Relationships

Sticks and Stones

Do you remember being teased as a child and your mom telling you the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me?” What a bunch of hooey that is. God reminds me of some interesting things when we talk. I was told many things as a kid, by different people, including myself, and I was told things just these past few weeks by different people.

I’ve never broken a bone, but have experienced much pain with my bones, having both knees replaced, and two toes intentionally broken to correct them. It was painful, I won’t lie to you, but I have been healed of the pain. Each and every day it was a little less until one day I woke up and the pain was no longer there. But the pain that I have experienced at the expense of words… well that is a much different, much deeper pain, with long lasting effects, if we are not careful.

As I was talking with my Jesus this morning, what He spoke to my heart was “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Paulette. Yes, their words were hurtful. Yes, they cut you deep, but focus on My words. Focus on My love. Focus on Me! Instead of hitting the rewind button in your mind and replaying them over and over, record over it with My words of love and encouragement. Replay My truth over and over again until the truth of those words completely wipes out the hurtful ones.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

Their words hurt me deeply; they cut to the very depth of my heart. But I have spent the days trying to be renewed by the transformation of my mind, by allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way and change my heart. And now, like my bones have healed, my heart is in the process of healing as well.

Sticks and stone will break the bones, and the words will hurt as well. But it doesn’t have to stay that way! Will you allow God access to your heart and mind, will you be…

… transformed by the renewing of your mind!

...by Paulette Toews

...by Paulette Toews

Embracing the Hallmark Holiday

Let's just be okay with who we are, and where God has us. The good, the bad, and the imperfect. My dad died first (I was 24yrs old at the time) and I used to hate Father's Day. I felt bitter towards Hallmark and the church that forced us to celebrate it. My poor husband, even when he became a father, did not receive the celebration he deserved. I would soon rather forget it.

Then my mom died (I was 28 yrs old at the time). I was already a mother at the time, yet even in the celebration of my own motherhood on Mother's Day, came the painful reminders of my lack.

I am very sensitive and empathetic to those that do not have a mother to celebrate, or to those that have lost children, or to those that are barren on this Hallmark holiday. Mother's Day tends to cause even the most peaceful to fight a raging storm of pain.

Really, though, when you have experienced some sort of loss - all "special occasions" are like that. They bring bittersweet memories or remind you of the memories you lack and others have. If this is the case, are we to rage war against all special occasions and holidays? Pull them off our calendars, turn our heads, and let others celebrate the madness.

A little while ago in my life, I would have been tempted to shout a resounding, "yes"! As someone in full time ministry, I felt strongly the church should not recognize Mother's and Father's Day, because it isolated those who could not participate or celebrate for one reason or another. I have downplayed every special occasion (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baby dedications, special celebrations and ceremonies) to the point of not truly celebrating them, isolating myself from those who did or would desire to celebrate with me.

I did this as recent as this last month when we had Havyn's baby dedication and Paxton's birthday. But as God has begun to restore and heal, I realize that this is not the way it should be. Whether it is the celebration of life or it's a culture induced holiday - if I have something to celebrate, I should celebrate. It doesn't mean the painful memories flee. It doesn't mean that I won't cringe when I sit here currently getting a pedicure, and I see an adult mother and daughter sharing conversation and laughter. I do cringe. I breathe deeply for a moment, and remember my own sweet mother. Asking myself what it would have been like to celebrate her this year on Mother's Day.

But here's the thing, I refuse to run from this Hallmark holiday, because really in running from the holiday, I am only running from the pain that the holiday creates. And after a year of focused healing and renewal, I have learned it is best for me to embrace the pain. For in the embracing of the pain, joy and deep faith is found. Please understand, I don't want the pain and I would certainly run from the sadness - I have - yet I know better now. To accept the pain and to feel the loss that has occurred is the first step to healing and joy.

And the pain is something that will occur on these special occasions like Mother's Day. But I have made a choice to celebrate who I am, and celebrate what I have. And in celebrating what I have, I am mourning what I don't have. And...there is peace and joy there. In essence, refusing to acknowledge or celebrate holidays is no longer something I do. Because, I feel, in doing so I will miss the joy and blessings I receive when recognizing and celebrating through pain.

Living in this place of peace and joy despite the pain of my loss is the sweet result of grace. Precious grace. That in my weakness, by His grace, I am made strong. Strong even in the midst of difficult days of celebration. I am truly learning the heart of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6:10

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

So, I celebrate all Mothers today. For none of us would exist, if it were not for a mom. Whether they were good or bad moms, we must be thankful for the choice our moms made to give us life. They gave us the chance to choose faith, life, joy, and more.

