Beautiful Strength

If you think that your past disqualifies you from the present,

YOU ARE MISTAKEN!

You are NOT defined by your past!

Just because there was pain, that does not mean that there won’t be beauty!

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14

DSCN4530

Beautiful Strength (c)Gracie K. Harold 2017

This cactus blossom reminds me that any beauty in this world is a reminder that

God is love.

He could have left us in our sinful, painful choices; but instead, he enters our pain

and provides comfort, love and redemption.

Today, may you see past the pain; and may your eyes be open to see the beauty that He has for you!

Beloved, you are loved so much more than you comprehend!

Rest in His love today, receive the beauty!

Love, Gracie K.

Love Reflections

How much do I cherish and seek after love? What am I willing to lay aside in order to receive love more fully? (What would possess a person to wear shoulder cut outs in a snow storm? Am I proud of how quickly I am distracted from focusing on Love? Nope…I am shameless; and in that lies my redemption.)

I am unflinching in my confession that I have no hope of ever being kind, unselfish, or loving on my own. Instead, I admit that there is not a shred of anything good in me, except by the Love of God.

Yesterday, I was very upset with my dear husband. I felt that I deserved an apology, I felt that it was delaying beyond what I wanted; so I prayed out my feelings (and my opinion) to God. I told Him that I wanted an apology. I prayed that God would “move his heart to see his error”. (This sounds absolutely awful as I type out the reality of yesterday, but, it’s what I did.)

Anyhow, as I am praying for my husband to be convicted in his spirit for offending me, I felt like I was being asked a personal question.

“Gracie, did you apologize before I died for you?”

Gulp.

Then I remembered the following:

I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

JOHN 13:34‭-‬35 AMP
http://bible.com/1588/jhn.13.34-35.AMP

Hmmm…

How have I been loved? Oh, that’s right, Jesus didn’t just forgive me before I apologized; He took the consequence that I had chosen, before I chose it.  Additionally, He prayed on my behalf, seeking forgiveness for me, before I apologized.

“Just as I have loved you…”

Before an apology.

Before repentance.

Before I even knew that I had sinned.

Ouch.

Instead of simply praying, “Father, forgive him for he knows not what he is doing”, I was also praying;  ” Father, forgive me, for I know not what I am doing. ”

Yesterday I was reminded that I was not reflecting the Father’s love.

What does my story have to do with you?

Are you reflecting His love?

Are you, like Him, praying that the Father forgives them, for they know not what they are doing?

If not, may the Father forgive you, for you know not what you are doing.

<3,

Gracie K.

Lightbreak in the Burrow 2

Lightbreak in the Burrow

Love More. Fear less.

This Spring, James and I went to Chicago, Nevada, and California.  We went to encourage friends and family who were out in California. We also went so that I could intentionally forgive and heal from so many painful memories and humiliations that I had suffered in those places through my first marriage.

We were invited to attend Fearless LA, a gathering of people who admit that their only hope is found in Jesus Christ.  It also happens to meet in Exchange LA, the “it” nightclub in LA.

They have other sites, as well, but this location was exactly where we needed to be on this particular day.

Their mantra is, “Love more, Fear less”.

It’s based on I John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.

(Berean Study Bible translation)

For me, I went on the trip with all the gritty determination to rid myself of the demons from my past. Before we left, an elder from our church challenged us to “Lay aside all of your expectations and simply expect that Jesus Christ would be glorified.”  We did.

Gone were my expectations of doing this incredible service and brave act for God, as I deliberately and intentionally visited so many hurtful places.

I never imagined that I would so tenderly be healed from so many memories and humiliations. I knew that Jesus Christ is good, and kind. I knew that Yahweh is attentive to all our humiliations, I just never expected to be so specifically and intentionally encouraged.

So many ways that would only be a specific gift to me…

I have been amazed as I marvel that the God of the Universe and the Creator of the Cosmos pays all that attention to “Li’l old me.”

I challenge you, beloved ones.

I dare you!

