The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (NIV)
I held my knees to my chest and stared at the rubble of my burned home. The removal of the ashes was the next day. My heart ached knowing the tangible evidence of my memories would soon settle in a dump.
Dance on the ashes. My quiet thought prompted me.
That’s crazy. No. I shook my head grasping a handful of slate colored dust, my beautiful house reduced to this. I’m not dancing on the ashes. People will laugh. I glanced around, people walking their dogs and cars going by.
I am not a singer or a painter, but a dancer, yes. Much had been taken from me, but the expression of my heart remained. Dance on the ashes, I told myself. Several times I stood and sat down, afraid someone would see me.
My need to proclaim victory over devastation won the argument. I stood, blasted my music, and danced. My inhibitions melted with each step. This was not just a dance, but a release of pain and an infusion of strength at the same time. My inner being shouted, I will overcome. Even if it all burns, I will stand and declare my faith. “Great is my God!” The words of the music seared truth into my spirit. With every step, the broken glass and debris crunched beneath my feet. The sound echoed—a reminder that beauty will triumph, even when brokenness screams.
When circumstances turn our lives to rubble, sometimes the only thing to do is dance on the ashes.
Often, the action we need to take to move beyond our pain is the hardest step. When we praise God for who He is, in spite of our circumstances, we fall into his generous arms of love. God wants to meet us when our heart breaks, but sometimes we ignore Him. Worship is the dance which moves us from a crumpled ball of defeat to the capable arms of Jesus.
Shauna Hoey is the author of Fire of Hope: Finding Treasure in the Rubble. Her book delivers heart-felt practical wisdom from her voice of experience. Learn more about Shauna on her website:www.shaunahoey.com
Adapted from an excerpt in Fire of Hope: Finding Treasure in the Rubble and What’s-Your-Story-Waldo Canyon Fire Colorado by Johnny Wilson The Day I Danced on the Ashes by Shauna Hoey pages 24-25
My eyes scanned over this month's goals. Between chores, I wanted to work with Micaela. I touched the cognitive goal and nodded. I selected 5 familiar objects and placed them on the floor. Micaela came quickly. Her smile was infectious.
I grinned. "Okay Micaela, we have a cup, a cat, the drum, a ball, and a marker." Micaela patted the drum and grabbed the cat. I swallowed. "Micaela, where is the ball? Can you touch the ball?"
I made eye contact with her and repeated the question. Micaela's smiled faded. She set the cat down and looked at the toys. I held my breath and waited. Miceala looked at me again and her eyes lit up. She crawled over and climbed into my lap. She settled her head on my shoulder. I could feel her body relax. When she leaned back there was a smile once again on her face.
My eyebrows came together. My little two-year-old obviously needed a hug. Had I held her today? Had I simply enjoyed her company? What about yesterday? My mind filled with the activities we did together. I knew Micaela enjoyed all of them. But there was more to life than developmental progress.
I held Micaela for several minutes and pushed away my agenda. It was hard. My thoughts were of milestones and learning, but my heart was troubled.
When had Micaela become my project child instead of just my child?
The rest of the day my worried mind traveled the fear over and over. Before bed I poured out my doubts to God. I needed guidance. I need to fix whatever had become broken. I bit my lip and opened to the book of Mark in the Bible. The next chapter I needed to read was chapter 8 and a familiar story came with it.
Jesus fed four thousand men + women and children with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. The men themselves would have went hungry, but with God their resources were multiplied. There was more than enough.
I blinked back tears.
As a mom, I often feel my resources are stretched thin. There is so much that needs to be done. So much that must be fixed, cared for, provided for. My mind and heart feel inept, coming up short with everything my little family needs.
But, with God, there is more than enough.
I have enough love to see my daughter for more than her disabilities. My mind has more than enough space to care for the many needs of her learning and life. I have wisdom, joy, love, patience, and peace, because I’m on this journey with Him.
Like the four thousand that sat on the ground while Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks, I need to rest in His presence and let Him fill all those empty spaces.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Have you ever doubted the affection of someone close to you?
When I was about fourteen, I went through a period where I greatly questioned my mom's love. It disturbed me how much she did for my younger brother. She paid attention to his grades, sat down with him to do his homework, and worked hard to help him succeed. Her treatment of me was very different. Of course, I had straight As and did not struggle in school, but I still felt she did not love me like she did my brother. Now, Mom did find things for us to do togethers and liked to give me little things. The hormonal teenager in me believed that she attempted to convince me of her love, but it was obvious that my brother was the one who truly held her heart.
