Winter in my Soul

848088f7fa06a9bef51c01d9f3753bb6Dramatic title right? Well, that’s exactly how I feel these days.

Early in the morning last Tuesday I parted the blinds that cover my living room window. My thumb and forefinger created a space just wide enough for my tired eyes to peer through.

Same scene, different February day.

The guy across the street was sitting on the cold cement again, staring into space while he chain smoked his hundredth cigarette. Beneath his feet was the remnant of one of Chicago’s biggest blizzards in history. Only now the once glistening white powder was just black, frozen sludge drizzled with the wind blown trash from down the street.

I watched him for a minute, counting his drags. One for every breathe he took; as if the nicotine, not the fresh, frigid carbon dioxide, was his very sustenance. He smoked his cigarette right down to the filter before flicking it into the sewer and lighting another.

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Heroin Cannot Have You! An Open Letter to Nicole

af9e7dcc6c5882b48abe78daa51a5b6eDear Nicole,

You were born on a day that was cluttered with chaos and fear. I remember it so clearly. It was the same day that Nicholas, the little boy next door, ran away from home. The police were out searching for him and I was so scared I’d never see him again. I was daydreaming in my 6th grade classroom when the principal knocked on the door and asked to see me. I shot up out of my desk and ran to him. Anticipating my excitement, he happily announced your arrival into the world!

The darkness of the day was interrupted.

Nicole Elizabeth, born on December 18th weighing 6lbs 8oz. Beautiful and healthy.

Your new life was a beam of light.

Did you know that your Mom made me sit down on the couch before I could hold you? She would prop my arms up with pillows and hesitantly lay you down on my lap. I wasn’t even allowed to move. I could only look at you, smile and make silly faces. Everyone was so afraid I would drop you.

They all went to extravagant lengths to ensure your safety. You were so valuable and so precious that they even protected you from the slightest of dangers.

I was only 11 when you were born and so I’ve always looked at you like a little sister rather than a niece. I looked forward to doing “big sister” things with you…

As you grew, you became even more beautiful. Your first word was “doggy” and I was there to hear you say it. Nicole, your little giggle was unforgettable. We all spent hours trying to make you laugh so that we could enjoy the sound of your happiness.

You loved girly dresses and twirled around to watch them spin. When your mom tried to dress you, you’d check to make sure it was a “spinning outfit.” You boycotted pants and loved everything pink.

Brown eyes, pouty lips and silky blonde curls.

People couldn’t help but stare at you.

Your future was promising; a blank page, pure and unstained. Full of possibilities and prospects.

Everyone loved having you in their world.

Nicole, did you know that the Author of your life wanted to write your story?

Actually, He already had…

“All Your days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be…” Psalm 139:16

He has a story for you. He wrote it before He laid the foundations of the world.

He was waiting to bring those pages to fulfillment…to saturate your world with wonder, beauty and truth.

Nicole, God Himself created you with purpose. He formed your innermost being.

You are not a replica of anyone or anything on planet earth. Yes, you are original.

God placed within you all the things that stir your passions: art, photography, music.  Your compassionate heart, your love for people, your desire to help others…your depth…those are all things that God intended to use for His Kingdom. Those are all things that will find their truest value only when given back to and used by the One who made you.

There is no limit to what the Creator of the Universe can do with your gifts.

But more than that, you have infinite value in the sight of God. So much so that He offered a ransom for you. His very own Son.

Sadly though, somewhere along the timeline of your life, like so many of us do, you decided that the story God wrote for you wasn’t good enough and you came up with a new plot; a story of your own.  One with more twists and turns, ups and downs, villains and thieves.

Your story and His story clashed and so you parted ways.

But now, as you find yourself in a place you never meant to be in, clenched by the jaws of a substance that has stolen what rightfully belongs to God, I believe you have come to your climax.

And you have a choice to make.

You can continue writing in tragedy, or, you can allow the original Author to take over and conclude in poetry…

…with radiance…

teeming with metaphors of hope and true joy.

A happy ending it would be as you live out your years in the shelter of the most HIGH.

Nicole, the beauty of it all is that no matter what you have written on your pages, there is no part of your story that cannot be redeemed and used by an almighty God.

You will never, ever, lose your value in His sight; no matter what you’ve done. He still has a plan for you.

I’m afraid, though, that if you don’t relinquish your life to Him, the best of you and maybe even the rest of you will disappear and you won’t know how fully you are loved and cherished.

I’m taking this moment to ask you…

Would you please get help?

Tell your enemies that they will not steal the best of you! Tell them that God wants the rest of you.

Nicole, Heroin CANNOT have you! You belong to HIM!

He wants you to come home.

Nicole the statistics are grim…the facts are depressing and the reality of addiction is heavy. But your hope is not in your own will to quit… It’s in Christ.

Place it there.

The picture below is from a children’s book I once read.

DSC_4601

A small child is sitting on the King’s lap. She seems apprehensive…nervous maybe. She’s wondering about the King and why she’s in such a privileged place. Even more, she’s wondering why she’s being crowned.

But, do you see the King? His eyes are closed. He’s content. His little Princess is safe in His arms, resting on Him. I believe that God wants that little girl to be you.

I know you’ve heard some of this before…but I’ll say it to you over and over.

I love you Nicole…but God loves you so much more,

Love, Aunt Jen

Live a long, purposeful life. Be there for my kids. Be a testimony and a beacon of hope for those walking in the darkness of addiction. With God, all things are possible.

Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.”

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I Believe

942bab62807ca66cde7fa471aa3b17a2And Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

No matter how much goodness God shows me, I still doubt. I guess I’m not too strange. Even the people who witnessed Jesus perform miracles with their own eyes doubted His identity and authority. I just wish I could say more for myself. But I battle doubt and discouragement and even God’s work in my present circumstances each and every day.

I can clearly see the chasm existing between my flesh and my spirit. Their is a part of my inner being that soars at the thought of God and His majesty being an ever present reality in my life and a part of my heart that yearns for heaven and the eternal presence of God in my midst; the presence that will end the suffering I and everyone around me experiences daily. But the dark flesh that thrives within all too often glares doubtfully in the face of God and challenges Him to appear on a scene where He promised He already is…

I find myself begging God to forgive my doubt. To look past the vileness of my flesh and see the small crevice of my heart that bears His light. And I know He does.

I know that when God looks at me; somehow, someway in the utter mysteriousness and sheer fathomlessness of His identity, He sees Christ…His perfection in flesh…His beloved faithful one…His spotless, untainted Lamb.

When I fix my eyes on that truth, I fall to pieces in a Holy humiliation that causes me to say…”where you lead, I will follow! How can I not? Look what You have done for me?” In exchange for the likeness of Christ, I will give you my life… and yes, my daily obedience. You know, more than anyone, how I need You, Savior.

If only, Lord, you would grant me the passion and vision to grow into the garment of beauty and perfection that you have decadently adorned me in.

Let me say, like Martha did, all the days of my life, “Yes, Lord, I believe…”

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14~Love Letters: A Longing Fulfilled is the Tree of Life!

8e1a7794b2f50b76d65bda0b08b127f2Location: St Nazaire, France

Date: Late August through early September, 2004

*One year was almost over. I never would have admitted it to anyone, but I was counting down the days. I still had no idea if Wouter would ask me for “SP” (social permission granted to those on board seeking a relationship) but I hoped unceasingly.  I wrote this on August 30th. Continue reading

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13~Love Letters: Begging for Rain

8e1a7794b2f50b76d65bda0b08b127f2Location: Bremen, Germany

Date: August, 2004

* Eleven months had gone by; waiting, praying, hoping, watching, longing… God had faithfully sustained the vision He gave me each and every day in spite of the enemy’s attempt to destroy it. I would have given up had it not been for the reassuring hand of God. And yet here I was, eleven months into this intangible love affair with no solid sign that Wouter had “caught the vision” himself. I was weary. Stretched out before me was a dry, desolate landscape and I, the thirsty sojourner, was begging for rain.  One morning, as I left my cabin to head up to the galley for work, I noticed a new poster hanging on the cabin door across the hall. The scene was a lush garden with colorful flowers, glistening from the rain. Isaiah 35:7 outlined the edges, “The parched ground will become a pool of water and the thirsty land, springs of water.” 

I knew our time was coming. And I knew God wanted me to press in and pray it into fruition. Continue reading

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12~Love Letters: Doctrine Will Not Divide Us

8e1a7794b2f50b76d65bda0b08b127f2Location: Klaksvic, Foroe Islands and Rouen, France

Date: Late June through early July, 2004

*Once I knew that the Lord had Wouter and I together in spite our doctrinal differences, it became easier for me believe that somehow, things would work. Rather than praying God would change Wouter’s convictions, I began praying that He would unify us and help us to embrace one another in a God-like way; a way that would level the jagged surface of our spiritual differences. I knew all along that much of these dilemmas were birthed from ignorance; not a lack of knowledge but a lack of understanding for one another. We couldn’t talk yet. Our time had not come and so all of this internal commotion was fueled by a lack of communication. God allowed that for a reason. During that time I learned that God was calling me to love Wouter no matter what he believed, no matter what our differences were. God set my mind and heart on love; the kind with no contingencies or prerequisites…you know, the unconditional kind.  Continue reading

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11~Love Letters: I’m a Calvinist…I Cannot Marry an Arminian!

8e1a7794b2f50b76d65bda0b08b127f2Location: Dublin, Ireland/ Londonderry, Northern Ireland/Edinburgh, Scotland

Date: May-June, 2004

* In my journal, I nicknamed Dublin “Doubting Dublin.” Not for reasons you might think, though. For  entirely new ones. This time around, I wasn’t doubting God’s plan, I was hoping I could get away from it. It was more like, “God I doubt I’ll be going along with this.” Once the ship left Holland, the spiritual climate onboard became very tense. The dividing issue was doctrine and the weapon of choice: passive aggression. There were three groups: the Calvinists (My team), the Arminians (Wouter’s team) and those who were smart enough not to get involved. The Calvinists were always engaging in heated discussions with the Arminians and vice versa and yet in the name of “unity” everyone still wore a smile.

For the sake of staying on this blog’s topic, suffice it to say that Calvinism was my ultimate truth; my faith bastion. And Wouter…well, he wasn’t a fan. The fact that we disagreed on a matter so close to my heart caused me to wonder if our marriage could ever really work. I watched Wouter debate my “team-mates”, people I highly respected, and my heart would become very troubled. There was tangible tension between us caused by our opposing views and along with that came days I couldn’t stand him. Yet on another level I still loved him. Over the course of the next few months my journal entries alter between love and hostility…very interesting but before you start thinking I have multiple personality disorder, remember love is a roller coaster and all of these things are happening within a phantom relationship. It was complex to say the least. Continue reading

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