Cancer, humiliations, and proximity.

**Trigger warning: cancer, sexual abuse, expletive**

A beloved family member, our “rock”, has stage 4 cancer. It sucks. I hate cancer. I have a dear friend who recently challenged me through tears to “not allow yourself to go numb” in the process. She also journeyed through cancer with a loved one, and did go numb. She shared that it was a mistake. I realized as she shared that I was so angry about the cancer that I had started giving God the silent treatment. I would sing to Him, I would pray to Him, but I wouldn’t look at Him and fix my gaze in honest intimacy and worship anymore. I couldn’t, and I didn’t know how to step closer to Him. So, I muttered, “I am giving yup the silent treatment, and I don’t know how to stop. I am pissed off that you let cancer into our lives again.”

This morning, He kept reminding me of something that transpired recently. We moved to the Eastern part of the US, and it was a very spiritually dark transition. I went to a job interview one evening, and as the two people came in to interview me, they sat perpendicular to me in folding chairs, blocking the only exit out of the room. I was initially surprised at the forceful rage it produced in me. I rejected their insulting offer, and left politely, controlled, yet very firmly. That night, the flashbacks began. I thought I had grieved all of the humiliations from my first marriage already.

I was wrong.

For 13 years, the final memory of his horror was buried deep. Now, the memory of a drugged drink at a party, the three males; two sitting in chairs to “watch” from the Living Room doorway… the humiliation of that night, all came back to me. I remember sobbing the next day with James as I shared everything. We pulled over, exited the car, and I sobbed like a baby under a tree. My questions were running rampant. “God, what the #$@%? Why am I remembering this NOW? WHY?!”

I cried on and off that entire day, wracked with disbelief. I kept praying/yelling at God, asking Him what good could possibly come out of this memory now. That night, I had a dream where I was carrying my grief over the memory. In the dream, I was walking around on a winding path, sometimes overcome with my grief. I would sob, regain composure, and walk a little further until I was overcome again. Eventually, the path took me closer and closer to a hill. Our of the corner of my eye, I caught a graphic glimpse of a naked man. I shielded my eyes and turned away, continuing to walk and grieve. Again, in the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a graphically naked man. Again, I diverted my eyes and covered that side of my face. I walked on, and a third time, it happened again. I was embarrassed that I had to keep diverting my eyes, and realized that Father God was next to me, and had been walking next to me the whole time. I was even more embarrassed, and He asked me why. I explained, “Father, I am trying to simply grieve, and keep my eyes pure. Why are you allowing this graphically naked man to be here in my eye sight?”

He replied, “Child, no one realizes that my son was graphically humiliated and put on display. He was willing to be humiliated graphically so you would not grieve alone.”

Since admitting that I have been giving God the silent treatment, I have been getting these memories of that dream, and me diverting my eyes. I keep feeling the near-ness of YHWH as I walked the pathway of grief in my dream.

Whether or not I am able to talk to Him, there is no denying that He literally endured Hell so He could have proximity to me in my grief and humiliations.

I am learning that proximity doesn’t depend on vocalizations; it just requires a willingness on my part to allow Him to be near me. Some of the sweetest moments I have ever experienced are the ones with loved ones when we have simply stood or sat silently in proximity to one another. This is the season where I treasure the proximity of my grief companion more than ever… without needing to say a word, or when I do.

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A plea

Beloved ones, I have a dear friend who is kind, gracious, and generous. She gave me her only bracelet so I would remember to pray for her and her people. They are enduring torture and murder based on their beliefs. She is waking up daily to more news of her friends and family members being killed. Please take a moment to speak up on the behalf of those in Nigeria. Stand in the gap for the voiceless. No matter what or who you believe in, we CAN all agree that tyranny and murder NEVER end well.

Read it, and BE THE CHANGE.
https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/09/nigeria-pastor-and-three-sons-burned-alive-among-at-least-20-killed-in-latest-plateau-massacre/

If your name starts with an “A” and you’ve had an abortion…

Trigger warning: abortion, photos of a former abortion procedure room, adult content follows.  For Post-Abortion Counseling, click here 

Dear “A”,

You only met me once.  My family member was dating you, and I was overjoyed for his happiness.  I celebrated mightily when I heard that you were engaged to my dear loved one. It took almost a year for me to find out the whole story.  I still remember every detail of that conversation; sitting on the carpet in my living room while my toddler napped next to me as my pregnant belly was filled with the kicks and antics of my active baby and I spoke quietly with a family member who told me the entire story.

I sobbed carefully, so as not to wake my toddler.  I could not understand you, “A”!  Why would you choose my dear family member out of all the men in the world to do that to?  All of his life, he wanted to simply be a dad.  Somehow, you chose him to prove a point to your father.  You got pregnant, thinking that somehow, your dad would have to approve of my dear one.  Then, you panicked and had an abortion, without even telling my dear one that you were pregnant.  After you told him everything, his grief overwhelmed him and became his god, leading to a tragic, early death.

