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Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Mom's Greatest Gift

There's one thing the Lord consistently uses to touch my heart when nothing else will— My three pint-sized princesses. Through them, He shows me more of His heart and more of my need for Him.

My girls greet me with hugs and kisses and tell me I'm, "the most beautifulest and wonderfulest mommy in the world" even when I feel every bit the opposite. A precious glimpse of His unconditional love.

When their sad eyes water because of the hurtful lies they believe when I speak harshly, God uses those little faces to drive me to my knees and back to Him.

When I want to hide from the world because of all the pain and unhealthiness I see "out there" and in me, my little girls smile and tell me that when they grow up they want to be like Jesus and help people and tell them God loves them. Their pure enjoyment of God and desire to share Him with others reminds me that even in the bad, God is good and He has good plans.

But I have to say the neatest thing they've shown me is a picture perfect example of a truth I learned at the Smalley Marriage Intensive. I'll share two illustrations...

The first is from the day after my husband and I returned home from the Intensive. After four full days of not seeing our girls, we went into each of their rooms together to say good morning. We shared a little of how God answered their prayers in that He was working in our hearts and healing our marriage. My oldest daughter's eyes danced while we talked. Then when we were done, she jumped from her bed and hugged us at the same time~ a very long and tight hug. Our middle daughter had the same intense reaction and added, "I'm so happy you went and that you're home." Our youngest wiggled with smiles.

My girls all danced with hope that God was indeed healing their mommy and daddy's hearts. I will always treasure the look in their smiling eyes. Eyes full of joy, anticipation, and brimming over with love.

Another illustration is from a few days later. As the girls and I settled back into our everyday routine, I shared many of the things we had learned at the intensive. We talked about living out of fear and how to get out of that fear cycle by running to God and asking Him what's going on in our hearts. Then asking what He says about the heart messages.

One morning's chaos gave an opportunity to put into practice what I'd been teaching. My oldest spent the morning talking over people, talking when she was supposed to be working, and not giving anyone else a chance to speak. I pointed out her demand to be heard was coming out of a heart wound. She looked at me with sad eyes and said, "I don't think anyone will listen to me. I'm afraid people will think I'm not good enough to listen to."

My heart hurt. We sat on our couch and I asked her when was the first time she could remember feeling that way. She talked about me yelling at her years before over a handwriting assignment. I listened and my heart broke for the pain I'd opened her up to with my unhealthy way of handling stress by yelling. After she finished sharing her memories, I suggested she head up to her room and grab her teddy bear and talk to God about all that hurt and ask Him what the truth was.

She went to her room and the crying I heard nearly shattered my heart. She bawled and bawled. I bawled with her downstairs, but didn't go try to make it okay. I knew God could do a better job than I could.

When she came down we talked about her hurt. I listened and cried with her. I shared how I was so wrong to yell and how sorry I was that she hurt. We talked about the lies she believed when I yelled. The lies that she was “not good enough” or “not worth listening to.” I asked her to forgive me for yelling. She did. She went on to share what truth God spoke to her hurt. "He told me that He loves me no matter what I do."

Such simple truth shone from her eyes. I knew she'd heard the Lord and He'd worked in her heart. But what she shared next, I will forever treasure in my heart. My oldest looked at me and with tears in her eyes said, "Thank you, Mommy. I'm so glad you went to that marriage thing." She hugged me with a fierce hug and skipped away.

I sat there awed by what God had done in my heart and in hers.

In my daughter’s eyes and thanks I saw an amazing truth: The greatest gift I can give my children is my own health.

Without getting with God to heal my heart, I could not have helped my daughter learn how to run to God.

Without being healthy, I could not have heard her pain, cried with her, and asked forgiveness.

Without God’s healing in my heart, I could not have shown my girls what Christlikeness looks like in skin and bones.

And without both my husband and I receiving the healing that only truth from God brings, we could not have shown them the power of forgiveness, the picture of Christ and the church in marriage, or given the gift of a healthy home.

All these things will aid them well in their walk with the Lord. They won’t have to spend thirty plus years wondering around in a desert of longing and pain with hurts and lies from the enemy filling their hearts. Those lies that constrain us like the grave wrappings Jesus commanded taken from Lazarus when He raised His friend from death.

