The Silence

silenceKeriLynn

In my Bible between the Old and New Testament is one single sheet of tissue-thin blank paper. One page. I can flip past it in the blink of an eye, which is deceptive, because that single sheet of empty paper represents 400 years of silence. 400 years of wondering. 400 years of questions.

Will rescue come?

Will love come down?

Will God ever speak again?

Silent years are hard years. Silence can drive a person mad. Laugh with me, cry with me, correct me and even yell at me, but don’t give me the silent treatment. I can’t handle that.

But that’s exactly what God gave to the Israelites; silence. For 400 years.

I wish we knew what they did in the waiting. How they processed the ceasing of His voice and instruction. Did they grieve? Did they jump through hoops trying to make Him talk? Did the blame themselves? Blame God? Draw closer to Him or shrink away? We don’t know. All we have is a blank sheet of paper filled with silence.

I wonder how many years passed before they began to believe that maybe He would never speak again. Did they quit straining to hear his voice? Did they sit around and talk about what it would be like to hear Him again? Did they place bets on how it would happen; through a prophet or a burning bush or a talking donkey or a thunderous sky? Did they look for Him in all the obvious places? And then start looking for Him in the obscure?

Did they expect a baby and a teenage girl and a carpenter would be the vessel that carried the Word of God into the silent world?

Did they ever expect for love to come down to them?

We’re often told when we can’t hear God to press in, to push through, to pray harder, read more, to seek and knock until we wear ourselves out with the seeking. And I do believe that there are seasons when that is exactly what we need to do. But sometimes, in seasons of silence, maybe what we need to do most of all is simply wait. To quiet our hearts, and still our striving, and hope beyond reason that the gospel is true and that the silent God is also a loving God who is willing to come to us in the dark quiet places and wrap arms of love around us… right where we are.

The story of Christmas isn’t that we chose to come to God, but that God chose to come to us.

And so maybe today, in our own maddening silence, in our own place of questioning and wondering and waiting… maybe today we can stop. Stop striving and begging and chasing after god. Stop thinking that we’re doing everything wrong, and just rest in the reality that a blank piece of paper and 400 years of silence is part of the Bible too, and that our seasons of silence might be part of the story that God is writing in us as well. Maybe instead of filling the silence we can just be here and hope beyond reason that at the right time and in the right way love will come down and rescue us.

~Keri

Advertisements

Holding Hurt Hostage

4626758148_4d50322a28_b

 

Two summers ago I read a story in a blog that has recently come back to my memory. In fact, I can’t quit thinking about the monkeys Fab saw that day…

One time I made the mistake of going to the Austin Rescue Zoo with a friend of mine. It is probably the most depressing way you could spend a day; each of the animals has been rescued from a terrible environment. I was excited to see the monkeys because (a) I like monkeys and (b) because these monkeys had been trapped in tiny containers (barely the size of their bodies) their entire lives and now they had this huge enclosure with room to swing in the trees and finally act like monkeys. I scanned every branch, but there were no monkeys to be seen. Then I saw a little girl pointing to the corner of the enclosure, and sure enough, there they were. The monkeys sat with hunched bodies in the corners of the cage with their faces pressed up against the bars. It was as if they didn’t know that they had been set free and behind them lay this huge open space. I guess they felt more comfortable in the position they had known their entire lives. They didn’t know how to move their bodies the way they were made; it hurt to stretch and move their muscles. So they just sat – looking at the exact same view they’d had before they were ever rescued.

There are times in life when hurt holds us hostage. When misfortune finds its way into our hearts and displaces everything else. When we are so wrapped up in grief and circumstance that we feel trapped by it, enslaved even. Thankfully, for the most part, those are seasons in our life that come and go. Usually they stick around longer than we’d like, but almost always they do end. The problem is, when hurt has lingered long it’s hard to break free from it. Sometimes, long after hurt has let go of us we still hold tight to it. Instead of hurt holding us hostage we hold hurt hostage. We invite misfortune to pull up a chair and stay a while. Hurt moves in and takes up residency in our hearts. And all the while we hold the power to set them free. Instead of letting the hurts go and releasing the pain of the past we hold it hostage. We tie it to a chair and point a gun to its head. The problem is that we ourselves become the prisoner.