I celebrate the ladies in my life who are like moms to me. Showing me your care, concern, support, and love on a regular basis. You know who you are.

I celebrate my grandma in heaven who was my closest friend as a child.

I celebrate my grandma who is still with me. She has been a gift in the loss of my parents. She has persevered in many life and health struggles. She is a champion of faith. And her trust in God is unwavering.

I celebrate my mother-in-law who is caring, loving, and supportive of me and my family. Who regularly shows love and care to her grandchildren. Being a wonderful MiMi to them.

I celebrate the imperfectness of my own motherhood to my three beautiful children. I thank God for His grace. Grace given each day to guide, love, and care for them. Grace given to accept who I am, and realize that I am imperfect - but I love my children and would give my life for them. And, that my friends, is something beautiful with which my God can work.

I celebrate my own precious mom, who is no longer here. A mom who in her own imperfectness, left a beautiful legacy and handprint on my life. Mom- I wish you were here to celebrate with. I wish I could squeeze you and say, "I love you". And I so wish you could see your two new beautiful grandchildren. And you could see how smart, handsome, and big your chunky monkey is getting. It hurts. But I celebrate you today!

Happy Mother's Day, friends. I pray you find joy and celebration, even in the midst of possible sadness.

IMG_4126.JPG

By: Christan Causey

The Pain of Unforgiveness

Forgiveness is an amazing gift that we have because of the death of Jesus Christ, and we are commanded to forgive others just as He has forgiven us. Usually, that is an easy thing to do. Most of the infractions that we deal with are not life altering. But what happens when we have that life-altering moment, and we are unwilling to let go? Have you ever thought about what happens when we are not willing to forgive?

At the age of eight, I was a victim of molestation; I held tightly to the pain, hurt and shame of this incident until the day came at thirty-six years old when I told Jesus, “I just can’t live this way any longer. What do I do?”

The anger and bitterness I felt affected every aspect of my life; what I thought of myself, what I believed others thought of me, my early years of marriage and my role as a mom. Little did I know that my unwillingness to forgive and let go was the cause of my continued years of torment. Although I had committed my life to Christ at twenty, I had never truly accepted His offer of forgiveness.

God does not insist that we forgive for the sake of the perpetrator, but for the sake of peace in our own lives. Once we make that choice, He gives us supernatural ability to forgive. There cannot be true forgiveness without first receiving grace. We cannot give forgiveness until we have been forgiven. But once we have made the conscious choice to forgive, we are free of the hold that unforgiveness has on us.

Unforgiveness will keep us in a stagnant place; we will not grow in our faith. Where unforgiveness exists there is no room for the Holy Spirit to dwell. But, when the Holy Spirit has been given room to move, amazing things can happen. If we allow Him to, He will make us whole. He will heal the wounds. He will take away the pain caused by another and over time – if you allow Him to – He will fill your heart with love for the person that wronged you! You may never forget, but over time there will be less pain. One day there will only be a scar where once there was an open wound. Forgiveness allows us to let go.

Why do some “get it” and some don’t? I believe we need to embrace “surrender” and choose to believe and trust. Not until we are willing to consciously do these things in spite of how we feel, will we get it and find peace.

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18

I love these words from Beth Moore:

“I believe Christ still grieves when He sees hearts in unnecessary turmoil. You can have the peace of Christ, believer, no matter what your circumstances; but you must believe, bend the knee, and learn how to receive. … bending the knee is ultimately a matter of pure obedience. You may never feel like giving your circumstance, hurt or loss to Him; but you can choose to submit to His authority out of belief and obedience rather than emotion. Obedience is the mark of authentic surrender to God’s authority in any matter.” Breaking Free, Beth Moore

It’s a choice, based on truth – not emotion.

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Written by: Paulette Toews

Written by: Paulette Toews

Grin and Bear it Kind of Love

A "grinning and bearing it kind of love". You know what I mean, right? The kind where you with fists clenched and gritted teeth, recite over and over - "I think I can, I think I can" as you will yourself to love those that have offended you. Ever ask yourself, "how do I find love for this person"? Have you ever known a person that was a thorn in the flesh, grated on your nerves, or someone who hurt you deeply?