My girls will have to make their own choices as they journey with the Lord. My heart health won’t prevent them from experiencing pain. But living from a whole, full, and healthy heart will show them how to handle that pain. It will show them truth not hidden by an unhealthy life.

And we know as absolute fact, “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

That’s the greatest gift of all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Welcome Home

Every step I take in this long, ornate hallway lined with knights in armor causes my heart to beat a thousand times faster. Picture Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast spouting off details about the rich Rococo design and the history behind each tapestry. Only I'm not being taken to a room and treated to dinner. I'm going to see a King. Behind the heavy door at the end of the hall, a King sits on his throne dressed in fine purple robes.

A King who holds my future in his hands.

I smooth my dusty brown peasant's cloak and pray the King is in a good mood. Today I have come with the sole purpose of delaying my family's inevitable residence in the King's dungeon.

The grand door opens and I hobble my way forward to bow before the throne. Only I trip before I reach the bottom step and find myself on my face. From my humble position I squeak out a hurried plea for help.

I hear in response that I owe the crown far more than I can pay this month. Or, truth be told, in the next hundred years. The King then says a plethora of words I fail to comprehend. But one I grasp. Cancelled. The King's servants escort me out of the room before I can gush my thanks.

Good thing. I have no idea what one says to thank a King. I hurry home to share the good news and my plans to work harder and repay this King's kindness. He was so good to spare us the fate we knew awaited us all.

Everyone in our little cottage agrees to help. Even the smallest child promises to work hard to do all they can for this kind King. We set to work, singing as we go. On the way, a woman who I used to name a friend stops me. She's spread humiliating rumors about me going to visit the King and laughs about the details she purposely exaggerated.

"For effect, you know. Good stories require a little spice."

In her wild laughter over the lies she's spread about me, I remember she owes me money. I grab her by the throat and demand she repay everything. This will prove a quick way to lighten the burden of what I want to give the King.

Then I remember his kindness to me.

So instead, I drag her toward the castle, intent on restoring my honor by proving her wrong with the King's own words. Along the way a crowd joins us. It’s filled with others who have hurt me. Unkind words, obvious snubs, those who no longer associate with my family because of our poorer estate. They're all curious. And I intend to prove to every one that I am better than they have treated me.

I've been in the presence of the King.

As our large group is ushered before the throne, the King asks the reason for our coming. I start to answer, but my gossiping former friend speaks first. She details all the mistakes of my past, seeking to prove my unworthiness before the King.

I grab her by the throat again, intent on silencing her words. In her eyes I see the face of every person who has ever wronged me. My humiliation before the King, my hurt and pain, drives the fury of my hold on this woman.

Then in her eyes, I see a face hauntingly like my own. Not the face of my child. This is the face of a child no one claimed. A child no one listened to. A child who believed no one cared.

This face is mine.

Instead of releasing my hold, I tighten it. I want all the memories of my past wiped away forever. I want the face of this child erased from my mind. This face I rejected and have spent a lifetime running from.

I remember again the King's kindness to me. Again he speaks. But this time to the woman in my grasp.

"My precious child, you are forgiven."

I release my hold.

My former friend kneels before the King. Then she turns to me. Her eyes, the ones that minutes ago held every memory of hurt and pain and all the faces of my past, have changed.

"You are forgiven too." She says.

Before the King, in utter humiliation, I cry. I cry the tears of that little girl I rejected so many years ago. I cry the tears she never shed for all the pain that came her way. I cry the tears I refused to shed when those standing around me inflicted their hurt.

The King speaks. This time to me. "Come home, dear child. Come home."

My former friend, with eyes so like the little girl of my past, extends her arms.

I stand. Before I can talk myself out of rash action, I run into her embrace. Through my tears, I whisper, "I'm sorry." I hug her tightly and with her that little girl and all those faces that haunt my memories. In that embrace I grieve the pain and release my hold on those I had hoped would pay me what they owed.

In releasing them, I find myself freed.

The King smiles at me and draws me into his embrace. “Welcome home, child. Welcome home.”

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Think with me for a moment what that word TIME means. What phrases come to mind?

Time keeps ticking away...

Time to make a change...

Never seems to be enough time to do the things I want to do...

