more unforgotten, as well as the pain that accompanies them. What do you do when all you can do is watch the aftermath of the words, the words that deflate their whole being?  Lord Jesus, protect them.  As moms, our goal is to protect our children from harm, but what then becomes of times that they are out of your reach of protection?  The momma bear in me wants to lash out and hurt back, but I know that is not what my God would have me do.  What then?  Am I called to wait? I feel I have waited enough and watched entirely too many tears fall.  What then?  Godjust whisper Your words, any words, to my seeking heart.

What becomes of a child who is chronically deflated, dehydrated of hope and joy?  I feel their pain so deep, for I know exactly what they are feeling.  I know the sharp edged sword of abuse and control and I hate the fact they also are learning that fear. Only, God delivered me from those depths, so now when I see my babies neck deep in raging waters, all I can do is weep and lay my lament at my Father’s feet.

God, my sweet Abba Father, I know you love them even more than I do, so why are you allowing this?  What could they possibly learn from all this trauma, except how to enable a sinner?  Lord, your ways are not my ways but JESUS….I can’t see the road through all this fog.  What shall you have me do?  All I hear is silence, and Jesus I need some answers. Yet… I stop to thank you in my pain.  Thank you that I can offer up all my lost expectations of comfort and my broken, weary heart.  

I have to admit, God, that this has opened up a wound that I thought had completely healed.  But God, you are my ever present help in my time of need.  Yet, why don’t I feel your presence?  I need to hear from You!

Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago.”  (Isaiah 43:18).  There is your voice, Lord!  Thank you, thank you.  Yes, yes Jesus, I understand that and I am trying, yet when those events are happening to the very ones I grew inside me, how can I not think back?  That pain has a power all of it’s own…

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;  I will never leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.  (Joshua 1:5-6).  I believe that truth Lord, yet I feel like this battle will surely suffocate me.  I know you are here, even when you are silent.  You will never forsake me, even though the Enemy plants hopeless thought in my already over-taxed mind. Yet, Lord, I  do not feel strong enough to watch those babies break.  I’m so afraid, Lord.  I can’t do this.

Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance of the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. (Exodus 14:13-14). Be still?  Lord how can I be still in all this agony and heartbreak?  That sounds easier than it is for me right now.  I know you have already fought battles for us, even ones we never knew existed.  You stand between us and storms so often, yet this time it feels like you took a step away and are letting this battle consume us.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (Psalm 34:17-18). Yes, deliverance my Lord – I am craving deliverance amidst this crushing continuous blow.  You will deliver me, yes.  I needed to be reminded of that.  You will deliver me…. Thank you Lord.

He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You make your saving help my shield and Your right hand sustains me; Your help has made me great.  You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.  (Psalm 18:34-35).  I am being trained… is that what you are trying to tell me Jesus?  But I don’t want to go to battle – I am too weary from the journey to this place.  Yet, you are promising me that you are my foundation and you even make the path wider so I don’t struggle to make it to the end.  Ok… I know you’re with me – I hear you and I truly believe you.  But, it’s not the ending I’m afraid of – its the journey to get there.  Oh, but you are broadening my path… I see what you are doing here.  Thank you.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.  (Psalm 91:14-16). You will rescue me?  You will rescue THEM?  Yes, you have protected them and Lord, I thank you for your hand of protection over their bodies, but what about their hearts?  Are you trying to draw them closer to You?  Are you wanting them to seek Your face in their trouble?

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1). I can feel my anxious heart calming Lord, and even in this dry and parched land, I can see You now.  You have wrestled with me and continually pounded my soul with your Truth and reminders of your noble character.  Thank you for loving me enough to remind me.  Thank you for loving me enough to draw me back in.

Surely He took up our pain and bore our sufferings, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:4-5). Ok…yes. This is not punishment – You sent your only Son to take my place on that cross.  You are a good God and thank you for making that sacrifice for me, for us.  

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33). I am feeling some of that peace now Jesus…. so much better than the frantic flailing I had succumbed to.  Thank you for conquering not only the world, but my breaking bleeding heart.

