The Scouring of My Heart.

For almost as long as I can remember I have thought of myself as tough.  When I was a child I had a few experiences of bullying, but I silently refused to allow them to make me feel badly about myself.  When I made a bad decision as a young adult, I stiffened my spine, and did what I felt needed to be done to rectify the situation.  When I learned that  blindness was only the tip of the iceberg for my first born, I got down on my knees and taught him how to crawl, how to walk, how to sign.  When my first husband left me with a three month old baby and a two year old with special needs, I pulled myself together, went back to school and did what needed to be done.

It really not my intention to give you a litany of all the struggles I’ve faced because, quite frankly, we’ve all had struggles.  The point I want to make here is that while there have been many challenges throughout my life, and even through I might have cried, and cried hard…at some point I picked myself up, took a deep breath and got on with taking care of things.  I’ve become the person people turn to when things fall apart, because I’m strong.  So what happened?

I’ve said before that God is always for us and is always working for our good.  But it has seemed, since my accident, that I can’t stop crying. I try to sing along to a song on the radio and my throat closes up.  I read a verse and the same thing happens to me.  I’ve started feeling as if God is scouring my heart…leaving me raw, exposed, vulnerable.  I can feel myself recoil at the very thought.

Somewhere in my early memories I remember being a child that cried easily.  I feel like I remember being someone who felt big emotions.  Maybe that’s just common in children.  I do know that over the years I have built many, many layers around my heart to protect it.  It’s part of our nature to want to protect ourselves…especially those parts of us that are most vulnerable, like our hearts.

On May 6th I fell off my horse.  I broke my collarbone, my thumb and did some pretty major damage to the ligaments and tendons around my right hip.  Those were all injuries I could feel.  They were injuries I knew about even as I was lying there trying to catch my breath.  But what I didn’t know was that falling off my horse that day would also put a huge crack in the wall I had built around my heart.  A wall that didn’t just protect me by keeping me safe inside…it was a wall that also kept things out.

I was in the car last week listening to my favorite radio station (Klove) when either Natalie Grant or Charlotte Gambill came on and she quoted Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  Now you might be thinking “EXACTLY! THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING!”  But that really isn’t what I was doing.  I was building a wall around my heart to protect my feelings.  To protect my “wellspring”.  But God didn’t give us feelings and emotions to protect, he gave them to us to share them with those around us. A wellspring is defined as an original and bountiful source of something.  So then you have to ask yourself, I have to ask myself…what do we want our hearts, our wellsprings to be a bountiful source of?

I remember a moment the year I met Dave.  Both of my grandmothers had passed away within months of each other.  I sat on the bottom stair in my house, overwhelmed with such a profound feeling of heartbreak and loss, sobbing as if my heart was breaking, because it was.  But it was at that very moment that I realized that it was only because of the profound love I had for those two incredible women that I was able to actually experience that sense of loss.  That was the moment I knew that I was going to put myself back out there, that I was going to take a chance and open myself up to loving again.  I knew that if I loved openly, and honestly, then any failure was not mine to own, maybe it just wasn’t mean to be.  Not two months later I met the love of my life, David.

It’s only when we let our walls down that great things can happen for us, only when we open ourselves to risk and hurt that we can really find something special.  I didn’t know I had put such a big wall around my heart, but God did and he knew that it was going to take something big to break through it.

So here I sit, and I’m not going to lie, I feel scared, feeling those emotions always there, not tucked down into a nice neat little package, or behind a wall, where I can control them.  But I trust God’s plan and I believe with all of my heart the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” 

God broke down the walls around my heart for a reason…I trust that in time he’ll show me why.  But even if he doesn’t, that’s okay, I’m still discovering all the blessings he’s hidden in my fall.

God bless,
Meredith

An Empty Well

It has been just over a month now since my accident.  I may be slower than the seniors at my grocery store, but I can walk without a limp if I concentrate and I have the cast off on the right hand, although the thumb is still pretty tender and weak.  But this week what I have been struck by is how quickly and easily our resources; physical, emotional and spiritual can be drained.

