Just a mile from home is the entrance to a hiking trail. Its access is hidden, just off the edge of a busy road. You would never guess such beauty was so close unless you knew the path was there.
The pathway follows the bank of the Deschutes River, winding through a canopy of trees, up a gentle incline, and across a wooden bridge.
Each step revealing nature’s best.
A pair of swans nesting near the willows. Geese leading their gaggle from shoreline to water, all the time watching carefully for those lagging behind. Deer drinking from the bank and a red tail hawk flying low overhead. Her talons clasped tightly on what would be her meal for the day. Wildflower buds cresting the soil, and songbirds filling the silence.
God’s creation showing off her beauty.
You can get lost in thought meandering down the path but today…
Today, I wanted to be fully present, experiencing all that nature had to share, discovering the hidden treasures sprinkled along the way.
Continuing down the trail, an object captured my attention. It was a rock painted turquoise precariously nestled in the fork of the tree. The words “be kind” painted in black. Someone had taken great effort to place the rock just-out-of-reach of passersby but close enough to communicate its message.
I tucked that encouragement in my heart and continued my walk.
About a mile down the path, another turquoise object caught my eye. This time the painted rock was balanced on a boulder. The words, “Hug your dog” scribbled on the surface, two paw prints bracketing the instruction.
Take the time to slow down, spend time acknowledging those who care about you, and show them you care – hug your dog.
My walk went undisturbed for a few miles, until a rainbow appeared, nested on the trunk of a fallen tree. Another stone creatively adorned with the colors of refracted light. No words this time, just a reminder that even in the fiercest storm, hope arrives.
Making my way up the final hill leading back to the street, I found my last treasure, joy.
Cradled by a large moss-covered boulder, joy was scribbled in white on a black rock.
Spend your time caring and loving.
And when life gets tough…
Look for hope.
My river walk shifted from a delight in nature’s spectacular to reassurance. Small messages scattered along the trail to remind me that,
… the God of hope fills me with all joy and peace as I trust in him, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 New International Version (NIV)
(verse modified to personalize)
BeLOVED, I pray you find Him amid your everyday ordinary lives, in the beauty of nature, and in those minutes, you think you can’t carry–on.
Keep your eyes focused on His truth and remember God provides hope, fills us with joy, and brings peace.
I’ve always considered myself an intelligent person. Not a brainiac by any means but someone that exercises good judgment, can organize a plan and can see my way clear to plan completion.
That was until last week!
Last week provided a new perspective on my abilities and judgment.
Here’s what happened.
My friend was making fabric surgical masks. You know the kind you can put a filter inside to give greater protection from our invisible viral enemy. She made them from fun cotton fabric and gifted me with a blue floral one.
She had neatly tucked a filter into the pocket and reassured me that it would protect me from all that attempted to assault my respiratory system. What I failed to recognize was the filter had been constructed from a vacuum HEPA-filter made from polyurethane.
Okay, you may already be jumping to the conclusion but just hold on…
My husband and I grabbed our masks and ventured out to our favorite grocery store, a brief trip to a local superstore, and a final stop at the gas station. We headed home and once there unloaded the car, put away our treasures, and washed our hands. And then it dawned on us. Our masks!
We heard we were supposed to clean them after each use so, after a little internet research and a consult with my microbiologist friend; I tossed them into the microwave, set the temperature to “high” and the timer for 2 minutes.
I had moved out of the kitchen and down the hall when I noticed an odd smell. I followed it back to the kitchen and to my shock, smoke was billowing out of the microwave. I opened the door and a cloud of white filled the kitchen. (Just as a side note, it is VERY hard to get the smell of burnt fabric out of your hermetically sealed virus protected home.) Our masks sat in the center of the turntable, a singed pile of smoldering fabric. I grabbed the masks, tossed them in the sink, turned on the faucet, made my way back to the microwave, and turned the fan to high. The smoke was still lingering as my husband rounded the corner, “What happened?” he asked. I responded with uncontrollable laughter “I sterilized the masks!”
He responded, “You microwaved the masks?!!” This time his question caused me to pause and I took a better look at the charred remains. And there it was the answer right in front of my face, the filters! I had forgotten to take out the filters!
Polyurethane does not hold up well when you microwave it.
So, that’s my story.
Okay, if I’m being completely transparent there is just a little more…
And here is where the story turns from laughter to humble admission.
If we back-up to the discussion my husband and I had about cleaning the masks, I failed to share that he had challenged me about my proposed cleaning technique (that was the reason for his questioning after the incident).
He had learned all that was needed to kill the virus was a quick spin in the dryer, a short stent hanging in the sun, or a spritz of disinfectant. But, my science-y friend had given an expert response and I was going to follow it.
Proverbs 16:18 reminds us,
Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
New Living Translation (NLT)
In my case, pride came before a microwave fire.
Looking back over my life, it has been filled with times when self-importance came before harsh words that hurt my husband. Smugness came before decisions that resulted in devastating outcomes eroding my self-worth and value as a woman.
Egotism drove me to actions that forced a wedge between God and me.
Pride leads to destruction, every time, all the time. And the outcomes can be life-altering.
Our microwave was fine. All that was required was a little all-purpose cleaner and eventually, the burnt smell left our house. My friend gave me a second mask, a sweet puppy print.
But sometimes in life rebounding from our prideful behavior and their outcomes are not as easy. We can’t just sanitize our souls, air out our hearts and walk away. Sometimes, we have to get face down in front of our Father and repent of the attitude that keeps us trapped.
I encourage you to take a few minutes today to look at your heart. Do you harbor pride, cling to conceit, vanity, or an inflated ego? Are their outcomes in your life that you can trace back to your stubbornness?
God offers freedom from pride’s bondage.
He waits for you to reach out and confess. And every time we genuinely repent, He forgives and restores.
Andrew Murray, in his book Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness, shares,
Pride needs to die in us for anything of heaven to live in us.
BeLOVED, I am praying that pride is banished from your life so the blessings of heaven can overflow.
Sixty years is a long time to share life. A lot of time to build memories and recognize dreams.
Few couples reach this milestone, but that’s exactly how long Harold and Grace have been married. Their celebration coming right in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such a beautiful remembrance amid a time of great sorrow and pain.
But that was Harold and Grace’s life, a love shared during times of great challenge. Harold served in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict. Grace was an elementary school teacher and both lived in a world of racial unrest and discrimination. They rose above the limitations of that day and created a life filled with memories – the birth of their girls, their weddings, the birth of grandchildren, and vacation experiences that brought insight about the world around them.
When asked what kept their marriage strong, Harold responded,
I did whatever Grace told me to do.
Harold is a strong 90+-year-old. He drives, walks several miles a week, and continues to be involved in his church, the lives of his grandchildren, and his veterans’ group.
Grace is a feisty chocolate-loving-80-something. She loves to craft and can often be seen following her man as he logs his miles. She is the cornerstone of the family, gently influencing her daughters and fussing over the lights of her life – her grandchildren.
There had been a discussion of a trip for this milestone anniversary. But the pandemic was threatening to derail any plans for a celebration.
Their oldest daughter stepped in. She was not going to allow a virus to isolate her parents during one of the most important days in their lives.
Thankfully, virtual meeting technology saved the day!
From around the Northwest and across the street, we gathered to honor Harold and Grace and recognize their special day. A slide presentation filled with family memories graced the screen. Their wedding stories meticulously shared. Reflections of their first home and the construction of their current home all laid out like it happened just yesterday. And every facial expression, every teary eye was shared, live-streamed on the screen.
The virus required us to be distant, separated for our safety, but we were not isolated. We shared life, we exchanged laughs, we felt loved – we were physically apart yet together.
We are learning through this season of social distancing and self-quarantine, that there is a significant difference between distance and isolation.
Space and time can keep us apart, distance us from one another, but it does not hinder our ability to form relationships, to share our hearts, our thoughts, and our lives.
Seclusion, protection, loneliness are all synonyms for isolation. These words paint a picture of the outcome when we stand-alone. No one to speak truth into our lives, share our victories or dispel the lies. No one to hold on to when life gets tough, just separated, and alone.
Proverbs 18:1 tells us,
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
God created us, from the very start, to be in communion with Him and one another.
