If Heaven Were A Place and Why I Stay Away

He stands in an empty room. It’s quite and still, but his heart speaks to memories the he holds.

I couldn’t stand in that room, so I stay away.

There are moments when the pain of what is gone is too great. It sears your mind and heart like a flaming sword reaching to the depths of your soul.

I choose to stay away. I don’t need that today.

I’d rather keep the memories as I know them. Memories of what was good, true, and pristine.Family Praying Before Dinner

Of a place completely safe and full of joy.

The place is a house that was filled with love, laughter, comfort and peace.

But things change, people pass from life to death, and lives move on.

The house will change, too, as it should, with a new generation bringing joy and laughter to its walls.

The empty house I avoid reflects the emptiness I feel on days where I want just one more moment as things were. Moments with people who are no longer here.

So I remember the house filled with a love which was a glimpse of the Father himself.

A plate that hung on the wall in this home.
A plate that hung on the wall in this home.

A table where no one was turned away.

A back door that was always open.

A path worn of little footprints.

For a time, heaven on earth.

If heaven were a place, it’d be there with all the memories that made the house a home.

That’s where I’ll keep it today –

The home that was like heaven in my heart.


What moments do you have that are like “heaven on earth?” Or how have you walked through grief and losses in your life? We’d love to hear from you!

Mother’s Day: Inspiring Women and Messed-Up Experiences in Motherhood

MP900341759Today is Mother’s Day –  the day we think of the blessings of motherhood. In reflecting on this day, I’m reminded of inspiring women who had messed-up experiences in motherhood.  Many biblical women endured hard places, being forced to lean on the Lord alone and nothing else. For example:

  • Jocabed, mother of Moses knew her child would be taken away and killed if he were found.  Emotions if I were her?  Fear and anger (Lord, why would you give me a child only for him to be taken away or killed?anxiety and depression. But she responded with faith in God even though He gave her a child at a difficult time. Faith that He would take care of her and the child. Faith that the Author of their story knew what He was doing.
  • Mary, mother of Jesus knew her divine pregnancy defined her as morally corrupt and open for misunderstanding and judgment.  Emotions if I were her? Fear, anger, anxiety and ambivalence.  While knowing the honor and calling on her life, no doubt there were dark days for her, being aware of the whispers, looks, and judgment that came her way.  But she responded by clinging to the Lord she knew was writing her story, clinging to Him when no one else may have encouraged her.  She clung to him when she felt alone.
  • Sarah, mother of Isaac was pregnant past her prime, when her husband already had a child from another woman.  Emotions if I were her? Fear and anger (Lord, why would you allow Hagar to bear Abram’s child when you knew I was to have one?), anxiety, jealousy and bitterness.  While she knew she was bearing a child anointed by God, the strained relationship between her, Hagar and Ishmael must have caused some strife in her life.  She responded by remaining faithful the story line the Lord gave her, even though it was hard. Scripture tells us she laughed (Exodus 21:6) and took one day at a time.

There are truths these women encountered that face many of us:

Life wasn’t supposed to be this way

This isn’t what I expected

Motherhood has more pain than joy right now.

MP900227697I hear these statements when I share with women. Mother’s Day can be painful to individuals suffering in heartache, often alone.  But motherhood pain isn’t a popular discussion in bible studies, church meetings, coffee breaks or in social media.  Facebook or Twitter statuses rarely say, “Motherhood is not what I bargained for. I don’t think I can make it.”

If Hallmark doesn’t fit the bill for you this Mother’s Day, God’s Word does.  It shares the lives of real women in hard places, with real pain….. in places they didn’t expect to find themselves….places where there are no easy answers.  If you or a woman you know faces a tarnished Motherhood this year, share these principles from biblical women who were hard-pressed to find joy in motherhood.

  • They each knew the Lord intimately.  Each of these women could stand in their circumstances because they knew the Lord and His character when the truth of their circumstance dictated His absence from their situation.  God is never absent from our situation or that of our children He sees beyond the trial and knows the ending.  In that we can take hope.  When there’s no hope in sight, we must look to and know the author of the Story.
  • They clung to the Lord and His character.  Clinging conjures up visions of grasping hold of, refusing to let go because doing so would result in disaster (clinging to a raft vs. drowning, clinging to a ledge vs. falling to destruction).
    Clinging
    Clinging

    Despite their emotions, these women clung to the One they easily could have rejected.  If motherhood only includes blessings, then what do you cling to when the image of motherhood is not what you signed up for?   You cling to a sovereign, good God who sees the bigger picture…..clinging to the truth of His character when the “truth” of our emotions can lead us away from Him.  Our emotions can betray us.

  •  Motherhood does not define our happiness, but our relationship with God does.  What do you think got Mary through the whispers, misunderstandings and acts of judgment thrown her way?  If Jocabed’s happiness was determined by baby Moses, what was she left with when God’s plan took this child from her?  Happiness for these women did not rely on their motherhood or dreams for their children, but was rooted in their relationship and identity with the Living God. 

Wherever this Mother’s Day finds you, take encouragement from these women. They were real women whose encouragement didn’t come from the culture around them, but from the Lord authoring their story.  You can receive the same encouragement, too.

Lord, thank you that You are the Author of our stories.  Will you encourage each woman who is hurting this Mother’s Day?  Thank you.

Inspiring Stories: Ingrid’s Story

healing

It’s my great privilege to have a dear friend share  her story of cancer survival.  This is Ingrid’s story:

My friend holds her daughter’s hand, whispering prayers as the daughter lay in the Intensive Care Unit. This young, single mother just barely survived an automobile crash. The man she hoped to build a life with did not.

Healing — of heart and body — will take many prayers. For my friend, for her daughter and for the family of that young man.

Two months ago, this same friend sat at my bedside, holding my hand, offering prayers as I awaited surgery to remove a cancerous lump from my breast. Physical healing began that day, as doctors used skill to carve out the fast-growing tumor, to dislodge a lymph node. With the news that the cancer had not spread, that nothing had been left behind, I whispered thanksgiving.

A plan was made for radiation, medication, therapy, lifestyle adjustments……and the healing continues.

I leaned heavily on my Lord and Savior in the days and weeks that followed, lean on Him still to understand and accept this new reality that has entered my life’s landscape.

Cancer.

As I lay on the hospital gurney receiving radiation, I felt blessed, because in the midst of my treatment and healing, I attended the funeral of woman who began her journey through cancer three years ago. She fought strong and hard, and today, she is a Survivor in eternity.

I cannot share my testimony of recovery and survival without thinking of all who bear wounds, who stand toe-to-toe with the trials of our earthly life and fight to survive, to recapture “normal”, or to accept that some things will never be the same.

Some of us receive a pink ribbon and a label — Survivor. And our bodies bear visible scars that mark the spot where MP900321107healing began.

Others suffer with wounds that are deep, too deep for a surgeon’s scalpel. Healing may begin, only for the scabs to be ripped open by new hurts, new reasons to ask “Why?”

It’s that way for my friend, bedside with her daughter. She has endured a husband’s betrayal, the loss of a ministry, the sudden death of a son-in-law, her own physical challenges, and now the trauma of her daughter’s injuries and dashed hopes.

And still my friend raises her hands in worship and I stand beside her, my own hands and heart lifted in praise to the Healer who walks with every wounded Survivor. We both bear scars, and we both smile through tears as we celebrate Our Father’s Goodness.

God does not promise a life free from pain, from loss. The truth is that nowhere in The Word does He say He “will not give us more than we can bear”. Often misquoted are these words from Paul:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”    I Corinthians 10:13

On some days, He DOES give us more than we can bear. Who can learn that they have cancer and not grieve? Who can hold the hand of a heartbroken, wounded daughter and not cry out? Who can cradle a child who will never walk, sit unassisted, play basketball, drive a car because a virus invaded his body, and not plead for mercy?

And who can bury a 25-year-old son and not question the One who holds life in His hand?

He hears and grieves. And He bears it with us.

I will exalt you, Lord,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Lord my God, I called to you for help,

and you healed me.

You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;

praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;

weeping may stay for the night,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,

“I will never be shaken.”

Lord, when you favored me,

you made my royal mountainstand firm;

but when you hid your face,

I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;

to the Lord I cried for mercy:

“What is gained if I am silenced,

if I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise you?

Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;

Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

Lord my God, I will praise you forever.    Psalm 30

6e3ffef67cd2b76a1bda39656ca79794Ingrid Lochamire lives on a farm in a beautiful valley in northern Indiana. She is a partner in business and in life with her husband, Ken, and is Mom to four sons. Ingrid homeschooled the boys, graduating the youngest this year. A former newspaper reporter, she currently is a freelance writer and part-time staff at Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center, a domestic violence agency in her home community. A lover and following of Christ, Ingrid says she strives daily to reflect His glory in every aspect of life — on the mountaintops and in the mundane. Ingrid recently reflected on her journey through breast cancer at her blog “Reflections on the Journey”.

Winter’s Here, But Spring is Coming

Like other parts of the Midwest, Spring is coming late this year on the Back Forty.  As I write, the calendar says wSpring has arrived, but snow is pelting the window. I’m a whiner about March anyway, so the late spring has made me a Champion Whiner.  {Trophy, please.}

There’s one difference, though.  I know it will end.  Rules of Mother Nature don’t lie.  Spring will always begin on March 20 even though it might be snowing.  I have faith and trust in the fact that March 20 means things are changing in the Earth even though the circumstances and snow around me say different.   Snow on March 20 and February 20 are different because one is in season and the other is not.  In March, I know better days are eminent.

Life and faith are similar.

There are times where circumstances around us dictate something contradictory to the Truth we know.  I mean the One and Only Truth – Jehovah God, Christ the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual truth is relative depending on who you talk to, just like spring seems relative when snow pelts the ground trying to wake up.  But just as the rules of science say March 20 is Spring, the Word of God says God’s character is:

  • gracious
  • compassionate
  • slow to anger
  • abounding in love
  • loving
  • merciful
  • kind
  • patient
  • forgiving
  • holy
  • just
  • the list can go on.

When your world is dark and harsh snow is pelting in your face, what gives you hope?  When walking in the dark the other day and cold snow was stinging my cheeks, I despised the circumstances, but I had hope it would not be this way forever.  I knew it was Spring, despite what the weather said.  I knew sunshine, warm weather, and new growth would be here.  I believed the truth I knew regardless of what I was experiencing.

Cross and BibleThe more you get to know God’s character through His Word, through prayer, through petition, trust, and faith, the easier you can stand on the Truth of Who He is when storms surround you.  A.W. Tozer says, “What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (The Knowledge of The Holy, cited by Steven Furtick in Sun Stand Still, Multnomah Press).   Are you able to despise stormy circumstances while being hopeful in the Truth of God?

There have been difficult deaths in my circles lately.  Difficult storms of life that don’t seem to end.  When my own world came crashing down several years ago, shattering all images of God I knew up to that point, I could stand on one truth I knew, the character of God and promises of His word:

  • He would never leave me or forsake me.
  • He is good.
  • He loves me. 
  • He is personal.
  • He is sovereign.
  • He is trustworthy.
  • He is not defined by my circumstances.

Do you need to know these truths?  As you seek Him in His word, you will find Him and his personal care for your situation.  Just as new life is pushing through the ground in the season of Spring, new growth and life are ready to burst through your situation even though the storms say, “Not Happening.” 

God does not change, just as the first day of Spring doesn’t change when there’s snow on the ground.  I challenge and encourage you to know Him in new ways that go down deep into your soul.   Shallow faith gets crushed when life’s storms come out of season.  But deep, trusting faith in His character is what sustains life when the dark, crushing elements invade your life.

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Spring is here and So is Jesus.

Neither change,  Both are constant. No matter what the weatherman says.

Where do you need to believe that truth?

Blessed is the one…..whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither….. Psalm 1:1-3 (portions) NIV

The Sound of Silence

And there was silence in Heaven.  Revelation 8:1

I don’t feel right writing, but in my selfishness, I do.

The tears roll down my face today.  My heart is broken.

Broken for a childhood friend who lost his son today.

For a best friend whose lost a nephew, for the mother who gave up her life, for brothers who grieve.

For another family grieving the loss of their little one from cancer.Harvest time

For the boys in my office today who don’t know their father,

For the tears that ran down their faces in anger and heartache

For the tears shed yesterday by a child not seen by his mother

For the tears of another child recounting the abuse he’s endured.

There are times nothing seems appropriate but silence.

Silence because God doesn’t seem to be speaking

Silence because words cannot do justice to the moment filled with tears.