I’ve watched too many movies. I know what hostages are like. You can’t turn your back on them for one minute or they will escape. So we live with one eye trained on the hurt. We can’t fully engage in life because we’re tied to watching our hostages; fear, anger, depression, bitterness, mistrust, resentment, cynicism, abuse. They cloud our vision and keep us from being free. We can’t let them out of our sight or they might escape. I hate my hostages, I want to be free from them, but somewhere along the way I’ve taken them on as mine and feel responsible for guarding them. But what if we let them go? What if we put the gun down and untied the ropes? What if we opened the back door and let the hurt leave? What if we made room for something else to occupy that space? What if we emptied a few chairs and risked letting peace or love or joy to come and sit with us?

We live like those monkeys. God has delivered us, but we’re still not free. He has broken the power of the hurt and pain, but we can’t let go of the memory of it. We’re afraid to turn around and explore our new found liberty because we might get hurt again. We feel more comfortable in the presence of pain and sorrow then we do in the presence of life and joy so we hang out with what’s familiar. I get it; it’s risky to leave the cage. It’s scary to head into unchartered territory. It’s silly to think that we’d rather stay tied to hurt than to run out into abundant life and joy and freedom. But when you’ve been hurt too long, and broken too much it’s flat out hard to change.

And we don’t have to. We can keep living like we’ve always lived. Overcome by fear, in the shadow of doubt, with closed off hearts. Or… we can let go. We can chose to cut the ropes that tie us to our past. We can open the door of our heart and let love and life blow in. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? I think so. (I know the right answer is “yes, it’s worth it” but in full disclosure my heart is still in the “I think so” stage.)

When we hold hurt hostage we live small lives. We live trapped. But we don’t have to. God longs to set us free from the confines of our own fear. He longs to bring us out of the dark dungeon and into the light of life.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

Let’s make room in our lives for the spacious places God has planned for us. Let’s take a deep breath, close our eyes, and let go off all we’re holding hostage in our hearts. Let’s live free!

~Keri

8492960321_44fb45a42a_b

Photo by IKO Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Matthew Paulson Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

The Shadow of His Wing

photo (91)

“We spend more time talking about how wonderful it is to hide

under His wings than actually finding refuge there.”

Angie Smith

We sat in the gazebo in the middle of forty beautiful acres with open books on our laps discussing chapter five of “Chasing God”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting, the only sound was that of birds scurrying about and the breeze on the wind chimes. We sat in silence as the truth of Angie’s words filled the space between us.

Just a few minutes earlier we were at dinner with about thirty Benedictine Sisters inside the hundred year old Monastery that sits in the middle of the property. At dinner Sister Kimberly was entertaining us with a hilarious story. She was at a retreat out of state when several of them decided to make their way down to the lake for a few minutes of quiet reflection. It turned out to be not so quiet after all. On the bank of the lake was a pair of geese with a large brood of goslings. Sister Kimberly was excited to see all of the baby geese, when suddenly a large dog came out of nowhere barking and chasing after them. The momma goose ushered all of the babies into the lake and then proceeded to stretch out her gigantic wings over each of the goslings and pushed them under the water. She stayed there like that for the longest time, hissing at that dog, and nearly drowning her babies. Sister Kimberly said she held them under water so long she was sure that none of them would survive. Eventually the dog wandered off and one by one the baby geese bobbed back up to the surface.

I couldn’t help but think about her story as we sat in the gazebo discussing what it looks like to take refuge under His wings. How brave of that mother goose to gather and protect the little ones. How terrifying it must have been to be one of those babies; thrown into the lake, pushed under water, surrounded by darkness, gasping for breath. I imagine they might not have thought their mom brave or heroic or nurturing. I bet they fought against those strong wings under that cold water.

Maybe this is why taking refuge is harder than talking about refuge.

“I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) sounds a lot more poetic then “please nearly drown me and hide me in a dark cold place until the disaster has passed”. The truth is; experience is always messier than knowledge, which may be why we shy away from it.

The next morning I got up early and went out to the pond. I found my own pair of geese; these two aren’t keeping an eye on a young brood, but on a nest full of eggs. Their diligence to watch those eggs amazed me. They were willing to take me on the moment I got to close to their precious babies. I understand their fierce protective nature, I am a mother, I would do the same. I even understand why the mother goose pushed her babies under the water. I didn’t make sense to them, but to her it was what needed to be done in that moment.

