The Thing About Being Free

I have been trying to blog for a long time but for some reason, like the dark cloud that has been hovering around my heart for ages now, it has been the same for my words.  They keep getting eaten up in this dark abyss that tells me there is no point.  Nothing I want to write about seems to really matter and yet, writing has always been a place of safety for me.  For as long as I can remember and when I had no other safe place, writing kept me safe.  And because I know that, because I know the release from my heart and soul when I put words out there,,, today, I choose to write, no matter what.  There may be no sense and there may be no point but maybe if I put the words here, they will stop swirling around in my head.

And really, I think what I am trying to say is this:  I am tired.  Tired of so many things, too numerous to list.  I realize that to be the Girl Set Free that I am longing to be, I have to battle.  Battle hard. Battle even when I am tired.  Battle when i am weary.  Battle when I don’t think I can win.  Battle when I don’t see the point.  Battle anyway.  Battle on.

The other thing I have come to realize, though it has taken many years, is that I am not alone.  I walk among so many other battle-weary friends and yet, none of us realize we are amongst each other.  There is a lot we don’t talk about, a lot we are not willing to admit. And can I tell you, that makes me, well, tired.

Things have just not worked out the way I expected lately.  Things have been a lot harder than I imagined they were going to be. I am not finding that the older I get, the easier things become or the smarter I am.  In fact, maybe I am finding that nothing is easy and I am not as smart as I once thought I was.  And yet, I think this is exactly where I need to be.

It took me until about 3 years ago to realize that the majority of my life was one huge uphill battle.  I was starting to come to terms with so many battles I was fighting everyday and didn’t even realize it. I was realizing that what was a downhill coast for others was an exhausting battle upward for me.  And for years, I just kept it up.  Trudging, climbing, one step after the other, until one day I stopped and realized, with sheer exhaustion, that when I tried to look downward at what I have conquered, I was still at the bottom of the mountain, looking up.

And so why am I blogging as Girl Set Free?  Because one day I realized just how very free I am not.  I realized that more than anything I long to be free from all of the heavy baggage I keep trudging around with.  I realized that to be free, I was going to have to get there on purpose.

The thing about ever getting to a new place is that first we have to realize where we are.  How can we recognize the top of the mountain if we’ve never come to terms with the bottom of the mountain?

We all have our baggage and we all have our ways of dealing with it.  Many of us choose to keep it tucked in, nice and tight, right beside us, and then wonder why the battle upward is so hard.  We wonder why we just can’t get that foot out in front of the other.  And when I say “we,” I really mean “ME.”

It isn’t enough to just cast the baggage off, blindly, either.  Now, that would be easy.  The thing about God, however, is that he likes to dig in deep and get to those dark place of our hearts, where He can really clean us out.  Every single one of those deep, deep bags needs to be emptied out, right in the presence of His light.  Every little trinket of sin, doubt, depression, fear, anxiety, and past regrets has to roll right on out of those pockets and be dealt with.

Every father that never wanted to take responsibility.

Every mother who only ever thought about herself.

Every single person who was  too shortsighted to understand, too selfish to care or too busy to notice.

Every single minute of hurt, fear, abandonment and distrust that became the heart that beats inside this girl.

This Girl who is so very NOT set free. 

And so now, I can be free.  Just like that.  In a minute of recognition that I am bound up and imprisoned, I realize how very free I can truly be.

That is the thing about being free.  You have to first realize how un-free you really are.

While I still sit at the bottom of this mountain, still battle-worn and tired, the tucked-in and hidden baggage is no longer my companion.  The loving and healing hand of Jesus and His truth leads me, instead.

The journey up the mountain begins now.

 

 

 

 

 

Set Free

Imagine being a prisoner for many years and having no control over your life.  You are locked up. You are isolated. You are alone. There is no love and there is no future. There are no choices. There is no hope.

hopeless

 

One day your shackles are unlocked and you are released.  The control that once ruled over your life is no longer there.  You are no longer locked up.  You are free to leave your life of isolation and loneliness.  You are free to find love, to determine the steps that lead to your future.  You can finally choose.

Yet, you continue without hope.  Your shackles are off and yet you remain in bondage.  You are free and yet continue to be alone.  Where there could be love, there remains a void.  You make few choices and live without any power in your life. You choose your prison.

Why would someone who has been set free continue to live as though still a prisoner?  Why would someone choose to keep on living as if bound by shackles, when in reality, they have been set free to choose for themselves? Why would someone who has been set free keep living the life of a prisoner? It seems strange to imagine that someone would live in such a way.

