Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Broken Prayer - The Lessons of Lent

Every. Day.
Well Lent is over.

My second year.

46 days.

6 of those considered #lentfreedays (though I technically only used three of them).

40+ days of no carbs (no bread, no pasta, no alcohol*, no fried foods).

I did it.

With joy. Okay...more joy than last year. I claim that as a triumph. ;)

What did I learn?

Did I learn anything?

I did.

Allow me to share.


Lets start with the easy physical lessons...

I learned my body operates better without carbs.

*Deep Sigh*

Within two days, and I so wish I were exaggerating, my energy level increased...and by increased I mean skyrocketed. Noticeably. I was shocked. Literally.

Also, my #lentfreedays (which for those who don't know anything about Lent - me two years ago - are the days you can have whatever you gave up - Sundays) took me out. I was lethargic and FULL and by full I mean FULL as in stuffed and maybe a bellyache (depending).

I also realized that I order like a robot at restaurants...barely skimming the menu and ordering the same thing every single time. I know this because I eat out a lot because I am have a lot of business meals and I am single....so imagine me at 44 reading full menus for maybe the first time ever. I also want to state that I know where the best salmon salads are across Central Arkansas (ask me) and there are a few restaurants that will remain nameless (Outback) that basically don't have a carb-free offering and when you "create" one they have no idea what to do with the order so they throw something together and you end up snacking later. *Insert Eye Roll*

I don't really miss carbs. I mean there were days and meals that I had a "wanting" look in my eyes, but for the most part this was easy. Now I handled brunch on Sundays Like. A. Boss. but....what can I say...brunch is my absolute favorite meal.

So....after the physical lessons, about midway through Lent, I made a decision to remain carb-free post Lent except for the weekends (giving myself two days a week) to see how I felt, etc. I am pretty excited about it. I love how I feel - I need the extra energy - and I have plenty of doctors giving me the look - so the health benefits of this are a big plus.

Now lets talk about the spiritual lessons...

I started counseling in the middle of Lent.

Okay, I am done.

Just. Kidding.


I started counseling. It is kicking my butt and breaking my heart.

After counseling last week, I came across this...

Hosea 2:14-15The Message (MSG)

To Start All Over Again

14-15 “And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
    I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
    where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
    I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
    those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

It gave me hope. Hopeful for the resurrection the upcoming Sunday (last Sunday was Easter).....Hopeful for counseling...Hopeful for this latest wilderness season. I felt a prayer rise up within me, "Jesus come and restore my heart to that beginning, when I was young, fresh out of the clutches of evil, before/fresh from the womb, innocent, young, and at peace." Isn't that beautiful?

A broken prayer.

I just realized that was what that was...a broken prayer. A broken prayer to Jesus.

Isn't that the purpose of Lent...to remind us that we are broken...that Jesus was broken for us...that we have the hope in Jesus to be made whole...We. Have. The. HOPE.

This world doesn't feel very hopeful right now. It feels hard, broken, harsh, dangerous, and dark. I am a born optimist and I struggle to find hope on some days.

So here we are in this messy, broken world...marinating in our own personal brokenness...and it can be hard to find HOPE in all of that....but here is Jesus. Steady, stable, and offering love...offering life. I think the truth of the matter is that for a long, long time I didn't know what to do with that...Honestly. It was simply too lavish an offer for a girl like me. So here I am this year hopeful that maybe 2016 is the year I "get it" when I can finally understand the gift I was given oh so long ago. There is healing on the other side of this counseling, so deep and real to me that I can nearly touch and taste it. I feel God all over me in this...like he has me in a bubble. There is no doubt he is protecting my heart. A heart that is being SHATTERED by what I am learning...recognizing...owning for the first time.

This year I focused on being joyful in the sacrifice of giving up the comforts of foods I love (OH SO MUCH), and what I learned about myself is that I not only don't need those foods...my body doesn't really want those foods (at least not at the quantity I previously consumed them). While I was focused on all of that, Jesus was preparing my heart for the tsunami of counseling. Imagine a talkaholic and wordsmith sitting across from a stranger grasping for words. It feels like open heart surgery. The pain comes in waves too. I am wanting to explain, but I am sitting here with no words. I imagine the longer I go, the easier it will be to find the words. I hope.

