Autumn Grace

…that you & I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith ~Romans 1:12

Finding Your Sweet Spot

I’m in a sweet spot. I’ve arrived at that season of parenting where my children can get ready to leave for our weekly home school co-op, piano lessons, or a road trip, independently.  They can wake up to their own alarms and fix their own breakfasts. Getting loaded into the SUV doesn’t require bulky car seats and strong biceps. No more diaper bags or coolers of bottled formula on our road trips. It’s a much less complicated business traveling with kids who aren’t ages 8, 4, 3 and newborn. I’m yawning just typing that- four kids aged 8 and under.

Though travel now is less complicated, life is still complex. It’s just complicated in other areas. Now it’s college tuition, driver’s licenses, sibling spats with hormones in play, broken hearts, and serious big life questions. But it’s still sweet.

Sweet that the Man-Cub, 20 next month, calls to ask advice about class registration, or how to mail a letter. Major Mom fail that he didn’t know if he definitely needed a stamp to mail a letter. True story. Sweet that the 6 foot, 16 year old smiles his crooked smile at me while one upping me with his wit or brain power. All of my kids are definitely going to be smarter than me. Please don’t tell them because sometimes they think they already know everything. Sweet that the 14 year old says I’m her best friend. I hang on to that the days her eye rolls outnumber her smiles. Sweet that the 11 year old hugs me a dozen times a day. I mean literally a dozen times.  So I often need to remind myself that this won’t last forever, and I need to cherish all 12 times.

In days gone by, despite my sleep deprived state of functioning, there were lots of sweet spots. Sweet that I could rock 8 pounds of perfection to sleep. Sweet that my clothes were covered in sticky peanut butter and jelly fingerprints, after snuggling with a toddler while watching Elmo for the 800th time. Sweet to be woken up by bright green eyes and a head full of ringlets demanding breakfast at 6AM. Sweet in the sacred moment when all four were finally tucked in and my head was blissfully hitting the pillow.

In our everyday, right now, I believe we can find our sweet spot. Hopefully a lot of them. It often means asking God for His bigger picture perspective. Or taking a step back, laying aside some emotions and taking a long term view of our right now circumstances. It might take seeking the wise counsel of a trusted friend who can point out the truths we need to hear. Often an objective viewpoint from a counselor or pastor is what it takes to help us see past the deep fog of grief and blur of tears when we’re in a suffering kind of place. Because even when we’re in those hard places He’s there. Jesus is present. Always.

It’s Jesus present, that causes my dear friend, knee deep in the chaotic trenches of raising six children to find a beautiful melody in the midst of it all. It’s Jesus that helps my favorite pastor, serve hundreds of seniors in his community while living with congestive heart failure. It’s Jesus that enabled me to find a sweet spot of midnight Oreos and talks with my 13 year old son, when I was a single mom. It’s Jesus that shows me the sweet spots in the mundane Monday that’s filled with mounds of laundry, sixth grade math corrections, and making dinner- again!

So, what’s the sweet spot in your life today? Maybe you can’t see it. Maybe you’ve forgotten that Jesus is in this with you. Maybe you need to ask Him for a different viewpoint? A bigger picture? What if you considered your right now circumstances in light of eternity? Maybe you need to pick up the phone and set up a lunch date with that wise friend. Maybe you need to read the promises He gave us in His Word. It’s so easy to forget. Maybe you just need to make some time for your soul to rest.  Take a slow, scenic drive or even better, a nap! Maybe you need to reach out to a counselor or pastor for some help to see where the sweet spots are in the midst of your difficult right now.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that we will walk and talk with Jesus daily.  Because journeying with Him in our everyday, is the secret to finding our sweet spot.  ~Cory-Lynn

Psalm 34:18 (NIV) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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It Takes A Village

It takes a village.

