Tag Archives: letting go

Unplanned and perfect

Have I ever told you about my favorite day? Maybe that’s weird to you that I have a favorite day. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing or not. But I do, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s not my wedding day, or any of the days I gave birth to my children (although those days are etched in my memory and tucked in my heart forever).

No, my favorite day ever happened on a Tuesday in June, during the summer of 2017. My family and I were taking a big two-week road/camping trip throughout Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming. We’d flown into Denver and rented a 30 foot RV and we had 14 days to see and do as much as we could fit in.

As you can imagine, a trip like this doesn’t just happen. There was an entire year’s worth of planning that went into this trip, which I’d been dreaming about for even longer. And if there’s one thing I love to do, it’s plan. I had mapped out our route carefully, estimating the driving time for each day, how long we’d stay at each destination, reserved camp sites, booked fishing trips, ordered a National Park Pass, and even tried to build in “extra time” in case things went wrong, as I new surely something would.

It didn’t take long for the first set-back. After 2 days exploring Denver and Colorado Springs, and visiting with my sister-in-law and her family, we were scheduled to pick-up our RV on a Monday. The plan was to pick it up by 1 p.m. and hit the road by 2, getting a solid 4 hours of driving in on day one. But when we landed in Denver I discovered an email from the RV rental place asking I call to book a pick-up time. When I called I was told that the earliest slot they had available was 4:30 p.m. I knew that getting the RV back to my sister-in-law’s house, loaded up, and then dealing with Denver rush hour traffic meant the earliest we could possibly hit the road would be 6 — if we were lucky.

Frustrated at the early set-back, I revisited our itinerary for the first two days and decided we’d have to find a campground closer to Denver for our first night, which would mean cancelling our plans to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park on Tuesday since we’d need to drive at least 6 hours to get to our next destination, Cortez, CO, by Tuesday night. It was disappointing, but I tried to be flexible and luckily found a campground with space that was only 2 hours from Denver.

We pulled into our site in Buena Vista after dark on Monday, had a quick dinner and went to sleep. Tuesday morning we awoke early and got to finally see the beautiful campsite in the daylight. We hiked down to the Arkansas River, which ran along the edge of the campground, had breakfast, and hit the road. Since we were no longer going to Sand Dunes, I found a more direct route from where we were in Buena Vista to Cortez. The goal was just to make good time and arrive in Cortez by dusk. What I didn’t realize at the time was that our more direct route would take us across the Wolf Creek Pass, a stunningly beautiful and historic route (and also part of the route the Griswold’s took in National Lampoon’s Vacation).

The first half of the day brought us great weather and a beautiful drive through Colorado farm land, with the mountains making a stunning backdrop. Around 12:30 p.m. we rolled into South Fork, CO and stopped for lunch at a little Mexican restaurant where we ate burritos the size of our heads!

Then we began the ascent to the top of the San Juan Mountains, where you cross the Continental Divide. As we got higher in elevation we saw snow covering the ground, which my kids thought was crazy since it was the middle of June. By the time we got to the top – at 10,000 feet elevation — we decided we had to pull over and enjoy it. In our flip-flops and shorts we hopped out of the RV and ran through the snow, and even had a snowball fight. It was the most unexpected moment of sheer joy and laughter.

We continued our drive and a few miles later saw signs for a waterfall, Treasure Falls, and decided we had to stop and explore. That stop turned into a 40 minute hike to the middle of the falls where they had a misting deck. My kids danced and twirled, getting soaked from the mist of the powerful water. A few more stops to enjoy the view as we descended the pass added to the day and we finally pulled into our campsite in Cortez about 7 p.m. that night — several hours later than planned, but full on happy memories.

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It was, without a doubt, a picture-perfect day. Nothing was planned, everything was unexpected, and our hearts were full of joy as we took in the wonder of each new discovery. I often look at the photos from that day and smile, reminiscing about how much we laughed, how much we loved one another, and how effortless it was. There were a lot of wonderful things we did and saw that trip — things I had dreamed of doing my whole life, like seeing the Grand Canyon at sunset, and standing in front of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. But the day that stands out most to me is that Tuesday when we had no plans.

For this Type-A personality, who likes writing lists, and making plans, and crossing off to-do lists, the lesson is not lost on me. When I think back to this day and what made it so perfect, sure it was partly the beautiful scenery, and lack of incident. But I think it was more so my lack of expectations, the not-knowing what lie ahead, and being surprised by the gifts God presented to us along the way. Too often in my life I plan and work to craft these ideal experiences — perfect date nights, perfect parties, perfect ministry events, perfect holidays — and too often I am left feeling disappointed by all that didn’t go according to plan.

God reminded me on a Tuesday in June that often He has something even better waiting for me. But it’s only after I let go of expectations and control that I am able to experience these gifts.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Journey to Heal: It’s time to live a better story

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then by now you probably know that I have a huge place in my heart for encouraging women who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse to speak their truth, find healing in God, and even restore broken relationships. My passion for this stems in large part from my own past, but even more so from my present. What I mean by that is the more I have shared my story, the more women who have confided in me their “me, too” story. The longer I have been involved in small group and women’s ministry, the more stories I have heard of women still battling for release from their past and healing in their present.

I long for every woman (and man) who has a story of childhood sexual abuse to know the freedom of repair that I have found in my life,through my relationship with God and the help of a wonderful counselor. It took me many years of hard work — sometimes taking one step forward, and two steps back — to realize complete healing and restoration, and I think that’s partly because for a long time I didn’t know where to go for help. There weren’t a lot of resources available to me 20 years ago when I started my journey, and I didn’t feel comfortable seeking help in the church.

Thankfully, things have changed. Today, more women are opening up about their pasts within the church and creating a safe place for others to seek help and support. There are also more resources available. One of these just hit book shelves last week, and it’s written by a friend, and fellow survivor, Crystal Sutherland. The book is called Journey to Heal: 7 Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and I believe with all my heart this book is going to be life-changing for millions of men and women around the world.

Now, before I go any  further, I want to say a few things. Firstly, I’m not being compensated in any way to share my thoughts on this book. Yes, Crystal is a friend of mine and I guest blog for her occasionally, but that is because I support the mission of her ministry. There are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse today, just in the United States [source: National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse]. And that estimate is just based on reported cases, so we know there are many more. Folks, it’s going to take thousands of counselors, women’s shelters, ministers, sisters, friends, mothers, writers, etc.to come together with the same mission to end this desecration of youth and lead the victims toward a place of hope and healing. Crystal is one of the many called and equipped to help with this.

Secondly, I am sharing about this book because I’ve read it and I believe it is unlike anything else currently available to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Despite our friendship and shared ministry, I would not be writing about this book if I didn’t feel the urgent need to get it in the hands of as many women and men as possible.

Now, if you are a survivor of abuse, or know someone who is, or if you are in a position of counseling and ministering to others who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, here’s what you need to know: only God can provide true freedom and healing. While God did not create the sin that is damaging so many young girls and boys, He can bring the men and women they’ve become out of the darkness from their past and make them whole again.

This is what Journey to Heal is really all about. It is a guide for survivors on how to allow God to come along side of them and walk them through this journey toward healing, toward freedom, and toward a new life. Because, true healing can only happen once we place our hope in Christ.

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The seven steps Crystal outlines in the book include: 1. Committing to the journey, 2. Facing the truth, 3. Sharing your story, 4. Settling the unsettled, 5. Forgiving and letting go, 6. Discovering your true identity, and 7. Establishing a new life in Christ. Crystal put these steps together based on her own personal journey, the journey of countless other women she’s ministered to, and based on insight and guidance from ministers and licensed counselors who have spent years helping abuse victims. Even though this book didn’t exist when I went through my own journey, I can tell you these seven steps are all things I had to walk through to get to the other side; and they were all essential to me eventually finding freedom and healing.

I believe we all know someone who was a victim, and chances are many of them are still suffering the effects of the abuse from their past: whether that be through depression, addiction, a need for control, mistrust of others, body issues, failed relationships, feelings of shame, fear or hopelessness, or just downright denial, these things keep us in a permanent state of victim-hood and they prevent us from realizing the life God has planned for us.

“God has bigger plans for us than we have for ourselves…[but] we tend to settle for less than God’s best for us, because we don’t recognize our own value and worth,” explains Crystal in chapter 3 of Journey to Heal.

But God’s word promises this: “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth.” – Isaiah 54:4 (NLT).

It’s time for a movement. Time for the church to rise up and be the source of hope and healing. Time for victims to refuse to accept the lie that a piece of them will forever be missing, stolen by their abuser, and leaving a giant hole in their soul that’s led them to settle for a life of suffering, of fear, and of shame. It’s time to end the silence and take back the joy, hope, and freedom that was stolen, along with their innocence.

Because God promises So. Much. More.

Because only God has the power to heal our brokenness and lead us into a brand new life.

I know, because I have lived this story.

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If you or someone you know is still suffering from the effects of childhood sexual abuse, you can purchase Journey to Heal from Amazon.com, ChristianBooks.com or wherever books are sold.

In addition to the book, Crystal is finishing up an online, real-time study that begins June 1st.

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I leave you all with this prayer:

God, bless the women and men who have suffered the unthinkable. May they know that the sin of their abusers is not theirs to carry and they no longer have to bear the weight of their past. May they admit they desire freedom and they are worth the effort it will take to get there. But most of all, let them know that they do not have to do it alone. Let them find their strength in You; let them stop believing the lies of their abusers and the lies of the enemy, and let them instead believe the truth that they do not have to be afraid anymore, “there is no more disgrace.” Instead, there is a life of healing and of freedom waiting for them, a life filled with the beauty and grace of Your love. Amen.

 

Guest post: An Uncluttered Heart

Y’all, I am so excited to introduce you to my friend April Lakata Cao! I first met April nearly 25 years ago in 8th grade chorus class. I was the new girl — socially awkward and going through an unfortunate “Blossom” phase. But I remember April as the beautiful girl, with quiet confidence. Even back in 8th grade she seemed to have a wisdom beyond her years. We shared many classes throughout highschool, but never really got to know each other well. After graduation we lost touch, but thanks to Facebook we reconnected a few years ago.

April shared her writing on Facebook and as I started to read some of her blog posts I was instantly moved. I felt a sisterhood for this fellow wife and mother, and like I’d found a kindred spirit in this woman who wrote her heart, and openly shared her struggles in order to encourage others. April’s passion and love for the Lord comes through in everything she writes. She has a gift for weaving words into a beautiful tapestry of truth, encouragement and conviction. This post is no exception! When I first read it all I could think was “Yes! Me, too!” It’s a message I think so many of us can relate to.

So now, without further ado, some encouragement for living life with an uncluttered heart:

When you crave an uncluttered heart

The closets are being emptied and the hallways filled with bins of stuff we’ll never see again. How is it possible to have accumulated so much? Things we spent money on only to have thrown in a corner to collect dust. I look at it all; piles of clothes spilling over. A tangle of faded colors and worn knees and outgrown elbows pushed aside.

I look at it all and mentally add up the cost. An invisible, growing receipt that could have paid for a future semester of college or the meager beginnings of a down payment for our first home.
Stuff cluttered and taking up space in the house as much as in my heart because I see the things I’ve held on to hoping they would fill me; remain a constant reminder of those early years in love or rocking babies.

There are preemie clothes stuffed into Ziploc bags and his first outfit home folded neatly. The toys we sent across the world and the red dress with cherries for her first birthday that she wore that first time we saw her walk through that door. The white plastic bands that circled identical newborn wrists, our claim to them in that place before going home.

This past Sunday, our Pastor talked about how easy it is for children to move on from the hard things. The bickering and arguments that seem impossible to mend are over and forgotten before they’ve had time to take root.

But as adults we cling to the things that hurt us or remind us of the past. Whether it’s a blanket sewn lovingly with their name or an offense cultivated in quiet moments, we refuse to loosen our grip on the memories. We become owners of dog-eared books and bitter grudges.

In some ways I envy the childlike ability to cast things aside-even the good stuff they beg for yet manage to quickly forget. As adults we’ve learned to hold on tight to everything. We take more ownership of what shouldn’t matter and we proudly stake our claim to trophy homes and family feuds.

We react to a child’s ability to treat their things as disposable with great frustration because we automatically associate it with an utter disregard for what we’ve selflessly provided. And while that is often true of children (they must learn to care for their belongings respectfully) we unwittingly teach them to take greater pride in material possessions before lasting gifts such as integrity and honesty. We often stress the pride and care of possessions before the care and feeding of their soul.

I will be the first to admit that I have been more upset over a messy room than a messy heart. I have fussed and scolded for the way they’ve abandoned expensive Legos before grabbing a Bible and praying with them after a lie told or unkind words exchanged. I realize I have been more proud of how they behave in a group of strangers than a moment of tenderness between them after a scraped knee or that first, unassisted back handspring.

We reprimand for the littering of toys and scribbled walls. We praise for character that spotlights our well-done parenting. Ours is a death grip on the things of this world when the world cares little for us and eventually, this becomes their legacy, too.

I look at these growing piles and stretched thin plastic bags and the desire for them to be gone is overwhelming. Just hauled out to the curb with no care for where they go but just gone. Gone away where they can no longer remind me that I haven’t always been a good steward of the blessings we’ve been given. Gone so I can start over with empty drawers and maybe this time only fill them half way.

The long road paved with good intentions might be smoother but it’s not without steep hills and sharp bends. I wonder why it’s taken so long to feel overwhelmed by the clutter. Why I worry needlessly about their good manners and rigid obedience when clearly the time should be spent nurturing a humble heart longing to be close to Jesus.

When Christ called the Twelve to Him, when He spoke about them going into the world to proclaim the Good News, He told them to go with nothing. No bag filled with a change of clothes or toiletries. No staff to keep their back upright as they walked one dusty, rocky road to another. No leather, designer bag to prove their worth or validate their societal hierarchy. Not even bread to sustain them when they journeyed from one town to another.

They traveled with empty hands but full hearts. They needed nothing outside of what God would graciously provide. And isn’t that the blessing? That nothing carried or accumulated can ever fill the cracks in our hearts? That perfect love doesn’t just cast out fear, but fills the void left empty apart from God?

How much easier the journey must be when we’re not weighed down with stuff, but heavy and spilling over with the love of Jesus.

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April Lakata CaoApril Lakata Cao is the homeschool mom of four beautiful kids and military wife of sixteen years. Wannabe morning person by day and freelance writer by night, April is currently writing her first book while blogging her heart into words at www.aWellDoneLife.com