Hi there! Thanks for dropping by my blog. Join me today with a few of my favorite things! I hope you’ll grab your favorite drink and stay for a while!
For those of you who drop by regularly, you will know that I have been blogging (for about six weeks) on the theme of encouragement. That included twelve separate articles–and one on discouragement. (You can see these in my archives.) As I drafted my outline for those weeks, and began writing these, I found something happening to me!
I was becoming a better encourager! I wanted my readers to be better at this awesome gift–and as a byproduct–I began consciously focusing on how I could encourage others every day, and I noticed that I began receiving encouragement from others. Tons of it! At church, through our small group fellowship; through my work colleagues; through emails; Facebook, and yes–even from some of you who took time to comment on how you liked these posts. Wow! What a great blessing this has been for me.
Well, while I didn’t wear that subject out by any means, I do want to move on to another subject this week–that of taking time to process our life-journey in a spiritual journal.
Journaling–God’s Gift to Us!
While I’ve mentioned journaling in earlier blogs–I want to share a more personal application of how this habit is actually God’s gift to us! Through writing our thoughts and prayers, God has orchestrated a unique way to help us walk slowly back through our life–and to see the major themes that have wound their way through our lives. Keeping a spiritual journal is a great way to help us make sense of the emotions, reactions and responses, to life situations and yes–even the sins that don’t go away easily. A journal can be like a life-map in retrospect!
Here’s my point. I’ve been a christian a LONG time–more than 50 years. So I’ve processed a lot of ‘stuff’ in my lifetime–emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. My journal and Bible helps me find clarity on more subjects than my pastor, counselor or friends.
This morning, this happened again as I sat down in my favorite place with some of my favorite things near by: my tall cup of Java, my journal, my fine-point blue pen and my Bible. I ruffled through the pages of my new, floral-patterned volume, bought just for this purpose. I read the title page again–and the inscription I wrote just a few days ago: “This is my ‘Caring for the Heart’ Journal–a record of my personal journal of healing.”
This week I decided to walk backwards through my life, and to jot down a verbal timeline of some of the painful, (and not so painful) events of my life along a certain theme; noting the ones that have been defining points, cross-roads, and even pits that I fell into along my life journey.
So I went to yesterday’s long entry and read it. Why that one? Because, yesterday, God’s gift to me through my writing was this: at the close of my devotion, I prayed and asked the Lord to give me a mental picture of a safe place where I could go when I am hurting, feeling lonely, abandoned, rejected, or insignificant; a place that I could remember always–and know He was there too. I have NEVER prayed like that before. That prayer led me into a 30 minute journey of remembering–and writing fast.
First–I want to share my prayer just as it is written in my journal.
“Dear Jesus, You know the deep and hidden things of the human heart–you know my heart–my life–every day of it from the beginning, right up to today. You know the things that have damaged my heart, as well as those things that have strengthened it–making me the person I am today. Show me Lord, how my heart has been damaged, and show me how you have been with me–all along this long, life journey I am on. And show me how you kept your promise ‘never to leave me nor to forsake me’.“(Hebrews 13:5b)
My bible texts that I had been reading just prior to this journal entry came from Isaiah 41:9-10, Psalm 23, and Psalm 139– particularly vs.17.
The gift was–going back momentarily, emotionally to a time when I was very young—and seeing something I had never seen before. I went back to the time I lost my mother to cancer–I was just eleven years old.
After her death, my step-father left us children (six of us!) in the care of my mother’s sisters and brothers. I never saw him again. I was raised from the age of 11 to 18 by my aunt and uncle.
Through the years, I never properly grieved the absence of an earthly father, nor the loss of my mother through death. From a large family, I was one of six. Though gracious to care for us children, none of the relatives helped me to know how to grieve all these changes or how to make sense of my emotions. I grew to know rejection, abandonment, fear, loneliness and isolation–without ever putting names to these feelings. In the home of relatives, I never felt 100% accepted, or approved of. However, God has through the years mended much of my heart and for that I am forever grateful.
Yesterday, as I prayed–these words came unprompted: ‘Jesus would you show me a ‘safe place’ where I can run when I need comfort and love when I am hurting–where I know that I am loved and safe?’ And He did!
He showed me a picture of a father with a child sitting in his lap. At first I was baffled. I had never pictured doing that, ‘sitting on a father’s lap–my step father was NOT that kind–nor could I recall any childhood memories of doing that.
But as I waited, I realized that God was hearing my prayer–and this was my picture–for me–of a ‘safe place.’ I pondered this thought then I sketched a rough drawing of what came to mind, in my journal. When I finished, I found my self weeping. That father had a crown on his head, and the child also had a crown. The realization hit me with force! That was me in his lap–so close–so loved. A wave of love and being loved washed over me. Alone, I wept freely. It felt so good. Calm filled my heart and mind. I wanted to bask in that feeling–but as life is, my time ran out and I needed to do other things.
This morning, as I looked at that journal entry, it all felt so fresh again! That’s why I wanted to share it with you, my readers. The gift from God is the following.
” I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
I was reminded today of how precious to God we all are; of His deep and everlasting love for each of His children– not just me! You! You! And You! And I was reminded that nothing can separate any of us from His loving Presence! I can go to that ‘safe place’ any time I want. (For reassurance of this truth, read for yourself, Romans 8:31–39; Hebrews 4:16)
Here is the image I scribbled in my journal yesterday-–(okay–I colored it with my pencils too! The artist in me rises up with small challenges like this! One day, I think I’ll make this into a bigger picture and pass it on to my grandchildren.)
Because I cannot remember a real, earthly father who loved me, cared for me, or tenderly listened to just me— this image warms my heart–and I feel like I am no longer grieving the loss of that earthly father I never knew. This is much better! This Father will never leave me, nor forsake me, and He will be with me forever more. What a sweet truth to carry in my heart all day– every day! (Smile)
What is your mental picture of God, or Jesus? Do you have one?
I am praying for each and every one who reads this blog--that God will draw you to a quiet place where you can pray that same prayer I prayed, and that God will show you just how much he loves you NOW–and back when it felt like He wasn’t even there. If you have trouble with picturing Jesus as a “father”–as I did–there is a beautiful video by Rob Bell, which focuses on a father loving his son during a traumatic time, compared to God’s love for us. Maybe it will be helpful to you. See it on YouTube: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koutUz0Im48)