Life giving words hold far more power than we realize. They are authentic, meaningful and sincere, and seek to bless another, rather than seeking a personal ‘feel good’. Life giving words are affirming words that acknowledge purpose and value, where life has declared death and an end.
Like autumn sunshine on coloured leaves–a season when life sheds from nature–words that offer hope, draw indescribable beauty from a wounded heart. And while autumn and winter stand in between, they are the seeds that awaken hope and hold the promise of spring, when new life will burst from the soul.
Hope is the light that shines it’s warmth on that promise… the light that guides the wounded heart. Speak words of life; it may be what gives one heart a reason to live.
Today someone confronted me…. And instantly my heart sank, as it registered what I had done and what I was guilty of… I felt sick and sinful; unworthy of the calling God has placed on me. Unworthy of His grace, and overwhelmed by my humanity.
Restless, I returned to writing the devotional my agent asked me to write, reading through the most recent chapter. And the truth of the story of Jesus offered hope to my heart…. what He did for me, for us…
Written in my own words, how the story plays out in my mind, as I read Matthew 26, and having limited words to tell it, the following as an excerpt from the devotional:
“Wait here,” the God-man said to His inner circle of friends. “My heart breaks so that my soul is filled with sorrow; a sorrow so deep it feels to be drawing the very life from me. Stay… Wait… and pray, for temptation waits to trip you… pray that you will not surrender to it.” And with that He slipped away, leaving His friends behind, night shadows wrapping cool blankets around Him. He walked, willingly into the dark that night until He came to a Garden…
Gethsemane…. Oil press. What a name, on a night so dismal, when the agony was so near to pressing the very life from His compassionate heart… Gethsemane, the place where oil poured generously from the fruit of the Mount of Olives…
Here, in that Garden, the God-man knelt, having found solitude from all but His Abba Father. Human flesh cringed at the burden suffocating a heart most tender, and in that humanness, the God-man spoke in intimate conversation.
“Oh Papa… If there’s any other way… if it is possible, please take this crushing burden from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Your will, Papa,” He prayed. And there the blood-red wine began to trickle from His heart, as sweat droplets formed in anguish, falling from His forehead like drops of blood, a symbolic prophesy soon fulfilled.
Having prayed, He went to His disciples and found them sleeping. Three times He prayed. Three times they slept. Each time He roused them, urging them to pray, until the third time; then He told them to rest. For then the time was at hand… That time when disciple-and-friend-turned-foe-and-traitor would come.
Faithless and filled with self, the traitor kissed the God-man’s cheek; a stolen kiss, betraying that tender heart, selling the God-man as if He held no worth. Still, that love flowed, poured out wine, for that one. Because love, when it starts to spill, knows no boundaries; it spills that generously over those who sell it.
Driven by whips lashing hate, a mocking crown bleeding, He stumbled up the hill…Golgotha; the place of the skull, a place of death. Such symbolic prophesy, for from that day forward, Life would spring from places long condemned.
Earth groaned beneath the God-man’s feet, crying for release, as from thorn-pierced brown the blood drops fell, each one a promise of life. A prophesy soon fulfilled…
He reached the top of that hill, and there, in ground long cursed, the haters laid Him on that cross. Nails punctured gentle hands. Life trickled, like wine poured out, blood-red, from His hands and His feet. Then, raised to heaven, naked and for all to see and scorn, love kept trickling without regard for the scoffing.
The spear, ruthless, sharp… piercing through the God-man’s side… Oh prophetic victory! Oh generous love, poured out! For from that piercing, the blood of Christ spilled out, messy and red, staining wood, the ground and cloth on which it fell; leaving an eternal mark. Because Love does that; it leaves a forever mark and flows with abandon… Without straight lines, it spills in reckless patterns, wherever it will travel, on rough and scarred terrain.
Like wine, poured in generous serving, offered with bread, He sustains the life of all who reach for it. His body, broken by hate and rejection like bread shared with hungry, His blood, spilled out like wine on weary lips…. Flowing through us, shared with those around… Without reserve in reckless patterns without straight lines, wherever we travel…
Because that’s what Love does, when it touches our lives and spills over us generously like poured out wine…
I am so thankful for what Jesus did on the cross, not only for my sins, but for those I have sinned against, to bring life and healing from ‘the place of death’ and skulls. And I am so sorry for wounding a heart and breaking trust… Praying God will heal and redeem all things.
