My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears 
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

      I hadn't heard this in so long until Saturday and it keeps playing in my head, bringing back old memories. It's an old hymn that showed me God was real when I was very little--a theme song in Vacation Bible School. I think that's where my faith---my real faith began. I didn't understand it all but somehow I knew He was there for me and I could bring all my secrets to Him. Maybe that's why I'm still such a cheerleader for VBS--God always shows up and you never know when He may make all the difference for even one single child... That summer, we were outside for VBS closing. Seemed like there were yellow flowers everywhere...or at least that's what I noticed--cannas, gladiolas, marigolds--all yellow. (Yellow flowers are still my favorite!) The memory of it is so clear, I can almost smell their fragrance! The day was sickening hot, with just a little breeze and I already wasn't feeling well at all but I was too shy, frightened, and maybe ashamed to tell anyone why. Traditional church, traditional VBS, traditional song... We always sang every verse (those printed in the hymnal anyway). The week was focused on the Creation Story. I knew God made all this amazing yellow!... On to verse 2...

This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.

     Being so young, I'm not sure how I knew but as we sang, I could feel Him...hear Him. I suddenly realized He was real--not just a story.This was HIS world and He talked to me even if I wasn't big enough or good enough. I wonder if that's the first time I felt the Holy Spirit--the Comforter. Though I couldn't put it in words then, I sometimes felt so alone and those words hit home that day. Suddenly I wasn't alone..But He had something even more significant He wanted me to understand that day as we sang the next verse...

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done...

     If someone had asked me to explain what that meant back then, I couldn't have done it but I knew somehow. Then I'm not sure I cognitively understood what was wrong, but my heart did...And these words were what I needed as if God said, "It's okay, I know everything and it's gonna be okay...I'm here in every moment, good or bad..."

      He stood against evil and despair while I just fought to survive. David's words never rang more true: "You O Lord are a Shield around me; You are my Glory, the One who hold my head high..." - Psalm 3:3
     So young and innocent in so many ways, I didn't know what "should" have been--just how life was. Circumstances didn't change then, but God changed me that day...He gave me something I could hold on to even if I couldn't grasp exactly what happened. Thank God for that childlike trust that God would be God---no room for doubt. My faith took form in that moment--not finished or perfect, but I was (am) the Potter's clay... If I was older, I would have found every argument why He shouldn't or couldn't care. As a grown up, I struggle to trust Him always. It makes me understand why He said we should come to Him as little children...I think trust is innate and we "learn" NOT to trust as we get older and life (not God) deals us blow after blow. By human standards, we have every reason to give up. Yet God continually leads us back to Him....He was all I had then and He brought me to where He's all I have now...We didn't have verse 6 in our hymnal back then but today--all grown up--I am reminded of the peace in His presence as He reveals Himself in the beauty of the spring season...Breathing in the fragrance of new beginnings...In so many ways, I am still alone--empty nest, divorced, still healing...yet somehow content in anticipation of the future. He is my home...
This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze
God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not, my heart is still at home.

     Thank You Lord for revealing Yourself to me when I needed You most way back then in VBS and even today. You are still my Shield. Sometimes memories are hard to bear but I love when You remind me how great is Your love. I am eternally grateful that You whispered to Paul as he prayed so many centuries ago even for my fateful childhood moment when my roots grew down deep as Your love surpassed my childhood knowledge. His prayer is precious to me...

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:17-19

THIS IS MY FATHER'S WORLD is public domain....Words & Music by Maltbie B. Babcock

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walking in High Heels AND High Hopes

Last night, the Regional Crime Victims Crisis Center hosted "Walk a Mile In Her Shoes" to raise awareness to violence against women, sexual assault and such crimes. Most of our Mission Abilene staff participated (Anthony  wimped out---oh, well actually, he was doing the dad thing instead so we'll excuse him this time...). It was a riot...all these macho men walking down the street in high heels and smiling about it! Terry even gave a grand gymnastic performance--he tried to somersault part of the way. Gymnastics weren't so great but he gets a 10 for getting up and finishing the walk in his pretty mint green summer sandals. The camaraderie between these men as they all did something together none would likely do alone was a sight to see...And an example of what it takes for women to overcome rape, sexual assault,  molestation, or domestic violence. We overcome...we press on arm in arm with those who "walk" with us. 
   Last night was a light-hearted fun event with lots of laughs and even a humorous speaker with a significant message. And that's what it should be--an event that if fun but passes on a significant message. Of all the men in the "parade" last night, I know at least two men who participated who go above and beyond in protecting, supporting, and/or bringing justice to women and children who are victims...And there's absolutely no doubt there were a few more, though I don't know their names. In confirming the "invitation" to walk in heels, those two men undoubtedly agreed (Chad agreed for the whole staff. Lol!) with reverence to the  women and child victims they have seen in their life and work experiences. 
     I wonder if each man who walked took a minute before, during, or after to recognize that as they walked or stumbled down the street in heels, they could put themselves in one  woman's place--a woman who was raped, molested, beaten with either words or fists, burned, stabbed, shot, or murdered. Each man who stood in heels stood up for thousands of women who couldn't stand up for themselves. I wonder if those men realize how empowering that is for these women. When women live in abuse or hide in the shame of rape, they begin to think they deserve it or that it's "normal."  And though we hear the right things from all the right people, there is something more we get when a man says with all emotion or heart that this is not right, it needs to stop, and most of all, that we don't deserve it. 
     I remember the first time a man (a gentleman in all sense of the word) showed anger toward violence against women or children. But even more, his frustration was more because I didn't realize I didn't deserve it. Honestly, I was totally stunned. I didn't understand it mattered so much before. I remember it so well because that very moment was my first glimmer of hope. He was significant because I respected him so much--I needed to hear it from someone I trusted. This was the moment I began to gain the courage and will to overcome the shame of it though I still had a long journey ahead. For years, I had heard all the right words from others about violence against women generally speaking. It was for everyone else, not for ME. I truly needed to hear this from one who had already proven he wouldn't give up on helping me believe in myself.  And one who was seeking nothing to gain for himself...This man didn't give me sympathy or pity--he gave me first of all, respect--then strength, power, and most of all HOPE to be more than I believed I could be...
    So for all of those men who walked last night...I give you my greatest respect and gratitude. Last night, through your actions, you said, "Wounded, abused, beaten woman...You don't deserve this."  By your silent words but loud actions, you gave victims courage to stand up for themselves. You have given them a voice to speak out with hope. In my opinion, you are all men above other men (literally too, in your new shoes! Lol!) because you didn't just walk in high heels...You walked in high hopes that violence of any kind will stop.  And more than anything, you gave that hope away to any woman--any victim--who is ready to step out of her shoes of shame into high hopes. That's worth much more than you know...May you be especially blessed!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Letting Go

     I'm sitting at the hospital at 4:00 a.m. with a friend....again. I've been here with her all too often lately. Basically, her choices land us here time and again for various "reasons" but the true initiator is the same. Life is beyond her control and she's crying for help. Sadly, when "help" arrives, she realizes it means sacrifice on her part and she refuses it again. When it comes right down to it, she hasn't been willing to let go of the old habits, old wounds, and old coping mechanisms that defeat her. She wants change but only on her terms...In other words, she wants someone to save her from herself. Lord knows, we've tried! And God has reached down to save her so many times,but she cuts the tether to every life raft thrown to her. 
     I keep hoping that this time will be different. Something will happen. That others with more legal authority will see the bigger picture and realize her deeper need...that someone will do what we can't do for her. And my heart breaks realizing that even so, it's still all up to her and I'm not sure that she wants change that badly yet. She won't let go of her safety zone ( though not so safe). She can't trust God enough to let go of her fears and her past failures. This whole situation leaves me powerless and frustrated. I watch her life continue to decline...I encourage her, offer resources, and tried and true methods so that she can get her life together (we all do) all to no avail because it means SHE has to give up what she always known for a life that's uncertain even if that means better. I hurt for her. Maybe I'm a little angry with her or with God--I'm not sure which--for allowing the circumstances of her life to defeat her.
     She has no family but a few of us in the church have embraced her as our own. We ARE her family. We've done all we can do. We've provided for her, protected her, cried with her, laughed with her, walked her through devastating grief, prayed with her and prayed FOR her even harder.  I, for one, have spent many many hours in this very same emergency room with her. We've gone the second mile in so many ways. Sometimes maybe we've helped too much. But the truth is, most of us would do it all again...though a little wiser this time. At this point, her welfare and future are out of our hands (as if it ever were). There's nothing left for us to do. It's all up to her. By society's standards, we have every right to walk away but we can't--I can't. She's not just a project or a ministry. She's a beloved sister in every sense of the word. As I sit here and think of the years that have past and the struggles we've faced together, I'm depleted. As she sleeps now unaware, I sit here in tears wondering what happens next.  How far does she have to fall before something changes? 
     Even as I ask myself that question, I realize the greater truth....Just as she has to let go of her old habits, fears, and memories, I have to let go of her.  Let go and let God.  He alone can do what none of us can. I can talk till I'm blue in the face but He can whisper to her heart. My job is to love her right where she is--in whatever state she's in--and let God do the rest. Maybe this is a test of faith or mercy for me. Maybe He's still teaching me what true surrender means....all my life and will. "ALL" goes beyond me. I have to surrender those people I love most too...and those I hate the most for that matter. 
      We've been looking at Jesus' final words the last couple of weeks in church. I've looked beyond the sermons and right now, I can't help but think of those very last words before He took His last breath. "Father, into Your hands, I commend my Spirit." (Luke 23:46) I know what He wants from me. Another translation makes it even clearer. "Father, I place my life in Your hands."  
      I can't imagine being Jesus at that very moment. I can't imagine taking my final INNOCENT breath as He did, unjustly dying the death of the worst criminal, yet surrendering Himself to the cross and God's will.  He trusted His Father with His own life and with the sins He bore which were not His own. In His human state, Jesus trusted God with the outcome. I need to do the same with my precious broken friend.  I want to be more like Him--to be that strong and that weak at the same time as I take my hands off or her and any circumstance I face and give God room to do what I can't. Do I trust Him enough?  Oh, there's that word again...Enough. That's what surrender is I guess...trusting Him enough. Trusting Him to take her all the way to completion not just part of the way or where I leave off. I have to trust Him enough to let her go. Do I trust Him enough to keep loving her even if circumstances remain the same and she never changes? Do I trust Him enough to accept His way even if it means I lose her? It's a prayer I should have prayed more fervently from the very beginning with all my heart and not just my words. I hesitate even now knowing that the way to God's answer may be difficult as I surrender this one I love so much.  "Lord, whatever it takes...I place her life into Your hands."