To say that I hit a wall on Wednesday would be an understatement.  I was scrapping the bottom on all levels.  I was physically exhausted, mentally exhausted and, as I was soon to learn, spiritually exhausted.  Sometimes it’s easy to hold on to our faith, sometimes it squirts away from us like a wet bar of soap.  The details of what sent me over the edge aren’t as important as the fall out…I got to a point when I couldn’t see the point, I cursed God, swore at him and decided that I was done with it all.  I was hurt and tired and frustrated and angry.  I told myself that I had just been deceiving myself this entire time about God and if there was a God then I certainly let him have it.  I wasn’t in a much better place the next morning and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I let some of that hurt and frustration and anger I was feeling spill over onto my loved ones.

I ended up in bed, in tears, feeling not just like a bad person…but like an evil one.  Within minutes I was crying out my contrition to those I had wounded, and of course, as I knew would be the case, their forgiveness was offered unconditionally.  They knew that, despite my harsh words, I loved them with my whole heart.  I had built up enough emotional currency to be able to make a withdrawal.

But for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to believe that God could forgive me.  I had sworn at him.  I had vented my unfiltered spleen at him.  That afternoon I sat there confessing my fear and my shame to David.  I was a terrible person and I didn’t deserve God’s love.  And yet, even as I was acknowledging how I was feeling, I felt a truth creep into my heart.  There was nothing my children could say that would make me turn away from them…even if they should curse or swear at me.  I was a child of God and, like the perfect Father he is, he would happily forgive me when I was ready.  He already had.

I wasn’t ready yesterday, I haven’t asked for forgiveness yet today, although I can feel it pressing down on me anyway.  But God continues to send me messages of peace and reassurance.  Every morning my phone gives me a verse from the Bible.  My verse today:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

And my reading while I was waiting for my physiotherapy appointment…”Experience shows, however, that capacities for spontaneously reacting to people and circumstances in a way that is unloving, unethical and sometimes violent remain with the holiest men all their days; indeed much of their holiness consists in resisting and mortifying such reactions, which may be evoked at any time and may take a form of which the person did not know himself (or herself) capable till it actually happened.  What the Puritans bluntly called corruptions…keep being triggered off in us by new stimuli, and humbling, shaming self-discoveries keep being made…no Christian, however wholehearted at this moment, or at any future moment, in conscious love of God and neighbor, will ever be immune to shocks of this kind, in which new depths of his or her sinful nature are disclosed.”  Keep in Step with the Spirit, by J.I.Packer

God wants me to know that I’m not alone.  That what I experienced; that overwhelming wave of negative emotions, those feelings that swept over me and carried me along in their tide, is a ride that even the most holiest of men and spiritual scholars have taken…and it’s okay.  God was there with his overwhelming and never-ending love to pick them up and dry them off and he will do the same for me.

If you have been following my blog then you know that I have had moments when I am so filled with the love of God that I can’t help but sing…but I want you to know, that as strong as my faith was, and still is…we can all fall down, we can all be ashamed of ourselves and we can all want to turn away from God.  But our Father loves us so much, he refuses to let go.  He knows our heart…who we really are, warts and all and he loves us unconditionally.  There is nothing we can do or say to make him stop loving us…and believe me, I tried.  He will forgive us long before we find we are able to forgive ourselves.  Even before we have the courage to ask him to forgive us.

When I look at my healing journey, I realize that I have started focusing more on the things I can’t do and less on the gains I am making each and every day.  It is in trying to do too much, in pushing myself to do things that I am not physically ready for, that I am draining myself physically.  It is in focusing, not on the blessings, but on the things that I don’t have that I am draining myself spiritually.  Only when I am focused on God will all of my wells be truly filled.  And of course, I have some forgiveness to ask for.

God bless,

Meredith

Just Leave Me Alone.

Have you every notice when someone else is struggling, or going through a difficult time, how easy it is to know that they need to lean on God, or to turn to God, or to trust in God? Have you also noticed that when YOU are going through a difficult or challenging time how difficult those very same things can be…even when your heart knows you should?

At times, during my recovery, it has been incredibly difficult for me to be patient and trust that this is part of God’s plan.  There have been times I have felt his hand on my heart, and instead of turning into that love I have begged for him to just leave me alone, that I can’t do this, that I’m not strong enough.  It’s been hard.

Of course God didn’t leave me alone, just as I wouldn’t walk away from one of my own children if they were suffering and in pain.  He just wraps me up in his love and waits for me.  Jesus used the image of a shepherd and his sheep often in his ministry.  And he reassured us that “no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of  my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:28-29  As a child of God, as one of Jesus’ sheep, I am always in his care, and no one, not even I have the power to make him go away.  He will always be there, watching over me, and caring for me, and protecting me.

It’s not always given to us to know why bad things happen.  What is given to us is to know that we can trust in our Father to make all things for our good.  Just as when your toddler is learning how to walk, you can’t always keep them from falling, so too will our Father in heaven be there to pick us up, dust us off and kiss away our pain.

And in case you were worried…I’m good.  That day, after telling God to leave me alone, I came home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on my kitchen counter.  They were bright, and lovely, and from my parents.  When I called to say thank you, my mom said that she just had a feeling I might need a pick me up.  GOD IS SO GOOD AND I AM SO BLESSED!  Thank you mom and dad! Thank you, Jesus!

God bless,

Meredith

Patience

I don’t think that I’m the type of person to ever be known for my patience.  I don’t particularly like to sit still, and if I am unhappy with someone in my family it is usually because my patience at that moment (right or wrong) has been exhausted.

So here I am, three weeks into my journey of healing.  I definitely thank God that it took me this long to hit the wall, because that’s what happened on Saturday…I hit the wall, my patience with everything, the pace of my recovery, with my pain, with my limitations was exhausted.  Anyone who has experienced some degree of chronic pain knows what I’m talking about.  I mean sure, if I just sit there I’m fine, but God didn’t make me a sit on the couch person.  He made me a get stuff done person, and everywhere I turn there is stuff that needs to be done!!  But this weekend I spent most of Saturday in bed.  I did nothing but sleep and cry and feel sorry for myself.  Since I’m still healing bone and ligaments, I probably needed the sleep and maybe the cry too.  But hitting the wall is never fun; physically or spiritually.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.  We’ve all had times when we look at our lives and we struggle to see how our suffering can possibly be part of God’s plan.  It’s hardest to lift up our voice in songs of praise in the middle of a storm.  It’s hard to feel his presence in our lives at those moments.

As I was lying in bed on Saturday, feeling sorry for myself, scrolling through Netflix, trying to find something to watch, I came across the movie GREATER.  Full disclosure here, it’s a football movie, but it’s a football movie like The Blind Side is a football movie (and there’s even a cameo in it by Quinton Aaron).  There is a moment in that movie when the quarterback questions the calls and the star reminds him that he (the quarterback) can only see a few meters right in front of him, but the coach can see the entire field.  That is what God is like for us…for me.  Sometimes I don’t understand his calls, but all I can see is what is right in front of me.  I might not learn until later the ripples that when out from my struggles or pain, or I might never learn…but that’s part of what trust is about, what faith is about.

I believe that God used to that movie to remind me to trust in him and his plan, to stop worrying and accept that he always knows what’s best for me.  I think that God reminds us of his love for us everyday, he reminds us to have faith and to trust in him.  Sometimes he does this in ways that are obvious, sometimes he’s more subtle, but the signs are there.  If your heart is bruised or hurting, like mine was this weekend, know that he is there for you, that he loves you and he will give you what you truly need…all you have to do is ask…ask and have faith.

