Monthly Archives: March 2015

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

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Solitary confinement: a form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact.

I’m not really sure why I’m writing on this topic. What I do know is that the Lord has not let the topic go. (When you are awakened at 2:46am and you are thinking about this topic.)

Someone feels, isolated, cut off and and in an unseen jail cell.

Wondering how in the world did you get here?

Social isolation is the most damaging thing in solitary confinement. It has you in a place of absolute silence. You can’t reach out and no one can reach in. The walls are too high and too thick. Because you are socially untouchable, it triggers lots of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms.

Here it is:

“Human beings are social creatures. Without the benefit of another person to “bounce off of” the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies; and without the ability to see off in the distance, vision fades. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.”

I personally hate, loathe small places. I’m not overly fond of elevators, especially crowded ones. If you’ve ever ridden to the top of the Empire State Building, you know what I mean. If you don’t, let me tell you. It is the longest minute of your life! They pack that elevator so full and then it takes a literal minute to get to the top.  I have to slow my breathing down and try to not panic. I would have to grab hold of your hand to help me stay calm. Cannot stand small enclosed spaces.

The way I see it, they are two reasons on how you got here. (probably a thousand more, these are very general) Here’s the truth, it probably was great advice, but you got comfortable there and before you knew it, days turned into weeks, weeks into a year, and a year turned into 5.  You realized you were in there and didn’t know how to get out.

1. Someone put you there.

So, someone put you in solitary confinement.

You probably didn’t realize it at the time.  It was a way to protect you or so they thought.

Someone gave you advice and said you need to step back and be alone for awhile.

Maybe it’s because of your title at work, and everyone around you has put that label on you. Isolated you simply because of your title. You are considered the “expert” and no one feels like they can disagree with you or talk openly and freely about what is going on.

You were placed in solitary by the very friend who brought you back to life but has now chosen to place you back in your grave again.

You were placed in solitary because of the jealousy of other people.

You were put there by the judgements/accusations of others and you don’t feel confident there is a way to defend yourself.

2. You placed yourself there.

You put yourself there because you convinced yourself it was the best way to protect someone.

You put yourself in solitary because you can’t bear the thought of owning your sin and facing the guilt you feel so it looked like an easier option for you to simply remove yourself for awhile.

You put yourself in solitary because you are running from someone or something. Just maybe, no one will notice.

You put yourself in because you have to protect your spouse. No one can really know what goes on at home. You are under an unsaid gag order. What would it look like to disrespect your spouse?

You put yourself there because you put up too many boundaries and have locked yourself up and thrown away the key.

Boundaries are the most healthy thing. We all need them. But too many can be as bad as not enough.

In Acts 16. Paul and Silas are arrested and were thrust into the inner prison: the innermost part of it, the lowest or furthest part of the prison; so that there were more doors, bolts, and bars, to break open, and pass through, should they attempt to make their escape.

Acts 16.25-26  “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of EVERY prisoner fell off.” (emphasis mine)

So, how do you get out of solitary confinement?

Praying and worshipping are astronomical in helping us recover ourselves. I’m not saying an actual earthquake will happen, but an earthquake in the depths of your heart, will release the chains holding you in solitary confinement.

By saying it, you release the power it held you in captivity  The chains start to disintegrate and fall away. It starts you on the road to healing.

Forgiveness is also crucial. It may take you saying I forgive them every minute of the day until you actually have forgiven them. Some extreme circumstances may take awhile. But the act of obedience to say it has huge implications for you. Emotionally, Physically and Spiritually. 

Who has reached out to you in the last month and you told them no?

Who showed up for you again?

Who has cheered you on?

Who has refused to give up on you even though you’ve refused their every attempt to fight alongside you?

You know, they are willing to go with you into the trenches and you won’t allow them to. You have to wake up and ask. It’s ok, you can.

It takes a tremendous amount of vulnerability to ask it the first time.  In fact, once you say it, you will question why you ever let the cat out of the bag. What can of worms have you opened? Will you be judged, criticized, or ridiculed?

There is not a quick fix for getting out of solitary confinement.  Grab hold of the hands that are reaching into the trench.

