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Heartbreak

Lately I have been thinking about God’s plans and purposes.

My heart hesitates to speak of God. Not because of lack of love for Him. Not because of shame or guilt or anything like that. I simply feel inadequate. Who am I to have any vast knowledge of or insight into the grandeur of the Lord? Who am I to comment on the holiness of God or the love of Jesus or the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit? I am not a great theologian. I’m not even a mediocre theologian. Even reading the Bible is so very difficult at times. All I know is the still small voice. The one that whispers, “You are ok” when everything is falling apart. All I know is His faithfulness to hold me when everything around me is crumbling. I know nothing from an academic standpoint. But I know He loves me and He has good thoughts and intentions for me.

The past several months, God has been asking me to evaluate my attitude about my circumstances and deal with my emotions about how someone else’s choices are affecting me.

I was hopeful.

I was jubilant.

I was devastated.

I was numb.

I was numb for about 4 months while my life crumbled around me. I didn’t have the capacity to feel anything. Then I needed help and he came. He helped me for a few hours and then he left. My world was right-side-up for a few hours and then it crumbled again. I was devastated. I was broken. I was heartbroken.

It’s been four long, long years since this situation started.

I had prayed and cried out to God to reveal His plan to this other person. I cried a lot during those four years. And nothing happened. Nothing. Except that he left for two years in the middle, while I did my best to muddle through life, hoping for the best; fearing the worst; praying to be delivered from the affection and adoration I felt for him.

And still, nothing changed.

After he departed that day, I was down. It was the first time I felt anything outside of numbness about the situation for several years, and it was bad. Very, very bad. I struggled. I prayed. And in a moment of epiphany, the Lord seared on my heart the truth that the things that I have always thought of and understood as “God’s plans” aren’t plans, per se. They are purposes. They are things that He thinks and wants for us. But because of His overwhelming grace, His mercy and His love, we are given the choice if we want to participate in those purposes. (Note: I think the terminology is important here, because, a plan, when coupled with the name of God, implies inevitability. Because of God’s gracious gift of free will, the word “purpose” is a much better fit, in my opinion.)

No one is locked into a plan with Him. No one. He’s not like Verizon, where you sign on the dotted line and follow the rules until the contract runs out. He doesn’t work like your employer or your Master Promissory Note or your wedding vows. He does His thing and gives us opportunity after opportunity to participate in His purposes. But we aren’t locked in. We get to choose.

I was given an opportunity to reevaluate how I feel about Him. And how I feel about…. him. Am I going to reject God because I can’t (necessarily) have what I want? Am I going to be angry and bitter with the man in question because he won’t get his crap in a pile already?

Of course, my other choice was to internalize the grief and heartbreak and enter an even deeper depression. But that’s no fun either.

So many choices….

Several years ago, during a time of deep darkness in my life, God branded into my heart the truth that people are terrible representations of Him. Nothing people do changes who He is — nor does their behavior (very often) represent who He is. And because people are imperfect, I neither have the choice to be angry with Him, nor do I have the choice to be angry with…. him. He is already perfect, while he is in the process of…. becoming. You can’t kick people to the curb because they’re not quite like God yet.

I internalized the grief. I got depressed. I asked God for a reason to live.

Four. Years.

Wasted. (At least from my perspective, at this moment in time.)

I don’t know what to do with any of it. I’ll be the first to say that I have no idea how to help myself. I don’t know where to begin, except by going to the faithful arms of the One who is incapable of setting me down and incapable of losing His love for me. That is the only thing I can do. And as I cry out the pain and frustration and sadness of loss, I begin with these words:

If You’re going to start somewhere,

Why not here?

If You’re going to start sometime,

Why not now?
(City on Our Knees, Toby Mac)

I have no words. No thoughts. Nothing but pain and sadness and an eternal hope in His purposes that are always, always good – even when I don’t understand them and even when they don’t feel good.

I am reminded of this:

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

    Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

 

I know not how to pray. Nothing I can say helps. Nothing changes anything. I don’t know what to ask for. And so, I pray, “Lord, fulfill Your purposes toward me.” That is all I can do.

And He will do it, because His steadfast love endures forever. He will never, ever forsake me, the work of His hands.

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Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Current Events

 

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30 Things, 4 Years Later: Day 17

I read this article this evening and it reminded me of my 17th goal.

30 Things to Accomplish in my 30s: Day 17
#17 (Original wording) Raise awareness for victims of domestic violence. This does not mean wearing a ribbon, posting underwear colors or even raising money. It means educating people as to what sorts of things are classified as abuse. It means developing relationships with victims and helping them see their value and purpose. It means teaching parents how to raise kids who are neither victims nor abusers. It means putting forth time and effort in order to eradicate domestic violence from our society. I’m really passionate about this because heathy families equal a healthy society. And every child deserves to live in a non-chaotic, non-violent, healthy and happy home.

I spent many years prior to moving to SD being deeply involved in ministry and leadership at the church I attended. Then things happened. Jesus did something in me. I had been really…. arrogant, I guess. I looked down on people who weren’t as “righteous” as me. I avoided people who were different.
 
And then I became the “different” one. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I went from top of the heap to bottom of the pile in my social circle. I learned what it was like to be treated the way I had treated other people.
 
I spent a lot of time on my face, sobbing and crying out to God to fix it.
 
He didn’t fix it.
 
Some things happened. One person wanted to reconcile, but by the time she had gotten to that point, I had begun to realize that I had learned many of those habits from her and I didn’t want to be that way, so I said no.
 
For two and a half years, I spent most of my spare time on my face on the floor, sobbing and asking for things to change.
 
The thing that changed was me.
 
I finally began to have a small understanding of grace.
 
I looked at the people around me. Not the pastors. Not the deacons. Not the elders. Not the wealthy people who had it all together. Not the married people. Not the people who had good careers and natural abilities to do wonderful things.
 
I looked at the addicts. I looked at the broken people. The ones who had their first babies when they were 13 and the ones who were on their 4th marriages. I looked at the ones with mental illness and physical illness and the ones who had had abortions and the broken families. I looked at the moms whose hearts were breaking because their sons or daughters were dying from alcoholism or drug addiction. I looked at the children who had been abused, the mothers who had to choose between a “godly home” (staying with a spouse who was abusive) and a safe home.
 
I looked at those things and I think I saw what Jesus sees when He looks at us. I didn’t see sin. I saw broken people. Scared people. People who need love and support and a place they can call home filled with people they can call family.
 
I looked at those people and I saw myself.
 
A broken person, desperate for love.
 
I looked at those people and I said, “But for the grace of God, that would be me.”
 
When one has that kind of revelation, one of two things happens.
 
The person could get incredibly stuck up. “Oh, yeah. Look at me! I just happened to escape all these horrible things that other people struggle with every day.”
 
Or, they can be incredibly humbled.
 
The latter happened to me. I began to be more open and friendly. I had tasted the grace of God and I was eager to extend it to all who came. It was a beautiful time in my life — except for one thing.
 
The church hated this change in me.
 
The straw that broke the camel’s back was that I was a friend to a woman who had chosen to leave her abusive husband and I was as much of a protector to their sweet baby girl as I could be.
 
I could go into a bunch of detail about this, but I’ll spare you. I got really familiar, really fast, with the resources available to battered spouses and victims of domestic violence. I also got really familiar with how little law enforcement wants to be involved. I got really familiar with the retaliatory tactics of abusive spouses. I learned what abuse is and how to spot it and how to get away from it. I learned how it hurts children for generations to come.

I learned that domestic violence has got to end.

I haven’t been closely involved with shelters or anything like that because my life has been so busy with so many things.

When I converse with people and learn of people experiencing violence in their homes, I try to provide education and options. If I can, I take women and kids into my home so they can be safe. I do whatever I can, whenever I can to see people as Jesus sees them — broken people who need love.

Learn more about domestic violence by clicking here.

If you need help, click here.
A book for women in abusive relationships.
Understand why abusers do what they do.
Understand how childhood trauma affects people into adulthood.
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in 30 Things

 

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Silence

I feel like God and I are having a huge contest to see who can be the most stubborn.

It’s diconcerting.

There are moments — or days, or years — or decades…. where I say, “God, I want this.”

And God’s response is. Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Silence.

The kind of silence that is anything but comfortable.

The kind of silence where you’re wondering if He’s ignoring you or if He just honestly doesn’t have anything to say.

And how do you interpret this silence?

Does it mean that God doesn’t care what you do?

Does it mean that God doesn’t want you to have the thing you long for so desperately?

What exactly does silence mean?

Part of me wants to take the bull by the horns.

Another part of me is more passive and timid and doesn’t want to rock the boat.

Still another part is terrified — terrified of what might happen if I do something, yet just as terrified of what might happen if I don’t.

Part of me wants to march into God’s office and say, “I’ve got this blueprint: 5 easy steps to make my life perfect. Let’s get on it.” My 5 easy steps would really not take all that much effort. Just tweak a few things here and there and you’re done. Honestly, it wouldn’t even amount to 5 steps. It would be more like 3.

So why is it so difficult? Why can’t I get a little help here? Why this never-ending struggle? People I used to talk to a lot told me that if you “let go and let God” things will just fall into place.

Hogwash.

They said that if you surrender to God’s plan, you’ll be so much happier.

Bull. Crap.

They said lots of things.

And here I am. Still in the same position I was back when I believed what they told me.

I guess maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. The happy medium. The path of compromise.

God’s not going to drop everything into my lap and He’s going to ask me to take an interest in the process of getting my life where I want it to be.

Galatians 5 talks about the difference between walking in the Spirit and wallowing in the things of the flesh. I think the answer to my dilemma is to seek God and desire to walk in the Spirit and then He will begin to show me which moves to make and how to get the things I want.

In other words, as long as I’m thinking in terms of “this is what I want and I’m going to do what I can to get it,” it’s going to remain a contest to see who can be more stubborn. Life will be sadly silent.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Worth It All

I’ll get more into the background of this story later, but I wanted to take a moment for this:

I was at my friend’s house this evening and while I was putting my shoes on, her little girl was off in another room, probably in another world — one where there’s Little Ponies, Barbies, princesses and Kipper the Dog. I turned to open the door and the little munchkin streaked through the house hollering “Mari! I need a kiss!” as she threw herself at me.

Wow girl….

After I picked myself up off the floor….

(Ok, so that statement was slightly exaggerated.)

…..this thought went through my mind:

It’s moments like this that make everything I’ve experienced trying to help her stay healthy and safe worth it.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Now what?

I voted for the first time in the year 2000.

Three months later, I got a jury summons.

Uck.

The cool thing about it was that it paid $25 per day, which was a lot of money as far as I was concerned.

The drawback was that I hadn’t even graduated from high school.

Who knows how long this jury thing could last?

I didn’t want to get behind in school, so I pushed myself to get ahead, just in case I was selected for jury. I pushed myself so hard that I completed roughly a week’s worth of reading assignments each day, and by the time jury rolled around, I was nearly done with the curriculum. I completed my last assignment the first week of March.

I was not chosen for jury, so that left me with a lot of time that was full of a lot of nothing.

At that time, my family was attending a huge Evangelical Free church, and one of the pastors had invited us for dinner one day. We hadn’t interacted with anyone at any church for several years, so it was a little weird to be there. The pastor and his wife were sweet people who treated all of us younger ones like we mattered and like it was ok to contribute to society in one way or another. They kept asking us questions like, “So, what grade are you in?” and “What’s your favorite sport?”

For me, the most baffling question of all was, “Well, what are you going to do now?”

I had explained that because of the jury duty thing, I had worked hard to get done with school early. When I answered the “what are you going to do now?” question with, “I don’t know….” the pastor’s wife said, “I have an idea!”

She explained that the church was in need of people to help out with child care during their women’s Bible study, and she felt that I would probably be good at it.

I didn’t give a definite answer at the time. Because of the mindset of the people in charge of the church I spent the first 10 years of my life at, I saw myself as property of the men in my life, and I felt that I needed to have permission to work. I didn’t know a single “Christian” woman (meaning a woman who believed the stuff I had been taught all my life) who worked.

Looking back, I can see this was a pivotal moment in my life. I was being offered normalcy from a “worldly” perspective, but if I wanted to be “normal” to the world, I was going to have to choose to become “abnormal” to everybody and everything I’d known before.

What’s a girl to do?

Finally, I decided that there were certain advantages to working — even ones that would serve me well as a wife and mother, number 1 being that I was assigned to work as a tutor to home schooled kids from first grade to 4th grade. I would be learning how to teach — good skill for a future home-school mom, right?

I went to work faithfully every Tuesday morning, gathered my students together and we would learn together. I worked with a set of twins — one who was ridiculously advanced and the other was ridiculously behind. When this little boy had been in public school, his teachers had told his mom that he would not be able to learn at the same rate as his classmates and she should not expect him to satisfactorily complete the year. The mother told me all this and she said, “Just do the best you can with him. I’m not going to hold it against you if he can’t finish the curriculum by the end of the year.”

