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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Glass houses and feeling invisible

You know you're a writer when the best way to work out your salvation and frustration is to write or type away on a keyboard. So that's what I'm doing today.

I’ve been home from the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas, TX for three days now and I can’t shake a word phrase I shared with a few friends in describing my conference experience.

A glass house.

That’s a pretty apt description of the way I feel about most things in my life. I feel like I’m alone outside a huge glass house in which all my friends and other people are having a great time. I can see them. Talk to them. But I can’t really touch or been seen by them.

Please don’t get me wrong, the ACFW conference was incredible. It’s just my gift from God this year came in the form of haunting worship and deep conviction in my heart. Conviction that I’ve chosen this glass house and remain the reason for my own loneliness.

The big question for me is why? And, as is often the case, just getting my thoughts in print helps me to answer that question easily.


I think that’s why I stay outside the glass house and grumble about feeling invisible. Even if I long to be invited inside, it’s somehow “safer” to remain on the outside looking in from a distance.

Outside I don’t worry about making a fool of myself or being rejected. As if that hurts more than pervasive loneliness.

Since the ACFW conference, I’m beginning to wonder if that’s true. After listening to and reading about other writers’ stories on what an awesome conference experience they had, I’m starting to think I missed out because I let fear win.

That’s not to say I didn’t have some wonderful moments. Hanging out with my best friend Saturday and laughing with a few precious people Saturday night was awesome. The worship at ACFW was incredible too. As was listening to Liz Curtis Higgs and hearing the Lord speak straight to my heart.

But in truth all those things only illuminated the glass house feeling and made me see this is a theme in my life. Not a glorious realization.

Actually it’s a pretty painful one.

And one I have no idea how to fix or change.

But just in writing this, I feel a stirring in my heart. God is at work there. Doing His painful but fruitful pruning. Poking on the wounds that lies have made and asking me to bring them to Him.

Lies like I’m invisible. Which when I live like that lie is true, I create self-inflicted wounds of fearful living. Loneliness. Missed opportunities to reach out to others and love well. Those wounds spiral downward to create “proof” that I really am invisible. And so the cycle continues.

Until God says, “Peace. Be still.”

It’s scary to be still in front of a holy God who knows every thought of my heart. It seems easier to hide and pretend it’s someone else’s fault I feel alone.

But it’s not. Hiding and blame don’t change anything or help anyone.

And God’s not letting me get away with it this year. It’s been a tough year that feels like everything I’ve touched has gone up in smoke. But there is one thing that remains.


My holy, perfect, all-knowing Daddy. Who in the midst of my toddleresque blame game and hiding still reaches out His hand and draws me to Him.

One thing Liz Curtis Higgs asked us to do during one of her amazing keynote addresses at ACFW was to look in the mirror, stretch out our arms, see ourselves as God sees us, and proclaim: “Ta-da!”

I didn’t do it. Not in my heart.

And I still couldn’t even when I crawled into the safe surroundings of my family who love me so well. But God used them to keep me unsettled—their smiles and their words of love all touched that “I’m alone” lie.

My girls were so excited when I came home and declared over and over that I am the best mommy… EVER! I smiled and shook my head knowing so well that I don’t deserve that title.

But then while writing this, God brought to mind my daughters’ genuine declarations of love, my husband’s eyes that mirror his loving words, and the words and emails of friends who really do see me and really do like me.

Maybe I’m not living outside that glass house after all.

Maybe I’m not invisible.

Then God settles the “maybe” question and whispers to my heart, “I AM the God who sees. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”

That truth is true for all of us who are followers of Christ. We are seen. We are loved. Perfectly. Completely. Even when we don’t feel it.

Does hearing those words change everything? Not exactly. This year has still been hard. I still have a lot of growing up to do. But listening to the Spirit whisper to my heart that I do belong… to Him…that changes the most important thing.

My heart.

So instead of dwelling on my mistakes, misconceptions, or hiding behind glass house living, I’m going to choose to tell myself the truth. I’m going to listen to the Truth.

God says we are wonderfully made. Totally loved. Fully forgiven. His.

I think I’m ready to follow Liz’s instructions. I hope you’ll join me.

Take a long look in the mirror…

Remember Who created you and how He smiles at you…

Lift up your hands…

Agree with your heavenly Daddy and say…


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Way Back

A few days ago my best friend and I talked about "the distinguishable presence of God." Her awesome pastor had posed this question in a recent sermon: "Would you even know if the presence of God was missing from your life?"

My answer was a resounding, "YES!" Because that distinguishable presence had been missing for a while and the absence was becoming more and more painful.

That question and our resulting conversation helped me take a baby step back towards God. It helped me identify the gaping hole in my heart and put words to my huge but hazy longings.

Then came my husband’s email with an awesome devotional link and the awesome comments to my “life in the pain lane” blog. Another step came when I was teaching my fourth grader grammar. Please note teaching grammar is not on my “love to do list” but I’ve learned as much as my firstborn. On this particular day we were talking about the wisdom of journaling and how to start her school journal for this year. I said something that hit me upside my head and got me thinking. “Journaling is how I work things out. When I put words on paper, that helps me to see more clearly the things I’m struggling with. It helps me hear God.”

