The Pain No One Sees

Today I am welcoming my dear friend, Melinda Means, as my first ever guest blogger! Her new book, Invisible Wounds, addresses the heart wrenching issues that we often carry around, hidden deep within our souls. On the outside we look polished, but on the inside we are deeply hurting. If you are experiencing physical, emotional or spiritual pain of any kind, you will be encouraged and equipped today from Melinda’s insightful words. She’s blessed me and I know she will bless you!

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I think back to one of my favorite photos of my children. Molly was three. Micah was nine months old. They look absolutely enchantingly adorable. Everyone’s smiling and looks happy.

It’s just the perfect photo—no easy feat with little ones.

But let me share the story behind this “perfect” snapshot.

I had done all the right things to prepare for the child photography experience. They both had a nap, they’d been fed, and they were dressed in the required darling matching outfits.

I was golden.

We arrived at the mall. That’s when it got interesting.

I lifted my son Micah from his car seat just as he had a diaper blowout of legendary proportions. I used every baby wipe I had and he was still a poopy mess. I was so close to photo-taking victory I could smell it (unfortunately that’s not all I could smell).

So I wrapped him in a blanket and with my daughter in tow we high tailed it through the mall parking lot to find the nearest bathroom.

On the way, my daughter tripped and fell, ripping a hole in her white tights and scraping her knee. Time to throw in the towel? Nope. This newest setback only made me more determined.

In the bathroom, we made a tragic discovery: hand dryers—no paper towels. As my daughter handed me reams of toilet paper, I went to work cleaning up my son. We finally made it to the photo studio.

The result? Adorable.

My son’s plaid outfit masked the stains (if not the smell). My daughter’s strategically placed little hand covered that wound on her knee. No one would ever guess the trauma that had gone on behind the scenes.

Looks can be deceiving, can’t they?

Just like that photo, our pain lurks beneath the surface. It’s often camouflaged by busyness, a confident demeanor, or a tough outer shell.

We hide because we think no one else will understand. Maybe we think we’re to blame. We’re afraid of rejection. We believe it makes us weak. We don’t want others to feel sorry for us. We don’t want our pain to define us.

So we nurse our pain in isolation. We live alone with our invisible wounds.

After 20 years of chronic pain and illness—mine and my son’s—I bear the scars of isolation and discouragement.

My anxiety and insecurity—always a struggle—has sometimes felt nearly unbearable. At times, it has shaken my faith to its very core.

So what do we do with our pain? Where is God in all this? I don’t have all the answers. But here’s something important that I do know: God is not afraid of our questions. He isn’t surprised or appalled by our frustrated, tear-soaked temper tantrums (I’ve had more than a few). He just wants us to come to Him.

For years, I have looked for an outcome. Relief from my pain. I wanted healing. Period. I still do. But I’ve learned healing can look very different from what we imagine.

Hope and healing can come through telling our stories. It can materialize as God meets us and reveals Himself in the middle of our struggle. It can materialize as we see God redeem our pain.

This isn’t the path I would have chosen for myself. It isn’t the journey I would have chosen for my son, who battles cystic fibrosis.

Yet pain leads us to a deeper walk with God if we are open to gifts that we would never have received without our pain. Others receive gifts they wouldn’t have received without our pain. God cares. He sees your struggle, sweet friend.

But He wants to do so much more than change our pain. He wants to use our pain to change us.

When our joy, freedom, and hope rest on an outcome, instead of a Person, we will ultimately be disappointed. It is not through the result—the relief of our emotional, physical, or spiritual suffering—that the most important transformation comes. It is through the relationship with Jesus.

I can say that genuinely and with complete conviction. Not because it’s what I’m supposed to say as a good Christian. Or because I’m in denial. It’s because it is what I know and have experienced to be true, particularly over this past year—the most physically, spiritually, and emotionally brutal season that I’ve ever experienced.

Your wounds may be hidden from the world, but they never escape the notice of a loving God. Through Him, we can find hope—even while we’re hurting.

© Melinda Means. This post includes excerpts from Invisible Wounds: Hope While You’re Hurting. Used with permission.

About Invisible Wounds: So many of us walk around looking fine. Hidden beneath the surface, however, are deep, painful physical, spiritual and emotional wounds. We feel isolated in our pain. We feel guilty about the private doubts we have about God and His goodness. We live alone with our invisible wounds.