So, as we continue to create safe spaces to fight this invisible enemy, don’t let Satan’s lies keep you isolated. Remember to,
Reach out to loved ones, neighbors, friends (through technology, a note, a wave, and a smile)
Spend time with God, reading His word and reflecting on His goodness
Consider small acts of kindness (a chalk message of encouragement scribbled on the sidewalk or notes of “We Can Do This” attached to your neighbors’ doors)
And if you start feeling like the four walls of your world are going to completely close in, take a deep breath and be assured,
You are not alone.
Distance is not isolation.
God is with you.
(38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I woke this morning with this nagging sense of sadness. It sat with me as I ate breakfast, followed me throughout my morning, and then nestled close as I sat to read.
I wrestled to identify a reason for the emotion. Until, I stopped and reflected on our new reality – a world of imposed limitations, social distancing, forced confinement. And now, experts are telling us it could be weeks before we flatten the curve and move towards our post-virus norms.
Certainly, a reason to be sad.
A friend shared,
We are relational people.
And as relational beings, we mourn the loss of our freedom, the touch of a friend, the interaction of our tribe. If we are honest, we are all a little sadder, a little out-of-sorts, as we adjust to the rhythms of today.
I continued to sit curled in my office chair until I noticed our dog, Titus, pacing the floor. A clear indication it was time to go outside for a walk.
We made our way out the garage door into the sun peeking through gray clouds and the wind swirled in the trees. We headed down the street and crossed the intersection when I caught a glimpse of the trees lining the normally busy street.
The trees had buds gracing the ends of their branches. Some ready to open while others tightly closed waiting for warmer weather. We moved from tree to tree, admiring the uniqueness of each.
And as we moved, I noticed something had changed in my heart. The sadness had shifted and in its place was an overwhelming sense of calm. A peacefulness in my world despite all that was wrong in the world.
Titus finished all he needed to do and we turned the corner to head home.
A single bird’s song could be heard in the distance. The dirt in the flowerbeds adjacent the sidewalk disrupted by the crowning of crocus and daffodil. The earth was coming alive.
Such a contrast – the beauty of God’s magnificent creation on display despite the circumstances of our world.
We made our final turn towards home and I realized, this simple walk had helped shift my sadness to overwhelming satisfaction and peace. My perspective changed to focusing on the creator instead of the brokenness.
Sadness, fear, and anger are all natural reactions to our new lives. But, we can’t allow these feelings to hold us captive in a world that still contains so much beauty – God’s masterpiece revealed in such personal ways.
A surprise discovery of children’s artwork on the sidewalk.
A hummingbird, motionless on a branch.
The silence of early morning – void of the noise from cars and trucks.
Lingering over a warm cup of tea, no demands, an opportunity to just be present.
Time, unscheduled and unhurried, spent with loved ones in person, through technology, and in the memories of our minds.
These are all gifts our new reality offers us. Wonderfully orchestrated by our Father.
Frank Peretti, author of This Present Darkness shares,
God does not waste an ounce of our pain or a drop of our tears; suffering doesn’t come our way for no reason, and He seems efficient at using what we endure to mold character. If we are malleable, He takes our bumps and bruises and shapes them into something beautiful.
I am confident that God is going to use the outcomes of this virus to mold our character, shaping us into something beautiful. But only if we are malleable. Only if we are willing to see beyond our limited perspectives to His amazing plan. Only when we surrender to His authority and love.
Today we may not be able to comprehend what beauty can come from such devastation but God asks us to trust Him. Trust that His ways are not our ways and that He remains in control – even in the face of the chaos we are experiencing.
Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us,
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Sisters, how are your hearts, your attitudes, your mindset?
Has sadness, fear, or anger overcome you?
Do you need to experience God’s amazing perspective-shifting love? A little taste of His miraculous in the face of the mundane of your days.
I encourage you to spend time with your Father today. Settle into a comfortable chair, plug in your favorite worship music, and prepare your heart to be moved from anxiety to calm. God is waiting for you to surrender those things that keep you wrestling. He offers in their place His peace, a peace that is beyond our mind’s ability to understand.
BeLOVED, you can trust your Father!
He loves you,
He cares about you,
Be blessed my sisters and know that I am praying for you,
Do you need some encouragement today? Consider listening to this song by Jeremy Riddle.