Lent is over but the lessons continue.

I am reminded once again at the beauty in the sacrifice.

I entered Lent beaten down and feeling under attack - on all levels and from all directions.

I exited Lent on the wings of hope. Renewed. Reminded. Reverent of a Jesus who died, fought, and then rose again...for me. for you.

I offer up to Jesus, every day, my broken prayer. To give him my heart. To lay down at his feet again all that I was never meant to bear/carry/control. To pick up his gifts of grace, mercy, and LIFE. To walk away from my own tomb and carry the message of a love so deep and true that it can even set this captive free.

That is what I am holding onto...restoration. Not for a season. For eternity.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Our Hour of Trial

Have you ever been bemoaning something with a friend and then seconds later in going about your daily tasks, God whacks you over the head with a 2x4?


Just me??

A few minutes ago that happened to me....so I have dropped everything to sit down here and document it...because...well, it is important.

Someone was doing the announcements at church a few weeks ago and mentioned this book CLICK HERE FOR LINK called "Morning and Evening - Devotional by Charles H. Spurgeon, and his comments were such that I ordered it.

This morning I am being texted encouragement by a friend because frankly yesterday felt like a snippet of February 2016, and I just can't even....I mean, my can't even can't even...

I digress.

So as I jokingly stated I had emphasized while doing the Daily Prayer (Extended Version) with John Eldredge (you can do it via this link on the website OR via the Ransomed Heart app - and you can read along, listen to John Eldredge pray it, or both at the same time) to God that...."I need PROTECTION."...{insert nervous laughter}

Right after that text, I open my morning devotional to read Matthew 26:39...

"...and going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed..."

Ummm...Jesus just dropped the mic on me.

I am going through a bit of a trial right now that I cannot speak of here due to confidentiality, I don't know who all reads this, sensitive nature, etc., but let me be clear....the trial is consuming me...and this morning with my friend a prayer came out of me about it that I think stunned her as much as me. In the deepest parts of who I am I want healing...but...BUT what God reminded me of this morning was two things...

1. the healing I seek will impact EVERY aspect of my life....the thing that I am learning impacts me personally, impacts me professionally too....and that is jaw-dropping.

2. it is okay to plead, "My Father, hear my cry."

I'm struggling. Wrestling. It is brutal and ugly. At one point last night, I quite literally shook both fists at the heavens (I was lying in the tub by the way - which is important to note as God and I - we have this thing about the ridiculous) crying out, "aaarrrrggghhhh!!!!!" which is to say it was inaudible.

...but what I was reminded of this morning....is that these conventional and unconventional prayers from me to God are okay...this is part of the journey. In some aspects, I am having to (quite literally) learn how to use my words. I am also learning perseverance....in my prayers. God is in this messy season and this messy situation. I know that. I know that more than I know anything, but the enemy is here too....fighting to keep me from restoration...fighting to keep me broken. It is important to remember that in some very real ways, there is a war happening in my very soul as God and I wrestle some of my deepest places away from the enemy's clutches. Strongholds he has had claim over for decades.

...but I am also learning to leave these prayers at the foot of the cross and release them to the will of God.

...and that is HARD.

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." - Matthew 26:39

Yet not as I will, but as you will....

And there is the prayer.

In one verse, Jesus taught us how to pray. Beautifully.

Matthew 26:39
Whatever you are wrestling with today...whatever messy has plopped down on your doorstep...there is healing and release in picking it up and handing it over to God. Using all the words, but then at the end simply saying as you will Lord.

This morning I have pleaded and whined and laughed, but with a deep sigh I am leaving it here with God to do with it as he will...I trust him. Maybe this whole process was him asking me if I did...(God might have just face-palmed right then)...and Jesus...I do. I really really do.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

The Promise of Our Triune God

It is day two, and I have already learned a couple dozen words and phrases that cause me to pause and look them up.

That makes me grin.

I remember a day when that would have caused me shame. A girl who has been in the church since the womb should know...what?...ALL things?!?! Ludicrous. Yet for years I have believed that lie.

I digress...

Our Triune God - God who is three in one. The Trinity.

Deep. Sigh.