I am so loved by my Savior, as are you.  He loved me enough to wrestle my frantic heart back in line with His Truth.  Even in my weary, why-asking state, He answered me and He calmed my soul.  God opened up my heart to the need to pray for the lost, sin and all. Do I have total peace about this situation? No, not yet.  But after lamenting to Him my heart, my fears, my struggles, I feel blessed.  I am still broken, but I’m held. I’m weaping, yet I’m comforted. The fog is starting to lift and I can make out the lines on the road.  Oh and look – it seems the road has broadened. Good, my ankles were feeling weak today. ❤️

Jodi


Peace.

Peace.  It’s what we all strive for, isn’t it?  We want to have peace about our finances, peace about our job situations, even peace about how many children to have.  But, peace has a deeper root that is embedded in a spring of flowing, refreshing water.  It wasn’t until recently that I found that hidden spring. You know, the one that changes your life. 

My health battle has trudged on for over 7 years now, and boy have I had the 7 year itch! Honestly, I didn’t want to deal with it anymore, and the thought of dumping it alongside the road as I peeled off (in a hot rod, preferably) sounded thrilling to me! It wasn’t until I became obedient that I found it – something I didn’t even know I was seeking. Something I wasn’t sure really existed. Peace.

See, I had finally come to terms with the fact that this was the “new me” – my illnesses weren’t leaving me this side of heaven.  I had come to terms with it, yes, but did I have PEACE about it?  Did I have peace about everything in my life?  Did I have peace about anything in my life?

Life in general is stressful, isnt’ it?  Just looking at my calendar gave me such anxiety, then add unexpected days of immobility, guilt of the cancelling of plans and the unchecked boxes on my to-do list (that one really gets me) and you have the mother of all stressed out mommas!  It left me yearinging and searching – how can I overcome this stress?  All I wanted was peace.

Recently, God keeps showing me this word, peace, over and over.  He knows me and knows that I need to be hit up-side the head with Truth sometimes before I tune my ear to His whispers.  Peace.  Everywhere I looked I saw peace – I saw it but had yet to feel it.  I turned to my 11 year old one evening, the one that can see right down to your soul with just a glance, and asked her what she thought peace meant.  She cocked her head and thought for a moment, then said, “To not only be ok with what is happening in life, but to be happy about it.”  Wow.  To be happy about what is happening in our lives?  It’s not just enough to accept it, but to really be happy about the storm or trials we are living daily?  Oh, that girl has ahold of my heart.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.  James 1:2-4

On some pain-filled days, I find myself too weary to even consider being joyful in my trials.  It actually makes me kinda cranky to even think about being joyful, when pain clouds my mind and pity takes over.  It’s only when I take my eyes off my circumstances and put them on the One who has allowed it, that I start to see what this verse is resounding to my weary heart.  So that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.  I desperately wanted to be complete – to feel the wholeness of peace in my stressed-out world.  My heart cried out for the comfort and stillness it promises.  God promises us peace, but it was up to me to be obedient enough to accept it.

See, God was calling me to be obedient to the whispering of the Holy Spirit, who was beckoning me to dig deep into the word, unlike I had ever before.  I have to admit, unfortunately, reading my bible wasn’t a daily routine I had allotted time for.  Days seemed to fly by and in a split-second, my day was ending with me flopping into bed, exhausted and weary.  I wasn’t making time for my Father like I should have – like He deserves.  So, I began reading and studying and before I knew it, two hours were going by without even realizing it.  God had gotten a hold of my heart and dear one, it’s an amazing feeling!  Before I knew it, things weren’t stressing me as much – I had gained perspective on life and what was truly important.  I have learned to keep my eyes on Jesus, for there, I find peace that surpasses all understanding.  All I had to do was be obedient and listen to the Holy Spirit.  

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:26-27.