Silence because there is nothing I can say in my humanness

Silence because God’s presence is the only thing that is left.

It only seems appropriate that this space remains silent for a few days.

Silent as I speak to women about hope

Silent as I do life with people I love

Silent as I mourn and grieve for friends, acquaintances,

and Lost Boys.

As I listen to the sound of silence.

Taking Risks Despite the Gloomy Forecast

Our Back Yard
Our Back Yard

I’m going to try” I said.

Snow was no longer coming down, but school had just been canceled.  The winds were blowing snow across the road in front of our house.   I checked the weather between Indiana and Virginia.  “Winter advisory for Shenandoah Valley” the Weather Channel said.

I had planned to make a trip from Northern Indiana to visit my daughter in college in western Virginia during the only weekend available between now and May.  She was homesick after spending most of the holidays in Guatemala before returning to school in January.  Her time at home the past year has been slim, only a few weeks here and there between school and a summer spent in Guatemala.

She needed Mom, and Mom needed her. 

Phone on our porch
Phone on our porch

After hearing her tears on the phone an hour earlier when I told her I didn’t think I could make the trip, I assessed the storm traveling east through the country.  Forecasts between Here and There showed things would “clear up” by noon.  I would be on the road well into the evening either way.

As I saw the blue skies outside my window, I told my husband, “I’m going to try.  If it gets bad in the first few hours, I’ll turn back.”

You’re crazy,” he said.

As I drove cautiously through the first hours of snow and slush, the roads got increasingly drier and I continued on.  The five hours of mountain driving through the Shenandoah Valley were clear and dry.  The sun slipped behind the mountains and by dark I was on her doorstep.

I made it.

We spent much needed time together over the next twenty-four hours.  “Thank you, mom, for coming,” she said often.  I reflected on what we would have missed if I wouldn’t have taken a risk.

A risk into the unknown ahead of me.

Road to ObtaclesA risk that had potential danger.

A risk that had two unknown outcomes.

I could try and hope for success

or fail to try and be in comfort, not knowing what the outcome would have been.

I tried.

And succeeded.

Every mile of road I wondered how much life is like the choices I was faced with.

How many times do we look at projected outcomes and decide not to try.

How many times do the conditions ahead scare us from doing risky, meaningful things.

I wouldn’t have risked the weather for just anyone.

But for my baby girl, I would risk everything to be near her, to hear her breathe as she sleeps, to see her beautiful smile, to hold her just once more.

For important things, risks are live-changing.

I’ve learned not to take relationships for granted. 

As I write this, families in my circles are grieving losses and wondering if theirs will be next.

I’ve learned certain things in life are worth taking the most daunting challenges.

I’ve learned my Savior is on the other side of the mountain knowing the forecast between me and Him.

I’ve learned when I step out in faith into the blowing, blustery present, sunshine and clear skies might be right around the corner.

But if I don’t try, I’ll never know.

Where in your life are the conditions around you discouraging you from stepping out, taking an important risk, from saying, 

“I don’t know the outcome, but the least I can do is try?”

Sometimes the mountains are literal.

Sometimes they are figurative.

I am so thankful I took a risk last weekend, saying “I’m going to try”

though my husband shook his head.

Who’s shaking their head at you?

My girly boots and shovel
My girly boots and shovel

Putting boots, a shovel, and blanket into the car, I prepared myself for challenges I might face as I set out.

What do you need to do to prepare for the risks ahead of you?

My heart led my head that morning.

I am so thankful it did.

Sometimes, life just has to be that way.

Where have you risked with your heart and have been blessed by it?  What have you learned from risks you have made?  We would love to hear them.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains” Isaiah 45:2

Parenting Series: What I Learned from My Mother-In-Law

I’ve revisited the life of my mother-in-law with many of you this week.  One person who knew her commented, “Lois not only made a positive impact on her family but on her church and the community as well.”  That’s an understatement.  She quietly impacted whoever she was with.

As a young mom, she was my mentor, quietly modeling Proverbs 31 in gracious, compassionate ways.  Here are a few things I observed about her.

