I was not an easy daughter to raise, strong willed and challenging authority early on. Constantly questioning why this, why that. Couldn’t sit still during story time and never…ever…was quiet. While other little girls were taking dance lessons and sleeping in pink canopy beds, I was skinning knees and breaking stuff.
But somehow, I could talk my dad out of (most) discipline with “I’m sorry, Daddy. You know I love you the most in the world.” His heart would break wide open every time.
As I grew up and began dating, Dad tried to be objective about the guys who came in and out of my life. Not that they were bad guys (well, most of them weren’t), but he always made me think.
“A guy who loves himself that much has no love left to give God or you.”
“You are in church more than him. Odds are that won’t change.”
“He’s a show off and trying to impress you. How does he treat you when he’s not buying you stuff?”
“If you settle for less in a husband, everything else in life will be less than it could have been.”
Nobody is perfect, I would argue, as that stubborn streak from childhood continued through the teenage years. There would be more than one fight and bad decision on my part. But, as much as I hated being wrong, Dad always ended up being right.
I dated more through college, then career. Grown up and matured in my thinking, I knew what I wanted out of life. All those years of listening to Dad finally made a difference. I was strong, resolved to trust God to bring the right man into my life.
And God did. I just didn’t think I would gain one and lose the other.
Cancer. The diagnosis came out of nowhere for my dad, and for months he fought hard. Aggressive chemo and radiation were done, so one weekend I took a break from trips back home to care for him.
And it was that weekend, I met this guy. Tall, good looking, and wearing the coolest running shoes ever. He smiled. We talked. He asked me out. And somehow I knew he just might be “the one”.
Four days later Dad got the news. The cancer had spread to the liver and was quickly invading his lymphatic system. Three weeks to live.
Before I left to be with my family, I went on the first date with this new guy. And ugly cried the whole time. Most young men couldn’t have handled that much emotion. But at the end of the evening, he hugged me. Said he really liked me. And said when the time was right in weeks to come, we could do this again. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Life was soon a blur. Hospitals. Sleepless nights. Caregiving. But Dad’s mind stayed sharp, allowing for one last gift of a conversation.
Just days before he died, I was sitting by his bedside. Holding his frail hand, I whispered, “Daddy, I’ve met someone. His name is Jim, and I think you would really like him.”
Dad looked up, tears in his tired, hollow eyes. He grinned and squeezed my hand.
“I know, Beth. I just know. It’s my last answered prayer on this earth. I have to go soon, but without ever meeting him, I know I am leaving you in good hands. God promised me that.”
And, so on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning, Dad’s eyes lit up as he lifted both arms toward heaven. One last deep breath and he was gone. And his little girl grieved hard. But in the months ahead, there was healing and hope and a future.
A future that guy in the cool running shoes walked into with me. Laughs some days. Tears on others. But that early grief strengthened, bonded us as a couple.
And through good and bad times, he’s now walked by my side for twenty-five years of marriage.
And I just know Dad and Jim would have been the best of friends.
(Rose in the wedding picture above was in memory of my dad)
Easter season holds special significance to me. Several life changing events have occurred over the years, which continue to draw my heart to God in the weeks prior to Resurrection Day. My focus this year has been the words Christ spoke in Luke 23:34, interceding on behalf of those who crucified Him. While this is not my story, it parallels a long struggle I have fought with rejection and forgiveness. God gave this to me for someone. As we approach Holy Week, I post with the hope these words minister to your soul. With love…Beth
The alarm sounded, breaking the silence of another restless night of sleep.
She pulled the blinds, greeted by dark skies and steady rain. Perfect, she thought. Gloomy weather to match my mood. A quick glance at the calendar reminded her it was Good Friday. A day she had once treasured. A quiet and reflective time, marked with humility and gratitude for the sacrifice made and sins pardoned.
But not this Easter season. Unforgiveness was her new comfort zone. Strangely, dark pain had become her preferred companion. At least she knew what to expect.
Living back in the light was a risk she was not willing to take.
Betrayal in any form hurts. But when it comes from the one who vowed to honor and protect and cherish you, well…that line between love and hate becomes a slim, frayed thread. Passion had turned to an icy numbing of her heart.
Her friends had plenty of advice, too.
“If I were you I would…”
“It’s not your fault and no one would blame you if you decided to…”
“The same thing happened to so-and-so and…”
“I know a good lawyer…”
First came the anger. Out-of-body rage, foreign to her normally even-tempered nature. Sharp words, designed to cut like a serrated edge dagger, hurled his way. But in time, the fury gave way to indifference. Not just toward him, but everything. Family. Job. Hobbies.
How did this happen to them, a faithful couple who wanted to follow Jesus? It wasn’t like he woke up one morning and decided to break his vows and shatter her heart. But one unguarded moment led to another and here they were. He begged for a second chance. God had broken him, he said. He loved her and promised to be the man of God she needed, wanted him to be. If she would just let him back in.
Everything in her wanted to run.
But there is no escaping the Holy Spirit and God’s relentless pursuit of her heart. He would whisper, gently reminding her of the vows she made, too. Ones not conditional on her husband’s behavior, but upon her obedience to Christ.
She couldn’t remember the last time she opened her Bible. But on that most sacred of mornings, she did. Tearfully, she turned to their wedding passage.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects.
(I Corinthians 13:4-7)
Words once lovely now so hard to live.
How, God? How can I even begin to want a heart to love like that again?
Even as she asked, she knew. Because love is the heart of this holy day. She needed to forgive. As Christ had done for her.
Christ, who knew that pain of betrayal and rejection and public humiliation. And He had a choice, too.
Choosing, in the moment of the greatest, most historic grief ever recorded, to ask the Heavenly Father to forgive the very ones who mocked and tortured and crucified Him.
In that moment, at the most excruciating point of agony, His voice touched heaven on their behalf. Praying that God would not see them as their actions, but through the action of His son.
The heartbroken, praying for the heartbreaker? Is that part of the way forward? The path to freeing an earthly heart chained by bitterness and anger?
Lord, forgiveness is gut-wrenching. So much work to fix something I didn’t break. I don’t know if I can do this.
Tears, flowing like the hard rain outside, poured down her cheeks. Would she continue to see him through her eyes, to focus on betrayal? Or would she hit her knees in surrender in order to view him through Christ’s lens of love and grace?
Perhaps you face a similar crossroads.
No life is untouched by the need to forgive. Pain may come from a one-time misunderstanding with a friend to years of piled up disappointment and hurt. Injustice may have left you with a fire for revenge. But unforgiveness does not give us control or power.
It imprisons. Isolates and entombs.
But today, you have a choice to move forward. As a follower of Christ, we can live in freedom through the power of the cross and His glorious resurrection. It’s ours to claim.
I wish I could give you a hug, assuring you everything would be as good as new. But life is complicated. Trust does not magically return, nor does hurt suddenly disappear. And sadly, broken relationships do not always resolve. The guarantee we do have in forgiving others is the beauty of a restored relationship with our Savior. The One Who has granted us forgiveness, not based on the outcome of our lives or a conditional contract He can break.
But because He literally moved heaven and earth that Good Friday to sacrifice what He loved most for us. All in the hope we would return to Him.
The forgiveness journey is step by step. But only in surrendering present pain do we have the promise of future hope.
And, as the rain clouds part, we can once again see peeks of the Son.
There are days of common faith. Of spelling tests and safe travels, of thanks for food and the graces of life.
There are days of uncertain faith. Of medical tests and job loss, of breakups and breakdowns.
And there are days of desperate faith. Of fading dreams and lost control. And of knowing death is a few heartbeats away.
As news broke of the twenty-one Coptic Christians in Libya who have been savagely killed by insatiable evil, I thought of the powerful message our pastor, Dr. Ted Traylor, preached on Sunday. He spoke of godly boldness and giving of one’s self in humble service for God and others. Just hours later, his words took new meaning in light of the images I was seeing across my Twitter feed.
There, knelt down along a remote beach, is a quiet line of brave believers. Praying their final offerings this side of heaven.
Those of whom this world was not worthy. Hebrews 11 before us in orange jumpsuits.
In the light of such godly confidence and courage, I realize how easily my words, promises to live boldly for Christ, can just come out (and really without much thought). But are they lived out in the days, weeks, months ahead? Where are these vows when the going is tough? When I want to back down to be liked or non-controversial? Or when my freedom, and perhaps life, is challenged?
Can I have the faith, like these modern day martyrs, of the saints who have gone before me?
Abel was righteous. Whose life speaks now after death.
Enoch was commended as one who pleased God.
Noah lived in holy fear through a faith that condemned the world.
Abraham obeyed. And went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Sarah trusted the promise of the Promiser.
Jacob worshipped as he was dying.
Moses chose mistreatment along with the people of God rather than pleasure. Considered disgrace for Christ a greater value than treasures of the world. A sojourner, looking ahead for his reward.
And others, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised. Who shut the mouths of lions. Quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword. Whose weakness was turned to strength. Who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”
I don’t know, honestly. Making a promise is just the beginning. But this world needs truth speakers, with words empowered not by opinion, but through the Holy Spirit. Who lead not based on political persuasion or the popular wind of culture, but on the eternal word of God.
I struggle, yet long to live close to the cross I am called to bear. And, in the end, I want to be remembered as Hebrews 11:16 says:
As one who lived so God is not ashamed to be called my God.
(For further study I encourage you to read Hebrews 11 in its entirety.)
Wow. This blog page sure is dusty.
It’s been over six months since I have even logged on to my website. Oh, I drafted several posts, only to delete them. And the few I saved are in a file to maybe finish later. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write. Trust me – I had plenty of material.
It’s just I couldn’t find the right words to describe where I have been in life. And it’s a tough process facing weakness. Ugh.
I was so excited when I started blogging. Writing has always been a passion, a form of worship, really. Connecting words to sentences to paragraphs to stories burns inside me. I imagine it’s much like the a singer whose voice calls others to praise, or a pianist through whose fingers the Holy Spirit flows. Or the teacher who opens her mouth and unexpected words which will touch hearts pour out. Those few, sweet moments when God speaks through me are treasured and beyond description.
For three years I openly shared what God has been doing in my life. My desire has been for writer and reader to encourage one another as we go through life’s ups and downs. But last year I came up against some big struggles. The details are not important, but I can assure you the evil one sucker punched me several times to the point of exhaustion and despair.
And the fear. Fueled by confusion, the final knock out punch left me crumpled on the ground. And not figuratively. Seriously. On. The. Ground.
All my words of encouragement dried up.
And I started questioning God.
Not in the “I’m-walking-away-from-You” kind of way. But in doubt. And in wishing the ways of God were not so. When a friend died and I was uncertain about her eternity, I grieved hard. Other trials soon followed. And when what I believed was put to the test, I wrestled like Jacob to accept what I could not understand. There is one God. I am not Him. His ways are beyond my comprehension. Strangely, this is where comfort and peace has been found. I can trust only in the God I cannot wrap my mind around.
But the funny thing about questioning the incomprehensible God? He slowly revealed answers to questions I had not asked. Unveiling Himself in portions small enough for me to take in, yet nourishing enough to feed my starving soul.
He’s taught me much on forgiveness and simplicity and judging and stillness. And surrender. Perhaps, as I return to writing, I will share those thoughts in days to come. But perhaps not. I do know, as I feel free to write again, some things will remain between God and me. Not every experience needs to be shared. Not every thought needs to be expressed. We’ll see where He leads.
Through these battles, I am coming to terms with the fragility of my faith. Accepting that on this earth I will always be more human than holy. The imperfect being made perfect by the Perfect One. Completely dependent upon Him who loves me, and loves you, bigger than the whole wide world. And in embracing weakness, I am stronger through His power.
Thank you, my friends, for coming back to Hearts Unfold with me. I step back in cautiously, not knowing what future posts will look like. I’ve changed. My perspective is different. But I do know I am filled with hope. With a longing for a fuller, deeper relationship with Christ. And ready to plunge into scripture to discover transformational truths.
Let’s move forward together. Engage in discussion. And trust in what God chooses to reveal. And what He does not.
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It’s been a quiet spring on Hearts Unfold. I haven’t blogged much because unexpected life events took priority. It’s been a time of stretched faith and asking the Lord to search me…really search deeply…to grow me beyond my comfort. And He has. And still is. But it’s good because in frailty and weakness and sin revealed, I have come to depend on God more than ever.
Last Sunday, in our young marrieds connection group, we studied an Old Testament passage which foreshadowed the unmerited favor God promised through Jesus. Although I was familiar with the story, I was struck how grace extended has the power to change lives.
Today I want to share what God is teaching me from 2 Samuel 9 (You can read the passage here).
It’s a short chapter in King David’s life. Tucked between passages of his great fame for defeating 18,000 Edomites and his infamous sin with Bathsheba lies a touching story of unexpected grace.
Mephibosheth’s life was not easy. Orphaned when his father Jonathan and grandfather Saul were killed in battle. Crippled when his nurse dropped him while hurrying to save his life (2 Samuel 4:4). Dependent upon others to carry him everywhere. And, because it was customary for the new king to kill all relatives of the former ruler, what remained of Mephibosheth’s family hid in exile in a barren region. He grew up scared and defenseless, no doubt wondering if each day would be his last.
And years later, the day he feared came. Mephibosheth was found and summoned to the palace to meet powerful King David. He had every reason to believe his life was over.
But he didn’t know David was unlike other kings. And didn’t know of the promise David had made long ago to “not cut off kindness to the house of Jonathan forever” (1 Samuel 20:15). And didn’t know that, at his darkest, more fearful moment, Mephibosheth was about to receive a gift beyond what he could imagine.
The king had sought him out, but not to punish and destroy. It was time to fulfill the vow he made to this young, wounded man’s father. When Mephibosheth fell on his face and bowed before him, the king offered kindness and grace. And the assurance a restored life was right in front of him (v 7).
There were no conditions upon this grace. No “if you do this, then I will do that” kind of discussion. No stipulations. Acceptance and freedom came with this amazing no-strings-attached promise.
And, had David just spared Mephibosheth’s life, that would have been more than enough. Sadly, this crippled man saw himself as a dead dog (v 8), worthless and insignificant and underserving of anything David could give him.
The king didn’t stop with just saving his life. He gave him a new life.
Instead of living in poverty and shame, he would live in the palace.
Instead of living in constant fear, he would always be protected.
Instead of being shunned, he was welcomed to the king’s table, just like David’s sons. Mephibosheth was now an adopted child of the king.
But I wondered why, at the end of the story, we are reminded again that Mephibosheth “was lame in both feet” (v 13)?
For me, it takes this amazing kindness one step further. The king showed Mephibosheth unimaginable grace without regard to what he could gain or what benefit he would be to him. He purposely sought after this broken man just as he was. Searched and brought him out of hiding, defeated and scared and vulnerable, to a place of safety and hope.
As our King wants to do for us.
Because we are all crippled by something. Life circumstances. Physical pain. Rejection. Addiction. Anxiety. We may carry those things with us throughout this life, but they also are the very things God wants to pour his sustaining, chasing grace over.
He is coming after your heart.
And once that amazing grace catches you, life is never the same.