Step by Step
God what is it You’re doing with me?
From my view point, it’s hard to see
It’s been a blur; things happen so fast
And these changes are going to last
My heart and commitments are shaken
My soul has been awakened
Things I trusted and relied on
Have all turned to dust; they’re gone
Gingerly, I take one step at a time
As I cling for life to the vine
Behind me; You close a door
Another step forward, I yearn for more
More will come when the time is right
I find I’m ready for what’s in sight
I breathe deep and I look to You
Step by step You’ll bring me through.
Everyone has their own life story
And everyone’s past can bring God glory
God can redeem brokenness and make you whole
Allow Him to refresh and renew your soul
The details of your story are like ingredients in a cake
When sifted together and allowed to bake
A delicious dessert suddenly appears
Created from your blood, your sweat and your tears
Each cake is different, no two are the same
Life’s heartaches and joys are what they contain
They’re different in appearance and in taste
But no ingredient has gone to waste
Celebrate the cake you’re created to be
Discard your judgements; let yourself be free
The years have helped me to understand
The value of things I can’t hold in my hands
The people I love, my friends and family
And those who have gone before me
Past events have shaped who I am today
Just as a potter molds a lump of clay
The people who prayed for me everyday
As I struggled and journeyed along the way
The sweet sound of a baby’s cry
The love found in a mother’s eyes
These are what I’m thankful for
Things I can’t buy in a store.
Things that God gives to me
Of great value; yet they’re free
As I complete my journey in this land
Of these things; may I always understand.
It was a cloudy day. Not just cloudy but the clouds were sitting very low in the sky. In fact when we woke up the clouds were just 20 feet above the water, or so it seemed. We were in Geiranger, Norway at the Geiranger Fjord. Our plan for the day was to back track the way we arrived and take pictures. What we didn’t consider is that we would need to drive many switchbacks up the mountain into a cloud.
We started out and it wasn’t bad; we drove higher and higher and suddenly we realized we were driving right into the cloud. By this time we were on the narrow, switchback road with no pull off’s to speak of. This road is heavily traveled by locals, tourists and tour buses. Periodically there were places along the road to pull over and take photos, etc. But these places were just a small half circle, enough for one car.
With every turn we were going deeper into the cloud. It was like being in an airplane when it flies through the clouds, you look out the window and all you see is white. That’s exactly what we were driving in. We had a GPS in the rental car so Bill was looking at it and telling me what to expect up ahead. He could tell if the switchback was going to the right or left but that was all. I expected one of these turns would start to bring us up and out of this fog we were in. But, each one just brought us deeper into it.
By this time I was going very slow; just creeping along. We literally couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us. The entire time I’m praying. Praying to find a place to pull over, praying for the cloud to lift, praying that we would drive out of the cloud. We’d see the small pull over places but we didn’t see them until we were right next to them and it was too late. We both were looking very closely at the edge of the road to find a pull off. Finally, we saw a small place that we could use. I pulled over and as I did, we could see a little bit more so I drove a little deeper in; we parked and got out and realized that it was a large area, with a picnic table and everything! We stayed there and watched the cars go by, most of them were going scary fast in our estimation.
I continued to pray and thank Jesus that He had gotten us to this place. I prayed that the cloud/fog would lift so we could return back down the mountain safely. At one point it got a little breezy and the cloud did clear a little bit — not much but it seemed like a lot to us at the time. However, we thought it would continue to clear up and we waited and what happened is the breeze stopped and it got thick again. Bill decided that he was going to drive and we would just go. Going down the mountain it would improve with each turn. We got in the car and were getting ready to pull out when we noticed that there was a tour bus coming; we waited for it and Bill got in right behind it. We had an escort out of there! Thank you Jesus!
This experience is so much like life. There are so many times I make a decision that is really bad and if I would just use a little wisdom and look around, the answer is clear and it’s in front of me. But because I can have such narrow vision, I don’t do that, I don’t see it. So, I make bad decisions and get behind the wheel and go. Then when I realize it was a bad decision, I start praying; I pray for it to go away, I pray for me to be able to get through it quickly and I pray for a break; a place to pull over. But usually none of these things come to me at that point and I just have to keep moving forward because I have no other way to go at the time. I don’t know how to get out. But, I’m not alone I have prayer, the Bible and Christian friends.
I slowly and carefully continue and what’s usually up ahead at least for a little while is more of the same just a different turn, a different direction. I just get deeper and deeper in and I get more blind as I go.
Just when I think I can’t take it anymore, Jesus shows me just a little hope and I go for it, slowly and carefully and eventually He opens my eyes to a broad and spacious place! A place of safety. A place where I can think, regroup, stretch my legs and praise Him for showing me this turn around spot. Then when I’m ready he sends someone or something to gently and slowly lead me out and back to being grounded and having a broader vision.
Farewell Faithful Friend
I bought it brand new and we’ve been through a lot together. It‘s always been there for me: it brought me to my wedding; it brought my mom and me to the airport so we could visit my aunt Elsie – whom we both loved very much.