One more baby step back.

The next step isn’t one I am proud of. It was a huge fight my husband and I got into long distance that bled into an awful attitude towards my children. But I woke up this morning knowing I couldn’t go on like this. Living over a week without God’s presence was like going a week without water. I was parched. And I knew what I had to do.

I journaled. Not just my thoughts, but also my sins. I knew I’d blown it big time with my girls and my husband yesterday. I didn’t want a repeat performance. The only way I knew not to was to run to God.

So I did.

I confessed my sins and the lies I’d been listening to for months now. Lies like I’m a failure as a writer, a wife, and a parent. Lies like God doesn’t love me because if He did I wouldn’t be in this much pain.

Those lies might sound silly in the light. But let me tell you, they’re powerful in the dark just buzzing around in the background of life.

I quickly rejected those lies and stood against the one who provoked the discord between my family and me. What the enemy obviously meant for evil, God clearly meant for good.

It was my path back into His presence.

God knows me so well. He knew I couldn’t teach my daughters well or sit before my students on Sunday and teach about a God I wasn’t talking to or trusting. So He reminded me of that and offered His full attention as I poured out my heart.

Then He spoke. A few short whispers to my heart. Two Bible verses. One about Him being with me always and the other about why my sin didn’t surprise Him. You know that verse about how there’s none of us righteous, no not one? Well, me in my sheep-likeness had wondered far from that truth.

I’d acted as though I deserved God’s forgiveness and had dismissed my sin being part of the problem ~ not exactly calling it righteous anger, but understandable anger that anyone would feel given the awful circumstances I was in. I’d also thought I could demand His healing because I’m His child.

So He had to remind me that HE is the Father and I, being His CHILD, have SO MUCH to learn.

God also reminded me that His smile is on me too.

I cried and cried. In the midst of the tears, I savored His presence return to my life.

I later talked things through with my husband and children and sought their forgiveness. They are so amazing to be so quick to forgive me and love me.

Then I blew it again with one of my girls over some schoolwork.

But I could sense God’s presence and I cut my words off before another fight kicked into overdrive. I prayed with my girls and talked with the one I’d been harsh toward. Afterwards we both agreed that had gone better and we’d resolved it far quicker than times in the past. We’re both growing. I wish I grew faster. And I wish I’d never feel anger again.

But I’m a sheep. So says God’s Word. I don’t care for being equated with a dumb, forgetful animal. But the analogy fits. I’m just thankful I have a Good Shepherd who knows the paths I travel and when I falter, He’s there to lead me home.

My prayers are still for relief from the pain and for circumstances to work out the way I’d like. But with the return of God’s presence, I’ve experience something I haven’t done in many months…


And my prayers are slowly turning onto a little different trail. More along the lines of, “Keep me walking close to You, Daddy. Help me remember.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pain lane comments

I have read and reread the amazing comments posted to my last blog. Coupled with an Oswald Chambers devotion my husband sent me today, I’m starting to gain some footing.

The title of the Oswald Chambers devotion was “Going Through Spiritual Confusion.” Pretty appropriate for where I am.

“There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you…Stand firm in the faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing.”~ September 12 My Utmost for His Highest

Maybe what has me at a better place is just the permission to “be” from this devotion and loving friends’ words. That alone is gold. But it’s also the realization that I’m not alone in the experience of pain and the spiritual confusion that has followed.

Knowing that I’m not alone in making it to the other side is also huge.

I’m not on that “other side” yet. It doesn’t feel like I’ll get there soon either. But for today, right this moment, I can say I’m okay because I know I’m loved. I’m prayed for. And even though God feels distant, I know He is not.

Special thanks go out to…

My husband~ thanks for loving me when I’m acting far from loveable. Your prayers, words, and emails are helping chip away at the walls I’ve allowed to surround my heart in recent months.

Kirstin~ your honest openness blows me away. I do remember when you couldn’t sing “Jesus Loves Me” and when someone showed up at your door with that money order. Remembering those times brought tears to my eyes… something I haven’t experienced lately. It felt good to feel again. Thank you. Knowing you know well where I am right now and that you are an awesome example of “God’s grace is sufficient” gives me hope. Something I needed very much.

Sally~ I’m honored to be in such good company. Thank you for your prayers and your words borne of understanding and deep faith. Remembering that God Himself is interceding for me and that my Daddy’s lap is never closed to me were words I needed to hear.

Hannah~ your wisdom and grace far exceed your years. Thank you for reminding me “it’s okay!” and that being real is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Heather~ your hugs and prayers have spanned the miles between us. Thank you!

Sharon~ your post was one of those tangible reminders of His love that you are praying for. Thank you. You’ve listened to me spout off about life and writing stress and returned to me abundant grace and encouragement. God is most definitely in your words.

