Part 3: Chapter 4 – Day 7: A Lamp for our Feet

Welcome to Day 7 of Part 3‘s Chapter 4 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is bringing forward our final free will offering for Chapter 4: The Golden Lampstand- The Lamb of God. She is sharing Chapter 1 of her and her husband Barry’s book “Our Story: A Ministry of Abiding” that she is currently publishing monthly on her blog – bettiegsraseasons.com Each chapter records their journey of transformation, as Christ continually compels them to surrender their thoughts and plans for His.

I so encourage you to follow along and be lovingly comforted and lifted up in the LORD, as you too choose to lay down your thoughts and plans for Christ’s. Come, let’s walk in His holy Way for us and stand in awe of where His lamp leads our feet to tread. He shall bring His purposes to pass for His glory and renown. Praise Him!

You can also listen to Barry and Bettie read this free will offering aloud in the audio version provided below.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

We met at church, where I was viewed as the “Churchy-Girl” type. He was new to this Christian living, and his enthusiasm and love for Jesus swept me off my feet long before I fell in love with his heart.

I had already been teaching young children, ever since my close friend’s mom asked me to help her with the kindergarten age Sunday-School class. When she asked me to start telling the Bible stories, I was forever captivated by the wonder that is in a child’s heart. And when this new-to-Christianity-young-man volunteered to help tell those same children the Bible stories, I was even more attracted to him. How could someone who was so new to all this, who couldn’t even pronounce so many of the Biblical names, stir up such excitement in the children to learn about Jesus? His love for the Lord, and His eagerness to share that love, was contagious.

God stepped in and wrote our love story for us, and we were married only a year and a half after we had met. I was barely 18, and he was not yet 20, when we heard God’s call. Even though it was so hard to say good-bye to our families, we packed up our little U-haul and started our married life by moving from Indiana to Minneapolis. My husband had begun the process to attend Bible College there. 

Dear friends had allowed us to move into the large duplex where their elderly Grandmother lived upstairs. She needed someone to watch over her, even though she was resistant to having help. We realized that we would have to devise ways to clean her home without her becoming upset. When we found out that she loved to listen to the Bible being read to her, my husband would read to her in the front room, and I would creep quietly up the back stairs to clean that portion of her home. 

Her hearing and vision loss proved to be a benefit then, as I could signal to my husband, and he would suggest that they move to the kitchen where the lighting was better. Then I would go around to the front entrance and clean the area they had just left. This dear Norwegian woman was so blessed with my husband’s reading, but we were so blessed to hear her sweet voice of appreciation. We didn’t know that when we thought we were being prepared to enter Bible School for the “official ministry,” God was already teaching us what TRUE Ministry would look like. The smiling wrinkly face of that dear woman is forever etched into my memory.

But when she fell and broke her hip while we were at work, the family agreed with us that she needed more constant care. Just at that time of change, a new opportunity opened up before us. The church where my husband had become the janitor told us they needed a live-in caretaker. We hadn’t even realized that there was a 2-bedroom apartment tucked into the upper level of the education wing of this historic church. So we became the caretakers, janitors, and Children’s Church leaders at this inner-city church within the same month that my husband began his classes at college. Our lives suddenly became a whirlwind of activity.

The Children’s Church was small and gave us plenty of opportunities to put into practice some of the new lessons my husband was being taught in his Christian Education classes. We made wonderful new friends who joined us as we found and created object lessons, puppet shows, and Scripture lessons. 

Our oldest son was born while we lived there, and he was a part of everything we were involved with: nursery during church services, kicking up a storm in his jumper while we cleaned the hallways, and charming all the little girls who came to visit us in our apartment down the hall from their Sunday-School classrooms. But after two years of living at such a heavy pace, we began to feel the strain. Our marriage went through the fire as the new bonds of love were tested. 

As we prayed about what to do, again the Lord led us to Scriptures for our answers:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

When we shared those Scriptures with the church leadership and said that we felt God was preparing us to begin to make a move soon, they returned with a notice to be moved out in one month. When we thought we had found a supportive church who would understand about God’s guiding, they thought they had been betrayed by their loyal workers.

Our first time of breaking left us shaken and unsure of where we would go. Friends had told us we could move into their basement, but on the final week of the month, an apartment opened up on the other side of town, in St. Paul. My life was about to take on a deeper surrender, as I heard God asking me to be willing to support my husband, and to go back to work. I had enjoyed working with him while we were caretakers and janitors, even though the hours were grueling. How could God ask me to leave behind my “church work” to enter back into secretarial jobs, and leave my baby in the care of someone else?

Has your perspective of ministry and surrender been shaken recently? 

Does it seem that God has asked you to do the very thing you thought you could never do? 

Perhaps, He wants to show you where His heart is bigger than yours has been. 

Could you join us in praying today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for shining Your glorious light, the face of our Lord Jesus, onto the deepest places of our hearts. We confess that sometimes we are shocked at the darkness and striving You uncover in us there. OH, but how grateful we are that Your mercy washes us clean as we lay that very striving before You. 

Gracious Father, will You receive these offerings of surrender that are laid on the altar now? Our humbled hearts long for the light of Your Son to awaken us here.  And as we are awakened by Your light, we are amazed by the freedom You have won for us. Our praises are wafting before You, joining in Holy Spirit breath now bursting forth from our lungs. Hallelujah to our Savior above!

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray,

Amen.

Steps of Love

Something broke inside of me and I slipped into a deep depression. I wrote:

Some months ago one judgmental remark from someone put me into a tailspin and brought me face to face with painful memories of past abuse. At first I disassociated from my feelings. I didn’t want to feel at all, because it hurt too much. I continued on in life like a robot. But I became more and more depressed until one day something inside me broke. I sobbed and cried, “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so sick of being strong for everyone around me…”

It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of turmoil, gulping up water. In my mind Jesus was standing above the surface looking down at me and shaking his head. “Hopeless case, that one…” I felt so forsaken of God. His promises seemed bogus, and I could not grasp a single one.

