This space has been very quiet lately. It’s not that I have had a lack of thoughts or emotions because, believe me, I have a lot of feelings! It’s because the words wouldn’t come. I have opened my computer and sat at the screen for hours at a complete loss as to how to describe what is in my head. I have jotted down a few thoughts here and there, but nothing would come together to form actual complete stories. Honestly, it’s been maddening. I love writing, and this space has been such a sweet adventure. Lately, however, words have swirled around my head just out of my grasp.
We have spent the last several weeks transforming our home. Nearly every wall in the house has been painted and almost every piece of furniture has moved at least once. For most of the last several weeks, our house has been utter chaos. Nothing has been normal. We have had stuff everywhere and all our normal routines have been different. Leo, our sweet little gray cat, has proven to be extremely adaptable. Every time we have moved something, he has acted a little unsure, but quickly accepted the change and rolled with the new adventure.
That all changed this past weekend. We had family visit with the plan of helping us knock out a big portion of the housework. While we worked, our entire living room and kitchen was torn apart. Everything that was once in the living room and kitchen was now all over the house. We had artwork in our bedroom, furniture in the middle of the rooms and tools laid everywhere. Guests with their belongings were in our office and guestroom. Nothing was the same and I think it was evident Leo had reached his breaking point and was a bit overwhelmed.
On Friday night, we had finished painting for the day, and I went back to our bedroom to check on Leo as well as change out of my painting clothes. To my dismay, I found Leo cuddled in a corner with a nice stripe of blue paint down his side. Panic quickly struck my heart. Leo has a very specific way he walks through the living room. He always rubs against the corner of one wall before walking down the hall. I hadn’t even thought of it when we were painting, because he had stayed away from the paint to this point. Out of habit, our sweet boy rubbed himself on the wall as he walked by, picked up a nice blue stripe and left behind a few fuzzy gray hairs on the corner. UGH!! I should have been more careful!
The panic I felt when I saw Leo with his nice new blue stripe escalated quickly. I was sure that he would be very very sick. Were we going to have to run him to the pet ER to make sure he was okay? Would we have to shave his hair off?
I nervously yelled for Dan and he quickly came back to help me wrangle Leo. Dan closed the door to our room and I carefully picked Leo up trying to quickly determine how sick he was. Dan asked me to try a washcloth on Leo before we got too crazy with cutting off his fur. So I sat on the floor, with Leo on my lap, and slowly began to wipe him with a damp washcloth. Thankfully, the paint came off Leo easily with little work. After a few seconds I realized I didn’t have to hold Leo tightly to keep him with me. In fact, I wasn’t holding him at all. He simply stayed on my lap, cuddled in a ball, while I slowly cleaned the paint off him. I looked at Dan astonished! Why wasn’t Leo fighting me? Dan simply said “you’re his safe spot.”
Thankfully, as I found the gray fur under the blue paint, Dan googled and we quickly learned Leo would be fine (maybe just a tiny bit traumatized) and the paint wouldn’t hurt him. I breathed a sigh of relief and sat with him a little longer after the paint was cleaned off completely. I was just so grateful he was okay. I stayed awake a bit longer that night just to make doubly sure that he would be okay. Obviously, he had been through a lot, so Leo got extra treats that night too!
For the rest of the weekend, Leo was my shadow. Wherever I was, Leo was quick to follow. He always had his eyes on me. We spent most of Sunday putting the living room and kitchen back together. On Sunday evening when we finally sat down, Leo came and snuggled right up to me. This may not seem like a big deal, but Leo is not a very cuddly cat. It’s a big deal when he chose to stay by me. In fact, it’s such a rare moment, Dan took this photo.
When Dan sent me this photo, it brought tears to my eyes. When God gave us the word “secure” for 2020 I had no idea that this year would blow up. (The 2020 Word of the Year I Never Wanted) In January 2020, Dan and I had a plan for what this year would look like. However, as we sit here, half way through the year, it doesn’t take long to see that this year is anything but what we expected. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19 and quarantine. Dan and I have faced cancelled plans, heartbreaking news, anniversaries of big dates and health issues that made us (and the doctors) scratch their heads. We have several big decisions looming in our future and honestly we just have so many questions marks around us.
I thought 2020 was going to be a year of action, but right now 2020 just feels like a year of chaos. Everywhere I look there seems to be brokenness, tension and confusion. If I am being honest, it feels like every “piece of furniture” in my heart is being moved. Walls aren’t just being painted, they are literally being torn apart and thrown across the room of my heart in pieces. I feel war-torn. When I looked at that picture of Leo cuddled up by me, I was reminded that God went before us and gave us our word of the year on purpose. I heard Him whisper “Where is your safe place?”
This question stopped me in my tracks and taken several days to process. I spent a lot of time thinking about my secret place with the Father. I literally have a tattoo on my arm that says “prisoner of hope” (Confidently Imprisoned) because I am passionate about the secret place. This phrase is from a scripture found in Zechariah 9:12. It says this:
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
I chose to have this phrase tattooed on my arm so I carry a reminder that my hope is in Jesus. I felt like I needed a constant reminder that He alone is my fortress and my safe place. It’s a reminder that Jesus is constantly calling me closer to His heart. This tattoo is a reminder that I hide in him, He brings restoration. Not just a tiny bit, but twice what we lost.
When I was considering the tattoo, I was convicted to be “ruthlessly aggressive” in my pursuit of Jesus. After getting my tattoo in March 2019, I have spent my time trying to get to know my Father more. I have spent many years getting to know my Father, but since getting the tattoo, I have wanted to be uncompromising in the pursuit of Him. I am not sure who said it, but last year someone said they wanted to be so close to Jesus they could feel His breaths. I have heard people talk about the “breath of heaven” before, but this time it stuck with me a bit differently. In order to be close enough to feel someone’s breathing, you have to be really close. You can’t get that close to someone without having a deep level of intimacy with them.
As I have thought about Leo following me around like a shadow, I realized something. Leo didn’t understand why the furniture was moving or why the walls were changing color. He didn’t understand the strange smells and the craziness around him. However, he could adapt and rest because He trusts me. As long as he was near me, he knew he would be okay. We have had Leo since he was eight weeks old, and his trust didn’t happen overnight. It happened after years of me being consistent. Years of me feeding him, caring for him and showing up for him. Years of consistency leads to trust.
I have joked that my home is a “safe place” and, because it’s my safe place, I want to stay in it forever and never leave. However, over the past few days I have realized that while my home is a very safe place, it’s not my safe place. My safe place is actually a place I carry with me. My safe place is Jesus. It’s the only strong and sturdy place that is consistent. Just as Leo trusted me in the midst of chaos, I can trust Jesus because I know Him. I have learned who He is. I have seen Him show up and care for me. He has held me in the dark nights, and He alone has proven himself faithful again and again and again and again.
I have shared before some scriptures on who I believe God is (God is NOT a Jerk). I continue to go back to this list over and over again because it’s some of my favorite characteristics of God. Here is what I shared:
God is faithful. Lamentations 3:22-23 says this in the NIV Translation:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
God is good. Psalm 100:5 says this in the Passion Translation:
For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you — so kind that it will astound you! And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for he keeps his promises to every generation!
God is forgiving. Isaiah 43:25 says this in the NIV Translation:
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
God is strong and all knowing. Psalm 147:5 says this in the Passion Translation:
How great is our God! There’s absolutely nothing his power cannot accomplish, and he has infinite understanding of everything.
God is a God of healing. Psalm 41:3 says this in the Passion Translation:
When they are sick, God will restore them, lying upon their bed of suffering. He will raise them up again and restore them back to health.
God is a God of restoration. 1 Peter 5:1 this in the Passion Translation:
And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in his eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, he will set you firmly in place and build you up.
God has a good plan for ME! Jeremiah 29:11 promises this in the NIV Translation:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
While these verses are some of my favorites, they aren’t even close to covering all of the aspects of who He is. Scripture paints a picture of a God who is big. A God who chases us. A God who sacrificed His only son for us. A God who calls us children. A God who gives us royal authority. A God who simply delights in us. Hebrews 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie. He can’t be a God who promises something and then does not come through. He does not do things halfway. In fact, He is a God who does abundantly more than we can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21). He’s a God who can be trusted.
During this season, I have seen Psalm 91 posted everywhere. This chapter of scripture is full of so many amazing promises of God’s peace and shelter during difficult times. I have really been thinking about verse 4 lately. It says this in the passion translation:
His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.
You can run under his covering of majesty and hide.
His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.
I love the imagery in this verse. His massive arms are holding me. Just as I held Leo and wiped the paint off him, God will hold me and wipe the worry away. He will hold me and wipe the exhaustion away. He will hold me and wipe the trouble, the depression, the anxiety, the darkness… whatever I am feeling… He will wipe it away. I don’t have to struggle in His arms. I can rest.
Taking this one step further, Leo didn’t know it when living in the midst of chaos, but Dan and I have been working to make the house better. Now, several days after finishing the painting projects, the house is cleaner and brighter. While we still have a few more projects to finish and things that need to find new homes, everything looks fresh and new. Leo has more hiding places and more space to run and play. While I do not believe Jesus is the author of the chaos around me, I trust that He will use the situations around me for His glory. He has proven time and time again that He is a God of restoration. I trust there is a day coming that I will be able to look at 2020 and say what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20: What the enemy meant to harm me, God has used to change my life and the lives of many (my paraphrase).
Friends, where is your safe spot? I can’t promise that the rest of 2020 is going to be better. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that our Father is calling us in. He is calling us closer. He is a safe hiding place. You can rest in His arms. Will you let Him hold you? Will you let him wipe away the pain that this year has left behind? You can trust that He is not done. He is up to something, I just know it. As I wrote this, I kept thinking about Isaiah 43 and I have to share this. Verses 16-19 say this in the Passion Translation:
Yahweh is the one who makes a way in the sea,
a pathway in the mighty waters.
He destroyed chariots and horses
and all their mighty warriors.
They fell, never to rise again—
gone forever, snuffed out like a wick. This is what he says:
“Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.
I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and open up flowing streams in the desert.
This is the God we are resting in. A God who makes a way. A God who destroys our enemies. A God who triumphs over our past. A God who promises that He is doing something new. A God who does something unheard of. More than we can ask for our imagine. That is a safe place worth resting in!
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