Brokenness.

For many of us, that word describes not just a season in our lives, but a place of identity. This year, the year that none of us anticipated or likely would have imagined, has become a year that many have admitted their brokenness for the first time. 

Lost jobs.

Changed churches.

Death and sickness.

Election division.

Racial unrest. 

Chaos.

The list can go on and on. In some ways, there is almost an anticipation of what new thing can be added to the list each week. And while I can’t predict what those specific things might be, what I can predict is the fact that they are symptoms of the world we live in.

The truth is, we weren’t made for this broken world. We ache for the way things could be…. Should be…. For the things we have lost and the things that we didn’t realize we needed.

November starts a season where normally we reflect on the thankfulness we feel for all the blessings God has given us throughout the year. But this year, it seems like November is just getting in the way. We want 2020 to be over, so the promise of 2021 and the potential of getting back to normal can come quickly.  

The feeling that is left in the longing for something different can only be described as an ache. An ache for what was. An ache for what’s next. An ache for anything other than right now.

Except right now is where we are. 

There is something Holy about right now. Something that allows us to experience Jesus differently than any other time in our lives. The familiar patterns, timelines, expectations have given way to something different. For many of us, it has allowed us time to examine our hearts and our homes for things that we didn’t know were there. 

I found my coffee mug this week. I probably have 100 coffee mugs, but this one is special. This one was a gift from my husband on our honeymoon. I love it because it’s big, it’s my favorite colors, and it was handmade from a potter that has a special story. But several years ago, the handle broke off. Because it had become broken, it was pushed to the back of the cupboard. Trying to get out the door with a hot cup of coffee doesn’t work so well when the handle is broken off the mug because it burns your hands. But right now, working from home allows me the time to sit with my mug of coffee, to give it time to cool off a little. Pouring a fresh cup this week, I thought about how thankful I was for this favorite broken mug. Because the handle is broken off, I have to hold it with both hands in order to drink from it. As I do, I feel the warmth of the coffee, as I keep my hands close. In this season, the brokenness of the mug doesn’t seem to matter so much. What matters is that it still allows me to fill it up.

The purpose of the mug, to be filled and to be used, remains. The brokenness of the mug requires it to be held close in order to be used. 

Our brokenness is very much the same way. It may change the way we look, different from others. It may change our function so that we have to be used differently. It may keep us hidden in seasons where others are in the forefront. But our brokenness is also the very thing that keeps us close to Jesus when He is using us. Our purpose remains, to be filled and to be used. 

The ache we feel in this season is an ache that likely will remain this side of heaven because of the fallen world we live in. But the ache is what drives us to Jesus. As we focus this month on thankfulness, even if it looks different, let’s be thankful that Jesus still desires to fill us and use us.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 NASB

P.S.- Psalms Reading Plan:  Don’t forget, we are reading through the Psalms together.  One Psalm a day.  Feel all the feels and be honest and raw with God about what you are feeling.  If you miss a day, just keep going.  You got this.

Numb.

If I had to describe what I have been feeling lately, it’s numb.

I didn’t want to be numb.  It’s just kind of what happened.

2020 has been a year of so many things.  Things that I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime: Prince Harry leaving the throne, murder hornets, Disney World being closed, Kanye West running for president, BLM protests, election violence, churches closing, so many people dying.  The list goes on and on.  There actually is a list on my phone, simply labeled 2020.  If I read the list out loud, it sounds ridiculous.  Yet, here we are.

I got to this place where it all just became too much.  Too much to explain to my kids, too much to process myself.  As much as I want to pray for everyone and everything, where do you start? 

A hard season does that to you.  A hard year does that to you.  But a pandemic?  On top of all the other things that have been going on this year?  I just got to this place that I don’t even have the words.  

All I have is emotions.  And what do you do with emotions when there is no way to resolve them?  It’s not like screaming or having a fit will suddenly make my husbands looming second lay off of the year hurt our finances less.  It’s not as if drowning my sorrows in a tub of ice cream will bring back so many people that died.  Nothing I can do will change things.

I think that’s why I am struggling right now.  I am a justice warrior.  My enneagram 8 temperament pushes me to be a world changer.  I don’t know what it means to be still.  I can’t.  I keep going no matter what, that’s my M.O.  