So many times in my life I’ve felt like that nearly drowned gosling. I’ve fought against God, questioning what on earth He is doing to me. I’ve felt like the darkness would never lift, that the waters pressing in around me would never recede. Like Angie I’m a lot better at studying Him than trusting Him. Because often trusting Him doesn’t make sense, at least not from my perspective.

Job said “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. I love the way the New Living Translation reads: God might kill me, but I have no other hope. (Job 13:15) Sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hear our desperate cries and will never come to our rescue, but what if He is rescuing us in a way that feels more like drowning than being snuggled up warm and dry in a safe nest? Can we trust Him in those moments?

He says we can. He promises that His plans for us are for our good and not to harm us. Maybe trusting Him looks a lot more like a defenseless gosling trusting her mother’s wings will not drown her but protect her than believing that trust means we will never experience darkness or fear or pain under His wings of protection.

We know that if one of those baby geese had stood her ground and faced that dog in her own strength she might have wound up as lunch that day. That would be a foolish thing to do, yet I do the same thing all the time. When faced with disaster my immediate response is often to either face it head on and try to figure out a way through in my own strength or to run and hide all alone wondering why Jesus isn’t rescuing me. What if instead of looking to ourselves for rescue we looked for His wings and then stayed put under them for however long it took? Yes, it might be scary under there, but it’s better than facing that dog alone.

With Love~
Keri

Hope Deferred

8597405769_86f0154e1f_z

Waiting sucks. {I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to say “sucks” here but “waiting is hard” didn’t adequately describe how I’m feeling} I hate waiting, and I’m not really good at it. Patience is not my forte.

It seems as if everyone I know is in a holding pattern right now. Waiting on new. Waiting on change. Waiting on someone, something, somewhere. Waiting for doors to open, and others to close. Waiting on pain to end. Waiting on joy to come. Some have been waiting for years, faithfully serving, faithfully trusting, day after long day stacked one upon another until so much time has gone by that you begin to wonder what it is you’re even waiting for anymore. But the heart remembers. In the dark quiet of the night the longing persists. A prayer unanswered. A desire unmet. An ache unfulfilled. Hope deferred.

It’s even harder to wait when the desire is good, godly even. A child. A job. A friend. Pain to cease. Depression to lift. Prodigals to return. We pray and wait and wonder; why would God withhold good gifts from someone who loves Him?

In the last few weeks a verse in Galatians keeps popping up in my life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. I know this is truth. I know I’m not supposed to throw in the towel. I know I’m supposed to continue doing good in my waiting seasons, however long they may be. But sometimes it’s just hard. Harder still when the people around you don’t seem to be waiting for much of anything. I know it’s a matter of perspective. That it’s not true that God’s coming through for everyone except me, but sometimes it feels that way. You too?

yellowchair

Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Prov. 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. {can I get an amen?} Our human hearts cannot contain the pain of waiting past the point that we deem reasonable. The longer we wait the more our hearts grow weary. Before too long they succumb to despair and desperation. How do we hold on to hope when all of our strength is gone? When our trust has been stretched past the breaking point? When the womb is still empty and the promise seems dead and the God we pray to is strangely quiet?

When the waiting persists it is hope itself that I need to cling to. Hope… not in the thing I long for, but in the God who (for reasons irrational to me) continues to say to me “wait”.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

What am I waiting for? Good things? Yes. Godly things? I think so. But ultimately it is not what I wait for that will satisfy me. Even the most holy thing longed for (a child, or friend, or spouse, or job, or ______) will disappoint us eventually. But there is one thing that will not disappoint…

Hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our

hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5

I have been guilty of holding out hope for something less than God. I’ve been guilty of getting mad and cranky when I feel like God is withholding good things from me, when I’m growing weary in my well doing for Him. I’ve been guilty of succumbing to depression and despair when I transferred my hope from the Eternal King to earthly things. This human heart of mine simply can’t contain the pain of waiting and I often find myself in desperate need of rescue. Thankfully, the God I serve specializes in just that. He rescues us because He delights in us. Rescues us from deferred hope.

Hope does not disappoint; if our hope is in Him.

It’s hard to hold on to hope. But what if we weren’t made to hold on to it? What if hope was made to hold on to us? What if hope is the rope thrown to us when we feel like we’re drowning? The rope that we slip our arms through and tighten down around our chest… holding the rope in our hands while the rope holds us in its embrace.

Hope is an embrace. It wraps us up. Holds us tight. And we cling to it in the waiting.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Prov. 13:12 

Praying that our longing for Him outweighs all the other longings of our hearts. And that in the waiting we will find ourselves surrounded by hope.

