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margaretfleming21@gmail.com

1 In Blog

Gently

I want to start this post off by explaining something. My blog posts often discuss the hard bits of my faith journey, the difficult parts of life that we tend to want to avoid but I have learned that having faith does not make things all happy-go-lucky all the time. I told my mentor the other night, that faith and a life with God is a bit like a rose–incredibly beautiful but sharpened with some thorns. I hope that my blogs don’t make it seem like I am living a life in despair, I am just living life, however, I choose to discuss the bits of life that are hard.

My blog is my heart, if you read it you are getting a glimpse into the inner workings of me. Those inner workings are not always happy-go-lucky, but that does not mean that they are not beautiful. To me, my blogs are rooted in the hope that God is present, working on my heart as I expose the things that I feel. I write in order to let God in; as I write, God reaches in and does some incredible healing on my heart. I write and share these writings in the hopes that if anyone feels alone or the same pain my heart is feeling, they know that they are not alone and that God is faithful–even if they cannot sense the presence of God.

I share the darker things, because I know I am not the only one who has struggled with walking in the dark. I do, however, try to keep the hope of God in the posts, please forgive me if it is not as clearly present to you as it is to me when I am writing. This period of life has been difficult, the last year and half has been one with many ups and downs, difficult times, but nevertheless, has been beautiful and joyous. I have struggled in the last six months to really sense God’s presence, I think it has been mainly due to not really looking for God’s hand upon my life. But as I shared that last post about the fear and panic that is plaguing my heart, I felt just how near God is.

God is not saying too much in this season of life, but God is near, comforting me and tending to my heart and soul. God has filled my life to the brim with a village of people who are surrounding me (literally and figuratively) with love and protection. This season of life has introduced me to the true importance and joy of having your people, the ones who know when something is wrong and show up when things start to crumble. I am learning of the true importance of community and what church actually means.

I am letting myself feel God’s presence. I am letting God in bit by bit. I can feel God gently nudging my heart open. For once in my life, God is being very gentle with me and my heart, I think God knows right now I need gentle. I am overwhelmed by God’s loving patience. I am thankful for God’s loving patience but also the loving patience my loved ones are extending to me.

Today I am just working on letting myself be, letting my heart feel God’s nearness and letting God in a little bit more today. I am resting in the true joy that comes from the loving presence of our faithful God. I hope that in whatever part of your journey you find yourself to be in, that you let yourself be, you let yourself see God’s hand upon your life and open up your heart just a little bit more.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Blog

Fear

This season of my life has been marked by fear. I would dare to say my life has recently been run by fear. I am exhausted from unceasingly working to fight against the fear, to fight against the woman fear turns me into, and to fight against the bad habits my fear has made me create.

I have done some scary stuff in my short 24 years. I thought fear would stop having control on my life when I went to Scotland, but it is almost like the more I step out and face fears, the more fear tries to chase me down. I am reading a book right now and the author, Annie Downs, writes of how she doesn’t want to work through grief and the hurtful bit of life, also known as feeling all the feels. Yet, as she lets herself feel the darker side of life she begins to see beauty in places she couldn’t see it before. I am trying to remember how much sweeter life tastes when I step out from behind those walls the fear has caused me to build.

Right now, I feel frozen in fear. It is like I cannot really move–I am scared of so much in my life and the heartbreaking thing is that I am scared of the incredible good that is in my life. It all comes back to my root problem, my trust issues–I don’t trust God so I certainly don’t trust people. I currently feel like a wounded animal, raw and curled up in a corner of a dark room behind those cold stone walls–willing to lash out at anyone trying to get near me.

There are many things that have caused me to feel this way and to hide behind those walls, things that I don’t feel comfortable going into depth right now (maybe one day, but not today). I just feel raw from the hurt and the fear of future hurt that I am settling for a life that is miserable. Miserable, because I am hiding away from fully experiencing the sheer beauty of all that God is doing in my life. Sometimes I see God just reaching out God’s hand to me, inviting me to the table that God has prepared for me, reaching out her hand to invite me into the dance she is shimmying in BUT fear stops me from taking the hand of God and fully participating in the joyful festival that is a life shared with God.

I have been here before. I have been to scared to take God’s hand and participate in this life fully in communion with God and my fellow brothers and sisters. Why? Because I am so blasted scared of getting hurt. I sat down and journaled tonight; tons of “What if?” questions began flooding the page, questions that only made the fear and panic worse. All the things were hypothetical and panic only reaps more panic. THEN I did my devotional and the passage that it led to was the one I used in my previous post, 1 John 4:18;

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”

Yeah, you could say that God is really trying to tell me something.

I spoke with one of my best mates tonight and he said something that forced me to reflect. Like the true friend he is, he called me out. He told me he was concerned about all the scaredness I was feeling because it was causing me to lash out. I hate this about myself. I hate that when I am so scared, I lash out at the people I love the most. I become very defensive and hide behind those walls, rather than let people in and listen to the words they are speaking in love to me.