Once we have peace, however, that doesn’t mean that we can easily keep it.  Just recently, our car died and it’s either fix a car with over 200,000 miles on it, or go into debt to get another car.  We have a love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey at our house, and the thought stress of having to borrow money for a car left me stunned.  In one fail swoop, or one failed engine, peace fled my heart.  That whole day, my mind couldn’t process anything and I couldn’t even bring myself to pray about it – I was too broken over that broken car to even realize what I was doing… I was acting like Peter.

You probably know this story: after Jesus walked on water, Peter wanted to follow and walk out to Him, right over the crashing waves of the lake.  (Matthew 14:27-31). So Peter actually did it – he was out there walking on water!  Think about that for a second – Peter was getting to do this amazing thing that no one besides Jesus had ever done… until he looked away.  In those moments of locked eyes with his Teacher (a man Peter had witnessed perform numerous miracles), he was walking on water like Jesus had.  Yet the second he turned his eyes off Jesus and put them on the storm, he sank. 

I can imagine the flailing-about that occurred while Peter thought he was sinking – that is the same flailing my heart was feeling over our car.  You see, the very second Peter placed his eyes on the circumstance, a seemingly impossible one, he started to sink.  Did you catch that?  I sure did.  See, the second I took my eyes off my Savior and onto our crashing waves, my peace fled and I just knew I was going to sink.  

But I am reminded that Jesus didn’t let Peter go under.  He pulled him out, just as He has pulled me out of the flailing uncertainty my heart had succumbed to.  Matthew 14:31 tells us that Jesus immediately reached out his hand – immediately.  I wonder how long it took for Peter to notice that outstretched hand – was he too frantic looking at the waves to see it right away?  I sure was.  I was too busy looking at the waves that I missed His outstretched offering of peace – peace that came with obedience of digging into the word when a storm came, peace that comes only when I keep that steady gaze on my Jesus.  

Do you feel at peace today?  By listening to the Holy Spirit’s urgings to dig into the word,  I have found that spring of fresh, flowing water of peace in my heart.  All it took was the root of obedience and the discipline to fix my gaze on the One who can calm the seas.  The words of my sweet daughter echo in my heart and has become my battle cry in this storm – not only will I accept what is going on in my life, I will consider it pure joy, for in this storm my Jesus is proving to be faithful.  All I have to do is not look away, for in that fixed gaze, peace flows freely.

-Jodi

P.S. – We are fixing the car – no loans for us!

Trainer.

March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year!  As soon as Christmas is over, I look forward to those crazy weeks of staying up late and cheering on teams who I didn’t even pick, just because they are the under-dogs.  It’s a fun time of year watching players excel and give it all they have.  They leave it all on the court and sometimes end up getting injured in the process.  One night, a player fell, obviously injured, and I watched as the trainer rushed out.  No one called him over, he just knew he was needed.  I laughed as I asked my husband if I could get a trainer, one who would be right with me and come assist me when my body failed.  Then I heard that still, small voice whisper to my heart,  “You already have one”.

When I was younger and played sports, I was so thankful I didn’t have “those” parents who would jump up and storm the field or the court when I fell down.  They sat, watched and waited for me to get back up.  If it looked like I was really injured and needed help, the coach would wave them over and they were there to get me the help I needed to heal.  They waited for me to get back up, thus encouraging me to, and I was so thankful that they gave me that chance.  Years pass and with failing health, I am coming to learn that it’s okay to allow someone to rush by your side immediately.  He’s there anyway – I just needed the reminder to look.

I admit it – I have a hard time asking for help.  If you know me at all, you have just nodded your head and probably mumbled something about me being stubborn. Guilty!  Why is it so hard to admit our needs, our failures, our brokenness?  It all comes down to pride for me.  I’m too proud to use my cane in public if I need it that day.  I don’t want to appear weak and needy, so I would just rather shuffle my feet or even not go if it comes down to it.  However, 1 John 2:16 warns us about pride,  “For everything in this world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.”  My pride comes from the world view that I am fixed on – it doesn’t come from my Father.  I am too proud to ask for help, even though God may be trying to use someone else to be changed, by allowing them to assist me.  When we help others, we are blessed in return.  Our hearts are changed through the process of obeying, even if it’s ever so slightly, so when I don’t accept help, I am not allowing that change to happen.  So, when we fall we ask for help, right?  Yes – but we have to make sure and ask through the One that has allowed this fall to happen in the first place.  We can’t solely rely on others to help us – we have a Trainer who will storm the court on our behalf.  The best part is, whether we have noticed or not, He has been doing it all along.