~Keri

Beautiful Things

Broken Girl. It’s pretty much how I’ve defined my life for the last several years. I’ve been broken a lot longer than that, but didn’t give myself the title “broken girl” until a few years ago. And it wasn’t just me that I called a broken girl. Everywhere I went I was crossing paths with other broken girls. I couldn’t get away from them. I knew God didn’t want me to be broken, but I didn’t know how to repair all of the cracked, missing places in me.

5277560731_85af400f2f_z

7306818524_134b8fe4cf_z

That’s when I met Jennifer. She was a broken girl too. She was also desperate to be fixed. We started praying together and digging into God’s Word together. We started to find healing. And as we found healing other broken girls found us. It was a year or so later that we decided to start blogging at Broken Girl. We wanted a place where we could hash out this idea of brokenness and try to figure out together what to do with all of the pieces of us.

Things were going well. I was learning to walk in freedom, we were ministering to other women and seeing them find freedom in Christ. Jennifer and I even started to refer to ourselves as “former” broken girls. Life was on the mend.

There’s a Christian platitude I heard about the cracks in our life being what God uses to shine His light through. I was content to be a cracked pot, shining for Jesus.

Then life shattered.

5774897585_940b4d4bbc_z

Two years ago my husband walked out and my life crashed around me. And it didn’t just break me, it demolished me. In the weeks following the death of my marriage I felt as if all of the broken pieces of me were ground to dust and ashes. I kept trying to figure out how to put myself back together, but how can you make anything out of dust?

5021246453_f9140bdd51_z

I didn’t know what to do. There wasn’t enough glue on the earth that could repair my heart. I read about beauty from ashes and wondered… how on earth can anything beautiful ever come from this?

Still, I clung to Jesus. He was all I had, and I knew that the only place I was safe was in His hands. It hurt. I wanted to run away. I wanted to run from the pain and just move on with life and pretend that everything was okay. But I couldn’t. I knew that the only hope of healing meant staying; even if staying meant living on the potter’s wheel, and in the blazing furnace.

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,

“Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”

So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.

But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped,

so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

(Jeremiah 18:1-4 NLT)

 

It doesn’t make sense. How a loving God would crush me into a lump of clay and start over. But then again, isn’t it the most loving thing He can do? To take the mess of me… the dust of me…  and create beauty from that? A 5 year old with Elmer’s glue can piece back together a broken vase, but I don’t know anyone who can take ashes and create new life.

So I stayed on the potter’s wheel. I let him put me in the fire. Friends started telling me how brave and strong I was. I wasn’t brave. Or strong. Just desperate. And convinced that Jesus was my only hope. So I stayed in His hands, and He made something beautiful start to form and take shape in my life.

A few months ago I was at dinner with some girlfriends and one of them asked me “So who are you now? Now that you’re no longer a broken girl, who are you?”

For months I’ve been asking myself that same question. Who am I now? I’ll be honest and tell you that there’s been nothing but silence on the other end of that question. I had no idea how to define myself anymore, until today.

I am not a broken girl. Nor am I a cracked pot. I am a vessel of honor. Sanctified and useful to my Master. I have been crushed and remade according to His purpose.

Therefore,

if anyone cleanses himself from these things,

he will be a vessel for honor,

sanctified,

useful to the Master,

prepared for every good work.

(2 Timothy 2:21 NASB)

 932385179_d53e7a4ed7_z

A vessel of honor. A one of a kind, hand crafted display of His splendor. Something beautiful from ashes. Something beautiful from dust.

We don’t have to settle for broken or cracked, or even mended, or fixed. We can be new.

When we stay in His hand beauty comes to us. Maybe not quickly. Maybe not pain-free. We may need to be ground to dust a few times. We may be stretched and pulled. We may question the Master’s design and think that our idea of what we should be is better than His. We may have to face the purifying flames of the kiln more often than we would like. But if we stay… If we stay we’re prepared. Prepared for every good work that He has for us. Prepared to be useful to His kingdom. Prepared to display His splendor. Not through our cracks, but through our wholeness.

A vessel of honor.

~Keri

P.S. You can be His vessel of honor too. No matter how shattered you feel right now. Trust the potter to remake you.

