Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “Truth”

A Wrong Turn Down Memory Lane

Taking a walk down memory lane is the best and the worst thing we can do. My husband and I were doing just that yesterday, the conversation starting off pretty funny and pleasant and with one wrong turn, I stumbled down a lane riddled with thorns, speed bumps, pot holes and quick sand. I completely ignored the Holy Spirit who was holding up a sign that said “Road Closed.” Ugggh!!! It was amazing how with one question, I found myself taken back down a road I should have never been on; one which I just knew I would never visit again. I would tip toe past it from time to time; I’d even do a “fly over,” being very careful not to set foot down that path again, but here I was reliving it all over again, allowing the thorns to once again pierce me; being slowed down by the speed bumps as I tried in vain to quickly get off that lane, tripping on the many pot holes which littered a once beautiful lane….stopping short of the quicksand which I knew if I would tread on it would take me down…no way I’d let it take me down again!

So I side stepped the quicksand and found myself at the end of that once lovely lane feeling like Lot’s wife who was to be spared but just couldn’t resist looking back one last time.  Looking back is just not natural when what you are looking at is just not pleasant. What’s wrong is that a glance over your shoulder to a time of adversity should only serve to strengthen your resolve not to pay adversity another visit…not if you can help it, anyway!  Sometimes we allow adversities to paralyze our forward motion.  The problem is that a glance becomes a stare, becomes a lingering gaze and before you know it you’re hot once again. I was bummed that I had stirred up emotions that were supposed to be “dead” and as I turned back to continue doing what I had been doing before my husband and I began “reminiscing,” I thought to myself, what would make it better?  What could be done to finally bring closure?  Would opening my heart to a “public viewing” help?  Would a confrontation be the ticket?  In the end the only one hurt is the one needing pay back so the answer is no….a big fat resounding NO!

Vindication ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…so you get heard and understood and then what? Though the speed bumps are flattened, the thorns trimmed and the pot holes filled, it’s still up you to make the choice not to allow yourself to be swallowed up by that quicksand..the quicksand of anger, hurt, bitterness…sucks you in to take you out!

In the end, I took a dose of my own medicine and began to think about all the good that resulted from that time; how God uses every part of our lives…every season we encounter to grow us and show us things about others, but mostly about ourselves.  What I learned about me is that I am one tough cookie! I do have self control…shocking for someone who at one time in her life would go from zero to 60 in a blink. I learned what I’ve always known to be the case…Because I love hard, when hurt comes I take it hard; I learned that I love truth, so when lies and accusations are hurled I react; I learned that love is a verb…ALWAYS and at all times; I learned that “I’m sorry” is way overused and trust is earned; I learned that I am quite discerning, so I’m rarely surprised, but sometimes shocked!! I learned never to allow myself to be placed on a pedestal again and if I slip up, I’ll make sure it’s close to the ground:)

I hit the light and in the dark, I decided that renewing my mind with the word of God was still the best approach so as I envisioned myself walking around the patch of quicksand at the end of that once lovely lane, the scripture which came to mind was “It is Finished” – for now anyway!

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A Perfectly Woven Web, Part II

You can catch up by clicking here and reading Part I –https://armouredup.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/a-perfectly-woven-web/

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside.  We embraced and she confessed that she woke up that morning uncertain that she would be joining us and was close to canceling.  “I’m so glad you came,” is what came out of my mouth, but what I was thinking was, if she had cancelled, I would have also.  We boarded the bus warily, I’m sure each of us skeptical for different reasons…she, never being around so many Christian women in so intimate a setting and I in the midst of healing after having my trust breached (once again) by Christians.  We pull off, eyebrows raised, destination known, future uncertain…with only God knowing what the condition of our hearts would be on the ride back home.  During the ride I pointed out Rashayna and told her that I wanted to introduce them that weekend.  She stared at her for a while and said she looked so familiar to her.  We settled in and chatted the rest of the way about nothing and everything.  We arrived and were given our room assignments and instructions to meet in the dining room.  We met our other roommates, a sister who had recently discovered she was expecting after the devastating loss of child born extremely premature just a few months prior and our fourth roommate was a woman I had never met, but was strangely drawn to with a story which would prove to blow back all of our hair.  She was one of the speakers and all I knew about her was that she had a story!!  The Weaver was busy weaving…