I’m on the eve of celebrating four years of marital bliss.  Doing a happy dance that is admittedly not graceful.  I spent an hour yesterday pouring over journals from the very month Dan and I started dating.  It was a really sweet time.  It was also a time fraught with giddy, insecure teenage girl kind of emotion on my part.  I’m oh so glad God works despite my immaturity and run away emotions.  Looking back I’m filled with wonder, awe and most of all thankfulness.

These past four years have been a harvest kind of time.  A reaping of joy that was sown with a lot of tears, a lot of pressing into God in very hard places.  So many prayers went up on my behalf and so many dear ones walked alongside me in my pain.  I didn’t get here, to this spacious, joy filled place by myself.  Of course God’s fingerprints are all over every minute of my life- but today I’m thinking about the village that God put in place to see me through.

Psalm 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

If you’ve ever lived in a place of brokenness, experienced any kind of grief, then you know exactly what it means to eat tears day and night.  That was true for me.  But the second part of that verse is what’s truly disheartening to me.  It’s hard enough to be in a broken place, let alone have naysayers whispering doubt, discouragement and questioning your faith.  The whole book of Job in the Old Testament is full of this.  Job was a righteous, God-fearing man who lost more than any of us can imagine.  In his darkest hour, his closest friends, even his wife all doubted not only Job but God.  Let’s never be friends like that!  In my broken place, I wasn’t surrounded by men who questioned my God.  I was surrounded by strong, faithful, brave, compassionate women who pointed the way to where my God was.

My friend Alison, is the girl who became my friend after suffering through one of my beauty make overs at the tender age of 15.  She shared in all of the fun and angst of my teenage years.  We grew up into knowing God together.  She is my soul sister.  She’s the one who gets me best, knows me deepest.  She became my spiritual adviser.  She’s the one who counseled me with God’s wisdom and Word.  She’s the one who called me every single day for more than a year to check in.  She didn’t give me platitudes.  She didn’t judge me in my weakness.  She listened.  She prayed.  She shared my burden.  She prayed some more.  She spoke only what God directed her to, no small thing in the midst of big emotions.

My friend Andrea, is the epitome of a loyal friend.  She’s the kind of Mom I want to be.  She was my on the ground, in the trenches, physically present protector.  She sat by my side in court.  She showed up at my front door faithfully.  She prepared the way for me in telling others the short version of my story so that I didn’t have to answer a million, uncomfortable questions in my circle of friends who weren’t quite close enough to know I was in the middle of a divorce.  If you “heard” something about my ex-husband that you thought I should know, she became the filter.  Oh what a gift. She  invited me to every single family dinner, birthday, and holiday celebration her great big family hosted.  She has a really big family, so this was an every weekend kind of thing.  I didn’t want to leave the house or be social but she made me.  Sometimes I’d break down in tears in the midst of small talk with one of her relatives.  I’d excuse myself to the bathroom and cry it out.  They’d all graciously pretend not to notice.  My friend and her family embraced and wholeheartedly loved my party of five.  Basically, they adopted us.  While I was faking it til I made it, reluctantly attending all of those gatherings, my kids were being loved on, deepening friendships, having fun and just getting to be regular kids and I was slowly learning to enjoy life again.

My friend Michelle, who has known me since I was 14, wore my hair too big and my eye shadow too dark,  was my encourager and cheerleader.  The first Christmas it was just me and the kiddos, she invited us to her beautiful home in southern California.  Away from my house that felt too empty and the weather that was so cold, there was healing in that SoCal sun.  There was healing in that warm home of laughter and love.  The kids played tons of games and had guy time with her husband and son.  The girls learned how to set a pretty table, and enjoyed time with an older “sister,” Michelle’s sweet daughter.  My friend is a gourmet cook and fed us the most delightful culinary treats.  This is huge when you’ve dropped 20 pounds because of just having no appetite.  Her meals and love nourished each of us in deep places.  She offered up countless, fervent prayers before our Heavenly Father- I know she’s known to him as a daughter of prayer.  Her gracious words and wit soothed my sore soul.  Oh how she made me laugh!  She took me to the mall and was my personal shopper.  She bought me some new clothes and raved about my beauty.  She took me to her favorite hair stylist and encouraged me to be bold and fearless.  She made me believe I was worthy and valuable.  She celebrated me.