I have never seen an injured player wave off the help from a trainer, have you?  The player starts telling him about his pain and where it is and what it feels like.  He is relieved when the trainer arrives and usually lays back and rests in the fact that the trainer knows what he is doing and he will help.  Chances are, that is what he has proven to do in the past.  It may hurt and it may be uncomfortable, yet the athlete knows it is what is necessary to heal.  So why do we, when our God rushes to help us, do we complain about the pain we have to go through to heal?  Our God works on a bigger picture level that we cannot understand.  He sees the end result and knows that the pain it may cause to get us there will be totally worth it when we are holding His trophy in heaven.  Remind yourself the pain is only temporary and it may be what is needed to get you back in the game of life.  I have a feeling the end result with be nothing short of the joy of a buzzer beater.

I would imagine sports team trainers have a pretty thankless job.  They are behind the scenes making sure their best player’s pulled hamstring is stretched properly, so he can get back in their biggest game of the year.  They rush out on the court, yet are invisible to all the fans, who are solely focused on the cringing face of their favorite fallen athlete.  The trainer will rush, assist, and seemingly disappear until they are needed again.  Have you ever felt that way about your walk with God?  Yes, He is there when you need Him and He gets you through the immediate need, but does it stop there? Do you seek Him out and look for Him when you aren’t in distress?  A sports trainer may only seem to appear in dire circumstances, yet he is right there sitting next to the players the whole time.  God is much the same way – He is there, right next to us, yet we are too busy excitedly watching the world unfold.  Have you taken time to look next to you and see Him watching you watch the world?  He is craving for you to turn and set your eyes to Him, and only on Him.

Our God is indeed our Trainer, if only we can turn and fix our gaze on Him, instead of our life’s circumstance. We need to accept His help, whether we have yet to ask for it.  We must allow Him to work out our sore spots, no matter the pain this may cause.  We must not forget to thank Him for the work He has performed in our lives and we must never make Him invisible in this back-and-forth game of life.  Yes, we will stumble and yes, we will fall, but with God’s help, we will rise and even be stronger for it.  For through true struggle, we learn that our Trainer is so trustworthy and ever present.  We just have to adjust our eyes to look for Him – He’s there in the midst of the battle and is ready to storm the court on your behalf.  He’s just waiting to see if you’re ready for Him.  You can do this, dear one.  I’m cheering for you – you may feel like the underdog in this world,  but I have a secret:  I have you down to win it all.

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.  Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2

Jodi

Glory.

So my blogging goes a little something like this:  I pray for God to humbly reveal what He wants to speak through me.  He, in His goodness, reveals one word that I ingest, pray over, and eventually put down in a post.  It’s really a fun process and through it, I learn more than I ever think I will.  This word, however, has ended up teaching me the most.

Glory.  God’s glory is beyond my comprehension and it is a word I say with deep reverence. But, frankly, when God gave me this word, glory, I really had no clue what I was going to say, much less stretch into a whole blog post. I honestly didn’t want to do it and started searching and trying to find a new word hidden in plain view. What did this have to do with my chronic illness journey anyhow? (Don’t you love how we question God, like WE know what is best and what isn’t worth OUR time?  Sigh.  So much yet to learn…). So, after much procrastinating and seeing “glory” appear everywhere (sometimes I have to be smacked upside the head to get it),  I started where I usually do – with scripture.  I found some great verses on the glory of God and praising His name.  Yes – He is so worthy of our praise… so, so worthy! Yet I felt like I was missing something.  Then I saw it – it practically jumped out and bit me. It was a verse that made me stop with puzzled curiosity.