A doctor had to give a painful shot to a four-year-old girl. When she learned what the doctor was about to do, her face showed anxiety and her body tensed. As the doctor picked up what looked to the little girl to be a needle large enough to kill an elephant, she turned her eyes to her father, who then took her hand and fixed his eyes on hers. An expression of confidence and calmness came on her face. She knew she was not alone and found comfort, not in her father’s spoken answer, but in his presence with her in her time of need. (1)
Dear friends, it is no surprise that we are living in difficult times. The burdens of life are inescapable. Our lives, careers, families, and faith are being tried and challenged daily.
But as the story illustrates, we are not alone.
Despite the painful shots of life that come and pierce our hearts, we have a loving Father who is by our side who is willing to take our hand and comfort us in our time of need.
“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
These truths are but a few of the many anchors that keep us moored when the burdens of life blow upon us. But they only serve their purpose when our eyes are fixed on the One who calms the waves of the sea (Mark 4:35-41).
“But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!”
God calls us to look to Him, trust Him, and lean on Him daily.
Let me ask, when trouble strikes, where do you go or to whom do you trust?
Do you trust in self-reliance or do you trust in the LORD who holds all things in His hands?
Do you seek shelter in self-pity or do you take shelter in the Most High?
When darkness falls, do you walk in the light of your own counsel or do you seek out the word of God to light your way?
Let us search our hearts and answer these questions because if we don’t, the burdens of life will come and they will answer them for us.
May the LORD bless you and keep you.
Jim is a former Marine and retired California police officer. He has a passion for sharing his love for Jesus through writing and teaching.
(1) Green, Michael P., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, page 21
She sat legs crossed in the middle of the sidewalk. Her two daughters’ chalk drawings encircled her. She was a young woman, possibly late 20s, cell phone in hand but her eyes, they remained lovingly focused on her girls.
As we walked passed, I complimented the children’s artwork. The oldest girl looked up and thanked me. I smiled at mom and that was all that was needed to start the conversation.
She shared she was laid-off last week due to the virus. She was a nurse at a local clinic but still, she was let go. At first, she was scared at the thought of not having a job, the uncertainty of no paycheck, the desperation that comes when your world is suddenly, uncontrollably turned upside down. But it’s been a few days, she’s had time to reflect, and today she counts it a blessing.
The virus has given her a chance to love on her girls, quality time to home school, draw sidewalk figures, and demonstrate for her girls how to stand strong in the face of an unknown future.
I will never look back at this time and wish I had worked more. I will always look back at this time and know it was the best for my children.
In late December, when the first words of Covid-19 were echoed, we thought it was a faraway illness. By mid-January, it had taken grip of the world and we, like this young mother, were faced with uncertain and fearful times.
But we’ve had time to adjust to our new reality. We’ve learned to navigate social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, financial downturns and upswings, even the closure of our favorite restaurants, bookstores, and movie theaters.
For some, you’ve had to navigate sudden illness and even the death of loved ones. It is so hard and please know that I’m not trying to minimize the pain of your current reality.
Perhaps, just as this young mom, it’s time for us to stop looking at this invisible enemy’s power for destruction and start refocusing on God’s continued blessings.
Maybe we can move from what we’ve lost, our pain and suffering and start looking for the unfolding of God’s miraculous purpose.
God’s power and strength are available to heal, restore, and provide the clarity we all need.
(1) … Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (2) When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you. (3) For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel…
Isaiah 43:1-3a Living Bible (TLB)
As we walked away from mom and her budding artists, she said,
There really is a blessing in the midst of all that is going on! I get time to spend with my girls, we can slow down, we have a chance to focus on what really matters.
I encourage you Sisters, don’t allow this virus, the world’s fear, or the devil’s lies distract you from the truth of God’s love.
You are not alone,
You are fearlessly loved,
You are God’s BeLOVED.
Please consider seeing this forced slow down as an opportunity. A chance to take walks hand-in-hand with those you love. A time to share your heart, encourage the weak, love on the lost.
Maybe we can view it as precious time, given to us by God as a respite to refresh our souls, grow our faith, and renew our strength.
Let’s take our eyes, our minds, and our hearts off the invisible enemy and get them keenly focused on the hope of our future, the provision of our lives – Jesus.
The line started at the front door and snaked into the parking lot. It crossed two rows of parking stalls and grew steadily as more cars filled the lot.
