Soul Care

Soul Care: Knowing Who You Are It is well with my soul care[Part I]
I’ve been a victim of identity theft several times in my life. Each time varied from petty theft of stolen checks and debit card information to a former tenant taking my name for her financial gain. At the time these incidents were stressful but in the bigger scheme they were nuisances—we lost some money and spent time in court. But the real identity theft occurred by abusers who stole my innocence, messed with my mind, beat me and raped my soul. I will spare the details but I became a repeat victim unable to stand up for myself.
Soul Care is vital for us to live a good life. There are tough dark times when we seem to barely survive. Then the good times come and we thrive. But there are so many ups and downs with variations of good and bad in our relationships. It hurts to love and it hurts not to love. We are created to love and be loved…but sometimes it is hard to trust.
1. Soul Care begins with knowing you are loved.
God pursues us…this is the good news. We love because He first loved us. I had a very hard time believing this…in my victim mind I couldn’t reconcile a loving God with abusive relationships. I couldn’t trust anymore yet I was still willing to risk loving. Thankfully God didn’t stop pursuing me and I was finally able to embrace His love.
Soul care is really listening to God as He repeatedly tells us to love ourselves. * Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments. He also said the greatest commandment is to love God and then to love others as you love yourselves—with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
Clearly the essence of God’s character is love. Obedience is the best response to God‘s love. Let’s agree it is good for your soul to love. It is totally great to be loved.
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s far reaching love for us. God is active in His pursuit. He will never let go, never leave you nor forsake you. He will heal our broken hearts and crushed spirits.
One of the worst consequences of being abused was the deep inner soul damage. I could heal physically. I sought help but the scars remain. I failed miserably at caring for myself. I had no boundaries. I became highly sensitive and didn’t stand up for myself. To avoid conflict I became a people pleaser and strived to keep peace at any cost.
I determined there are people you can never trust. First I found real love, inner peace and joy in Jesus. I know I can trust my soul with God. God pursued me and restored my ability to trust and love. I learned through trials, suffering and grief but my love is fuller and richer.
When I opened myself to really receive God I got to know Him. We share a deep abiding relationship. God’s Word teaches me how to love.
I now know that soul care is not … selfish; it is not about being self-absorbed or self-indulgent.
Soul care is compassionate intelligence. When we care for ourselves we make better choices for healthy living and wellness. When you truly love and nurture yourself you can be your best.
2. Soul Care is cherishing who you are— You are His special treasure.
 We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and formed by God’s hands and breath (Genesis 2:7),
 We are accepted and loved. We are redeemed by His one and only Son (Matthew 26:28)
We are adopted into His family…precious daughters of the KING.
 We are secure in His love and our relationship with Jesus Christ.
 We can trust that God will work all things for our good. (Romans 8:28)
 We are free from condemnation. (Romans 8:31-39)
 We are God’s Masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

3. Soul Care is about fully recognizing our value and His special calling.
Think with me of all that God has done to bring you to this very moment in your life. God, in eternity past, chose you…He loves you!
The Bible says that long ago, before the very foundation of the world, God thought you up and chose you for his very own (Eph 1:4).
Long ago, before you were even born, God formed and numbered the days of your life (Ps 139:16).
Long ago God planned the path for your very own personal journey in life (Heb 12:1).
Long ago God decided and prepared good works that you would walk in (Eph 2:10).
 You are chosen and very significant in God’s creation. (John 15)
 You are God’s workmanship—His masterpiece created for good works. (Ephesians 3:12)
 You can be confident that God will complete the good work He started in you. (Philippians 1:6)
 You are complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)
He brought you forth into His world and set you on this life journey toward heaven.
Stay focused on the big picture of God’s eternal purposes.
Your calling as a woman–deeply involved in ministry
is a vital part of God’s eternal plan.

I am thankful God pursued me and drew me close to His heart. I am grateful God healed my wounded heart. God gave me a new identity. I am free to love and it is worth any risks. Only God’s love can complete us. Only God’s grace can change us.
May you experience the depth of His love
& truly love yourself as God loves you!
***
“And you shall LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
With all your HEART,
And with all your SOUL,
And with all your MIND,
And with all your STRENGTH.’

The second is this, ‘You shall LOVE your neighbor as you LOVE yourself.”

There is no other commandment greater than these.“

Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:28 & John 13-14-15; 1 John
Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:2; Joshua 22:5

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Seasons of Overcoming: Purification of Grief?

Jesus_117It’s February, a time of transition rich with ancient symbolism, refining elements of nature and seasonal celebrations. There are many good reasons to celebrate love, new life, historical traditions and international tributes. Currently some are happy about the Super Bowl outcome while others cheer on the Winter Olympic winners! The word February comes from Latin origins meaning to “purify” or “expiate”. The ancient Romans recognized it as a season of purification—where festivities were held to reestablish a renewed focus on righteous living. Winter rains, snow and ice provide a cleansing with anticipation for renewal as we wait with hope for spring.

This is my February story about how the purifying fire of grief changed my family and my life.