And here’s a song that I hope helps you as much as it helped me this weekend.

God bless,

Meredith

It’s Awkward and Uncomfortable.

Things I can now do fairly well with my left hand…

  • crack an egg (surprisingly not as hard to do as I’d thought, I’ve only broken two yolks – the secret is to just go for it like you have no other option – which right now…I don’t)
  • use scissors – I understand the call for left-handed scissors now
  • brush my teeth
  • flat-iron my hair (no frizzy hair here please)

How many times in our lives are we forced to learn how to do something differently?  Initially most times it feels uncomfortable, weird, not right.  I certainly felt that way the night of my accident after I dragged my butt up the stairs and stood in front of my bathroom sink.  Everything I was doing didn’t just feel wrong, damn it…it hurt!

It’s a natural aspect of human nature…our need to resist change, even when it’s for our own good.  We like to stay in our zone, walk the easy path. That’s why sometimes we need a good shake up, why we need to be forced out of our comfort zones.  I’ve found that sometimes faith can be a little bit like that. You see people praying on TV, or in movies, and they have the perfect words, in the perfect, most natural, most earnest way.  But real life is often nothing like that, it can be ugly and weird.  How many of us felt really awkward and uncomfortable the first time we prayed or went to church after being away for a while?  Heck, there are lots of times I still don’t know what to say, (especially when I’m praying out loud – because I just don’t do it enough…kinda like brushing my teeth with my left hand).

Do you remember the first time you had a conversation with a toddler?  Their speech is often so rambling and garbled you have to constantly ask questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer just to figure out what they are saying.  The good news for me is that God doesn’t have to ask any questions when I reach out to him.  He already knows what’s in my heart…he just needs me to make an attempt.  And his willingness to answer my prayer depends not on any beautiful speech I could make, but on one thing, and one thing alone…faith.

Something I’ve been struggling with, and been been reading about lately, is the type of faith a person has, the type of faith I have.  It’s easy to start thinking that God is there to make your life better, richer, healthier through prayer.  But those things shouldn’t be the purpose, or focus of faith, rather I think they are a by-product of a life focused on God.  I have so many incredible blessings in my life, and I feel grateful for all of them, but what I yearn for more than anything is the feeling, the experience I have when I am filled with the overwhelming love and joy of the Spirit of God.  When tears well up and I am overcome with his love.  It’s what I imagine heaven must be like…experiencing that feeling all the time.

These days people want you to believe that you are going to have to give up something important to believe in God.  And I’m not going to tell you that you won’t.  You might even find your “new” life uncomfortable and scary at times (kinda like putting a 220°F flat-iron to your hair with an uncoordinated left hand).  But like so many things in life, you have to take a big risk to get a big reward.  We make choices of faith every day.  The great news is the more you practice the things that are uncomfortable for you, the better you get at them…like going to church or prayer.

In those times when I am struggling, when I am tired and frustrated and in pain and feeling broken in spirit, and these days, in body; in those moments when I don’t have the energy to find the right words to pray I am reminded that Jesus himself gave us the answer…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.   Matthew 6:9-13

And remember “Jesus did not give his disciples any instruction about standing, sitting, lying down, walking, running, or driving an automobile while one prays. Jesus did not talk about head coverings, kneeling, the position of one’s hands, or closed eyes. Why? God wants us to pray at all times (1 Thess. 5:17 ) and in every place, under any condition, and in various situations (1 Tim. 2:8).” https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/

God bless,

Meredith

Falling off a horse…literally!

The past few months have felt increasingly more and more hectic for me.  And as I have felt the responsibilities of home and work pressing in on me I have constantly prayed for God to help.  I felt that I had taken on the tasks He had requested of me and I had faith that He would help me to accomplish them.  I believe that He would give me what I needed.  What I could not have predicted was exactly how He would go about it.