Yet, that is how I have lived for a very long time.

The truth is there is a difference between being set free and living free. One is a condition, the other is a choice.

I was set free 22 years ago when I, without blinking an eye, decided that it was undoubtedly true that I needed a Savior…Someone greater than myself to free me from my bondage of an empty life full of defeat, pain and regret.  There is only one way to be set free and that is through Truth; everything else is just moving from one prison to another.

And so, I have asked myself over and over, if you’ve been given light, why continue on in darkness?  If your shackles have been unlocked, why are you keeping them on? If Christ didn’t set me free to see me walk in freedom, then why?

I no longer have to live a prisoner to defeat or regret,  I no longer can claim I can’t help it but to resent and begrudge.  I can no longer say I can’t do it, I don’t know how or I don’t understand why.

Truth changes all of that. Jesus changed me.

truth will set you free

I can forgive despite staring in the face of unbelievable hurt.  I don’t have to begrudge no matter how difficult the relationship.  I never again have to wake to worry, walk in fear and find myself paralyzed with uncertainty.

It is time to not only unlock the shackles, but to take them off.  I’ve been free for a long time; it is time to start living that way.  I am a Girl Set Free and this is where I begin my journey with you.  I am not perfect; I still doubt and I still struggle.  I do not have all of the answers and sometimes I stumble.  But that is the beauty of it all…His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and He promises to complete the good work he began in me (Philippians 1:6)

I can’t promise perfection and I can’t promise easy.  I can’t promise nice, neat stories that give you a picture of my life that is faultless but I can promise you real.  I am a real mom, wife and a child of a true, loving and living God.

I am a Girl Set Free.

Unwrapping the Mysteries

I know I am not the first to talk about Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  I am not the first to be touched or to speak to the beauty I found while reading it. Women everywhere are raving about it and I echo all of it – it was truly one of the most beautiful books I have ever read … it touched me in deep soul places that only I know about.

Truth has a way of doing that.

Ann is not a miracle worker … but a woman who allowed God’s truth into her mind and heart so that He could work miracles in her. God gave her a gift and she shares that gift with us.

As I write, I am well aware that books do not change lives.  Even people don’t change lives, if you will.  Truth alone changes lives, when we live it.  God reveals truth to us through His Word and Himself through Jesus Christ, who came not only to give us life eternal but also abundant life, even as we live in this temporal world.

And this truth is what makes Ann’s book all the more touching … she is just like me and you.  As a mother of 6 who homeschools, Ann’s word had such power to touch me because I know she knows.  She lives the life of a mother and wife on a pig farm…with dishes, laundry, bills, bad attitudes and just plain old bad days.  She is not merely speaking truth …she shares her story of living the truth.  Thus, the many women being touched.  Thus, the raving reviews.

Thus, the miracle.

As God was working in Ann’s heart thousands of miles away,  He worked even in mine.

I remember so vividly seeing the words in my Bible:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly. (John 10:10b)

The words stuck out to me like they never had before.  I was a mother of, then, 5 children.  The duties of my mundane and tidious life overwhelmed me.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was living an abundant life.  Yet, God says I could.  I asked over and over … “how?”

I’ve continued to ask the same questions that we all ask, everyday.  ”Why?”  Why so much suffering in this world?  Why all the things that do not make sense?  Why do I read the words “abundant” and yet live what seems to be the opposite?  Why can’t I find that power that I am supposed to have?

Why is it so hard?

Why???

I looked at the mysteries in my life and the world around me and questioned them deep for answers.  There must be answers!

I circled around the mysteries in life, asking, wondering, digging … even begging, crying out to God … for answers … there must be reasons!

I’ve been a fair weather friend to these mysteries … sometimes embracing them and later throwing them out with the garbage.  They don’t make sense … these hurting things, these strange things, these trials, these seemingly senseless circumstances … I can’t dwell with them.  I am meant to live with peace and all the good things that God gives.  I can’t open my hands to mysteries that don’t make sense.

I eye them up, try to make sense of them… and then, I walk away.

I don’t see the abundant life there, with these mysteries.  So, I walk away to look for that abundant life somewhere else … I must be looking in the wrong places.

All the while, my own heart blinds me from ever seeing: complaining, entitlement, criticism, begrudging, bitterness, anger, fear …

I am looking and yet I am blind.  I am looking and yet I am not seeing.

Half through Ann’s book … her beautiful words revealing His truth, it hits me.  For the first time ever.

Grief and joy at the same time … I am 35 years old … and can it be that I am just waking up … to truth?

Yes, I’ve been saved for more than half of my life … but the abundant life I have not lived.

I think of my children closing their hands to my gifts … to the hard work and love that I give them.  The sacrifices of my love rejected. I know they don’t understand … they can’t see always why something is best for them … and yet, I continue to work, sacrifice and give of myself to them … gifts.  Sometimes they take, but often they complain and ask for something else. They close their hands and they say “no.”  ”These are not the things I wanted from you … I wanted something else…something better.”

God says children are gifts …and they are.  They help me to see.

To see…Him. His Truth.

My vision is clear.  I look and I see.

Me.

I can’t see the abundant life … the joy … because I keep saying “no!”  I want something else.  Something other than bills, laundry, dishes, messy floors, long days, contentious children, misunderstanding …

“No, not this, Lord … the abundant life, please?”  ”See, you’ve misunderstood my request, Lord.  I was looking for something else, something better…”

And so, I’ve been walking away.  Empty-handed.

The gifts, His gifts,  just sitting, unwrapped, unopened.  Unaccepted.

And so now, 35 years old, waking to truth, and I see.  The way to unwrap the mysteries of life, the things that don’t make sense … the way to  make sense … the way to find abundant life and not… just life …

It is to GIVE THANKS…to accept His gifts, those things He has already given, EVEN the mysteries, to open my hands … behold them, embrace them.  Say “Thank you, Lord.  These are from You, my loving Father, and for me, Your child.  Thank you.”

The mysteries are unwrapped into joy…into abundant life…and the questions no longer seem important.  It is no longer important to know why when I’ve learned to see Who.

And, the “thank-you” – it is not just a list of things or a muttering of words ...it is a way to live.

Living with hands open to His gifts … finding abundant life in what He provides…and even, especially, the mysteries that He allows.

And so, for the first time in my life, I find that abundant life.  I realize the gifts have been there all along; I’ve just been overlooking them.

I can finally unwrap these mysteries, these gifts, and find  joy.

His joy.

My hands wide open.  My eyes seeing.  I give thanks.

Eucharisteo.

The Bottom Line

As last year came to an end, I found myself often considering the differences between writing, talking, reading, and living.  I find that I do a lot of the former three and sadly, I lack the actual living part.

It is so easy to write and talk and then deceive oneself into thinking she is on the right path.  And that is exactly what it is: deceit.  Something like lying to yourself.  Lies create a fantasy world, a world of bondage.  I’ve been living in a fantasy world.

Truth sets us free.  But not truth that stops in our heads and hearts.

Truth must be in our lives, in our actions, to liberate us from the bondage created by lies.

I go into this New Year with a blog full of words, a head full of knowledge and  a heart full of burdens.  My goal this year: to fill my life with living; to become more than just words.  This year, I pray to become who God is calling me to be.  Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience chooses themes for each year.  My theme for this year is to become more than words.

That is why I am joining the challenge to read the Bible in 90 days.  The Bible is THE SOURCE of truth.  In the past I easily spent an hour, or more, a day connecting with the world through Facebook, email, and blogging.  I can’t deny I received much encouragement from the beautiful Godly people that God has placed in my life. It has always been my heart’s prayer that I also was able to share that same encouragement with others.

But, I’ve always been taught that even good things become bad things when they take you away from the best things.  It should be a breeze to get through the Bible in 90 days if I am willing to be “disconnected.”  My world will become so much smaller, easier to manage, simpler … if I run from this connected world and to my Father through His Word.  His Truth.

Freedom.

The bottom line for me is this: I need that freedom.  I need to escape this fantasy world and move forward to a life that is genuine, sincere and rooted in His Word.  It is going to mean some sacrifices that will be hard for me at first.  It will mean leaving things, people, and hobbies I have come to enjoy, even love.  But I know I will never regret it. I have but one life and I see it so quickly, as a vapor, vanishing before my eyes. I need to live the life God has graciously gifted to me.

Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience has been an unspeakable inspiration to me. She talks much about words on her blog … saying herself that “the only words that matter are the ones I live.”

Oh how true. Beautiful truth.

I will be using Ann’s tool: 100 Days Calendar, which you can download at her site, to help me develop new habits in my life. And while I will be here less to share my heart and visit with my friends, I will be here sometimes and I would only be honored if others would join me in this venture. Please visit Ann’s site to find her 100 Days Calendar and may God bless you as you seek to build new habits that glorify him!

90 Days? Really?

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas celebrating Christ with your family and a beautiful New Year looking ahead to God’s blessings.

Thank you all for your patience as I continue to transition my blog.  It seems to be an ever-changing hobby for me and I appreciate those of you who don’t mind my ambivalence around here!  I promise things will come together soon!

Anyway, today is an exciting day!  I have joined along with many others at MomsToolBox to read through the entire Bible in 90 days!!  Seriously.  90 days!

Definitely an ambitious endeavor for me but I am excited and fully committed to get this done!  It is 90 days of intense reading but I know I will not regret it.  Well, maybe when I am trying to read through Leviticus ~ I’ll just have to keep my eyes on the goal as I read through those grueling genealogies and such.

All that said, such a goal requires sacrifice in other areas.  As the reading takes about an hour or more each day, I will have less time for others things, namely blogging.

I am going to try to update once a week about my progress and how God is using the reading in my life and I encourage you to join me!  I understand that the actual registration is closed due to an overwhelming response, but who says you need to register to read God’s Word?

If you follow any of the links or buttons in this blog,  you can find all the information you need at MomsToolBox, including a daily schedule.

So, I apologize if things are quiet around here but I am hoping that God uses this Bible-reading time in a great way in my life.  He knows what I need and I pray that He is gracious and merciful enough to me that He should reveal to me how I can become more like Christ.  I pray that this proves to be a life-transforming start to 2011 and as I finish up in April, I will be walking closer to my Savior as a more use-able vessel for His glory, alone.

MomsToolbox

Please pass on the word …

Please pass on the word for this sweet young man still in need of his forever family … he is running out of time and must be adopted before February.  You can read more about him over at NO GREATER JOY MOM.

In the very least, please posting about him wherever you can … blogger, facebook, etc.  Let’s help get the word out for this young man who needs his family and then let’s wait to see God perform a miracle!!

Merry Christmas!!

Our home is in full swing getting ready for Christmas!  We are finishing tidbits of schooling, doing some last minute shopping, getting Christmas cards and pictures ready and baking for some family and friends.

Sometime I will wrap gifts.  I so hope I don’t wait until Christmas Eve AGAIN this year …

I am also working hard not to let myself nor my children get lost in the materialism and planning of it all- it does take a conscious effort, doesn’t it?  It is so easy to just get excited about all of the festivities without remembering to teach and model to  my children that we should be laying the gift of our hearts and lives at the feet of Jesus.

I am learning so much about the importance and joy of giving.  The sacrificing of my time, energies, and resources to give to others so that they might receive a blessing.  How easy it is to put that aside while we rush to get everything else done in time for Christmas Day.

I never want to lose sight of these things and my heart’s deepest prayer is to only learn more, desire more, and serve more with the proper motives in my heart.  I pray the same for you , dear friends, and I ask that if you feel led, please pray for me and my family.

With that in mind, we are going to start preparations this week to make baskets and gift bags with some baked goods for the teachers and administrators at my sons’s school (my 3rd born goes to a charter school even though I homeschool the oldest 2), Sunday School teachers, Truth Tracker leaders, neighbors and whoever else might pop into mind.

I found a fun and SUPER easy recipe that I’ve wanted to try for some time and I think this year will be the time.

All you need is Ritz crackers, Andes creme de menthe baking chips (EVEN plain Andes will do if you can’t find the baking chips) and some shortening. 
Then, in a double broiler, or like myself since I don’t have a double boiler, a glass bowl set over simmering water, melt together 1 package Andes baking chips and add 2 tsp or so of shortening to thin the chocolate out a little.
Using a fork, dip the crackers into melted chocolate, lift out and shake any excess chocolate off. (Resist the urge to lick and then eat all of the crackers before you can pack them up for friends!)
Place on wax paper and if you’d like, top with crushed candy canes or sprinkles before cooling in the refrigerator. 
If you prefer, you can omit the shortening, melt chocolate chips  and add peppermint extract, instead.  This would be less expensive than buying Andes mints while using the mints would save just a tad bit of time.  We might try both.
And I’ll just HAVE to taste-test both versions before handing them out.  I want to be absolutely sure I give the best quality thin mints for Christmas!! MMMM, can’t wait to get started!
Merry Christmas everyone  - see you all in 2011!