It brought me to work many years; it brought me there the day I got fired, the day I got my job back, it brought me to the hearings in between. It brought me to my job the day I retired. It’s brought me to Joyce Meyer, Les Feldick, Greg Boyd and many other places that I met with God. It brought me to my first day at work with Open Door.
It’s been my sanctuary, my sacred space, the place I cried out to God in grief, I’ve tried to strike deals with God in that car; it’s been holy ground to me. I’ve worshipped, I’ve applauded Jesus and I’ve received breakthroughs in that car. I begged God to make things different; I processed anger, sadness, grief, confusion, joy, love, disappointment, hurt, pain and many other emotions in that car; I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. God has met me in that front seat more times than I can count.
I’ve picked my mom up when she wanted to go home, I’ve picked her up to deliver fliers with me, to deliver papers with me, to clean my house, to come to church, out to eat, shopping. I wish I could pick her up now and take her somewhere. It brought me to her house when she was gone and I was getting it ready to be sold. It brought me to the closing of her house; it brought me to the cemetery where her and dad are buried. It brought me to the cemetery where Grandma is buried so I could clean up and “decorate the graves” because mom couldn’t do it any longer.
It’s always been there for me, it’s always started when I wanted or needed to go somewhere. It’s waited for me endless hours, in the heat, the cold, the rain and the snow. Whenever I decided it was time, my Saturn was always agreeable and available. It’s been very good to me.
Now, I’m passing it on to my nephew and I know it will be very good to him too. May he find and experience all that it can be.
Inside Out Love
I sometimes complain when I go with my husband Bill on photo shoots or meeting new clients but I shouldn’t because something usually happens that makes it all worthwhile.
Last fall Bill was with a mother and daughter shooting senior pictures and her dad met us in the parking lot to drop off some glitter his daughter wanted. He stopped to chat and told Bill he heard the photos were turning out great. Then the father added “well, she’s so beautiful” and the daughter just rolled her eyes like she was saying “oh, Dad; stop it”. I got the impression she’d heard this many times from her Dad.
I realized I never heard I was beautiful from my parents. I wonder what it would’ve been like for me. Would I be different now if I heard it regularly in my life? I struggle with image management and insecurity and I can’t help but think that if I grew up hearing I was beautiful from people who loved me I would be different now. I hope this experience helps me to remember to say these kinds of things to my nieces and nephews. People need to hear the truth spoken to them by key people in their lives.
A few weeks ago, I went with Bill to meet potential wedding clients. The woman was telling a story about photos and how important they are. Her aunt died a few months ago and she was given a photo of both of them at her aunt’s wedding, she was just 2 years old. In the photo she could tell that her aunt loved her with “inside out” love. She explained that she loved her nieces and nephews with this “inside out” love and she understood it. When she looked at this photo she could see that she was loved this same way by her aunt. It made me think about inside out love. I understand that phrase and I know what that love is like. I have it for my nephews and nieces, I have it for my family members. I used to question whether my family loved me that way and now I know they did, and still do.
We all do the best we can at the time with the tools that we have. We’re all flawed and the tools we have in our tool box may be limited but it’s what we have to work with. The experiences in our lives have shaped and formed us into who we are today. We can’t give away what we haven’t received. Sometimes it comes out sideways or we have trouble expressing it but it’s the best we can do. We need to cut ourselves and the people in our lives some slack. I’m going to try and give my loved ones grace when they don’t love me perfectly and remember that they are doing the best they can to love me with inside out love.
Chosen and Honored
I attended a retreat called Sacred Rhythms and we did an exercise of Lectio Divina which went like this: the leader read through Isaiah 43:1-4:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
Our instructions were to listen and notice what word or phrase stood out to us (from our guts, not from our heads), maybe something sounded louder to us than the other words; if so, that would be our word. The leader would read it through a second time and we listened for what part of our lives this fit into. The third reading we listened for the invitation that God has for us around this passage/word/phrase and respond to Him. The fourth reading was to release and return to a place of waiting and resting in God’s presence.
I was so nervous going into this exercise because we were to share our words with a small group of 4 people and I was worried I wouldn’t receive a word, or know what it meant.
As I listened the first time through I listened so close to each and every word so I wouldn’t miss mine….I thought it was “I have called you by name” but then as I kept listening the word “honor” sounded much louder to me; so that was my word. My group turned out to be just my husband, Bill and I so I don’t know why I still carried my nervousness with me into this exercise but I did. I told Bill that I had two words and what they were and then listened to the second reading. Where did this fit in my life? I didn’t know but in a flash “my story” came into my head. I’ve been working with God for 7 months now about being excited about and owning my story so that’s where it fit. I listened to the third reading and got nothing….I tried to figure it out in my head. What was God’s invitation to me around “I have called you by name” and “honor” and what did that have to do with my story? I just went with my best guess — that my story had a place of honor with God or something like that. The fourth reading we were to release it and go back to a place of waiting and rest with God. I couldn’t get back to that place, I felt I failed the exercise (Bill got such an awesome message – one he couldn’t have made up, it had to be God) and I was discouraged and disappointed that I missed hearing from God.