A decade later a friend handed me the book The Five Love Languages. My world was rocked. I gobbled up the theology of the book and sighed with relief. I understood my husband better and became a better friend. I realized that Mom did love me. However, our love languages did not match up.
For those of you who haven't read this amazing book, let me give you a little idea of what it is about. AuthorGary Chapman wrote that we all express love using a primary and secondary love language. There are five different languages to choose from:
My primary language is acts of service and my secondary is physical touch. That means that if someone hugs me or does something to help me, I feel perfectly loved. My mother liked to receive (and give) gifts and spend quality time with others. I didn't realize that all those years she was actively demonstrating how much I meant to her in the way using her love languages.
Information is powerful. As we gear up to extra loving next week, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the love languages of those close to you? Anyone can sign on to the Love Languages website and take a quiz for free. We can also find out the love language of our children (if they are above age 9). http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
God made us unique and special in our ways. Let us honor that by finding the best way to show our love to the special people in our lives.
January was an overwhelming month for me. That is probably not much of a shocker when I consider how much I carelessly heaped on my plate. I dove into a new world of marketing a book, I have been furiously editing a novel that a publishing company has shown interest in, I started a new diet & exercise regime, and I continued mothering & housekeeping to the best of my ability.
When my spleen swelled up at the end of the month I felt like the universe was giving me a nice little thunk on the forehead. I felt God lovingly place a hand on my shoulder and say, "You are glutton for punishment, My daughter. Ready to step back into My pace and plan for you?"
As I write this post my side feels like it is on fire and I battle frustration. I want my energy back. I want to be able to sleep in my right side again and chase the girls around the house. And, I'm a little scared. I don't exactly have answers for what is going on. Worst of all, I feel like I'm failing.
Failing at motherhood. Failing at maintaining a home. Failing at writing, publishing, and marketing. Failing at maintaining peace. Failing at improving my health.
I really didn't know if things would be okay again.
As I sat and moped, my mind turned to all the stories in the Bible about the Kings of Judea and Isreal. Their lives fascinate me. They were men with great power. Some of them had hearts for the Lord and their lives were full of happiness and success. Others never turned their eyes to the true God, and they brought distruction on themselves and their kingdom. The most heartbreaking histories of all, are about the kings who began their reign following the Lord, but turned away as time moved on. God never allowed them to move too far from Him before bringing them into account.
I have been busy. In so many of my goals this past month, I have relied heavily on my own knowledge and strength. I have forgotten to turn to Him in all the little worries and the grand problems. I am no king, but God's love for me is strong enough to refuse me to wander too far from His protection.
Yesterday, Jovani took a break between chores to give Adela a roping lesson. Though the skill is a hard one for Adela to learn, her father had patience with her, instructed her carefully, and encouraged her. Back and forth they went. Jovani showed her, did it with her, and then let her take a shot by herself. Little by little she got just a tiny bit better, but she has a long way to go.
I smiled. I'm just like her. God keeps showing me His power, His protection. He keeps walking along side me. He gives me a little room to see if I will keep to His training. And then He has to come back and show me all over. I shouldn't feel upset at the cycle. It is a beautiful example of love.
My frustration eased. It's going to be okay. God has brought me back close to Him and is intimately showing how His kingdom works. It might mean that for now I have less control over my world, but how beautiful that He cares so much that He brought me close to Him once again.
I give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
My eyes longingly gazed at a bag full of early Valentine candies. Nobody would know if I ate half-a-dozen as long as there was still some left. In fact, if I didn't exercise, no one would notice either. None of that really affected my loved ones as long as I kept functioning at normal levels.
Accountability is more important than we could ever imagine. None of us are perfectly motivated. Situations will come at and against us to make even the best intentions fall through. Without an outside force it becomes extremely difficult to implement change.
I'm a woman of will-power, but a bag of chocolates has a louder voice than the silence of a quiet house. As I set up plans for changing my physical health, I saw the road before me long and lonely.