It’s a funny thing… some of the most amazing things in life, I find almost impossible to put into words. At least soon after they happen. Given enough time and space, I am usually able to ‘tell the story’ of it, but at the time, it all gets locked away someplace sacred until such a time as my heart finds words to tell it. And that’s my dilemma about some recent events. How do you put into words experiences that are completely exhilarating and as fully unbelievable? But I will try…
I wrote in my previous blog about the notes that have started to trickle in from former neighbours in Mexico, many of whom are referred to in my book, or their families if not their names, specifically; and the notes keep coming in. As a result of those connections a book signing was scheduled at The Central (most amazing restaurant in Aylmer, IMO) on Saturday May 2nd from 11:00am to 2:00pm. But the action and excitement started the previous day…
I drove to Aylmer late afternoon for an interview with Craig Bradford, with the Aylmer Express, who was very kind in his questioning. Not having had the opportunity to read the book in advance, he needed a brief overview of my story, to know where to take the article. With Corinth, a small hamlet about ten minutes from Aylmer, being a significant part of the first half of the book, he was very interested in those years, while establishing family dynamics and context. We parted ways within an hour, with the promise that he would return in the morning to speak with a few people from my past.
My cousin Helen Knelsen and I had agreed we would meet after the interview, and go see her parents, my Uncle Jake and Aunt Anna Peters. They are the sweetest couple, those two, and always had a special place in my heart in childhood and early teens; something many years of separation did not rob from me. I’ve connected with Aunt Anna numerous times in the past few years at my mom’s, and promised one day I would show up at her house. This was the day.
We pulled in the drive and it hit me, “Do they know we’re coming?” I asked. Helen burst out laughing and said she figured I had contacted them. A surprise visit it would be, then, we decided.
Seeing Uncle Jake working in the yard, I jumped out of the car and waved and called out enthusiastically, “Hi Uncle Jake!”
Uncle Jake squinted, “Wha… What?” He paused. “What?… Uncle?” he asked, clearly not recognizing me, and wondering why this stranger called him uncle. Walking toward each other I said, “I’m Peter Harder’s Trudy”.
“What?! No…!!” he said, chuckling, and threw our arms around each other in a warm hug. We wandered to the house and Aunt Anna arrived at the door just at that moment, shocked to see me, and we indulged in a few more hugs. Sitting at their island and chatting, Uncle Jake would walk by every now and then and squeeze my shoulders, still trying to absorb it and struggling to believe it was me. It was delightful!
“I’ve grown up and out,” I said, at one point, laughing. Last time he saw me I was a scrawny teenager, slightly underweight. Well, not anymore, I told him. I’m a mom of five healthy children, which played a role, but being on heart medications did more than seven pregnancies to contribute to weight gain. He kept laughing and telling me I don’t look like Trudy, and I kept giggling, delighted by his antics and lingering shock.
Aunt Anna asked if we had supper. Helen had, but I had not. Not that I was very hungry. Of course, with aunts and moms and grandmas, it will never do to not eat, so she set to work making more tacos. And I’m talking the real deal, not that packaged powder stuff. She seasoned the meat to perfection and served them with the real Mexican tortillas. They were incredible!
We women retreated to the living room, afterwards, relaxing on the couch and chatting. Soon Uncle Jake joined us, but went to a card table in the far corner of the room to work on a jigsaw puzzle, where he could still join in conversation, but keep himself busy. We sat there a long while, listening to stories, telling stories and reminiscing. Their solid faith is such an encouragement, affirmed by their testimony that salvation is only through Jesus, not church or denomination, though they are ‘at home’ in the Old Colony church.
“Your Grandpa Wall was like that,” Uncle Jake said, “and visited many different churches when he traveled away from home.” Aunt Anna jumped in, then, and said Grandpa visited everything from Baptist, to United to Catholic, and always he worshiped God without criticizing the church.”
