Clayheart

Outpourings from an imperfect but redeemed & treasured heart of clay.

Season of Renewal

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Three years ago, today, my whole world shifted. Everything I thought I knew was turned upside down in a single instant – in a single paragraph of knowledge, something I could never unsee or unlearn. Reality as I knew it would never be the same. A wound so deep my foundations would crumble.

What followed would be the darkest, most chaotic, most lonely, most volatile years of my life. I was angry. I felt like I was bleeding internally with nothing to cauterize the wound. I couldn’t run from the people who had wounded me. I couldn’t run from the wound. I was in constant suffering and distress.

I tried rebuilding my foundations in an unfamiliar environment, with new people and new work – I was focused on that for a time and I thought it was slowly helping… I was using different types of relationships and experiences in my anger to try to fill a crack that was too deep in my foundation. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t healing. The wound was still bleeding, and worse, it was getting infected.

My anger turned to bitterness and I was well on my way to a hardened heart because I was in no way soaking in the grace or healing of my God, my Savior, my Comforter. In my running and rebuilding, I took things into my own hands and turned my face away from my King.

Eventually I found some healthy relationships, some soothing friendships and people came into my life who gave me a place of belonging – instead of trying to distract myself, I felt that part of me could focus on healing. Yet in that process I was still looking away from my King, after all, in anger I thought, “He doesn’t have my best interest at heart anyway, He’s betrayed me and lied to me all this time.”

He took some of those healthy relationships away from me… December 2017, one was put into an early forced retirement and moved away… April 2018, one retired legitimately and I couldn’t see him daily anymore… August 2018, my supervisor, mentor, and friend had her position dissolved and was forced to find another one and moved away.

The foundation I had built had work at its center, and these relationships were work colleagues who became more than colleagues – they were all my friends and mentors and a core group who provided comfort, support, and belonging that I thought was helping me heal. It was all suddenly gone! And the infected bleeding wound I had distracted myself from, suddenly came right back up to the surface. I was more volatile than ever. Every little pain hit harder and harder.

So I asked my new boss for an extended leave of absence. After four and a half months of incredible chaos both at work and in the deepest parts of my soul, I finally got it… and the leave of absence just so happened to be for the month of January.

Just coincidence? Probably not…

I started calling it a “sabbatical.” It wasn’t just time to be away from work, I desperately knew I needed healing, rest, and to reconnect with God. It started on January 5th and will end on February 4th. So I’m right in the middle of it. And although January 19th is my least favorite day of the year, today feels different than the previous three January 19ths.

See, instead of running from and covering up my wound, I’ve stopped running and turned to the Great Physician and Healer again. He’s been opening it up to clean it. There’s a lot of infection in there, as well as scar tissue that has to be scraped and massaged, adhesions, inflammation, and it’s still bleeding. Yet it has to be opened to be cleaned and cauterized properly. It’s painful, but this “surgery” provides hope for renewal.

As painful as it is to reopen a wound, and a long-standing deep one such as this one, I know it’s what I need and the Lord is being good to me. He’s been with me through all of these years and the years prior to the wounding, I just didn’t turn to Him.

On January 7th, I went on a personal retreat to an abbey. The space provided was quiet, Christ-focused, and surrounded by nature. I had three whole days there to be unplugged and rest. I slept a lot, but I also read a lot (which I don’t ever do). I walked a labyrinth, I prayed, I let go, I forgave, I broke down, I worshiped God, I started to heal – I started to be and feel renewed.

So the theme that arose with the first leg of my sabbatical journey was the verse that I opened this post with – to ‘be still and know that He is God.’ And dwelling and meditating on this verse and who He is, rather than the loss of who I was or am, has brought forth more healing than I imagined possible.

His healing surgical tools have been solitude with Him, scripture, His discipline, His mercy and grace, His forgiveness, His death and resurrection. For the first time in many years, I am feeling peace and hope. I know that it is only because of Him, and not something I’ve conjured up on my own. This month has begun my season of renewal – thank you, God!

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
– Psalm 46:1-7

Seasons of Sorrow

I used to write on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It was not only my creative outlet, but my safe place to express all that was within me – good, bad, and ugly. Selfish, sinful, triumphant, and praise-worthy.