A couple weeks into the hard work of eating right and becoming more active, a friend sent me a message asking if I might like an accountability partner. She is a mother of young children who wanted to make a change in her life, too. Like me, she can't make it to a gym or join a club. She was trying to wing-it as she re-wired her life with some healthier habits.
Hesitant at first, I accepted the offer. It took a few weeks to sort out how we would encourage and support each other's goals, but now, I look forward to opening up Facebook and chatting with her about my day. Somebody knows. Somebody cares. Somebody is keeping me close.
The past couple weeks on this journey have been amazing with a friend coming along side me. We share our successes and our downfalls. We encourage each other and sometimes even do a bit of admonishing to help each other stay on track. I'm a very self-disciplined person, but even I don't have enough personal motivation to make these total life-changes.
It takes courage to let someone in like this. To let them see your cracks. But there is deep power in a relationship that exists to bring about change. A hard-working mommy like me is so blessed to have this kind of friendship. It is a daily reminder of God's love and support that He provided for me.
We all need someone who cares. Someone who knows what we are doing and striving for. We need someone keeping us close.
Do you ever wish you had a personal mentor that sat you down with your Bible once a day and told you what to study, how to pray, and why different verses are important? When I became a mom, my daily devotions grew disorganized. I couldn't count on a set time to open God's word. Often, when I made it to that precious devotion time, my mind and heart were too weary for deep lessons. I missed the accountability of Bible study groups but my new life allowed little room for those things anymore.
God heard and answered my weary plea to still connect with Him. He taught me that quantity was not as important as quality. He taught me to find my focus by writing out my prayers to him. He showed me that a single memorized verse can carry me through dozens of anxious moments and that the lessons taught in the Bible are accessible even if I only had a few moments.
When Expressive Heart Devotions was created, I hoped it would encourage others to have a deep connection with our loving Heavenly Father as we study His word, memorize scripture, meditate and pray. Below I worked through one of the sets in the book to give an idea of what you can do with these pages.
By the way, I treated all my pages with Gesso so that I could use paints, markers, etc without the colors bleeding into the pages.
I opened up to page 17 and stared at the words "No Longer Lost". The thought sends chills up my spine. I was lost, but now am found. Eager, I opened up my Bible and read through the ten verses that come with the key scripture, Luke 19:10. After reading the passage my mind fills with thoughts, questions, and hope. God is seeking and has searched me out. He did not allow me to be lost. In the margin I draw the tree Zacchaeus climbed up and hid in so he could glimpse his Savior. Zacchaeus was never to be lost again.
Then I decided it was time to let myself be bold. I let perfectionism fly out the window as I scribbled on the page the most difficult or ugly parts of my past and present. I drew out my neediness, my greediness, my untamed tongue—everything I could think about that reminded me of what I haven’t given over to be redeemed. As each one was splashed onto paper, I prayed to God about taking it and battling those things away.
I settled into deep relaxation as I grabbed my gel pens and water colors. I used watercolor pencils on the sea and gel pens for the rocks. In my mind I memorized and memorized the words of this scripture. They are now mine forever to turn to whenever I am feeling lost.
Sipping spiced apple tea, the last page filled my heart with joy. In my mind I could see myself sitting before my Heavenly father and pouring out to Him all my fears and desires. Often, when I try to pray, my mind gets sidetracked and I daydream. Writing out my prayers helps me focus on God. Plus, it always amazes me to read them out later and remember the how I felt in those moments.
I would love to see images and hear about others' Expressive Heart Devotions experience. May you each be having a very blessed and beautiful day.
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
by Linette Rainville
God gave, I discovered. God inspired, I developed. For a span of 15 years I was an on-fire songwriter. God gave me lyrics and melodies faster than I could capture them. It was amazingly wonderful. This experience was a treasure to my soul. As I wrote, I was being changed. God impressed that the gift was never mine to keep, but that it was always meant to be given away. As I deployed this gift at church, retreats, and coffeehouses, lives were touched and hearts were healed. It was a blessing to be a vessel God could use.
One day, everything changed. My arms were heavy, my fingers hurt, and my voice became weak. What was happening to me? It would be seven very, very (did I say VERY?) long, years of medical rollercoaster rides before I found out the name of this thing launching an all out attack on my body. The diagnosis, Mitochondrial Myopathy. Praise God, with prayer, good doctoring, and much wisdom, I am stronger today. I have learned to live in something called a “new normal”. Every day, I wake up and thank God for HIS STRENGTH in my body and seek His wisdom on how to use this precious commodity called energy. God is still in the healing business. He is always working behind the scenes, even when we can’t see Him.
Little did I know, how those years of being broken in body, were bringing strength to me in spirit. All of it had prepared me to stand strong through a storm that was yet to come. Funny thing about tragic storms. You see them hit other families, but you never think it can happen to yours…until it does. My tsunami hit the day I was informed… “I don’t love you anymore”. The man I knew and trusted as my husband for nearly 30 years chose to walk away from our family, our church, and the ministry we had built. I looked, but found no guide book entitled, “How To Survive Divorce…as a Minister”. More and more I’m feeling like, just maybe, I should write one. I have gone through this fire, and survived. I am stronger, more confident of who I am, and have discovered many other “unexpected gifts” waiting for me under the rubble. Friends, our precious Papa God is always in the process of restoring, rebuilding, and remaking BEAUTIFUL DAYS.
This heart that once felt like a hemorrhaging mess, is now beating strong.
Instead of asking God, “Who am I?”
I praise God for “Who I am!”
It’s no longer about where I WANT to go…
but where GOD WANTS to take me.
I have learned to let go of the good,
So I could grasp onto the BEST!
What about you? Have you ever found yourself asking, WHY? What now Lord? Where do I go from here? God never wastes our pain. He is able to use it for good, if we let Him. Even through the pain, our purpose still exists.
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for you …You are loved !”
Under all the clutter and debris from our life-storms, there are many unexpected gifts for us to discover!
Pray with me
“ Dear God, Even this? I don’t know how this pain will ever be used for good, but I’m willing to learn. Show me how to use my unexpected gifts to make a difference somewhere, to someone else who desperately needs a BEAUTIFUL DAY!” Thank you for loving me, and letting me know you still have a purpose for my life.
Linette Rainville is the Founder and CEO of Fellowship Hill Ministries Inc, based in Upstate NY. She is a co-traveler of life’s hills and valleys, bringing 20+ years experience as an Outreach Chaplain. Linette is a U.S. Navy Corpsman Veteran, CLASS (Christian Leaders and Speakers Services) Alumni, Certified Personality Trainer, and a member of the National Chaplain’s Association. She is a nationally known Speaker, Devotional Author, and Worship Artist with a mission to help others Discover, Develop, and Deploy God’s purpose in their lives. She spends her life, giving God’s love away and inspires others to:
"DO what you can, right WHERE you are, with WHAT you have!" ~Linette Rainville
You can find more #hearthealingwords from Linette at www.VesselsofPurpose.blogspot.com and #OnPurpose2017
Remember that beautiful scene in Sound of Music when the Captain sings Edelweiss?
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me.
My heart melts each time I watch the father the sing to his growing daughter and my throat closes just a bit at the line "Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow, forever." It touches me so much because beyond the adversity that Micaela faces, she is forever blooming and growing. She has touched the world as God shows His mercy and power through her.
My little Edelweiss. My Micaela.
Right now that little girl is fast becoming a loud, active, and determined two-year old. She focuses a great deal of her time practicing her vocal skills and trying to do whatever she can on her feet. There is so much more going on in her brain than even I have realized.
A few days ago we were visiting family. It is definitely hard keeping tabs on Micaela when we are in other people's homes. In most ways, Micaela functions at about a 12 month-old level (crawling, babbling, and playing with basic toys.) That day I found her crawling around with a candy wrapper clenched in one hand.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I have been talking to Micaela like a baby. It is hard not to. I tell her basic things and repeat labels for people and objects. I'm desperate to hear those first words. But this day I "slipped" and told her exactly what I would have said to Adela. I said, "Micaela, that isn't a toy. That is a candy wrapper. That is trash. Could you please put it in the trash?"
Micaela's dimples popped out on her cheeks and she crawled over to the trash bin and threw the wrapper away.
All I could think was, "What? What just happened? Was that real?"
And those thoughts were quickly followed by, "What have I been doing?"
Like I said, it is so hard to know what is going on in that head of hers, but obviously, she knows so much more than what she is able to communicate to us.
It scares me. I hurt for her. How frustrating would it be for any of us to be prevented from communicating with those around us? It definitely contributes to the intense tantrums that we are experiencing these days. Plus, it hurts that I have been holding her back with my low expectations.
Parenting is such a trial for any parent. There are no books written for any specific child. There are no hard and fast rules that will prevent us from making mistakes or hindering our children's growth.
But guess what, children are amazing. Our little blossoms bloom and grow despite adversity and often because of it. I think of what we have went through as a family and the challenges we face everyday, but there are still smiles on my precious daughters' faces.
Soft and white, clean and bright, they look happy to me.
Thank you, God. Stay close to us, please, as we take our children through the journey of growing up. It is your love and mercy that keeps joy in our hearts, both now and forever.
I watched Adela pat in that last piece and give me a sweet grin. The clock showed we had spent half an hour putting together various puzzles while Micaela slept upstairs. I tried not to think about how many other things loomed on my list or how difficult it would be to finish everything later. Instead I smiled back at my four year-old as we started puzzle number seven.
This is what I like to call "Real Time".
We do things for our kids all day long. Even if we are at another job we are working to provide for them. At home we clean their rooms, cook their food, make doctor appointments, settle arguments, kiss bruises, and de-clutter work spaces for coloring and playdough. We are busy constantly doing things for our children.
Real Time is different.
Real Time is when you sit down and play with them. You leave your own agenda behind and engage in their world. You listen to their likes, dislikes, questions, and stories. You make sure your body, mind, and heart are all theirs.
Real Time is powerful. Real Time lets our children of all ages know that we don't just love them, we like them and value them and want to be part of their lives.
Real Time teaches our children how to be good listeners as they observe someone putting down their phone, walking away from the computer, and turning off the TV so they can be completely invested in the time they spend with another person. Even if it is just for five minutes it still holds the beauty of a dedicated parent.
Adela needs this so bad. Micaela gets plenty of Real Time from doctors, therapists, and myself, but Adela often cruises through a day without calling much of anyone's time completely her own. It is one of the reasons she is always so eager to jump in the truck with her Papa and get away with him to cows and sheep and be someone's partner for the day. With Jovani's new job she has less of this special time with her father. The rough spots in her recent behavior is showing me that she misses it.
Real Time: another piece in the puzzle of parenting. My best days, the ones I end with a smile on my face and letting our bedtime routine stretch a bit because I enjoying parenting, those are the days with plenty of Real Time.
Huh. Guess what? We all need Real Time. We need Real Time with our spouse, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and mentors. It is worth taking off that multitasking hat and setting aside our to-do lists.
When was the last time you enjoyed Real Time with someone special?
I stared at my to do list and tapped my pen. There were two things on it, both a bit time-consuming and totally centered around my self. Besides the normal chores, Micaela's therapy, and Adela's learning, I also needed to set up my fit bit and cook some low-fat menu options to store for my meals. It was going to be huge chunk out of my day. For a long moment I lifted the pen above the two items, ready to cross them off and move them to tomorrow.
Then what? Tomorrow was not going to magically present a few free hours to help me become healthier. But today I felt that the needs of my home and children had to go to the forefront.
Oh, us moms, right? We are so good at un-prioritizing ourselves, aren't we?
What does our God think about that? Do you think He would like to clap us on the back and tell us "Well done. Keep up the good work."? Or, does he watch us scurring around, worrying about putting away those dishes and organizing toys and wish we would trust Him a bit more? The Bible is full of verses and stories reminding us to respect the health of our bodies, hearts, and minds. Check out this collection of 27 Bible Verses about Health from Biblestudytools.com. If God repeatedly mentioned the importance of our health, we need to trust Him to care for the other areas of our lives while we take time to be good to ourselves.
You know, I've seen many solidly amazing men and women whose biggest dreams had to be set aside because of their health. I've seen lives side-swiped by issues that could have been avoided if they had taken care of themselves earlier in life. God has asked each of us to do a great work for Him and we honor Him by keeping ourselves fit mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically so we are equipped to do His will.
We are worth this. There should never be an argument dancing around our heads that tries to argue its way into the logic that our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies have not earned a priority in our lives. A healthy you would be a stronger mother, a more joyful daughter, a more understanding friend, a more peaceful spouse...that list just keeps going.
So, today I want you to know, that you, my dear, are worth it. You are worth a spot on your own list, up near the top, and written in bold ink.
May your blessings abound for your faithfulness.
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