Skin Horse

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Mike reminded me of quotes from The Velveteen Rabbit. The beautiful Velveteen Rabbit asked the very worn and injured Skin Horse toy about becoming real.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

In the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with people we haven’t seen in many, many years. We looked back at the time when we had been classmates with one and also teachers and student with the other. When we thought of those years, we remembered so many mistakes. We were different people back then, young and just feeling our way along. We didn’t know how to be what we needed to be in those situations. We felt we were failures.

As we met these old friends, we got a glimpse of how they saw us in those early, early years. They didn’t judge us like we had judged ourselves. We heard from their lips ways we helped and encouraged them. We heard about what our friendship had meant to them. We told them what they meant to us and how they had also blessed our lives all those years ago.

We heard how they had been knocked around, rubbed raw, and left alone at times in the past. We shared our bumps and scars and calluses. Like the Skin Horse we all feel the effects of aging. Also like the Skin Horse we know the harsh effects love has sometimes had on us.

The thing we had in common with these old friends was that though people and life had sometimes treated us harshly, we knew Love and that’s what has made us real. We have not had to go through these experiences by ourselves, though at times it felt really lonely. God never left us! He provided what we needed to keep us going. He healed, strengthened, provided, comforted, and even used us through the tough times. These bodies show the wear and tear, but our spirits shine through with Light.

These friends had loved us and cared for us many years ago. They carried pictures of us in their heads of the way we were back then. We see the Skin Horse that we’ve become and sometimes rue our lost youthful glow. But love from the Father and love from these and many other friends over many years have made us real.

We had such sweet conversations filling in an outline of our years apart. We were amazed at some of the similarities. Though our paths have been different, we have come to many of the same opinions and experiences.

Is there someone you should try to find from your past? Why not reach out? Your love and good memories of them may be just the lift they need.

To My Young Friends

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I  was asked, “What would I like to be remembered for?” My instant answer was,  ” I want to be one who showed young women how to fulfill their highest calling.” For some that means to be successfully single in a sex crazed world. For some to be a good wife and friend to their husband throughout life. For others the additional calling as mom to members of the next generation.

I  don’t want any applause for how I live. I don’t want to be looked at like a stained glass saint that is impossible to follow.

My life is impossible for anyone else to live. I admit that. But the same Lord who saves me, empowers me, and teaches me will do these things and more for anyone who opens their heart and life to Him.

My direction manual, the Bible, is available to any who will open and read it. The principles in it work in every generation, every culture.

One of the ways God helps us stay on course is by giving us companions along the way. For some women, the friends they went to kindergarten with stay their friends for life. Most of us though, have to find those close friends at different stages of our lives. Society is so fluid that even if we never move, everyone we hold dear will move. But I have always had at least one close female friend and usually more than one. Even in the wilderness, God provided friends for His people.

We need each other. We need confidential friends and those who know us well enough to know when we are in need or in danger. If you don’t have friends like this, ask your Heavenly Father for one and then take the time and energy to develop the friendship. God uses good friends to help us through our griefs and and to keep us grounded through our successes. We also need the exercise of being a good friend to others.

Look for opportunities to grow or stretch or change. It may seem best to just keep doing things the same way. This is comfortable or at least a known quantity. But take the challenge to learn something new or take a new position or go somewhere new. You won’t be sorry for the experience. God will use it to enrich your life and other’s lives too.

Young women, give it your all, your best. Whatever you have to do today, do it with your whole heart. Even if it doesn’t make sense now, you will some day see how it built your character or gave you experiences you can use to help others or prepared you for an opportunity in the future.

I’m here. I’m rooting for you. And you have a Heavenly Father who wants your best. Don’t give up or give in! There is too much at stake.

This song has been the encouragement I needed at times to keep going and keep doing what is right. Let the words bless you, too.

Don’t grow weary or discouraged. Don’t surrender in the fight. Keep on moving in the Spirit, keep on doing what you know is right. There will be seasons of blessing and there will be weeping in the night. But soon you’ll be reaping the blessing, if you keeping on in the fight.

God Sees in Secret

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In our heads we know that since God is spirit, He sees in a different way from man. We can hide whatever we want to about ourselves from other people. But we cannot hide from God.

Sometimes we don’t like that we cannot hide from God.

Psa. 139: 7-12 describes our feeble attempts to hide.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” 

We know He sees our obvious sins. But He also sees our secret sins. These are the sins even our closest friend does not know. Sin always damages and secret sin damages our own souls. They may not be seen by others, but God wants to free us from their grasp too. We know God knows about them, when His conviction stabs us like a thorn in our shoe. We find mercy when we confess these sins.   (Pro 28:13)

hiding

He sees us when we are tempted. Like a skilled manipulator makes us agree to something we had no intention of doing, the enemy of our soul tries to isolate us from support and render us too weak to resist. But Jesus was tempted in every way we are and will not let us be tempted beyond our ability. And he provides a way of escape. We need to ask God to show us the way of escape when we are tempted. (1Co 10:13) 

The Bible shows us very good reasons we want God to see us like no person can see us.

Hagar was very glad God could see her! She was Sarai’s slave and had been harshly treated by Sarai when she became pregnant with Ishmael. Sarai had arranged for her to get pregnant, but then was angry when Hagar looked down on her for her barrenness. Hagar fled into the wilderness. The Lord told her to return to Sarai and submit to her and He promised her that her offspring would be a multitude. And she named Him, The God Who Sees.  (Gen 16:1-13)

He sees our tears and knows our pain. Even if the people closest to us cannot empathize with us, God sees and saves our tears in a bottle. (Psa. 56:8 ) And even if the tears are not stopped in this life, at the end of time there will be no more death, no more grief and no more crying or pain. (Rev_21:4) 

He sees when we are lonely and depressed. He is our Comforter. He will turn our loneliness and depression into a way we can comfort others. He does not waste our sorrows. (2Co 1:3-4) 

He sees us even when we cannot feel his presence. Many of the most sincere believers through the ages had periods when they could not feel His presence. He had never left them and He saw them and provided for them. Mother Teresa is one in our time who spent many years serving the poor and dying and not feeling God’s presence in her own life. But He promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And He keeps His promises! (Heb_13:5)

He saw us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. He has seen us grow and develop. He sees what age and use have done to our bodies. What we don’t like, has never repulsed Him. (Psa 139:13-16)

He sees our thoughts and hopes and dreams. Others may not know what we dream about and our hopes for the future. Many of those God placed in us to give us a future to aim for.  (Eph 2:10) 

He sees our hard work. Some of us are given very tedious, repetitious work to do. We may never see any worth in that work here. But if it is done in obedience to Him, He stores up rewards for us in heaven. (Col 3:23- 24)

He sees where we go. He also sees our attitude as we go. When we are open with God and willing to do what He tells us, He will show us when we have a bad attitude and what we need to do about it. Wanting revenge or holding unforgiveness are just a couple of the bad attitudes we may have. God will not let us keep those and will help us know a better way, if we are open to Him. (Eph 4:21-32)

He sees when others take advantage of us, or persecute us. It is His work to vindicate us. In His time and in His way, He will give everything back to its rightful owner.  (Isa_54:17) 

He sees our needs. Why don’t we pour out to Him what our needs are? He knows them before we ask, but He loves to hear us ask. (Heb_4:16) 

There is nothing that pleases God more than when we take time to be alone with Him. He loves us to tell Him what is going on in our lives, especially when we listen to what He has to say about those things. He does not want us to be afraid to tell Him anything. When we spend time with Him, the troubles of this life seem much smaller and less important. We discover a new way to see when we see how the Father sees.

You may click on the link to have the Bible verses for your reference.

Destination or Journey?

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I recently read and article by a 40 year old written to her 20 year old self. It reminded me of this article I wrote in my mid sixties. I’ve updated it now that I’m 72. It would have been nice if I could have told my younger self to learn all of those lessons well. They were foundational to what God has done with my life since then.

My Twenties
1. I graduated from my three year diploma nursing program, but couldn’t finish my degree.
2. I only attended half a year of Bible School.
3. I just managed to get married before my mythical expiry date of 23 years.
4. I only worked in neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic for 6 months.
5. I miscarried my first baby.
6. We spent 14 months learning we were not cut out to pioneer a church.
7. I went back to working in newborn nursery and was there while it turned into a NICU.
8. My first son was born and I learned how much I still didn’t know about babies.
9. We pioneered another church. (We weren’t slow learners, we just had so much more to learn.)
10. Our second son was born shortly before I turned 30.

Now at 72

This is what happened with each of those early steps.
1. A degree in nursing was not going to be important to where I was going.
2. That half year of Bible School began my lifelong love of Bible study. It was a great foundation.
3. After almost 50 years of loving, learning, and companionship, the date we married really was not important.
4. Neurosurgery was not my life’s calling and I’m glad.
5. Though I lost that baby, God has given me so many sons and daughters over the years.
6. That first church pioneering experience was our first classroom in the real world.
7. My NICU work was the end of my career as a nurse, but then I began using my medical knowledge for my family’s health and helping my friends. Because of that background many trust me with their personal concerns.
8. Our first son married and gave us two wonderful grandchildren. He is a very involved dad and valuable employee.
9. In the last church we built strong foundations and learned lessons we still teach today. This church launched us into our almost 40 years in the nations.
10. Our second son is well respected in his field for his knowledge and skills.

I had no idea in my twenties where I would go, what I would love to do, or how important those trials and failures would be to me and all those I’ve shared with over these last 50 years.

Life will not be as you imagine it. There will be surprises, a few bad ones, but mostly good. Live life to the full. Pay attention and learn from your experiences. You will have plenty of opportunities to use what you know with people God sends your way.

Our twenties really are just a starting point, not the destination! Actually, we can say that about each decade. Each one builds on the last, so build well!

Resisting Change

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I’ve wondered often, “What causes people to resist making changes that would improve their life dramatically?”

Marital problems

We listen to couples tell long tales of conflict in their marriage. The original offense may have happened on their honeymoon. After years of fighting  they are ready to divorce. They don’t really want to know what would improve their marriage. They just want out! Others don’t want to divorce, but they want us to tell their spouse how bad they are. Some come to unload their garbage because it is overflowing, but don’t want to know how to stop collecting it.

We have friends and colleagues who keep repeating self-destructive behaviors. We know how much better their lives would be if they would make a small adjustment. Sometimes if they set a boundary they would not be so used up and fall sick so often. Sometimes making an agenda would mean they could get everything completed without staying up late, night after night.

We have a strong human penchant for resisting change.  We believe what we see. What we see may be an illusion, but we are convinced we are seeing reality. We justify ourselves and blame others. Jealousy and shame, guilt and vengeance all live in our sinful, stubborn human hearts.

It is far easier to continue as we are than to make a change. If a doctor tells us two or three changes in our way of life that will reduce our risks of serious illness, we find it hard to make those changes. We would far rather he prescribe a pill we could take once a day to repair the damage it’s taken us years to cause.

I don’t have answers to everyone’s troubles. I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can only change myself. Do I want to change things in my own life that would make my life more fruitful or more pleasant?

If I’m going to see change in my life, there are a few basic things I must believe.

  • I must believe God knows all about me and knows what would make my life better.
  • I must believe He has my best interests at heart. When He says something is dangerous for me, I must believe Him.
  • He gave me His Spirit to teach me and guide me, comfort and help me. I don’t have to do it all alone.

The big changes in my life all came as a result of God opening my eyes to what was wrong in my own life. He then showed me what to do, like repent or forgive or trust. I need to believe that if he tells me to do something, it is possible for me to do it. He is willing to help, but He wants me to choose to do it.

Those are all fundamental to changing our attitude about change.  We also have people in our lives to help us change.

When an enemy points out a fault, it is easy to discount what they say. But when a close friend points out something, we should take it to heart. I think there are a few ways to respond to a friend’s comments.

  • Do I really do that? Often?
  • Why is it wrong or bad (if we really don’t know)?
  • What is a better or right way to do it?
  • I’ve never done it any other way. How do I even start to change?

We don’t often talk like that, even to our best friends. But if these attitudes and questions are stirred in our heart, we will begin to see how change is possible.

Take a moment to consider:

Psalm 16:11 says, “ You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  God doesn’t leave us on our own to figure out life, He will instruct us either through His Word or through people He sends our way.

Is there a change in your life that you are resistant to change? Has God been nudging you to change something in your life? Has a friend pointed out a change they would like to see in your life? Why not ask God to help you make the change? Why not ask your friend to walk with you as you change in this area of your life.

There is freedom and joy in letting go.