Friday, May 22, 2015

Can Beauty Rise Even from These Ashes?

There are some ashes in the brokenness of our lives that seem impossible for God to somehow bring beauty from them. The smoke is so thick and you feel you may never fully catch your breath or see clearly again.

These have been those ashes in my life...

I think some people assume that because I chose to end things with Lily's father, that it must have been an easy decision to make. That is the complete opposite of the truth.

Not only did I lose my daughter, but it feels like I've been through a divorce of the heart. I'm grieving so many other losses on top of the loss of my little girl: the loss of her father, the loss of what "could have been," the loss of my innocence and purity.

I battle with feelings of regret and never being able to undo the sinful choices I made and feeling haunted by those regrets. I wish so badly that I could tell my 18/19-year-old self that almost 26-year-old me would still be living with the painful consequences of the choices that I made then, choices that I naively thought would only affect me in that moment.  But as the saying goes, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay."

I ran from my first love, Jesus. And I can just see Him now, how His heart must have been breaking as He watched me make choices that He knew would deeply wound me. He wanted to protect me, yet I thought I knew best for my life. He was always there waiting for me to turn back to Him. There are lyrics to a song by the band Copeland that say, "what if you can't turn back when you're finally tired of running?" When I got tired of running, I assumed I could turn back to Jesus, while escaping the repercussions of my sins. Yes, I ended up turning back to the Lord because of my little Lily girl. However, I could never turn back to what might have been and who I might have been. I was broken and felt damaged.

I have felt such a deep connection with Lily's father because we were bonded in a way we were never meant to be... physically, emotionally, and because I carried his child within me... and then we lost our child. In a way, I associate him with Lily and it almost feels like if I let go of him, I will be letting go of her as well. Because if she were here, he would be in my life in a way. But, she's not here. It felt like I lost them both all at once. He is my living link to Lily, the only other person in the world who is as close to her as I was. Can such a tie ever truly be severed? Or is it something I must learn to carry with me for the rest of my life? There are lyrics in a Copeland song that say, "I can't help this awful feeling that I can't erase you." Can this part of my past ever be erased from my heart? Will the memories ever fade and the ache ever ease?

Over the years, I have been tormented by the anguish deep in my soul over the loss of this relationship. The "what if" questions have plagued me. There is so much tied into this, things that go into the deepest part of my being. So much grief and loss and regret all tied together. I have been consumed with guilt and shame. A part of my heart has been stuck in 2009/2010 and all that happened during that time, making it difficult to move forward. My emotional and physical health has been affected negatively. I have battled with wondering if I will ever be completely whole, healed, and restored. So many areas of my life have been affected by this wounding and it has kept me from fully stepping into the future God has for me.

I cannot articulate the depth of my pain over this loss. I have struggled with wondering why it hurts so profoundly and why does God not take it away? I beat myself up over the regret I feel because if I had honored God in my choices, I never would know such pain as this. I gave up that relationship because I know it was not the Lord's best for my life and that it wasn't His will for me, nor honoring to Him or my future husband. I have never more fully seen the battle between the flesh and spirit than in this part of my heart... on one hand, I know what God has asked of me, but on the other hand, I ache and long for something that I was never meant to have and have to say "no" to. I must take up my cross. I must deny myself and what I desire because it doesn't honor my Jesus. And maybe part of why God has allowed me to feel this pain is so that I may have the opportunity to prove that I love Jesus more. I choose Him, over any man and any pleasurable thing I could experience in this life. It is a gift to be able to sacrifice anything for my King who gave everything for me.

"Ours should not be the love that asks, "how little?" but "how much?"; the love that pours out its all and revels in the joy of having anything to pour on the feet of its Beloved." -Amy Carmichael

This is what God has shown me... We can either see His will as a burden and wallow in misery or we can accept His will and trust Him and His plan in which He intends to bring good to us and glory to Himself.

There are lyrics in a song on Josh Garrels' new album that say, "Yahweh gives and takes away, will you curse or bless the name? Trial tests us like the flame."

The fact is we are going to be tested. God is going to give and take away. He can give a baby and take away a baby. He can give a relationship and take away a relationship. Or whatever "it" is in our lives. The question is, when He does take away, when we are tested, are we going to curse Him or bless Him? Are we going to trust Him through it all and sing Him praises when the storms of life swirl all around us? When we are haunted by our regrets? When the suffering just doesn't make sense? Do we choose Him over everyone and everything else?

Because it is in those times that our faith has the opportunity to grow strong and to be proven authentic. It is in those times, when we choose Him, that He gives us comfort and peace that passes all understanding. It is in those times when He can use the word of our testimonies to declare to this dark and lonely world that He is enough and His love endures forever!

And you know what the beautiful part of it is... we don't have to walk the road of pain and suffering alone.

Corrie ten Boom said in one of the talks she gave: "I opened my Bible and I read Isaiah 53, where a prophet sees Jesus at a cross. And he says, "surely, He has carried our sorrows." And then I understood when Jesus finished at the cross, He had not only carried our sins, but also our sorrows. And that's why we are not called to be burden-bearers, we are called to be light-bearers and cross-bearers. But our burden we must cast on the Lord and leave it there."

It makes me love Him that much more... to realize He wants to carry my burdens, the things that came out of a heart turned against Him, from the natural consequences of sin. Things I deserve to carry, yet He doesn't give us what we deserve. That is the beauty of redemption. Through this heartbreak, He is giving me a deeper yearning and desire for Him than I have ever had. Don't be afraid of pain and suffering. As lyrics to a Mandisa song that my aunt always quotes say, "He'll do and He'll use whatever He has to." Even the pieces that seem too broken, He can use. He is sovereign over all. He was not surprised by your sin and failure and can weave every choice you've ever made into a tapestry of His grace, mercy, and love.

I have been given glimpses of the good He has been working and the purpose He has been giving to my past. The more time that passes, the more I realize my healing will only be a work of the Lord. The longer my heart has been in pain, the more Jesus has pulled me closer to Him and the more I have realized my utter desperation for Him. The more the aching of loneliness and isolation, the more I realize that God is all I need in this life and the only One who truly understands the depths of my heart and experiences. He sees everything about my past, my present, and my future. He understands all of me, even the parts I do not understand.

I have felt like I "deserve" to be heartbroken and consumed by grief over not only my abortion and the loss of Lily, but also the loss of her father. Yes, maybe by the standards of this world, it makes sense why I would feel that way. But the Lord I serve does not operate by the standards of this world. I know He could heal me in an instant if He so chose... there must be an inner working that He is up to that I cannot fully see. As Corrie ten Boom said, "when we know Him, we can trust Him, even when we don't understand what He's doing." And I believe that God will separate Lily from her father in my heart and mind, so that I can carry on loving her, while completely letting go of him.

There is so much more I want to say on this topic, things God has been working in me and showing me over the years. I have not felt brave enough to share before now. But I am compelled to speak out. Because this is a huge part of my grief and healing journey. It is the thing in my life that has felt impossible for God to heal, but I am believing that He will completely heal and restore me, even when my feelings and experiences tell me otherwise. I am choosing to see it as an opportunity to grow in my faith and to trust the Lord with the deepest places of my being. I don't want to glorify my sin or dwell on it or give darkness a voice. But, I feel it's important to share the weight of my pain and how deep the pit of destruction and despair I was in... so people will see how capable God is of pulling us out, even the pits that we chose to jump in!

He has infused fresh hope within my soul and is giving me the prayers to pray even when my prayers are dry, even when I have no idea what or how to pray. Over the last few weeks, I have had a breakthrough and am praising the Lord for what He's done. He is far more interested in my healing than even I am. And I pray that my journey will be a testimony to His power. His work in me didn't stop after I chose life for Lily, after He healed me from my abortion, and the loss of Lily. He is the Lord of my past, present, and future. He sees all my memories and my regret and He can truly redeem everything. You are not alone in your pain and your brokenness. Take it to Jesus. Sometimes He chooses to heal us instantly, and other times, He takes us through a process. Do we trust Him to do what He says? Do we trust that in that process He is working?

