Remembering Who You Are

Behind a stack of books on the shelf, hidden from plain view, I found an old book I once read. I wiggled it free, dusted it off and began re-reading my favorite parts. It was the kind of book I’d scribbled in the margins, leaving clues as to my whereabouts in life. Dated: September, 2008.

As I perused the notes, my mind took a sharp detour down Painful Past road. Thankfully the road doesn’t jar me like it once did. All the mines have been detonated. The worry, fear and angst that were once associated with a trip down memory lane are now held in monument regard. It’s like, ‘hey, wow, there was a great and ferocious battle here. Loss of life, bloody. But oh, sweet victory, the battle was won.’ I look around. The ground is holy. I remember and I’ll never forget. Today I see flowers blooming out of the ruins and I smile in awe and great thanks.

This great and terrible time I’m referring to is when God, by His hand, finally took the last drink from my cup. It’s a story of deliverance from the grip of generational alcoholism. It’s a story of flesh eating sin sickness. Death. And life born, anew.

Something I still celebrate today.

A miracle, yes! And yet, I sit and recall the cycle of events post miracle. A time of transformation. Here’s the thing: transformational things in life, those ordained by God, take time to work themselves out. The aftermath of any battle leaves gapping wounds in our heart, mind and spirit for a season or three. It’s here, in THE INBEWTEEN, that the TRUTH of who we are and our real identity is most vulnerable to lies.

It’s here, we must understand:

  • The truth about God’s character. (Psalm 18:31-32)
  • The truth about the Voice of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • The truth about our identity in Jesus. (Romans 8:17)

In the months leading up to the epic battle to save me from myself God was hugely at work in my life. For the first time in 30 years I’d been given a very clear calling on my life. Specifically, God said, “Rachel, you are my Ambassador.” And I knew in my heart that He was calling me to be His Ambassador through public speaking.

But after the battle, when my wounds were exposed, and I grappled with the question ‘who am I really?’, another voice began to rise up. Except this voice was in opposition to the One I’d first heard. I was confused. The strange, new voice made me believe that my work was to be done silently. And in that season every time I had thoughts about standing before others to encourage them in the faith, the voice whispered in my ear, “This is NOT who you really are!”

For eight years I helped to organize an annual Christian music festival called Livestock supporting World Vision’s gift catalog. One time, in the midst of this season of transformation (and confusion) one of the musicians asked me if I would join him on stage to share a story about the good work were doing. Without hesitation I laughed and spouted, “Naw, I’m not your girl for that sorta thing!” The words tasted like sour milk.

I believed the lie.

But only for so long, because I believe Truth always wins. The Truth buried deep within me, began to emerge over time. As I pressed into the Word of God I found confirmation to the call on my life in 2 Corinthians 5:20 (“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…”). Turning my heart towards Him, He cleaned up the old ruins, replacing lies with Rock solid Truth. So that, eventually, I could discern His voice from the one who was trying to steel me away from my purpose.

Today I’ve stepped fully into that call. Without hesitation I can declare that by God’s grace I will speak (publicly) to the witness of his work in my life, through the power of the work done on my behalf on the cross.

I want to encourage you today to remember who you are in Christ. Are you in the season of IN BETWEEN? Can you remember the things He once called you to? Does His Word confirm it?  May this image be a helpful guide to you as you discern the One True Voice.

 

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Blessings and peace as you step into all He has ordained for your life.

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A Balloon Story on a Windy Day

Once there was a young 10 year old English girl named Laura Buxton who had an idea. One day she wrote her name and address upon a small piece of paper, rolled it up, tucked it into a pink balloon and filled it with helium. Then she waited for the most perfect windy day. When the day came she walked onto her driveway and released her pink balloon.

Some time and distance passed. Nearly 140 miles away in a remote countryside village another young English girl discovered the pink balloon and penned Miss Laura Buxton a note.

Upon receiving the note, Laura Buxton was shocked to discover that the recipient of her balloon was the exact same age as herself, and, most awesomely, shared the exact same name, Laura Buxton! The two became fast friends. When they eventually met they were amazed, yet again, at their similarities; both of the girls looked so much alike. And also, they discovered that they each owned pet Guinea Pigs, which, you guessed it, shared similar markings.

The marvel of this story is how a single pink balloon could bring two people together and create such a profound sense of awe and wonder and inspiration. A single balloon: carrying a simple girl’s idea. Imagine the loss of friendship and all the wonder Laura Buxton would have missed if she never released her idea into the world.

Many of you are walking around with a balloon in our pocket. You’ve tucked it away. One day, some day, you’ll be brave enough to do the work of blowing it up and letting it go. But first you need a circumstance to change or life to settle down or that winning lottery ticket.