What a legacy, I thought to myself! No wonder my heart always felt safe with Grandpa Wall, who seemed truly to be a godly man with a kind and tender demeanor, and who always treated Grandma with gentleness, to my memory, even using endearing terms.
Such a stark contrast to Grandma’s father, Great Grandpa Dyck, who was a desperately wicked man, beating up his wife until she developed a permanent growth, and eventually ordering his second son, Peter, to push her to her death, from the metal staircase that led from their upstairs to the ground level. She died a week later and Henry, the oldest son, sat by her bed to support her in her suffering. Aunt Anna pulled out photos of Great Grandpa, and another with Great Grandma standing between her parents, and her then very young Henry. Great Grandma is positioned to show only a side profile, in order to hide a deformity that resulted from her husband constantly punching and beating her. It is utterly heart-wrenching to think this would continue, relatively unchecked.
We ended the evening with a few snapshots and even talked Uncle Jake, who despises all things technological, to take a few shots. (And he did a a great job!)
More hugs all around, and with that we drove off to Helen’s home in St. Thomas, where I spent the night to save on driving the following morning. I crawled in bed a bit before midnight, fulfilled and happy and almost too excited to sleep.
I tried to set the alarm, fearing I’d fall asleep too soundly, with my heart meds. It blared loudly in Spanish, startling me. I quickly shut it off, fearing I’d wake Rick, Helen’s husband, who had to work early in the morning. I set the volume to ‘off’ and tried again. It blared just as loudly. I made a few more adjustments and tried a third time. Again it blared, and I decided to take my chances. What were the odds that I could actually sleep in on a day like that?
I was about to meet an unknown number of people, many of whom had been friends and neighbours in Mexico and whom I had not seen in forty years…
Saturday morning I awoke, bright and early. No alarm. No noise. Just adrenaline, I presume, because my medications generally drop my heart rate and blood pressure so low that it takes more than a little racket, poking or prodding to wake me up.
Helen and I enjoyed a coffee and a heart-to-heart chat, as we tend to do, when we’re together. Some days I can hardly believe that she was one of the ‘older cousins’–though only 4 years older than me–with whom I lost touch in my late preteens, at a time when 4 years is a huge age gap. Now she is one of my best friends, since reconnecting in 2010.
A few minutes after 9:00am I gave Helen a bye hug, and headed for Aylmer, where I was scheduled to meet someone for an hour, prior to the signing. The meeting went well, and before I knew it, we were setting up for the book signing. The Central isn’t just a restaurant. True, their food is delicious. I’ve tried many items in the past months of meeting clients there, in a quiet corner, to talk, or sitting with friends, and I’ve never been disappointed. But the restaurant is about a bigger vision for families and relationships. (And if you keep cell phones away during dinner, you get a discount!) To learn more about the restaurant, visit: The Central, and to learn about their Charity mission, clickHERE.
My good friend, and faithful sidekick, Helen Reddekopp arrived bright and early, buzzing about, setting up and organizing the best ‘flow of action’. What would I do without her? And then the action started. People came and went. Names, faces, memories and new introductions blurred together. Some faces offered an instant familiarity, sending my mind back to an undefined time and place, trying to make connections, others a vague niggling of having once known them, and yet others drew a complete blank. And then one couple walked in….
Mrs. Wolfe. The sweet neighbour who always welcomed me into her home, between the ages of 6 and 9, and who offered us a safe place that fateful day when my dad threatened to kill us. Millie walked in, all dressed up, with her husband Charles by her side. Her eyes sparkled and danced. After chatting a while, I gave them a book, signed with much love and a thank you for that day. She accepted it, reminiscing of a time gone by, when life was much harder. “I never thought I’d be in a book,” she said, and explained that she simply did what she could, knowing life was hard, but never realized how much impact it had. “And do you remember I told you that Cheerios were donut seeds?” she asked. “You even planted some, didn’t you?”
The reporter, Craig Bradshaw, came by and asked a lot of questions, trying to get the story from Mrs. Wolfe’s perspective, and how it felt back then, with the threat of death before us. Then he asked Mrs. Wolfe how she feels about me writing about it in a book, and her specifically. Eyes beaming with pride, she looked at me when she answered, “I’m so proud of her. Very proud of her!”
There were many pleasant moments at the book signing, but there is nothing like sitting with a woman who saved my life as a child, and gave my heart a safe place in a chaotic world. I will always have a special place for her, in my memory. A place filled with love and inspiration.
Time moved quickly, and by mid-afternoon, we had packed up and headed to Peter and Mary Froese’s home. They had graciously offered to host an after party, with neighbours and friends. What a delight that was! I met many of the Froese siblings as well as a few of the Hildebrandt family. A gifted lot of story tellers, they shared story after story, of Mexico, and we laughed at the shenanigans of my siblings and their friends, in days gone by.
After the guests left, Mary and Peter pulled out photo albums and shared more current pictures of the neighbourhood where we lived. It helped me place many memories, and stirred up new ones.
It was late when I returned home, at about 12:30am, and my heart was full to the brim, and spilling over, with thankfulness for what God has done, and how He has redeemed and restored my life. Out of the darkness that once was, He has brought blessings beyond what my mind can grasp, and more than words can tell.
As doors continue to open, and requests to travel and speak trickle in, I pray that God will continue to redeem and restore, not only in my life, but even more in lives around me. I pray that the ripples of His grace will spread far beyond anything I will ever know about, and reclaim sons and daughters whose lives have been devastated, so that people will know Jesus is the Healer. He is my reason for reaching out. He not only gave my life back, but He gave me a new and better life filled with hope, knowing He loves me. He offers the same to all.
Yesterday I received a most fascinating message from my friend Norma Blank, from Pennsylvania, after she read that I had died:
“O my word friend…the post that someone put on ur wall made me go absolutely crazy…Like u passed away….I’m just so relieved that u r still here!! What In the world…”
About an hour earlier, another friend, who lost her daughter in March, had posted a note to my wall in memory of her daughter, and Norma saw it. Not knowing my family, she had no idea that the woman posting it was not my mother, or that the note was not intended as written to me. What my friend saw, looked like this:
A note to my daughter
I close my eyes as I wipe a tear. I just keep wishing you were still here. I will hold all the memories deep in my heart. Through these memories we will never part.
I close my eyes as I wipe a tear. I just keep wishing this pain would disappear. I didn’t get the chance to say my last good-bye.
I just didn’t think you could ever die.
I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
All of your love I will always hold near.
In my heart and my mind I will never be alone.
When my time comes……
I will meet you in heaven!
To be perfectly honest, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to die, and watch people as they react to it. And I’ve even wondered if the spirits of the dead are aware of our goings on, as we try to reconcile our loss with all the other facts that play in. If the person has been ill for a long time, we are relieved that their suffering is over. If they died in a crash, instantly, we are thankful they did not suffer long, and yet the horror of it torments us. If they are elderly and all their friends have passed on, they may have longed for the day, and we are glad for them. But regardless the dynamics of the story, and ‘how’ or ‘why’ of death, we are left with grief and loss, and need to somehow reconcile that with every other aspect of these dynamics.
Do the spirits of the dead see this? Hear this? Who knows for certain. But it is a curious thought that has entered my mind, on occasion, since childhood. Having contemplated this in the past made it that much more intriguing to experience it in real life.
I read Norma’s message again, and that is when it struck me. She actually thought I was dead! I wonder how long she thought it… What did she feel… think… do? I wrote her and asked her…
“Is it okay that I’ve had a good laugh about this? Too funny! Now I know what it feels like in real life, to have someone’s heart sink when you die. Sorry that I find that funny. I have to ask… how long did you think I was dead? (and how did you figure out I’m still alive?)”
She wrote back: I thot u were dead for like an hr….so in the middle of not knowing I decided to wash my car and I was like goin in circles literally and wondering how in the world this all happened so fast ..and ur poor kids ..and husband ..and the funeral will prob b on Sunday and I’m just wondering why I was so crazy with it all!” Her next message was, “And then !!! U posted something!!!!’ and u were alive!!!!!!!”