My friend Keri, is someone I admire for her grace and fashion sense.  Even more I admire her friendliness and true people skills.  She’s anchored by a strong, daily, faithful, consistent walk with God.  She was on the front lines in the very early days of my life falling to pieces.  She listened to my really hard stuff when I was an emotional wreck.  I poured out profusely (dumped) a lot of my hurt and pain onto her when I was in the very rawest, darkest of places.  She didn’t shrink away.  So brave.  She loved me.  Her true friend words were supportive, gracious and kind.  She prayed really hard.  She wanted to climb into the empty bathtub with me (see my other blog).  She sent me encouraging cards, and Scripture.  She connected me with a Christian counselor and found a way to pay for it.  She also directed me to a Stephen Minister at my local church who became a lifeline and is now a dear friend and mentor.  (That’s another blog.)

My younger sister Amanda, who is one of my very best friends, became the older sister for a season.  She took care of me.  She championed me.  She prayed ceaselessly for me and the kiddos.  She listened and listened and listened.  She encouraged and encouraged and encouraged.  She’s gifted with gentleness, compassion and patience.  Just days into my new normal, she brought me to her home, as in physically drove 3+ hours to my house and followed me back to her house to make sure I was okay.  She booked a massage and hair appointment for me, insisted on babysitting the kids and made me go.  She loved on them when I was in an empty place.  Her pastor husband poured wisdom and truth into me.  Some of it was hard to hear but his counsel directed me in countless ways that brought me wholeness and healing sooner than would’ve happened had he not loved me enough to share it.

This is how God intended relationships to be.  The Body of Christ at work is a glorious, beautiful thing!  All of these women had lives and families and jobs and responsibilities, yet they took the time to pour into me.  They gave of themselves, sacrificially for me.  I wasn’t just one, I wasn’t alone…your not just one, you’re not alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-13 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

God never leaves us alone.  His way is that we do life together.  We journey together.  That’s part of the function of the Body of Christ, the verse below is a command from a loving God who knows we need to share life.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Romans 12:15 (NIV)

So my challenge to you is this, do you have a village?  Do you have a community of loving, wise women to come alongside you when you’re in a hard spot?  To rejoice with you when you get that promotion or your three year old finally uses the potty?  To listen when you’ve had a bad day because your laundry is out of control or your boss, or 15 year old snapped at you? Someone to show up and wrap their arms around you in the dark places and weep with you?  If not, then I’d encourage you to pray for friends and reach out.  True friends aren’t just fair weather friends. 

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.  Proverbs 3:20 (NIV)

True friends don’t mock your faith or doubt your God.  True friends don’t just want your happiness they want God’s very best for you.  Do you go to church?  Are you connected there?  If not, volunteer to serve somewhere.  Some of my deepest friendships have grown out of serving alongside others.  Alison and I rapped as silly teens in Vacation Bible School together, Andrea and I met at a girls’ conference while working in different youth ministries, Michelle and I attended the same youth group, Keri recruited me onto her children’s ministry team.  If you don’t go to church, go.  I know there are a hundred things wrong with every church you’ve tried- but you know, there are a hundred things wrong with each one of us on any given day, and anytime you put a few of us together- you’re going to see the not so pretty stuff.  Go anyway.  I promise you it is worth wading through our imperfections to find that we are actually jewels in the rough.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:10-13 (NIV)

Maybe you have great friends and are connected within a church already.  My challenge to you is, what are you doing for someone else?  Are you pouring out into others?  Is there a broken sister on the outskirts of your life or church that could use a champion?  A protector?  An encourager?  A prayer warrior?  Don’t miss out on the tremendous, rich relationships God has for you because your comfortable with your current “circle”.

It takes a village.  It takes a country.  It takes and army.  It takes the Body of Christ.  It takes you.  It takes me.

