Listening in my heart hasn’t always been easy. I have wanted to hear God from way Little. But, you see, I have this impediment in my heart. It blocks out at times the sounds even of Love. It holds me captive to myself: my agenda, my image.
But, on Saturday, there was this shifting of Seasons in my life! I experienced it first-hand ~ saw and heard how it doesn’t matter the outer “Dressing” of our lives ~ our homes, our skills, our “perfected” decor, our clothes (of course). Rather, it IS truly ALL ABOUT THE HEART ~ all about JESUS’ HEART actually ~ what’s on the inside. What’s on the INSIDE?
I had heard the message many times over. Taught it even ~ many times over. But Saturday was different. Saturday I truly believe the message finally was steeped into my heart of hearts,
Late last year, two words dropped into my mind. I listened with my heart. And I heard IMMANUEL ~~ and ~ STORY. Since it was nearing the Christmas Season, IMMANUEL made sense. It fit the Song of the Season. And to carry the sense of HIs Abiding ~ His ALWAYS WITH me ~ Presence for a whole year, that too made sense. But the other word ~ STORY ~ the two just somehow didn’t seem to fit together. In fact, I found the two words side by side almost jarring, startling. Was I hearing from God, or was this just me?
As I shopped around, seeking how I might display these two words in our home, they remained surprisingly elusive. The year before the words were HOPE ~ STILL. There were many things readily available to choose to keep those words before my eyes and heart all year. But not this time. Even in the post-Christmas sell offs, I could not find IMMANUEL! He had gone missing, this One Who promises to ALWAYS ABIDE NEAR.
And STORY .. what is my story? Can I tell my story? Can I tell it well? My story, you see, has been a long time in the forming. It has many twists and turns with some very dark nooks and crannies. It has taken years to pull out by the roots the UGLY that existed in my soul.
In my family of origin I had the auspicious nickname of “Sharp Elbows”. Does that tell you anything? Do you think I might of been a wee bit pushy? Overbearing? Full of myself? Controlling? You betcha ~ and not just a wee bit either. I was the eldest; I was the first born; I had it all together. If you could be just like me, you would be fine, fine, super fine! And if you would do it my way, then we’d both be fine, fine, superfine! And if not, well …. You get the drift! I was a Performer. It fit the role I had in my family: the role of Hero Child. I performed well.
Then along came Jesus .. and He turned this self-centered world of mine upside down. He said, “Come! Receive My Love. Receive Me. Let Me live in and through you. Then you will be empowered by my Holy Spirit to be like Me!” I did and He has. But, let me repeat, it has taken a long lifetime of stumbling and getting back up to find that perfect is not what He wants. Obedience is how He knows I love Him back (I John 2:5; I John 4:19). Obedience and obedience only. He’s done all the work. I need only Trust and Obey!
So, we, a small group of women seeking to follow Jesus more fully, met together in front of the TV screen on Saturday to watch pre-recorded videos on (in)RL, this World-Wide Conference of Women using virtual space to tell their many stories. This (in)REAL LIFE brought together the broken and the healing through God’s Redemptive work in lives trusting and obeying Jesus. As we heard story after story after story of rejection and fear and loss and sadness and abandonment but in each hearing the OVERCOME, the words IMMANUEL and STORY finally meshed. They overcame by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. (Revelation 12:11)
I see more clearly now. I hear more dynamically now. It is not by my effort. It is not in the doing. I can tell others this Truth. But the hard part has been believing it in my own relationships, in the living it out in my own life. I have fallen, slipped back into unrealistic expectations, into perfectionistic thinking and valuing. And He who is Faithful, He who is WITH me always, picks me up. He asks me to face Him. To turn away from the Old Me and embrace the New Me in Him. I am made NEW! (II Corinthians 5:17) This is a NEW SEASON in my life. I see clearly now: the OLD has passed; it is gone. I am turned! I am gazing fully toward my Saviour!
I see transformation ~ how it looks ~ in this Glorious Shifting of Seasons .. this Re-Birthing of flowers and trees and flying bees and creepy, crawly bugs. It’s there in the song and the dance of the birds on the wing. A.L.L. happens W.I.T.H.O.U.T. our effort. It’s. not. in. our. doing! We ~ the created ones ~ cannot create anything so beautiful, so perfected as Nature in the Spring.
My heart, it is turned. I am facing away from my ugly, my self-center. I am turned toward Jesus for He tells my heart who He is and who He created me to be. He tells my heart that my story is unique and it is needed. He is IMMANUEL: His is My Story, Our Story.
Because the virtual setting for this virtual (in)REAL LIFE Conference is a Beach House, we enjoyed a beach-y decor. And we each created a Shell Story as a way to tangibly hold onto this Day of Stories we shared. We picked a shell that became the feature, a shell that looked in some way like each of us felt as we considered our own story. After placing it in a small planter filled with sand, along with a candle to illuminate IMMANUEL, we added a few more shells to embellish our story. Then we took pictures to hold onto each other, to remind us that we need each other in community. Our Jesus Sisters are such a needed part of our STORY. Jesus knows! And He is right here in our midst!