Sometimes We Need To Go Back Before We Can Move Forward

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We had a large lilac bush behind my childhood home.  Every spring when I fill a vase with lilacs, their fragrance transports my thoughts back to that house where many special memories were made.

Memories.  We all have them.  Some good, some not so good but they’re stored somewhere deep within our brains.  Just like a computer stores information on a hard drive, our brains also have some sort of storage system.

I have wonderful parents and I have wonderful memories from childhood too.

But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have some not so good memories whether from childhood, teenage years, young adult years or beyond.

Painful circumstances or trauma can occur at anytime or any age.

So what do we do with those nagging painful memories if they keep re-surfacing?

I don’t have a professional answer to that question but I can share a snippet from my own personal experience.

I believe that painful memories will hurt forever unless we find a way to release them and we can’t release them until they’re healed and there’s only one healer.

After I became a Christian, I took Jesus back with me to a painful time in my life.  A time period when I was too weak and consumed with circumstances to reach out to Him.

I talked to Him about it, showed Him the scene, the pain, the emotions, the heartache and relived it in His presence.  He knew all about it anyway but healing began when it came out of the darkness of my soul and into His light.

I emptied myself first by confessing my own sins–making myself a clean vessel ready to receive all the healing Jesus had for me–I prayed, pondered, journaled, talked to trusted friends, prayed with friends and even talked and prayed with a Christian therapist for 6 weeks when I got stuck at one point in the process.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Matthew 18:20

He is the God who heals, not only for today, but for the trauma of yesterday too.   What concerned me, concerned Him.

God is LOVE.  And Jesus is God.

Love is the balm that heals.

Emotional pain is just as hard to work through as physical pain.  Often it’s even harder because nobody sees it.

Others don’t always know when we’re suffering from emotional pain.  It’s easy to hide it but those hidden things are like razors cutting away at the fiber of our being.  It’s hard to keep it together when that’s going on so we may head into the safety zone of denial and just pretend it never happened.

Denial is a safeguard.  I truly believe that denial is a gift from God to guard us against the overwhelming rush of emotions that are too painful to deal with all at once.  But in the long run it’s not a healthy place to stay.   It’s a place to visit but not to live.  We weren’t meant to live in denial forever.  It will sideline us.  Stagnant us.  Bind us.  And it will keep us in chains if we pretend we’re okay when we’re not.

The buried hurt will come out eventually.  Most often through things like isolating ourselves from others, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, just to name a few.

We’re designed to go through life with God–allowing Him to help us through the valleys and the rough rocky places.  When we shut Him out, or if we were too young or weak to cope with the pain (when it occurred) we may try to soothe it through other methods.

There’s the obvious ones like over consumption of alcohol, drugs, risky sexual behavior.  Usually, it’s not the behavior that needs addressing first but the deeply rooted pain that causes the behavior.

But there’s less obvious ones too — excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive use of social media, busyness, workaholism, perfectionism, over-dependence on people to meet our needs, running here, there and everywhere, doing rather than being, trying to order our world outwardly because inwardly we’re bleeding.

I’m sure there’s more ways but you get the idea.

I’ve been there; done that.  I mean getting trapped in the mindset that things, other than Christ, would fill me up and set me free.  It may work but only temporarily.

Using the gifts of God to replace the holy presence of God is a bandage not a remedy and we will go through many bandages until the remedy is finally applied.

Jesus said…

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   John 10:10

When I think of abundant living, I think of a surrendered and joyful relationship with our living Lord through worship, praise, prayer, with evidence of God’s Spirit growing in and through me like a harvest of blessings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23

The fruit associated with abundant life is hard to experience when we’re hiding behind a facade, pretending that everything is okay.

God wants us to toss out the band aids and expose our wounds.  He wants to set us free.  Once we’re set free, the memories will be there but they won’t have the sharp sting that they once had.  They’ll turn from a bleeding wound  into a beautiful scar.

If the process seems slow, His faithfulness is not.  He’s there in the struggle and will bring us to the point where we can finally say,  “That memory is there, but it isn’t painful anymore.”

It’s not easy but when we finally get to the end of our grieving process with accounts settled and forgiveness extended (forgiveness is an essential part of healing–whether toward ourselves or others) there will be freedom.

The path ahead will clear.  No more getting stuck in one spot.  We’ll keep moving forward authentically with Jesus and others.

We won’t hide pain anymore, because we know life is hard and it’s okay to grieve safely anytime, anywhere in the presence and comfort of Jesus.

