Restoration of The Locust Eating Years©

No one told me when I was a little girl how deeply love would invade my world.  No one told me that love could be so fierce, capturing my heart with a first breath.  As that first cry escaped their lungs my heart was catapulted into love.

Every fiber of my being wanted to love my babies well.  Would it be enough to hold them close, whispering the “I love you’s” as my lips brushed their tiny cheeks?  As I kissed their boo-boo’s would they know?   As I held them tight would they feel my love?  Could any of this be enough to reveal what was implanted in my being?

Many years have now passed, never to be captured again. Broken people raise broken people.  I am one of them.   I could easily allow myself to wallow in the regrets of the days gone by and give up, yet I can’t.  For it negates the power of the One who says He takes the years the locusts have eaten and restores them.  I put my weight into believing He will right all the wrongs my actions have done.  I think of Jesus’ words, “forgive them Lord, they didn’t know what they were doing.”  They are true of me.

I got swallowed up in lies about who I was.  I became a striver working hard to make life as perfect as could be.   I focused on modifying behavior, sin management at it’s finest.  It’s all I knew. I was told it was the key to godly living. I shudder at the thought of it even now as I remember.  I left my children wondering if they would ever be good enough to be loved.  I failed my own.

Shame does that sort of thing.  It takes things and twists them all up in your mind causing you to react and respond in ways that hurt those you love the most.  I wore shame like a covering, projecting it onto my children.  I had no idea that my shattered life would weave faulty messages into the fabric of theirs.  It is one of the great regrets of my life.  It’s one of those things I wish I had known.

But as they say, it’s never too late.  Until I am in the grave it is never too late.

I’ve thought about it some today.  I’ve thought about it a lot since I saw the movie “The Help.”  Watching Abileen say to Mae Mobley every day, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” hit a spot in me.  I wish I had done that with my children.  I wish I had been focused more on who they were than what they did.

Instead of them knowing how crazy I was about them, they were left thinking that nothing they did could please me. As He has healed me, He is allowing me to help heal my loves. God is bringing me back full circle these days. Today, I sit to consider.

What if time was erased?  What if all of a sudden we were back at the beginning of their lives?  What if I could start afresh loving them in the healing ways of my heart that I now know.  What would I tell them?

“I am pleased with you because you are mine.”  “It pleases me when you know that I love you, just because.”  “I want you to know that it is OK to make mistakes, you will be loved regardless.”  “I am pleased when you know you are safe, with me.”  “I am pleased when you let me love you as I do.” “You matter to me.” “More than anything else on this earth you matter to me.” “My pleasure is not linked with your behavior.”  “Your behavior is not the barometer that tells me who you are, you are my child, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” “You are my treasure, my love.”  “I will never, ever be disappointed in you.” “Your place in my heart is not based on what you do, it is because of who you are to me.” “There is only one you, no one can ever take your place, it is secure.” “When you fall down I will be there to help pick you up.” “You are mine and I am yours, forever.” “I love you to the moon and back.”

He is the God who restores what the locust have eaten.  He is restoring me.

©copyrighted: 2011, Julie L. Todd

The hope that changes everything

My friend, Shelley Hendrix invited me to guest post on her blog during her blog party week.  Here is the story I shared.  You can visit her blog here:

The Hope That Changes Everything:

Mile markers are interspersed along this journey of life. Some I walk through with ease, others require mega doses of endurance. Endurance was required the year my husband’s business began to find its end. The bills andneeds of our family of seven were always before us. Would we make it out alive? Everything in my being longed to see a glimpse of God’s presence there in our midst. Would He come, I wondered?

I hadn’t thought about that honey baked turkey in years, yet suddenly, out of nowhere there it was. The memory of a meal we had received at the birth of our 4th child was immediately so fresh in my mind. I could almost taste it causing the longing to permeate my being. Maybe if I looked hard I could find a way in our over stretched budget to make it work.

I’m a very practical, frugal person. Moments like that are out of character for me. I live well under the constraints of a budget. Yet on that day all practicality went out the door. The lure of desire caused the calculator in my brain to start up. Surely there was a loophole with twenty-five dollars hidden amidst the bills. No matter how much I moved things around, at the end of the day I couldn’t justify my longing. I spoke of it to no one, I just let it go.