However, over the past few years, my writing slowly faded away until I completely stopped. I didn’t like how or what I was writing, but really I stopped because I mostly didn’t like the reminders. I didn’t want to let things out on paper – because I felt like that made painful experiences became more real somehow.

I succumbed to my seasons of sorrow. I let them overtake me without a fight.

Since I wasn’t writing and because I was angry with God, I turned to other methods of coping with my pain and sorrow – including alcohol and boys. Yet I’ve still been left with the deepest emptiness I have ever felt.

I’m still unsure of how to cope with the wounds and hurts of these seasons, but maybe with time and learning to seek the Lord again, I will receive the healing I need to move forward. And I may start writing and sharing again too.

I’m sure I’ve learned a lot from these seasons, but rather than try to decipher what I’ve learned – I’m going to focus on Him again as I walk out of this dry and bitter time.

My soul is weary with sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word. – Psalm 119:28

Rocks Will Cry Out

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12

I went for a hike this evening after work. It’s been a very stressful couple of days and I was trying to figure out some healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with the work-related environmental stress.

See, where I work is also where I currently live. Although I’m making a lateral move in the organization, receiving the same pay and still considered an intern, they are requiring me to move to a horrible dorm/community style staff building instead of remaining in the private apartment space I’ve been living in for the past 9 months. It’s unsettling, and it also isn’t fair.

I’ve felt very wronged by the upper management of the organization. I’ve tried to have meetings, but my voice hasn’t been heard here for quite some time. I’m moving into a department that does hear my voice though. This department is the heart behind the organization, the “mission” side of things that works directly with people, so all my supervisors and co-workers in that department are “people” people and relational focused… not business/operation focused.

It’s hard not to get offended or upset when my living space that I thought I’d be in for 2 years is being prematurely ripped out from under me, right in the middle of the transition to a new department. It makes me question whether the organization I’m working for is worth working in when they treat me and other staff in this manner. I’ve taken it personally to be sure and been very offended on a number of levels for a number of different things.

Therefore, when I received the news two days ago that I have to move sooner than expected (and mind you, this living situation has not been discussed with me since December),  within 2 weeks, I was thrown into chaos. I couldn’t sleep and was stressed to my max. I have to balance this while working my full time hours and still working partially in one of my initial departments till they get my replacement in. I was fighting mad yesterday. I texted some friends to pray for me hard because I was so confused, hurt, and offended.

He answered their prayers because I have felt more at-peace today… which is very rare lately because my job has been stress after stress with no work/life balance, being mistreated left and right and neglected, so I’ve allowed my environment and the organization to slowly crush my spirit. It’s been difficult to keep looking up when all of that keeps happening around me.

On my hike this evening, something broke… I was thinking about my situation and trying to come up with a solution. Then I just stopped and surrendered. This was all while I was listening to worship music. I was gradually overcome with peace and joy for no seemingly “obvious” reason. My situation hasn’t changed, but my attitude and my heart was altered by God as I let go and stepped out of the way.

I just started clapping and singing. Mind you, I have headphones in too, so I couldn’t hear how I sounded, but I didn’t care. I stopped by a stream and a little waterfall to take in and overflow with the worship song I was listening to… then I was hit with something beautiful… I was surrounded by rocks…

There were so many! And God recalled a verse to my spirit.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40

I was struck with an overwhelming sense to sing louder. I haven’t praised the Lord in so long, and it felt like He was reminding me how much the stones had been praising Him because I had forgotten or neglected to. It was a healthy competition then, I didn’t want them to cry out louder than me! Yet it was as if I was also singing in unison with the stones… so I praised my heart and lungs out! At one point I just started dancing on the trail as I sang.

I learned many different lessons today and there are tons of take-aways from this. But the main thing I wanted to focus on is this… if we don’t praise Him, something will. Then in the end we will be devastated if it isn’t us. So no matter your circumstance, praise His name – He alone is worthy.

Its easier said than done, I know. I have been through the worst year of my life and had distanced myself from God and everyone else. I was reminded today, in the cold woods, that regardless of what I’m going through, I do still have a choice to praise Him or not.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” – Revelation 5:13

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