I could see it all playing out in my imagination. The need to do something, to be busy, as the adrenaline of the shock runs its course. It’s distressing, that kind of thing. If not quite funny under the circumstances.
I responded with: “LOL!!!!! I’m so sorry for your loss! Your grief… whatever! But that just kills me laughing!”
I gave Tim a play by play, as I read the messages, and his very calm response was, “Maybe she could come any way, and wash our car for the funeral”.
Norma agreed. “Lol!! Yes I’m a pro car washer by now!! Went in like 35644749 circles today!!! It’s clean!!”
Then a few minutes later she wrote, “Hav I told u how glad I am that u r alive? Well I am. so after I finally realized that u were still alive and kickn I pumped up my bike tires and went cruzin’ down the road for another hr! Not goin in circles lol! Just cruzin’ and feeling so relieved.”
“That was a great way to celebrate,” I wrote back,”I dream of owning a bike, one day, but as I get older, I dream less of it So…. if ever I do slip into heaven… Go on a bike ride for me to celebrate my life.”
“awww yea”, Norma wrote back, “I’ll make a Tshirt just for u…cruzin’ for Trudy! Or make a shirt for when I go see Gods not dead….God’s not dead and neither is Trudy!! Lol'”
Now that I know what it’s like to die, and be missed and have my life grieved and celebrated by a friend, I can lay that question to rest. However, the mystery of what lies beyond that moment of exhaling here for the last time, and breathing eternal life for the first time, is left to my imagination, and I will have to wait for it.
I think of heaven often, these days…
This world is tired. The darkness that hovers all around has exhausted it. It groans, and I groan with it. I’m tired. My spirit is not at home here…. Never really was… Never really will be… Even as a child, before anyone taught me, I longed for another world and knew I was not made for this place… And, even if I live to be 100–God helps us all if I do–that truth remains. This isn’t my home.
Don’t get me wrong. I love life. I love my family, my friends and I love what I do. And there is still so much I want to accomplish. I want to publish my first book, and a second, and a third and a fourth,… And maybe more. I want to travel to numerous countries to speak, not the least of which are plans-in-the-making for New Zealand and Australia. But the unrest, the tragedies all around, and the ‘dark side’ of my work with ongoing sexual abuse in Christian cultures… These are in desperate need of redemption.
While I wait, I will celebrate the life of One man who died for me… A God-man, who allowed Himself to be cast into the grave and hades, for my sin. Like my friend Norma, His friends rejoiced–and we still rejoice with them–because His soul was not left in hades, nor was His body left to decay in the grave. (Acts 2:31) After three days, He rose to life again to be my eternal hope.
Because of what He has done for me, I have no fear of death. What’s more, because of Him, I am offered full life, abundant life, while I here. So, because of Him, I will give the best that I have, and all that I am, to Him and His cause, and live life to the fullest, while I am here.
I was almost seven when my father threatened to kill our family. Later that day, in a drunken stupor, he belted out religious hymns and muttered incoherently about ‘poor Moses’ and ‘baby Jesus’, leaning over my baby brother. It scared me.
It has been thirty-seven years since that day that shaped so much of who I am today. That day, when I decided no one would take care of me, except me. I’ve had much healing, and renounced the vow I made to not need anyone, but the emotions linger, below the surface. Sometimes closer than I like.
I have no choice but to acknowledge past trauma and present grief when this happens. Not so much grief for me, or our family, any more, but grief that children still suffer. But I cannot linger long in that place. It is too dark and oppressive.
So I lifted my heart to heaven, and my eyes to the cross, this morning, and held up a little 11-yr-old boy whom I’ve never met. And asked Jesus to be with Him, to heal him. Because that little boy has physical, emotional and spiritual scars, if he survives, that will haunt him for life. I know this. And his two siblings, as well.
When I think of these words of Jesus, almost without fail, I also think of the brass serpent Moses made in the Old Testament, Numbers 21, to be exact. In this story serpents attacked the Children of Israel, after they complained about God having rescued them from Egypt, where they had it so-o-o-o good! (How soon we forget!)