Except right now, my hands are tied.  I can’t be proactive in any way, other than stocking up on toilet paper, and now I am judged for even doing that.  

One of the things that I have been learning in this season is that it is ok to be not ok.  Let me say that again.

It is OK to not be OK.

So what do we do?  If you are anything like me, this is a hard spot to be in.  I want to DO something.  And because I can’t DO anything, even resolve my own feelings, I settle into a place of being numb.  And I don’t want to be numb.

I was encouraged this past week by a reminder that Jesus, when faced with hard things, spent a lot of time praying the Psalms.  Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus echoing words from various Psalms.  In fact, it’s the book that Jesus is recorded as quoting more than any other book.  When He was pressed, it was the Psalms that came out.  

Jesus used the words of the Psalms as the language for His prayers.  So in moments where we don’t even know how to pray, the Psalms can become our language too.

There is no fancy plan.  There has been no exegetical study.  I am learning that the Psalms are not to be understood so much as they are to be prayed.  They put words to the emotions we are having, and they take them to Jesus.  

You see, I think there is something Holy about this season we are in.  

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are unable to do anything on our own.  The truth is, we never could.  

Any illusion that suggested otherwise was exactly that, an illusion.  So in my helplessness, I turn to Him.  And I pray the Psalms.

Want to join me?

Just praying one Psalm a day.  Starting at the beginning.  And if you miss a day, it’s ok.  Just keep going.  And when you get to something that you feel, that you identify with, feel it.  Allow yourself to feel it in the presence of Jesus.  Welcome Him into that place of pain or fear or anger.  He’s been waiting for you to invite Him into that place.  Because it’s the only way you will heal.

Praying for you, Friends.

Rach

Rest. Just Rest.

Going away on a retreat by myself was definitely not my idea.  In fact, had you offered it to me, I likely would have refused.  However, part of my seminary assignment for the semester was to take a seclusion retreat where I would be alone with the Lord.  Just Him and I.  No people.  No agenda.  No activities.  Just Jesus.  

I am ashamed to admit that He didn’t feel like enough.  

I am someone that is constantly surrounded by people.  Lots of people.  And I like it that way.  If I am alone for too long, I get anxious and restless because it’s my nature to serve and love my people in abundance.  So when I read this assignment at the beginning of the semester, I immediately started thinking of excuses of why I wouldn’t be able to complete it.  Thinking that quarantine was the perfect excuse, I was surprised that my spiritual director didn’t agree.

You can do this.  You won’t be around anyone.  It’s perfectly safe.

Ugh.  So much for blaming everything on COVID.

Realizing that if I didn’t complete this retreat, I wouldn’t pass the class, I surrendered to the idea of it.  I half heartedly mentioned it to a friend as a prayer request because I knew my heart wasn’t in the right place.  Instead of agreeing with me that it was going to be hard, my friend gave me the name of a ministry that houses missionaries and pastors for spiritual retreats.  Along with the referral came an encouragement that I needed to do this.  

I reluctantly sent an email and forgot about it, likely because someone needed me for something else. A couple weeks later, a response from the ministry came, along with details about a place they had lined up for me. All I needed to do was confirm my dates. There was no cost. A little surprised, I responded with some tentative dates, and was shocked that a response email came immediately. It was all set, I was going, all I had to do was pack.

As I stepped foot onto the plane, I prayed a silent prayer.  “Ok, Lord.  I’m doing this.  Whatever you want.”

In some ways, I reminded myself of my teenager when I pull her away for a family vacation, knowing she is capable of having fun without her phone and friends. My attitude reflected hers, and I have to think that God sometimes feels like the parent of a teenager when it comes to my attitude. And I also know that He is the perfect parent that knows what I need before I do.

After a very long day of travel that included not 1, but 2 different airplane mechanical issues that required deplaning and delays, zero uber cars, zero rental cars, and a desperate prayer outside of the airport, I finally made it to the retreat home after my driver helped me find the house that was actually nowhere to be found on the GPS.  I was exhausted.  And hungry.  And just coming to the realization that Uber Eats and Door Dash do not deliver to the middle of nowhere, even though I checked before leaving home.

As I walked inside, tears sprung to my eyes as I found waiting for me a basket of food, a welcoming note, and words that I desperately needed to hear.

