Trapped and desperate, God’s tender whisper

Last evening I was really tired and not feeling the best, so I was afraid I’d fall asleep too early. I told Jerry I was going out for a little while, maybe to my friend’s She Shed to pray. ( I usually use my walker and get a little exercise or take the wheel chair for a spin, but I felt a nudge to take my van.) I asked God about going to the She Shed to think and pray, but instead I felt led to go to the sheep pasture despite the foreboding dark clouds and a few sprinkles. When I got there, I heard the urgent cries of a ewe and her lamb who lingered nearby, looking  very distressed. The ewe had stuck her head through the wire fence near the big metal gate, and she couldn’t get out. She might have been there for hours already. She was on her front knees, and she looked like she could barely sustain this position any longer. A big pile of sheep pellets (manure) sat immediately behind her, indicating maybe she’d been there way too long. Stuck. Panicky.

Knowing I could try to free her myself, I called DeDe who lives on the property to see if she could alert the owner. I could try to set her free, but didn’t want to injure her in the process. Dede and her son came out to try to help. I went through the gate to the other side of the fence after talking to her in soothing tones. As soon as I got directly in front of the ewe’s face (standing back a few feet), she panicked and bolted backwards. She was able to free herself with this sudden motion. I hoped she wasn’t wounded in the process. After watching her run to the flock with her relieved lamb right behind her, I gave thanks that the Holy Spirit had prompted me to come this evening. This ewe had already grown exhausted by the time I arrived and might have died if no one had discovered her predicament. Although she didn’t know it, she had the power to break free, but didn’t realize this until I stood in front of her and her adrenaline kicked in, allowing her to bolt straight back and rejoin the herd with a huge sigh of relief. As I unlatched the gate to let myself out of the corral, I heard Him whisper to me, “I am going to use your life to help set other women free, too.” I didn’t slip my feet out of my boots, but I felt as though I stood on holy ground in that moment.

I thought back on our conversation around the picnic table at Lake Charles earlier in the day. After two hours of quiet time with our Bibles, journals, and our beloved Savior, we usually gather and share from our hearts, and then pray for each woman after she tells us how God used this time. I shared with those women what I’d been through this past winter, and other women shared that they too had felt despair and trapped at times in their lives. We gave thanks that God has healed me emotionally and continues to bring freedom. They prayed that God would redeem my dark winter in powerful ways as I write about it. We prayed that the church will learn to talk about mental health and also abusive situations in healthy, constructive ways. The other women shared their stories, and God’s Spirit moved powerfully among us as we sat under the oaks of righteousness at Lake Charles.  Isaiah 61 kept coming to my mind. He sets the captives free, and brings beauty for ashes. After I shared, a lovely older woman shared her situation and we prayed for her. She decried the lack of equipping in the church to deal with abusive situations and mental health. She mentioned that her pastor’s wife committed suicide. This didn’t have to happen. Why didn’t the body of Christ recognize this woman’s pain and help? The stigma around mental health and also domestic violence has to end. I know that God allowed me to go through this tough time in my life so that He can use my story and new found empathy to help others who feel desperate and trapped, like this ewe.  After leaving the sheep pasture,  I stopped by the She Shed to record a video about how God spoke to my heart today before heading home to Sweetie. I pray that God will give me the courage to write about my experiences with honesty and power as He anoints my word for His redemptive purposes.

Hesed and “The Beautiful Struggle”

Sometimes people today take promises and vows lightly. Jerry and I married late in life, and partly because neither of us had ever been married, we both treasure the chance to have our own family. We were both independent and used to living as our lives as it suited us. He had his yurt that he had  built himself on some land, and he lived with two rabbits.  He was making a career change and doing graduate studies. I had Teddy, my border collie and at that point, lived in my peaceful condo on a beautiful lake. But God in His love and wisdom disrupted our ‘peaceful lives’ when He led us to meet and grow to love one another. In our younger years, we did what God called us to do as singles. I worked in China a few years and with international students here once I returned. Eventually I got my master’s in counseling. Around that same age, Jerry had served in Special Forces, using his very bright mind as a Farsi linguist. But we both desired to find someone to share this life with, and marriage remained a desire on both of our hearts.
Marriage is a wonderful classroom as Mike Fargo once told me before Jerry and I took the plunge and exchanged vows. We have enjoyed experiencing a powerful truth about marriage and what God loves to do through it. One really beautiful word in the Hebrew is Chesed or Hesed (I’ve seen it spelled both ways, which is kind of a transliteration from the Hebrew). God keeps His promises and covenants, and He enters into sacred covenants with the people He created at various times in the Bible. I won’t go into that here, but I’ve seen that the word has been translated in various ways–steadfast devotion, lovingkindness, enduring love, etc. The concept is demonstrated to us through various examples in the Bible. A picture of Christ and the Church–the Bridegroom and the Bride–is revealed through the covenant of marriage. Jerry and I, like most couples, have encountered lots of challenges since we said our vows and entered into a covenant before God with each other 5 years ago. The past year has been very tough in many ways, with loss of his father, both of our health challenges, and a global pandemic among many other things. However, I think of marriage as “The Beautiful Struggle.” We face ourselves. We grow. We persevere. Once I asked Jerry if he could continue to handle an ongoing challenge we were facing. I knew it was so hard on him, on both of us. “I’m not a quitter.” That’s steadfast devotion, a glimpse of God’s beautiful Hesed. Romance and marriage are portrayed by our culture in cheap ways–no real commitment or just a way to meet our own needs, among many other flimsy pictures. But God has something far more profound for us in marriage–a dying to ourselves as we live for Him, a letting go of our own selfish desires, and entering into His beauty and wonder as we become one. He wants us to know Him in deeper ways through this refining fire that we sometimes endure together. When we learn to show mutual respect for one another, and mutually submit/honor one another as joint heirs of the grace of God, marriage can be beautiful.
God’s Word has a lot of wisdom in how to grow as one. Ephesians 5, about love and respect and Christ’s example, can help so much as we apply the truth there. Also, Phil 2 teaches us to learn to follow Christ’s example of putting the interests of others in sacrificial ways.  When we find ways to sacrificially love and serve each other by His empowerment and grace, that’s shaping us into His image. We endured some very deep tests this winter, and I saw the best of the man I married–he led us spiritually, he helped me through a very rough time with compassion and love.  Rather than a battle of wills, we had reason to learn to lay down our lives for one another at various times in these five years, and God gave us grace and the power to do so. None of this covenant that we entered into is possible in our own strength. Only when God empowers us to live out this sacred covenant of marriage, which He does as one of the three cords that are not easily broken, can we thrive. He has woven His Presence into the fiber of our marriage in deeper ways over time. The cord is growing much stronger and holds securely. We continue on this beautiful struggle, more secure than ever in this covenant we share with each other and God.

do you have a story to share?

Some of you have said you enjoy my posts and missed me during my time away from FB. Others have written to tell me that something I’ve written helped them or gave them hope. I thank God if so. Sometimes I think God has called me for such a time as this, just as He has called many of His children to serve Him in this painful time in history. If God were to help me to publish a book at some point in the coming months (it would be only by His grace and empowerment), and the topic was one that interested you, do you think you might like to read it? (Lately I have felt compelled to write about mental health and the unusual times we are living in. I love to encourage and strengthen people in times of adversity. I believe I’m called to instill hope and to bring healing with words through sharing stories and practical help.) If you’d like to be informed of any upcoming books or other writing I’m doing, feel free to send me your email address. Please include any contact info you’d like to share with me. I will guard it with my life.
Some of the ways that authors share about upcoming books or projects is through blogs, social media, podcasts, etc. But a vital part of that is building an email list to communicate with potential readers. I promise never to share your email or spam in any way. (If you ever were to receive some creepy fake message from me, I can assure you hackers were responsible! I take your privacy very seriously.) We live in bizarre times. I won’t email very often, but I’d love to know how to make you aware of an upcoming book project that relates to the pandemic and how people respond to uncertainty and very tough times in general. I especially want to offer help for the emotional and spiritual issues that arise in times of crisis or uncertainty. I write with empathy and love, aware of the tragedy circling the globe. But I also interject humor and a large dose of grace and tenderness. As a writer and someone who has lived with MS most of my adult life, I have some practice living with uncertainty while maintaining a sense of adventure and holding tenaciously onto hope. As a retired rehab counselor who offered mental health counseling as well, I have some professional insight to offer. As a believer, I know that our spiritual lives are a powerful source of hope, help and transformation. My only motive in writing is to bless others and to instill hope.
As I said, I would only be able to write a book or complete another larger project by His grace and power…I have MS and plenty of challenges to contend with. Sometimes I barely get through the day. So, your prayers for me would be appreciated, and I’d be glad to pray for you, too. I’m also interested in the stories of others going through this pandemic, and how all of has impacted you and loved ones. I have friends in many other countries including China and Japan, and have been touched by the video conversations, emails and very tragic stories I’ve heard since this pandemic began. My heart aches for those who have a loved one in the hospital while they feel so helpless and aren’t allowed to be at the side of their beloved. Know that I will pray and help in any way I can. If you decide to share your story, I would only share any part of it with others if you give permission and your blessing. I believe this pandemic is part of living in a fallen world. God has allowed it, but He sees the suffering and hears the cries of His people for healing and help. He cares. He loves you deeply and will respond to our cries. So, again, please PM me with your email if you’re willing. If you have a story to share, I’d love to read those and join you in praying. And perhaps God would move you to share stories during this time that might be a deep encouragement or comfort to others who desperately need hope. God specializes in bringing beauty for ashes! (Isaiah 61)