The store wouldn’t open for another 30-minutes but the crowd had formed, posed to rush the door.
The chatter in the line was somber, serious – food was running out, supplies were scarce; some shared their fabricated theories of an unknown future.
The virus had succeeded in capturing the world’s attention. Media inspired messaging had accomplished its task. Anxiety, fear, and panic controlled these shoppers, the larger community, the globe.
I spoke with the store manager and in addition to talking about his exhaustion, he commented,
I just don’t understand! Do we really need to stockpile food? Is there that much fear in the world that we have to push and shove to get the last package of frozen peas? It says something about who we are as a community, as people.
Fear is a compelling partner.
On one end of the spectrum, it provides the needed kick to infuse our bodies with adrenaline. Allowing us to outrun the aggressive dog, step on stage and share our hearts, or stand strong in the face of the bully.
But at the other end of the continuum, fear can incapacitate our lives. All rational thought and reasoning are overwhelmed by the possibility of an unknown event and as a result, we are enslaved, trapped in what could happen – may happen – what we’ve contrived to happen.
The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 31:8,
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
New International Version (NIV)
In times of great uncertainty, one constant remains, one truth we can hold to, God will not abandon us.
In the face of a virus pandemic – God is the great healer.
During a free fall of the stock market – God remains in control.
When the grocery store shelves are empty – God provides.
And when anxiety overcomes you, keeps you awake at night, gnaws at your daily thoughts – God’s peace is available.
The world may feel unsafe and out of control but security, true security, is not tied to this world. Security comes from a personal intimate relationship with the God of the universe. The One who has promised, since the creation of the world, to love and provide.
(1) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (3) though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46: 1-3 (NIV)
BeLOVED, I encourage you to cling to the only constant that can bring real peace in times of mass anxiety and fear – God.
Corrie ten Boom faced unimaginable fear. When the Nazis threatened to imprison her, she continued to help Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust. And even after she was arrested and sent to a prison camp, she continued to serve God. It is said that Corrie and her family helped some 800 Jews in spite of their fear and the real threat of death.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
These are certainly unknown times but…
You know God – rest in His faithfulness, His goodness, His mercy and grace.
You are known by God – you are His child.
Trust God – He loves you.
When you feel fear and panic rise, pray.
When the nights linger and you can’t sleep, read God’s word, listen to worship music.
When you are tempted to believe that God is not responding or He doesn’t care, remember that He sent His only Son to die for your eternity.
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Last week a friend invited me to join her on a 896-mile roundtrip journey from Oregon to California.
She was making the trip to care for a family member following surgery. I would have a chance to spend time with my sister and niece. We would have a chance to check off an item on our respective “To Do” lists – a road trip with a friend.
The trip would require us to spend 16-hours in a car together. But I knew the time would pass too fast. You see friends like her are sisters in disguise. And time spent connecting and sharing your heart is a gift.
We planned our departure, 7 AM sharp.
I picked her up at the top of the hour and for the next 50 minutes, we played tag trying to say goodbye to friends, leaving little tokens on doorsteps, sharing uncontrollable laughter as we navigated through roundabouts and expressway on-ramps.
Finally, we hit the open road, only to have to pull over 20 minutes out of town – the hood of the car had not been secured during a recent safety inspection. Disaster avoided, we were back on the road.
The roadway unfolded in front of us and with each mile came an invitation to discuss life, solve our most pressing dilemmas, and voice dreams we had never shared before.
There is something so special when you can have an authentic conversation – revealing fears, pain, and struggles and know that they will never go any further than the interior walls of the other person’s heart. There is a cleansing that happens and Satan’s lies and deceptions no longer have a hold on your mind.
Friendships are precious, honor them, and thank God for sisters of the heart.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 tells us,
(9) Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. (10) If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (11) Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (12) A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
New Living Translation (NLT)
God never intended us to be alone, to walk through life disconnected. We need our husbands, our sisters (biological and chosen), we need our brothers, and we need God’s miraculous presence to make us whole.
Walking life isolated is dangerous. You have no accountability, no one to dispel Satan’s lies, no one to validate that you are precious and valuable in God’s eyes.