I don’t want to be a woman living in fear. I do not want to be a woman too scared to let people in or to let God in. I don’t want to lash out at the people who love me and who I love. I desperately want to take God’s outstretched hand and choose to live fully present in this world, free of walls. I want to lay my heart out, I want to leave it open so that all who come to me can find a home, and I want to keep it open even when it is hurt and abused. I want to dare to believe that love, and only love, is the answer. I heard a song today that said, “You have to love like there is no such thing as a broken heart.” That is the type of person I want to be, the kind that loves like my heart has never been broken.

Fear makes me a shell of the woman I know I am. Fear holds me back from experiencing the fullness of all that life has to offer. When I block off my heart in a broken attempt to “guard my own heart” I only block off my heart from experiencing life in its beautiful technicolor (anyone hear the song from the Lizzie McGuire movie: “Yesterday my life was duller now everything is technicolor??).

What is on the other side of your fear? I hope that whatever fear is blocking you from doing, you choose to step out in faith and take God’s hand.

I think one of the best things I have read, something that I continue to come back to time and time again, is a section that comes from the book that helped me to recognize my call from God, Hearing the Call:

“…for ultimately, God does not often call us to be ‘safe’–but what he has promised is that he will always be with us. This is summed up for me by John Macmurray: ‘The maxim of illusory religion runs: ‘Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you’; that of real religion, on the contrary, is: ‘Fear not, the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of'” (p. 41).

God never asks me to do the things that are easy–God asks me to do the things that scare the living daylights out of me, but promises to never leave me. I rely upon one of my favorite passages, the passage that gave me the courage to say “yes” to God’s call to Scotland, Genesis 28:15

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Let’s step out in faith together, trusting that wherever God’s call leads us we will not go alone and it will be far more beautiful than anything we designed ourselves.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Blog

Courage, Dare, Love and Freedom

I love quotes. If you flip through any of my notebooks you are bound to find quotes scrawled across the pages, or scribbled on loose pieces of paper, which are then folded and tucked away in some journal or folder. I store quotes in my head and nine times out of ten, if you are talking to me I will whip out some paraphrase of some quote I read somewhere. I love quotes because they often give words to the state of my heart, which makes me feel less alone, because someone, somewhere out there in this vast world, has felt the very thing I am feeling.

Lately, I have had words floating around my head and in my heart. These words have been pointing me to what I feel I need to write–maybe for you to read but things I know God wants me to hear as well. I have found that a few words have been continually popping up: courage, dare, love and freedom. All of these words have been laid upon my heart recently and all the quotes I have been writing down seem to deal with these words in some sense.

I have been existing in a frozen state of fear. I have let, and still seem to let, fear control my life and the decisions I make. Fear controls my mind and warps God into a deity that is nothing more than a grumpy, judgmental, cruel and unforgiving idol. Fear causes me to push God away, which leads me to push love away. A few weeks ago, I realized the true hold fear has upon my heart, when I was confronted with feeling the feels. I realized that I had a wall put up, blocking God and love from the inner bits of my heart; the inner bits that are ragged, a bit shredded and so very raw. Hurt, rejection, and betrayal caused those wounds and when my heart is abused I retreat into myself and build walls. Yes, a terrible habit, but one that has become far to familiar.

I have written many posts about my revelations, that Love is the one thing that can truly bring about proper healing. But the issue is, that Love asks me to be vulnerable, to lay my heart out on the line meaning that no walls are there to “protect me” from the hurt. However, those walls that I build block real Love out, so I am incapable of really giving my heart to anyone and am only capable of “loving,” if you can call it that, in halves.*

Fear builds walls–love does not. 1 John 4:18

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”

There is something I desperately want to experience, and I know I am not the only one. I want to experience true freedom. Freedom to be fully myself, freedom from society’s unreasonable standards, freedom from fear, freedom to be brave enough to keep my heart open, freedom to really love. Someone very special to me, shared with me a quote from Mother Teresa, that reads:

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until in hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

If only I could have the courage to keep my heart exposed, despite the nasty wounds, and let Love heal my heart rather than letting the wounds fester behind cold and damp walls. However, the nature of Love is, as described so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endure all things.”

(Sidenote: I did not know where the Spirit was going to lead with this post, and WOW, I am in awe of what God is trying to get through to me.)

Love is patient with me, Love does not insist on its own way, Love bears all things–Love will not abandon me, no matter how many times I shut Love out. Love continues to pursue my heart and to seep in through those cold stone walls and gently, and sometimes aggressively, nudge my heart to open up.

Love is so much stronger than fear. It may take a bit of time, but I have experienced the healing power of Love too many times to count. I fully believe Love is always going to win, just as I know it is winning in my heart now. I  think Maya Angelou hits the nail on the head, as she usually does, in the following quote,

“In the flush of love’s light we dare be brave and suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet, it is only love which sets us free.”

I think about what this quote speaks to in my own life, which is, to properly love I have to let down the walls and let people see who I really am. I also am reminded of what it means in the context of my Savior. Love cost Jesus all he was, it cost his life, which set us all free.