 

~Cory-Lynn

(PS  The women I mention here are just a few of a larger, wider circle of friends who’ve walked alongside me.  Like any list of “who I’d like to thank”…there are dozens more I could include but this is a blog, not a book and I’m already at 1900+ words!)

Copyright (c) Cory-Lynn Hatton.  All Rights Reserved.

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New Beginnings

Six years ago, this day marked the official end of my marriage.  The court documents were judge signed and date stamped.  Legally, I was no longer a wife.  I was single.  I was a single mom of four.

More than that though I was still a daughter of the King.  I was still in relationship with a loving Savior who had not missed a detail of the daily six months and one day it took me to get to this day.  He had walked with me.  He had literally held me up when I couldn’t stand.  Sometimes, he didn’t just hold me up, sometimes He told me to “get up.”

When Jesus healed in the Bible He commanded the infirm to “get up.”  (Matthew 9:6; Mark 5:41; Luke 6:8; Luke 7:14)

GET UP

It’s a decision.  It’s a determining.  It’s an on purpose, intentional, guarding our very lives, action.

When life doesn’t give us the happy endings we imaged, we need to decide that we still believe in God’s promises.  If you’ve lived your life as a Christian, sometimes it’s extra hard to get this.  You may have bought into a lie that if you do A + B you get C.  The problem with that equation is that it doesn’t factor in free will. We may well do A + B but since relationships and life don’t just involve one person, it doesn’t always equal C.

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (NIV)

The Hebrew word for “word” in that passage is ‘imrah which is a synonym of the word dabar- it doesn’t just mean word, it means promise.  We need to have God’s Word hidden in our hearts so that we can not only be sin-free BUT so that we can remember His promises to us.  When it’s all looking black and hopeless we need to remember.

New Beginnings

God is an expert at new beginnings.  Think of Creation.  (See Genesis 1.)  There was nothing.  There was void and blackness and emptiness.  Yet, just at God’s spoken Word it overflowed with life, light, fullness, beauty.  That’s the kind of new beginning God has in mind for us.  A life of unwritten chapters that are filled with life, light, fullness and beauty.

When my dreams were dead and gone I let them go.  It was painful.  I asked God to un-knit my heart from someone who no longer shared my dreams or my love.  He did that.  (Note:  I had to ask.)  Then I asked God for new dreams…and somewhere down deep my broken heart also asked for new love.

New dreams unfold over time.  No matter how fervently I prayed to understand the new dreams God had for me, I couldn’t see them.  I wanted to get started on them right away.  (So Type A.)  I didn’t want to muddle through healing.  I wanted to move on, move forward, get to getting on, take charge.

But alas, new dreams, they only come over time.  BUT THEY DO COME!  Yes, I’m shouting!  THEY DO COME!

New dreams, new beginnings come!  God does keep His promises.  Not always in our timing, almost always not in the way we think- but He always keeps them.

Isaiah 43:18, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (NIV)

Isaiah 48:17, “This is what the Lord says- your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’ (NIV)

Did you catch those beautiful words- “doing a new thing; springs up”…He wants us to believe it.  He wants us to hope in a new thing, a new beginning.  He wants to reveal it to us but it’s slowly.  When we can’t see that He is working on our behalf, creating new dreams, new life- He wants us to trust. Trust His promises.  Trust His character.  Trust who we know He is.

When we need to know the way to go through our desert, He doesn’t just show us.  He blazes the trail before us!  He provides what we need in the midst of our parched circumstance.  He doesn’t leave us on our own to figure it out. He teaches us and directs us.  Those are promises!

God did give me a new beginning.  Not because of who I am, but because of who He is. Not because I did A + B to get my happy ending.  But because He is a good, loving, generous God who is an expert at new beginnings.  I did have to determine to get up.  But even that decision was a result of His strength and His power, not my own.