This generation is sexually broken and wounded in so many ways and it is my hope and prayer that God will use my own experiences to encourage others. I felt so isolated and alone in my experiences for so long. Thankfully, the Lord led me to a book and Bible study that have been such an instrument of healing in my life. I want to share so that others know they are not alone! I also want to give helpful resources that have ministered to me in my journey.

If you can relate to the words I've shared here, I encourage you to read the book "The Invisible Bond: How to Break Free from Your Sexual Past," and the accompanying Bible study, "Break Free From Your Sexual Past," by Barbara Wilson. It goes deep and always points to Jesus. It has made me feel like someone "gets it."

The prayer of my heart matches that of Corrie ten Boom when she prayed: "I surrender this part of my being that is wounded. Lord Jesus, I claim Your victory in that part of my being!"

Are we walking around defeated? Do we really think the Lord who gave everything to give us not only eternal life, but abundant life here and now (John 10:10) would want us to live in that way? What is He asking you to surrender? What wounded part of your heart do you need to give to Jesus for healing?

Those ashes in your life that feel irreparable... hear as Jesus is beckoning you to come closer, and whispering to your heart, "Allow Me to bring beauty in this."

With tears streaming down your cheeks, barely able to catch your breath through the sobs, you almost whimper, "These ashes?" Like He can't possibly be seeing the same ashes you are, the ashes that you've been sitting in for years, having accepted them as your lot in life.

Yes, beauty can rise, even from whatever "these ashes" in your life may be. When the God who raised Lazarus from the dead and calmed the raging seas holds your heart and future, He also shapes your past into something beautiful, something only His fingerprint can do.

Instead of fixating on how far you ran from Him, look beyond and see in the distance Jesus running after you, relentlessly pursuing you, never leaving you alone.

"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with ashes." -Elisabeth Elliot

Psalm 103:1-5 talks about how God renews our youth. I am reminded of a song by Copeland that goes, "I can make you feel young again." He can redeem the years that the enemy has stolen. He can mend the aged, worn, ancient, fragmented pieces of our hearts. Though it doesn't feel possible, may we hold onto hope that it is! Click HERE to read an article about this very thing that has been so encouraging to me.

"I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." -Joel 2:25

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland." -Isaiah 43:18-19

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." -2 Corinthians 7:10

I want to share a video and three songs that have blessed me deeply during my journey. Please take the time to listen to them and listen to the profound lyrics. Allow the Lord to search your heart and bring you to repentance and restoration.

Here's a video of Barbara Wilson speaking:

by Harvest Bashta

I want to be the only One on the throne of your heart, the only One that moves you
I will remove the names of your lovers, even the memory of their face fade away
I will write on you My name forever, I will be known by you as faithful and true
So come back, come back, I'll take you to the start
Come back, come back, I'll take you to your first Love

by Scott Cunningham Band

Pain tugging at your heart, it seems no matter how loud you scream

No one cares no ones listening
Why are the simple truths so much harder than believing a lie,
You cry out, but only darkness gives its reply

Through the darkest part of the valley, I'll hold your hand
The deepest feelings of your heart I understand

Every tear that you've cried, I hold in my hands though there's pain in the night
Joy comes in the morning
And when those mountains seem too high to climb, I'll carry you through you are mine
I see everything you go through
I know everything about you

Running far away from what you know, wondering if open arms will be waiting
To welcome you home, home
You gave and gave yourself away, wasting all your time and money
Going nowhere, keeping nothing

Though you feel like you've gone too far, take my hand
Though you have made mistakes, I have a plan

Every sin that you regret I paid on the cross to forget, everything that haunts you
And every burden that you carry, lay at My feet you won't have to worry anymore
I know everything about you

Everything you walk through, I will walk there with you, to the other side!
When the waters rising, and you feel like you're sinking with the rising tide
Though the fear of death may haunt you, the joy of life is stronger and grace is wide
When the weight of sin is on your shoulders, don't give in, you are Mine

by Rend Collective Experiment

My future hangs on this
You made preciousness from dust
Please don't stop creating me

Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance

Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy infinite as You

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes

Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

You might be interested in reading these other posts on my blog:

Even When It Feels like I'm Drowning

On Purity and Abstinence

Waiting for His Redemption Song

Just a Girl

Elfrida's Beautiful Story

Grace Greater than All Our Sin


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