facing the pain to pearl

Bravely Face Your Pain Until It Becomes a Pearl

I am so excited to introduce you to a good friend of mine. She has just published her own website sharing how her struggles in life including chronic illness are teaching her to allow her pain to become a pearl. Today I am featuring her on the blog. Come read her story and then Link-up your own legacy story.

Introducing Melissa

Melissa is a truth-seeker and a truth-teller who writes and speaks from life experience, testing and growing in the lab of great joys and deep sorrows. Through it all, she has found a closeness with the Father by both wrestling with Him and being still with Him. That has given her a compassion for others that is palpable.

Understanding that pain and suffering are universal, her mission is to help others bravely face their pain with God until they find Him safe enough to cover it all with His love, strength, and beauty. Whether reading her words or hearing her speak in person, her unique ability to weave story and truth will have you hooked!

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Our family’s story is full of great joys. It is also full of deep wounds.

“When I read it this morning, Mom, I didn’t realize how many tears I needed to cry about this day. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to revisit this event.”

My oldest and only son wrote that to me after reading our Family Story page on my website. Ten years after our family’s world came crashing down at dizzying speeds when two of our daughters, his sisters, were in a tragic 4-wheeler accident. He had to hold his baby sister whose face was severely crushed in his merely 16-year-old arms while waiting for an ambulance.

If there is one thing my kids—now all young adults—have heard from me over and over again, if there is but one legacy I long to leave, it is these words:

“If you don’t remember another thing I say your whole life, please remember this. When suffering hits you out of nowhere. Ask Jesus to come and heal your heart!”

Because in this world we will have troubles. But Jesus overcame the world, and we are more than conquerors in Him. (John 16:33, Romans 8:37) The thing is, we are often clueless about what that really looks like, or how it works. When something awful happens that shakes you to your core; when a word cuts you down until you barely remember who you are. Suffering looms long. How do you recover? And what in the world do we do with the things that happened to us as a kid ourselves? Does it even matter?


Little Melissa

“Little Melissa” wore the same full-face grin you see in the black and white photo of me effortlessly. Until. Something shifted. A light was extinguished, and a smile was lost. Verbal and emotional abuse and many assaults stole the innocence of my childhood and adolescent years. I felt dirty and unworthy of love. I just knew I was nothing more than a huge disappointment to God, and certain I would be to everyone else if they knew.

My healing began when I came out of hiding. Secrets hidden in darkness lose their power when brought into the light. However, the telling alone does not do the complete work of healing. We need God and others to help us face our pain to decipher the messages of our wounds. There’s a recording of lies that plays on repeat in our minds that were spoken in those vulnerable spaces, making them feel so true. In that space it is easiest to question God, ourselves, and others.

Finding Identity

Our real identity gets buried underneath the ashes of many pains; the ones we inflicted upon our self, the ones others inflicted, and the enemy’s cruel infliction of pain upon pain. But, like a prisoner, we can be set free. The prophet Isaiah foretells what Jesus will do for us.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…”

Isaiah 61:1-3

The anointed One, Jesus, came to heal us. He is healing me still. It is an intentional interaction between us that I have sought for the past two decades. With His help, I continue to learn how to thrive.

Forgiveness is Key

A couple of years ago, my counselor gave me a forgiveness exercise to work through. It is the kind you don’t rush but approach slowly. I have revisited it many, many times and in different seasons as I work through forgiveness with different persons or groups of people or situations.

The exercise begins by naming the person(s), what they did, and how it made me feel. Then it gives room to process a series of questions, such as: “Am I holding a grudge or have resentments weighing me down? What pain am I holding onto, however recent or distant? What hurts about that situation or moment(s) with that person?” Important statements are addressed, such as, “forgiveness does not mean that they automatically are right, or they get to have the same place in our life.”

Number five on the paper is the one that tripped me up, though. Every. Time. EVERY. TIME. The instruction is to say, “Because I don’t want to carry the weight of this unforgiveness anymore, I am releasing you to God. He knows how to judge completely. I am not in charge of carrying this pain anymore.”

It’s the latter part I couldn’t get past, “I am not in charge of carrying this pain anymore.”

An earth-shattering revelation rose within me.

I had absolutely no clue who I was without pain.

I’d been walking through my own past and the trauma of the girls’ accident with Jesus off and on for years. Facing it with Him became more palatable because He would speak tenderly, expose lies, replace them with Truth, and bring His love in tangible ways as I processed.

But, could I trust Him enough to let go of the pain? What would He do with it?

To throw it away felt diminishing as if the pain didn’t matter. That would not be good because pain was diminished much of my childhood. God would not further impose a wound.

Pain into Beauty?

Someone told me He would turn my pain into something beautiful, from ashes to beauty. While that gave me hope, I still couldn’t let go. Weeks turned to months of wrestling with God over the fifth portion of that forgiveness exercise. Until one day, out on my porch, He reminded me of a few key things other mentors and my counselor had said to me at various points:

  1. the truth that I am seen, and my heart matters
  2. that I am brave, braver than I realize because I face my pain
  3. that stepping into deeper waters for more healing is both a willful and brave act

After this, I let out a guttural cry to God from the depth of my long-aching soul,

“I am bound, and I want to be free! I am bound by pain and hurt, and I want to be free!!”

It was then God tenderly spoke these words,

Bravely face your pain with Me until it becomes a pearl.

becomes a pearl
all images provided by Melissa Pickens

It was like waking from a deep sleep, groggy yet aware something significant is happening. Happening deep within me. A word powerful enough to wake the dead. Yet, the awakening came slowly. First, a vague memory I once learned surfaced: pearls form because something gets in that hurts the oyster or mollusk. Secondly, the fact I love pearls intrigued me; a love so increasing over the years that I started buying a new color of pearl stud earrings for my three daughters and myself every Christmas. Truly, this God-breathed analogy carried significance and weight to it.

Learning About Pearls

Through my research the past couple of years, more richness and depth illuminated the connection of a pearl to our pain, and what God desires to do with it all.

In short, a pearl is a foreign substance covered by layers of nacre; an uninvited parasite invades a tender, sacred space where a mollusk’s vital organs lay vulnerable. Yes, this means the irritant that caused the pain in the first place is still there inside that pearl, now surrounded by a strong, resilient, protective coating.

For us as humans, there are pains that we can shake off, and then there are pains that wound us to our core. Self-inflicted, uninvited actions or words, or even inactions, death, accident/harm/injury, crime, or other significant losses that work their parasitic ways into our hearts and mind. There are many gruesome things we have seen that we cannot unsee. Many things have been done to us that we cannot undo. Our own battles with parasitic sin have added to the shame. They cannot be expelled by our own efforts alone.

My prayer that first day upon receiving the pearl analogy became,

“Let Christ in me be the nacre that comes between me and the irritants and pains until a pearl forms.”

pain becomes a pearl.

I know making time for solitude with God, especially to face your pains feels too hard. Too scary. Impossible even. But there is a God who is strong enough to cover it all. He is bent on your healing. He is the soothing nacre ready to stand between all that has hurt you, even where you’ve hurt yourself.

I am finding pain and joy coexist. No matter how many times deferred hope made my heart sick, hope keeps rising despite it. Because Jesus.

It is from the pages of my story and our family’s story that I write. Ultimately, God is the Author and Hero. The Word that guides my words, I impart to you. I would love for you to join me. It would be an honor to get to know you more over on my website at melissagpickens.com. There, I also go more in-depth with the beauty of the pearl analogy.


Getting My Life Back

My son continued with these words in response to the Family Story page the other day:

“Mom, you have shed your blood, sweat, and tears to chase after the Truth over the last 10 years. You have fought so hard for your own healing. You have let Jesus into the most painful parts of your life to receive that healing. And you have gotten your life back.

Yes, I know there is plenty more to fight for.

This journey that you have been on is still taking its toll on you and your body. It has not been easy, and it has not gotten easier. But it is worth it. And it is rewarding, as you know. The fruits of your labor have been blooming for some time now, and it is so life-giving because of the Breath of Life that flows through it.”

This is the legacy I pray to leave for my children and grandchildren, and their children’s children. To a thousand generations. When we bravely face our disappointments and pain with God until it becomes a pearl, we free the next generation to reach for their own healing and wholeness. It is a journey worth taking and a legacy worth leaving.

Melissa Pickens becomes a pearl
www.melissagpickens.com

She’s a two-time She Speaks graduate with Proverbs 31 Ministries, a BookCamp member with Chad R. Allen (editor and writer coach), and the Co-founder and Women’s Director of Rally Point Ministries. She has spoken at various retreats, conferences, and events. She has publications with the Church of the Nazarene Women’s Ministries and writes weekly for her website MelissaGPickens.com.

Melissa lives in Georgia with her husband, Andy. They have four fun-loving young adult children, born five and a half years apart, and twin grandbabies. You’ll often find her on the upstairs back porch with a decaf latte and some sweet treat she whipped up from scratch the night before on a whim. Learn more about Melissa here. Follow Melissa on social media.


Thank you Melissa for your openness and willingness to share the pain that becomes a pearl. What a beautiful story for us all. I encourage our readers to go to Melissa’s website and subscribe to receive her writings. You will be blessed.

Mandy


AND NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN!

Link-up to the Legacy Link-up. Share a post about how you are leaving a legacy.

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feature Coco

Pixar’s Movie Coco – Review & Biblical Lessons

Disney’s Movie Coco

I have never been a fan of scary movies or movies about beliefs different from my own. But I do believe that things can be learned from nearly anything. My parents always took the opportunity to discuss movies together with us. We would talk about differences in beliefs. The Bible often became our favorite reference when it came to deciding if Hollywood had the story right. This taught us discernment throughout life. We learned to not always take things at face value.

So, I decided to try to do the same for you and offer some help on how to discuss “family movies” with your family. November 2nd is the traditional Mexican celebration of The Day of the Dead. Let’s talk about the 2017 Disney release of Coco.

Coco Movie Synopsis

This film tells of a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who dreamed of becoming a famous musician like his long-dead idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. He attempted to visit the idol’s funeral and play the de la Cruz heritage guitar on his tombstone.Unfortunately, his actions even took him to a place called Land of the Dead, where the dead are. Poor again, there he will meet with his ancestors who forbid the presence of music in the middle of their family.

https://synopsismovie7.blogspot.com/2018/01/coco-2017-synopsis.html

What did I think of the movie?

I was hesitant to watch the movie because of the premise. But I did watch it. Once I got past the going to the Land of the Dead and skeletons and such, I found many valuable lessons that can be learned. I felt plenty of emotions from sadness to joy. Overall, the movie was enjoyable. And I did like the theme of the importance of family.

Sadly, Disney Pixar promotes a lot of “other” religions in their recent films for families. This is dangerous because these ideas and beliefs can find their way into what are children believe as truth. This is an underhanded way that society promotes its “tolerance” world values.

On the other hand, if we use these movies as tools to teach our children, it can be a very good thing. It’s important to have enough openness to listen and learn. When we discuss our beliefs in contrast to the movie, we can teach the truths of our own faith.

Some Questions to Inspire Discussion

The Afterlife

  1. Talk about your ancestors. Who they were/ What they did.
  2. Is it ok to remember your ancestors?
  3. Where do people go when they die? Talk about Heaven and Hell.
  4. Can people really come back to life?
  5. Discuss Jesus’ resurrection/ The rapture/second coming/ Lazarus

The Day of the Dead

  1. Should we build a shrine to our ancestors? Can dead people come back to life and talk with us.
  2. Discuss Jesus’ Parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31)
  3. Is it ok to have memorials?
  4. Discuss Joshua building a memorial after crossing the Jordan. (Joshua 3 & 4) How is this memorial different than building a shrine.

Forgiveness/Unforgiveness

  1. Who was unforgiving in the story of Coco?
  2. What kind of problems did it cause in the family?
  3. Discuss these problems and how they could be resolved.
  4. Are there problems in our own life caused by unforgiveness?
  5. Discuss the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. (Matthew 18:21-35)

Other points on the movie

If you would like other pros and cons about the movie, Focus on the Family has a terrific blog called Plugged-in where you can get a Biblical worldview of movies and other media being offered to our children.

Hope this is helpful. If you would like to see more of these, please comment below.

Mandy Farmer
Disney Pixar Movie review with discussion questions.
Lessons from Movies
unconfessed

On Unconfessed Sin

Unconfessed sin?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness… If anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
-I John 1:9-2-2

Does anyone else recall a conversation like this?

Adult: “Who did this?!”
Child: “It wasn’t me!”

It’s exasperating when someone named Not Me is always to blame! We wish they’d ” ‘fess up,” as the old saying goes; they won’t admit it for fear of consequences.

Yet don’t we as adults behave similarly with God?

Maybe we have spoken harshly to another, are slightly less than honest in a situation, are holding a grudge, or we even withhold love from someone. We think we’re justified in our actions until God convicts us of our sin.

Then what?

Well, then we should confess. Once we admit our sin, the Lord will forgive us, and our heart and soul are relieved of trying to hide what God Almighty already knows.

I once heard a woman in a prayer circle pray this prayer:

“Lord, take anything out of my heart that don’t need to be there.”
Oh, that we could and would all pray that prayer daily!

Each of us only needs to confess our sins, believing and receiving fully the grace God offers through Christ.

Today is a new day…begin it with Jesus!

What are you holding on to today that is keeping you from being truly free?

  • grudge?
  • unforgiveness?
  • hatred?
  • angry words?

You can leave them at the cross of Jesus and He will forgive. He will help you deal with the guilt and the consequences. Give it to Him today.

We would love for you to consider knowing Jesus personally. There is nothing like letting go of all the guilt and letting Him remove it as far as the east is from the west. If you want more information on how to know Christ personally, just click on the image below.

knowing Christ

Click on the image for more information on knowing Christ

Getting Kicked in the Shins

It’s Friday! It’s Sunday! Time for the Five Minute Friday Writing Challenge. 🙂

He kicked me on purpose!  Have you ever been kicked in the shins?
Five Minutes Fridays

Time to write for five minutes on a prompt.

Click on the image to see what bloggers came up with.

The Prompt is Purpose.

“He kicked me on purpose!”

As a preschooler, my son often said these words or words like them coming off the soccer field. He didn’t seem to understand that when playing soccer, you are bound to get kicked in the shins occasionally. The players are not trying to kick you on purpose, but rather they are trying to kick the ball away from you. Sometimes, that results in getting kicked in the shins.

Some of us have never learned this simple lesson:

Why?

The Bible says “In this life, you will have trouble…” (John 16:33) We live in a fallen world, full of sin at every turn.  God allows each of us to make our own choices.

  • Many people are out only for themselves. But their choices affect the lives of others.
  • It may be that a person is reacting to their own demise. Possibly they just got kicked. Maybe they are sick or grieving causing them to react to life negatively.
  • Other times it is merely an accident, such as in a soccer game.

But regardless of the “why” behind our injury, the question should really be, “How do we respond?”

The answer is to respond “with a purpose”.

In other words, make a plan to respond positively when you get kicked in the shins.

And then follow through with it.

Christ had a purpose.

His purpose was to treat others with humility and love.  We are instructed to treat others as we would want to be treated. We should have the same attitude as Christ. His purpose was to bring all people to Him. (see Philippians 2 and Matthew 7:12).

What is your purpose?

  • Do you think of yourself as better than others?
  • Do you care only about your own interests?

In Conclusion, let’s follow the Apostle Paul’s instruction:

“Work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Philippians 2:12

Finding Purpose;

Mandy Signature
Savannah, GA

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