In this book, Melinda draws from her long history with chronic illness—hers and her son’s—and also shares the stories of seven brave, beautiful women who reveal their hidden hurts. Throughout its pages, she tackles the tough spiritual questions and dark, raw emotions that accompany suffering and illuminates the path that leads to hope that heals.

Author Bio: Melinda Means is a weary soul in need of refreshment from the only Source who can quench our thirst. After years of chronic pain and questioning God’s plan, she has found the joy of seeking the Healer more than the healing. She is a professional speaker and writing coach, as well as coauthor of Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family (Bethany House, 2015). Check out her website at Melinda Means.

You can order the Kindle version on Amazon! (Deal for 99 cents through August 31st) Click HERE.

Invisible Wounds Cover for Kindle

 

One Step at a Time

My upcoming book, Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul, is closer to the finish line of finally being published. This process hasn’t been a quick sprint by any means, but more like a grueling long distance race with many twists and turns.

What started out as an exciting dream with determination, gradually turned to many moments filled with doubt and discouragement along the way.

Can I really do this?

What if it isn’t good enough?

What if they reject me?

Just as a race is completed one step at a time, the process of writing a book is also completed one step at a time.

And with each step, we keep going. We persevere!

My goal was to write 40 devotions that highlighted the parallels between running and our journey with God. But sometimes when I was writing the first five, I worried if I’d be able to finish the last five. God reminded me over and over again:

One step at a time. I’ll give you grace for today. Stop worrying about tomorrow.

I’m excited that God has opened the door for me to write this book! He’s showed me so much truth, wisdom and insight that I wouldn’t trade for anything. When I first started running, I truly thought I was checking a box on my bucket list to run one 5K.

But God had other plans.

When my feet pounded the pavement, He spoke truth into my soul.

With every step of my slow pace, He soothed me with His peace.

What I thought was just a race, were hidden lessons of His grace.

Whether you consider yourself a runner or not, Embracing The Race will encourage and challenge you in your race of life. You’ll be inspired to go deeper in your walk with Jesus. The apostle Paul writes multiple times throughout scripture how our lives are like a race.

And he urges us to run in such a way as to win!

My book won’t officially release until November 14th, but it’s available on Amazon now if you’d like to preorder it. Click HERE to check out the details.

Until then, I’d appreciate your prayers as I take the next steps of building the momentum through marketing and spreading the word. I’ll keep you posted in the weeks to come. The ultimate goal is to encourage others in their faith journey!

I don’t know where you are in your race of faith. Maybe you’re at the start line and you’ve barely taken a few steps. Maybe you’ve been in the race for a while, but you’re wearing out and feel like you want to quit. No matter where you are, I encourage you to simply take the next step. Keep going!

One step at a time.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa

 

 

 

Weary from Pouring into Others

I’ve been running on fumes lately and the gas tank of my soul is almost on empty.

The things I’m running after are all good. 

Encouraging others in their faith.

Walking alongside friends in difficult circumstances. 

Helping to lead a group of single moms.

Showing hospitality to others in our home.

Preparing to launch and market my first book. 

But in the midst of all the kingdom work, I can feel myself wearing down a bit. In a constant flow of pouring into others, I’ve forgotten to slow down enough to be refilled. Not being intentional enough with my time to sit before the Lord and let Him refresh me.

Imagine a huge pitcher of water. It’s surrounded by multiple small glasses. At first you can freely pour the water into the other glasses.

A little bit here. A little bit there. Pour some here. Pour some there.

But what seems an endless supply will soon run out. The large pitcher will run dry at some point.

 

An empty pitcher can’t fill anything up. An empty pitcher serves no purpose. It must be refilled before it can pour back out. We can set this pitcher under the faucet and turn it on. Water from an endless supply is available at any time.

This is a picture of what I must do to stay filled up! I need to sit still under the faucet of God’s never-ending love, full of peace and strength that will never run out. An endless supply of grace–available at any time.

Maybe instead of waiting until the pitcher of my heart is empty, I should go back to the faucet every day and stay filled up. I’m so guilty of waiting until every last drop of strength and grace are squeezed out of my parched, weary soul.

