Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Fire

It was a cold snowy morning in Colorado of 2009.  Larry and I were preparing to go on the mission field.  I grabbed a cup of hot coffee and a snuggly blanket and made my way to the fireplace while everyone was still nestled in their beds.

We had been learning so much and I desperately wanted to just BE STILL as I was feeling somewhat like an onion... you know, each layer being pulled away to reveal what was really going on in my heart. I felt raw and vulnerable and desperate to hear from Him.

As I sat there in silence with legs pulled to my chest I gazed into the gas fireplace for a long time.  I was warmed by the heat it put off as the blue and orange flames danced beautifully around the logs.  That's when I heard the whisper, "What do you notice about the fire?" As I pondered that question, I thought it was pretty impressive how the fire was real, I knew this because I was warm sitting close to it. Yet, the logs, even though in the midst of the flames, were not being burnt up.  I cocked my head to the side to gaze a little longer and that's when I heard, "The same will be with you."

I sort of left it at that, and didn't really think too much more about it...until about 8 months later.  We were now on the closing end of language school in Costa Rica. This time I was sitting on the couch in our little one bedroom apartment with the windows open as I listened to it rain. I was proofreading a book that a friend had wrote when I came across a verse in Isaiah 43.

It read, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

I yelled for my husband, "Babe!!! Come here!" He peeked around the corner, and said, "Yea?"   Did you know this verse was in the bible? About the flames and the fire and how you won't be burnt because God is with you?"  I read the verse. He replied, "Yes." I asked, "Well do you remember me telling you about how I felt God speak to me back in Colorado?! This is the verse! It's actually IN the bible!" He gave me one of those little quirky smiles and said, "Yea, I thought you knew that."

 I didn't know it. I was pretty much blown away. What I heard God speak to me that morning was actually in the bible?! I was shocked. Amazed. In awe. I often turned to that verse when going through trials and hardships. It gave me a lot of comfort as I held on to His promise during some tough times over the next few years. 

(Fast forward about 7 years) I had the opportunity to go on a Ladies Retreat with our church this past weekend.  I'll just be honest.  I kinda didn't want to go at first. Okay, I really didn't want to go.  It's just easier to come up with all kinds of excuses to stay home. But, everything happened at just the right time and I was able to make it... thank God!

We are sitting in our first session and the speaker asks us to turn to Isaiah 43; which is where we'd be "camping out" for the weekend.  When I saw those words underlined and circled and read the words in my bible, I thought, "Oh boy, this is gonna be GOOD." It was. God showed up in so many ways and in so many details.

On Saturday, I felt a bit drained. As we opened up to one another, we shared things that were difficult to talk about. To be honest, I was pretty scared that I might be leaving to come back home that way.  My spirit was saying, "Lord, please heal my heart. I don't want to go home all broken like this."

We went to our last session on Saturday evening. Our speaker asked us to write down one thing that we would be taking home with us. What had we heard God saying to us over the past 24 hours?  As I put a pen to the paper, it all came out effortlessly.  "Let go, Amanda. Let go of your father and the other people that you hold so close and tight in your hand. Give them to me. Give me your pain. Let Go."

She then asked for some to share. I didn't think I could. I was already crying as I wrote. But, as I heard other women speak and be vulnerable, it gave me courage to do the same. I said it out loud, because I knew if I didn't, it would be too easy to keep holding on. I spoke with a broken heart and broken words and we wept together. There are no words for what we experienced that evening together. God was in our midst.

We worshipped on the beach Sunday morning. As I lifted my hands to the sky, I offered my clenched fist and released my most precious loved ones into His care.  As I opened my eyes, the sun peeked through the white puffy clouds in the form of an angel with its wings so beautifully etched in a brilliant gold/silver.  It was well with my soul.  I finally understood. The Lord loved my father even more than I did. All was well. It was time to move forward and stop rehashing the past.

I came home and asked my husband to go with me to the lake. I couldn't wait until "tomorrow" because as our Pastor has said, "tomorrow is the devil's day." I might chicken out if I waited until tomorrow; I had to act now. I took the black box down off the shelf. We rode out to the lake, a place where my dad loved to be. I opened the lid and ran my fingers through his ashes. It was time to let go. Victoria helped me spread the ashes out over the water.

Afterwards, we strolled around a bit longer enjoying the beautiful day.  I wasn't sure how I felt at first.  A good friend sent me a text and I told her what had just happened. She said, "Amanda, you are free." As I pondered that for a few moments, I began to realize that she was right. I didn't realize that it was actually me who needed to be set free. In letting go of my dad, I opened the door to the cage that I had made for myself. A place that harbored hurt and tears and pain was now gone. Vanished into thin air. Not only was my dad free, so was I.

I'm so thankful for the women who put the retreat together, for the speaker who brought a profound message, for all the women who opened up their hearts.  But, mostly... I'm grateful to God for never deserting me. For loving me, knowing me, dying for me.

Worship on the beach
Painting with a Purpose
Just being silly

My Roomie for the weekend
"Pull my neck back!" (You have to see my Big Fat Greek Wedding 2)

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