The weight of depression stomped me down, down, down…

Roaring In

Shame-slapping Scowls

Stormy Emotions

Stomping Down

Sinking Me

I couldn’t have made it that dark day without the grace of God. By the end of the day my heart was still heavy, but the care and compassion loved ones gave me lifted me up to see a pinpoint of hope. And the next day, God had a pleasant surprise for  me.

“I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

My husband suggested I take my writing pad and go to the Falls. He knew nature often relaxes and comforts me. It helps me to remember God still has all things in His control. I sat on a rock and watched the water rush over the red rock formations. I let the sound of it sooth my weary soul. I imagined the wind as the breath of God kissing my face and telling me I will make it through this.

When I walked along the paths and around the Art Barn, I stopped in awe. There in front of me written in chalk down the front of the steps was a message that still impacts me today. “I will love you every step of the way. ♥” I knew it was God speaking directly to my despairing heart.

Then I remembered a song – “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe.

“Wish it could be easy

Why is life so messy?

Why is pain a part of us?

There are days I feel like

Nothing ever goes right

Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here

You’re real

I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts

Even when it’s hard

Even when it all just falls apart

I will run to You

‘Cause I know that You are

Lover of my soul

Healer of my scars

You steady my heart.”

Sometimes God sends the greatest comforts out of the deepest valleys, doesn’t He? My heart still felt wounded, but I knew I could run to Jesus and He would pull me up again out of the pit and set my feet upon the Rock.

“He reached down and drew me from the deep,

dark hole where I was stranded,

mired in the muck and clay.

With a gentle hand, He pulled me out

To set me down safely on a warm rock;

He held me until I was steady enough

to continue the journey again.”

Psalm 40:2 Voice

That toxic shame still often pierces the core of who I am and screams, “You’re worthless. How can someone like you ever make a positive difference? You don’t deserve comfort. You don’t deserve to be accepted. ”

Panic still creeps in and shouts, “Watch out! You’re going to be hurt again. Reinforce that wall.”

Healing is a process though, right? I have learned that many struggle with inadequacy, shame, and fear of trusting. And I know there are others who also do but remain silent onlookers. And that’s ok. 

All of us have a story to tell, and there is not one story that is less important than another. There is not one hurt that is less painful than anyone else’s. Every story counts. Every. Single. One. So don’t let that bug bite you and tell you, “Your burdens are not as bad as someone else’s.” I know by experience that can stifle the grieving process. Every hurt needs grieving in order to start healing.

Remember! You are so special to God! You have been created uniquely for a special purpose only you can fill. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed His life for you. His arms are wide open with welcome, longing for you to run into them. Yes, life can be messy. Yes, it can hurt so much and be so hard. But He cares about broken hearts and delights to heal them.

Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes life can hurt so much and be so hard, but You have promised You care about our broken hearts and You delight to heal us. When shame poisons our perspective, please help us to see that in You, we are beautiful and valuable. When we feel like we’re drowning in the storms of life, please help us to reach up and grasp Your hand ever reaching out to us. Your hand of unfailing love and compassion. Please break all the chains that still bind us and keep us from dancing in Your victory for us. Heal us ever more deeply! Thank You for Your unconditional love and powerful grace!

This post is excerpted from Trudy Den Hoed’s blog post: https://freedtofly.me/2016/05/03/depression-and-deliverance/

which was first published in 2016.

Trudy’s passion is to encourage others there is hope in Jesus and His love in the midst of loss, heartache, and trauma. Jesus has become the needed oxygen for her soul as she continues on a lifelong journey of healing from past abuse. She lives in the midwestern United States and is grateful to be blessed with a loving husband and precious children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Perspective in Brush Strokes

Today’s post first appeared on my dear friend, Wendy Simpson’s blog, Widow’s Manna , about five years ago. Wendy is not only a creative writer, but an artist, producing beautiful sketches, paintings, intricately woven blankets and prayer shawls, plush toys, digital art and cards. You can find her artwork on her WordPress Wendy’s Vignettes and her Facebook Wendy’s Vignettes

 

Been thinking about perspective…..

 

Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective.  When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense.  It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express.  Now take several steps back from this painting.  Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape.  The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense. 

 

It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life.  But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life.  Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle  of it all.  They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape.  They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos.  They see reasons for color choices, that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.  

 

Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this.  You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape.  I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes.  To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty.  But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why.  Every stroke is part of the masterpiece.

 

I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. We are just living it, and in living it, we do not see outside the everyday survival at times.  Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as we walk this journey one day one “brush stroke” at a time.

 

Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective.  (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris.  I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could.  Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief.  Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought.  Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength).  Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey.  All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision.

 

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  -Colossians 1:13, 17 (ESV)

 

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)

 

 Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes.  Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness.  These brushstrokes, left unattended, could make my whole canvas… go dark.  These brushstrokes I speak of, have screamed out for my attention for awhile now, and up to now… I have ignored them and refused to give them audience. In a sea, of over twenty years of living and life with my husband, I now choose not to continue to suppress the pain of His passing and the disappointments, so that I can just mourn….

….My death …the death of a caregiver

 

….Watching death…. stolen years.

 

….Lost and changing relationships.

 

….Not fitting in.

 

….The missing arms and lost affection.

In the coming days and weeks I resolve to explore these dark strokes on my canvas and begin the process of acknowledging their pain to finding their worth.  I believe that God can take all that is, the fallen part of man… and create in us… something good.  The goodness being… Christ in us the hope of glory.