All of those lines are from songs that ran through my head as I started typing. Not a surprise. God often speaks to me through a song. He also speaks when I take that weird word~ TIME~ and spend it with Him. Not just time to read my Bible and pray for people. Those are good, and even vital things to do, but for me they weren’t getting to the heart of my problem this week. What I was missing was time spent really listening to God.

You see, instead of listening, I've been thinking about time: The time I’ve been waiting for editors to get back to me about articles and novels. (They haven’t yet. I’d appreciate your prayers. :-) ) The time I’ve not spent writing when I know I’m supposed to be writing. And the time I’ve been eating instead of listening to the stuff going on in my heart. Add to that all the time I spend doing “things” with little to show at the end of the day for all the energy I’ve expended.

But in the back of my mind, I knew God was brewing something in my heart that just today He opened my eyes to see.

Funny how His timing is always perfect.

So, after a lot of wasted time this week brooding over what I wasn’t getting done, I looked up the word TIME on Merriam Webster. Here are some of the definitions I found:

"The measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues." ex: The excruciating time it takes for an editor to respond to requested material.

"An opportune or suitable moment." ex: The time when a contract comes in the mail. Or doesn’t, as the case may be.

I thought these were funny: "A period of apprenticeship; a term of service; a prison sentence." Some days feel like that don’t they?

Here’s what I think of most when I think of the word TIME: "A moment, hour, day, or year as indicated by a clock or calendar."

Then, instead of listening to God, I contemplated (with self-contempt) that I have the same 24 hours a day as everyone else on this planet. Even Jesus when He walked here. How come I get so little done when others are doing so much?

The Lord, in His mercy, stopped my downward spiral of negative self-talk. But first He had to show me what I’d really been thinking (and trying to ignore that I was feeling) this week. That hurt. In fact, after taking some time this morning to read a devotion in a wonderful book for writers called Write His Answer, the Lord brought me to tears.

The devotion was appropriately picked by God for this day. It was called “Keeping Fit” and discussed how eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep are important disciplines that affect everything else I do. But what got me was the poem that talked about 1 Corinthians love for myself. Marlene Bagnull wrote:

“I must first love myself as God loves me;
Then I can love others as myself.
Love is being patient with me
When I am slow learning the lessons
The Lord would teach me.
Love is kind
It does not allow me
To compare myself to others,
To put myself down,
To punish myself for my mistakes.
Love means believing in the potential
God has placed within me
And trusting Him to bring about
My completeness in Him.”

Here I’ve been writing in this blog about spending time with God instead of hiding and learning to love yourself, and yet this past week, I’d forgotten those important lessons. Especially in regards to the time I waste thinking badly about myself.

Funny how it takes no time to forget what we so desperately need to remember.

It also takes no time for the Lord to reveal the truth when we take a few moments of time to listen.

After I read that devotion, the Lord twirled me away from the computer and plopped me on the floor with my battered teddy bear heart and a stuffed bunny in my arms and said, “Listen.”

When I finally stopped crying and confessing all the ways I know I failed this week, the Lord revealed what was going on in my heart. I’ve been believing this week that I’m a failure~ with my body, because I still have more weight to lose and even though I’m doing push-ups, I’m not pushing away the extra food. And with my writing, I’ve believed I’m a failure because my writing isn’t getting the attention I had hoped it would be by now. Strange how this comes just after my first story was published.

After that, God spoke to my heart. He spoke again the words He whispered to my heart when He began the painful process of cleaning out the heart messages and lies I’ve lived by for so long. He said, “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” He added, “I have a good plan for you, Amy. Trust Me.”

Then, as I spent some more time crying and praying and praising Him, He spoke to me through the verse He had given me seven months ago about my writing. 2 Timothy 1:9 (written and posted by my computer) says, “Father, You have saved me and called me with a holy calling, not according to my works, but according to Your own purpose and grace which You granted me in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Certain words jumped out at me. TIME being a big one. God, in His infinite wisdom and love, decided the good works He would accomplish through me (Eph 2:10), His holy calling, according to His purpose and IN HIS TIME. All BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF TIME. My work according to John 6:29 is this: “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

My work is not to run away from my feelings or what’s happening in my heart. It’s not to worry and stress about TIME and what I am or am not doing with it. It’s not even to run after good things to do for God.

My work is to sit and listen. Like Mary. To hang out with Him, wrapped in His arms, and listen to the Truth.

And believe.