I honestly dabbled with hating you for years. I blamed you, “A”, for stealing my dear one’s hope, life, and joy.  But GOD had other ideas. He has had me on a journey of forgiveness for the last four years.  I say “journey” because forgiveness is not just a bumper sticker emotion that can be slapped over some rust; it’s a sacrifice of choosing to love where you hurt. Some days, it’s as intentional as taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly as I pray, “God, forgive through me today! I want to rip this person’s face off for all the hurt that they have caused, BUT GOD, please give me your eyes and your heart for this person!”

The incredible thing is that when I give him the shattered pieces of my jagged heart, and I ask for His eyes, He shows me how I have also hurt others…intentionally and unintentionally. Nevertheless; I have caused hurt in others, making me no different than you, “A”.  My hating you is no different than anything else that you have done. I have had to forgive myself.

I had to forgive myself for not getting your number at that first brief meeting, for not staying in better contact with my dear family member, for not being a better friend.  I had to forgive my dear one for getting stuck in the moment of his grief, for not choosing to live his life, in pain and agony of soul, but still live beyond that moment. As you may already guess, I also forgive you.  Please forgive me for my lack of compassion and loving kindness.  Forgive me for judging you, for my wrath, and for failing to see how desperately lonely you were.

This weekend, I was privileged to participate in a worship service at the Life International Prayer Chapel. I walked into the building, and saw this:

“A”, it took me a while to finally go into the room. It’s left as a memorial to the preborn, including your son, that none of us were able to meet. “A”, the figurine is entitled “HOPE”, and it shows a depiction of Jesus meeting with a woman who also chose to end the life of her preborn child. I pray that you find hope, “A”!  I pray that you are overwhelmed with His love! I pray that you will allow yourself the opportunity to talk about your choice and allow yourself the room and space to heal, if needed. This beautiful prayer chapel also has a Children’s Memorial Garden in honor of the preborn children who aren’t here with us today. I hope and pray that someday, that garden brings healing however you may need it.

I pray that you feel no judgment in this letter, but only my deep level of regret for failing to see your hurt. I forgive you, “A”, and hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.  I have no idea where life has brought you, but I hope that you are well, fulfilled, and healing.

With a heart desiring the best for you,

Gracie K.

A Swollen Heart

Like an animal hide that is stretched and pulled in the heat as it is secured to a tent peg; my heart is swollen. My heart doesn’t swell in pain, necessarily, but with the juxtaposition of an “easy burden”, or a “liberating mantle”.  My heart is swollen with the truths that I have learned and discovered this past year. If I had one, just one thing that I could miraculously communicate to all of the people on Earth at one time; it would be this:

YOU ARE LOVED, SO DEEPLY LOVED!

I would travel village to village in remote places; setting aside my Instagram and Facebook account, and my photo-ops; and simply wash dirty feet.  I would hug lepers, and rescue children caught in sex trafficking. I would punch their traffickers in the face, and remind them that their actions are deplorable.  I would reaffirm the value and worth of the innocent and shame-filled, restoring their decency.  I would call out the crooked money makers; seizing their ill-gotten gain; and restore justice to the widows, poor, and the orphans.  I would take down the drug lords who seize food and commodities that the poor are dying for.  I would stop the murder of the innocent; whether their blood screams from a foreign land, an inner-city ghetto, or a clinic. I would cry daily as I was reminded of how deeply I am loved; faults, shortfalls, insecurities and all. I would advocate for justice while fully understanding that we are to live out the following: 

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I would listen.  My silence would communicate love. My tears would speak empathy. My heart would be moved with compassion. My advocacy would be tireless and courageous. I would face corruption with a relentless determination to restore justice. I would bless my enemies, and pray for revival in those who persecute me and my loved ones. I would walk where I was directed to walk, fixing the eyes of my soul on the author and perfecter of my faith.  I would bask in HIS love for me, and stand my feet so securely in HIS love, that no matter what, my heart would be tethered and fettered to HIS character.

My identity would be found in His character. Everything else in this life would be viewed as “petty” and “trivial” in comparison to being lost in the love that He has for me, and living out that love so that others may see it tangibly!

My heart is full, so full; of the goodness of the LORD. His love NEVER quits!

Thank God! He deserves your thanks. His love never quits.

This last year, we have lived through homelessness, being entrusted with a beautiful rental, more car repairs than we can count, four hospitalizations, three road trips of faith, being given money THREE DIFFERENT TIMES BEFORE WE EVEN ASKED FOR IT, the privilege of meeting and encouraging members of a persecuted church (here in America!), the honor of worshiping together with tens of thousands of people who simply wanted to celebrate the worth of Jesus (Yeshua), seeing miraculous healing in many different people, being surprised by food and grocery deliveries, being brought through horrifying situations only to discover that God’s love never quits, and in all things; seeing the tender goodness of our loving and kind Abba God.

As we look to 2018, may we ALL, no matter our religion, skin color, culture, persuasion, age, class, spirituality, gender, ethnicity, upbringing, beliefs, or dogma; be blessed on this earth with a fresh revelation of the great love that YHWH has for us. May HIS love open our eyes, restore our faith, and redirect our gazes where they belong…on HIM. May His love overwhelm us and flow through us EVERYWHERE He takes us. May our pierced hearts be captured and mended by HIS love. May HIS peace push out the chaos of this life, and may we be vessels of justice, kindness, and humble mercy as we are forever taken hold of by His love.  May His love change us, renew us, and restore us. AMEN.A Swollen Heart

Determination

I want to be like this photograph! I don’t care if I am surrounded by tumultuous waves that crash and surge; I want to grow and persist! Even if I feel isolated in moments, I will remember that I am not alone! I will overcome the obstacles that I find myself surrounded by, and I will (by God’s grace) become a beautiful, vibrant testimony to the fact that even a seed dropped into a rocky crag, surrounded by surging water can go on to bloom…even if the waters eventually become this:

DSCN0023

Niagara Falls (c)Gracie K Harold 2017

Raw Thoughts

My heart feels sunburned today, as if it’s peeling and a bit dry. For 8 years, I have advocated for my daughter in her health struggles. I was largely dismissed, and diagnostic tests were not done despite multiple annual requests. We switched health care physician’s groups, and within months a scope was done. The scope confirms our hunches; that parts of her body are not communicating properly with each other. 

My emotions slosh back and forth like waves in a bathtub. I am angry, indignant, rage-filled, and overwhelmed with grief at the years she has lost. I am so angry about the injustice of our needing to be compliant with the health care protocols, so I dutifully took her to counseling to address the psychological aspect of her healing; while the physicians blindly prescribed the same medicine every visit; the medicine that probably contributed to this health issue! They failed to see her as a patient with emergent symptoms and instead blindly did what they always do, prescribe the medicine; get the kickbacks, keep her diagnostic costs down…while her health has faded. 

The worst part is the utter feeling of betrayal, knowing that I have spent countless hours and gas money to initiate change within the same health care provider; volunteering my time to ensure a smoother process for the next patients to enter the system behind me. 

As I held her yesterday and she sobbed, I thought back on the countless messes I have cleaned up for her; of the years of agonizing tears and questions of why she has to be the one to wrestle with this. 

Bitterness and rage would be so easy to embrace…but Christ stands in the way. 

I see Him.

I see His scars, the ones meant for me. 

I hear His agony when He asked why God had forsaken Him…and realize that God forsook Him for me. 

I sinned, I hated, I raged, I manipulated, I coveted, I wanted what I wanted…with no thought at all about anyone but myself. 

My mistakes and deliberate choices to serve myself have all nailed Christ to the cross…before I even was alive; before I sinned. 

I have been loved so deeply, so undeserved; how could I not  love others with the same depth of grace that has been lavished on me? 

I forgive them…every single Dr., Nurse, and Physician Assistant, all the bureaucrats that passed regulatory guidelines pressuring the medical providers to care more about seeing cost reduction and less about seeing the symptoms of their patients. I forgive myself for feeling trapped and tired, and failing to fight harder. 

The presence of forgiveness and grace doesn’t mean lack of accountability, however. I am more determined than ever to make things right for my daughter, who has lost 8 years of her life to an embarassing medical condition. I am tenacious in my dedication to be vocal on behalf of the voiceless. I refuse to sit idly by and allow other children to suffer through thinking that their Dr. has the only say in their health. Second opinions are an important part of discovery, and diagnostic tools are valuable tools to be utilized for the benefit of the PATIENT, not to be avoided for the benefit of the bottom line! 

I will be present and vocal at meetings, I will ask the toughest of questions, and I will not be bought. I will represent the voices of the poorest, the ones who don’t even realize that advocacy is their right. I will respectfully debate and persuade and hold accountable those in leadership. I will embrace the forgiveness of the one who forgave me, while still lovingly revealing areas where change is needed. 

My daughter deserves a legacy. Hers will be one that delicately embraces the passion of admitting the wrongs that were committed while gracefully offering forgiveness. It will be the most demanding and beautifully painful dance of my life. As I embrace my Father God, I trust that He will tenderly lead my steps to the music He sings over us. 

He is big enough and omnipresent enough to dance with you through your journey as well. Pour out your heart to Him, yell if necessary. Be breathless as He tenderly and strongly leads you into wholeness. Do you hear the music? I do. His song is your invitation. 

May our hearts have courage, may we leave our fears behind, may we boldly join Him on the dancefloor of life, and may we forgive as we have been forgiven.

Tulips

#nofilter

Enjoy the beauty found here on the farm!

#PureMichigan

Mundane Vessel

 

Do you ever feel like you are caught up in a cycle of living life through mundane moments?  Do you wonder how other people manage to live their lives in an almost constant state of wonder and awe, with incredible depths of holiness?  Over the last months, we have settled into a sometimes predictable pattern of work, school, family time, spouse time, sleep, church on the weekends, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that “steady is sexy”, but I yearn in my heart for the depth of closeness that comes from truly abiding in the presence of my Maker.  He didn’t call me to be another average “susie-homemaker”; He called me to leave a legacy of faith, kindness, love, and selflessness.

As I have been preparing for the next season of life, learning and leadership; I have immersed myself in study and listening.  I have studied politics, historical figures, Biblical figures, the wisdom of leadership, the fashion of leaders, the food of fit people, the needs of those around me, the frustrations of those who feel un-heard, and the sermons of those much wiser and more eloquent than myself. I was voracious in my study, feeling soul-parched as I consumed wisdom to satisfy my “thirst”.

It has often felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. It’s worked, but it hasn’t resonated that I am fully living my life the way that I was designed to live it. I have often felt the pressure to act a certain way in a certain situation, to look a certain way at certain times; and I fully understand the importance of honoring others with a respectful appearance and decorum; but I am not like every other person in the world, North America, and especially within the West Michigan culture. I AM ME.

God has specifically allowed every single moment of my life to shape me for this moment, and the next. Who am I to limit Him by trying to be someone that He didn’t create me to be?  It’s a form of using His name in vain. Think about it.  He created a specific purpose for me, as I am; to fulfill. By me changing things to be “more acceptable” or more “palatable”, then I am really saying that I don’t trust him fully to use me as I am.

This morning, I just longed for a deep connection with my Maker.  I sat in my window seat with my Bible, and just absorbed the quiet; asking Him to silence my preconceived ideas, to silence the distractions of the enemy through Jesus Christ, and simply to speak.  I sat in silence, thinking about God’s kindness and goodness to me. I opened my Bible to Psalm 81.

There’s a part in it that mentions the “feast of the new moon”, and I wanted to know more about it so I searched the term, the history, and the origin.  I learned that it was designed to be a monthly re-focus and dedication for the Hebrew people. It was a time of renewal; but it was held as something deeper than that. It was believed that the Hebrew people were actually “making the new moon holy”. Below is an excerpt that explains it:

Do you want to understand this? Take a lesson from the serving vessels in the Holy Sanctuary. Moses sanctified the tabernacle. Who sanctified all the tabernacle’s vessels? You might think that Moses did. But actually, what happened was that a High Priest would bring a simple mundane cup or other vessel, and put something holy in it, and the cup would automatically be holy. It worked the same was as when Moses sprinkled sacrificial blood on the altar and it became holy; or when he poured a wine libation, or performed any aspect of the Holy Temple service with any mundane vessel, and it thereby became holy. -Midrash Shmos Rabbah 15:24 [emphasis mine]

 Leviticus 20:7-8 is below:

“Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy.

~~~~~~~~~

Do you see it, beloved?  Do you understand?

The Hebrew people were called away from their past traditions and routines, to intentionally and deliberately focus on the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night.  Their daily life consisted of traveling, following, walking, eating, setting up camp, and resting…with worship at the tabernacle on the Sabbath.

How mundane is that?

Yet, the act of faith in following is the process for God to fill our mundane lives with His  Holiness!

For example, if we consider ourselves to be the “mundane vessels”, then what or who is the “Holy” inside of us?

The Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit makes us holy!  As we turn our backs to past patterns and traditions, to the former ways of life; we face God the Father. As we seek to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; following Christ’s example, the Holy Spirit within us is the holiness!

Think of a plant! If you place it on a plate, without dirt, it will eventually die because it needs sustenance for its roots, light, and water. We are like the plant in our spiritual growth!  We need to be rooted in studying God’s word (Jesus) and in focusing on the light of God the Father’s love, dependent on the Holy Spirit inside of us! The plant can’t just be moved into a greenhouse or a garden and hope to grow; it also needs the life within for it to grow and flourish!

We, the mundane vessels, as we go about our days; are filled with holiness through the Holy Spirit. By Christ’s grace, we are holy just as our Father is Holy. So focus in amazement and awe of Him in His Holiness, goodness and love; as you celebrate the beauty of the one who chooses us as we are…mundane vessels, being filled with his Holiness!

mundane vessels

“Mundane Vessel” (c)Gracie K. Harold 2017