After dinner, we gathered in our meeting room.  I found seats for us and held my breath as the program began with worship.  I so wanted her to be comfortable and I was straining to focus as our first speaker took the microphone; opened up in prayer and began to talk about the many veils we wear as women to mask our feelings.  <“Breath, Arlene, she’s talking to you,” is what I kept hearing…”Let Me handle Mary and you just receive.  I am God, you know.”>  Note to self and the reader….Uh, God is God and we are not!  How refreshing is that??? – With an exhale, I began the process of entering in that rest I so needed, casting my care and Mary over to Him and guess what?  It works!  I spotted Mary taking page after page of notes.  Our next speaker talked about the labels we wear as women; some self-imposed, some inherited, some given to us, some of which stick and alter our perspectives, our choices, our decisions. Was that a tear I saw Mary wipe away or was that mine blocking my vision?  The program closed and a spontaneous decision was made for all of us to take a walk to a fire pit where our weekend’s leader kicked down “discomfort’s door” and with transparency that later Mary would say moved her beyond belief, she welcomed us into her pain and floored us with the details of what was currently raging in her personal life, threatening to prove that God had forgotten her and her family.  That opened up the door to many other women sharing intimate details.  I noticed that Mary had sat with Rashayna and they had been chatting.  I sat off to the side  praying that Mary would get up and unmask the enemy giving her an opportunity to disarm him in the company of some powerful women. Just as our time that first night as a group was coming to an end…the cold becoming a bit much and just as I was pleading to the Lord for her to raise her hand, Mary did just that and with the strength that I saw in our leader just moments before, she stood up, introduced herself and poured out what she had shared with me, ending her introduction with something like, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m here and I don’t know if I’ll ever believe the way you all do, but I’m here,” and that, my friend, is all that God needed to hear!

We retired to our rooms, some too amped to stay behind closed doors and us four opting  for a more intimate setting in our room.  Kim, the woman I was so drawn to began to share a little of her testimony.  I noticed her peace, how beautifully she spoke…both gently and confidently, with so much ease.  Mary, who is as smart as a whip, and Kim began engaging as I listened.  Kim answered some pretty difficult questions with such practicality and with a deftness I hadn’t seen in a while.  She too, had miscarried her baby just six weeks prior and would be sharing her story.  She hesitantly shared that she had a picture of her 12 week old baby and asked if we wanted to see.  She also wanted our opinion as to whether it would be too shocking to share as part of her story.  God worked it out that our fourth roomie was fast asleep and missed our conversation altogether.  Kim shared the picture of her baby and she just beamed as she showed us.  That picture would prove to change Mary’s mind regarding the horror of abortion.  God…on the move even up to the time we turned our lights out and said goodnight.  I’m sure Mary had a lot going on that she was processing, as I fell asleep thinking about Kim and her amazing faith.

I have asked Kim’s permission to share her testimony, one which she so powerfully shared with us on the next day, which concluded with a letter she had written to her baby the day after she miscarried, along with the picture she took of her baby.   Kim’s response to my request was “Of course.  Anyone who values your writing, I’m confident will value what God has and is doing through that letter and photo.  It’s funny that you bring up Mary…when this woman who I did not know (with wavering faith) looked at the photo and said, ‘I don’t think I’m Pro-Choice anymore,’ I knew God was going to do great things with this.  I trust whatever you decide.”  Here is a link to that letter and photo.  http://wynottme.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dear-baby/

The next day Mary woke up with a lightness to her.  After breakfast, we met once again to hear our sisters speak on topics varying from dealing with envy and strife to one of my personal favorites…the testimony given by the former Miss Alabama and powerhouse woman of God about faith and the word and how to wield it while God works in accordance with it.  We took a break for some quiet time with the Lord, after which we would have lunch, some free time and then back for the beginning of Mary’s long-awaited breakthrough…when Rashayna would share what appeared to be a message prepared just for Mary’s ears.

Rashayna has a soothing voice which has a buttery or velvet-like texture to it and she began speaking from the back of the room as a video played.  She showed the Lifehouse skit “You’re All I Need,” which tells the story of a young girl having found Jesus, only to be wrestled away by the demons of her past, and the fight which ensues and ultimate victory as Jesus breaks through to win her back.  Rashayna shared her message with the precision of  a surgeon and I knew without a doubt that this message was the most important message that Mary would hear that weekend…this would be the message which she would never forget and later, Mary would confirm that to be the case.  At the end of Rashayna’s message, prayer was offered and as I opened my eyes, there was Mary making her way forward.  Of course I began directing traffic in my head saying….”no, don’t go that way, go to the right, towards Rashayna…no stop!”  Another sister reached Rashayna before Mary could, but God had a better plan.  As the evening drew to a close, after many more tears, it was time to head back for the night.  Mary said she wanted to stay behind for a minute.

A minute turned into at least 2-3 hours as Rashayna swooped in and spoke to her in a language only they recognized, their past beliefs, experiences and circumstances being eerily similar.   Mary met her match in Rashayna who is extremely intelligent with the most tender heart.  Rashayna was firm, tough as nails and determined not to allow Mary to wear her out with her questions and stubbornness.  One of my favorite lines that the Lord dropped into Rashayna for her to deliver was one which gave Mary pause to think about and for which she had no response.  It went something like this – “The philosophies and beliefs you have, have gotten you to this point.  They are no longer serving you and the lifestyle you are striving for.  It is time to establish new philosophies and beliefs based on the Truth.”   Can’t you just hear that “ZING” where you are?   Just as we were wondering aloud where Mary was, she appeared at the door with a tear-stained face, red nose, looking like she had been in a fight and had lost!  haha. Rashayna followed her in looking pretty spent as well.  She told her to tell us what she had just done.  It took her a minute to form her words, but she said it and when she did I could have just fallen out again, but I kept my composure as I heard her say, “I gave my heart to Jesus…I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”  I went to sleep that night with the biggest smile and with a heart filled with gratitude…in awe at how God had moved and planned and orchestrated so many circumstances, situations and events in order to make Himself known to one, while healing the heart of another.  (My journey to healing began on the zipline, which I shared a while back in my blog titled, “Zipline to Freedom.”)

Our final morning together, Mary got dressed up in her Sunday best and I asked her (although I knew the answer) why she was wearing heels.  She said, “I’m going to church…I think I can make the 1:00 service when we get back.”  hehehe  One of the last things I said to her the night before was that she should prepare for a bumpy ride, since the enemy is not happy at all about losing one of his soldiers and those words were prophetic.  Soon after she arrived at church that day, she received a message from back home that her mom was being hospitalized and it was serious.  Mary’s first text to me was a prayer request.  Here’s what she wrote…”Just got a text…my mom is in the hospital.  My dad, sis and mom r in such fear. I’m at service and will stay here then call my family. What r some scriptures that I can pray for my mom. I don’t feel equipped with the bible and jesus and I feel I will be on a plane to Chicago by tomorrow.”   God was wooing her back to her family, the family she had disengaged from for years.  She was in Los Angeles…as far away as possible from her former life and the crippling pain she had run from seven years before.  She arrived in Chicago with her notes from the weekend which she used to strengthen herself and her mom.  Here’s another text she sent me giving me an update.  “…The good thing is she is asking for jesus to help her and he is right here with me…I prayed over her when I first got here but I now need to do it again and feel confident without doubt.”  God moved on her mom’s behalf.  Mary made the decision to move back to Chicago to pick her life back up and move forward.  She has found a church and is serving and just recently shared with me that her mother, sister and aunt have all received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

A couple of weeks ago she was in town and she and I met with Rashayna over lunch and I was able to rest my eyes on a miracle.  While she spoke, I marveled once again at how far she had come, recognizing that the Lord was still doing a work in her in order to complete His “takeover” of every stronghold that attempts to linger.  I sat back staring at the two of them visiting the memory of what I just wrote about and as I write this I am teary once again at the lengths our Heavenly Father will go to in order to prove His unfailing love.  As life will have it, Mary is back in Chicago, Rashayna and her family are packing to move to another state and here I remain amazed that for that moment back in February our lives merged and what began as a favor for a friend (Victoria) became a story woven so beautifully, so intricately that no one person could ever take the credit for…for it was the Master Weaver at work behind it all.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” Psalm 36:7 NIV

A Charger, an Extension Cord and the Truth…The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth…God Help Me!!!

I like lists…I like five point messages…when I pray, I string along at least three scriptures…more if I’m in the zone.  Just thought I’d point out my grouping tendencies, just in case you haven’t noticed.  You’ll never figure out the subject matter of this post by its title.  It very much described today…a special day for my daughter and me.  She and my son were gone for a couple of days to camp with our church’s youth and she returned tired and talkative and best of all, so happy to see me.  Yesterday we had some prayer time, she shared her pictures and we hung out in the pool and spent most of the day together.  Later in the day, she pulled out her journal to read what the Holy Spirit dropped in her heart during worship over the weekend.  I was tearing up as she shared her heart with me.  This morning she woke up looking for me again.  After we completed our chores, she watched as I squeezed lemons for lemonade and then followed me back to the living room asking me when we were going to start reading the books we recently ordered from Amazon.  She’s open and wanting to engage.  I watched her when she wasn’t looking.  I thought how blessed my daughter was to have someone to pour into her, life’s lessons; how blessed she was to know Jesus this intimately at such a young age; and then I thought of the huge responsibility on my shoulders.  I relaxed as I remembered that it not only was a shared responsibility with my husband, SomeOne much bigger, wiser, more loving and faithful than either of us was in control.