Six years later my life is full to overflowing with new dreams and new love.  It’s not perfect, there’s lots of messy, unkempt parts that God is still working on, but I’m living a new beginning.  And it’s crazy beautiful because God is crazy faithful.

~Cory-Lynn

Copyright (c) Cory-Lynn Hatton.  All Rights Reserved.

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Brutal to Beautiful

Brutal.

Recently, a pastor/guy/friend, used that word in a conversation we were having.

That word stuck.  It’s resonated in my heart for the past few weeks.  The news is filled with brutal events and images.  Maybe you or someone in your life is in the midst of their own brutal circumstances.

Merriam-Webster defines it this way:

BRUTAL

1 archaic : typical of beasts : animal

2 : befitting a brute: as

a : grossly ruthless or unfeeling <a brutal slander>

b : cruel, cold-blooded <a brutal attack>

c : harsh, severe <brutal weather>

d : unpleasantly accurate and incisive <the brutal truth>

e : very bad or unpleasant <a brutal mistake>

It’s not a pretty word.  It’s offensive to my pink, happy girl vocabulary.  It’s palpably dark.  It makes me cringe. 

Sometimes, life is like that.   It’s brutal.  Infidelity and divorce are brutal.  Listen to what God says, in Malachi 2:13-16:

Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.  Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.[d] So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.  “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”[e] says the Lord Almighty.  So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Notice that little “[e]”, it’s a note that says the verse can also be translated,  “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence…”

Most of us are more familiar with that, “I hate divorce” version.   I think we get stuck there though, and miss the point.  As if, that God hates divorce should be some major revelation.  Having walked through a divorce, I can tell you it’s a given that God hates divorce, because I hate divorce.   Ask any child of divorced parents, I bet you’ll find they hate divorce too.   My favorite Pastor (and father in law) Richard Hatton, pointed out to me, the truth in these verses that we might miss.  It’s that divorce is violent.  It brings tearing, separation, pain, injury.  It doesn’t just destroy one relationship.  It deeply wounds a whole family.  It wreaks havoc on the children who find their world turned upside down.  There is a ripple effect.  The impact is far-reaching.   To the one rejected, it’s brutal- agonizing grief.

Ugh.  If that was the end of the story, I’d be lying in the fetal position in a pink padded room.

Brutal is not the end!

God can take brutal endings and create beautiful beginnings.

In the story of Ruth we find three women in a brutal place.  If you haven’t read this amazing story, stop here- grab your Bible!  READ.  I promise it’s better than any romance novel you’ve ever read.  It’s four chapters of real life, hope, love and redemption!

Orpah, and Ruth have both lost their husbands.  Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons.  Women in those times, couldn’t just go back to college, get a degree and have a means to support themselves.  They depended on the men in their lives for protection and provision.  Naomi’s husband had taken her to a foreign land.

For Naomi, there were no fathers, no brothers, no uncles to step in and care for her or her Moabite daughters in law, as would have been the norm among the Israelites.   Orpah quickly takes the out offered by Naomi, and returns to her own family.  Ruth though remains committed to Naomi.  She declares she will return with Naomi to her people.

It marks the beginning of new life for both women.  We watch Naomi move from emptiness and desolation to fullness through Ruth’s selfless love.  Ruth’s life is redeemed through the love of Boaz, who becomes her kinsman redeemer.

Ruth doesn’t just survive in some bleak existence.  God sees her brokenness and her willing heart.  He meets her in that place.  He redeems!  Ruth goes on to have children, and is a mother in the line of Jesus Himself!  How amazing is that?  God didn’t cast her aside in her dark place.  He didn’t leave her in emptiness and pain.  He worked out a beautiful plan.

God wants to work in our brutal circumstances.

Isaiah 61:2b-4  …to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

God will comfort, provide, give joy, peace.  God will rebuild.  God will bring hope, strength, new life. Renewal.  Restoration.

Life is hard.  Sometimes it’s even brutal.  We’ll all face that word sometime.  I hope that when you do, you will cling to the One who can bring you through.  Who can strengthen you beyond your imagination, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.

God picked up a million broken pieces in my life and put them back together.  It was not all in my timing, it was not painless, nor easy but is has been more than I imagined.   I see beauty in His tenderness as He carried me when I couldn’t do more than breathe.  Beauty in His undeniable ability to bring peace in the midst of chaos.  Beauty in a faint sense that He was smiling as He anticipated, the unfolding of His amazing plan of redemption for me.  Like He had a great surprise just around the corner and He couldn’t wait to reveal it to me- when I was ready.  That’s how He is!  He loves us so BIG!  I wish we could really grasp that!

I can tell you with confidence, heart bursting-jumping up and down- confidence, God will see you through!  He will restore.  He will redeem.  His Word is full of these promises and they aren’t just for me, they’re for you!

Be encouraged.  The God that worked on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, is working on your behalf.  I found a powerful side note in the pages of my NIV Study Bible, (p. 365) in the Introduction to Ruth it says, “She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5).

Don’t you love that?  God didn’t see her as a Gentile.  He saw her heart.  She was as much a daughter to Him as Naomi was.  Just like you and I are precious daughters to Him.

He’s got BIG, beautiful plans for you, beyond your brutal circumstances.

The book of Jeremiah is one of my favorite places to go to be reminded of this absolute, hope filled truth.

Jeremiah 29:11-13a  “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.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you…”

Jeremiah 31:3-4  I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.  I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt…Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.”

Let’s cling to His promises!

~Cory-Lynn

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Love Notes

Love.   Isn’t that a great word?

Love is one of my favorite words and not just because I’m a newlywed!

I hope that even if you have walked some hard places because of loving someone, you still believe in true love.  I do.

What completes this sentence for you, “I love…”?

I love good hair days, the sound of my children laughing, my husband, all things Christmas, Jane Austen novels, my friend Keri’s fashion-sense, hot pink nail polish, and every movie I’ve ever watched with my sister Amanda.

If you grew up an 80’s girl, you love hot pink nail polish too, and you will remember these songs, “Love is a Battlefield”; “Tainted Love”; “I Want To Know What Love Is”; “You Can’t Hurry Love”.  If you are a groovy 70’s gal, how about, “I Honestly Love You”; “Let Your Love Flow”; “Love Train”?  If you are a go-go of the 60’s you might remember “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”; “Can’t Buy Me love”; “Love Me Do”; “Give A Little Love”.

Clearly our culture is confused about what love is.  Most of us are pretty confused too.  We understand love based on our own limited experiences.  Some of our experiences have been beautiful, maybe even true love.  Other experiences have left our hearts tattered, and we still have the scars.

Real love is deeply personal.  True love, is so much more than mere “fancy” as my Scottish mother would say.

As I began my walk through a painful (is there any other kind?) divorce, I experienced a true miracle.  God, who I have decided is a romantic, sent me a love note!   A real, tangible, actual love note!

It was days before my first divorce court appearance.  Cue ominous music, think of words like looming and dreaded, etc.  It had been only weeks since my happy world had come crashing down.  I was adjusting to my new normal which included being a single Mom of four.  It was a day by day, moment by moment, “Lord HELP me” filled time.

Being the only one of my circle of friends to walk the path of divorce, I had no one to mentor me through.  I had BIG fear of the unknown.  Custody issues were heavy on my heart.  This Mom’s heartstrings were tightly knit to her four little ones.  I had no idea what to expect on that court date.

To distract myself from the fear, I did the obvious girl thing, and picked out a perfect courtroom outfit.  My life was turned upside down, but at least I’d look “together” was my irrational rationale at the time.  I borrowed some black dress pants from a girlfriend, and bought myself a new vibrant fuchsia blouse.  Fuchsia since I am that 80’s girl and I hoped it might conceal the evidence (bags under my eyes and new creases on my forehead) of the strain I felt.

Next, I had to get serious about being prepared.  Basically I felt very little control over anything in my life, so I was grasping!  I defaulted to the woman I was before I was a Mom of four.

