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Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 6 – First Glimpse of My Humanity

Chapter 6 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

First Glimpse of My Humanity

I used to think my weakness
Was something I should hide
I used to see my value
Through other people’s eyes
I used to think my failures
Were how I’d be defined
It took some time to break through
The lies that I believed
But You showed me my savior was never really me
You’ve always gone before me
And You are with me now
You’ve never let me down

I used to think salvation
Was based upon my works
I thought that my acceptance
Was something I had to earn
But now I have assurance
No I am not afraid
You already made a way

Yeah, the hero of my story has always been You

Always Been You

By Bryan Fowler and Ryan Stevenson

The lessons from this song I only began to learn in my teen years. As those years unfolded, I trusted God more than the average adolescent, but that didn’t mean there weren’t struggles. My mom’s traumatic childhood, with an angry abusive alcoholic stepfather, led her to find Jesus in junior high but she lived a lot of her life with fear and a desperate faith. I believe this caused her to parent me as a teen frightened that the same terrible things which happened to her would happen to me. So, everything I did was overly scrutinized and criticized. Trying to maintain great faith and be a “good girl” was my constant exercise. Between my mom’s judgement and anxiety and my own realization that I wasn’t perfect, times of extreme highs and extreme lows became my routine.

For the first time, I began to learn that having faith didn’t always remove the disappointments in life and keep me from making mistakes. That bothered me at times, thinking I wasn’t a “good Christian”.

At the end of sixth grade, we moved again, a very difficult move for me to leave precious friends of three years. Then at the beginning of eighth grade, I had just started to feel at home at another new school when we moved again. This time, my parents decided to take us to the new town first for a visit to a small farming community about three hours away. Dad and Mom thoughtfully let us have a part in the moving decision. Strangely, after visiting the church and schools for a couple days, Carolyn and I fell in love with the tiny community. We were so warmly welcomed and sensed it was a beautiful place full of love.

It was here I was given wings to fly in music and confidence with good friends. God touched me in many ways during this season, but I really thought I would be more perfect by the time I was in high school. The struggle began with “not being enough” started to grow.

I attended three different churches of different evangelical denominations, not because I felt I had to but because I had friends at each church and loved being at each place. This experience of immersing myself in several different congregations would end up being helpful later in life, especially as a teacher and worship leader in a Christian school with many denominations represented.

Beautiful encounters began to happen with God on an even more personal level than I had before. The Jesus movement of the late 1970’s was inspiring people who were mentors to me. They had a huge impact on my spiritual life introducing me to a deeper personal relationship I could have throughout my day with the Holy Spirit. I realized time with God was not just reading the Bible and trying to live by it, but it was sitting quietly thinking about what I’d read in the Bible and telling God how amazing he is, sometimes through worship music. I would then listen for his quiet voice whispering into my mind and spirit wisdom and his love for me. When I practiced this and gave space for those quiet moments with God, his love and wisdom began to help me stop and think before I made decisions and gave me peace in not being “perfect”.

Finishing my sophomore year, I had a closer relationship with God, a great job at the golf course pro-shop, three very close friends plus many others, and three great churches where I felt loved unconditionally. Life outside our home felt almost perfect. Then another whammy hit me after my junior year as we had to move again back to the Seattle area. This time re-framing my disappointment was more difficult and the thoughts of ways to stay in my happy precious community life began to form in my mind. My parents would not even begin to consider me living with friends with our family moving away. So, tapping into my desire for musical success, they offered to move us to a town south of Seattle that had one of the best high school music programs in the world.

In, this, my last move back to Seattle, my junior year, transitioning from a secondary school with 500 students to a high school with 2,000, was difficult. Rather than get depressed, I began to devote more time to my new church, studies, and music. Although great friendships were made through my new community, I struggled with attaching myself to another group of people knowing I would graduate in another eighteen months, only to go to college and be painfully pulled away from one more community. The resolve in my heart to make sure my children would have one place to remain rooted in their teen years was established that year.

As I wrestled with the pain of the most recent move, my parents’ marriage became even more estranged. An eagerness to learn as much as I could about growing a healthy marriage and family began to develop. Praying for my spouse-to-be began when I was twelve but during my senior year of high school, my prayers were upped a level. The tug-of-war between what God wanted for my future and what I wanted began in earnest at that moment. Sometimes I got so frustrated with myself, knowing what I should do but letting my wants pull me in the opposite direction. Throughout the remainder of high school, I longed to be loved.