That beautiful scar I mentioned above?  It’s a reminder of what Christ has done, it gives us our story.  The wound becomes recycled into something lovely and useful.  It becomes a gift.  God gives it purpose, meaning and none of it will be wasted.  The byproduct is wisdom and doors will open to help others.

I know this is a simple way to describe emotional healing and some may not find it helpful.

However, I think what’s most important is that we are not alone and Jesus is the healer of yesterday today and tomorrow.

The journey toward emotional healing begins when we take our first step with Jesus and if that means stepping back before we can move forward it’s worth the trip.

Blessings,

Nancy

PS:  Whew! This was a lengthy post.  If you read this to the end, thank you.  I try to keep my posts around 800 words or less but as hard as I tried I couldn’t shave this one down.

(Disclosure:  This is not a professional article.  The opinions in this piece are that of the author and aren’t meant to be used to diagnose or treat illness or psychological trauma or pain.  It is solely meant to be a thought provoking piece about faith, hope and love.  Every situation is different.  If you have memories that are severely painful (more than just nagging) It is up to you to decide what course of action to take whether seeking professional services or other avenues).

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

And Then He Speaks Peace

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It had been a rough few days.

They were cowering behind locked doors.

They couldn’t wrap their minds around what happened.

Broken hearts.

Trying to comprehend.

But it was incomprehensible.

Afraid.

Afraid to move.

Afraid of the future.

Afraid to hope again.

Then he came.

The one they followed.

Their leader.

He could have said:

  • “Thanks guys.” (sarcastically)
  • “Why did you leave me”
  • “Why did you run?”
  • “Where were you when I needed you?”
  • “After all I’ve done, this is how you treat me?”
  • “Where is your respect?”
  • “When I spoke, were you even listening to me?”

He could have.

But he didn’t.

Instead he said:

“Peace be with you!”

And when we’re afraid.

When we’ve been hurt.

When we feel that we can’t go on.

When life is hard.

When burdens are heavy.

When friends leave.

When family is distant.

When life hurts.

When we don’t understand.

When tragedy strikes.

When illness invades.

When life gets messy.

When hope seems gone.

He comes.

And He speaks to us.

He speaks into our circumstances.

“Peace be with you!”

(Based on John 20:19-23)  To read the story click here ->Peace

Blessings,

Nancy

It’s the little things

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Christmas is over but there’s still remnants left.  There’s a bag of crumpled wrapping paper tucked behind a stool in my living room.  The lights still twinkle on my decorated tree and there’s a few cookie crumbs on a plate sitting next to me on my dining room table.

My fingers click away on my laptop amid all the signs of the Holiday and my thoughts drift back to when my living room was full of chatter and laughter just days before.

Family gathered around our decorated home on Christmas to share a meal, share gifts and share memories of years past.  Lots of the memories hang from the branches of our Christmas tree.  It’s always fun to look at the ornaments and recall the memory attached to each one.  And finally we shared an indoor snowball fight with a pail of forty synthetic snowballs.

I think the best purchase, hands down, that I made this year was that pail of indoor snowballs.  They actually feel like the real deal minus the cold.  I grabbed one and threw it at my son.  Startled he sat back in his chair, smiled and said, “What?  Are those snowballs?”  Then came the laughter while snowballs, being tossed at one another, filled our living room.

In those moments, watching, listening, observing nothing was wrong and all was right in the world.

A few days before Christmas, I was making my mom’s traditional date nut bread–a recipe that she handed down to me.  As I mixed the batter, I watched a couple of neighbor boys, through my kitchen window, playing catch in the street.  As they threw the ball their dog ran along side it trying catch it in his mouth.  The sun was shining, it was 45 degrees and they didn’t have jackets on.  It’s unusual in this area to have such mild temps at this time of year.  What’s even more unusual is seeing kids running and playing outside at anytime of the year in this electronic age.

As I watched the game outside and prepared the nut bread, my thoughts went back in time–a time that seemed a little simpler–with my mom baking the bread and the streets filled with kids throughout the neighborhood and usually in the snow at this time of year.  Being inside the house for too long, wasn’t that common back then for kids.

Then I burst into song.  A song that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of.  I can’t carry a tune and you won’t catch me singing out loud in front of you but alone I’ll belt out anything…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Louis Armstrong ©1967

…and I think to myself it’s a wonderful world… and I hummed it for the rest of the day.

The hum carried on through Christmas and there was nothing wrong in my world.

But we all know there is something wrong.  We read the headlines, listen to the news, hear the stories, hear the cries, see the suffering, hearts get broken, tears flow…

We’d like it to stop.  We’d like to see peace on earth and good will toward men.