You know how some servers at restaurants are great about keeping your drink refilled? Instead of waiting until your glass is empty, they keep filling it up every time they walk by. Might even seem annoying at some point! But their eye is on the glass. Their goal is to keep it filled to the brim.

Perhaps I should aim to be like that server in guarding the condition of my soul. 

Always aware. Making sure I’m filled up. Intentionally watching.

But even if I push too hard and find myself on empty, God is still ever so gracious and patient with me. He calls me to simply come with my parched soul and sit at His feet.

He beckons me to soak up His presence. Overflow me with His peace. Fills me up to the brim. And then He whispers to me and says, “You’re filled up now. Go and pour into others who are still on empty. Pour into those who need to be refreshed. Let me flow through you to show my love.”

What about you? Are you running on fumes from pouring into others? Do you feel parched because your soul needs a refill from the Living Water?

Let’s challenge one another to stay filled. Encourage each other to keep a watch on our souls.

God longs to fill the pitcher of our souls with His never-ending supply of power.

It’s a must if we’re going to keep doing the kingdom work He’s called us to.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

Hope in a Hopeless World?

Hate. Racism. Senseless deaths. Cold-blooded murder. Unthinkable tragedy.

In the midst of a nation spiraling down quickly, our hearts are certainly weighed down with grief that fills the air.

Waves of fear engulf us, leaving us drowning with no seashore in sight.

Raging with a fierce, righteous anger, we demand justice. We rally together against the evil, making our voices known. Boldly we discuss the best solutions for fixing this wicked world.

But when all is silent and nobody is around, there’s a question I believe we all are asking.

Where is my hope?

Is it in the police force?

The political candidates running for president?

The guns hidden under the bed?

The promises of the government?

Where is your hope?

Who or what are you clinging to when everything familiar and what used to be stable comes crashing down?

If it’s anything in this world, you will come up empty. Even a hefty savings account isn’t going to hold you together when evil chokes the life out of anything promising.

As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised at the spiraling down of this world.

Jesus tells us very plainly in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome this world.”

I love the way Jesus tells us like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat the situation.

Doesn’t say you might have trouble. Doesn’t say if you just read your Bible and pray enough you’ll avoid trouble.

He says we WILL have trouble.

Sometimes I get stuck on the first part of this truth and camp out there for a while. I allow my troubles to define me and dictate how my life will be lived. I turn off the news in disbelief and let myself be overcome with fear and despair.

But the next part of this truth should awaken hope in the depth of my soul! He says to take heart because HE has overcome this world. 

The apostle Paul makes it plain for us in more detail about the kind of trouble we will see play out in this world. See if any of this sounds familiar:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Yep. This passage covers just about everything we see playing out in our nation today.

So I ask you again…Where is your hope?

Even as Christians, we might say our hope is in Jesus–but we silently doubt.

Our lips may say our trust is in Him, but out of fear we attempt to control our future. We cling to our jobs, money and possessions a little too tightly.

But look at the truth of Romans 8:38 and let it sink in:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (NLT)

Death is all around us in a nation that doesn’t value life. But God’s love is stronger.

The enemy is on the prowl, deceiving many people. But God’s love is stronger. 

Fear grips us as we wonder what will happen to our children. But God’s love is stronger.

Worries of how to survive the aftermath of tragedy weigh us down. But God’s love is stronger.

On a more personal level, I’ll peel back the layers of my own heart.

Will another maniac show up in my town, randomly killing people I know? 

Will my loved ones fall prey to the enemy’s lies and turn away from God?

Will my 12-year-old daughter be safe in a world I can’t always protect her from?

How will we survive the next tragedy that strikes closer to home? 

While I might ponder these questions simply because I’m human, I choose not to linger there.

I will choose to cling to the truth of who Jesus is. I will choose to anchor my hope in the unfailing love of God. Yes, His love is stronger. He is sovereign. Even when I don’t fully understand all that will play out in this world, I will trust Him.

I live in a hopeless world. But my hope is in the unshakable love and power of my Heavenly Father.

Where is your hope?

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Your Pain is Not in Vain

Heartbreak. Anguish. Betrayal. Abandonment. Abuse. Tragedy. Sickness.

This is what you recall as the worst moments in your life.

The seasons you try to erase from your memory.

The pain that crushed you.

Maybe you’ve experienced victory and healing from these painful moments. Maybe your faith has grown by leaps and bounds. Perhaps you’ve gained a strength that only could have come from these past seasons.

For some of you, you are satisfied with what God has done in you. But this is as far as it goes.

In you.

But there’s more. Yes, He wants to do something through you.

I want to encourage you with this powerful truth:

The pain from your past can be a lifeline to someone else right now. A soothing balm for someone else’s heartache. 

I like how Paul puts this in 2 Corinthians 1:4:

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

He doesn’t just comfort us for our own healing. It says so that we can comfort others, too! As followers of Jesus, if we never walk in this truth, then we are missing out. And others are missing out on what we can offer them.

In the last several years of my faith journey, God has put people in my path who are struggling with things I have already experienced. Some of these experiences are from many years ago. Others are just in the recent past.

There’s an urgency in my soul to reach out and encourage them. A longing to lift someone up when they feel discouraged. An opportunity to inspire someone to keep going in spite of their horrible circumstances.

This is what we are called to do! It’s not an option.

I know the pain of divorce. God healed my broken spirit through that horrible journey.

But instead of keeping that experience to myself, I reach out to those who are in the midst of this pain right now. 

They need to know that they will get to the other side of the pain. They need to know that they are not alone. They need to see that this painful journey will not engulf them.

I understand the turmoil of anxiety and depression. God took my despair and turned it into a desperation for Him.

But instead of locking this into a room of my heart and labeling it “off-limits”, I choose to humbly share my struggle with those who feel like they will never be able to break free from these chains.

What about you? What part of your journey has God delivered you from? Where has He given you healing through your pain?

If you’ve never stepped out and shared that with anyone, then how about asking God to show you someone who needs to hear it? Sometimes God brings us people right smack in front of us. But other times we might have to go after them. Seek them out.

Your pain is not in vain. He wants to use it for His glory. That glory comes when we are able to pour comfort into others with the same comfort we received at some point before.

There is no better feeling than to share hope and peace with someone who is hurting in the same way you have hurt. You don’t even have to be WAY ahead of them, either. No, you don’t have to be completely over your pain before you can comfort others. You might just be a few steps ahead of them on the same journey.

Maybe that’s part of the healing for ourselves.

I challenge you today, dear friend. The pain of your past does not have to define you. Allow God to use it to bring healing to someone else. Let Him do something magnificent THROUGH you.

It’s what He does best.

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

If you were encouraged through this post, check out my book for more encouragement!

https://reststopforthesoul.com/my-book/

 

 

Come With Your Anger

Frustrated. Ticked off. Offended. Upset. Enraged. Explosive.

ANGRY!!

If you’re human, then you have felt these emotions. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, you will feel angry at people.

Some of us grew up thinking that is was just wrong to feel this way. Wrong to even consider being angry.

That anger was actually a sin.

If you’ve fallen for these lies, please be encouraged that it’s not a sin to feel angry.

What we DO with that anger determines whether or not we’ve sinned. How we respond to it is the turning point.

We know that Jesus was without sin. He lived a perfect life. So when he overturned the tables at the temple in response to money changers taking advantage of the people, his anger was not sinful. He displayed righteous anger.

But that was Jesus. The perfect son of God.

We are human. We have this thing called a sin nature. So what are we to do with our anger?

When our loved ones do something that ticks us off. When our coworker or neighbor says something offensive. When someone dumps their responsibilities on us.

I could spend the next several hundred words talking about how to deal with anger and how to manage it in so many ways. But I’m choosing to look instead at scripture where we find truth that speaks more powerfully than anything else.

You know the sisters, Mary and Martha? Jesus was staying in their home and they each chose different paths in response to his visit. You’re probably thinking that this is where I’ll praise Mary for sitting at the feet of Jesus and scold Martha for getting too focused on the housework.

Although there are powerful lessons and even books written about balancing our Martha tendencies with Mary desires, I want to focus in on a nugget of truth that sometimes gets overlooked in this story. Don’t miss it!

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) (emphasis mine)

Yes, Martha was distracted. Yes, Martha had her priorities out-of-order. Yes, she should have been sitting on the floor next to her sister.

But because she was human, she did get distracted and unfocused. But there’s one thing she did right.

It says, “She came to him and asked.…”

Even though Martha was angry (probably stewing on the inside), she brought it to Jesus. She took her concern to HIM.

She didn’t go straight to her sister and lash out at her. She didn’t pull Mary up by the collar and point her finger at her. She didn’t stand with her arms crossed staring down at Mary with a look that could kill. 

She took her concerns straight to Jesus. She felt confident enough to speak her mind to Jesus. She was bold enough to face him with her frustrations. She was transparent enough that she felt safe enough to express her deepest emotions with the son of God.

Wow!

How freeing is that? How refreshing!

That we can take whatever is bothering us straight to the foot of the cross. That we can come boldly before Him, holding nothing back. That we can come just as we are. With our frustrations. With our disappointments. With our expectations.

With our raging anger.

Yes, He can take it. He welcomes it. He longs for us to bring it all to Him instead of us unleashing it onto other people.

Martha brought her anger to Jesus. And the cool thing is that she got to hear Jesus loud and clear. She emptied herself of her emotion, putting her in a place to be filled. It might appear that Jesus rebuked her. But I think He was redirecting her.

He lovingly told her she was upset and worried about other things, and to follow the example of her sister. But don’t walk away from this familiar story without grasping the truth that Martha brought her messy emotions…..to Jesus.

Where are you today, dear friend? Do you have any frustrations or unmet expectations on the verge of explosion? I encourage you to take them to the foot of the cross. Take them and pour them out. Empty yourself face-to-face with Jesus. He wants you to be real.

And just like Martha, He’ll show you the next step you need to take.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

3 Truths for When You’re Hurting

My heart is extremely heavy this week. Dear friends all around me are hurting deeply. Their pain is deep, from heavy burdens to shattered hearts.

Disappointment in people who didn’t follow through with promises. 

Friends who just don’t seem to care.

Marriages strained with distrust and selfishness.

Sudden death of a loved one.

Physical pain so unbearable it seems hopeless.

As long as we live in these temporary bodies and navigate our way in a fallen world, there will be hurt. But we don’t have to stay stuck in our hurt. We can cling to truth in God’s word to hold us up when we just can’t take anymore.

My absolute favorite scripture is the core of my blog. It’s found in Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

Whether you’re burned out from doing the same tasks over and over again, or burdened with something far too heavy to carry on your own, Jesus promises to give us REST. But I’ve learned the hard way that rest doesn’t just come automatically. When I’m caught up in a tangled mess of hurt and pain, I can’t find rest in my own strength. We’ve got to COME to Jesus.

That’s our part….just COME.

He promises to give us rest. Sometimes we need physical rest. Other times we need soul rest.

Another truth in God’s word that brings me comfort in the midst of my hurt is found in Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m often guilty of running around in my own strength trying to figure everything out on my own. I’ll keep myself busy (even with good things) to keep from having to focus on my hurt. I’ll run myself ragged, making myself too stressed out to just stop and be still. And there it is…

That’s our part…..Be still.

Cease striving. Stop what you’re doing. Stop worrying. Quit letting anxiety drive you.

And the other part in that scripture? It says KNOW.

This is not a physical action. It’s not something we DO. It happens in our mind and penetrates down to our weary soul. Here’s a definition of KNOW that is pretty powerful:

“to have developed a relationship with someone through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.”

In the worst part of our hurt and pain, we can simply know that God is who He says He is. We can trust Him.

One last scripture I’ll point you to today is found in Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Sometimes our hurt is so unbearable we feel our heart will burst with pain. I understand that kind of hurt. I’m sure every person who is reading this has been in this place.

You feel crushed by other’s choices. By your own foolish decisions. By circumstances beyond your control. By sickness or death that came on suddenly.

But God promises to be NEAR. He also promises to SAVE.

Even if we don’t feel it. Even if we don’t see it. Even if we don’t believe it.

He IS near. He DOES save.

I can’t promise how long your hurt and pain will last. It may be short-lived or it may be ongoing. But I can without a doubt promise you this:

When we surrender to Jesus in the midst of our hurt and take our heavy heart to him, He will carry us through.

COME to Him for your REST.

Be STILL and KNOW.

Trust that He is NEAR and CLOSE.

Praying for you, dear friends, that wherever you are today you’ll be encouraged by these truths.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett