encouragement

The Potter’s Hands

As I look on my life, I see the way the potter’s hands have shaped and molded me to be who I am today. I see the gentle way those hands guide me to form me. I see the times when the hands put slight pressure on me and times when they relaxed to let me breathe out. But more than that, I see the times that I, like the clay, fell apart in those hands, in the middle of them trying to turn me into a masterpiece. And each time I can point to my life or myself falling apart, those hands picked up all the pieces of clay and used them to reshape and mold me anew, to make a new masterpiece with the same clay that seconds before was in pieces on the ground.

Oh how loved we are that in the moments when life is dark, in the times when everything has seemingly fallen apart, those potter’s hands know that I was created from the beginning to be a masterpiece. Those hands know that they selected the exact amount and right type of clay for me to be what they envisioned me to be. The potter knows that by picking up the same clay, and reforming it, the most incredible masterpiece is still possible.

How beautiful it is to see that all the parts of me from the beginning will in the end become this masterpiece. How amazing to know that the clay I thought was broken just needed new life, a new form. How incredible to know that the same situation that made me crumble would also become the situation that would transform me.

Three years ago was one of those times when the clay fell apart. The clay of my life became dry and crumbled to pieces in the potter’s hands. I see now that the potters hands calmly gathered all the scattered pieces of clay and formed them into a ball. Then they put the ball on the potter’s wheel and began to guide and shape my life, using all the pieces that fell apart before, but having reworked them and rejoined them in a new way so that this time they would stick. With calm patience, those potter’s hands continued to work, bringing new life to the dried clay that had previously been there. They added water like the waters of baptism to strengthen me and make me new. As the hands continued to shape me into something new, they continually met me where I was.

May we all be potter’s hands to each other. In times when someone’s life has become dry or fallen into pieces, may we, like the potter, meet them where they are. Without trying to change the clay material that makes them who they are, may we help them gather all of who why are, put all the pieces of themselves into a ball and place it on the potter’s wheel and leave it to the potter to reconstruct new possibility of life in them. For through the potter’s hands, portals of hope are formed and new life is given. We don’t need to become something other than who were were originally created to be, we need only to place all of ourselves on the wheel and let the potter’s beautiful hands work to turn us into the masterpiece he envisioned us to be.

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The Eye of Betrayal

Betrayal – possibly one of the most difficult feelings to experience. We all know the feeling and hope it isn’t the ones closest to us that make us feel betrayed as those can cut the deepest. It’s a loss of trust, an unfulfillment of expectations, a deep pain. Sometimes it can feel inescapable. Trying to figure out how to respond is always the challenge. Betrayal brings with it feelings of sadness and anger, which, if left to simmer, can lead to resentment, fear, and hate. Betrayal is a storm that can consume us, but in the eye of the storm we can find peace, reclaim dignity, and respond with love.
  
When the storms of betrayal come, God calls us to simply be still. Our only job, our only mission, and our only desire should be to be still and let Him love us.  Let Him envelop us in His perfect love. Let him hold us in His arms, rest with Him, and let His love fill every part of our being to make us whole again. Let the love He pours out heal us. Do nothing else until He has filled you with His love. All we should do is find Him in the eye of the storm of betrayal.
  

Hold me Lord. I am on a boat, surrounded by the storm. The waves are crashing in and the winds are blowing the boat out of control. I cannot stop it. It overcomes me and I am lost in this spinning darkness with no escape. I cry out, begging for it to stop but the storm offers no relief. I am in pain, the pain of a deep betrayal that tears me apart from the inside out.
  
Then I see you lying in the boat – sleeping. Sleeping as though we are not at risk of death. I wonder how can you sleep through the painful winds that tear at me and the waves that consume me? How can you be at peace when there is so much sadness, anger, and pain? Let me be in your calm presence in this storm. Let me rest in your arms and be held in your peace. The storm outside this boat is set to destroy me but you are here with me. Let me rest in you. And you say to me
  
Don’t you know how precious you are? Don’t you know that I am always with you? Don’t you know that I am all you need? That when the storms in your life feel like waves crashing in and winds are blowing around you, I am the eye of the storm. I am the calm. I am the peace. I will sustain you. Don’t you know how much I love you? Come rest with me. Trust in me. Surrender the pain and the storm to me. Surrender the pain so I can heal you. I will protect you through this storm and see you to safety, back to the calm waters. Let your soul be still and do not worry.
  