Kaye~ thank you for permission to do the very things that so many think are “unspiritual” but are in truth total honesty. I love Job and appreciated the reminder that Job’s honesty before God was commended. God knows our hearts anyway and trying to hide that helps no one.

Even without answers or a reprieve from the pain that I’ve been hoping would come sooner than later, just typing those thank you’s reminds me of how much I’ve been given.

Thank you.

For the prayers.

For reading here on this blog.

And for caring.

Not only that, but also for being living stones of remembrance, a gift of encouragement. How powerful are good words spoken at just the right moment!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Life in the pain lane

Okay, goofy title, but a pretty apt description of how I see life right now. And it’s not just physical pain either, but something much deeper. Something that goes down to the roots of my religious thinking.

I'm starting to doubt God. Not His existence. But His goodness.

It didn’t bother me much to question God when I was a teenager. Or even as a young adult. I’d spout off my doubts to anyone who would listen and engage in an array of conversations, often coming away thinking I’d learned enough to make me feel okay.

But now my circle of influence grows larger than the student crowd at a university college. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, writer, and leader in community and writing groups. Were I to spout off the venom I feel growing inside, I’d do more hurt than I want to imagine.

Responsibility and years of Bible reading press in on me. But it doesn’t change the pain in my heart. And in all honesty, I don’t really want to talk it over with God. I know that’s the only place to find peace.

But He’s also the One allowing a whole host of painful things in my life.

Career challenges for both my husband and me. The great unknown with enough to know things could get rocky fast. Financial stress. Marital struggles under all the pressure. On top of that, in the past month I’ve been through a host of what I thought were “old people” tests to see why I’m falling apart at the seams. From EKG’s to x-rays to being zapped and bleeding from an EMG that tested the nerves in my arms and hands, I feel like crying “UNCLE” and not waking up until all of this pain is gone.

Which won’t be gone unless God decides I’ve had enough and starts healing the things I’ve begged Him for years to heal. I wish I could say with Job “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” Or that I could agree with the apostle Paul’s outlook and rejoice in my weaknesses.

But I’m not.

Some days I can’t even think straight because my blood sugars are so out of whack and I’m exhausted from not sleeping well. Usually I journal or type through my foggy mental state or questions about God, but now that’s another painful reminder of why I’m struggling with God’s goodness.

How is it good that my arms and hands are numb and painful because of carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel and I struggle to do the simplest of things I know I’ve been called to do? How is it good that I have yet another chronic illness that makes eating or not eating like a volcano erupting in my abdomen?

Maybe those are the wrong questions.

But my heart can’t get past them right now. Especially when I consider that my flawed genetics are going to set my kids up for serious physical issues in the future.

I know we live in a fallen world. I’m just struggling with how hard that world is falling on me right now.

I wish I had some insight to share or even a line of wisdom. But I’m empty.

The few people I’ve talked to about all this have repeated to me words I’ve said to other discouraged folks. “Run to God.” “God is a perfect Comforter and will heal your heart when you turn to Him.” I felt those words as truth when I said it and I’m sure my friends did too.

But those sentiments are hitting brick walls of confusion and doubt.

Then I think about my daughters. How will I teach them about God’s love if I don’t believe in it? How will I teach my seniors at church the Truth of God’s Word when I don’t even want to open it right now?

In typing that I recognize the stirring within me. I can’t teach if I don’t believe. And teaching is so much a part of who I am I can’t imagine not doing it. I love my girls too much to really consider walking away from God and leading them down a very wrong path.

God designed me that way. He gave me my children and my class of students knowing I’d come crashing into this construction area time of life. He also made me love the truth so much that I can’t escape it or put on a “Christian mask” until I “get over” this struggle.

So what do I do? I suppose in writing this and posting it, I’m taking the first tentative step out of what feels like a gaping black hole in the road.

I’m admitting my struggle. And I’m asking for prayer.

Last night my older two daughters hugged me before going to bed and said, “I’m praying for you.”

Then my youngest daughter crawled into my lap and looked at my red eyes. “You sad?” she asked.

“Yes” I said swiping at my tears.

She looked straight in my eyes and sighed, “I sorry, Mommy. I love you.”

Thinking back on that now I’m wondering if that’s not the key out of this quagmire of doubt.

To remember I’m loved. Not just by my kids, but by God.

Even if what He’s allowing in my life is beyond what I want to bear, His Word says He loves me. Maybe that’s what I should ponder instead of questions without answers.

God sees the end from the beginning. Maybe, just maybe, there is a good reason He’s allowing all this pain. Construction? Tearing down everything so that only what is immovable remains?

Maybe. The Bible sure says to expect that from life. Not sure why it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around sometimes. Or to willingly accept.

Pray for me, will you? That I’ll have ears to hear and a heart open to whatever God says is best for my life.

I’ll pray that for you, too.

Hopefully together we can remind each other to hang on to the Truth. No matter what God’s “best” brings.
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