Two weeks ago I had a fairly significant fall off of my horse.  I ended up in the emergency room with a fractured left clavicle and right thumb as well as a significant bruise on my left hip and damage to the ligaments and tendons in my right hip.  I wasn’t capable of supporting my own weight for more than two or three steps.  Now you might be thinking “poor Meredith”.  But all I saw here was a blessing.  Let me explain.

My clavicle fracture was severe enough to require surgery.  So here I am, two weeks after a break, with a left arm that is 80% functional – only because of the way that I broke it.  Since I’m  writing this blog, you can see that off all the things I am not able to do yet, work isn’t one of them.  For a few days it was literally the only thing I could do for myself, and that included getting dressed.

God heard my prayers and he knew that the only way to slow me down, to give me the time I needed, to do what I needed, was to break me.  And he broke me in ways that will heal.  Dave learned how to tie a pony tail.  The boys have been so helpful and friends and family have showered me with love and affection and meals.  My girlfriend even came over and washed my hair.  God gave me a blessing and then he surrounded me with love.

The name of my horse is “By Absolute Faith”.  That is the only way I know now to live my life.  To trust that God loves me, his child and that he will use all things to my benefit.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11. 

I’m walking without a cane now, but it’s slow and still a bit painful. I can tie my own ponytail, wash my hair and dress myself and this weekend I was able to start driving again.  I can do minor household chores, but I still can’t lift anything much heavier than a kettle half-full of water and I get tired more easily.  But this too shall pass and my brain is at 100% which means I can work.  And there are lots of things I don’t have to feel guilty about, like not getting out for a run or working out, or having a perfectly clean house…because I literally can’t do those things yet.  God is good.

So the next time God knocks you off your horse (maybe not literally as in my case) trust that he knows what you need better than you do and that he will work all things for your good.

God bless,

Meredith

All you have to do is ask.

Today in my readings Paul talks about “…behaving decently, as in the daytime” Romans 13:13.  And I’m not going to say anything new here, but sometimes it bears repeating, it helps to be reminded.  How many of us exhibit behaviours in the privacy of our own homes, behind the closed doors of hotel rooms, or it the darkened anonymity of bars and night clubs, behaviours that we would never want our mothers, our children, our friends to see.  That’s what Paul is talking about. And he’s not just talking about our physical deeds, but our emotional ones as well, the ones we keep secret in our hearts, the jealousies, the coveting, the dissensions and grievances.

I will be the first one to admit that there are things I might say or do in my own house that I would never want other people to see or hear.  Losing my temper, slamming doors, speaking badly of someone.  I do them all.  I forget that someone is always watching.  That my actions never occur in a vacuum.  That’s why Paul’s words are so important.  In this letter to the Romans he is calling on them, on us, to “put aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light”.  Are you asking yourself how?  Or have you convinced yourself that your behaviours in those times were justified, or that they drove you to it.  That they deserved what they got or that’s just how you were made.

I won’t even tell you that those things aren’t true. But part of what Paul is telling us, part of the message of Jesus, and the reason he died for us and our sins is that we are called to be better.  To rise up against our own sinful nature, “the way we were made” and put aside the deeds of darkness.  If you’re like me, maybe you’ve tried this before, but feel as if you always slip back, you always fall down and maybe you’ve even reached the point of giving up. I can relate.  But today I’d like to tell you that we are supposed to fail, in fact we will fail every single time if we are trying to go it alone.  I have come to learn that the absolute only way I can be a different person is through Christ.  Time and time again the bible calls upon us to surrender ourselves to our Father in heaven.  But we are so stubborn, so determined to have our independence that we refuse, we protest the freedom and light that is offered to us freely.  But that’s okay.  Because our time here on earth is about that journey.  About gaining a gradual understanding of the power of the life and death and love of Jesus Christ and God our Father.

So if there is a darkness in your heart or a heaviness in your spirit, know that you don’t have to shine a light on it yourself, you don’t have to carry the burden, because there is someone greater than you who will happily do it for you.  Someone who wants to do it for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith