We all have our own well we visit in the heat of the day.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Shame is liar whose only intent is to divert us from or diminish entirely any chance for success. Shame can take a single mistake and make it our identity. In fact the very armor we were meant to wear for power in standing against the devils schemes becomes a buckling weight disguised as weakness and shame.

It is no secret that I love the stories of the women of the bible; Rahab the harlot, the Adulteress, Mary Magdalene and of course the Samaritan woman at the well. Each of these women felt shame, hid from others and ultimately experienced mercy and grace in their darkest moments of carrying guilt. Sure their shame came from what appears to be easily avoidable choices to us, but do we really know their stories? Do we know the backstory or simply what we choose to see selfishly and are we really all that different or innocent? Jesus saw the before and the after and chose love anyhow. Just like he did with Judas, he knew what he would do, and still fed him at his table. Do you ever wonder what it is he knew that made him choose them and love them any way? Or, us? Think of all your shortcomings and the fact that he still sees you blameless and worthy. Shame finds us guilty and Jesus sets us free.

We have a choice to use our eyes as they were intended; to look beyond situations and choices instead of a judgmental stare down. We also have a choice and the ability to see there is always more to what we see or hear as a “story” and have empathy and compassion remembering that behind that “story” is an actual human being living that reality. That behind the rumor, the imperfections, the mugshot, the divorce, the depression and the abuse there is still someone richly deserving of love, mercy and grace. If this is you, you need to know this truth. When I say you are not disqualified, I mean that. We can not fail when God is our qualifier. And, when we least expect it he levels the playing field whether we are prepared for it or not.

This pandemic has opened my eyes to the things we have been doing wrong and the first is forgetting to love others as ourselves – which means we NEED to love ourselves. We can’t love ourselves when our arms are full from carrying the weight of every mistake we have made. It is not intended for us to do so. Even more so, the weight you’re carrying may come from things you don’t even realize you’re hiding behind. Things such as using humor to hide behind depression. Or, facades to hide behind financial struggles, abuse or possibly low self-esteem. Addictions manifest themselves in so many ways besides drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships etc., what about our work? Or, a project? Our phones? Activities, hobbies and sports? A busy schedule to appear important when instead it is just temporarily numbing the pain that silence brings, becoming no different than drugs and alcohol. We hide and find guilt in more ways then we care to admit, and the truth is we all have our own well that we visit in the heat of the day. We just change up the route, however just like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, he will go out of his way, taking the longer route to meet you right where you are and remind you of his need to use your story, to have you speak life with it and that he loves you.

Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the things that do not hold true value and are no longer serving or benefiting us. If you ask me, God has done exactly that for us right here in this moment. He has leveled the playing field by redirecting our hearts and setting our eyes on him. When we are focusing on God, we don’t see others failures or our own because we are soaked in his word full of hope, promise and love. When we have nothing distracting us our focus is on the people and things we regularly take for granted and we no longer feel the need to hide away in shame or escape the guilt we can’t seem to shake. We realize that our trip to the well at the heat of the day is no longer healthy, it is a hindrance meant to distract us from our calling and purpose. We all have regrets, pain and have at one time or another struggled with the weight of guilt and shame, we are only made different by being obedient to the one who calls us to love one another and ourselves. Shame is not a description of who you are, and guilt is not something that requires being filled at a well that will never quench your thirst the way forgiveness for yourself and others will.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Hard to heal doesn’t mean hard to love.

Healing as an adult is ridiculously hard. It requires bravery, brutal and almost blunt-force honesty and it can leave you completely depleted. Especially on the days that sneak up out of nowhere and smack you right in the face. A broken heart, a broken soul or even a broken human can still hold an enormous amount of vitality because broken means open. And, open provides a means of escape for pain and an entrance for hope. Just because it is hard for you to heal does not mean you’re hard to love.

Healing as an adult is ridiculously hard. It requires bravery, brutal and almost blunt-force honesty, and it can leave you completely depleted. Especially on the days that sneak up out of nowhere and smack you right in the face. A broken heart, a broken soul or even a broken human can still hold an enormous amount of vitality because broken means open. And, open provides a means of escape for pain and an entrance for hope. Just because it is hard for you to heal does not mean you’re hard to love.