May I encourage you with a thought: I believe the pink (or any color for that matter) balloon you are holding was one sent to you by God; a transcendent idea, released into the metaphorical sky, which has landed upon the soil of your heart. The purpose, of course, is to grow a deep and lasting friendship between the Creator and it’s Recipient, but too, I believe, the goal is to take the balloon He’s given you and do the thing He’s purposefully placed in your path.

In essence: all you need to do is be obedient.

“Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” – Madeleine L’ Engle

 

Obedience: It’s the only thing your balloon (your calling, your art) requires of you, to be faithfully obedient to it…and usually that means doing the work of blowing it up, tying it tight and letting it go.

Note: It’s the most beautiful, perfect windy day. The timing sure feels right.



A Lesson in Smallness {Audio Story}

This Story of Hope has been recorded for your listening merriment. Click & Enjoy. Trolls may read the story therein below.

 

It’s B2S time and you know what that means…those joyous math assignments have returned. And not just for the kids. This past week I had an assignment too; it involved compiling numbers and stats and submitting reports. When I finished I looked down upon my desk at a bunch of skinny numbers; trim and stubborn. The sum total was oh-so-small. Laughable. The crying laughable kind. I felt discouragement prick my arm and a vile of self-worth extracted.

Discouragement and numbers like two clasped swinging hands. Numbers: They become the result, the measure of success, or the value of something. Bigger is better. It’s what culture tells us (Rule: waist and weight reverse the order). And we believe it because numbers don’t lie.

When you’re taller you can ride the ride.

When you’re older you can drink the drink.

When your smarter…prettier… healthier…

There is a basis for all things.

All this measuring and counting and mathematics: I am not a fan. It’s Back to School time and that means I’m relearning a few things too.

So, that day, the number crunching one; I finished my project, sent off the reports, and picked my sunken self up to hurry off to my son’s first football game. As I jumped out of the car I nearly crushed a sprouted mushroom under my foot. It made me stop and smile. Of all things; a small mushroom. I began walking across the open football field and the sunshine warmed my face. Suddenly, I felt this very small voice seem to whisper small is the new big. What a thought, huh?

I made my way and huddled near the team of parents who were cheering their kids on from the sidelines. Midway through the game one of the mothers began lamenting to me about…you guessed it…her son’s size. “He’s so small…” she said. And I could tell, mother-to-mother, there was a little worry in her voice. But do you know what happened next? That small boy got the ball and he ran and he ran and he ran that ball straight into the end zone. Yep, that small boy put some big points on the board.

True story.

May I encourage your thoughts today towards embracing the measure of staying small.

Smallness gives us space. Freedom to think, breathe, learn, and grow. Too big? It gets a little crowded. And quite honestly big is hefty load. That’s my story of hope for today.

Small is the new big.



When Suffering Makes No Sense *Giveaway: Invisible Wounds Book*

I recently went for a long run with my sister-in-law. It’s one of our favorite things to do. And since we’re both training for a half marathon we figure we’re better together. During our run we talked about many things, but one newsworthy topic paved the way: Jacob Wetterling.

You know the story. The way it changed a generation of kids, and parents too. There was no more riding my bike to the candy store, alone, among many other things. I was a tween when Jacob was abducted. In fact, Jacob was my exact age. Dad worked for the newspaper in St. Cloud, Minnesota, close to the Wetterling home. And one day he came home with a handful of buttons: JACOB’S HOPE  written in bold, arched the famous, smiling boy’s picture. Jacob’s face covered every mind and every newsstand in America. I took the pins, handed them out to friends, and stuck one on my jean jacket. It was a constant reminder of Jacob, yes, but also, something deeper…a statement of belief in good and justice and impossible trust.

when-suffering-makes-no-senseI didn’t understand a lot about Hope back in the day. But I felt the collective ache, the longing for a happy ending.

Well, here we are, we have an ending…or so it seems. It didn’t turn out the way anyone hoped. Far worse. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. The great, black, terrible. The earthquaking stuff that causes cracks in faith.

Why pain?

Why suffering?

Why death?

Why, God, why?

“Sometimes our pain is the the result of living in a broken, fallen world. This isn’t how He intended life to be. Yet God allows tragedy or suffering in our lives for some reason or reasons we can’t always grasp.” – Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

There is no applaudable application here. I mean there is nothing we ‘ought to do in order to set it right. To solemnly embrace our loss (and the pain of others near and dear) is to sit and hold it and feel and question and grieve. Sure, there are a host of theological answers. I’ve got a few sorted and stowed. But that’s not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to point to the future. 

Remember the button’s bold, overarching typeface: Jacob’s Hope.

Hope.

It’s a wonder.

I’ve talked about this subject a lot over the years. I’ve wrote about the difference between small (h) hope and big (H) Hope.  I love the phrase that says, “Hope: Look to the future and trust God with all of it.” I believe in it so much that I renamed my blog to Stories of Hope. I believe in it so much because, for me, when uncertainty shakes the ground I walk on I know I can depend on a Certain hiding place: It’s my house full of promises, a place called Hope.