When the Children of Israel saw the consequences for their sin, they repented, and went to Moses, begging him to ask God to get rid of the serpents.
What God does next is a powerful sign of the coming Messiah, Jesus. God tells Moses to make a Serpent, and lift it up on a pole. If the people look at it, they will live.
Moses does as God says, makes the snake, and lifts it up. By that time many have died, and others are dying. But every one who raised their eyes, in obedience, was healed. It was not the snake that healed but faith, in what God had said, that healed them.
The symbolism of this event plays in my mind often, because of the work I do. If God had not called me to work with Sexual Abuse Victims, I would prefer never again in my life to utter the words, ‘sexual abuse’. It is such a tragic thing! And I love to focus on the brighter side of life.
But this abuse reminds me of those snakes. And to not acknowledge, is to watch countless people die a slow and painful ‘death of the heart and spirit’, without doing what I can.
In a way, I feel like God has asked me to sit with victims who are ‘bitten by the snake’, and point up, to the cross, where Jesus hangs dying for us, for our sin, our pain. If for no other reason, I believe God chose the cross because it is lifted up. It requires us taking our eyes off of ourselves, our pain, our trauma, and the ‘stuff of life’ and seeing a whole new perspective of suffering. The redemption.
And that is a hard thing to see, when we look down and focus only on our pain, or even the darkness around us. But when our eyes are lifted up, to Jesus on the cross, and we see His suffering for us, it changes our perception. It doesn’t change our circumstances, at least not immediately, but it changes the way we see them.
When we focus long enough on the cross, and acknowledge that suffering of Jesus, the Christ–our Messiah–then we realize He too did not stay in that place of suffering.
The revelation strikes us that His suffering brought our redemption, and if we let God use us, then our suffering will bring the redemption of others.
Oh… it is so tempting to stay caught up in our pain. For a long, long time. Much longer than we would need to. Because we get comfortable in our pain. We learn to embrace the sympathy we can draw from others, and we cringe at giving that up. We fear that if we cannot use that sympathy, the whole world will abandon us.
Instead, when we lift our eyes to Jesus, and see Him, not only on the cross, but the Risen Saviour, and we begin to speak that kind of Hope to the world, out of our own suffering, it is then we discover true relationship with others. A relationship of giving, of pouring out, of making a difference.
While those who oppose me try to draw my eyes away from the Christ, and to the pathetic arguments of ‘this world’… And while the enemy attacks with various lame distractions… I have made a commitment. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, High and Lifted up.
And I will encourage all I meet to join me. Because when we do, the ‘serpent’s bites’–those tragic things we have experienced in our lives–will lose their power. Then we will live… truly live. We will be more alive than we were before the tragedy struck. And then the enemy’s power over us will be broken! Then even 11-yr-old boys, who are beaten within a breath of their life and scarred in every way, can be made whole again, and little girls too.
What a week! I intentionally scheduled very little for Easter Monday, knowing that my children would be off school. And it was a good thing, since I ended up running a fever, and fighting a cold-flu bug. The rest of the week was filled with appointments, so I took it easy that day, doing little more than feeding my family and answering the phone.
Calls came in steady, asking about the conference, especially from the Old Order community, telling me they would like to come, and they’re hoping many of their community and surrounding Mennonite communities join in. It’s time for the silence to shatter. One of the leaders even called to ask questions, and told me he knows I am working with a client from his congregation. “Be encouraged,” he said, “you’re making a difference.”
Another woman called to to chat and share her heart, and talk about the passion she has for helping the local Mennonite community. We talked for almost two hours, and were encouraged by each other. It’s the beginning of a friendship.
Monday ended on somewhat of a calm note for me. After meeting with one client in the evening, I relaxed in my recliner. I had only a low-grade fever but otherwise felt quite well. A good night’s rest and I would be set to go for a busy few days…
On Tuesday I met a friend for coffee. We touch base once a year, or so, getting caught up on what’s happening in each other’s families, their businesses, and our ministry.
Immediately after coffee, I met with a client at a local church that has graciously allowed me to use their space, from time to time, for this purpose. And from that moment life became a whirlwind.