“Leaving your broken heart open allows pain to escape and hope to enter.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never fully heal. I’ll never be understood or fully appreciated or be able to exist just as I am without having to explain who I am and why I feel or act a certain way. It’s as if my heart is filetted wide open, or an open wound even, and just as it’s being stitched up and sanitized, a stitch busts open again. Take a building undergoing renovations yet stays open for business. That’s me. I’m walking around like a “normal” person doing “normal” things all the while I am being gutted, and refortified. I’m being made with a stronger foundation but as each supporting wall is demolished, there is damage revealing itself, screaming, “hey, don’t forget about me – remember that one time? Let’s talk about that!” And, it’s exhausting and some days I feel beaten down.

Healing is hard. Healing is brave. Healing takes time. Think of it like weight loss. If you lose the weight too fast, it usually comes back and with a vengeance. If you lose weight the healthy way, which takes longer – it stays off and you become stronger. Our hearts, minds and bodies all heal the same way.

I think it is important that we share these moments and feelings of inadequacy and defeat because that is being authentic. We need more authenticity in our lives. The truth is sometimes we do feel flawed, inadequate and fearful of failing, and that is okay. It is okay to feel these things as long as you follow it with truth, faith and grace.  Trust me, I know that is not always easy. But healing even the slightest bit, is progress.

Healing requires self-compassion and heaps of grace.

When I feel under attack and unworthy, I remind myself of God’s truth, of his promises and abilities to create through me and within me whatever I lack. On really difficult days, I battle between believing those truths and believing the lie that I am not who God says I am. Truth is, I don’t always see myself how God sees me or even how others who love me see me. Sometimes I see myself how the enemy sees me. My reflection varies from flawless and blameless to the distorted image manifested from what I was told growing up which were lies that became my truth.

Have you ever had to actively retrain yourself to stop believing what you believe to be the truth? A truth that doesn’t make sense to you and feels like a lie? It..is..HARD. It is like taking an apple and placing it in someone’s hand and telling them it is an apple, but they see an orange. To them it looks, smells and feels like an orange, but it is an apple. How do you explain that what you see, feel and sense is false? It is crazy to think that the truth is, your truth is a lie and you’ve believed it your whole life. And it is hard as hell to heal as a grown adult when you were broken as a child.

I feel fear but I choose faith. I feel sadness but I choose joy. I feel hopeless but I choose hopeful. I feel the lie but I choose the truth. 

The truth is:

  • I am loved.
  • I do matter.
  • With God I am enough.
  • I am the girl for the job.
  • I am the mom my children need.
  • I am a good wife.
  • I am a good friend.
  • I am who God says I am.

God says I am HIS, and that I am:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Beautiful
  • Valuable

I have a voice, calling and a purpose. God makes no mistakes, and these are the truths I (we) need to root my(our)self in when the lies scream louder. The lies we were taught, and the dysfunctional environments we’ve found ourselves in may look and feel like shackles but if you look a little closer you will see that the shackles unlocked the moment we stepped into the freedom, love and acceptance of Jesus. We were just blinded by the enemy’s lies. We are free to remove ourselves one binding at a time and walk away from those lies and pain and into healing, hope and love.

Whatever you’re battling today, you’re not alone and your no longer bound to the lies of your past. Take a step forward friend even if it is just one each day until you can look back on this day and see the difference, the distance and the growth. Healing takes time and hard to heal does not mean hard to love.

If I woke up sixteen again, I’d most likely do these things differently…

Any revision that would alter my children or my husband being mine was off limits! However, I’d be lying if my mind didn’t wander with other events or even some rather questionable choices. So, I began to play around with some tweaks here and there of what I would do just a little differently. Here’s what I came up with in absolutely no order of sense or occurrence;

I would hurt fewer people.

I would not put the edible underwear in the freezer, in plain sight, by the ice cream with young children in the house. (I know!)

There are a majority of life events that I would never alter, even some very painful choices, losses and lessons – because those molded me into who I am today. Truth be told, I’m proud of who I am today. I’ve never been one for regrets. I firmly believe the path I chose, tested me purposely, and grew me intentionally. Without God’s grace and mercy, I wouldn’t have found the path he made for me in the wilderness I created.

Any revision that would alter my children or my husband being mine was off limits! However, I’d be lying if my mind didn’t wander with other events or even some rather questionable choices. So, I began to play around with some tweaks here and there of what I would do just a little differently. Here’s what I came up with in absolutely no order of sense or occurrence;

I would hurt fewer people.

I would not put the edible underwear in the freezer, in plain sight, by the ice cream with young children in the house. (Gag gift, but still, I know!)

I would fight harder in certain situations but less in most.

I would not act on every impulse praying it was God, knowing it wasn’t.

I would attend my grandfather’s funeral even being disowned.

I would not take the position at the jail.

I would save myself, value myself and respect myself more.

I would not go to the hemp festival, or eat that ganja ball, or wear that shirt without a bra pretending to be a hippie. Actually, I’d probably go without the bra again! (Oh, the days before breastfeeding babies.)

I would beg no one to stay. Ever!

I would not sneak out that one time and go to that one party.

I would be more diligent in washing my face. (random I know, but dang it Jessica!)

I would not cheat, lie, marry, forgive or trust him.

I would know my worth lies in God’s hands, not anyone else’s.

I would not skip reading the instructions before using a tampon for the first time. (Okay, younger than sixteen but still… a necessary edit!)

I would re-do a majority of 2008-2009 with heavy edits, a diet and a healthy fear of God and a improved conscience.

I would not let a man ever lay hands on me, or stay with him after he did.

I would find and use my voice much sooner.

I would not leave my mustang with a manual transmission, in neutral in the mall parking lot – while I went shopping.

I would be more spontaneous.

I would not join any AOL chat rooms and talk with anyone who’s screen name was whippedcream24/7. (If you’re shaking your head, I am too – don’t worry!)

I would be a single mom much longer, and a stronger mom who focused on her kids being loved instead.

I would not say that “thing” I said at a softball game once, to his new wife.

I would apologize less for who I am and celebrate myself more.

I would not see trauma, abandonment and failure as a weakness. I would see a therapist and focus on healing as a strength.

I would let her keep him.

I would not drink warm Blackberry MD 20/20 behind the school gym during summer school.

I would stand up for others more in highschool. Including myself, especially during my senior year with those awful girls who cornered me in the bathroom. (If only I was who I am now, then!)

I would not attend a girls’ night in that rural city where a backyard holds too many secrets.

And, the final thing I would do differently if I woke up sixteen again, I’d get up at 2 am and join my dad in the kitchen for a grilled cheese sandwich.

What about you, what edits or additions would you make?

The Hope Buckets

I struggle with wanting to be real and wanting to be healed. And, I realize the two go hand in hand. Yet, I shy away at times with being raw and revealing a tattered version of myself because in those moments of transparency and vulnerability – I am broken.

Today I was a contributing writer at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine. Below is a snippet of the “The Hope Buckets” – I hope you enjoy.

I struggle with wanting to be real and wanting to be healed. And, I realize the two go hand in hand. Yet, I shy away at times with being raw and revealing a tattered version of myself because in those moments of transparency and vulnerability – I am broken. I am not whole, and I am most definitely not healed. We do not stay there though, it is a moment in time revealing the road leading up to a certain point, not the end of the road.

The enemy wants us to see the road as a dead end. He wants us to give up and remain broken. The goal is for us to not trust, to question the intentions of those around us and to halt any progress we may be making. Those are the days we stay in bed, the days we listen to the lies and mimic an unhealthy and sometimes jealous self-talk. We tell ourselves we are not good enough, that God may have forgiven me but no one else has. Everyone is keeping tabs on my mistakes. I will never be good enough and I will always be judged.

Read more at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine.

You deserve to heal.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes and works all things for the good of those who love him. You see, God was with her that awful day 23 years ago. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes pleading for him to take her life for the life she took, and for his forgiveness, he had answered her prayer.

