A few years ago, at a Winsome Retreat, Niki Hardy, a beautiful, eloquent rectal cancer survivor, talked about False Guilt leading to broken identities, not being good enough to have an abundant life, how we need to find abundance in the pain, how to hold on to who we are to Him – and then she had us close our eyes, think about our happiest and most secure place – and she led us on a journey:
“What is your happiest and most secure, safe place? ” she asked.
What was my happiest, most secure, safe place? I was surprised – not my porch, not my garden. Not my Thinking Room. Not the house where I grew up. It wasn’t Paris, the beach or the mountains .. . . It was my kitchen – but not just my kitchen empty. It was my kitchen with all my boys, my husband, my daughter-in-laws, the grandgirlies and grandsons, my friends, my kiddos’ friends – listening – just listening to them talk the way they talk, interact the way they interact – even when it’s not pretty, even when it’s not grace, even when hard growing is going on.
“You’re wearing a backpack,” Niki said. “What’s in your backpack?” She asked us to think about what we had in that backpack, what made it heavier, a burden, a challenge, something weighing us down.
Sometimes in my kitchen, when there’s too many schedules down-loaded into my schedule, when there’s emotional chaos brewing, when there’s too many heart-sores I cannot heal in me or in those I love, when my jaw is just dragging the ground due to exhaustion from what I don’t know – it feels like I’m carrying a backpack that weighs me down. Squatting down to find the marjoram in the spice rack – or the summer savory – only to find it above the stove, I feel as though I wouldn’t be able to rise up; rummaging for a storage container with a matching lid, or the garlic press, cooking, baking, being overwhelmed by the mess I’m making and the knowledge I have to clean it up. I could imagine the weight of that visual backpack; I felt the burden of it right there.
I couldn’t pick just one burden to put in my backpack.
First, I thought of the challenges my boys face – and I put those inside. Then I thought of my mom challenged with carcinoids and my aunt’s dementia – and I put those in, too.
Then, I thought about my dad walking out on our family, not having a dad who thinks you’re the bee’s knees – and, though I have worked through the rejection, the heart sores from it – and am so blessed that God has stood in the gap, teaching me He, Jehovah, is the best Father – there are days I still struggled with the lack of that tangible relationship. I always imagined a father who would tell one of my boys when he was spilling sass, “Son – don’t you talk to my little girl like that.” A father’s relationship with his daughter impacts her self image and self worth. I remember a little girl in our neighborhood. One day one of the neighborhood boys made her mad – and she ran into her house hollering at the top of her lungs, “Daddy”- that moment kind of wowed me. God was showing me through that little girl running to her dad the kind of relationship of relationship He wants with me. I struggled with putting this in my backpack. In comparison to so many other challenges people have, well, I started to feel selfish, guilty – a false-guilt trip satan uses to trick us away from God, who He is, how He sees us, how He wants to help us – and how we see ourselves through him, and how he cares about our burdens. I quickly shoved my challenge into the backpack with the other challenges before I could guilt myself out of it.
“Visual Jesus walking toward you,” Niki asked.
I was dismayed. Oh, Man! I should have picked the mountains or the ocean. How in the world was I to visualize Jesus walking toward me in my kitchen?
Again, I started second guessing myself, second guessing my responses. Berating myself over my answer my happy place answer.
I should have had a better answer, my truth isn’t good enough. . . I was in high school Trigonometry all over again in a classroom with a group of brilliant students and I was struggling to make a C. . . .I stopped myself right there. . . stopped the words. . . stopped the not-good-enough, not smart-enough thinkology. . . .
I stopped and closed my eyes. My kitchen is my Happy Place, my Favorite Place. That’s what it is, God. Is that part what grace is? Giving ourselves permission to be honest with God and Him loving us back for the the honesty?
With my eyes closed, in a Pennsylvania retreat room, I was wide-eyed behind my kitchen counter (it’s an open floor plan) in Tennessee – standing in front of my sink, looking across the counter to the table. I saw the kitchen full of my sons, their wives, the grandkids, my friends, my son’s friends who come by – they were all milling about, talking – and I stood at the counter, like I always do. Except this time, I stood wondering what I was supposed to do now but trusting God with my truth . I stood there waiting to see how Jesus would come into my line of vision – not across an ocean beach or down a mountain trail – a grand entrance where He step by step walked toward me framed in His creation. . . . I waited and trusted.
. . . and, just like my sons’ friends who stop by – who know they don’t have to really knock, but always tap on the door – there was a tap on the big kitchen doors – and I saw him – Jesus – on the other side of the glass door, tapping and then pushing it open. The door always opens loud. Nobody can sneak in or out of our house. He pushed it open to its normal loud unsticking-kind-of-pop and walked in – like He belonged. Like I was part of his belonging – and, it just about took my breath away! God takes our truth and our confusion – He knows what to do with it. He just needs us to be honest about it . . . with Him and ourselves.
He’d come for what was in my backpack.
“Give Him what’s in your backpack,” Niki directed.
I came from around the counter, swung the backpack off my shoulders, and knelt down to empty my backpack out to Him. Right there, in my kitchen, I pulled it all out and gave it to him, right in the hustle-bustle of my happy, secure place, where it is o.k. to not always know if I have the right answer.
After I’d turned over all the contents to my backpack, He gave me a package to open. I put it in my backpack for later.
“What was the package He gave in exchange,” Niki asked? “Open it! What was it?”
I didn’t open the figurative package He handed me in the retreat room. I carried the package around until I found a quiet place. Sometimes, honesty needs to be unwrapped in the quiet places.
In the quiet place, I cleared my mind. . . and opened the package Jesus had given me. I emptied my mind, careful not to let it wonder.
The gift was a key, a big, ancient key. In the Quiet Place where I sat with Jesus, I turned over that key in my mind. Did I want to know? Really want to know?
. . . I puzzled over the key, keeping my mind empty, just waiting. . .
It was. . . . No! It couldn’t be that. I rejected the first thing that came to my mind. . . as though I had a choice on what the gift should be.
It seemed a decadent indulgence. It didn’t seem right that it was something directly for me?
What had happened the other things in my backpack? Shouldn’t the gift be answered prayers, solutions for those I love? Shouldn’t the gift be healing for my mom and aunt? Shouldn’t it be problems solved for the challenges my sons faced?
And I remembered a quote that I love:
“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy.
He’d kept those challenges and those burdens – yes! I given them to Him. The addressing and solving of those, though, was between Him and each boy, between Him and my aunt, between Him and my mom. Jesus is big enough for all that – and for my challenges, too!
God doesn’t take away the salvation He gave me to give to someone else who doesn’t have salvation – as though there’s not enough salvation to go around and I’m being selfish.
When my heart cries out for healing, he doesn’t say, “I’m giving this to you, but, really, you should give it away to someone else – because there’s just not enough to go around, as though my being healed by Him is a selfish thing.
He doesn’t send cardinals darting out in front of me and say with regret – because I gave you this blessing, someone else will go without a blessing today.
If the potter is gracious enough to want to make the bowl or cup of myself whole again . . . . shouldn’t I accept it, knowing that He also wants to do the same thing for those I love? That His blessings, His healing, His making whole our brokenness – there is a never-ending supply of His healing, His provision, His love, His blessing.
There is a shortage of those daring to ask. . .
This package He gave me to unwrap was for me, about my hurts, about my story, about my relationship with Him, so I chose to accept the gift He gave me. What the gift was, though, wasn’t a choice. To accept the gift was my choice.
The key? It opened a door in His house. When I put the key in to unlock the door, turned it, pushed the door open – it was a room for me. Not a tiny room under the rafters where the rain and cold seeps through in the winter and the heat melts in the summer. It was a room for a favored Daughter of The King, with a big window overlooking the most glorious view, beautifully decorated. . . by a Father who knows just what I love and who wants me to know I am loved.
What a magnificent Father is our God!
Dare to be honest with God!
Below are the questions, if you would like to take the same journey. I would love to hear your experience:
- What is your happiest and most secure place?
- What are you carrying around in your backpack?
- Visualize Jesus walking toward you?
- Give Jesus what’s in our backpack?
- In return, Jesus gives a package – what’s in your package?
- What did you discover?
Remember Me Monday: #34 & Linky
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!
***All photos marked with Muddy Photography or © Blue Cotton Memory or used within Blue Cotton Memory blog(s) belong Blue Cotton Memory. Going forward, photos will be marked with Muddy Photography.