Let the storm do as it wills. Let the waves crash and the winds blow. Let the storm tear the boat apart. Know that you cannot control the storm; you cannot control all situations, and you cannot control those in your life. Know that though the pain you feel may bring the storms of betrayal, I will be there, right in the middle of it, to give you rest.
  
I love you and you are mine. Let me love you in your pain. Let me make you whole. Let me heal you. Let your healing and your peace in me permeate the storm. Let my healing allow you to forgive and to extend my mercy. Rest and find comfort in my love and once you are filled with my healing, peace, and love let it overflow from your soul. For it is through extending my love and mercy that the stormy waters will calm and the winds will die down.
  
Graciously respond to the one who hurt you with peace and love. Do not give in to the temptation to fight the storm. Surrender the pain and unite it to the cross. I know the pain of betrayal. I know the temptation to respond with anger. I know the desire to dwell on the situation. I was betrayed by my friend and put to death because of that betrayal. I was tempted too. I know how hard it is to feel betrayed by one that you love. I was called to let love and mercy flow.
  
Respond with graciousness, love, mercy, and peace to bring healing from the storm. Look to me resting in the boat in the middle of the storm and unite with me so you may also be the peace in the storm of betrayal. You cannot control the storm. You cannot control the betrayal. You cannot control others. So pour out love for another as a gift.  By responding in love you extend the eye of the storm and you calm the angry waters. Each time you respond with love and mercy, let the calm in the eye of the storm of betrayal extend further. Let that person freely choose how to respond to your gift.They may refuse it or push you away. They may accept it. Do not be discouraged if your love is not received because either way I will fill you so that you can always know that I am enough. I am all you need. Find your peace, joy, fulfillment, and purpose in me and continue to fill yourself with it so that you can extend it further.
  
After resting with Him who is the eye of the storm, I have found my peace because I have found my worth and dignity in Him who loves me above all else. His love fills  me, makes me whole, and reminds me who I am. No matter the storm, no matter the pain, no matter the betrayal, His healing love is always enough. His love prompts me to stand up to face the storm that surrounds me, lifting up my arms to the heavens saying “Lord I surrender this all to you. Take care of everything.” I face the pain I feel, look at the person who I feel betrayed by and simply say “I love you. I love you in and through all things. I forgive you. I am praying for you.”
  

“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Hope

I love this time of year. For a brief few weeks we allow ourselves to be children again – to have a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. For most of the year big hopes are so easily shot down as “false hope,” as if there could ever be such a thing. We get so busy that we don’t give ourselves the time to hope. We get bogged down by the difficult situations we experience and begin to buy in to lie that too much hope can be bad. We listen to voices of others who tell us our hopes are too big or too unrealistic. Those voices that tell us that we shouldn’t hope for the things that we do because they will never come true. However, this is the time of year we indulge ourselves. We let our dreams and hopes run wild. We allow ourselves to see beauty and good in the world, dream big, and hope for the future.

Why when we become adults do we censor our own hopes and dreams?  Children have such a beautiful outlook on life because it is not censored. They speak their minds and dream as if there is no limit. They dream as we all should. They hope. Sometime along life’s journey we begin to feel like our hopes and dreams don’t come true – as if they are false. We have hope but when it doesn’t come true in our perceived acceptable timing, we lose our faith, belief, and wonder. We forget that the circumstances in life don’t happen because of our desired timing. We allow other people in our lives determine what kind of hopes we should have. When others question our hopes, we begin to question them ourselves.

How could a hope ever be false? Hope is just a personal desire for something that has not yet come to be. It is a dream for the future. It can never be false and it can never fail. It is a want that comes from deep within the soul. Even when the desired outcome from a hope does not come true, the hope itself is not false. The end result may not come to be as it was hoped for or expected, but that hope that was clung to was real and true; it kept the soul alive.

It drives me crazy when I hear people talk of “false hope” or worse yet when I hear that someone was told that we don’t want to give a such “false hope.” How dare we tell others not to have or give “false hope.” How dare we try to squash the beauty of hope that is so innate in every human soul?