It was not an ordinary February day—no not in any way. After a restless night of fitful sleep combined with prayers and tears I was drained. Thankfully I had previously arranged to redeem a massage (an unusual but very special Valentine’s gift from my husband). On my way home, I stopped and purchased some pretty primroses and planted them in spite of the frigid weather. I’ve always found gardening to ease my soul. I warmed up in front of the television, when a special news alert came on announcing that two bodies were found nearby with no further details available. Anxiously I searched the internet for further information and then waited for the evening news.

Alone in the darkness I heard a loud knock at my front door. Who could it be? I wasn’t expecting anyone and already knew my husband planned to work late. When I opened the door and they asked if I was Carol Smith my heart broke with anxious thoughts of why they were at my home. “Did I know Stephen Smith?” the detective asked. “Yes, I am his Mother” and then I immediately asked “Is he okay?” Immediately I broke down in tears because my worst fears were about to unravel as they asked to come in and talk with me. “No! No!” I cried, “Please tell me it isn’t true.” I knew it was true as I was silenced in shock. They were compassionate and patient. I gasped for God. This was absolutely the worst tragedy…

February 21st, the day life stopped. My beloved son Stephen was found dead a short distance from our home. The last time I saw him, he made me breakfast and his last words were: “I love you Mom.” He seemed upbeat as he left that morning but he did not come home. The next time I saw him he was cold and absent from his body. His cause of death: heroin overdose. Stephen suffered from a broken soul: anxious, deeply depressed from so many injuries and personal losses. He became addicted to anything that would ease his pain. I’ll never forget picking him up in a small but heavy box…placing his ashes in the back seat for the drive home from the mortuary.

So many threats and unknown attempts finally culminated in his death—ruled accidental but was it his final suicidal fulfillment of his desire to escape this troubled world? Shame, guilt, fear and worry can overcome the best of us. Judge not for you know not the full story—especially if you have never experienced mental illness, brain injury, serious diagnosis and addiction in your own family. We tried everything to get him help: unceasing prayer, faith and hope that he would be healed. We were diligent with interventions, trips to the emergency rooms, psychiatry, prescriptions, temporary detoxifications, rehabilitation all ineffective fixes. We felt helpless as all our son’s attempts to get help failed. We observed his desperate cries of self-condemnation; we witnessed his tormented anger at God. We endured many relentless days and nights of fear. We leaned onto our faith in a loving merciful God. We sought help for ourselves through our church, Al-Anon and professional counseling. We tried detachment with love. Nothing we could do would fill the emptiness of his soul. He knew we loved him but it was not enough. Only God could save him.

Addiction is a chronic and deadly disease that affects everyone in the family. It’s been a generational curse in my heritage. Everyone in its path is l victimized by the crisis and consequences of it’s destruction.  We felt helpless but we refused to give up hope. Stephen felt he was permanently damaged unable to climb out of the depression. He expressed over and over how he hated being an addict. He could not control the unceasing drive to ease his chronic pain brought on by brain damage, multiple injuries and worse yet the withdrawals. Stephen warned us he was giving up just two more days before he was scheduled for another rehab.

Stephen will always be a part of us. He is constantly in my thoughts. I get flashes of him as I see young skateboarders or bicyclists along the road. Relief comes just as quickly as grief grips. Memories can be painfully haunting or sweet and sober. I cry and immediately pray “help me Jesus” over and over. God gives comfort and renewed strength. Thankfully my husband and I have drawn even closer through our faith and love. We share a mutual compassionate understanding as we mourn the excruciating loss of our “one flesh.”

What anguish to lose anyone you love; we are not designed for death or separation. No matter how it happens, you can never prepare for grief—especially when devastating losses keep coming. What could be worse than sudden death of my husband’s baby sister Christina or the mysterious disappearance of my youngest sister Michele—never to be found?

Over the years, many of our closest relatives passed away in winter. But in February—the designated month of purification I lost my Mother and many years later my Father and now my youngest son. We are weary from the seemingly endless adversities but I vow not to give in. Nothing can separate us from God and His love.

What do you do to get through grief? Grief penetrates very deeply. My husband and I grieve very differently. Ron became more active in his volunteering; I withdrew and needed time to process with God alone. I needed to pray, read, research and write. As a couple we listened intently, cried and comforted one another with patience. We received loving support. We found solace in solitude. There were moments when I wanted to end the suffering, go to sleep and join my loved one in peace. But for us it was important to give in any way we could for in serving we experienced healing relief.

Each day, I am challenged to choose between gratitude or grievance? Will I focus on my pain and suffering or will I trust and seek God for overcoming in Christ?

Letting go of suffering is a continual surrender especially when there is a very painful ending. Grief is awfully deep as it fiercely strips every layer of your sanity and sensibility. Too many “if only;” “could of;” or “should have’s”—or even worse the regrets of Why’s with no answers!

One year later, I survive but not without struggle but I will keep holding on. Grief is not necessarily something you overcome…there is no closure until Jesus comes and brings an end to all death. Revelation 21-22

There is healing as we trust in God’s promises especially Romans 8:31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And they overcame…because of the blood of the Lamb

and because of the word of their testimony,

and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” 

Revelation 12:11 NASB

Focus: Trust

     My Reckless Abandonment – Part I

“What she trusts in is fragile, what she relies on is a spider’s web.
She leans on his web, but it gives away, she clings to it, but it does not hold.”

This verse aptly describes my formative years as the continuous strands of abuse, betrayal and abandonment formed my web of destruction. A spiral of sticky naïve ignorance kept me from making good choices and blinded me of my true worth. The venom caused painful symptoms in my mind and body; but fortunately it was not so dangerous to take my life. Although my past web has been abandoned the cobweb scars linger…so I learned to trust and found healing in a loving God.

My first twelve years I did what I was told; the next twelve years I did life my way! I was rebellious against every person who broke my trust especially my abusive addictive parents. My father was a raging alcoholic and my mother’s drug of choice were “Black Beauties” (the Rx for weight loss). I hated the agony and abuse they inflicted upon themselves and their six children. Since they abandoned me, I chose to leave the chaos and foolishly continued the destructive ways enlarging my own web of destruction.
I began a pattern of relocating and seeking love in all the wrong places. I preferred older men of influence: someone who would provide a way of escape. I settled for the “bad boys” choosing drug dealers who numbed my pain; then I switched to incredibly wealthy selfish men in Palm Beach. Next I sought the educated and dated successful business men, my community college professor, my Real Estate Instructor and Amway leaders. I eventually turned away my doctor, Willie Nelson’s drummer and even Jimmy Buffet. The reality was none of them proved to be trustworthy of my love.
My choices minimized my value and filled me with shame, guilt and sorrow. I added more addictive traits to my web portfolio. I knew it was time for another escape and relocation. I became a seeker replacing my self-destructive choices for a new spiritual journey. First I experimented with new age, meditation, yoga, Hinduism and Scientology. I was open to invitations so I attended Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist churches.
God seemed so distant, so far away and mysterious. I could not comprehend a loving Father nor could I understand His ways. To begin life, unwanted and abandoned is incomprehensible. To experience repeated abuse, abandonment and rejection over and over again creates deep wounds. I did not want to live my life as a victim. At 23, I was exhausted, wounded and ready to give up. I didn’t trust anyone especially myself and definitely not God. It was difficult to be unable to trust, so isolating without someone to love and so awful not to be loved.

I finally found hope in Jesus Christ. I fell deeply in love with God and found my first really satisfying relationship. I began a new journey of intentional abandonment to a loving Sovereign Lord. I learned how to experience absolute trust even in suffering, in spite of circumstances, even in the face of death, beyond my fears for genuine unfailing love.

A prayer of abandonment and trust in God:

“Dear Father-God, Open my heart that I may receive your love. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may abandon my selfish and destructive ways. Forgive me and help me to graciously forgive. Lord, create in me a new heart, renew my mind and restore my soul. Guide me in your everlasting truth, grant me wisdom, and set me free in your grace. I believe and trust in You. I love You with all my heart, mind and soul. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

My next post will be how I learned to trust again and how to practice complete abandonment  to God and His divine providence.

A few of my favorite TRUST Scriptures:

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:4

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” Psalm 37:3

[1] Job 8:14-15 The first quote was actually a false accusation from one of Job’s friends Bildad, whose name means ‘son of contention.”

Ways to Experience God

Overflowing Grace

Open your heart and let His abundant grace overflow into your soul.  There is nothing like a connection with God in nature. Breathe in His presence and enjoy! Look up and experience His creative power…abundantly overflowing for us. Some times we have to get away and be in awe of His creative beauty. It is both peaceful and powerful to embrace Him. God gives us so many good gifts, Lord help us to receive.

These are a series of waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge along Historic Highway 30 in Oregon. Can you name the different waterfalls? Could it be Bridal Veil Falls or Horsetail Falls?

It took us thirty years to return to the Multanomah Falls bridge, where my husband proposed during the summer of 1980. Ah, so much life in between. We met in Tennessee and after over 25 moves we made it back to Oregon. It was good to go back to celebrate our special memory of our commitment to love.  Our love endures because we continually seek God’s love, grace, forgiveness, patience and presence. We spend more time apart in the daily survival of work but we cherish the moments of quality. We nurture our time together as we find pleasure in nature: walking in the woods, along the ocean shore or high in the mountains. Love is being together.

God calls us to come away and be with Him, wherever we are, just as we are. Yes, I want to choose moments with God in nature in some way every day.  Most of the time we spend quality time within my home. It doesn’t really matter where. He wants us to experience spiritual wellbeing by being with Him in a relationship—the joy of sharing in His presence.

Breathe in the fresh mist and pure air of His Spirit. It is His desire to be with you…rest in His presence and experience God throughout your day. Receive His blessings of peace, joy and love right now.

Pause for a moment, just be still and soak in His love:

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in  him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Reflection: God reveals Himself in many ways; have you seen His works in your life and around you?  Write how has God blessed you today…

Prayer: Seek God, He is waiting. Speak to God, He hears. Prayer is “talking to a friend” in conversation. Lord I want to connect; I want more than talk, I want to hear you and receive you in my whole being.

Feel free to share your prayer requests on our prayer link.