You’re not alone

“Pray for each other” James 5:16

I had planned to post a short devotion earlier today but never got around to it. I had several thoughts running around in my head about a particular passage I’ve been studying and wanted to dive deeper into. But when it came time to sit at the computer no words came.

Now, here I sit hours past my bedtime with a heavy heart. Tonight was hard. Some days just seem to weigh more than others and today was one of them. It seems like everyone I came in contact with was carrying a load too heavy. A friend who’s aging father lives far away and she feels torn between parenting her child and parenting her parent. A child caught in the limbo of the system who just needs a family to love him. A strong, godly man who’s heart is losing strength. A dear friend who will go home to an empty house tonight and lay awake wondering what tomorrow holds. Days like this I can’t help but think the enemy of our souls is working overtime.

I also can’t help but think of all the times in my life when I was the one carrying the too big, too heavy weight. Of the sleepless nights I faced wondering if I would survive. Wondering if I really was as alone as I felt. And always in His mercy He would send a whispered reminder “you’re not alone!”

We aren’t meant to walk through life alone. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. To learn that I don’t have to be strong and do it all by myself. God placed us in the body of Christ so that we could carry one another’s burdens. Even if only through prayer.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Maybe tonight you feel alone and heavy burdened. Maybe you’re up late checking Facebook because you know the silence of your pillow will be too much for your overwhelmed heart to bear. Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll make it through this thing.

You will!!!

You are not alone. And you don’t have to carry this alone. This night won’t last forever.

Life isn’t always fair but God is always faithful. He loves you and He is holding you.

I am praying for you tonight!

Love~
Keri

Apathy

Last week I wrestled with the verse in Mat. 5:4 that says “happy are those that mourn”. I can’t quiet seem to be able to move on from this idea of embracing an emotion like mourning.

I’m an emotional person, always have been. I’ve struggled with depression most of my adult life, but I also experience extremes in other emotions. If I’m excited about something I’m really excited. Whether it’s love, hate, fear, worry, joy, surprise… I embrace it to the fullest extent of the emotion.

I’ve come to realize that I can handle emotion. Even if it’s sadness or anxiety. What I can’t handle is a void of emotion. Apathy.

Apathy (noun)- 1. Lack of enthusiasm or energy, lack of interest in anything, or the absence of any wish to do anything. 2. Emotional emptiness, inability to feel normal or passionate human feelings or to respond emotionally

Ever been there? Is there anything worse than feeling apathy? I have often said that I’d rather feel anything, even pain or sadness, than to feel nothing at all. For someone who lives her life fully engaged in the emotion of the moment apathy is paralyzing. And isn’t that the point? For Satan to stop us in our tracks?

In digging into God’s word I’m finding that He welcomes emotion. God can handle our joy, anxiety, mourning, fear, even anger. But what about when we don’t feel anything? What then.

Obviously God is big enough and merciful enough to be able to handle our apathy. The problem is He is responsive to us. And when we shut Him out… He stands outside the door and waits.

When I am happy I rejoice.

When I am fearful I hold on to Jesus.

When I am angry I unload on God.

When I am anxious I seek His peace.

When I am depressed I cry to Him.

When I am confused I look for His direction.

When I am apathetic I sit and do nothing, completely disengaged from God and the world around me.

Apathy is a defense mechanism. Usually birthed out of sheer exhaustion from trying to deal with circumstances that are difficult or out of control. Apathy kicks in when we reach the end of our rope and just can’t take one more… anything. So we throw in the towel. Pull back. Shut down. Shut out. Quit caring. Hide.

But God doesn’t want us to hide. He wants us to live in the light. To live in His presence. To live with our hearts open to Him, not devoid of emotion.

Today you may be apathetic. Maybe things have just been too hard for too long. I understand. Really I do. But girls, we can’t stay here. As women we were created to reflect the many emotions of our creative God, not to live in emotional emptiness. The good news is… there is HOPE! God promises to give us a new heart! To awaken the passion we once knew. We only need to cry out to Him! He will be quick to answer!

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

Father God, wake us up from our apathy! Wake us up from our emotional emptiness. Fill our hearts once again with your spirit. Help us not to hide from you when things get hard, but to run to you and allow you to hide us under the shadow of your wing. Help us as women to express the joy and wonder of our emotions in ways that reflect your goodness and your glory. We are desperate for you, Lord. Without you this world is unbearable and we are crushed under the weight of it. Be our source, our strength, our hiding place. We rest in you. Amen.