So, you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.

Romans 7: 25b TLB

I could write a whole novel on my struggle for identity and love in the new high school, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t perfect and had a rollercoaster relationship with God where he always reminded me he was faithfully close to forgive and strengthen me.

Home was not a peaceful place so filling my life with any activity I could find outside of home continued. School, church, and work were my safest places. Glimpses of God’s deep love from my sporadic quiet time did keep me from getting totally off track but I always felt like I was treading water with God. I continued to see myself in my weaknesses as being “not good enough”.

Of course, God never treads water; he saw my desire to be his child and put good people and teachers in my life. As my senior year was ending, our church began a spring Sunday night film series that re-focused my life. It was James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which clearly defined God’s perfect plan for family and marriage. From these enlightening videos a determination to be a loving seeker of truth – and raise a godly family was established in my heart.

My plan was formed: Go to a Christian college, find a Christian man, have the perfect family environment that would produce perfect children – basically, expecting the idealistic Christian Cinderella story. Every book I could find on marriage and family was added to my books on Heaven. I dove into the Bible deeper than I ever had before, expecting that if I did everything God asked me to do, my life on Earth – especially family life – would be perfect. My ideas about this idyllic outcome didn’t allow room for disobedience and sin in family life. Time would soon reveal that he doesn’t call us to a perfect life, he calls us to him. We humans and our world are hopelessly fallen without Christ our Overcomer. Nevertheless, God was so good to provide me, as a very young woman, with solid wisdom and insight that birthed in my heart the beginning of a great foundation for a healthy family.

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A Deeper Healing Journey Begun…Be in the Moment…Rest…Freedom From Heaviness…

I listened to this new song, Freedom, by my friend, Cindy, this morning. It reminded me of my journey after a long roller coaster season of grief. In the last 7 years, I have experienced sharp pain, healing in hope, practicing joy, going back into time of healing, then grieving again.
Last year began with finding joy appearing naturally, hope rising to give me strength, only to find more places God desires to heal, tears, then wanting the roller coaster to end. Asking for direction, God revealed to me powerfully, as I crashed physically, I was letting work become my alcohol hiding unresolved pain from all the death I had experienced.
He invited me to join Him on a journey to heal me deeper in body, mind and spirit. Gradually, I’ve realized over the last year, this means, first, practicing rest then learning to surrender and take the waves of life, living in the moment God gave me. Not dwelling on the past or intense planning for the future, leads to finding joy and a deeper surrender of aches and pain, continuing to rest in the arms of Jesus.
God gave me Cindy’s song, then let me see the peek of spring sunshine in a walk today. I felt a new freedom from heaviness, and it opened my heart to see the hope that healing is progressing, reminding me again that this is what it feels like to really live again.
I know this season of healing and rest is not over, it may rain or even snow tomorrow, but the peace that has come has brought new life energy in this moment that I will remember in the next wave of life.
Listen to Cindy’s song, be in the moment, rest in His arms and ask Jesus what you need to let Him carry for you.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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Cultivating My Heart Soil by Sitting Cocooning on God’s Lap

Luke 5:16
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Christmas break was a time of reflection for me in preparation for a half-time sabbatical I am taking this semester to cocoon with God, write a book, seek his will for my life and, most importantly, to make time for him to heal my sorrowed heart deeper after the death of our son. Like our Pastor Matt talked about today, I needed to cultivate the soil in my heart and spirit to ready it to receive wisdom and receive deeper growth in my heart.

I spent time, each morning, asking Holy Spirit to prepare my heart for this anticipated journey. We had the blessing of the “crud” that kept our Christmas simple and kept us from doing too much. Although it was a break from teaching, I didn’t sleep in late, blessed to awake before everyone else and sit in my God-spot that had been “God’s lap” for me for about ten years.

We are privileged to have our three earth-bound adult children and our eldest son’s wife and daughter living in our home right now. Most every morning, our two and a half year old granddaughter, Josie, on waking, would venture out past the living room. “Where’s Mimi?” Finding me with her sweet sleepy smile, she crawled up, postponing her morning juice to simply rest her head on my chest while I kissed her soft fine hair.2015-01-11 14.49.13

Normally talkative Josie didn’t ask for anything, rarely said anything, and definitely was too tired to be distracted by any toys, food, or television. She just wanted to be with me. We would sit for about ten to fifteen minutes immersed in enjoying each others’ presence. I was overwhelmed with the love and joy it brought me realizing she would choose to be with me just because she loved me and felt safe. Although providing care and giving her good gifts are fulfilling too, being loved because I am Mimi and not because I could give her something or kiss a new boo-boo was the most fulfilling human feeling I have ever had.