Love is some incredibly powerful stuff. One of my favorite artists is Ed Sheeran and on his most recent album he has a song written in honor of his grandmother entitled, Supermarket Flowers. Two of my favorite lines from this song are: “A heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved” and “A life with love is a life that’s been lived.” I think these two lines speak to what happens when we truly open up our hearts to Love.

Love is the key to true freedom and true healing. I want to dare to love, to be courageous and open up my heart to Love and ultimately open myself up to the true freedom that is only found in Love.

Friends, let us choose Love, choose to open up our hearts–despite the nasty wounds and as we step into Love’s enduring embrace may we trust that we are stepping into freedom.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

*Love is capitalized here because I am using it as another name for God while also using it as the active noun love. 1 John 4.8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love”

2 In Blog

Dare

I have walked around for weeks with this desperate need to write. I have a journal, strictly reserved for the thoughts for this blog that run around in my head and heart, and it is filling up. I have a million thoughts, feelings, ideas and emotions that have been building up over the last month and I am just ready to attempt to share them. I have no real direction for this post, no clue where it is that the Spirit wants to take me, but I am going to just try and follow my heart.

This last month has been one of abundant blessings. God’s hand has been fully upon my life, patiently guiding me, providing for me and filling my heart with more love than I deserve. This last month has been packed with laughter, love, good wine, wonderful food and so many beautiful children of God. I did not know a heart could be as full as the one I have right now.

A few of you already know that this last year has been one of immense struggle, discernment, heartache–an achingly beautiful year. I have been trying to cling to God when all I have really wanted to do is run very far away from the God that I know can help but who is also calling me to something I am terrified of. Yet, God still has been answering prayers, providing and making my life immensely more beautiful than I could ever imagine it could be.

I have a dear friend and she and I have a few themes right now: God’s hand upon our lives, weaving an incredible tapestry and how God’s timing is perfect. I think these two themes sum up all that has been going on in my heart and my life recently.

No matter how much I want God to be the crusty, old, grumpy, judgmental god that my fear makes God out to be–God is in fact an active, loving, mischievous, forgiving, welcoming, great hugger and comforting God. God has a way of constantly coming into my life and shaking up everything and continually challenging me to open up my heart, to look for the good in everything and everyone, and to love in spite of my fear–God seems to never stop showing up and calling me to be and do more than my fear. When I look at my life, in the last year, the last six months and especially in the last month I am humbled and thankful to find God’s colorful fingerprints all over the pages of my book.

I have never really paid attention to the “active experiences” I have had with the Holy Spirit. I have had a few distinct images of God before–but the Holy Spirit is much harder to pin down, which I kinda think is how the HS likes it. During this six(ish) months that I have been in the Charleston area, I have had a hard time seeing the more “tangible” images of God that I have clung to in the past. But if I lean in, look closely I can see and feel the whisper of a being blowing in my heart and in my life. Sometimes it is a noticeable gust other times its just the tickle of a breeze but still very much active. Someone recently sent me a message that said: “…Breathe deep the Spirit be blowing.” I have felt the HS breathe into my life, patiently breathe life, love and laughter back into my heart and soul and wake me up.

I see this so fully in all the beautiful people God has brought into my life. As another dear friend said to me the other night, “You have your village.” Oh Lord, how I do! My village is full of brilliant, vibrant, colorful, gorgeous children of God with hearts that are so full of love. We always joke that “it takes a village” but it really does, we, as humans, are relational creatures that rely upon community. My village is near and far but they surround me with healthy affirmation, love, laughter and so much color.

One of my recent devotions spoke to the heart of what I am experiencing and feeling. It comes from Henri Nouwen’s (I know, another one by him–but I am telling you this man speaks so much Truth) The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. The journal entry that has really spoken to me is entitled, “Be a Real Friend.”

Henri writes:

“There [in the inner correspondence] spirit speaks to spirit and heart to heart. True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal. A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional. All that comes from God participates in God’s eternal life…Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as to those whom God has given you to love” (pp.80-81).

I think the line that really gets me is: “Dare to love and to be a real friend.” Something that has become abundantly clear to me is just how scared people, including myself, are to committing to something. Just how scared we are to opening up and revealing our true selves, our true hearts and our true beauty to others. Maybe it is because of all the hurts our hearts have suffered; all the rejections, all the times our hearts have been broken, all the bruises and stab wounds–I know that is what it is for me. Yet, I can hear God calling me out saying, “Step out, Margaret. Step out in faith. Trust and dare to love, dare to let people in, dare to be a real friend.”

As Maya Angelou wrote, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

Wherever you are in your life, I truly hope that you are sensing God’s hand upon your life. I hope that you feel the Holy Spirit blowing all up in your business and let yourself just go with it. I pray that you step out in faith and dare to step out in love.

May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessing and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

To Whom Do You Belong?

Lately I have been asking myself this question, over and over: “Margaret, to whom do you belong?” Do you belong to the world? OR Do you belong to God? I get so caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses” or lessening who I am in order to please other people in an impossible attempt to fit an impossible mold in order to justify my existence and my worth. I look to others to justify my worth which only leads to heartbreak and catastrophe when I am inevitably deemed not enough or rejected for who I am (if I get the courage to reveal that woman). I cannot and will not, no matter how much I try to, be enough for a world which demands perfection.

This struggle has led me far from home and has caused me to have an identity crisis. That crisis led me to assess my situation and my heart, ultimately leading me to realize that I have been so desperately trying to belong to this broken and cruel world.

A year ago I felt a call to ministry–and during this last year I have been grappling with that call and working towards being okay with the call God has laid upon my heart. I have yet to fully surrender my life, my control and my fear. On my best days I am willing to believe that God, can, in fact, use me and that I am wired for God; on my okay days I can laugh and admit that I am going to seminary but on my worst days I let fear win and I let myself believe that God’s call is nothing more than a shackle–a burden I am required to bear. A burden that will open me up to even more rejection and ridicule from this world.

And that is where the truth seems to lie, that I would rather choose death than life. I am choosing to belong to the world rather than to belong to God. My actions suggest that I do not want to belong to God–I want to belong to a broken and cruel world. But my heart, oh my heart, it longs to go home–to the One who created it and deemed it good. My heart reminds me, even if only quietly, that I have been deemed good, that I am oh so loved, that I am enough.

Just two weeks ago we celebrated Easter. We celebrated Jesus’ triumph over death and we rejoice in the knowledge that we are saved. But I still don’t believe it, I still struggle to really think that God could ever love me. On Maundy Thursday we ended with Peter’s denial. Ever since Maundy Thursday, I have been clinging to the story of Peter and finding just how much I relate to this disciple. I cling to the fact that Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and yet still promised to show up in Galilee.

Matthew 26:31-35:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny my three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.”

I cling to this story. I cling to the Truth it reveals–that Jesus knows when I will deny him and still promises to meet me in Galilee. God will endure the pain of my denial over and over and over again to only remain faithful to me. Peter’s denial reveals Jesus’ love and faithfulness. God keeps God’s promises. God shows up even when I repeatedly deny God and continue to choose to belong to the world. God is always faithful even when I am not.

In my rereading of The Return of the Prodigal Son, I was struck by what Henri says of Jesus’ two disciples Judas and Peter:

“Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. Both were lost children. Judas, no longer able to hold onto the truth that he remained God’s child, hung himself. In terms of the prodigal son, he sold the sword of his sonship. Peter, in the midst of his despair, claimed it and returned with many tears. Judas chose death. Peter chose life. I realize that this choice is always before me. Constantly I am tempted to wallow in my own lostness and lose touch with my original goodness, my God-given humanity, my basic blessedness, and thus allow the powers of death to take charge…But when God created man and woman in his own image, he saw that ‘it was very good,’ and, despite the dark voices, no man or woman can ever change that” (Nouwen, TRTPS, pp. 50-51).

I cling to Peter’s story, I cling to the knowledge that Jesus knew he would be betrayed and denied, yet, still promised to meet them in Galilee. When he did meet them, he did not tell them “I told you so,” he greeted them saying “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). God still claims us as the Beloved, even when we haven’t been very lovable.

So my dear friends, or rather brothers and sisters, peace be with you all. May you choose life, choose to believe that God will meet you in Galilee–no matter how far from home you have strayed. I know it is nearly impossible to believe in this type of love in this type of grace, but for the sake of our poor hearts why not let us try to trust in it together.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Blog

Good Friday

We have made our way to the cross. Today is the day, the day that the light seemingly disappears and thrusts the world into a darkness that seems impenetrable. We know the story, we know that Sunday will come so we sort of skip over the dirty bits of the story–the bit, about you know, Jesus dying. We don’t want to focus on that bit of the story but it is important. Jesus was our perfect lamb, the sacrifice that paid the price for the world’s sin–the world he lived in and the world we now live in. So today, I am trying to let myself sit in the darkness and mourn the death of my Lord and Savior, I am trying to sit with the women (especially, Mary the Mother of Jesus) at the cross and allow myself to feel the grief of watching this beautiful human lay down his life for all of our sakes. I have the power of hindsight, I know that Easter will come and our Lord and Savior will conquer death, but today I am meditating on just what the cost was.

Below, I have shared a poem that puts in perspective what God calls us to do and puts into perspective just what it is that Jesus did.

Adrian Plass’ Poem as found in Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation by Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Mursell, pp. 38-40.

“When I became a Christian I said, Lord, now fill me in,

Tell me what I’ll suffer in this world of shame and sin.

He said, Your body may be killed, and left to rot and stink,

Do you still want to follow me? I said, Amen—I think.

I think Amen, Amen I think, I think I say Amen,

I’m not completely sure, can you just run through that again?

You say my body may be killed and left to rot and stink,

Well, yes, that sounds terrific, Lord, I say Amen—I think.

But, Lord, there must be other ways to follow you, I said,

I really would prefer to end up dying in my bed.

Well, yes, he said, you could put up with the sneers and scorn and spit,

Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen!—a bit.

A bit Amen, Amen a bit, a bit I say Amen,

I’m not entirely sure, can we just run through that again?

You say I could put up with sneers and also scorn and spit,

Well, yes, I’ve made my mind up, and I say, Amen!—a bit.

Well I sat back and I thought a while, then tried a different ploy,

Now, Lord, I said, the Good Book says that Christians live in joy.

That’s, true he said, you need the joy to bear the pain and sorrow,

So do you want to follow me? I said, Amen!—tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Lord, I’ll say it then, that’s when I’ll say Amen,

I need to get it clear, can I just run through that again?

You say that I will need the joy, to bear the pain and sorrow,

Well, yes, I think I’ve got it straight, I’ll say Amen!—tomorrow.

He said, Look, I’m not asking you to spend an hour with me,

A quick salvation sandwich and a cup of sanctity,

The cost is you, not half of you, but every single bit,

Now tell me, will you follow me? I said Amen!—I quit.

I’m very sorry, Lord, I said, I’d like to follow you,

But I don’t think religion is a manly thing to do.

He said, Forget religion then, and think about my Son,

And tell me if you’re man enough to do what he has done.

Are you man enough to see the need, and man enough to go,

Man enough to care for those whom no one wants to know,

Man enough to say the thing that people hate to hear,

To battle through Gethsemane in loneliness and fear.

And listen! Are you man enough to stand it at the end,

The moment of betrayal by the kisses of a friend,

Are you man enough to hold your tongue, and man enough to cry,

When nails break your body—are you man enough to die?

Man enough to take the pain, and wear it like a crown,

Man enough to love the world and turn it upside down,

Are you man enough to follow me, I ask you once again?

I said, Oh, Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said Amen.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen,

I said, O Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said,

Amen.”

May we all hold one another closely as we struggle with the darkness of the day. May we all cling to the hope that, indeed, Easter is coming.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Blog/ Uncategorized

Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey ties, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord need them. ‘ And he will send them immediately.’ The took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and placed there cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.'”

I am not sure about you, but I have a really difficult time with celebrating on Palm Sunday. I guess I just know what the rest of this week is going to bring as we progress further and further along, edging towards Good Friday and the cross. Palm Sunday is the beginning of impending darkness. Yes, we know that Easter is coming, that our Lord and Savior will conquer death and bring about everlasting life, but we cannot get to Easter without first going through Good Friday (My dear friend used this expression today and I had to borrow it!).

This morning I woke up to a text message from one of my news apps, alerting me to yet another bombing–this time of Egyptian Coptic churches. Thanks to hindsight, I know of the impending darkness the disciples and Jesus are about to be met with and I know of the miracle of the resurrection along with the light which cannot be stomped out. But today I look and try to feel the heartbeat of this hurting world and I sense the pain, darkness and loss of hope that is not only coming in the story which leads us to the cross but which also is haunting us this very moment. We all know of the darkness that seems to be swallowing up the light here and now. We have to get through Good Friday to get to Easter morning.

I am weary. I know you must be too. I am saddened anytime I look at my phone. It seems that I am constantly alerted to darkness, pain and suffering. I wonder how much more can this world take? And I think of just how broken God’s own heart must be. Today I read a tweet by Nadia Boltz Weber and she ended it with “Lord have Mercy.” That is all I can utter. Lord, please have mercy. My heart breaks for this broken world and all those in it. My heart aches for those who live every day in fear and grief. I cry for those who are subjected to a life of wandering because they no longer have a home, due to the violence that has ravaged their countries, their lives, their hearts and their minds. And I cry out, “Lord have mercy.” We must endure Good Friday in order to reach Easter. 

I am not sure how long this Good Friday (this period of darkness and suffering) will last, but I cling to the hope that Easter is coming. I cling to the hope that our Lord will have mercy. I cling to the hope that that precious baby who was born in a stable did indeed come into the world to bring peace. That that little baby boy grew up to be a loving man (fully human and fully God), willing to lay down his own life to save each and every single one of us in this broken and fallen world. I cling to the hope that Easter morning will come and we will all rejoice. So until then I will continue to move forward, continue to make my way, alongside all of you my dear brothers and sisters, to the cross. I will try to reach my hands out into this broken, bloody and dark world in the hopes of helping in any small way I can. I will continue to believe that there is still light in this world when it seems like the darkness has swallowed it all up. I will do all of this because I know that this is not the first time darkness has seemingly won. I know that the light will not be defeated and I know that Jesus’ resurrection is a sure sign that the light will never be smushed out.

So today I found it hard to rejoice. I find it hard to rejoice because of all the suffering, pain and darkness that I see present in this world today but also for the suffering, pain and darkness that is coming in the story I know so well. But hindsight also allows me to hope, to believe and to know that the light which is everlasting is coming and has already come. Easter morning is coming! We must endure Good Friday in order to reach Easter morning.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

I pray that the Lord hold each and every single one of us in a safe, everlasting, loving embrace. I pray for those who have only known a life of suffering, pain and darkness. I pray for those who have only known a life of instability, violence and fear. I pray for those who are lost, wandering and homeless. I pray that in this world of so much hatred and so much darkness that each one of us is a light that continues to shine. And I pray, with all of my heart that our Lord has mercy.

Peace, Joy, Blessings, and all my Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Beautiful and Intentional Mess

My last post ended with me asking you to envision this scene:

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

Okay, are you ready now? Or do you need to go back and reread and reimagine that scene? Because I really want to get this through to you, I want these words to pierce your broken, bruised and weary heart. I want them to settle into those dark and dangerous places that hold you captive and make you believe the lies that attack and break you down. So, go back, meditate on those words for a little bit longer. Let them roll around your mind, wrap around your heart and make you all fuzzy and warm–and let yourself trust them and then let yourself really believe in them. As you do this I am going to offer a prayer.

Holy Spirit come. I have heard these words lay upon my heart for so long, I have felt the healing powers they offer as they have wrapped around my bruised, broken and weary heart and I have felt the reassurance they bring when the lies become so easy to believe. I want to share them with all of your beautiful children. Give me the words to share, the words that will offer some healing, the words that will bring about the peace that surpasses all understanding and the words that will point to you. May this bring glory to you. Please give me strength and give me the words that need to be heard (well technically written). My friends, I pray for each one of you as you read these words. Much of this post has been inspired and comes from some of our beautiful brothers and sisters in our family that have offered me comfort. Some words, God willing, will come from my own heart. Most of all I just pray that you hear and feel the presence of God and begin to believe that you are so truly loved.

I have struggled with insecurities my whole life. I, like so many others, have let society and people who I love tell me I am not enough, that I must make myself smaller, be less this and more of that, I need to look like this and I need to act like that in order to be worthy of love and to be enough but not too much. I have talked about this so much, in fact nearly two years ago I wrote a post for a dear friend who needed to hear that she was God’s good creation, it is entitled Precious Ones and was published in July 2015.

Two years ago I began a journey to learn to love myself, to love who I was and to allow myself to become who God was calling me to be. Honestly, the biggest step in that direction was choosing to go to Scotland–Scotland gave me a place and a community of people who allowed me to be exactly who I was and safe space to learn who I am meant to be. I hope and pray that you find a place and a community where you can breathe. I pray that God brings people into your life who simply let you be unapologetically yourself. My journey to Scotland led me to realize so many healing things about myself. I learned who I thought I always was isn’t who I am and I learned to let go. Now, after returning to the US, I have begun to realize that I am a complex creature. Multi-dimensional and I cannot and will not perfectly mesh together like a jigsaw puzzle and that is beautiful and exactly how God intended me and YOU to be. We aren’t suppose to really make any sense. I find this summed up so well in a scene from the book, The Shack. The main character, Mack works in a garden with Sarayu (the Holy Spirit):

“‘I didn’t do that much, really,’ he said apologetically. ‘I mean, look at this mess.’ His gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them. ‘But it really is beautiful, and full of you, Sarayu. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comfortable here.’ The two looked at each other and grinned. Sarayu stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. ‘And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive–a living fractal.'” (WM. Paul Young, The Shack, pp. 144-145).

I  don’t know about you but that scene sends shivers all over my body. WOW! I am a mess but a beautiful one. YOU are a mess but an incredibly BEAUTIFUL and INTENTIONAL one! I love the line, “Together, you and I, we have been been working with a purpose in your heart.” Isn’t that simply lovely? That we are working together with God for a purpose.

Lately, I have witnessed an immense amount of hurt. I have seen the fatal consequences of believing in the lies this world feeds us. Maybe that is another reason I feel so called to write about God’s love for all of God’s children (AKA all the children in world). Haven’t we heard that we aren’t enough too many times, isn’t it time that we simply hear the truth–that God loves us and accepts us exactly as we come.

Recently, I have come to really love the words messy and broken. I think that it is amongst the mess that is our lives and within the brokenness of hearts and selves that God truly shows up and does God’s best work. A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled Saved where I talked about how God loves me back to life over and over again. Just this past week I have been loved back to life, back to myself and back to God by God–through the loving acceptance of wonderful friends and God’s grace. Last week I believed in all the lies society tells me to believe. I sobbed on the phone to my dear friend about how I didn’t believe I was worthy of love, how I truly believed I was too much for anyone to actually ever love and all those horrible thoughts made me feel so ashamed. How had I fallen so far from where I was? I am so thankful for my dear friends, and as my friend listened she offered me reassurance that I was indeed loved and I was not too much.

Community is so important. God designed us to be relational creatures. And when I forget that I am not of this world (John 15:19) I have friends to remind me of who I am and more importantly whose I am. I believe, and in fact have been told by someone dear to me, that I was created to love–I think that is my call in this world, to love, defend love and to tell of God’s love for us all. That is why I am writing. Maybe you don’t have a supportive community to reassure you that you are loved, but my loves, you have me to reassure you and to (physically or figuratively) hold your hand when it feels like the world will destroy you.

I want to leave this post with something that I think is utterly beautiful and something that you most likely need to hear. This scene comes from a book that changed my life, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation; yes, I know I say this all the time, but I really mean it! In the final pages of the book there is a beautiful interaction between an older monk, known to be able to read people’s hearts, and a young man seeking his call in life. I think we all need to let the wisdom that is shared from the older monk to the young man sink into our hearts and bring us peace.

“‘…Your problem is, you don’t know who you are. Let me tell you who you are. You are a ray of God’s own light.’ ‘Sounds a bit silly,’ the young man thought to himself. But he was intrigued, so he said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn’t seek the sun;  it’s coming from the sun. You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn’t seek the vine; it’s already part of the vine. A wave doesn’t look for the ocean; it’s already full of ocean. Because you don’t know that who you are is one with God, you believe all these labels about yourself; I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I’m a wretch, I’m a worm and no man, I’m a monk, I’m a nurse. These are labels, clothing. They serve a purpose, but they are not who you are. To the extent that you believe these labels, you believe a lie, and you add anguish upon anguish…'” (Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Muriel, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, p. 108).

You, my dear and lovely friend, you intentional and beautiful mess, “You are a ray of God’s own light. And please don’t ever forget it.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Beloved Little Souls

I have tried to write this post three times. I have prayed for, referred to so many gorgeous sources, looked at my life and my friends’ lives to find the words that need to be said and heard. Recently, I have written about how I am really trying to be honest to God and myself, especially as we make our way to the cross. So, I felt that I needed to introduce this series, Beloved Little Souls with honesty about my life. I struggle and have always struggled to truly believe that I am worthy of love, that I am good enough to exist and that I could ever be capable of doing anything of value. Harsh? Yes. But these are the lies that I have let seep into my heart and soul, these are the dark thoughts that have played over and over in my head, these are the lies that society has fed me and has fed you. Today I was on Pinterest and I saw this quote:

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” (K.W.)

We have been told throughout our entire existence and are currently telling children who they should be, what they need to do to be worthy and acceptable of love and ultimately that unless they do a,b,c they will not be of value in this world. We hear these lies, every single minute of every single day. They surround us, they are shoved down our throats and they come packaged in a variety of ways. Then if we manage to wade through the lies and come to a place where we are capable of saying, “I love myself exactly how I am, I am worthy of love and I matter.” Someone somewhere will see that little light of hope and try to squish it out. They will condemn you as “Egotistical, prideful, conceited.” This attack often spurs us back into square one–back to that place where we believe we just aren’t enough.

That is why I am writing. I am writing for you and I am also writing for me. I want to do what little I can to remind you that in a world that tells you you are not enough, you are unlovable, you are not worthy–I am hear to say: Oh you, my love, you are SO LOVED, you are more than enough, you are not just lovable–you are already SO LOVED and you are worthy of all the beauty and joy that this world has to offer. I need to hear it and so do you.

There are some days that I have to admit that I don’t believe that I am worthy of love and that something is inherently wrong with me–but fortunately I have a wonderful community of people (some are the authors of my favorite books) who are there to remind me of the truth and physically or figuratively hold my hand till I can believe it again. I hope this series of posts will serve as a reminder to you that you are so very loved and that your presence in this world makes it a brighter place–you produce a light that cannot be replicated, so why not just let it shine?

I have chosen to entitle the series, Beloved Little Souls. This title comes from one of my favorite endearments, Beloved, and the gorgeous Hebrew word, Neshume-le, which means “Beloved Little Soul.” Back in September (2016), I discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son, by my man Henri Nouwen. Henri (I feel like he and I are kindred souls and I now consider him a dear friend, so I call him by his first name), challenges his readers, and himself to hear the verse Matthew 3:17, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased,'” as directed toward Jesus but ourselves as well. Henri uses the phrase: “You are the Beloved, on you my favor rests [or] with whom I am well pleased” over and over again, in a couple of different books.* The first time I read this phrase and let myself hear it within my own heart I felt peace and love. I suspect you not only need to hear it but need to learn to trust and believe in it. I also know I need to be reminded of it so that maybe, just maybe I will truly let myself believe it.

So let’s begin on this journey together. Beloved Little Souls just setting out on a path of, God willing: healing, reconciliation, love, discovery, peace and joy.

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

I am so excited to enter this journey with you and with God. I hope that you will join me and simply let yourself rest in God’s loving and peaceful embrace.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

*Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming; Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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Let’s Be Real

In the last year I have discovered the beauty of being honest with God. Honest about everything I think and feel in my heart. I can assure you, my honest to God thoughts are not always nice, pretty or flowery. Most of the time these thoughts and feelings are blunt, brutal, harsh, selfish and ungrateful. For a long time my writing was brutal and quite dark–it was a reflection of the state of my heart as it processed and reacted to things I was experiencing and feeling. I remember writing a post about how I was angry with God. A year ago I was undergoing an incredible homesickness and personal crisis. I was feeling the strong stirrings of calling, yes, that may seem beautiful, but to the planner that I am–it was God asking me to open my hands so God could take out the plans I had crafted for myself. Pft! I didn’t want God to take away my plans and my vision I had crafted for my life. So I balled my hands into tight little fists and did a lot of stress crying on the floor in my room. (I am super thankful to the beautiful and patient friends [one very lovely lady in particular] who dealt with the drama that is Margaret acting like a toddler).

My writing during that time reflected my heart.  The heart of a woman who was in the dark, who was scared, angry, bitter and resentful. I felt like God had asked me to go back to Scotland, to only abandon me (which isn’t actually what happened–key here; this is what I FELT, God was there I was just closed off to God’s loving and faithful presence) and when God did seemingly show up it was to only take away the thing I really wanted. I was truly lost in the dark and could not sense any clear direction. My writing reflected it and I received some criticism from some of my readers, wanting me to return to my lighter more hopeful self. But the thing was I couldn’t write happy-go-lucky posts because my heart wasn’t in a place to do so. I had to write what I was feeling, because the reality of being a follower of Christ is that it is NOT happy-go-lucky all the time.

My relationship with God is something I am grateful for with every single breath I take of every single day I am blessed with. Relationships are not always easy–especially our relationships with God. I distinctly remember laying on the floor of my bedroom in my apartment in Scotland and telling God to “Bugger off” (I used a much nastier word than “bugger”). Not my finest moment but it is one I tell people about because guess what, it strengthened my relationship with God. God is tough enough to handle me saying “Bugger off” and faithful enough to not actually bugger off. During those dark times I had a vision of God and myself. In this vision I saw myself sitting in a chair enclosed in a box of glass I had created to keep God away, the glass box was in a room where Jesus sat in the corner diagonally across from me. I remember telling the chaplain about this image, he asked “Does Jesus try to come to you?” I thought about it and when I returned to that room again I saw the anguish on God’s face, the anguish I was causing. Jesus was always there, desiring nothing more than to comfort me–the spoiled, bitter, selfish, pain in the butt child that I am. This is the first time I have thought of that room with the glass case in almost a year; that vision brings tears to my eyes. Tears of regret, sadness but also tears of thankfulness.

You see, my faith is not always strong. My heart is not always open, I am a spoiled, temperamental, selfish child of God and yet God shows up. I was hurting God with my actions–I was pushing God away and still all God wanted to do was take me in God’s own arms–comfort, love and bring me back to life. How truly incredible; God wants to love me back to life over and over. How utterly thankful I am for that. I learned during that time it was better to be real with God–to lay it all out, no matter how ugly, nasty and hateful my feelings may be. Honesty is key to healthy relationships, especially a relationship with God.

I am currently re-reading the book that led me to admit that I was feeling a call to ministry. It is a book that was given to me by the wonderful and grace-filled chaplain of the University of St. Andrews, Donald. The book led me to recognize my sense of call a year ago and is now guiding me, again, through the terrifying feelings of discernment. It offers me hope and reassurance about my hesitations and the fears I have with my call. I recently read a section of the book, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, that discussed why it is best for us to be honest and open with God-even though God already knows how we feel and think. I think the passage quoted below gets to the heart of what I am discussing:

“Why talk to God about things, when he knows everything already? Barry’s answer is both simple and profound: we don’t just suddenly ‘create’ intimacy. Intimacy comes by sharing ourselves, our whole selves with one another. So talking to God about what matters to us builds the intimate relationship with God for which God yearns.” (Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Mursell, Hearing the Call Stories of Young Vocation, pp. 65-66).

I just think this is gorgeous, God yearns to be in intimate relationship with us. This, my friends, is why I share my heart–all the good and all the nasty, with God. I want God to know everything because that is how our relationship deepens. Sure God knows everything already but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, God relishes the time when we come to God and bare our hearts no matter how ugly our thoughts and feelings may be. I have another beautiful vision about this, I now envision God and I sitting at a table drinking steaming cups of tea. I am usually holding God’s hand and I watch as God’s face lights up when I share my heart. I see God’s face fill with joy when I gush about something that is bringing me joy and I watch God throw God’s head back in joyful laughter when I try to talk myself and God out of things I don’t want to do. It is this image that I have now come to, I am no longer in the glass box. Instead I sit and share the things that lay on my heart, even the things that I know may hurt God. And even though they may hurt God, I ultimately know that God will continue to hold my hand across that table, will love me through these feelings and in the process of sharing my heart my relationship with God will be strengthened.

We are making our way to the cross in a world that is so full of darkness and fear. The pathway isn’t always clear, it isn’t always straight and it almost never is easy but I cling to the hope I have in Christ. I cling to the hope that if God can love me when I am really blunt, harsh, selfish and hurtful that God still loves this incredibly broken world and is present here amongst us–working to love us right back to life. When our journey comes to the cross and we reach the cross where our loving Savior laid down his life–I hope that I am one of the women at the foot of the cross, being present in that moment–trusting that morning will come and we will one day see a world of peace, love and joy.

As we make our way to the cross, as we follow the paths that God is laying before us I pray that we all are brutally honest to God–trusting that when we bare our hearts to our Lord we are deepening our relationship with God, so that we might have the strength to continue on our paths.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, my beautiful brothers and sisters. May you bare your hearts and souls to the One who knows all and still loves us with an everlasting love.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret