Life on the Other Side

leap of faithJournal Entry:

March 11, 2003

 I now look at life differently.  My children are more precious to me than ever.  I love to hear them laugh and to daily tell them I love them and kiss them good-night.  Colors seem more vivid.  The breeze on my skin is fresh and invigorating.  I find myself smiling for no good or apparent reason.  It is as though I have peeled off my old life, and a brand new one is emerging.  At 43, can life really begin again?  If so, I pray that I am living proof of it.

 My emotions are all so intense — whether joy or sadness, peace or turmoil.  Everything I am feeling seems to have been impassioned by some unseen force.  What is going on?  What has happened to me?  Is this a natural phenomenon that all people experience when they have gone through a tragic divorce, or a short-term phase in life which leads only back to mediocrity?  God forbid.  Is it because my depression and fear had held me in bondage for so long that now I am finally experiencing the true range of emotions which were trapped beneath the surface?  That is exactly how it feels.  And, I fear the possibility of going back into that dreadful prison.  Even feeling the pain in its fullness far surpasses the numbness which came from locking it inside, running from it, believing I could somehow override it. 

 So, this is what life is like.  What angels long to peer into.  I’ll take it.

 It was a month before my divorce was finalized when I wrote that journal entry, and my abusive husband had been out of our home for over a year.  It was altogether strange and liberating when the haze of confusion to which I was accustomed gave way to reveal that I hadn’t been imagining things.  It wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t crazy.  Nor was I overly sensitive, demanding or selfish or stupid or unforgiving.

I have no idea how long it took for the emotions I had locked away to begin to rise to the surface.  Having the freedom to feel and express emotions at all seemed foreign.  The grief was overwhelming, yet it felt so good to really feel anything, to cast aside the robotic, perfectionist persona I had adopted for my survival.  I was free to reclaim my person-hood, free to be real and imperfect and transparent.  My kids and I dared to imagine ​and create ​the life we wanted but could never have.

We finally had room to breathe.  We could sleep in on Saturday mornings and eat pancakes and watch cartoons without someone marching downstairs and barking orders at us.   On Friday nights the five of us could eat pizza and popcorn and watch Disney movies and laugh out loud at our favorite parts and be ourselves without being criticized.  What wonderful, simple pleasures.

It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.  All of the kids struggled with the divorce for their own reasons.  The idea of not having a dad at the house (even an abusive one) was an adjustment, and ​the fact that he was gone​ was a​n admission that our family was broken, when we had all hoped and prayed that it was fix-able.

Weeknights could be exhausting, as I worked full-time capped with an hour commute each way.  So, by the time I got home ​in the evenings ​and put dinner on the table, helped with homework, made sure kids were bathed and we had some family time, I was plum-tuckered-out. Fortunately, I had a few dear friends and the kids’ grandparents nearby who graciously helped the kids get to church, basketball practice or swim meets when I was unavailable.  What a blessing those people were in all of our lives.

Although I ​had no idea what our future held and struggled to make ends meet, all the same, I found myself smiling or singing just because and fell asleep most nights thanking God for the solitude and peace.  We were happier, and that was all that mattered.

There was constant reinforcement that we were on the right track.  For our first “just us” Christmas, I was financially challenged but had enough to get a tree, fill the kids’ stockings, and buy them a few simple presents.  The ceremonies were brief but calm and pleasant.  That afternoon, as I was in the living room picking up what remained of the Christmas wrappings, I heard my 9-year-old son upstairs in the loft telling the others, “Wasn’t this just the best Christmas ever!?”  It touched my heart to know they felt the difference.  No drama, no yelling, no tears.  After so many years of hell, I just wanted them to be content and, in that moment, they were.

I wish I could say that life was peaceful and our abuser respected our boundaries, but he didn’t.  He continued to try to churn up chaos with his lies and manipulations and crazy-making -until I remarried three years after the divorce was final.  I fell in love with a man with his own wounds to mend, and the connection between us was almost immediate.  Although Doug lived and worked 350 miles away, after “dating” me long distance for two months he transferred to be near me – this broken woman with four similarly broken children.  We married eight months to the day after we met, and together all of us have worked through our juju and made a new family where we could find healing and acceptance and redemption.  And it was Doug who made it a point to put our abuser in his place once and for all.

It was so worth it – to make the sacrifices that had to be made and pay whatever price that had to be paid to discover that life and freedom and joy (and even love) were waiting for us – on the other side.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

© Cindy Burrell, 2014

All rights reserved.

Can the Relationship Be Saved?

hurting heartFrom time to time, an abuse victim will ask me, “Do you believe our relationship can be saved?”  Instantly, I feel the weight of it, for the question is filled with untold emotion and self-doubt.

I have a pretty good idea where she is coming from.  If she is anything like I was, the abuse victim has staked her future on a hope that she can somehow hold things together while helping the abuser to work through his issues, believing she might possess some intangible quality that will ultimately move him to address not only his unhealthy behaviors, but his very nature.  So for the victim, it is the investment of herself she seeks to redeem, as surely it would be a terrible waste to forfeit that which has consumed so much of her life’s energy if, by some miracle, a favorable outcome may be imminent. 

But, what if it becomes apparent that all of her efforts have amounted to nothing?  Submitting to such a hard truth will inflict pain enough.  The admission will add another layer of uncertainty to her already stressful life, and she will face the judgment of many who will hastily conclude that it was she who failed. 

In most instances, the abuse victim is weighing the price her heart, mind and soul have paid to accommodate her abuser’s moods and demands up until now.  She realizes that her ongoing efforts to survive and even help her abuser amid the chaos he churns up have borne little fruit. 

Adding to the conflict within her, I can almost hear the voice of her abuser in the background – the man who, finally facing some painful consequences, suddenly declares that he has seen the light.  Together with his allies’ endorsement of his impressive transformation, the victim feels the pressure.  She has probably heard the guilt-laden words from more than one friend or family member:

Don’t you want to save your marriage?”

The words sting like salt in a wound.  The victim is utterly exhausted, but should she refuse to trust in her abuser’s dramatic change and instead decline his overtures, blame for the relationship’s failure will surely fall on her.  She is at a crossroads, desperate to know whether she is obligated to fan the withering flame of hope she used to have for the relationship, or whether someone like me might provide a dousing of hard truth that might at last extinguish it. 

So, in an effort to help the enabler-victim find her footing, I will tell her that she needn’t concern herself with saving the relationship, but rather she should commit to taking care of herself.  She is powerless to save her abuser or the relationship, and I will emphasize that it is not her responsibility to do so.  If the abuser had fulfilled his marital responsibilities from the beginning, there would be nothing to debate. 

In the end, whether the abuser decides to seek whatever help he needs to address his issues is his business alone.  And let him figure it out over whatever period of time is necessary while living elsewhere – away from the people who have served as his ready targets.  Although virtually every victim feels an obligation to ease the abuser’s discomfort, he deserves no explanation and no apology for any inconvenience to which he might be subject.  Even pity gives him power. 

I will also remind the victim that abusers are really good at making promises, but lousy at keeping them.  I will urge her to keep a safe emotional distance from him for a good, long while, learn to say ‘no’ to his self-serving propositions, and see whether his goodwill quickly evaporates when he does not get the response he expects, adding,  “Then you will know that he has not really changed.”  A genuinely repentant man would fully comprehend that trust must be re-earned over time.

I don’t give a rip about the abuser or whether a separation or divorce is hard on him.  No, my concern is reserved for his primary victim and any children who have been held hostage to his unpredictable tirades and shaming games.  What needs to be restored is the sense of safety and security that have been sacrificed to the abuser’s unreasonable demands. 

There is no time like the present to reclaim sound priorities, begin the work of bringing healing to the hearts and minds of victims and their children, and weave love, respect, affection and truth in and through a recovering family structure.  The victims need to know that their home will now be a place where they can now live in safety. 

I will not encourage an abuse victim to waste another breath attempting to “save” a harmful, dysfunctional union.  Most assuredly, the ultimate objective is not to save the relationship, but to save those who have been harmed by it.

So, as to whether or not the relationship can be saved, perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask:  Should it be saved?  At the end of the day, that is a question only the victim can answer.

Cindy Burrell

Copyright 2014

All Rights Reserved

The Church That Kept Me There

3699-sad woman.220w.tnMy eldest daughter, Charla, recently wrote a paper for her college psychology class about depression and decided to share it with me.  The subject of her paper was her younger brother, Brett, and what he suffered as a young boy in an abusive home.  (You can read Charla’s account of her class presentation here.) 

 I feared that reading my daughter’s words about her brother would reach deep and unveil wounds in me that simply refuse to heal – and they did.  As I read, I was once again compelled to revisit those dark days, and I began to weep to the point that I could scarcely make out the words on the page.  Although her conclusion was positive and encouraging, I had a hard time receiving it.  A decade after our escape, the guilt of remaining with that abusive man as long as I did haunts me still.

 Seeing me in engulfed in my regret, my husband wrapped a loving arm around my shoulders and said to me, “Don’t do this to yourself.  Despise the man.”  In a response grounded in unbridled honesty, I lifted my head and half whispered, “And the church that kept me there.”

For it was not my abusive husband that held me captive in that poisonous, treacherous home.  No, it was the church doctrine that I was determined to faithfully honor and follow to the letter.  Knowledgeable people whom I respected assured me that if I was a godly wife, if I spent enough time on my knees and humbled myself and loved well that my husband would turn from his wicked ways, and our home and marriage would be healed.  Yet, my faith and conviction empowered the man, for he knew I had been compelled to stay.  The years passed, and my husband’s abuses became ever more atrocious.

As I read my daughter’s account, I was overwhelmed knowing that the brief summary of Brett’s history could never begin to capture the collective pain my four children and I endured over the course of so many years with the “blessing” of ignorant pastors and fellow believers.  I know now that tolerating and even enabling the kind of blatant, unrepentant sin that degrades His most sacred institution breaks the heart of our great God.  Yet, the ungodly dogma remains entrenched and is taught and pressed on the suffering.

How is it that I and others like me have been taught that divorce is a sin, but abuse is something to be borne?  Why is “’til death do us part,” held up as an absolute while “love, honor and cherish” is relegated to an afterthought?

I cannot help but wonder how many hearts remain broken and unprotected, abandoned to the tortuous whims of a family member whose actions are deemed negligible – by those who do not live it.  Those whose admonitions I accepted as truth are blissfully unaware of the painful aftermath their legalist doctrine sanctioned.  In truth, my faith did not fail.  It was simply misplaced.

Did the man strike me?   Did he backhand our children?  Yes, day after day after day, where the pain is gravest, but where the wounds were shielded from human eyes.  To the church that demanded visible evidence, our wounds were – and are – sadly inconsequential.

Thankfully, now I know that God does not condone abuse of any kind.  He loves righteousness.  It is He who commands divine deliverance and calls upon us to bestow honor and justice in defense of the sanctity of marriage and family.   That is why God provided divorce – to release those of us who have been utterly abandoned and betrayed.  Yet few in the contemporary church will openly profess it.

I walk and rest in the One who released me.  Nevertheless, I am viewed as the sinner, a second-class Christian in the eyes of a judging church, for it is I who formally severed the bonds of the marriage that had long before been torn asunder – from within.  Even so, I have forgiven them – those who commended me for living a destitute, shameful life and condemned me when I found the courage to leave it.  I know their words were spoken in ignorance, for who would dare to proclaim that my Savior is somehow powerless to save me?

So I will not remain silent while so many church leaders and lay-counselors continue to keep men, women and children living in homes where terror and heartache reign.  That is not of God.  If I find myself at odds with a church that obliges such cruelty, so be it.  I would not wish for any to live with the kind of regret that I carry – because I foolishly heeded the voices of those who did not represent the One who loves me and set me free.

The wicked spies upon the righteous and seeks to kill him. The Lord will not leave

him in his hand or let him be condemned when he is judged.  Psalm 37:32-33

copyright @ Cindy Burrell 2014

Charla’s Story About Brett

With her permission, I would like to share this story my eldest child, Charla, wrote for her college psychology class. It is about Brett, my youngest son. I shared an earlier piece about him that you can read here. 

Yesterday, I had a group presentation in my psychology class about depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide.  Each us had a different section and mine was depression.  We agreed to pick real-life examples of people who struggle(d) with each of these things.  At the beginning of our presentation, we had picture cards with a blurb of the person’s story on the back.  We picked several people to get up in front of the class to show the picture and read the blurb to everyone.

 My real-life example was about Brett.

 An older man, Tom, agreed to read Brett’s story to the class.  On the front of the card was this picture:

brett lil boy

And on the back, Tom read this blurb to the class:

My name is Brett.  I love superheroes, music, and my brother and sister.  I am only 7-years-old when I start going through depression.  My dad is a drug addict and an alcoholic, and he is verbally and emotionally abusive toward me.  My mom tries to protect me, but she has to be away from the house during the day because she works to support our family.  I am afraid to be alone in the house with my dad.  I can’t force myself to smile or laugh.  I spend most days hiding in my room, and eating to make myself feel better.  I don’t believe that anyone truly loves me.  I am not even sure that I am worth loving.

It was so touching because, during the middle, Tom got all choked up and he struggled to finish reading it.  As he went to sit down, my professor said, “Wow.  That must’ve been really hard to read.”

Later on in my presentation, I shared a bit more of Brett’s story with this slide: Continue reading

Checklist Blackmail

The questionnaire

No list holds the power to change a person’s heart.

It finally arrives – the heartbreaking yet liberating moment when you simply cannot live the lie for one more minute.   The loneliness, shame and exhaustion can no longer be rationalized or minimized.  There is nothing left to sort out or piece together or hope for, and you finally break through the wall of dysfunction you had foolishly accepted as normal.  And you leave.

 As the first days pass, you find yourself moving tenuously through the haze of disillusionment and exhaustion and catching a glimpse of clear sky, relishing every breath of free air and then falling into bed at night in peace.  If you are lucky, in the abuser’s absence, the numbness of soul to which you have become accustomed gives way, and you find yourself savoring the joys of a few days, hours or minutes free of constant fear and confusion.

Unfortunately, it will not be long before your sweet respite is interrupted.  Your abuser is not done yet.  He shows up on your doorstep and leaves countless messages on your phone.  He might arrive at your workplace, send flowers, bring gifts and make every promise imaginable.  He insists he has been awakened to the truth and is intent on securing any opportunity to prove himself.  So he asks, “What can I do to assure you of my love, to earn your trust and prove my sincerity? Name it.” 

Those are dangerous words.  He wants your checklist.

It is tempting to offer one.  How many nights have you lain awake strategizing how you might reach his angry, calloused heart and get him to see you, to cherish you?

“Maybe this is it,” you say to yourself.  “Maybe he has finally reached a point where he can hear me.” 

 It feels like an open door, a precious opportunity to set the stage for real healing and change.  You feel confident, even eager presenting him with your checklist because he has evoked a genuine desire to make things right.  You put it out there, believing that you are giving him some helpful direction, maybe even inspiration.  You might insist on counseling, treatment for his addiction(s), corrections to his irresponsible spending, acknowledgement of and elimination of his abusive behavior.  You might also ask that he help more with household responsibilities or give you more freedom to pursue your interests.

Only these many years later can I see the absurdity of enduring however many years of abuse, and then handing the abuser a short list of concessions he must make to get things back to what he considers normal.  Step back for a moment, and you can see that his request of you at once infers that he is mystified as to what the issues are and how he has hurt you.  If he is counting on you to explain to him what he needs to change, then in his mind, he doesn’t need to change anything.  And your willingness to offer him a checklist is accepted as a promise that you are willing to reconcile with him as soon as those line items are checked off.

No problem.

As well-trained enablers, we almost always fail to realize that the checklist is a trap, a teaser in the abuser’s game, and many of us are drawn in.  We continue to act on the premise that relationship is the mutual goal.  Not so for the abuser.  Remember:  he wants control.

So what we see as a solemn opportunity to restore genuine relationship is to the abuser a trivial matter of a few small hurdles, temporary obligations, or just another opportunity to perfect his art of manipulation.  The checklist becomes the very mortar the abuser will use to rebuild the walls that held you captive.

Go to counseling?  Sure.  Several weeks later, the counselor has bought in to the abuser’s “sincere” efforts, and the victim has lost her voice.  In fact, she is probably under the gun now for being slow to forgive or accommodate him.  Nothing has changed, but he has fulfilled the mandate.

Check.

Get treatment for his addictions.  He goes to meetings and expresses confidence in his progress, but there will be occasional lapses.  What do you expect – perfection?  To be encouraging, you commend him for his progress believing his addictive tendencies will decline over time, but only time will tell.

Check.

At first, his commitment seems admirable, even believable.  And you may optimistically give him more credit than he is due.  Not only that, but many of your checklist demands are subjective and can be molded and twisted in a manner that can be accepted as a good effort.  Speaking cruelly to you or your children?  That’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?  Perhaps you’re overreacting again or expecting too much in too short of a time period.  In no time, he will have found a way to document some measure of success in every area you asked.

Check.  Check.  Check.

If you’re a strong one, maybe you can resist the tearful pleas of your children who want daddy to come home, and remain a little skeptical when his friends and family members remind you of how hard he is trying.  You do not have the measure of peace you need to consider reconciling.  That is when the checklist becomes his tool and your enemy.

“I’ve done everything you’ve asked,” he reminds you.  “What more can you possibly expect from me? You are being unfair to me.  Don’t you want to save our marriage?  Why are you doing this to our children?”  And the pressure is on.

Has he really changed?  No.  But you have set yourself up for Checklist Blackmail.  The abuser will use the checklist you gave him to contain and define and limit the scope of necessity in the relationship.  Your checklist leaves the intangible, immeasurable substance of his character immutable.

Even though the abuser has met the obligations, you still feel unsafe.  To his way of thinking, that’s your problem.  Should you refuse to receive him, he will emotionally pummel you with the checklist you gave him and angrily affirm your response as proof that you are absolutely unreasonable, overly demanding and even cruel.  You have put yourself between a rock and a hard place – and your abuser knows it.

Just say ‘no’ to the checklist.  No list holds the power to change a person’s heart.  If you leave your abuser, and he tells you he wants to change, to make things right; let him.  He’s a grown-up.  Let him go get counseling on his own and figure out what needs to do to get healthy without harassing you or promising you the moon or extracting agreements or timelines from you.

While he does his share of the work (I write with great skepticism), you can take some time to educate yourself about the abuse dynamic and focus on your healing – not on his.  If one day he shows up on your doorstep, accepts full responsibility for all of his cruelties, humbly seeks your forgiveness, seeks help of his own volition and agrees to leave you alone and honor your need for time and space and room to heal without limits…then there might be a basis for entertaining the remote possibility of reconciliation.

From what I have witnessed in my dealings with abusers, they prefer the game of Checklist Blackmail.  Don’t play.  It is just one more game you simply cannot win.

 Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him. Proverbs 27:22

Cindy Burrell

Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

Participants Sought for a Clinical Psychology Study Regarding Divorce

Hello, Subscribers, Followers and Friends:

I have been contacted by a student in her final year of doctorate study in clinical psychology.  Her doctoral thesis is on the effects of parent communication on preschooler’s behavior after divorce.  She is looking for parents who have been divorced within the past 3 years, and who have a child between the ages of 2-5 who is currently enrolled in preschool.  If you or someone you know may qualify under these criteria, perhaps you would consider participating  - or referring other potential candidates to participate – in her online survey, which can be found here.

The survey is completely untraceable, anonymous and can be completed in under 15 minutes.  

The student has also expressed a willingness to share the results of her study once completed.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Cindy

Lanterns for Amberly

_MG_2676 copy_bw2

I would like to introduce you to Amberly – the youngest of my four children, a sweet-natured darling, a delight to know and have around.  At 18-years of age, she is a petite little thing, standing at five-foot-nothing, with long dark hair and soft hazel eyes.

Since the day she was born, she has been an easy-going child.  Compliant and sweet-natured, I have never witnessed her being deliberately harsh with anyone, not even her siblings.  I can count on one hand the number of times I actually had to discipline her, and in those moments when I did, I thought her little heart would break just knowing she had disappointed me.

On more than one occasion when she was young and I would accompany her to her friends’ birthday parties and school carnivals, a mother would introduce herself and kindly inquire as to whether Amberly was my child.  Upon replying with a smile, the woman would gaze at me with a measure of awe, and might teasingly ask if I might be willing to trade my Amberly for her little trouble-maker.  I would smile proudly and offer a definitive “No way.” She was such a remarkable little girl.

But heartache has a way of finding us all.  Just around the time Amberly was born her father began his rapid downward spiral.  The combination of his use of high-powered prescription drugs coupled with his increasing consumption of alcohol exacerbated his already-abusive behaviors.  Even in such a stressful home environment, Amberly seemed to emanate a lightness and contentment.  She had just turned six when I had to take her and her siblings away from their abusive father and our home.

Even more shocking, during the separation and following the divorce, her father’s interest in seeing Amberly or spending time with her diminished, as he focused his attention almost exclusively on the two eldest children.  There were nights she crawled into my arms and wept, grieving the loss of her daddy and wondering why he didn’t want to have anything to do with her.  There was no explanation sufficient to quell a little girl’s bewildered grief.

At the age of 12, tests confirmed that she had a pretty severe case of scoliosis (curvature of the spine).  Soon after she was fitted with a bulky, shoulder-to-hip brace that she was required to wear 21 hours a day.  While her tomboyish ways were giving way to a growing desire to look and feel feminine she was forced to wear baggy shirts to attempt to disguise the cast-like brace underneath.   Many days I found her curled up on her bed crying, overwhelmed by her situation and utterly depressed.  Her happy demeanor had been overshadowed by consistent back pain, an almost complete loss of her physical freedom, and a cruel setback in the development of her fragile femininity.

It seemed another father figure had let her down – first her earthly father and now her heavenly one – and Amberly was growing embittered toward them both.

Driving her home from school one afternoon, as a song played on the radio, I sang along.

Who knows how He’ll get a hold of us
Get our attention to prove He is enough
He’ll do and He’ll use
Whatever He wants to
To tell us “I love you…[i]

I glanced over at Amberly as I sang and smiled.  In that moment, I saw a spark in her eye, and I believe it was then that she began her journey to discover the perfect Father who, in the midst of her trials, loved her more than anything.  Her faith began to grow, and the light slowly returned to her eyes.

But some wounds never heal completely.

A couple of years later, the movie, “Tangled,” was released.  The beautifully animated film tells the story of Rapunzel, a princess kidnapped as a baby by a vain, abusive woman.  Rapunzel’s magical, golden hair holds the power to heal and invoke perpetual youth, which her maternal imposter craves.  As she grows up, Rapunzel is isolated as much by a fear of the outside world planted there by her abductor as she is by the tower from which she has no means of escape.

Every year, on the night of Rapunzel’s birthday, Rapunzel’s parents – the king and queen – and all of the townspeople send thousands of paper lanterns aloft both as a solemn remembrance of the lost princess and with the smallest hope that the young girl may one day see the pageant of dancing lights in the night sky and find her way home.

There is a poignant scene in the movie where Rapunzel’s father – the king – and his queen are somberly preparing for the annual event.  There are no words spoken between them, just a shared pain captured in a look of desperate longing and grief on the downcast face of Rapunzel’s father.  The first time Amberly watched this touching scene, she fell to tears, consumed with a pain long held in secret, a depth of grief a child should never know.  And every time she sees this segment in the film, the same insatiable ache rises, flowing from a place in her little girl heart that has not yet healed.

“Why didn’t he love me?” she asks.  “Doesn’t he miss me? Doesn’t he care?”  And I can only hold her in my arms and weep right along with her.  It makes no sense.  It is crushing.  It is appalling.  The man has no idea what he has so foolishly forfeited.

I know her father is not safe.  I know that if she had maintained a relationship with him he would have likely added other offenses to her catalog of father-wounds.  But knowing that doesn’t help.  It doesn’t assuage the pain.

Yet, there is something intrinsically wondrous in the“Tangled” lantern ritual.   Long before her escape from the tower, Rapunzel sees the lanterns each and every year, shimmering in the distant night, knowing they are significant, but not realizing that their yearly release is especially for her.

Rapunzel’s goal becomes to witness the event for herself and discover the lanterns’ purpose.  When she finally escapes, not yet grasping her true identity, Rapunzel is privileged to view the enchanting spectacle from a small boat on a lake with her rescuer, viewing the dark sky over the castle when the awe-inspiring sight of the first golden lantern rises.  Then with it there follows a glittering sea of light that sets the world aglow and casts a shimmering reflection upon the water.

A solitary lantern descends upon the boat, the very one sent aloft by her grieving father and mother.  Rapunzel smiles at the gift as it alights on her fingertips.  Then she propels it gently skyward, returning it to its place in the heavens.  She does not even realize what it is she is holding – the very expression of her father’s longing, his call for her to please come home.  She has no idea how cruelly he misses her, a truth only time will reveal.  What a sweet image of the inimitable and personal love of our Father-God.

As the years have passed, Amberly has once again found joy and contentment and is well-loved by her family and friends, but she will probably always grieve what her father did not, could not, give her.  On the other hand, she now carries a mental picture of how her other Father feels about her.  She knows that He cherishes her and wants her to know Him and find safety in His outstretched arms.

On your darkest nights, I am so certain that, if you are looking, you might just see the lanterns that our Father has sent into your midst, reminders of just how much He loves you.  You belonged to Him first, and He misses you and wants you to come home.

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13


[i] God Speaking, by Ronnie Freeman© 2007

help from cindy burrell at www.hurtbylove.com

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