Sisters, please don’t try to do life alone. Reach out and take a step towards establishing some healthy friendships. Move beyond your fears and share your heart, be a friend – a chosen sister and experience the blessings of unconditional love and acceptance.
I want to thank the women in my life that I call “chosen sisters.” You are so special to me and I treasure our friendship.
I think of my sister often. Not because she’s passed away or we are estranged. I think of her because she showed me the face of courage. She taught me what it means to be brave.
When his hand slapped and beat her – she focused on her baby’s future. When he kicked her – she kept her eyes on the promise of a better day. When words cut deeper than her scars – she maintained empathy.
She chose love.
She endured the abuse of a mentally ill, drug-addicted husband – trapped by the fear of losing her daughter and her family.
Battered and bruised, she survived.
I was 5 when my sister married, she was 17. He was her hero. The focus of her naïve passion since the age of 15. The one she would share life with, experience love, and grow old with and then, he wasn’t.
My niece was 2 ½ years old when the abuse started. At first, it was possessiveness – flattering really, he wanted her all to himself. Then a hurtful word, a threat, a slap, soon escalating into indescribable violence.
Our parents often talked of rescuing, intervening, doing something but deep down they knew she would return. Her husband’s hold on her so deep – he had threatened to kill us if she left and she knew he was capable of doing it.
Researchers acknowledge that long-term repeated abuse can lead to Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and for many women that experience violence they cope with their trauma by using drugs, alcohol, smoking, or over-eating. (For more information about the impact of domestic violence, go to https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety.)
Many women stay with their abuser, not because they don’t have support, but because they can’t see beyond their fear, the effects of isolation, the lack of self-esteem, and the decimation of their personal value.
But what the research doesn’t discuss, what the articles don’t share, and the support groups don’t address are those standing on the outside of the abuse looking in. We watch the person we love change; disappear in front of us. A young woman with dreams, goals for her future – gone, replaced by a shell of a person clinging to each second of every day. Working to survive, shielding her baby, protecting her family.
The research can’t prepare those watching from the distance for the unreturned phone calls, for the silence, for the void. And even when you know, the absence is a survival technique, questions come to mind – can I do more, should I do more, why didn’t I do more?
As a young woman, I understood in my head the impact domestic violence has on a person. I had reviewed the research, talked with the experts, and read the books. But in my heart, deep in my soul, I yearned for my sister. I ached for the holidays, the birthdays, her presence at my wedding. I longed to play with my niece, to be her aunt, share life, impart wisdom. So many absent moments.
But mostly, I regret I couldn’t be there. I recognize that I would not be able to stand between my sister and her husband’s violence. I didn’t have the tools to fix his illness or her brokenness. But if only I could have held her hand, touched her tears, held her bruised body. If only I could have provided comfort during the darkest time of her life.
My sister taught me so much through the distance. Through the silence and the void, she taught me to be courageous, to respect myself and to demand respect from others.
I was on the outside watching this grand story unfold.
I would catch a glimpse of her at the store, in a park, walking down the street and I watched how she navigated the world while living in a prison of fear. I saw her work to stay present, soft, a model for her young daughter even though she knew they would return home to a monster.
She helped me to become strong.
It had been decades of missed celebrations, years of watching from a distance when we received the call. My sister on the other end of the phone, her husband died suddenly. His addiction and mental illness taking its final toll. Through a devastating set of circumstances, she was free.
Our family longed to pick up the pieces, to make the past disappear. We are “fixers” and we had waited for what seemed to be an eternity to reach in and redeem the brokenness. But, the effects of a life of abuse are deeply ingrained in the brain – it takes time to reconnect, overcome the guilt, and wrestle with the shame. And as she worked her way back to us, we watched from the sideline, supporting when possible, comforting, loving her.
Standing on the sideline, sitting still when you want to run and save, praying and then praying some more – it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough when your loved one is being abused. There has to be more. More you can do.
But at times, all you can do is hold the image of your loved one as a precious gift. Gently placed in the palm of your hands, treasuring the moments, the memories, and looking forward to a time when you can be family.
I will never fully know the terror of her life. But I know today that through it all my sister stands tall. She is wrapped in dignity. She is a warrior and I am bolder, more confident, because of her example. She conquered the pain, overcame the fear, and rose above his grip on her life.