For the longest time I’ve known that today would come; I’ve sorta been preparing, but was not prepared, really.  I had cruised around this topic before, ducking her pointed questions on more than one occasion, recognizing that timing was everything and her immaturity would time after time prolong the inevitable.  Today was the day…the time had come…it had to be done and I had to be the one and she was ready so ready or not…I took a deep breath….and then started thinking about me at that age and how no one ever broke anything down to me.  Good grief, this was a joke.  What I learned, I learned from giggly, misinformed cousins and conversations overheard and possibly a book or two from a classmate.  I came out of that reverie, ready to take the plunge and I began by talking to her about hormones, body image, touch. I thought I’d break into a sweat when it came time to go in for the kill; break it down; seal the deal, especially when I noticed her looking out the window in a trance.  I tried to ask leading questions to see what she knew, but she wasn’t biting.  She did admit to having heard some things on tv which made her wonder.  As she was talking, I spotted my computer charger and an extension cord and was able to diffuse any discomfort by using my props to conjure up the image of women as receivers and men as givers.  I was swimming now, not flopping around and I had her complete attention.  I shocked myself with the words I was using…nothing X rated, but certainly “R” :).  I told her stories of my upbringing and then the lesson was over for now.  I kissed her and promised that she could trust me; that I would tell her the truth, the whole truth at all times.  She kissed me and thanked me and promised to trust me.  I walked away thinking about everything I said and all that I didn’t say and the rest that I need to say.  Ours will be an ongoing discussion…I’m believing that will be the case.

As uncomfortable the notion of going there was, I felt that it was time and I was much more self assured than I thought I’d be.  She was ready, more mature and I surely didn’t want her learning on the fly as I did.  I didn’t follow any prescribed method or five point message; I didn’t get any advice from Dr. Leman or anyone else.  I was led by the Holy Spirit who nudged me today…the timing was right…her heart was yielded…we got through it…it’s done.  For today anyway!

Whew!!  What a day!!

I Like Me

I can’t help it…I like me.  I like everything about me.  Everything that is right and wrong about me.  Everything in and out about me.  I just do…and if you got a chance to know me, I think you’d like me too.  I didn’t mean to sound so Dr. Seuss about it all.  I spend time evaluating myself every so often.  Some gals spend time primping and poking, injecting, plucking and painting and all that is great and necessary most times…no judgment — I just tend to look in cause for me if I’m right on the inside, it transfers to the outside…at least that’s the truth for me.

I’ve prayed with and for women who do not feel valued or valuable, validated or viable; who are led astray by their emotions believing whatever lies have been fed to them; women who have not been affirmed; have compared themselves to and competed with the lies shown on the cover and in the pages of magazines; women who have not been what I call loved from the inside out and as a result don’t love themselves; don’t feel worthy of any good and their choices in life sometimes expose their misguided “truths.”  I’ve often wished that I could open these women up somehow and pour into them all that I know about how much He loves them, how He has great plans for them, but none of that would stick, I know, until they learn to like themselves first!!

It’s a wonder that I never fell into any of those traps.  For how supportive and comforting my mother was as I was growing up, I never once recall her encouraging me in any way other than to tell me how pretty she thought I was.  After my first major heartbreak (I was 22) she tried comforting me the best she knew how by telling me to eat because I was too skinny, even though I still was beautiful and would find someone else, of course. I’m not slamming her.  I don’t hold that against her at all.  When you know better, you do better.  She didn’t know any better, having been raised with a stable of beautiful sisters, I’m thinking her mother probably comforted them in that same manner.  In fact I clearly recall, for instance, when my mom would ask one of her siblings how “so and so” was, the response always began with how “so and so” looked, usually followed by some sort of tragedy.  My sisters and I joke about that.  That’s my mommy!  I love her and from her I did learn how to demand respect!!  She was tough!  My mama didn’t play!!

I made a conscious decision when my daughter was a baby that I would minor on the outside and major on the inside, meaning that I wouldn’t focus on her looks…I figured the world would tell her how cute she was in due time.  Instead, I would focus on the real her.  Her spirit, who she really was.  She had to learn to love herself first, to be content with who she was and how God made her.  During one of our recent walks, I spent a great deal of time telling her the amazing young woman I saw her becoming.  I praised her by telling her how kind and generous she was, how thoughtful and encouraging she was, how trustworthy and genuine she was; how creative and talented she was.  I tell you, I thought she would float away by the time I finished encouraging her.  Her head was held high and she was so gonna keep up with me in order to hear every word.

I’m determined to build her up from the inside to the outer…to love herself well enough to eventually like herself… and everything about her..the right and wrong about her; everything in and out her!

“What matters is not your outer appearance – the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes – but your inner disposition.  Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” 1Peter 3:3-4 The Message Bible

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