“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile.”  Mark 6:31

Rest was exactly what I needed.  After making myself a cup of tea and taking a quick shower, I climbed into bed and slept for 12 hours.  When I woke up in the morning, I was overwhelmed by what I saw.  In the dark and exhausted hours of the night, I did not pay attention to the beauty of the home I was in.  My room, covered in windows, looked out to a beautiful river, between the towering oaks covered in Spanish moss.  I love oaks covered in Spanish Moss.  Love them.  And no one knew that.  But God did.  As I listened to the waves crashing on the sides of the river, watching the moss sway in the breeze, I felt the Lord say, “I love you.”  Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized what I told everyone was really true.  He is a good, good father.  I didn’t want to move from this place.  My comfortable bed, with a beautiful view, overwhelmed by the beauty of what was surrounding me.  

Rest.  Just rest.

I knew in that moment that the Lord created this space, this time, for me to just rest in His presence.  And I wasn’t anxious, or bored, or sad.  But I was tired.  Exhausted actually.  I am always pouring myself out for others and this was God’s way of taking me gently by the hand, and giving me space to just be His.  

I stayed in bed all day, only getting up to open the door for the grocery delivery of some of my favorite foods.  I don’t know the last time I stayed in bed all day, it had been too long to remember.

I am so thankful for the gift of rest, and for the Father who knows what we need.  I am also thankful for people who serve the body of Christ with their gift of hospitality.  The truth is, I needed rest.  I needed time away to listen to all the things I am normally too busy to hear.

You are loved.  You are cherished.  And you are Mine.

Thank you Father.  

The Word of God is Not in Chains

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Sitting inside the cramped and musty room, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. On the wall in front of me, a small plaque explained the significance of the space we were in. A single lamp seemed to hold the only promise of light in the darkened space. The smell of the confined and damp quarters was enough to make me hold my breath. Yet the emotion I was feeling was not consistent with what I was seeing. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it contentment? No, although I was content. Was it relief? Perhaps. As I tried to settle in on what I was feeling, the realization came to me as my eyes adjusted to the dark. The longer I was down there, the better I could make out all the details of the room. The hole overhead where prisoners were either thrown in or lowered down, depending on your status. The divot in the stone where water once collected. The narrow bench carved out of rock, the only reprieve for weary bodies. It was thankfulness that I was feeling.  

My husband and I had traveled to Rome for our tenth anniversary. We had visited the Colosseum, learning from an archaeologist and art historian how one of the 7 wonders of the modern world still stood the test of time. We had marveled at the architecture of the Pantheon, how it inspired famous buildings across the globe. We threw our coins into Trevi fountain, stared up at the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, and ate our fill of delicious Italian food. Yet this moment, this quiet still moment, 25 feet under the ground, is the one that I found myself overcome with thankfulness. This room was the room that Paul and Peter were held in while they were awaiting their executions. 

Earlier in the day we had visited the home where Paul spent his house arrest. We saw the stone pillar where the apostle had carved the words, “Verbum Dei non est alligatum,” which translates to, “But the word of God is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2: 9b, NIV ) We prayed in the spot where Paul’s body had been laid to rest, his chains on display above. We stopped to learn about the place Paul and Peter were both convicted, mere steps away from where we were standing now. But this place, this quiet, dark place, is the one that brought my heart to a pause. We listened as the story was retold of the final moments of Peter and Paul. Peter was facing execution by crucifixion, upside down. Paul would soon be beheaded. They were in a room of likely 50-60 other men, also waiting execution after their trials. You could almost sense the fear that would have hung in the air, amid the smells of human waste and little ventilation. This room, originally a cistern for city center, had been converted to a holding tank, a dungeon, for the city’s prisoners that were convicted and tried. It’s proximity to the courthouse made it a convenient place to discard those disobedient to the laws of the time. It’s ironic that the crime they were charged with was actually atheism, because they were not pledging allegiance to the emperor as god, or the many false gods of the time. The time between their conviction and their execution would have been short, a few days to a few weeks at most. In these final moments, it is recorded that Paul and Peter not only prayed for and converted their cell mates and some guards, but they baptized them with water that crept in through the floor. Staring at the space where the water would have been, looking around the room, realizing what the final moments would have felt like, left me with a mix of both resolve and wonder. And then thankfulness. These fathers of the faith, the men whose words we read throughout the New Testament, were moments away from being martyred. Their mission and calling remained the same, despite their circumstances. The moments they walked in obedience, regardless of what they were facing, were some of the very moments that sparked the spread of the gospel so many years ago. The very fact that I was standing in this room, holding my Bible, reading words that they spoke, were a direct result of their willingness to share their faith, even up until their final moments. As I looked down at the page I held open, the words suddenly had new meaning, even more so than they had earlier in the day: 