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Christmas began in the manger but it didn’t end there.  When we put away Christmas, let’s not put away Jesus.  That’s where hope starts.  That’s where love begins.  That’s where joy originates and that’s where peace flows.

Among the chaos of the world, that little child in the little manger brought us God. And He brought us the potential, through our dependence on Him, to have peace on earth and extend good will toward men and women.  It can only begin one heart at a time.

May we embrace it.  Embrace Him.  And in the midst of it all find joy in the little things in life–like those blessings mentioned in the song, “It’s a wonderful world” because the little pockets of joy that we find in the chaos of life are really the big things.

Written by Nancy Janiga @2014

The Light That Keeps on Giving

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Twinkling lights are sure to catch our eye at this time of year.  We’re attracted by their shimmer through our neighborhoods and homes.

I especially enjoy waking up in the morning before dawn and clicking on my Christmas tree lights.  Sitting in the dark with just the glow from the tree is the best part of my day.

Light.  We’re drawn to light.

Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world.  Yet Isaiah 53:2 tells us that, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.

The light of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn’t enter this world with majestic brilliance.  There wasn’t any pomp and circumstance, fanfare, no castle, no royal clothes, no trumpets sounding or a parade to usher in his arrival. 

He wasn’t draped in purple but in simple swaddling cloths.  He didn’t have a cradle just an animal’s trough as a bed.

Surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals and with the love of his parents–a carpenter and young peasant girl–he came quietly, modestly into our world.

Today whenever there is news out of England of a royal birth, the airways, the internet, the media explodes with the light of the announcement.

The only spectacular light that shone the night Jesus was born was around the shepherds.  An angel brought the shepherds the birth announcement surrounded with the glory of God.

Then the sky resounded with shouts of praise from a multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2: 14

The shepherds–who were considered the lowly of the low–they were the ones standing in the company of angels and surrounded with God’s glowing presence.

Did you ever notice that God does things completely the opposite of the way we would expect?

Consider King David whom Jesus descended from–he was just a young shepherd boy tending the sheep when Samuel arrived at his father Jesse’s house to anoint the next king.  Samuel thought for sure it would be David’s older brother, Eliab but the Lord told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  All of David’s older, stronger brothers weren’t picked by God.  David the youngest, smallest less obvious son was anointed by Samuel to become the next king.  (You can read the story in 1 Samuel 16). 

Our world often focuses outwardly on appearances, the bigger, the better, the beautiful, the powerful, we love the wow factor and success is often measured by the opinions of people.

Jesus’ wow factor came from his words of authority, his light came from turning the attitudes and thoughts of his culture upside down and inside out.

Jesus lived a counter cultural lifestyle.  The King of Heaven’s light burned bright in the way he treated people.  He valued women, reached out to the poor, welcomed the downtrodden, was merciful, associated with those that earthly kings despised, he comforted, healed, loved and protected.  When the religious walked around with a holier-than-thou swagger pointing out the sin in others, Jesus embraced the sinner, offered them abundant life by encouraging them to follow him and he reprimanded the accusers.

Jesus was born to become Israel’s Savior (and ultimately the whole world’s) but the people of Israel thought he’d be a militant savior.  God himself, clothed in skin, didn’t come to save Israel from a political leader and to set them free from Roman bondage.  The people were looking for an earthly king, someone to rescue them from their circumstances.  When they didn’t get what they wanted, many walked away–they turned their back on Jesus.  Their souls became blinded by expectations and they couldn’t see past their perceived ideas.  They couldn’t see that he was their Spiritual Light to lead them back to God and give them eternal life.

Those who did believe, spread the light and it kept burning throughout the world until it reached us and now we, who believe, become light carriers and the Light of Christmas keeps on giving…

Christmas Blessings,

Nancy

Spreading the Kingdom

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So I was reading the Lord’s prayer today.  You know the one that Jesus taught his disciples.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

Then I stopped.  What caught my attention is the part that says ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

If Christians throughout history have prayed those words and we have prayed those words, you wouldn’t know it by the headlines.  I don’t see it in the news.  If his kingdom is coming and his will, at this time in history, is being done where is it?

I see war, talk of more war, prejudice, hate, violence, heartache, shootings, looting, abuse and the repeat button gets pushed daily.

Our Prince of Peace, more than likely, is weeping over all we hear and see in the news.

Hatred starts in the hearts of people.  People start wars.  People hate.  People become violent.  People cause heartache.  People are their own worst enemy.  The enemy lies within.

Where is the remedy?  Where is the peace?  It comes through the Prince of Peace and that is a heart issue.