  • She knew how to comfort a child.  Not all moms know this instinctively.  My firstborn was fussy and I didn’t know what do to do with her.  Lois showed me how to swaddle her, cuddle her and calm her.  She could rock the Beautiful Baby Sucking Blanketmost difficult child to sleep, a “baby-whisperer” of sorts.  Studies show babies who are nurtured, rocked, and soothed in early months of their lives have a more secure foundation in their emotional development.  I have seen this in action.
  • She made time for children. Lois was a dairy farmer’s wife whose children and grandchildren stair-stepped over forty-three years, whose kitchen table was a revolving door.  She was a busy woman but always had time for children.  She let them make tents, bake cookies, and make huge messes when they were at her house and it was welcomed.  In the midst of her busy day, she would sit and read books with them, have a tea party with them, or have them work alongside her whatever she was doing.  She had picnics by the creek and let them play in the dirt while she gardened or fed calves.  Whether her own children or the many others she cared for, kids always knew they were welcomed at her house. 
  • She knew each child individually.  Lois had four sons, four daughter-in-laws, twelve grandchildren, and ministered to countless people in the church and community.  She saw people.  I watched how she understood children, how she knew their individual bents and needs.  This affected how she interacted with them and how kids received her love.  She never passed one over for another. She knew how to gently disciple, while earning the respect of each one, from high school to toddler.
  • She could keep children entertained and quiet when needed.  I watched her keep toddlers still in church services with a nail file she would wisp over their fingers, or with two magnet terriers that could slide over paper.  She would entertain toddlers with books by pointing their fingers on pages of books, keeping their interest. She did these even after electronic devices were common.
  • Her home was welcoming.  Lois raised four boys in a six room farmhouse where people were perpetually coming and going on a busy farm.  It never mattered who stopped by, if it was at dinner time, you were always welcome and somehow there was always enough food.   She could make peanut butter and jelly seem like a Family Praying Before Dinnerdelicacy because the warmth and conversation around the table is what mattered.  The pretzels on Grandma’s counter were better than the ones at home because love was sprinkled on them.  She always had something simple, but special, for kids and adults.
  • She made housekeeping simple.  I watched this woman feed smelly-farm boys at noon, have several messy grand-kids for the afternoon, and have things cleaned up, swept up, and ready for company  in the evening.  How did she do it?  She had kept toy baskets handy,  cleaned things up as needed, and kept things orderly.  She used her time well and kept things on hand for just about any need.

When Lois unexpectantly died, I knew my children lost precious moments the older grandkids had with her.  I resolved  to have her legacy live on as much as I could as a parent.   Here are some conscious things I’ve done with my kids I may not have otherwise done if I didn’t promise myself to have her impact continue on.

  • I date each of my kids at least once a year.  This usually is a day outing unique to the interests of each IMG_0680particular child.  For one day, it’s only me and that child.  We’ve gone on day-long bike rides,  to amusement parks, visited museums, planetariums, rock concerts, and had day-long shopping trips buying nothing.  We’ve been rained on, had flat bike tires, and have investigated graveyards.  As the children have gotten older, day long events turn into at least a meal together at a restaurant of their choice.  The goal is individual time together doing something fun we would not normally do.  It allows for bonding, conversation, and laughable memories.
  • I’ve learned to give grace more easily. As I’ve worked through parenting two teenagers already, I’ve learned sometimes the greatest thing they need is grace.   When pondering how to respond to a child, I think of how my mother-in-law would’ve responded, and grace is often the answer.
  • I’ve tried to make simple moments special.  This is one of the gifts Lois had.  I try to serve simple foods on special plates when there is something to celebrate or if someone needs a pick-me-up.   We’ve had tea parties with teachers and with each other.  I’ve tried to let the kids play what they want unless there’s a good reason to say “no.”  This often results in messes, but it’s okay.  We’ve played with chicken-chuckers and had Chinese firedrills to my children’s dismay.IMG_1180
  • I’ve tried to let each child feel known and special.  There’s no formula for this other than taking the time to talk with them, listen to them, and make decisions in their best interest.  This often means stopping what I’m doing because they need time even though they don’t say it.  It’s a challenge, especially on busy days, but it’s always worth it.

My mother-in-law wasn’t perfect, but she lived intentionally.  It was her nature.  It’s been humbling to try to be a glimpse of who she was in the lives of my children.  By God’s grace, He’s allowed me to stop, look, and listen to my children in ways I may not have if I wouldn’t have considered her legacy.