A couple of days later a friend invited me to lunch. Five children ages 10 and under along with my husband’s failing business was taking it’s toll on me. How fast could I say yes? A date was set. She showed up with her teenagers and home made cookie dough. Hers would entertain mine while we dashed away for a quiet retreat. As we sat over lunch she allowed my heart to reveal it’s weariness. She understood. They had had their own season of endurance.

Time passes too quickly in those getaway moments. Before you knew it we were headed back to our realities. In a passing comment she mentioned that she had left dinner in the refrigerator. We hugged our goodbyes as she gathered up her teens.

Life settled back in as I went to the refrigerator to see what dinner would be. As I opened the door, there it sat. You know what it was don’t you….a honey baked turkey.

I had no words, only tears. There was only One who knew of my longing. I had never asked for it. I had only wished. Lavish love unlike any I had experienced before spoke volumes to the aching places of my soul. I savored every bite, knowing that the One who loves me more than life itself was present, attentive, knowing all.

We’re in another season these days. Five months of unemployment stare us in the face. Hope comes in the most amazing ways sometimes pouring into us, reviving our souls to continue on in the path that tries the soul. In the here and now I have the mile markers of my past which remind me. He truly is the hope that changes everything.

Tempered by Love©

The personality profile test the church used was supposed to help me understand myself.   Everyone seemed to buy into it.  I was told it was helpful in knowing how to work in relationships in ministry together.  I bought into it too.  I wanted to know who I was.  I wanted to understand the lingo everyone was using.  Little did I know that it would end up being something used to shut me down.

I attended the seminars where the pastor presented the information.  I received my label.   “D”, Direct, Decisive, High Ego Strength, Problem Solver, Risk Taker, Self Starter.  As he described the weaknesses of my new-found diagnosis I felt the shame wash over me.  Really, is this who I am?  It didn’t look good for a southern woman in the church.  I didn’t want to be her.  I wanted to be someone else.  I didn’t want to anyone to know.

I will never forget the Sunday I was asked by one woman in particular about my profile.  As I spoke I heard the groan escape her lips, confirming what I had come to believe.  No one wants to have a personality like mine.

I determined that I would temper myself and manage my behavior.  I made a decision to try to dial down those negative strengths in hopes that they wouldn’t be seen.  Maybe I could discipline myself into an “S.  Everyone loved the “S” personality.  After all they are good listening team players who are steady, predictable, understanding and friendly.

Sometime later I attended the seminar for a 2nd time.  I hoped the results would come out better since I’d been working hard to become different.  This time another letter was added to my identity..  I was now a combination of a “D” and an “I”.  I liked that better as the “I” is an enthusiastic, trusting, optimistic, persuasive, talkative person.  I began to settle into this improved identification.  If I changed enough to become an “I” surely some “S” would begin to filter in.

I was ashamed of who a test had determined me to be.  I didn’t realize that it was an assessment of my flesh.  I became lost in who I was, tempering those things strongest in me to blandness.  I began to try to behave my way into a new personality, one that would find me acceptable.  I believed that the strongest things in me were the worst things about me.

Jesus loves searching for the lost sheep to bring them out.  I am proof of that.  In these past years He has found me hidden underneath the layers.  He has picked me up, dusted me off and begun to tell me a very different story, the one He’s always known.  He tells me how the strengths I’ve been trying to hide were my best to Him.  They were ones He had given specifically to me.  He offered to teach me how to live in them as His Spirit tempered me with love, making everything just right.

The labels began to drop off as I began to realize that a personality profile would never be able to tell me who I am.  It can reveal strengths and weaknesses of my flesh but it can never identify me.  That belongs to the One who gave me life.  He waits to tell me.

The wilderness has allowed for that.  It has caused me to bring who I see myself to be to Him, allowing redemption to have its finest hour.  As we chat He shows me what it all looks like through His eyes.  It’s more stunning than I had imagined.  The need to flesh it all out gets lost as His love washes over me spilling out its truth.  A doorway opens inviting me to live in the fullness of who I am, one who is made to crave the best for others.

I no longer need to hide the beautiful strengths He’s given to me.  They are as much a part of me as the breath I take in.  I cannot dismiss them.  I must let them be what He made them to be.

His words are awakening me these days.  I’m finding my way into the story that was written of my life long before the ages began.  As it finds its way in I am finding my way out to live as the one who is tempered by love.

©copyrighted: 2011, Julie L. Todd
This sermon on Ephesians 4: 30-32 by David Pinkerton spoke to these truths in me.  Check it out under their current series.

He makes beautiful things©

The words to the song keep running through my mind today;  “You make beautiful things out of dust.”  They begin to sink in as I consider this desert.  He makes beautiful things out of the dust of this place…

Often the wilderness feels like what it is, a solitary, lonely uninhabited, desolate place. Some days I look around and see the sand dunes that seem to go on forever.  I begin to wonder if I will ever escape this setting.  Will I ever see the fertile lands where milk and honey flow?

I’ve had opportunity to be in this setting for some time now.  Tears have been a familiar companion at those times where the loneliness tries to suck me in.  But here in this place Jesus has met me.  For He understands the wilderness better than anyone.  His journey took Him there too.

The Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness.  Satan waited for Him there.  He wanted to get Jesus to renounce what He believed.  Instead Jesus connected in deeply with the truth.

The wasteland can have that effect.  The vastness of it calls into question everything you have believed.  It looks like you’ve been left to yourself.  After all why would a God who loves to give good gifts lead anyone into this?

The barren lands have challenged me greater than any other time in my life.   It’s where the rubber has met the road.  Will I call good what God calls good even when it doesn’t look good?  Will I believe that He is good apart from anything I see or don’t see?  What is it I believe about Him anyways? And what about me, what does He think of me?  What is the truth?

It’s easy to believe when living in the time of harvest.  After all the fruit is everywhere for the picking.  Something’s always ripe and ready to be enjoyed.  But it’s the wilderness that allows the seed to find its home.  Doubt allows me to wrestle with what I put my confidence in giving way for faith to grow.  With each opportunity to believe the soil swallows the seed more fully allowing the roots to dig in deep.

Truth has to make its way in for freedom to be realized.  It’s one thing to know it, it’s another to allow it to make its home in me.  I’ve known a lot of truth through the years yet not much of it set me free.  The past with all it’s garbage restrained me on the gerbil wheel of performance causing the words to miss their mark.

Jesus told those sitting around him that they would know the truth and it would bring them freedom.  The idea of knowing is translated as the Jewish idiom for the intimate act of sex between a man and a woman.  The truth is not just something I have knowledge of, it is something I must embrace as my own.  I see it clearly now.  This desolate place has given way for that.

The performance came to a halt.  His voice started to become the voice in my head.   He asked me to leave my past behind and receive the forgiveness He offered.  I could not live in my present under the ties of my past.  He invited me to embrace the identity He had bestowed on me.  It was my own.  He asked me to lay the work of my hands down and receive His in me.  He is the author of life, the perfector, the finisher.  He will complete what He has begun.

There is no other way to freedom than to embrace truth as my own.  It is the path to life.

In the vastness of this desert I’ve begun to find my true self, the one that God made to be.  In this place where all seems lost something magical is happening.  He is making beautiful things out of dust.

He rights all the wrongs….©

I never cease to be amazed at the simplicity in which God reveals.  A simple conversation in the midst of everyday life revealed the misnomer.  As the words spilled out, for the first time I could hear the blatant lie buried in their midst.  “I can’t look back right now and think about all the things I need to make right.”  “There’s so much I’ve done wrong.”

Just the thought of those words send me back into memories of the gerbil wheel of performance that filled my past.  I tried to make everything right.  After all the more things I got right the more godly I became.

In the midst of an ordinary dialogue I saw the reality of how foolish it all was.  Even if I went back to look at every single thing I had done, I could never make anything right.  For God is the only one who can take something so wrong and make it all right.  He is the only One who can handle sin… mine, yours… theirs.

I was commanded to forgive being told that if I did not then I wouldn’t be.  If I didn’t confess my every sin my life would not be in right standing with Him.  It’s not my confessing or my choice to forgive that makes me right with Him.  It’s Jesus.

Repentance and forgiveness are gifts of grace given to me for healing.  They are not acts to be followed, only gifts to be received.  As I take them in my hands broken places get fixed, oftentimes stronger than they were before they were shattered.

There’s a difference between remorse and repentance.  Remorse causes me to be sorry that I got caught.  Repentance allows me to count the cost that my sin brought to another. In repentance I agree with the truth.  I’ve allowed sin to reign in my mortal body.  I’ve hurt another with my choices.  I need God to make right what I’ve done wrong.  In that I admit that I can’t deal with my sin.  I look to Him to make good what I’ve made bad.