Job 29:20 says “My glory will not fade; the bow will be ever new in my hand.” Ok, wait. Is Job talking about his own glory?  I don’t really know how I feel about Job having glory.  In my mind, God is the only one who should have glory, right?  You hear of athletes who are in it for “the glory” and that’s born of self-seeking, self-exalting hearts.  So why would Job, a man after God’s own heart, talk about HIS own glory?  To figure this out, I dug deeper and realized why God wanted me to study this very word. He’s pretty amazing that way.

My glory will not fade

Psalm 73:24 shows us that we can have glory – glory given by our one true God. “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” If there was one person who whole-heartedly embraced guided counsel from God, it was Job. In return, he received the strengthening glory from God, instead of the selfish glory from man, that eventually turns empty and fades. Even with all he is going through, when he says his God-given glory will not fade, I believe he is telling us that he is not exhausted in the path God has him on.  He is continuing, pushing through it all, by listening to His voice. Not only is he persevering, but it’s with vigor and strength that he drives forward. It’s not a slow walk – it’s one of a passionate, confident sprint.

The bow will be ever new in my hand
The bow is a symbol of vigor and strength, (notice a theme here?) and the fact that he gathered it in his hands says he, himself, is strong & ready to defend (or stand) for something.  Listen to what the Kiel and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament has to say about this verse:

The fundamental character of his way of thinking and acting, was a holding fast to the will of God, … and judgement and decision in favour of right and equity against wrong and injustice.

Job is holding fast to the will of God and is at the ready to defend righteousness. He is persevering and driving forward with a forceful confidence – plowing through a world full of sin, yet he remains strong.  Even in the midst of his trials, he has full trust in God, because he is listening to God’s counsel. He is ready to defend, for he knows he has the strength of his God in his hands. Well, so much for thinking this verse had nothing to do with me.

I try. I really do try to hold fast to the will of my God, yet most days are filled with too much pain to move or even think, clouding my judgement – keeping me from seeing the bigger picture of my life. I don’t know if I could even bend down to pick up a bow today. But, that’s the key isn’t it, Lord? Picking it up- that’s the first step you are calling me to take. But Lord, most days I don’t feel that confidence or strength to persevere. Most days I feel weak and febble and not worth the dust on its string. How can I gain that confidence and strength to continue when tomorrow is just more of the same? You know where God is pointing me with this? It all comes down to hope…

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah‬ ‭40:3031‬. That promise, O my sweet Lord, is what my heart needed to hear today. By simply hoping in a God that never changes, who’s character is utterly trustworthy, I can not only make it through this very day – I can SOAR. He promises me that I will not grow faint and weary from my storms, if I hope in Him. Then, I will feel His strength and His glory in all this darkening chaos of life.

After all, God has never promised we wouldn’t have suffering in our lives. I have to remind myself that from time to time, when my lack of confidence fails to pick up that bow.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.  (Romans 8:18). Glory will be revealed in us – did you catch that?  But before that glory is revealed, we have to go through some pretty rough spots, thus molding and shaping our hearts into the one He wants us to be. Sometimes, that molding is pretty painful, I know, yet He promises that these sufferings will be totally worth it! We just have to clutch onto the will of God harder than we hold onto our circumstances.  And if we fail, we take a deep breath and pick up that bow again.  And if you can’t bend down today, sweet friend, my bet is God will place it in your seeking, open hands.  

Sweet Jesus, thank you for whispering to my heart what I didn’t even know I needed to hear.  I fail Lord, all too many times, at resting my hope in ONLY you.  When the pain is too intense and the suffering great, help turn my eyes to YOU no matter the way, no matter the path you place me on.  I want to seek your will at all times and I crave to feel that confidence welling up inside me. Fill the marrow of my bones with the vigor and strength to not only survive each day, but to grow – grow deeper in You.  Help me to tap into your strength that you so freely give, if only I stop and pick up that bow. Lord, as hard as it may be, I praise you for my suffering, for You are using it to reveal Your glory.  And Your glory is much greater than my pain any day and every day.  I pray this in your trustworthy name.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. (Romans 8:17)

Jodi