Lay down all expectation, and simply ask that Jesus Christ be glorified in your life. Then hang on as He tenderly and intentionally shows you specifically that HE SEES YOU!

Love more. Fear less.

LOVEMORE

Love More. #FearlessLA 

 

 

Thoughts on Refugees

My attention is grabbed and my heart is pulled, seemingly right out of my chest. Watch.

If possible, listen to this song at the same time.

It started on my Google Play at the exact moment that the video started. My eyes are drenched and my heart is wrenched.

Beloved,

Be loved. Then,

BE LOVE.

Go, be LOVE.

Thankful Thursday – To BE

     He waits. I scurry to and fro, busy doing this and that important thing for him. I pause long enough to read a quick thought from him, or to shoot him a quick message, but something is missing.
     So, a space is cleared, a table is made and the lights are carefully hung to aid with the ambience. Still, he waits. Once a week, I thoughtfully review that things that I appreciate, the things that I am thankful for.
     I would feel so….used if I was only appreciated for what I did, and not for who I am.
  Today, I am thankful that God is love. I am grateful that his name is called “I am”. He waits for me, as he waits for you…”be still, and know that He is God.” Psalm 46:10

image

©Gracie K Harold 2015

Today, I am thankful that it’s never too late to join him where He waits. God is love.  Take a moment, breathe in and out, and simply thank Him for being Him.

Soldering and Fragments

Life’s experiences leave us jagged sometimes, don’t they?

Pain comes in like a renegade warrior, taking us by surprise.

Old wounds resurface with a resurgent flood of overwhelming emotion.

Recently, James and I had an EPIC FAIL

I mean EPIC.

We both reacted to each other in fear; not trust.

We each chose to filter the other person’s words through our past experiences

instead of submitting our conversation to the

present and new reality that we are in today.

One of us heard everything through the filter of rejection; resulting in words being transformed into daggers of unintended hurt and betrayal.

The other one of us heard everything through the filter of failure; resulting in words being transformed into spears of unintended accusation and blame.

It was the worst fight that we’ve ever had.

I kept fighting panic and dread, fearing that my past marriage was going to be repeated.

It wasn’t.

James is NOT my first husband.

I am NOT his first wife.

One of our “mantras” that we frequently repeat is,

“He’s not him, and she’s not her; this is a NEW marriage to the one who loves me”.

For those awful moments, we focused on viewing the present through our past.

The pain, rejection and failure from before obscured our vision and we failed to

listen to our beloved one.

Instead of showing care and concern for the spouse who loves us here in the present,

we stayed stuck in regret and hurt from the past…

and missed our opportunity to show love, care, and compassion for each other.

It’s taken days to haltingly repair the hurt that we caused each other.

It reminds me of stained glass art. Fragments of glass are placed next to one another in intricate designs, and then the thin

metal ribbon is placed between the fragments as the soldering gun warms up.

distant soldering (c)Gracie K Harold 2015

distant soldering (c)Gracie K Harold 2015

The soldering gun is hot!

The ribbons of metal that hold the fragments together have to melt first in order to form a strong adhesive.

I trust that as we learn to see past our hurts, we will see how the past contributed to who we are.

Instead of filtering through rejection and failure,

I know that we will begin to have our eyes opened to

the genuine love, care, concern and friendship

that is here right in this moment.

Our fragments may have jagged edges, but together, they fit in a larger pattern.

Sometimes, things will get hot, and emotions will run high.

Soldered Fragments (c) Gracie K Harold 2015

Soldered Fragments (c) Gracie K Harold 2015

My prayer is that we will see the beauty of the patterns that our trust and love are creating as we continue to learn how to listen to each other.

May you also leave the filter of your past, as your eyes focus on the love that is here for you

in the present.

I John 4:16 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (NIV)

Raw Love

Grief had ripped through his soul, leaving his heart jagged and exposed.  He determined in that moment of pain that no one would ever again be allowed close enough to cause him harm.  Over the years, his determination only faltered once.  She was a beauty, one who captured his heart and imagination.  He fell for her, hopelessly and madly.  He left for his job on the railroad, promising to return at week’s end.  He kept his promise and was full of hope as he approached her door. The sickening kick-to-the-gut that betrayal and cheating always bring is what greeted him. Her flippancy is what ripped his heart into tatters, as she purred, “You were gone for a week, what did you expect me to do? Wait?”

He vowed to never let anyone get close to him again.  He took a vow of bachelorhood, buried himself in his work, accrued a savings account; and he determined to simply live a good life.  It all changed after his nephew and niece-in-law had a baby girl.  This little wisp of a youngster smiled at him and melted the icy fortress that he had carefully constructed around his heart.  To his surprise, the icy defenses now served to usher in a tenderness as the ice transformed into rivulets of love.  He was tickled to be her great uncle, and he took to calling her “wisp-girl” under his breath.

When she was just a toddler, the wisp-girl introduced him to the comingling of sweet with the bitter.  His brother-in-law (the child’s grandpa), was a former boxing champ who numbed his pain with the sedative of alcohol.  It caught up to him, and he was now dying of cancer.   The family had gathered together, saddened by the declining health and resolve of their patriarch.  That’s when the wisp-girl began twirling in the center of the living room.  She stopped breathlessly, and grinned winningly at her grandpa.  He laughed mirthfully, and the pattern repeated over and over until the room was filled with the peals of silver laughter.  Silver laughter is only heard when it’s offered from a heart that is heavy with affliction, yet somehow the soul breaks free from the pain and heaviness as it dances triumphantly in a joyful defiance. That day, the family embraced their silver laughter as they watched the antics of the wisp-girl and her dying grandfather.

That was the last weekend of the grandpa’s life, and the bachelor great-uncle resolved that the wisp-girl needed him to step up and into the void.  So, he did.  His sister accompanied him, and they moved in with their grief-stricken widow-sister (the wisp-girl’s granny). Grief is a jealous companion.  If it goes unchecked, it will soon push away everyone who seeks closeness with you.  That’s the unfortunate truth of what happened, and soon the grief-stricken granny widow demanded that her siblings move out.

The little wisp-girl came over to visit the new house of her great aunt and uncle a few times, and she lit up their hearts like a holiday tree.  Eventually, though, family loyalties were exploited, politics were bitterly played, and a division ensued.  The wisp-girl’s father determined to show loyalty to his widowed-mother; and the visits ended.

The wisp-girl sent secret letters to her beloved great-aunt and great-uncle, begging them to correspond.  The great-uncle sought to reply, but his sister was afraid of the repercussions that it would bring on the wisp-girl.  Her intent was to protect the wisp-girl, but instead, years of love and companionship were lost.  At the funeral for the beloved great-aunt, the bachelor great-uncle embraced his wisp-girl in a fierce hug.  They wept openly as he confessed, “I tried my damnedest to get her to respond to your letters, but she was so afraid of causing distance between you and your granny.  I thought of you every night and every day, and memorized every word of your letters.”

The wisp-girl’s father was so moved by the tender pain of his uncle and the deep sorrow of his daughter that he relented and the visits began again.  What an unlikely pair they were.  The wisp-girl shared her beloved great-uncle’s stubborn determination and strength; but she was akin to a bald eagle.  One moment, she could be gracefully soaring with a majestic air about her and the next, her talons would be exposed as she defended the ones that she loved.  They would sit side by side, close enough to let their elbows rub as they talked.  She would prattle on about life, boys, inner city injustice, her love of kids, and her desire to attend college and make a difference in the world.  He would smile at her enthusiasm, and wonder at the seemingly endless stores of energy that she possessed.  He would speak of his memories made on the railroad, of the Detroit Tigers roster, and eventually of his life growing up in rural Michigan.  Her words were often faster than an express train, his were peppered with “damn”s and “dammit”s.

She called him with the news of her acceptance into the private college of her choice, her squeals eliciting his words of, “I am damned proud of you, girl!” She called to sing him “Happy birthday” from her dorm room, and they would talk about life, boys, and The Tigers.  On summer breaks, she would weave her arm through his as they sat basking in the sunlight on his front stoop while her brother mowed his lawn.  One day, she told him of her desire to work with people who were poverty-stricken and he said, “You be careful.  It’s not work that I would have picked out for you, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone stop you from it.”

He checked himself into a nursing home the week before spring break of her Senior Year in college.  She found him in his room, basking in the sunlight, with his face uplifted towards the window.  Peace and joy radiated from him.  She kissed his cheek, and they said their goodbyes; both knowing that his 90+ years on earth were ending soon.

Days later, she stood tearfully at his funeral.

A while later, she burst into tears of gratefulness and love as realization sunk in.  He had paid her school bills out of his estate.  All those stolen years when they could not see each other, he was saving and making money and investing money.  He didn’t just do it for her, but there were kids from his neighborhood who had also managed to wiggle their way into his heart.  Despite the pain of losses that he had endured, despite his jagged heart, he learned the art of raw love.  No walls, no refinements, simply love for the ones that were placed in his life when his heart was raw.

The wisp-girl strives to embrace the lessons of her beloved great-uncle as she continually resists the fear-filled temptations to pull back into a fortress of pain from her past; instead opening up her jagged heart for those who have been placed into her life.

May we all be graced with raw love.

Waterplay (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Waterplay (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Shadow Steps

Yesterday’s post spoke about some of the new boundaries that we have established in our home.

Another adjustment has been for James and I to find the balance in spending time together but also to have time with our friends alone.

One of the challenges has been that I grew up with over 10 male cousins.  I am kind of a tomboy at heart.

When James and I became engaged, we agreed that we would hang out together with my guy friends, but that it just wasn’t wise for me to hang out alone with them.  This was mostly my insistence, not his.

My guy friends are very much like brothers to me, and we live in a world that often construes things exactly as it wishes.  My husband’s reputation, my friends’ reputations, and my reputation matter too much for me to carelessly find myself in a situation which could somehow defame a loved one’s character.

James and I feel a deep compassion to mentor young adults as they transition through college and into professional life.  Spending time with these brilliant young minds constantly stretches us and teaches us so many lessons!

We have decided to be über cautious  in our interactions with the young adults of the opposite sex, not out of fear or prudishness, but out of respect for our marriage, and a desire to demonstrate that out of every single person in the whole wide world, he picked me to be his best friend and lover; and I did the same.

When we are out with a group, we typically stay in close proximity to each other.  If a member of the opposite sex playfully reaches for James’ arm, he’ll typically excuse himself or call me over to join the conversation.

This isn’t because we are terrified of other people, it’s not our attempt at “looking religious”; it’s merely the way that we continue to communicate to each other that we are happy with the choice we made.

Sometimes, in communicating our preferences to others, I am sure that feelings have been hurt, egos may have been bruised, and occasionally, people have become ticked off at us.

My apologies for unintentional harm, but this is our preference.

This is our way of conveying our love to each other.

I understand that this may look like steps that lead through shadows to others; but to us, the shadows won’t hinder us as we continue to walk forward in our declaration of love for one another.

Shadow Steps (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Shadow Steps (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

We are not asking for universal agreement, we are merely asking for mutual respect of our preferences.

If you’re looking  to discuss this with us, chances are you’ll find us together. 😉

From Ruby

Ruby's Letter

Ruby’s Letter (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Translation: “Dear Mom,

My reading program says to [write] and send a letter to my favorite author. (That’s you).

I love you. Your book is a good book (well, the parts I’ve read, that is).

-Ruby”

Happy Tuesday!  This made my day!  🙂

The link to my book is here: “Across the Street From Normal”.

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving the abusive situation that we were in all those years ago.  Instead of seeing her mother as a victim, Ruby sees me as an author, an income earner, a society contributor, and a confident woman who is loved by God and her husband.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Today, I feel like I have what I wanted.

Love, faith, family, friends, and confidence.