He comes in brilliant ways to tell me that it’s all covered.  All the wrongs I’ve done He will make right.  It’s then I find myself going to the one I have hurt, admitting the cost my choice has brought to them.   Repentance cleanses me from my sin while forgiveness cleanses me from yours.

Forgiveness allows me to admit that I cannot deal with your sin.  I need God to take the power of the wrong done to me and somehow make it all good.  I place it in His hands as I walk away knowing He has cleansed me from the wrong of another.

I forgive for my sake.  When you seek me out to ask my forgiveness it is then I can forgive for your sake.  In that moment God re-establishes the relationship in the way only He can.

For years I was focused more on the wrong I had done than the relationships that had been broken by my sin.  Sin deeply affects relationships.  Everything gets distorted when sin enters, everything.  It’s why Jesus came to pay its penalty.

These gifts of grace play their own role in repaving the road of trust that sin has betrayed. God invites me to take them in my hands, beautiful treasures that they are, allowing them to do their magical work of repair.

He came to heal the broken-hearted as He releases prisoners from their prisons of shame. Captives are brought out of captivity while ashes turn into beauty in His hands.  Garments of praise become cloaks that replace the spirit of heaviness.   It’s the way of my Creator.

The more I understand His words “it is finished” as that last breath escaped His body the more I am undone.  It was His final statement that changed the world, forever.   All that held me captive is undone.  All that I have done has been redeemed.

Gifts of grace invite me to live in that which has been finished.   Beautiful treasures with greater purposes are laid out before me waiting to be received.  As I take them as my own something magical happens.  He rights all the wrongs.

©copyrighted:  2011, Julie L. Todd

Dead Man’s Float

Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind here.  This is the first time we’ve embarked on territory like this.  Brennan Manning said it well.  “The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future.”

That pretty much sums up the road we find ourselves on.  In 11 days it will be 5 months since David lost his job.  It was not something we chose, it was what we were given.  Once we got over the initial shock we began to ask God, “what now”..  We agreed that it was time to do something different.  It was time to not allow the bills to dictate the job.  It was time to walk a more narrow path than we’ve known, stepping out into the unknown, trusting God with the results.

There is no rational explanation to justify the decision we’ve made, nor is there a guarantee of our future.  We walk by faith, not by sight, for honestly there’s not much to see right now.  Applications and resumes are out there.  No one’s biting.  Crickets are chirping getting louder with every day that passes, yet we wait, we choose trust.  What else is there after all?

If I were being honest I would have to say that it would be easier to handle things the way we were accustomed to using a lot of striving and self effort.  It feels much harder walking by faith, trusting the Spirit inside to guide us into what needs to be done, believing we are hearing well, and following rightly.

But is it?

Isn’t it true that when I let go of my ability to figure life out I get to rest in His?

Part of the training that David received in the Coast Guard was survival skills in water.  Dead Man’s float is what they call it.  You take a deep breath, stretch out face down in the water and just relax.  The air in the lungs becomes your floating device.

When a breath is needed, you stroke with your arms, kick easily with your legs, grab a breath and drop back down to float again.  A person can last for days floating along if need be. If they allow the shock of where they are to push them to swim, chances are they will eventually drown.  For they will exhaust their resources and succumb to their circumstances.

Have you ever tried floating in a body of water? Isn’t there something about it that feels uncomfortably out of control?  The times I’ve tried it I’ve found myself feeling helpless, causing me to get moving with strokes to get some where other than there.  It feels much harder to float than it does to swim.

Funny how that is.  It’s harder to rest than it is to work.

Life these days feels a lot like the immense, never-ending sea.  It’s seems easier to put forth my own efforts to try to make things happen.  It’s much harder to let the breath of God keep me afloat until the rescue comes.  Yet, I’ve been around the block enough to know that my vain attempts to be out of here will only leave me exhausted, getting me nowhere.   What else is there but to wait in expectation and hope on the One who created the heavens and the earth to come for me?

I’m learning to float in this vast, ocean of His great love where rest is found.  As I fight the urge to save myself I breathe Him in.  He is after all the breath of life that keeps me afloat.  Placing my face down, I allow my limbs to go limp as I choose to trust the One who came to rescue me.

How about you?

©copyrighted:  2011, Julie L. Todd