Will you join me? It will be TIME well spent.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The call of God

I sat in church the other day taking notes. Some about the sermon, and some (on another notepad) about a new novel brewing in my mind. My oldest princess caught me. ;-) "You have TWO of those note pads, Mommy?" Yep. And even more in my purse, in my car, at my desk, by my bed. Inspiration strikes at the oddest of times. I'm still waiting for my oldest to invent that million-dollar gadget that will let me write my inspirations down in the shower. :-D

But I digress.

On my second notepad when my little girl caught me writing book ideas, I was also writing a prayer for an unmarried couple in front of us at church. The degree to which the young lady was into this gentleman caused my heart to cry out for her. The degree to which she missed that he wasn't as equally into her touched a spot in my heart that stings, even after ten years of marriage. I remember longing for someone to love me with that same intensity. I remember snuggling up close and believing that relationship was all I needed. Unfortunately, I wasn't safe in that because my longing wasn't really for that person, it was for them to fill me. And no one could.

So I hid. I hid from the truth that no person could fill that need by trying over and over to find someone who could. In time, I learned to live with the guilt of being "too much" or "too needy" and move on after one more relationship crumbled under the strain of that bottomless well of need.

Watching that cycle continue in the couple at church Sunday, my heart longed to reach out to them and share the truths that took me over ten years and many tears to learn:

"No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first." Oswald Chambers

"We are not wrong to think we desperately need to be loved. We do. Our need does not constitute anyone else's call but God's" Beth Moore

What I've finally received in the deepest part of my heart and am learning to walk out of is that my cavernous need to be loved will be satisfied first in God.

Or it won't be satisfied at all.

Like the young couple at church, I can be so into someone, hoping they will make me feel loved. And sooner or later that person will fall under the weight of that call to love me. Or I can do the flip side and try very hard to fulfill that call to love someone else. And sooner or later, I too will fall under the weight of a burden I can't begin to carry.

A better option by far is to realize my need to be loved is the call of God.

He calls me to come to Him.

Come to be loved.

Come to be filled.

Come to be forgiven.

He answers the deep call of my heart and satisfies me to overflowing. Then He sets out with me to proclaim that truth. To call others to the amazing love that awaits them in the presence of God. To love as Jesus loves.

But before I can love with a safe love, I have to find my fill in Him.

And then, only then, can I go and love likewise.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The eyes have it

I once heard a writer speak about eyes being a person's most attractive feature. Phrases like "bedroom eyes" and having a "come hither look" or the oft-quoted saying about the eyes being a window to the soul seem to agree with that theory.

I recently read another interesting theory about eyes. This article boldly stated that our eyes are the most important communication device we have. Think with me for a minute about this.

What do haughty eyes look like? Can you picture it? I can.

What about crying eyes? I imagine we have all seen those in the mirror at one time or another.

What about when someone's eyes light up at your arrival? I love how my girls' eyes dance and smile when I walk in the door after being gone for a while. And recently, how my husband's eyes look when we talk. They're alive with depth and interest and affection. That feels incredible.

I also checked out to see what God's Word has to say about eyes. There are over five hundred verses that speak on some aspect of eyes.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because in a recent conversation the topic of God's eyes came up and I started thinking a lot about what God's eyes see. Proverbs 15:3 says, "The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch..."

God's eyes saw me before my first breath.

His eyes watched my first step.

My first tear.

My first soccer goal.

My first kiss.

And everything in between and after.

Uncomfortable thought?

For many hiding, hurting hearts it is.

Realizing that God has seen everything I have ever done used to make me cringe with shame. Then I felt sad. As I've spent some incredible time this past month hanging out with God in a special place, talking to Him about heart messages and all the painful ways I've received lies about who I am, I started to feel something new.


God's eyes are always on me. They always have been and they always will be. He saw all the bad, yucky stuff of my past, and the bad, yucky stuff of today.

And He keeps watching over me. He keeps loving me.

A conversation I had with my wonderful husband drove this point home. As we were talking about all the stuff we were bringing into the light and talking over with the Lord, he made a comment about shame and how it used to consume him. Then the Lord reminded him that He was there in it all. God saw it all.

And He forgave it all.

Ponder that a minute. God’s eyes see the bad and the good, the stuff in the dark and in the light. And He loves.