But the word of God is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2:9b NIV

As we enter into a season of thankfulness, let’s take a moment to remember those that were martyred in the faith, laying the foundations for our spiritual freedom. It’s not something I think about often, or at least up until this point of my life. But realizing now the cost that came to the early Christians just to follow Christ, it leaves me with such a sense of thankfulness. Thankfulness for Christ, and thankfulness for their example of obedience, no matter the cost.

Be Blessed, 

Rachael

I am Enough for You

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Yesterday while walking through Walmart, my oldest daughter pulled me aside to whisper something to me. 

“Your dad is in the next aisle over.  He saw us but kept walking.”

“Are you sure?” I asked her, hoping maybe she was wrong.  

“It was him.  He has his COVID mask on, but I know it’s him.  He looked me in the eyes.”

A knot was instantly in the pit of my stomach.  Should I follow him and say something?  It’s one thing for him to ignore me, but quite harder for this momma bear to deal with him ignoring my kids.  They are amazing, and the fact that he wants nothing to do with them makes my heart feel like it was ripped in two.

“No.”  The voice, to my relief, interrupted my now spiraling thoughts.  It was the voice of the Holy Spirit.  “I am your father.  Remember whose you are.”

I wish I could say this was the first time this happened,  but unfortunately it isn’t.  It keeps happening.  I wish I could even say it gets easier each time, but it doesn’t.  The sting that hits my eyes almost instantly still catches me off guard each time.  

It’s not that I haven’t tried.  I have.  I have called….. so. many. times.  I have dropped off gifts.  I have sent letters.  I have shown up unexpectedly.  Each time, with some childlike hope that maybe this time, this time it would be different.  It never is.

I remember one time, after hanging up from another unanswered phone call, the complete feeling of rejection that started to wash over my heart.  The Lord interrupted my thoughts then, too.  

“Its the responsibility of the father to pursue a relationship with the child.  Not the other way around.”

Wow.  I had never considered that before.  But we see it in Scripture.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 JOHN 4:19 NLT

Every time I tried and was rejected, it seemed to compound the hurts that came before it.  But this time, as the Lord spoke this into my heart, it started to reach a space that I had kept closed off for so long. 

“Perhaps I am keeping you from something, protecting you.  I can redeem ALL things!  You have seen me do it!  Don’t you think that if I wanted you to have this relationship in your life, I would see that and help you?  Don’t doubt me daughter.”

It was one of the most candid moments of hearing the Lord speak.  Part loving discipline and part rescue from the longing.  Certainly the one who restores could have mended this relationship if He wanted to.  It’s not like there hand’t been opportunity or willingness on my part. 

Almost immediately, an image of a long buried trauma surfaced.  I had forgotten it, that’s how buried it was.  It was almost as if the wind was knocked out of me.  I had forgotten the pain of that moment until now.  This was why….. this was why God was protecting me from that relationship.  All these years I had cried out to God to give me something that wasn’t good for me.  All these years I carried the burden of being the “Christian” that “should” keep trying.  All these years, it was my heavenly Father who was protecting me from something I didn’t even remember.  

I love you, daughter.  That will never change.  I have adopted you as my own, and have been pursuing you, for your entire life.

I am enough for you.”

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5 NLT

The truth is, I am a daughter of the King.  He pursued me because He wanted a relationship with me because it is what He wanted to do.  It wasn’t forced up on Him.  I didn’t need to chase Him down.  He didn’t look past me.  

He sent Jesus to come get me.

As we face a season of socially distant holiday celebrations, perhaps this will be the year that we understand not just who we are, but whose we are.  My prayer for you in this season is that you will realize how incredible His love for you is.

A daughter of the King,

Rachael

Rachael is a Missionary with Children of the Nations, a global orphan care organization.  She works hard to help children all over the globe know that they are loved by God.  You can keep up with her at her blog shehears.org