We need hope. Without it no change would ever come in our lives or in our world. It is hope that allows us to see a different future, a better future. It is hope that gives us the motivation we need to work and try to make that dream come true. It is hope that drives passion and goodwill. It is hope that keeps the soul alive and well. It is hope that gives peace.

Part of the Christmas miracle and the beauty of the new year is that during this time we  hope. We start with with Christmas which reminds us to have wonder in our lives and move quickly into the new year and set resolutions, goals, hopes for the future. The childlike hope that we experience this time of year replenishes our souls.

My hope for all of us this new year is that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our hope or diminish it in any way. My hope is that we would all find the courage and childlike spirit to hope again so that regardless of what the world may say, our hope will shine bright and inspire others.

The Foot of the Cross – The Source of Love

“Come with me” he says. “Come follow me.” “Come deeper with me.” “Trust me.” He tells me this constantly. He comes to me in my moments of despair, in my moments of weakness, and in my moments of great joy and tells me to come with him. To go with him to that place on Calvary where he died, because he has more to show me.

Then he takes me there. I am walking through the desert with him by my side. We walk up the hill of Calvary. At the top of the hill he points to the cross. There he is. He is on the cross. He is suffering. He is in so much pain and so much hurt. He is weak and wounded. The air is filled with a deep somber sense as if the entire world has been paused.

We walk up to the foot of the cross. I am standing right at the foot of the cross. His blood is pouring down on me. I can hear him, hear him struggling for breath, crying out. I see him looking up to heaven, to his father, wishing for relief, wishing all the pain he was experiencing would be taken away and healed. But although he hopes so dearly for the pain to go away, he courageously accepts the knowledge that God’s will and God’s plan is greater than his own human desire to never experience pain. He has perfect trust in God his Father and the plan that God has for him. He embraces his cross with a strength so unknown to this world.

Then He looks at me. He looks right at me. When I dare to look back up, directly into his eyes I feel as though I can see straight into his soul and he into mine. His eyes are full of pain. I can see every part of his body is in intense pain. I have never seen so much pain in my life. But although he is in great pain, there is something else in his eyes that overtakes the pain. There is love. There is love, great love in his eyes. It is a piercing love like I have never experienced before. A love so deep and so pure. It is a love for me. A love for my husband. A love for our children. A love for each and every person who has ever existed and who ever will exist in this world. This love in His eyes is the calm in the storm.

He doesn’t say anything to me while our eyes are locked but it is as if his gaze speaks directly to my soul. I can hear his soul speaking to mine and he says “I love you. You are a daughter of God and you are so deeply loved. You have so much immense worth. I have so much planned for you and it is greater than you could ever imagine. I forgive you for all that you have done and all that you will do. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. I love you. I love you exactly where you are, who you are, and no matter what you do. I will love you at every moment of every day for eternity. I want you to accept my love, to let me love you. But I want you to choose my love. I freely give my love to you at all times and through all things. I will love you if you accept my love, if you reject it, deny it, run from it, ignore it, or embrace it, because my love for you isn’t based on what you do, it is my conscious choice to love you no matter what. I love you with all that I have. I suffer for you. I rejoice for you and in you. I delight in you.”

When I feel his immense love for me I am paralyzed. I can’t move. I fall down. Fall straight on my knees with my face on the ground and my hands raised to heaven. I am overcome. Overcome with this love that I cannot understand. This love that is greater than any sin or anything in this world. This unconditional love like I have never experienced. This love that he pours down on me overtakes me. It overtakes every part of my being and fills my soul. It fills my soul with everything I could ever want and everything I could ever need. For the first time in my life I feel complete – I feel full – I feel alive – I feel like I am who I am meant to be, who I was made to be. I am so full of His love that all I want to do is give this love to others.

Then Jesus takes me up on the cross with him. He unites my suffering to his on the cross. And while I am up there I see everyone who has ever hurt me. I see them standing at the foot of the cross and I am looking down at them. Sometimes it is many people, sometimes just one person, and sometimes it is myself. Then he says to me “see them as I do. Look at them through my eyes.” He shows me how although I may be hurting, they are hurting too. He shows me how I have played a part in their suffering, pain, joy, and triumphs. It’s so humbling. He opens my eyes to see those in my life in the most incredible ways, to see how he sees them as His children who are so incredible, special, and important to the world in their own individual ways. For each one of us is a part of His body and as a part of His body has an integral role to play in the salvation of this world. But as He lets me see each person through His eyes, He also shows me how broken and hurt each one of them is. He always has me focus on my spouse in a particular way since He especially calls me to love my spouse as He loves.