I learned that my client, a young woman in her twenties, the mother of two children, had attempted suicide the night before. She has battled through this before, but this time she lost hope, and acted spontaneously. Thank God that He spared her life! It took a while for me to absorb the reality, and I didn’t really until the day after. We spent our session talking, or just sitting quietly when words failed, and other times simply praying. At one point she fell to the floor, weeping in agony, and all I could do was pray quietly, and let my own tears fall.
I had another meeting scheduled, so I left for a time, and then returned later to meet with her and several other individuals, in an effort to bring safety, support and stability to her world. And, to an extent, we did. We talked, sometimes cried, and then prayed. At the end of our session as I prepared to leave, one of the individuals looked out the window and saw a heart-shaped cloud.
The last client I met that day, comes from the Old Order church, and I meet with a ‘team of two’ each time. We spent some time talking through ‘the stuff of life’ and current struggles, and I learned that someone had spoken harshly, and shut down their very spirit and heart. I went back to the deep identity we are given in God, and the position of authority we are given through Jesus, and affirmed them.
After I made sure my client was grounded and doing well, I returned home. I had walked out the door just after 8:30am and returned just after 10:30pm, exhausted, but fulfilled. Seldom are days that packed.
On Wednesday morning I received a call from another local newspaper, wondering if they could do a story, and would I meet so they could take my photo? Why not? It’s good advertising–the story that is–and the picture will help people identify me and hopefully create a connection when we meet in the grocery store.
The reporter asked me to bring any books I use in mentoring my clients. I told her I use only my Bible and conversation to help people, though I have several books I recommend they read. She asked if I would bring only my Bible then.
At noon I met the pleasant young reporter. I took my new Bible, since giving my other one to Abigail. The reporter took a half dozen pictures, and it was all over. Funny how it all worked out, because the rest of my week was jam-packed–except Friday, which was too late–and that short stretch was all the free time I had, just when she needed me.
I met with another client who is in a very difficult place. We worked through some things, but a heaviness and a sadness hung over her, making it hard to end the session. But commitments must be kept, and I cannot be a god to anyone, so I had to release her even when it was the hardest thing in the world to do.
With a burdened heart I drove off for the evening…
I met Juanita, my super-sweet friend, with whom I go visit Aylmer Amish country from time to time. It was a refreshing conclusion to a busy two days. I love the Amish cooking, the sweet, beautiful kids, and the earthy feel of unadulterated country living. The Wagler families, and their friends, are kind and welcoming. (I think we need to create an ‘Amish Experience’ retreat centre.)
I had left my phone in the car earlier, and by the time I returned at the end of our visit, to head home, I had numerous messages. Two stood out in particular, in stark contrast to each other, each leaving a powerful impact.
The first was a message from a young woman who identified herself as a former classmate of one of our daughters. She shared some of her struggles, but more than that she thanked me for being a voice of hope… a light in her world. It was an honour to hear from someone so young, and an encouragement to discover that God is bringing hope to her through the blog. She specifically mentioned Abigail’s story, and how much it has helped her.
The other message was disheartening. Many of the people I work with have suffered much abuse–emotional, physical, sexual, and sometimes even spiritual–and therefore many of them struggle with depression, suicidal tendencies and cutting. Percentage wise it is probably over sixty percent that deal with some form or self harm or suicidal ideation. Most of them are Christians who desperately want to be free, and are slowly gaining the tools to overcome. One truth at a time they discover their true worth, their God-given identity, and with that they overcome the lies.
It takes little to be the undoing of that truth, early on, when clients are still vulnerable and weak. And that is just what the second message was about. One of my clients had received yet another message laced with guilt-tripping, and reminding her, harshly, that her struggle was a slap in God’s face after all He had done for her.
I felt sick. Physically. I didn’t question the intent, but I knew it had the potential to push my client to a place of darkness and struggle against suicide. It is so counter-productive, and find myself constantly undoing the damage of words spoken. It feels at times like a step forward and a dozen backward, all because of words spoken when clients are too week to handle them, or to process them. And I think to myself, what if Christians actually stopped to ask themselves if Jesus used that kind of verbiage and manipulation… what if they spoke only the way He spoke, and used only His methods, His way? Wouldn’t it change things for those struggling?
After touching base with my client, and letting her know that God loves her and has not forgotten her, I returned to my ‘present’. I told stories, and even did some reading to entertain Juanita as we drove home. She is a saint of a friend! (Granted her halo is probably a bit bent out of shape, possibly thanks to my influence, but she is an amazing friend!)
It was late when I returned home….
Thursday morning I awakened to our son visiting our room. It was his birthday. Kordan turned eleven, my little boy not much longer, as he grows into manhood. It is almost shocking how quickly it all happens.
In the morning, after the children were off to school, I met a friend for coffee. Later I had a meeting at the bank with Tim, and then home again to get the birthday supper made, complete with a ‘Starfy’ birthday cake. It’s all my little guy really wanted for his birthday–the Starfy game for his Nintendo DS, so we got that, and a few other little things, and I made a cake to match.
And here it is Friday already. I’m still fighting the bug I picked up on Easter weekend, and my back has been bothering me ever since, which is weird. I never have back pain. Only once every couple of years. So to be walking around with my back all stiff and feeling hunched over is kind of strange.
I have no plans, no meetings, no appointments throughout my day. It’s been an intense week, and I’m happy just to be home, and rest my body. There are things that desperately need my attention here, that may or may not get done. So far, at 1:25pm, I have spent my day on the phone answering questions about the conference, and responding to texts and emails. For the rest of the day I anticipate getting more calls about the conference, and hopefully I will get a bit of writing done…. (At least enough to get this blog posted!)
And that is how one week slips into the next, in my life. If I learned anything at all this week, it is to double check my words, my tone, my message and my motivations.
When I see the trauma well meaning words bring into the lives of my clients, I stop and wonder if I do that to others around me. Do I communicate the love of Jesus, and inspire deep conviction to live for God, or do I tear down, through control, through manipulation, through condemnation? It struck me more powerfully than ever, this week, how humans destroy the spirits of those who are struggling with their words, even though often well-meaning.
As my life touches others, I pray that the love of Jesus shines through, and they walk away a bit stronger, more encouraged and with more hope than they had when they came. I pray they long to know the Jesus I love, because they have seen and felt His grace.
And I pray that you, too, will check your words, guard your heart, and ask yourself the question, “Do my words give life, because they reflect Jesus, or do they shut down the heart and soul of those I meet, through condemnation, manipulation and guilt-tripping?”
Sunrise. It is a precious moment. One I rarely experience and each time I do I lecture myself to do it more frequently. In heeding my lectures, I confess, I am a slow learner.
As I again witness the dawn of a new day, I marvel at God’s creation. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork’. The psalmist David may well have been watching the dawn of a new day when he wrote those words. He enjoyed God’s creation.
As the darkness fades, the sun begins to shed its light, before we even see it peeking over the horizon. It is gradual and comforting, inviting me to worship the God who designed this incredible plan.
I watch and my heart is moved. My God is so wonderful!
I remember the day my soul experienced the rising of The Son. When my spirit was set free from the darkness that had me bound. In His love, God revealed Himself slowly and gently. He was kind and patient, like the sun slowly spreading its light, He showed Himself to me. Then there was that moment when the sky, blazing a fiery red, burst into light, and I saw Him. I felt His arms surround me, warmth streaming through my body, stirring my cold, sin-hardened heart to new life. It was a glorious dawn.
The memory makes my heart cries out, “Jesus, Jesus! How I love you! I, who did not deserve you, have been blessed by Your love, Your embrace! Thank you Jesus!” The birds chirp excitedly, as though hearing the thrill of my heart.
Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God; all creation speaks of the awesome Creator of the universe!
And as I listen, I hear Him whisper gently, “There is another dawn more magnificent than this. The joy you experience as you witness the rising of the sun does not begin to compare with the joy you will know when you come into my presence forever. It is for that glorious dawn that My Son died and rose, shedding His light on the darkness of sin that covered the earth, so that you could be with me.”
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein. Continue reading…