We can’t legislate it, push it, create a law to follow it or demand it.   Even God had laws…the Ten Commandments.  They were all broken.  They were broken not only by them but by us–each one of us.  Maybe we didn’t break all of them but, I can pretty much guarantee, that we each have broken some of them.

Following rules are things that we do outwardly.  It’s a good thing to have a plumb line and boundaries but it’s not what changes us from the inside out.  Before real beauty, love, peace, community, and a ‘one another’ living together in perfect unity can ultimately be brought into the world, it has to come from REAL beauty, love, peace–all that and not only that.  It’s so much more.

It’s a person.  It’s not a religion, a program, a method.  It’s not morality, good behavior, a good example, a good message.  It’s a person.

Once that person…God himself through Christ occupies a person’s heart (the core of his being) then and only then, can the Kingdom come and his will be done.  It happens one person at a time and then has the potential to spread.

When Jesus’ light breaks through the fog of someone’s earthly existence, rest is found and peace follows.

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I needed a ‘Kingdom Come’ person–someone to point me to the truth.  We all do.  We all need truth.  It’s only truth that will set us free from ourselves and that is the only power that can ultimately change our headlines, one headline at a time.

Think about the person who was your ‘Kingdom Come’ person.

Who told you about God’s love?

Who told you that you could never pay the debt or work off your sin?

Who told you that it’s been paid in full?

Who told you that you can live in joy and freedom?

Who told you that you can’t change yourself and being moral isn’t the answer?

Who told you what Jesus’ death on the cross was about?

Who told you that because he is alive and because he lives forever you will too?

Who? What? When?

And if someone never told you then I am.  It’s simple. It’s Jesus.

When Jesus walked the earth, he spoke to two groups of people.  He spoke to the sinners and the self-righteous religious people ( who, by the way, were sinners but they didn’t think they were).  They thought that following the law could save them and make them righteous in God’s eyes.  The religious people hated Jesus, because he loved ‘sinners’ and spent time with them.

The truth is both groups needed Jesus then and they need Him now.

Once we get this straight, we can become ‘Kingdom Come People.’

There’s a world out there who needs Jesus through us–me, you, us!  It needs Christians to spread His LOVE.  One person at a time.

Then we must pray that the seeds of love that we sow will germinate, root, and grow deep into the soil of the hearts whom we share it with so His Kingdom Can Come On Earth As It Is In Heaven.

Written by: Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

New Every Morning

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Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  (Lamentations 3:22-24)  I’ve read and focused on this comforting verse recently and even shared it in my last post.

Another version of the same verse states:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

God’s love never ceases, his mercies never end, they are new every morning, because he is faithful.

His mercies come in different ways — like gifts to unwrap.

Sometimes the gift I want isn’t the package that I receive.

A phone call with unsettling news came yesterday.

It was an ordinary day.  A day when my Iris’ were in full bloom and my peony buds were getting ready to open. All things were good.

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peony-bud - CopyThen the phone call.  In the late afternoon as the call came in, storm clouds rolled over my house and the world around me and inside of me changed.  No longer did it seem good.  If God’s mercy is new every morning, I’d like the mercy to come packaged in a change in circumstances.  For now, that isn’t the gift that I’m receiving.

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 One friend said, “You’ve got this.”  My thought was, I know she loves me, means well and I appreciate her confidence in me, but there is no way that I have this under controlOr in my control

Then the words from my sister, “God’s got this.”  Yep, now those are words I can count on and believe in.  Sometimes I unpack mercy through the words of encouragement that are spoken to me through others.

There are times when God’s mercy shows up in a visit or a phone call from a friend who just happened to have me on their mind.

It can come through the words of a card, a blog, a book, a sermon and especially the Bible–comforting words that warm my heart and carry me through the day.

Other times it’s unwrapped in quiet reflection as I remember how mercy was given to me in the past and it will come again.

One day at a time his mercy comes.  It’s new and different everyday but from the same God.  A God who never changes and promises me that his mercy will be new every morning.

Today it came in the symbol of peace.  A dove.  A dove on the bird bath in my yard at dawn.

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A dove brought an olive branch to Noah to signal new life.  A dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, descended on Jesus as he was baptized by John the Baptist.

The dove; a symbol of peace and a symbol of the Holy Spirit sat before me on my bird bath.  It reminded me that I cannot manufacture peace.  It comes, like a dove, descending on me and through me by the Holy Spirit as I trust in God.  In the remembering, I received the gift.

The Holy Spirit will see me through all things and I will be presented with gifts of mercy daily and I will untie the ribbons and accept the gift with a thankful heart.

This morning the gift I unwrapped was PEACE.  All things are good again–within me.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014