So, what do you do if you are standing on the sideline? You’ve watched your sister, mother, girlfriend vanish. You’ve tried to comfort, to encourage, to shelter them from the attacks, the abuse, the pain. But right now, you are waiting, paused, fearful that the next call will make your nightmare come true. While you are waiting,
PRAY – On your knees face to the ground pray. Intercede on behalf of the person. Pray for their safety, the spouse, children, ask for wisdom. Invite God into the situation and then pray for yourself. You need His strength and courage for this journey. It may be a long hard trip.
PREPARE– Find local agencies that help abused women – shelters, police, safe house locations, and educate yourself about their services, operating hours, and contact numbers. Research national and local websites that can provide accurate information about domestic violence, see the list below for links to national sites.
PLAN – Consider developing a practical escape plan with your loved one. A packed bag hidden in a safe location. A place of refuge.
PERSEVERE – I encourage you to come to grips with the fact that you can’t fix this. Your place, as hard as it may be, is on the sideline watching. Until the call comes, until they reach out – you are sequestered to the bench, waiting.
But when they reach out, then you have a chance to encourage, listen intently, and love unconditionally. Please resist the urge to blame or pour more shame and guilt on them. I understand you are frustrated and angry that you can’t change the circumstances. But they don’t need your sermons or why-nots.
They need you.
Perhaps you are reading this blog and are in the midst of this desperate journey. Maybe he’s only threatened you, or perhaps it’s the first punch and you are thinking it won’t get any worse. Perhaps you are looking for a way out but fear is gripping your heart and his words keep repeating in your mind – there is NO way out. Please know that help is available, reach out to someone, tell someone, you deserve more than the abuse you are experiencing. Your children deserve more.
Please find the strength, when it’s safe, to leave. There is life on the other side of the abuse.
The United States Department of Justice Domestic Violence -https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence
She stood motionless, clinging to a branch jutting from the edge of the mountain.
She had rounded the corner and all that provided security was gone.
She was trapped.
Both feet firmly planted on the 3-foot ledge. One side – sheer cliff face the other a drop to the bottom of the canyon.
No room for error.
No margin for miscalculation.
No railing, nothing to stop the drop but canyon-floor.
Fear would not allow her to move forward and pride kept her from turning around.
Her husband kept encouraging her,
You can do this! Just look forward – you will be fine.
But all she could do was run through the scenarios in her mind – falling, tumbling, pain.
Finally, fear gave way to pride.
One-step at a time, she turned around and made her way back to safe ground. A lookout point enclosed by a guardrail.
She leaned against the mountainside, tears formed in the corners of her eyes and then spilled down her cheeks onto the dusty earth below. The pounding in her chest was slowing, the spinning calmed, her breathing returned to a steady rhythm.
Through her tears, she looked out over the canyon floor. It was so beautiful but she knew she would not complete the journey today.
Pride had blocked her and the fear of failure consumed her.
I think we often find ourselves standing at a precipice in our lives. Toes inched right to the edge of the cliff, clinging to the handrail we peer over the side. We can see exactly where we want to go. Yet, there is hesitation. The path is partially visible as it winds down the hillside. Yet, we can’t see every step. The route is not exactly the path we had in mind. The mountain is so steep. The twists and turns are unknown. So…
Too fearful to move forward. Incapable of asking for help. Paralyzed by the tape that plays relentlessly in our minds – you can’t do this, not today, not ever.
So, we stop.
But we have an amazing God that offers a solution to our condition. He offers His peace in place of our anxiety and fear and He will guide our journey if only we would ask.
Psalm 91: 9-16 reminds us,
(9) If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, (10) no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (11) For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (12) they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (13) You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
(14) “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. (15) He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. (16) With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
New International Version (NIV)
BeLOVED, when you find yourself facing the edge of a cliff, the anxiety of the unknown, or the paralyzing fear of failure, remember the Lord IS your refuge.
Please don’t allow your fears to cause you to stay in a perpetual state of looking over your shoulder and retracing your steps back to a safe perch. Trust the God of the universe to lead you, direct your steps, according to His plans to a place of refuge.
Have you considered?
• You do not have to do life alone. God waits for your invitation to join your journey.
• Because God loves you, He rescues, protects, brings satisfaction, and eternal salvation.