When I was regularly seeing my counselor, I had some specific occasions where I had experienced what I felt was a major offense by someone in my life. I would be all worked up, but excited about my counseling appointment. She was the one person that I could "righteously" vent to about any one person in my world. The first few times it occurred, I was just sure she was going to help me feel better. I could vent, and she could be shocked with all that they had done. I knew she would be the one to assuage my feelings of hurt and offense, because she would tell me how right I was to feel the way I did and how best to confront them. Well, those first few times were met with a slap in the face. She did nothing that I expected. She put it back on me. Every. Single. Time.

I learned about expectations, needs, and longings and asked who is filling them. She asked hard questions, she pointed me to His Word. Slowly but surely after many, many times of complaining about offense from others, I began to see things differently.

What is one thing that is at the root of many conflicts? If we were to dig deep, which is always necessary when feeling offense or facing conflict, we would find that one consistent issue is that the person on the other end of the offense failed to meet our expectations. We often have unrealistic, unspoken, and unfair expectations for those around us. And, many times, we can have appropriate expectations of a person and they still fail them simply because...they are human. Either way failed expectations hurt. Always.

If we are following Christ, most of us long to know Christ more. We desire to walk with Him. We long to live in the Spirit, to set our minds on the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5)

Here is what I have learned. When I take my mind off my Savior, I begin to gratify the desires of the flesh. My own needs and longings separate from the Father seek to be met and filled. If I don't look to my Father to meet those longings, I will look to the flesh-to those around me-to the things of this world. And when I find that they cannot meet them, I will become disheartened, angry, frustrated, offended, and more. The object or person that failed to meet what I desired or needed becomes the target for my offense.

This can be a spouse, children, friends, family, co-workers, those whom we serve in ministry or rather than people, it can be money, organizations, etc. This happens when we walk according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. When we set our minds on what we think we need or want versus what God says is all we need, we become distracted and discontent.

We look for people or objects to fulfill desires only our Heavenly Father can fill. Unfortunately, because Our Father was meant to meet our deepest longings, people and objects will fail miserably. We are regularly implored by His Word to set our mind and heart on things above, to set our mind on the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit. We are exhorted to not think how to gratify the desires of the flesh. When our minds become set on the flesh the result is death rather than the life and peace that is offered through a mind and heart set on the Spirit. (Read Romans 8)

No wonder we are angry people. It's no wonder that our relationships are broken and frayed. We have desires to please our Father, yet we yell, demand, and resent. We claim justified offense, and we speak ill words of our families and neighbors.

God forgive us because we have so much desired that they please us and fulfill us in a such a way, that when they don't meet those expectations, it causes deep offense. It becomes such an offense that we struggle to love and show mercy and forgiveness.

Yet, loving kindness and compassion and mercy comes more effortlessly when we put people and objects in their rightful place which is under submission to the Father.

When we surrender these desires and longings to the Father, and we look to Him to meet those-we stop placing unrealistic and unfair expectations on those around us. We realize that they can never meet what we are truly desiring or truly needing. Forgiveness and mercy comes when we realize that their place in our life is under the authority of the Father. God is greater or more able to satisfy us than any living thing or material possession. When He fills every part of our desires and longings, people no longer are objects of need-they are precious gifts from our Father to love as He loves us.

We can say, "Yes, you failed my expectations but because I know you could never meet my deepest needs - I am not looking to you to fulfill those. My Father meets those, and it leaves me satisfied to where I can show mercy and love. You see, you and I are no different. Imperfect and broken, but made whole by a Savior who loves us. If not for the grace of God, I would or have done the same things you have done to hurt me".

This is Christ in us. It's not just a "choosing to think positive thoughts" about someone. We are talking about a deep genuine Christ-like love for each person. When we find contentment in Christ and we regularly invite Him to fill every part of us - we decrease and He increases. It changes the way we see people. God created each of us beautifully and wonderfully and His image - therefore I can love the person God has created even when it hurts. This comes when we move in the Spirit, and are being guided by the Spirit rather than our flesh.

For me, it's a daily and sometimes moment by moment surrender. Father, help me walk in your Spirit - in life and peace. Help me look to you to fulfill those desires and longings that no one else can. When others fail me in their imperfect nature, help me in my own imperfect nature to show love and kindness. Help me to "By the Spirit who dwells within me, guard the good deposit entrusted to me". (2 Tim 1:14). Help me to flee my "less than desires" and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. (2 Tim 2:18)

We need to stop the "grinning and bearing" kind of love where we show others love and compassion through forced and obligated wills. Our love can come from a genuine heart of compassion and sacrificial grace because it comes from Christ within. With the help of Christ, let us then truly love one another.

Written by: Christan Causey

Written by: Christan Causey