His eyes don't condemn. They aren't haughty.

God's eyes smile.

They laugh.

They shine out the love He has for us.

I think the most awesome thing about God's eyes is that they see all.

And what do His eyes have?


And love.

For you.

Can you see it?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Borrowed Hope

At the Smalley Marriage Intensive we attended in early March, one of the counselors said something that set the course for our time together. He said, "We've seen miracles and I want you to borrow the hope we have because of what we've seen."

I did.

And God more than restored my hope. He's truly healing my heart.

I've already shared some about the fear cycle we all dance around in and the way of escape through personal responsibility, taking care of your heart, and hanging out with the Lord. I'd like to elaborate a little more on what all that looks like and add another vital part of the journey... forgiveness.

All too often, we’re rushed to forgive before we've really done the necessary heart work with the Lord first. It's like pouring water into hard-packed and rocky soil. The water alone doesn't make the seed produce a crop because there’s no place for roots to take hold. In the same way, trying to pour in truth about your value from God and apply the Scriptures about forgiveness when your heart is full of rocky lies and hard-packed heart messages yields little fruit. (Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23)

We live out of what we believe.

And we believe what is written on our hearts.

When our hearts are full of messages from the enemy, lies about who we are, we will live our lives doing the dance of fear and inviting people to join us at every turn. Forgiveness will remain a brass ring we keep missing every revolution around the carousel.

There is a better way.

It starts with realizing it's your job to get out of the fear cycle. Don't go down the dead-end road of "If he or she would just change, everything would be better."

No it won't.

Because if your heart is still full of the enemy's messages, you'll just keep dancing to the tune of fear.

You see, the enemy knows who we are and fears us. So it's his effective plan to keep us in the cycle of fear, adding more and more messages and wearing us out as we try to live according to God's Word but fail more than succeed.

Come, borrow my hope, and learn a new dance.

Step one: Run to God. When you realize you're starting to dance to the tune of fear, step out of the fear cycle with its ineffective coping mechanism, like anger and avoidance, and climb up into your Heavenly Father's lap.

Ask, "What's written on my heart, Lord?"

In other words, when you get alone with God, let the story of your heart pour out. Acknowledge the offenses against you and the pain you feel, then ask God to identify the heart messages. Ask what the hurts and memories say about you. Together drag the messages out into the light.

Remember, it's your job to attend to your heart. It's you and God ~ that's a powerful combination.

One caution: Don't should yourself. Let go of the "I shouldn't feel this way." "I should have known better."

Ask the Lord what's going on in your heart. Don't try to figure it out. Because any time the mind and heart skirmish, the heart always wins. You will live out of what you believe in your heart, not what you think you should believe.

Step two: Hang out with the Lord. Feel the pain that you stuffed into the dark box along with the messages the enemy scribbled on your heart.

Picture yourself as a child nestled safely in the Lord's arms.

And listen.

Ask God what He says about you, what He sees. Ask your Heavenly Daddy what He values about you specifically.

Then listen closely. He has a beautiful song to sing about the wonder and joy He feels toward you, His dearly loved child. (Ephesians 5:1; Colossians 3:12)

Step three: Do good self-care. Remember the two greatest commandments. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."

Love and take care of yourself. It's the best gift you can give to the people around you.

Guard your heart. Take care of your bear. Get full by doing things that fill you up emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. When you do, your heart will overflow. That kind of life won’t come from all the striving you do to give and serve, but from the fullness of your heart, streams of living water will flow.

Step four: Forgive from the heart. When you've spent time listening to the Lord reveal the lies you've lived from and then sing His truth in their place, forgiveness flows naturally. A heart cleared of the enemy’s rocky messages and full of the Lord's truth no longer needs to keep a strangle hold, demanding repayment from those who have wronged it. A full heart lets God heal the hurt and take care of the hurtful person in His way and in His time.

A full and forgiving heart also comes to the place where it can pray like Jesus, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing."

Be aware, this is the hardest journey you will ever encounter. But it's also the most fulfilling.

It's what you were created to experience.

Intimacy. Fullness. Abundant life. Forgiveness.


You can have the Life you long for in your heart.

Please feel free to borrow my hope like I borrowed hope from the wonderful people at the Marriage Intensive. In borrowing their hope, I found my own.

And it's awesome!
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