I worked with this little boy and I had the pleasure of answering his questions and explaining things as he went through his curriculum. He learned math and phonics. He had a hard time with reading comprehension, but we would talk about what things meant and every single time, he would “get” it. I loved to hear his laugh every time a lightbulb would begin to glow. This little boy also had behavioral problems, but after the first couple of weeks, those completely disappeared. He was having so much fun learning that he didn’t have time (or the desire!) to rebel. After working with him for only two months, he completed his curriculum, was much more disciplined (meaning he was able to sit still long enough to learn something), and he had discovered the joy of learning.

I consider those two months to be one of the most successful periods of my life. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a kid go from being a holy terror in school to being anxious to learn.

The Bible study was over the end of May, and I decided to spend several weeks with my grandparents. They had several guests that summer, so I got to know lots of relatives, step-relatives and step-relatives-by-marriage. My family does family. If you’re related to one of my relatives, you’re my relative, even if you’re only cousin Agnes’ step-cousin’s wife’s brother. If nothing else, we know who you are and we care about what’s going on in your life. (But maybe that’s just the small-town thing. When you sneeze in a small town, somehow, within a few hours, someone will have sent over some chicken noodle soup and everybody’s calling to ask how your cold is today.)

That summer, I helped Grandma prepare for a big old family reunion. And after the party was over, I went home to find a “real” job (You know — one that paid more than $12/week) and figure out what I was going to do with my life.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in My Story

 

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Stars and Such

When I was little, my family had a pair of binoculars. Sometimes, at night, I would look at the stars through them.

I didn’t do this very often because I had this irrational fear of being alone. I don’t know about you, but when I use binoculars, I feel like I’ve been removed from reality and have entered another world.

Or maybe that’s just when you’re looking at things that are several light years away.

At any rate, it freaked me out, so I didn’t do it very often.

That was before my friends Lena and Cathy took me to a concert in Minneapolis.

I had known Lena for a while and I had met Cathy several years previously. Cathy and I met when I was new in town and I was painfully shy. We met at a Bible study and during my time at that Bible study I think I might have said roughly 3 words and when it was over, I fled in terror. I didn’t flee because the Bible study was weird. I fled because in addition to having an irrational fear of being alone, at the time, I also had an irrational fear of being with people.

I was a very, very conflicted person.

During our drive to Minneapolis, Cathy asked me what on earth happened to me — because I had gone from being so painfully shy that I couldn’t be in the same room with strangers to being on the church worship team every Sunday and speaking in front of a crowd of people at church and actually doing a pretty decent job of it.

The transformation was completely astounding. And it happened, literally, overnight. Or, rather, in one afternoon. Sometime between 1 pm and 5 pm on a chilly December afternoon, while I was supposed to be studying for my Microbiology final.

To this day, I do not regret not studying for that final.

The results of the final were…. bad.

Maybe “bad” isn’t strong enough of a word. Maybe “horrific” might be better.

But, the things that happened to me that Sunday afternoon that I was “slacking off” were so life-changing that the horrific results paled in comparison. I experienced a complete turn-around in just about every area of my life that afternoon.

But- that is another story for another time.

Lena and Cathy and I went to see Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio at the How Great is Our God Tour in Minneapolis that night. I saw and heard this message in person that night.

After hearing about four stars that night, I’ve become mesmerized by stars.

Stars remind me of how big God is.

If God holds the universe in His hands, then God has to be a pretty big being.

Louie talks about how big the stars are in comparison to the earth. Seven quadrillion Earths could fit into the biggest star that has been discovered so far. And that’s just one star out of unknown numbers of stars. I understand there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars — and if just one of those stars is gigantic enough to swallow 7 quadrillion Earths, AND considering that new stars are being formed even as I type — God’s hands have to be pretty enormous.

And if God’s hands are that huge, the rest of God has got to be pretty enormous too. He’s so big that He exists outside of the universe. He’s so big that He has the hundreds of billions of galaxies each containing hundreds of billions of stars cupped in the palms of His hands.

And somewhere in the midst of all the galaxies and stars that are cupped in the protective, loving, merciful hands of God, there is a small ball consisting of several organic compounds that is home to 7 billion creatures called humans.

And somewhere in the midst of those 7 billion humans is a very special person- you.

In the scheme of things, we are about the size of a speck of dust.

But the amazing thing about it all is that it was created FOR us. God breathed out galaxies and stars and planets and moons and our home, Earth, with the intention of giving us dominion and authority over it. He loves us so much that even though we are but a speck of dust, He created the vastness of the universe and the beauty of the stars to bring us pleasure and to bring Him glory.

Today, I was looking at some photos from NASA. I do that sometimes because it reminds me of how little my problems are in comparison to the rest of the universe. If God’s big enough to deal with all of those things, then my problems are just a drop in the bucket. He can handle them.

*****

On a more scientific note: did you know that there’s a planet that orbits two stars? And that Saturn recently had a “storm” that affected almost as much surface area of Saturn as the entire Earth? Did you know that galaxies have star-forming regions where new stars are literally being “born”?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Reflections

My grandma, while she was in the midst of caring for my failing grandfather, would come home from the nursing home and sit in her rocking chair and reflect on the struggles of the day. And every time I called her, she would tell me stories of the trials and tribulations of getting old — and the pain of watching someone you love grow weaker every day.

Gramps was a farmer. He was one of those big, strong guys who worked hard at everything he did. He was also compassionate and giving beyond what was expected.

But after struggling with Parkinson’s for some time, Gramps started to fall. One day, he was standing at the top of the stairs and the next thing he knew, he was laying on the floor at the bottom of the steps. Grandma rushed down to help him. Gramps picked himself up off the floor and headed over to the furnace.Grandma asked what he was doing.

Gramps said, “As long as I’m down here, I might as well check the furnace filter.”

Grandma told this story — and several others — with a chuckle. And at the end of each story, she would say, “You just have to laugh — because there aren’t enough tears.”

It was a trying time and very difficult for all of us. But, mostly, for Grandma. But she was an emotional pillar, taking what came and determined to make the best of it.

I’m not an emotional person. I’m kind of like Grandma. I’m much more apt to find something to laugh about than I am to cry.

But today, I heard the song “Silent Night” for the first time this Christmas season.

And I cried a little bit.

Because I was reminded of all the Christmas Eve celebrations with Grandma and Gramps. Of the special Christmas Eve meal of Swedish meatballs and lutefisk. And, of course, the most wonderful treat of all, lefse. (I want to give a shout out to all my wonderful readers in Norway — my gramps was 100% Norwegian and proud!)

I was reminded of all the candlelight services on Christmas Eve. You know — the one where everybody gets a candle and they sing Silent Night by candlelight. I was reminded of the pastor’s warnings to not wear hair spray to church that night and instructions to always tip the unlit candle when passing the flame along to the next person.

I was reminded of the time when midway through “Silent Night,” the organ stopped working and the church just kept on singing. It was as if the congregation was saying, “Even when we have nothing to go on, we WILL continue to sing to our God.” Not long after, the church received a new organ — and a new pastor to go with it. The new pastor was great. The candlelight service that year was unforgettable. To illustrate his sermon, the pastor threw a ball of string into the congregation and said that whoever it landed closest to had to hold on to the string and throw the ball to someone else. I don’t remember exactly what he was illustrating, but I will never, ever forget that service! I think he was trying to illustrate that the love of God touches everybody at the same time, and the more we throw the ball (give of the love that we have received), the more entangled we become in Him. Because, yes, the congregation was tied in knots by the time the service was over.

Then I reflected on walking the three blocks from church on those silent, frosty nights. How safe it was! Sometimes I walked alone. A girl alone, enjoying the crisp winter air and the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet.

I reflected on the lunch Grandma always served the family after church, complete with homemade goodies, coffee, cider and my favorite — lime punch.

I was reminded of making the long trek to Grandma’s to bury my cousin just days before Christmas one year, and the grief and pain we all felt as we laid him to rest.

And, I reflected on the year that there was a huge blizzard that lasted several days, making it impossible for me to spend Christmas with my family. The blizzard forced me to spend the 4-day vacation I had arranged completely alone.

I thought on all these things and I cried.

I cried because it’s different now. My cousin is no longer with us. Gramps is having lutefisk with Jesus this year, and most recently, my aunt has also passed on. As with most places these days, the streets of that little town aren’t quite as safe as they once were. That unforgettable pastor is long gone. Church attendance has dwindled to just a handful.

But more than that, I cried out of gratitude for having such a wonderful family and so many sweet memories. Memories of church and family and yes, even dishes and cleaning and all sorts of chores that come along with a houseful of 20 hungry, happy people. Memories of celebration after celebration. Birthdays. Christmases. And yes, even memories of celebrating the lives of those I love so much.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Current Events

 

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