On the way home I was still thinking and praying about it and it wasn’t until the next day that things started to fall into place. As I got quiet and sat with God and meditated on the phrases I realized that being called by name was an honor. It meant that I was known, seen and chosen by God and that’s a beautiful thing!
I was still holding all of this on Saturday night; and God showed me again that I had indeed heard correctly from Him. We had a praise and worship service at church and one of the songs a girl from the worship team sang over us had these lyrics:
I knew what I was getting into when I called you I knew what I was getting into when I said your name, but I said it just the same. I knew what I was getting into and I still want you, I knew what I was getting into.
I knew what I was getting into and I still chose you, I knew what I was getting into and I still want you I knew what I was getting into when I said your name, but I said it just the same I knew what I was getting into.
Wow, this song just wrecked me! Jesus knew what he was getting into when he called me by name but he said it just the same. That fits with the scripture the night before.
The very next song was “I am New” and I was dancing, worshiping and singing my lungs out in the back of the church. Toward the end of the song there’s a list of our new names:
“Forgiven, beloved, hidden with Christ
Made in the image of the one who gives life
Righteous and holy, reborn and remade
Of all things we’re worthy
This is our new name”
One by one the people in the auditorium stood to take a stand and claim their new name; their new identity. It was a very powerful time. We kept singing the chorus over and over and each time we did it was louder and more powerful, it touched me in the deepest parts of my soul. We could’ve sung the list of names about seven more times and I still wouldn’t have gotten enough of it! Each time we sang it I could feel it building in the room; we owned it more and more each time. We claimed it. Doing this in a corporate setting with a community of believers was an awesome experience. What a way to top off the retreat!
I am blessed, I am known, I am seen, I am chosen and I am honored!
A Beautiful Mosaic
On my birthday in February my husband wrote this on my card: God was so excited the day he created you because he knew your story from beginning to end and he couldn’t wait to tell it. This really impacted me and I wrote about God knowing my story (see Circle of Light). However, there’s more for me to process in this statement. I have a hard time with the piece about being excited about my story, in fact so excited that he couldn’t wait to tell it. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about my story at all and certainly not to the extent that I couldn’t wait to tell it. I was embarrassed about my story, ashamed even.
So, I’ve been wrestling with this and wondering what it would take for me to accept my story, to like my story…maybe, just maybe; dare I say it – be excited about my story. What would it take? I’ve done a lot of work around my past and I’ve forgiven myself and everyone involved. I’ve received healing and I’ve moved on. But now, I want to embrace my story, love my story, want to tell my story and be excited about it.
I’ve been noticing and processing messages that come my way. Here are a few:
“We give off light in the darkness by our generosity, by trying to help in the world, by simply making it through the hard patches with a little dignity, so that other people can see that it can be done.” Anne Lamott Grace Eventually
“Jesus is saying that every moment we are freely given the opportunity to see through a different pair of glasses.” Anne Lamott Grace Eventually
“Owning your actual life means first that you embrace your story; the whole one with no shameful bald spot or gut wrenching regret left out. What if doing so creates a mosaic, that when put together and healed by God, becomes beautiful, and radiant?” Steve Wiens
“What memories can you look back at that have shaped you? Can you hold them in such a way that you believe they all belong?” From Daring Greatly book (Steve Wiens blog: Diesel Smell).
“We are who we are because of the story we’ve lived and the story we hope to live.”
These messages are a few of the ones that helped me get to a place that I could begin to accept and like my story. I started to see it in a different light. I noticed that my story isn’t really about me; it’s God’s story. He’s the one who created me, works through me and lives in me. My story is about bringing him glory and making him seen. When I tell the bad parts, show my shameful bald spots and gut wrenching regrets and then I tell where I am now; the only thing that can be concluded is that God is awesome! He is not a God of second chances; he is a God of infinite chances! He can take garbage, dung as the Bible calls it and put it together in such a way that it becomes beautiful and radiant. I’m beginning to accept and embrace my story and know that it’s really not mine but it’s a gift, given to me by God.
On my Father-in-law’s birthday (Bob) we brought him out for breakfast and both him and my mother-in-law (Bobi) told me that he had found my web site and they had both read my story. Bobi said that she was impressed and blown away, she remarked on how much courage it took for me to put it out there. Bob told me that I deserve a lot of credit and I had really come a long way.
I have come a long way but God really deserves the credit. The only credit I could possibly deserve is that I allowed him to do his work in me and I did my part too.
I haven’t gotten to the point that I’m excited to tell my story but I’m getting there. As I slowly embrace those embarrassing, shameful moments and bad decisions, I begin to accept them and hold them as though they belong. They’re becoming valuable pieces of a beautiful mosaic put together by God.