He reminds me that He loves me for where I am in each moment. He shows me that although I have failed Him and hurt Him, He has never left my side. He gently reminds me that for all the times I have betrayed and hurt Him, He has forgiven me. He loves me in my imperfection and He wants me to love others in that same way. He wants me to meet those in my life where they are, for who they are, and embrace and encourage them to grow into who they were created to be because that is what He does for me. He sees who I should be, who I was created to be, and yet loves me when I fall short.

To help me love those who have hurt me, He fills me with the same love that He has them. He says to me that I am to forgive for any wrong or hurt that I have felt. And while I am up on the cross with him, all I want to do is forgive. All I want to do is pour out my love to them. All I want to do is offer up my suffering, my pain, and my love to God for their healing, their forgiveness, and their peace. All I want is to continue to pour out my love for them with all that I have forever and ever. All I want is to show them, to tell them how much I love them and to pick them up, embrace, and comfort them in their woundedness. All I want is show them how amazing they are, to show them how inspiring they are, to show them how loved they are. All I want is to take away all of their hurt, all of their pain, all of their suffering, all of their loneliness, all of their frustration, all of their confusion, all that is hurting them and all that is holding them back and replace it with love. All I want is for them to know their immense worth in the eyes of God. All I want to do is tell them how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged them. It’s amazing how much we all fall short and wrong those in our lives. While I am up on the cross looking down at them through His eyes, all I have is compassion, forgiveness, and love for them.

And while I am on the cross looking down with the same love for them in my heart that Christ has for me and my suffering united to his for the greater glory of God, He urges me to say these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

 

The trust fall

The trust fall ….. The dreaded trust fall. See I was never very good at the trust fall. I never trusted anyone to actually catch me. So I would start to fall backward but would quickly take a step back to prevent myself from falling – I didn’t like feeling that vulnerable. 

I had to learn how to do the trust fall in relationships and love. 

Falling in love taught me that it is ok to be vulnerable. It taught me that taking that step, that leap of faith, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable can bring you happiness you never imagined. 

I have only met one person in my life who made me feel that way and who made me feel completely safe in my vulnerability. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to be vulnerable yet safe. When that feeling is broken, when you have been dropped, it can be incredibly hard to recover from but repairing that trust can bring about the most rewarding results. 

In a relationship it isn’t quite the same as the traditional trust fall because if one person doesn’t catch the other, they both fall. That’s the hard part – being vulnerable together and knowing if you hurt the other you both suffer.

Someone recently asked me how I forgive when that trust has been broken. That’s such a loaded and complicated question and one I could never find a simple answer for. One thing I have learned about forgiveness is that it requires you to be vulnerable again. When we don’t forgive, we close the doors and stay locked up like a vault because we don’t want to be hurt again. While that is such a normal and reasonable reaction, it also prevents us from experiencing the joy and peace of love. 

When you try to not be vulnerable you take that small step backward to prevent yourself from falling, you try to ground yourself and depend on only yourself. What you miss by doing this is the support of the person there to catch you, the support you can only get by letting go and falling into their arms, trusting they will be there to catch you. 

Love requires us to be vulnerable and trust the other person. It is that vulnerability that makes love so special and unique. I have made decisions to forgive and trust people in my life who have hurt me and I have found that doing so and being vulnerable again is amazing and freeing. 

I am so thankful to this day that I had someone in my life who taught me how to feel secure and vulnerable at the same time, because although I was vulnerable, I was on top of the world because we were vulnerable together and in it together. 

Although the trust has been broken before and we have each missed catching the other, rebuilding that trust brought a greater strength to the relationship than before. It required a decision to forgive and trust and be vulnerable and a promise to do better, to be better, and to learn how to catch each other better in the future. 

It sure is terrifying to feel like you are losing that control as you fall back, but it is also worth it. 

There is nothing in the world like being vulnerable as you are falling but falling right into the arms of the one you love and being safe and home again.