This past Saturday I was reading ahead to Day 2's lesson here and I made it to the bottom of p.21 and then suddenly felt the Holy Spirit urged me to go back up the page and re-read "...He said, Let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness."..." {emphasis added by me}

Our image.

I have probably read that verse a thousand or more times...but this time something clicked...OUR.

That means that we were made in the image of the Holy Trinity - God...Jesus...and the Holy Spirit. Let that sink in for a minute. We have a bit of each of them in us and the power of the synergy created by all three. Suddenly I felt a little bit like Superman with a ball of power in his hand and beams shooting out of it....and placing that over someone....and that power seeping into them....restoring them. That is what I see for each of us.

I was made in their image.

Pick. Me. Off. The. Floor.

I suddenly want to treat my body a little bit better.

We each have the Trinity - individually and collectively - in us.

That is some powerful stuff.

Then I go back and re-read Romans 4 - it speaks of Abraham's faith and then it all explodes for me on 4:19 - faith does not refuse to face reality but looks beyond all difficulties to God and his promises.

I want the faith of Abraham.


Because I love you so Jesus....

and I want faith that is as deep as the love that I feel in my heart for you...

I don't want what others have...but what you have for me....

Is that it? Is it that we covet other's faith when what God is calling us to is an individual...a personal....faith - one built on the walk he has given us and the relationship he has/is cultivating with us. So in some respects my faith will look different than each of yours...no less true...just different?!?!

...and isn't that the gift of the technology most who read this will be accessing??? An app that allows each of us to express our faith and walk on the most individual of levels as we wrestle with creeds and verses and simply asking ourselves the basic question of Why? What IF? Then what?

For three years Jesus walked with the disciples teaching and preaching - he literally walked it out with them. He used story and imagery. He was personal, intentional, and loving. We have the opportunity every day to walk out the love of Jesus with people through story and imagery. To be personal, intentional, and loving.

To come to know Jesus is to engage that ball of power placed in us when we were made....instantly things are clicking into place. It is the feeling of coming home and being home and knowing home all wrapped up in one.

Rainbow in Haiti, October 2014

Every day we have that power...the power of the promise. God invites us to be a part of his heavenly court. We have a role. We belong. We are his beloved. 

He is our one God.

...and we are his.

There is richness in knowing and believing that to be true in our lives.

John 17:21 "...Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me...."

If you would like to study with IF - I Believe, The Nicene Creed - you can learn more by going to www.ifequip.com or www.ifgatheringapp.com and you can order a study (though you don't need it) at IF Gathering Shoppe.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday | Bubble Bath | Lent 2016

Something has happened to me the past few months....;)

I had my EXTRAORDINARY hair stylist ease up on my ombre....and I started toying with the idea of going back to my old nail polish (from my preferred black of the past three years), Opi's Bubble Bath (my color of choice for some 15-20 years). So today after an amazing brunch with friends, I decided to go get a manicure...I want to look nice for Easter next weekend. ;) Without hesitation, I selected the bottle of Bubble Bath and plopped down in the chair...I mean I had been thinking about it for weeks....months...and I have a sweet little Easter outfit planned...I mean...what is happening to me???

Two strokes in.

Two. Strokes.

I was regretting it....but I did not change it. Something said keep going....yup, I am still talking about nail polish.

I had no more gotten in my car to come home, and I looked at my hands (it was a beautiful manicure by the way) and started laughing....you can't tell where my nails end and my hands begin...it is like one solid color...my nails literally disappear into my hands.


Where was I all of those years? What was I running from? What was I attempting to hide from?

I just looked at my hands. I still can't see my nails. I am not exaggerating.

I had my first counseling session this past week. It won't be my last. In fact, I am not in the least ashamed to say that I am booked out for the next 6 weeks, every single week, and the counselor is developing a six month plan. I am on board. No hesitation. In fact, as difficult as that session was, all 60 minutes of it, I couldn't shake the thought walking out that this was probably the best thing I have ever done for myself. I also could feel God encouraging me to document the process. That makes me cringe. I am not sure how much I will write about here, but I will journal the whole thing. My Sis already had a GREAT idea about getting a journal just for the counseling...and after the pages written this week - her idea seemed even better...that first night those pages looked like a train wreck - lines and words and arrows everywhere...

It is hard to admit that I have expended a ton of energy in my life hiding from the truth of my life. Protecting my family. Protecting the "story" and all that means. Protecting my childhood and creating a narrative around only the very best parts and gliding over the worst...to the point that when asked a point blank question about my childhood....I had the wrong age and no memories of a year of it. Like I had lost an entire YEAR. The truth is that my family is no different than yours. We had secrets. We had shame. We had bad behavior. I just never learned how to deal with mine. I am in no way interested in writing an expose on myself or my family, but I am VERY interested in learning how not to feel responsible for the tragedy that was my family. I am also very interested in learning how not to let my childhood define me....not take on all the blame...maybe stop feeling personally responsible that at the tender age of eight I couldn't do more to prevent the implosion. That maybe everything since hasn't been 1000% my fault. In all of that too, I want to learn how to take responsibility for what was my fault. I have made plenty of mistakes, and I want to get a grip on those...and not repeat them. Ever.

This week as I sat contorted in that chair being asked the most basic questions, I realized (after having it pointed out) that the red string that I use to describe the chain of events in my life has slowly been unraveling...and now it is time to slide down the wall to the floor and begin again. At the beginning. How do you unpack 44 years and figure out what is real...REAL?...what is true? false? Well you don't do it alone. I won't be doing it alone. Not only am I blessed with a counselor I know God picked out for me....there are simply ways one knows. ;) BUT I also have some extraordinary people who are walking with me in this...and to them....here and now...I say, THANK YOU!

There is this beautiful song All Songs & Daughters' Brokenness Aside that I have been listening to these past few weeks. Just now it came up while I was typing, and I thought....those are the words...God makes beautiful things out of our brokenness. I believe that...with EVERYTHING that I am. For whatever reason, God has appointed me now for such a time as this...this year...this counselor....to own my own story of brokenness. You can't start at today though...like any great story, you must begin at the beginning....so, one day I was born. ;) The counselor told me this is going to be "messy" but I can help you. She used words such as trauma and abandonment. There were silent tears, physical reactions to words, and admissions....but in all of that, she had me at "messy" because with that one word I knew God was there in that room...holding my hand. It is the word he has used when it has just been the two of us these past four years....I knew I was safe. That my heart was going to be safe.

Tomorrow, IF Gathering is launching an app, and I am part of the launch team that has been testing it. I can't say enough about it - check it out at www.ifgathering.com, www.ifequip.com - tomorrow you will be able to download it on iPhones and Androids. There is an interactive aspect to it where you are able to write posts, upload your own graphics or photos, shoot video, or even voice memo. You are able to share your gifts with the world on how that day's study spoke to you. Just imagine. I have been blown away by the technology; it was an honor to be a part of the group testing it. It has me thinking about our individual gifts, how we learn, how we share, and who we are....I think the sad truth is that in many ways it has taken the wilderness of this past four years to help me figure out who I am. In some ways the three year purge was just the act of me physically and spiritually digging my way out of mess of things, dogma, people, lies, mistakes...just to get to the bottom. I wasn't digging my way out or up...as much as I was digging my way down....to find my foundation. My core. Now...imagine my surprise when last week, God stuck a chisel and hammer in my hand and said, "Let's go. Deeper."

Umm....say what?!?!

The truth is that my foundation was built on quicksand, and I have been shoring it up for years...YEARS. God is trying to get me to rip it all out and start again....on solid ground. On the truth...Not of who I am, but on the truth of who HE is...who He says I am....and who He intended me to be. Not the terrified eight year old....that built a million and one masks to hide a terrified adult...but the confident, beloved daughter of God. We have to rip out the lies and the fear....like bad carpet hiding beautiful heart of pine floors. Over the past several years, I have seen glimpses of myself. Here and there. Now I have a real chance to find all of me. That is my hope. I dream of being more whole. I want to be better...a better person.

...but first I have to tell my story.

To a counselor.

That isn't easy...not for me.

...but God is kind...he teaches me lessons at the bottom of a bottle of Bubble Bath nail polish. It is time for me to stop hiding.

This is the last time I will have Bubble Bath nail polish on my hands...so grab a gander while you can....;) The girl who wore that for years is gone. There is no going back. No more wishing for do overs and caves and coveting what is dead and gone.

My friend gave me John 5:1-5 the day of my first counseling session...it is the story of the healing of the invalid. Jesus asks him simply, "Do you want to get well?" The man has an excuse for why he is not getting treatment...for 38 years. Jesus said, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." She had no idea how God was going to use it.

There is a lot you can take from that scripture, but that night after crying myself to sleep...who are we kidding....sobbed myself to sleep. I had a dream that Jesus was in between me and "them" - defending me - protecting me. It was a gift. In my whole life, no one has protected me or defended me; whether I deserved it or not. It is a wound that is gaping and puss-filled and even up to today impacts me....every. day. For 38 years. 38.

Do you want to get well Heather?

Yes Lord.

Get up and walk.

There is healing available to us. We have to take the first step. Just one step, and he will meet us there. He is probably already standing there - in between us and whatever or whoever - waiting for us to get up and walk. To have faith. To trust him. Even with the hardest and darkest parts of our souls...of our stories.

I don't know about you, but I am seeking restoration like my life depends on it.

Palm Sunday. Bubble Bath. Lent 2016.

Only God can make all of that come together and teach me a lesson. He is that good. He is that personal. He loves me that much. He loves you THAT much.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Five Years

Five years ago today I willingly gave up my ability to have children.

Willingly as in for medical purposes.

So basically unwillingly.

Five years ago today I unwillingly gave up my ability to have children.

No one remembers...

I remember.

I know that it was five years ago because there is a reminder in my calendar today as there has been on this date for the past five years. Every single year, I would be "off" on this date - weepy and such, see the reminder, and instinctively know why...

Not today.

I have never written about what happened or the decision(s) I had to make five years ago. It has always been something I dealt with privately, even then. On that day, there were two people by my side - one by choice and the other guilt. Outside of them, only five other people knew and that included my boss and niece and nephews. I couldn't bear to talk about it.

Next week I start counseling.

Five years ago is part of the reason why.

I have some deep pain. deep shame. deep regrets. deep loss.

There are things that have been done TO me and BY me that I cannot even find words for...when sitting alone with God...the one who knows me best.

I am grateful beyond words for the healing I have been given by God these past several years. It has been hard fought, and won, but with a cost. There is always a cost.

Effort. {Haiti 2014}

I need deeper healing. The kind that only comes when someone wiser, more objective - sits across from you and helps you build a bridge to the darkest parts of who you are and then holds your hand (emotionally) while you cross over it and slay the dragons that reside there. The ones you don't talk about in polite conversation or even confess at the altar. Not because they are SO horrific, but because no one ever gave you permission to talk about them so you don't have the vocabulary to discuss them.

I have been shooting out flares for nearly two years looking for someone, a counselor, to help me go where I didn't want to go. Last month in the midst of quite literally the most open attack of spiritual warfare I have ever endured....day after day...every single day of February....I could wait no longer. So one week from today, I will sit down on a couch (I guess it will be a couch) with a complete stranger and start the work of healing Heather Ruth.

Five years ago I hurt in places I didn't discuss...with anyone. I made the best choice I could - based on the information I had. Somewhere in all of that, I need to forgive myself...for getting old, for having a body with faulty parts, for not focusing on love and family, for being broken, for choosing the wrong people to give my love and trust...for being selfish.

It is time to forgive Heather Ruth.

5 years is a long time.

...and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Five years ago a doctor (actually two of them) saved my life, and I will always be grateful. Tonight I am choosing to focus on being grateful for my health....I am choosing to be grateful that next week I get some help unpacking some old stuff that has been weighing down my heart for far too long. I am grateful for my tribe that has held my hand so firmly yet gently as I worked my way to the decision to call the counselor. Mostly I am grateful to a God that keeps gently reminding me how very dearly I am loved by him...and that this process isn't about placing blame, but one of release. It is time to set my heart free.

Set my heart....


That. That is worth celebrating.

For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
14 “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel;
I will help you,” declares the Lord, “[d]and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges;
You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them,
And will make the hills like chaff.
16 “You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away,
And the storm will scatter them;
But you will rejoice in the Lord,
You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 41: 13-16

Brokenness Aside by All Sons & Daughters Live : http://youtu.be/rJMWrBsSwMk

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)