The greatest gift we can give to someone’s memory is to make sure their spirit lives on.

Who has impacted your life in positive ways, and how can you implement their spirit into the lives of your children?  I would love to hear how you do this!

Inspiring Stories: Tanya’s Story

picture for BrendaI have the humble privilege to share Tanya’s Glanzman’s story of being an overcomer and survivor of childhood abuse, abandonment, and neglect.  Tanya is a remarkable woman.  She is a contributing writer for Circle of Friends Ministry each week and ministers to others through My Father’s Daughter Ministry.  as a speaker and writer.  She and her family live in Virginia.   Here is her story.

Both of my parents were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.  I had no recollection of my father who was my first abuser, and whose head my mother had put a gun to and told to “get out” when she caught him molesting me before age two.  I did however remember all too well my grandfather who was my last abuser and who killed himself ten days after I told that he had been molesting me for five years at the age of fifteen. He had always told me that if I MP900403070ever told he would die and it would be “all my fault”.  He was cruel, controlling and verbally abusive.

Between them I could remember five other men who had also sexually abused me.  Each taking from me what was not theirs, what they had no right to. These were men who had been invited by an addict into the life of an addict- and her daughter and who left their mark upon my life with the signature of the most horrendous offense of the soul.

We learned to be a team my mother and I.  She was a functioning addict and I was her caretaker, confidant and most trusted friend.  Not only did I learn what was required to take care of her well, but also became quite sufficient at taking care of myself.  The gifts which characterize childhood such as innocence, purity and irresponsibility were never mine to possess or unwrap. 

At nine years old, my mother and I came out of the most horridly abusive relationship and the last that we had ever survived together. We spent a year living in a hotel room with a man that we were both deathly afraid of.  We each endured ritualistic control, physical and sexual abuse and torture.  I spent the majority of this year locked in a bathroom day in and day out while my mother was forced to make choices in the adjoining room that no one should ever be forced to make.Housekeeping Cart in Front of Motel Room

It was after we were free from this situation that my mother had a complete breakdown and could no longer care for me.  With nowhere else to turn she abandoned me to her father and his wife.  I hadn’t previously known her father because they had been estranged from one another my entire life.  Their estrangement was due to the fact that my mother’s father was the very one that had molested her as a child.

Two months after I built up enough courage to reveal that my grandfather had been molesting me my mother married her fourth husband and moved out of the country with him.  When she found out what had happened she blamed me for not being more careful because she had warned me that my grandfather was dangerous.

The remainder of my growing up years were difficult to say the least.  The abuse that I had endured for so many years finally began to take its apparent toll on me.  I struggled with severe depression, self mutilation and bulimia.  I was hospitalized several times for repeated suicide attempts.  I was consumed with pain and inner turmoil and just wanted it all to stop.  I hated myself, was painfully lonely and longed to be loved. 

My mother and I maintained a strained and difficult long distance relationship. MP900444486As much as I longed for her to love me and be the mother I needed her to be, I began to hate her for all that she had failed to protect me from, all that she never had been and all that she was not able to be.  I never stopped wanting or needing a mother.   

When I was sixteen and a Junior in high school my mother had a second child… a girl.  Within my heart this was the ultimate betrayal.  Not only had I been rejected and abandoned, but I had now been replaced.  The root of bitterness within my heart towards my mother grew.

I came to accept the Lord within my heart as my Savior that same year and began to endeavor to learn of a Father who loved unconditionally, would never leave or forsake you and only offered His children good things. 

Despite my level of woundedness and mostly due to a desire to be different from that which I  came I successfully graduated from high school and began college.  At eighteen I met and at nineteen married my wonderful husband who had no idea that he was marrying a woman with which he would have to travel a most rigorous journey of healing.  Healthy communication, trust and intimacy were three necessities of marriage of which I had no ability to partake in.  His patient and enduring love helped him to stand beside me even in the most difficult of times.  We eventually had two beautiful children which I was told we would never be able to have due to the scars that remained from the hands of my abusers.

Over the years my mother continued to call me, usually however only when she was under the influence of drugs, or alcohol, or both.  Despite all of the abuse that I had endured it was the physical abandonment and emotional neglect of my mother that caused me the most pain, the most hurt and the most sadness.

The Lord had restored so many areas within my life that I was sure that one day he would as well heal and restore the relationship with my mother.  Unfortunately, in 2008, she passed away as a result of a drug overdose.  She never was able to receive the healing, restoration and redemption that the Lord had for her while she was upon this earth.

At this point I was a godly woman, I loved the Lord with my whole heart and I served Him as best as I could with my life. The truth however was that I had never been able to forgive my mother for all that she had done and all that she had failed to do.  The root of bitterness, un-forgiveness and even hatred remained in my heart for my mother. Her death was just one more abandonment, the final abandonment, and I could not deal with it.

Her second daughter was now 14 and was the one who called to tell me that our mother had passed away. I had purposefully never had relationship with her- within my heart she represented every ounce of hurt, rejection and abandonment that I had experienced at the hands of my mother.  I told her that I was sorry, I wasn’t coming to the funeral and that days later I told her father that I wasn’t interested in having relationship with her.

So I “moved on.” A few months after my mother’s death I began “My Father’s Daughter Ministries” and the Lord was faithful to begin to provide me opportunity to speak healing and truth into the lives of women.  Isn’t God faithful to use us even in our own process of healing and restoration?

It wasn’t until, through life giving truth that was offered to me in relationship with my Circle of Friends, that I was lovingly confronted with the hatred and un-forgiveness which remained locked away for my mother within my heart.

I was encouraged to take intentional steps to face and deal with those issues which had prevented me from walking in the fullness of freedom that Christ had for me.  A prideful heart hindered me longer than it should have from seeking out Christian counseling.  I wanted to be able to say “I did it- I Woman with Arms in the Airovercame- with just me and the Lord.”  But it was my Circle of Friends who helped me to understand that truly I was limping, not running, and that until I was willing to face that which I had not, and forgive, I would never be able to walk in all that the Lord had called me to. 

Nothing about the process of healing was easy. There were days when my heart hurt so very much that I just didn’t think I was going to be able to move forward one more step. But with the love and support of my husband and my Circle of Friends I was able to face, accept and grieve the loss of the mother that I never really had.  I was able to forgive her for what she was and what she never was.  And ultimately, I was led to find and begin to develop relationship with the little sister which anger and bitterness had never afforded me the privilege of knowing.

I am so thankful that the Lord has loved me too much to leave me where I was.  His faithfulness, mercy and grace within my life never fail to astonish, bless and humble me. I am so very thankful that He saw fit to allow me to encounter Circle of Friends… He used them to change my life.

Romans 2:11 states that God is no respector of persons. As God has been so faithful to be the Healer, Restorer and Redeemer of her own life, Tanya is blessed to have the opportunity to share the message that His desire is to be those very things to every woman who would have Him as their Father. As a speaker and writer through My Father’s Daughter Ministries, Tanya is thankful to have the opportunity to minister encouragement to the hearts of women destined to be loved by the King.

Snapshots Beyond the Picket Fence

Medium Format CameraSnapshot One: A family celebrates as their son receives an organ transplant. A true miracle. Hope for new life is with them!

Snapshot Two: A family watches their little son fade away before their eyes from cancer. Hope for new life has not come to them.

Snapshot Three: Fill in the blank.

I wondered whether to pen these words, but somewhere deep inside my soul cries out. As I switched computer tabs from one blog to the next, I’m left numb. So alive for my friends who are celebrating. And part of me is crushed, reading words of a father seeing his son slip away. There are no words to speak into their pain.

The message at Life Beyond the Picket Fence is that when life’s full of the unexpected, dirty, and difficult, good things can still grow. The life in-between. I don’t know where you are today on your picket-fence-journey. I don’t hear from each reader, but those I hear from validate the need for encouragement in the hardest and darkest of places. I haven’t lost a child. I have no idea what it feels like to have one taken before your eyes. What I do know is that sometimes there are no words for pain.

I encourage you, my readers, to place yourself in a snapshot of life that is difficult and messy. Maybe it’s your own snapshot or someone else’s. Acknowledge it for what it is. If it’s a day to celebrate because good things are growing, then celebrate! Acknowledge the hard places you’ve been and celebrate the victories. Don’t minimize the miracles, grace, and good things God has done.

If it’s a day of muck and mire, acknowledge it for what it is. Feel the pain. Allow yourself to naturally grieve, mourn, Shovel in Dirtbe angry or sad. Don’t minimize the pain. Let the fullness of life validate where you are. It hurts.

Whether your snapshot of life is full of harvest or drought, when the winds blow and the seasons change, go with it. Experience it. And when the winds of springtime come, take up the hoe, till the ground and let God grow the seeds He’s planted there.

The same dirt that brought drought will bring life in the right season.

That’s the character of God.

Life’s not a picture perfect image of Hollywood. It’s not a story book with a happily-ever-after. It’s a story that changes with every season, some years with bountiful harvests, and some with devastating drought. Living in between means you put the seed in the ground again, no matter what came before.

Having faith that something good can always grow

Even in the coldest, deepest pain.

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Father, will you be with each one who needs to feel your complete grace, whether that’s in joy or pain? Will you minister the fullness of your character to their need, today? Will you speak to their spirit what words can’t. Will you carry them in this season, bringing them to the place where You will grow the full harvest of the past, present, and future, for Your honor and glory. Amen.

P.S. The giveaway for “Isn’t It Time for a Coffee Break” is still open until January 9. Click here for more details.

Just. No. Words.

Math Homework in NotebookI’ve got to be honest.  In light of recent national events, I sit down to write asking, “Why?  Why should I continue putting even more words in social media when there’s already too much?  Too many words, too much noise filled with anger, agendas, ignorance, and “expertise.”  Keeping up with the blogging field, following the tips of Michael Hyatt and Copyblogger seems pointless today.

People are hurting.  It’s not about me, my words, or anyone else’s.

In thinking about this space for the next year, I had already planned to add new features, including two regular contributors who can give words to a topic I often write about – parenting.  I’m excited to have them here because they have good insight for dads and moms.  This Wednesday, I’m proud to introduce Joshua Kissee of http://www.manbuilders.com, as a contributing writer.  He’s a dad who has a heart for raising good men.  As a mother of three boys, I affirm his passion and appreciate the contributions he will make here to the men who read the blog, and to women who are also raising boys.  Here’s more about Josh:

Joshue Kissee – http://www.manbuilders.comwww.manbuilders.com
Joshua Kissee is the proud Dad of five sons and founder of http://www.manbuilders.com and a contributing blogger at playgrounddad.com. He and his wife, Rebecca, enjoy raising their sons Jacob, Jordan, Johnathan, Jonah, and Jared. They believe that boys need to acquire a great variety of skills and character traits on the journey to becoming a man. Joshua and Rebecca enjoy blogging about topics to teach boys and display a new topic periodically from over 300 ManBuilding ideas to teach your son. Checkout the family at http://www.manbuilders.com/about.
Be sure to visit Wednesday to read his book review of Father Hunger – a powerful book about the influence of fathers.
Krissy Nelson of Not Alone Mom  will also be contributing to Life Beyond the Picket Fence.  You’ll learn more about her soon.  I’m excited to have both of them joining me in this ministry.
             In the meantime, I’m tempted to follow the “What’s the Point?” questions lingering in my mind about blogging right now.  But I know the reason this ministry began three years ago.  And that is why I write.  This space is committed to being a ministry about life that’s not the image we thought it would be.  It’s a place about real issues in life, sometimes difficult, that we can walk together through with encouragement, strength, and hope.  And sometimes, my own life provides a little laughter.
              The readers visiting here come from all walks of life.  Men, women, moms, dads, people from a variety of ages and faiths from around the country and world, from all walks of life.  The commonality we all have is a dream, an image, of what we thought life would be.  And somewhere along the way, that dream was shattered.  But together, we walk forward each day.  If, for one person, this space helps them know they are not alone in the walk, then I write.
             I’m also committed to share the One in whom all hope is found.  His name is Jesus Christ, the son of the Most High God, of whom I love more than anyone, anything, or creation on this earth.    When religion and traditional images of God did not make sense to me in my deepest pain, He proved to me He was personal, true, and completely all that He says He is.   There’s a temptation to be politically correct as a contributor to social media.  In most cases, I will.  But I will share about the Hope that I know.  I am living proof of His grace, and I won’t trade that for anything.
     I hope you, too, will feel safe and comfortable here, where life isn’t a rose garden, but where the Gardener of Hope still causes good things to grow.
“Lord, God, we love you.”
Today, there are no more words.