The truthful story of a young girls’ abortion and how God’s grace restored her faith.

Abortion is not a topic people like to talk about aside from an easily forwarded meme or a hashtag. Many tweet their support or opposition much like the trending #youknowme , #shoutyourabortion #abortionishealthcare and #abortionismurder , #lovethemboth and #unplanned. Your friends are most likely divided as well and some like myself may have been torn on how they felt and throughout the years changed their minds. I’m sharing her story because we need to talk about the things no one talks about. We need to include the unknown, the uninformed and what really happens behind closed doors, inside broken homes and what can lead to, occurs during and follows an abortion.

She’s sitting there in a paper gown staring down at her feet praying harder than she’s ever prayed before, asking God to please not let her be pregnant. Pleading her case with him that she can’t be pregnant. She is too young, she is unprepared, her home-life is broken, she’s financially unstable, alone and scared. She only had sex one time, this can’t be happening. There is no possible way she can raise a child on her own when she is a child herself. As the door opens and her eyes meet the doctors eyes, she knows the result before he opens his mouth; she’s pregnant.

The nurse comes in, she is gentle, supportive and kind. The nurse consoles her, hands her a tissue and tells her she is going to be okay. Though unplanned this is not unmanageable, she has options: Abortion, Adoption, Abortion, Being a mother, or Abortion. She’s not very far along, approximately 4-6 weeks, there is no heartbeat yet, just a clump of cells – abortion is an option. And, she can have one tomorrow. She isn’t given tools for coping with the news of her pregnancy, she isn’t given time to discuss options, research options, and she isn’t offered support in becoming a mother.

This girl; she is more common than you realize. She is your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend. She is the lady beside you at church that cries every Sunday. She is your grandmother, your teacher, your coach, your therapist, your doctor; or maybe she is you. And, she is just as loved by God as you are. We don’t know her backstory, we don’t know what led her to a choice we may not choose or understand, and very few understand the torment that consumes her life after she realizes what she’s done.

The girl I knew was only sixteen when she found out she was pregnant. She had only had sex the one time. She was a good teenager for the most part, went to church every Sunday, stayed away from drugs and trouble. She had an unhealthy home-life which was littered with abandonment and loss, so she found “love” in relationships. She thought he would love her if she gave herself to him, but she’d find out eventually she was wrong.

When she found out she was pregnant, she was terrified. It was as if she was gifted an impossibility. She was handed something that she could never really have, and none of what she wanted even mattered, because her hand was forced. Her boyfriend wanted her to have the abortion, her father would have done worse, so her desires never entered her mind or heart. Her fear cancelled out any clarity or possibility of love, her shame cancelled out the desire for help, care or concern, and their control erased her options of breaking the unhealthy cycle of the life she was born into.

The day after she found out she was pregnant, with the help of a kind nurse and request of her boyfriend, she had an abortion. Just like that, quickly and easily accessible. A child, without parental consent or knowledge, any proper counseling, had an abortion. She was simply carrying a child who was viewed by others as a problem that their solution could solve. Her boyfriend wanted rid of any responsibility and eventually would leave her as well, once the “problem” was solved.

It would be six years later that she would find herself in a similar paper gown, this time with her husband and the hope of being pregnant. The doctor came in confirming the good news, and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time she had viewed a baby on an ultrasound. She saw a fluttering and asked what that was, and he told her it was the baby’s heart beating. She asked how far along she was and he said about 6 or 7 weeks. And, she cried. Not tears of the love to come, the joy of being pregnant but tears of regret, failure and disappointment. She suffered a loss in that moment realizing the supportive nurse from before wasn’t as honest and helpful as she had thought. And, she felt undeserving of this child too.

She revisited that day six years ago; which consisted of mere moments scattered like chaos. She remembered the emptiness. She looked back down at her feet just as she did at sixteen and remembered leaving that clinic feeling like a worthless woman. She remembered the steps from the exam room to the front door of the doctors office being heavy and long, that the hallway stretched like looking through a funny mirror and one step closer felt like 300 steps back.

She remembers that the exam room table chilled her body. That the air held a smutty dampness that was thick enough to choke you yet invisible; deceiving you into trying. That it held an ominous feeling of emptiness and an overabundance of death. She remembers the tears running like she wanted to. Running and hiding behind anything and anyone to save her. But, she had no one.  And, no one would understand or feel sorry for her.

The cramping and immense pain that started as mild discomfort gradually became the type of pain only a monster deserved to endure. It was a hell she deserved. The silence that accompanied the pain was broken by the sound of a machine being switched on. A low hum of suctioning, sounding strangely familiar to the sound she had just heard today of her baby’s heartbeat; except that this machine had silenced it.

She’s unable to recall arriving or leaving the doctor’s office that day. No idea of how she got home, how she cared for herself following the procedure or any other detail of that day. All she remembers is that outside
of that room she was an empty shell of existence and was never the same again. There wasn’t just the painful awareness and absence of what had been growing in her belly the past few weeks, but also the realization that every ounce of her soul was extracted and held captive in the same container that held her baby.

She had often wondered if the women who came before and followed after were as uniformed, frightened and tearful as she was on that day. Were they alone and there because they felt like they had no other choice? Did they feel as though God didn’t love them and that he would never forgive them? Do the tears ever revisit them, weighted with the same shame and despair as hers? Did their lives get lost without healing, did they slip into addiction, self harm, sexual or physical abuse, or did they possibly attempt suicide like she had.

She recalls being disgusted with herself the days and weeks following her abortion, even her own reflection was too much to bear. Even though the nurse told her it wasn’t a baby, she felt like it was and she felt as though she suffered a loss. A loss that others would say she had no right to suffer or grieve, thus going without any healing. And, today six years later she realized she was right, that the clump of cells was a baby, it had at the very least a heart forming and depending on how far along she really was, possibly beating.

After the abortion, she was tormented every minute by the memory of what she did, how she wasn’t strong enough to keep her baby. She knew she had let her baby, herself and God down. She wasn’t worthy of the breath she breathed, she was worthless, tainted and unlovable. She was desperate to escape her hell and trade it in for whatever hell God had planned for her. Surely she deserved it. She wrote her goodbyes, swallowed handfuls of pills and with an odd sense of calm and peace, she closed her eyes praying that they never open again.

But just as she had prayed weeks ago that she not be pregnant, God too left this prayer unanswered, or so she thought. He did not take her that night twenty-three years ago, instead he opened her eyes once again to a life she was meant to live. A life that carried consequences, pain, and anger – but ultimately filled with love, compassion, growth and understanding. She was given another chance to break the unhealthy cycle she was in, to toss away the crutch of false security and stability she leaned on, and to stand firm on her own foundation of faith, restoration and love.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3, NIV) and works all things for the good of those who love and follow him (Romans 8:28, NIV). On that awful day 23 years ago, God was with her. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her, because she had never stopped believing in or loving him. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes praying for him to forgive her and take her life, he actually had. It wouldn’t be until six years later that she would realize that.

Failure can serve a beautiful purpose if we let it and that is why you often hear that God uses broken people to share his grace and glory. Today, I am that broken person. This girl from so many years ago, was me. And, this is my story, my truth and my testimony.

When the doctor laid my daughter on my chest six years later, and her cries were comforted by my heartbeat, I knew. It was then that I realized God have given me a new life, he had forgiven me and he showed me an endless amount of the loving grace he is. My cries were comforted by her heartbeat as well, and I named her Gracie. She saved my life in ways only God knows as that was his plan all along. She gave me purpose until I could find my own, she taught me unconditional love as I was learning to love myself and she reminded me that each child is a gift from God, perfectly planned in his image.

It took twenty-three years to heal from this and I still grieve both the act and the loss. If my sharing this either deters you or helps you understand you deserve to grieve, to heal and to be loved, then I will boast of the things that show my weakness, (1 Cor. 11:30 NIV). If you think you’re too far gone, or God’s too far away, simply say his name and know he is already there, (Isaiah 30:18, NIV).