They are there for a reason. That reason is you. Trust them with your story. Trust them with your heart. They will not let you go alone and they will fight until you escape that place of confinement.

Let someone shoulder the burden you are carrying. Tell them what you need. It really is ok to confess that you need someone. You know, the Word says something about this:

Ecclesiastes 4.12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

One of my dearest friends sent me a text last summer. It pretty much made me cry on the spot. I saved it and I go back and read it every couple of weeks. Profound to say the least:

“Praying for you too Toni…direction on where to live, when, and a peaceful release in letting others help you where needed (it is but a phase), praying for your boys and their direction….and God would speak loudly to you about every detail you are worried about.”

She knew. She reached out. And I grabbed hold. Because I’ve had such trouble letting people help me. Asking them for help.

Side note: I realized as I was writing this piece, I had overwhelming emotions rising up in me.  I am not currently in solitary, but was there. It sucks the life out of you and has you on an emotional roller coaster. I’m grateful for those hands that  reached in the trench and then hoisted me out. Without you, I might still be there. At one point I thought I might actually suffocate.

You breathed life into me and gave me hope.  You need to know there is not a day that goes by I’m not grateful and full of awe you are walking with me.  You know who you are. Thank you.

Don’t stay in any longer. Grab that hand.


INTERIOR DECORATING IN OUR DREAMS

I didn’t get the decorating gene. I don’t enjoy it for one minute. I can tell you the style I like and what makes me feel at home, but for the life of me I can’t put it together in a room. It overwhelms me. In fact, just thinking about it now, makes me sweat.

I guess, you could say, I interior decorate only in my dreams. Can visualize the overall picture, but cannot bring it to life. Transference is the big issue.

That’s what interior decorators do.

They bring to life that which we can only dream about.

They enjoy arranging, rearranging, and rearranging…and rearranging.

I had a college roommate who loved this! She was a fabulous decorator! She would get a wild hair about 10pm and want to rearrange the entire apartment. Monthly. I went along with it for say, 2 months. Because frankly, I didn’t care what it looked like. She just couldn’t touch my room. My room was perfect. In fact, the 2.5 years we lived together, my room stayed the same. As soon, as she would mention “we” were going to move furniture and rehang things, I said goodnight. I can sleep through most anything!

I live in a one bedroom apartment now, and it is decorated beautifully. And no, I had nothing to do with it. I have a couple of friends, that are fantastic at this gift!! I didn’t care. Told them how much they could spend and off we went.

This is what I love about people with this gift. They readily see what is needed and what is no longer needed.  They move things in that are needed and move things out which are no longer needed.

Once it is no longer needed, it goes. Not in storage, but given away so that someone who needs it can use it.

This is how Jesus is with your heart.

He sees what needs to go and He invites that which is needed in. He replaces the old with the new.

Sometimes we want to hang on to what was old because we think we know best. It’s comfortable.

He sees what needs to be given away for someone else. He doesn’t let us hang on to it. Someone else needs what you have to give.

I’ve been in a season of some “interior” decorating. There were/are things in my heart that needed to be mended, thrown out, shared, instilled and changed! There are things I see in a completely different light.

You would be surprised to know I haven’t enjoyed the process. Walking in it has been rough. I’m somewhere in the middle of the road, dodging semi’s coming at me from both directions. But, God….

My Interior Decorator is at work, changing my heart, my life,  and my expectations.

He is at work changing my thoughts. It’s ok to have new desires. Different things are headed my way. I really hope they look different than what I’m expecting. ( my expectations are usually off) This, for me, is allowing Him to be creative and decorate the way He wants.

He’s doing the transference in me.

Let the Interior Decorator move things around. Allow Him access to do it. It’s ok to allow the changes.

 

My place is amazing! It’s warm and comfortable. I wouldn’t change a thing! (and I won’t)

How’s your heart? Let Him redecorate. Don’t just dream about it in your dreams, allow it to unfold in your reality.

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USUAL

There is a restaurant in my city, that I’ve been going to for 10 years.

The first time I went I ordered the Orange Chicken as spicy as they had listed on menu. The waiter was named Chris.  The very next time I went in, he said do you want your usual? Really? After one visit? Who does this? He did. He knows my usual. It’s refreshing for someone to know what we like or dislike. No thinking involved. What’s your usual?

Usual means comfort. Easy. Almost too lazy to change or make a new decision.  Don’t hassle me, just give me the usual.

Before long we are in an unusual place because of our usual.

I’m a routine girl. I like a plan. I usually stick to my plan. (I’m not at all saying, I can’t go with the flow of things…..) But as I do my usual, I realize that over time my usual has changed. It’s unusual simply because it wasn’t on my radar. It was on God’s.

What’s the unusual place you find yourself in today?

One day Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee. There were a couple of guys casting their nets. Simon Peter and Andrew were their names. They were doing their usual. Fishing. Jesus called out,”Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

Now they were in the unusual place because of their usual.

David was tending sheep when Saul sent for him. David became his armor bearer. He slew Goliath. He was anointed King at a very early age.

He was in an unusual place because of his usual.

Rahab was a prostitute in service to the king of Jericho. One day 2 spies showed up to scout the land, especially Jericho. She hid them from the King and then sent them back on a different route to avoid being captured. When the Israelites came in to take Jericho, they spared no one, except Rahab and those who were with her. She is in the lineage of Jesus.

She was in an unusual place because of her usual.

You could be a medical sales rep and decide to quit and build an app and platform for women to start to be vulnerable and real with one another. Or, a middle school english teacher, who is now a Pastor mentoring young adults. Or a tennis pro, special ed teacher, business owner and CASA volunteer, who started a non-profit to help those in crisis.

My point is this. You are doing your usual. Day in and day out. It’s mundane, hard, and overwhelming at times. But please, don’t miss the point. Your usual will lead to an unusual place. You will make a difference in the lives of someone or millions. There is no time limit to when God takes you from your usual to unusual.

Do what you know to do today. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow you will find yourself in an unusual place.

As my pastor recently said, “ You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden of what God has placed on you heart.” Let that soak in.

What hangs in the balance?

We will never know until we get there.

Usually…


SOMETIMES IT’S HOURLY

There’s a new man in my life!

I know you’re wondering about him. Shocked maybe?  I’ve been looking for him awhile.  Was waiting on the timing. There is always the perfect timing.

Let me go back to a conversation I had with a friend on Friday.

Yep, it was Friday (if you read my earlier post about Fridays then you can guess where this is going)!

Friday was HARD! I cried all morning at work.

Couldn’t shake it.

Was overpowering me.

My friend and I were on the phone talking about our plans for that evening. We were having the young adults mentoring group over to eat and watch a movie! I was telling her how hard it was and how thankful we had plans for that evening! She asked why.

I told her it was a night that, without plans I might just go out and do something really stupid. That day the struggle was very real. She laughed (with empathy) and said yeah, but Toni, you want to do the right thing and be obedient. I told her my heart was made up on that. I would not go do something stupid, but I also realized my weakness at that point. Somehow, voicing that, made it easier.

There’s too much at stake I told her. I want people to see that I certainly do not have it all together, but also see my resolve to be obedient.

At the end of the day, I want the Lord to know I was obedient.

Anyway, we ate, laughed and watched a romantic movie. (I would like to go on record here, saying when you are where I am, those movies should be banned. Just saying!!!!)

They do not help!

Which is why there’s a new man in my life. I had been corresponding by email to finally meet him. He was going to be at this Irish Festival. I was excited to meet him.

So, I promptly left at 10am on Saturday morning, drove to Fair Park.  I know, right? That’s what everyone does…

I paid my entry fee and went to the agreed place.

Tall dark and handsome…..and no he wasn’t wearing a kilt….. He wasn’t what I was expecting at first.

We went for a walk through the festival, and really, within the hour,  I asked if he could come home with me.

He’s still here. It’s Tuesday and he hasn’t left.

Sometimes, when we are going through a thing, our obedience is not a daily thing.

It’s hourly…

Our emotions tend to rule us and we have to measure our obedience by the hour. Because it’s overwhelming to look at the whole day.

God is using it to teach us to hear Him every step ( hour), so we have resolve in our heart to do the right thing.

Obedience is hard..especially when the walls are closing in and you can’t see the other side of the thing.

God is giving me, at this precise moment, the ability to exercise my stewardship of obedience to Him.

BTW, My guy’s name is Andy.   He is perfect.

He’s moved in permanently.  We are figuring one another out…. He’s just what I was looking for…

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He’s adorable, isn’t he?


I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO ESCAPED TO TELL YOU

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So last night I was sitting in church. John was teaching on Job. I’ve heard messages on Job before. Tons of them. He gave a brief overview of Job’s life.  I’m going to confess that I didn’t hear a word of John’s message for the first 15 minutes. He started reading Job 1. 13-19. Can I tell you I was writing as fast as I could? Sorry, Pastor John!

Read closely:

Job 1.13-19 (My paraphrase)

Job’s kids were all dining together at the oldest son’s house.

This is  a foreshadowing we just didn’t see  coming.

Messenger one came to Job and told him the Sabeans raided us. They stole all your animals and killed all your farmhands.

“I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

Messenger two arrived on the scene while the first was still talking.

Fire from heaven has fallen  and burned up all your sheep and shepherds.

“I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

Yet, while this messenger was still speaking (can you imagine the chaos and utter shock happening right now?), the third messenger arrived.

His message was that three bands of Chaldean raiders had stolen Job’s camels and killed his servants.

“I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

Will it ever end? We ask ourselves….

In the meantime, while this messenger is speaking, a fourth arrives. Really? More? NO…….

He delivers the crucial blow to Job. Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home.  A powerful wind swept in from the wilderness(of course the wilderness) and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed and all your children are dead.

“I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

In the matter of 6 verses, Job loses everything.

4 times. I wondered about the significance of the number 4 in Scripture.  After a very brief research, 4 is significant in this way:

  • 4th day of creation the universe was finished.
  • There are 4 gospels.
  • The 4th commandment reminds us to honor the Sabbath.

I’m sure there are more, but I find it significant there were 4 messengers. Finished. Done. What was left to do? God had instructed Satan to take whatever he wanted, but to not touch Job’s life.

God set it up so there was a survivor. Someone to tell the story of what happened.  He sent 4 to Job.

I’m not sure what has happened in your life. Maybe you have had 4 messengers bring you devastating news. Maybe it was the same messenger 4 times.

It’s  more than possible someone caused you this devastation.

Hear me say this, “ You are the only one who escaped to tell.”

You have a story to tell. You are the only one who can tell it. Go look in the mirror.  That face looking back at you is the one who needs to tell.

There are people in your corner of the world who need to hear what you escaped. Vulnerability time.

The last part of verse 21 in chapter one says, “Praise be the name of the Lord!”  Those are Job’s words.  Are they yours? Maybe not yet, but they will be.

Why?

“You were the only one who escaped to tell.”

Whatever, has happened in your life, you have friends who will listen. I hope. (If you don’t, here’s my number….214.277.9846  Call me. I will listen) More importantly, someone out there needs to hear your story. God never wastes pain.

Job had 3 friends who heard what happened.

So they showed up.

They didn’t even recognize Job for the boils all over him.

They wailed loudly, tore their robes,  and threw dust over their heads to show their grief.

This is my favorite part:

Then they sat on the ground with him for 7 days and nights. No one said a word. They just sat. Were present.

Notice that there were only 3. I imagine if all his acquaintances showed up it would have been a giant pity party. Lots of people would speak useless and empty words

3 close friends. Those who knew him. Knew his character. Knew his heart. Loved him. Job trusted these 3.

I have friends who do this for me. They know me well. They may ask and my reply is I don’t want to talk about it. Answer is: fair enough. Other times, they know to drag it out of me and make me get it out.

I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

It increases my vulnerability; which has been a goal of mine for 2015. Vulnerable, raw, open.

I wish you hadn’t had to go through whatever IT is. But you did.

I wish I hadn’t gone through what I went through.

You are the only one who escaped to tell.

Start speaking……

I am the only one who escaped to tell.

One shaky word at a time.

Ah, the end of Job’s story….. God restored to him double what he had before and gave him 10 more children.

Job was the only one who escaped to tell you.