Hope is much like a bunker house. It’s deep, hidden from the elements of the outside world. The construct is made up of an underground tunnel system. God’s promises remove barriers and clear the dark path into this vast space that is host to a starry spectacle of awe. It’s a wonder. It’s a place few find.

“God is confirmed in our experience – when He meets us powerfully and sweetly in the midst of our suffering.” -Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

Those God confirmed experiences develop the impossible trust believers need so survive the chaos.  That His promises are good and true. Who holds all the answers? Who will stand up for true and lasting justice once and for all? Only one. So, when we wonder why He continues to allow the pain and suffering of this world to grope for us in the night we grab ahold of this great futuristic promise:

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever… Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)

The relief from suffering is coming – soon. Our happy ending will come, if not here and now, it is our destiny. Let us hold the promise as we stand under the stars…and wait.

**GIVEAWAY**

TODAY I AM GIVING AWAY A HARD COPY OF INVISIBLE WOUNDS BY MELINDA MEANS. TO ENTER TO WIN: SIGN UP HERE.

ONE RANDOM WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN & ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH.

Wipe Your “But” & Say Your Prayers

Two nights ago I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. This is not unusual. As I laid there, I had a waterbed moment. You remember the waterbed, right? Fall into one and it’s delightful, at first. Then, strangely, it transforms, and the fluffy rolling turns thick and heavy, like quick sand. The more you squirm the more it pulls you down. When you determine you want to get out, prepare to fight. It’s a strenuous exercise. That’s how my mind works on nights like these. It rolls over a thought, fine at first, but soon the thought is replaced by a worry and whoosh, waterbed moment.

I’ll be candid. I was worrying about my oldest chickling. It’s a regular thing for us parents; to worry, to obsess, to fight fears with swords. But something happened this past year that sent this mama’s worrymometer skyrocketing into the red zone. And ever since, sleeplessness is my pal. Here’s the scoop: the chickling spread her wings and flew the coop. This is great, you might say, the natural order of things. Except, it wasn’t that great for me. She left before I hoped. All the things I dreamed we would share during her final year at home were suddenly gone. She left before the smoke dissipated from the candles on her 18th birthday cake. That was 10 months ago.

All year long I’ve been peeking between two fingers at parents of chicklings ruffling their feathers. I’ve watched them prepping to reach the blessed Day of Pinnacle and send their precious cherubs into the world. I’ve watched many put their basket (baby) in the water and send them off. Although I hoped to put my basket in at the same time, that’s not how it worked out.

This is a tiny glimpse of my story this year. I wonder about your story this year. At some point, now or later, our hopes get dashed. Although my deferred hope might look different than yours I’m certain the feeling is pretty mutual. It hurts. Maybe you’ve found yourself peeking between two fingers too.  We all have unfulfilled longings:

The happy marriage

The healthy body.

The successful business.

The popular person.

The beautiful new baby.

The privileged countryman.

We tend to peek at the world through our lens of hope. We desire. We dream. We pray. And when our hearts ache with longing we peek with wonder as we wait for the passing, the healing, the fulfillment.

Perhaps someday I’ll draft a fancy blog post title like Five Lessons I Learned on Parenting a Prodigal. Maybe not. All I really know, for today, is that this little midnight story is one I should share.

So, it’s the middle of the night and I’m laying in bed worrying. I’m talking to God. This is not unusual. It’s conversational. I keep rewording my worry in new and different ways. It feels as though I’m shouting into the Grand Canyon and I can hear my voice echo, reverberating against the Rock. It’s not very quiet in my head. And I find myself responding to each echo with “But what if…”

But what if…

But what if…

But what if…

I’ve created a chorus in the canyon. A crescendo. Then clear as a Sunday morning church bell I hear God say, “Wipe your but.”

Huh?

I stop thrashing in my waterbed. Everything stills. Wipe: Get rid of, remove it, cleanse and dispose.

Oh.

I roll over in bed. The bathroom’s night light filters into my room through the darkness. I stare at the particles of light that fall like dust upon the fixtures in my room. Everything looks different, darkly. I see my shadowy lamp and the light transforms the image…these birds…and the Voice reminds me,

“Look at the birds, see how I take care of them…you’re worth way more!” 

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The reminder is a promise. And I think I understand what I’m supposed to do. Stop worrying. Keep praying. Recycle each and every “But what if…” with a promise. It’s an exchange, of sorts. As I lay there I begin to think of other promises:

For I know the plans I have for your chickling, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans of hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)

Seek God first and then he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased)

You are chosen and belong. (1 Peter 2:9 paraphrased)

This I know: I am not a daughter with out hope. My God sees all, knows all, and loves more fully than I can comprehend. Heart sickness may hurt for a while. But “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I believe it. Do you?

So, for today: Relinquish the worry. Replace with a promise. Wipe your “but” & say your prayers.