It was obvious to me the first time this happened, “This is how God feels!” Maybe my inability to think and reason in the morning is not an old-age curse but is his way of making a way for me to just sit on his lap, letting him know I love him. I began adoring him, not because I want healing, comfort from someone’s unkindness, or help in paying the bills, but because HE IS Papa.

This has opened up a door for me to have the most wonderful first week of the New Year as I’ve sat on his lap each morning with my tea, doing nothing. Then as the love flowed and he woke my tired mind, I was drawn to read the books and the Word he wanted to plant into my heart. That led to a flow of writing that healed and restored my trust in Him as I retold the story of his faithfulness in my past. That in turn fueled my plans for our Friday chapel. I was not tired in chapel, although I had a short night of sleep. God filled me with the enthusiasm to share the joy found resting and trusting in a loving God.

Although God has taught this principle to me many times over, I have repeatedly cycled through times of being too busy, having superficial routine Bible reading and prayer, and then being forced to rest to remember his grace. I’ve realized over the last month, at a deeper level than ever before, if I don’t leave margin in my life for qualitative quantifying time with God, I cannot possibly function in my gifting he has given me with joy. The circumstances that were dragging me down before last week are still there, but they are not heavy on my heart. I’m eager to share the peace I have with others and trust God even more with my circumstances.

Josie was just out here as I began typing this. Awake and full from her breakfast at 10:00 AM, she carried a butterfly bookmark. She wanted to show it to me. I asked her to get on my lap, hoping for one of these moments I was to write about and she complied. But it was short lived as she wanted to chatter about her butterfly, then about going shopping, then, she was down distracted by another toy, etc. Disappointed, I thought of all the times I sit down, start to pray, open my computer to “have it ready” for when I’m done with my God time, notice an email, make sure none of my kids text’d me last night, check Facebook to see if anyone needed prayer….Do you know what I mean?

I don’t look at sweet Josie for what she can do for me. I just love her and enjoy being with her. Although I don’t know how God can love a messed up broken woman like me, I know he does and he deserves at least a hug and special time in the morning but more importantly I need that “no-expectations-time” on his lap each day to be able to live life to the fullest abundantly in this broken world.

Cultivating the soil of our lives to produce fruit always begins with immersing ourselves in God’s unconditional love and grace. What comes after that is truly amazing and I don’t ever want to forget the miracles that came into my heart this week as I waited on his lap for the love to flow into my heart with mercy and grace so that I could rise up in his wings to fulfill his calling for me this week.

Isaiah 40:30-31English Standard Version (ESV)

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

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One Year Anniversary Reflections: He Bore Our Griefs As We Identify With His Sufferings

He Bore Our Griefs

Isaiah 53:4 (NASB)
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

This scripture, “He bore our griefs…” has been coming to my mind ever since Easter this year. The realization that he literally understands my pain from losing our son is so precious and real. It’s overwhelming to think that Jesus carried all that pain on the cross for all of us.

 I relate to this so much now when I meet a person who has suffered any kind of loss, especially the loss of a child or someone close. I look at their teary eyes and I know it’s the Holy Spirit grieving with me as I cry for them and feel that knife stabbing pain in my heart again, only it’s for their loss this time and yet so real in my own heart as it flows from Christ’s.

I also felt Christ’s grief for me many times in unexplained ways before Taylor died. One of the many moments was in April 2013, two months before his and Michelle’s wedding. Taylor had asked me to find a song to dance to for the “Mother-Son” dance. His favorite song as a little boy was Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Great Adventure, or “Saddle up Your Horses” as four year-old Taylor called it. I wanted to do a swing dance with him to this song since he danced to it every morning with his siblings and me on his stick horse for about three years after our morning Bible time.

Last spring, as I turned on the song for my husband to hear, I tried to choreograph the wedding dance in my mind. Gary and I both simultaneously began to cry with deep unexplained sorrow over this song. We had not felt that kind of pain with our first son’s wedding song, even though our love is just as deep for all our children. I couldn’t understand it then, but now I do. Taylor decided he didn’t want that song for the wedding and we chose another special song, but as soon as he passed away, we knew that song was the story of his life, a “Great Adventure”, and had to be the main song in his life video.

Also around this time, Taylor came home wearing a beautiful full chest tattoo that was on his bucket list to do before his wedding. He had planned another tattoo for a long time; however he suddenly decided to change it to a full-winged owl with a compass pointing true north in its claws. When he explained to me that true north was for following Christ in his marriage and his choice for owls was because they mate for life, I suddenly felt that same stabbing in my heart. I now understand how God, the God of all time, grieved for us in those moments in spring 2013, knowing what was ahead for us on July 20, 2013.

Identifying With the Sufferings of Jesus

Knowing he understands my grief better than anyone else, going to the feet of Jesus is truly the only thing that satisfies me and comforts me. As a result, I pulled away from people quite a bit last year. The only way for me to find true joy is in worshiping my Creator and thanking him for what I do have and that my son is in Heaven. Turning my focus toward Heaven, reading about Heaven, and visualizing all the joy Taylor is experiencing now has given me the big picture perspective of the truth of our brief time here in the whole landscape of eternity. Yet not everyone is in the same place as me and I can’t expect them to be exactly where I am as unique individuals and we are all suffering the loss of Taylor in a different way because we each have a unique relationship with him.

Grieving has been the most humanly lonely experience I have ever had in my whole life. Even though there are 7 people in my own home, each person grieves differently and generally separately. We don’t want to bring the others down, so we cry in private or not at all. Still we want to spend most of our time with family and God, but then I am afraid our friends feel like they’ve lost us too.

There have been instances where friends and extended family think I’m so strong I don’t need them, which I don’t, but I want them and for some reason, they don’t get that. When I get my eyes off of Christ, and in my weakness, I have the tendency to feel abandoned by these people. Then my husband and I don’t find our needs met by each other on this parallel walk we are on towards God, so emotions we have not dealt with before suddenly arise. I’ve never been an angry person, but I find myself angry, not at Taylor for dying or at God, but at those around me for not being happy and not what I want them to be for me. I’ve said it many times, “I didn’t just lose a son, I feel like I’ve lost my family.” I’m sure I sound bi-polar at this point, but it’s the reality of grief.

As I shared this with my friend, Ann, who also has suffered loss, she reminded me of this verse:

1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Ann and I discussed that the beauty and gift of going through grief alone and individually is that we are forced to dig in more intimately with our Savior to be able to survive and we therefore learn more about all he suffered on the cross and grow closer to him as we recognize what he truly did for us, thus realizing the truly deep love he has for us individually. We then can rejoice and see his glory revealed in our lives in a way that can only be supernatural!!

At this one year anniversary point, I am beginning to take time for friendships again. I have so many wonderful friends God has given me! Our family is still together because we allow each other to grieve at their own pace, knowing they are holding the hand of Jesus too. I’m not ever going to be the same Carla again. I will hopefully be a more thoughtful Carla who appreciates each moment with those I have here, a more compassionate Carla who understands the grief of others and can hold out an empathizing hand, a more passionate Carla who appreciates the Savior and his ultimate eternal plan for all of us, looking forward to the day I see my Savior’s and my son’s face daily for all eternity.

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Time in the Son

August 27, 2012

Although a morning person by nature, it takes me at least one hour to move into partial function mode. It doesn’t happen at all without sitting on the lap of my Lord absorbing His peace and wisdom for the day.

Before beginning my hectic Monday, I knew today required the more than usual time with God. So I moved from my traditional living room comfy chair out to the fairly warm comfort of my patio. Glancing out at the green tree scape under the horizon of the eastern sky, I read my devotional which, incidentally, talked about giving my very busy day to Him and reminded me to stay focused on Him.

Then facing the lightening East and talking to God about each item and person I needed to place in His hands, I looked up into the peaceful sky and noticed a few clouds coming over my house from the west.

As the increasing cloud clusters traveled towards the sun, they were approaching with a dull grey color, but the closer they moved toward the sun, they took on a brilliancy that transformed them from sad to joyful.

So it is with us. It’s hard for me to get up and get to His lap in the morning, but once I get focused on my Son, I can accomplish things with a joy that is found nowhere else.

It reminds me of my son, Taylor, when he was four. After an hour of impatience with my children one day, he pulled on my shirt, and said, “Mommy, I don’t think you got your Jesus time today. Maybe you should go get some.”

John 15:4-8

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.