I call her Miss Planner.  She is an organized person.  She wears clothes that say, “dry clean only”.  She files things alphabetically and has completed to do lists.  She’s a manager  to the core.  She’s an empowering kind of a gal- I like her!

This might sound totally ridiculous to those of you who still wear dry clean only clothes, carry briefcases to work, and know how to multi-task from your iPhone.  Please extend some grace to my frazzled state.  I am so not a Clueless type of woman.  I was really proud of my choice to be a stay at home Mom for more than a decade.  I’m smart, strong, and capable, but at this point in my life, my self-esteem had been run over by a semi-truck that was speeding in the opposite direction, with big red letters R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N down the side of it.

Having some sense of control over something- even if just what I wore, and even where I’d put all of my legal papers helped take my mind off of the fear.  So, I set off in search of the perfect binder, one that would say, “I’m prepared.” I found just the right one- it was pink, with some gray flowers on it and the icing on the cake was that it had initials of a real four year college on it.  A hand me down from one of my college degree holding sisters.

Thinking the binder was empty, I opened it to put my papers inside.  And that is when I found my Love Note from God!  There in the back pocket of the pink binder, I noticed a folded white piece of paper.  I unfolded the paper, expecting it to be a forgotten shopping list, or a piece of kid’s artwork that was very common in my house.  What I found instead took my breath away.  Typed in a plain, small font, was this message:

You are my child; I love you more than anyone else in the world.  I will never leave or forsake you.  You are of inestimable worth, in My eyes.  I suffered the torments of hell on your behalf.  I care about who you are on the inside, not what you look like on the outside, or your value in the eyes of the world.  I will be with you until the end of the world.  I will carry you through periods of struggle.  I will nourish you, raise you, and make you into a worthy vessel for My service.  I will destroy those who destroy you.  I will give you my peace, which passes all understanding.  Through Me, you have the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Stay with Me.  I want you near Me.  Lift your eyes to me; hold My hand, trust Me, and walk with Me every day.  I will eventually receive you in Glory, where you can sit at the table with Me.  Then we will always be together. 

Tears fell.  This was true love.  This was so personal.  God is so personal.  He reminded me that He saw every detail of my circumstances.  God knew exactly what I needed to hear at that very moment.  Fears began to fade away as I remembered God’s promises to me.  I knew without a doubt that this was a Love Note directly from God to me.

I spent some time on my knees, in that school room filled with dozens of other binders.  I thanked God for meeting me there.  He used that Love Note to speak so tenderly to my broken heart.  I heard His reassurance that He knew all about every unknown in my future.  They were not unknown to Him.  He knew all about what I would be facing in my “new normal”, in court and in everything else.

As I finished thanking God for my Love Note, I started to wonder, how did this Love Note get into this pink binder?

And then, of course, I called my sister who was the owner of the cute pink binder!  As I read my Love Note to her over the phone, she recalled that it was a message she had prepared to share with her Campus Life Group, years earlier when she served in that ministry.  She thinks she had found it in an old Brio Magazine article.  (Note- if you find the original source- email me!  I searched online, and found a “copy” but not an original author, and I’d love to give them full credit.)

That court date is now a few years behind me.  It was the second worst day of my life, but God got me through it.  He’s continued to show up every day.  He wants to be personally involved in my life- even when the hardest part of my day is finding inspiration to tackle the endless mountain of laundry.

God does not single out only certain people to send love notes to, or to speak to.  Re-read that Love Note up above.  It’s really God’s Word, that some creative person personalized.  It’s not just for me, it’s for you.  His greatest Love Note to each one of us, is probably sitting on your bedside table, or maybe a little bit dust-covered on a bookshelf.  The Bible.  It is filled to overflowing with the truth of His love for us.   (If you don’t have a Bible, you can read it online at http://www.biblegateway.com)

He came to this earth 2,000 years ago, just to save YOU.  To have a relationship with YOU.  If you had been the only person on this planet, He still would have come.  He is that personal.

Don’t ever doubt that God cares about the details of your life.   He sees every victory, and every tear.  He’s right there.  Call out to Him.  He is ready and waiting.  He is interested.  He loves you, and it’s true love.

Are you carrying something that you need to lay at His feet?  He knows we face hard stuff, really hard stuff.  He knows we live in a world that is lost and filled with flawed people.  He has not asked us to shoulder the burdens that come with life on this fallen planet.

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you 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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 

If you are in need of comfort, turn to book of Psalms- as you read, and seek Him, I know He will meet you right where you are.  Whether you are in the midst of a really difficult life circumstance, or just need some encouragement in the daily grind.

Psalm 34:4-8, 17-18

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;  he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant;  their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.  Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

These are just a few verses from His Love Note to us.  There are so many more  that He wants to use to speak life, hope, comfort, peace and most of all love to you.

I’m praying for you sweet friends- that you will grasp how much He wants to be in your everyday life, and even more that you will discover His true love for you through His greatest Love Note of all.

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Further Still

Further Still.

Ever found yourself there?  It’s a lonely place.  It’s a hard place.  No one wants to go there.

Beth Moore shared those two words, Further Still, during a Bible study I attended a decade ago.  She expounds on it beautifully in her book by the same title.

Further Still.  The words resonated with me.  They stuck.

My Further Still began seven years after that Bible study, in my bath tub.

It was a great bath tub.  A dozen jets, all of the bells and whistles that a    bubble-bath-loving-Mom-of-four could dream of.  A relaxing refuge after a busy, kid-filled day.  Sanity really.

This particular day, it was empty but for me.  I sat in it, fully clothed, shoes on,   shocked, shaken and completely empty- me and the bath tub.

“What do I do Lord?  I don’t know how to do this.  What about these precious children?  How can this be happening?  Please don’t make me walk this path Lord…”  I begged.  I pleaded.  Body racking sobs- surely enough tears to fill that bath tub.

Divorce.  I could not even say the word.  It was not in my vocabulary and it certainly was not in MY plan.

I thought God and I were on the same page about MY plan.  I’d served Him wholeheartedly.  I’d  followed His Word.  MY plan was His plan, wasn’t it?

Married to my high school sweetheart for fifteen years.  He was hero status around our house and in my heart.  We had four healthy, sweet children.  We faithfully served in ministry together.

I was living my happily ever after.

Divorce.  Eighteen years of my life unraveled by sheer free will.  It was a harsh reality filled with stinging rejection, the responsibility of four little hearts who counted on me, and more questions than answers.

My friends would tell you that I’m a strong, determined kind of a girl but it was clear to me that I could not pull myself up by my bootstraps in this place.  I was too broken.  I could barely breathe, never mind find my bootstraps.

Jesus Himself, went to a place of Further Still.  It was not an empty bath tub like mine, but it was surely a pain filled place.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James and John with him and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul  is overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”  Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will but what you will.”  Mark 14:32-36

The disciples that accompanied Jesus that night stopped short of where Jesus went.  We read in later verses that they actually fell asleep.  Jesus had to go to that place alone, and travail in prayer before the Father.

I called out to Him from my empty bath tub.  He answered me.  He met me there.  We’d often meet there, in that empty bath tub.  But no matter where I was, He showed up every single day.

He whispered unconditional love to me through His Word.

The book of Psalms became a healing balm to my shattered heart.

He reminded me that He still had a perfect plan for my life.

“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.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

He understood my distress, promised to rebuild the ruins of my life and give my children peace.

“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise,your foundations with sapphires.  I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.  All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.  In righteousness you will be established: tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear.”  Isaiah 54:11-14a

Everyone has their own place of Further Still.  Mine was divorce.

What’s yours?

Maybe you lost a loved one much too soon.  Maybe you’re really sick.  Maybe you have a wayward child.  Maybe you’re in the midst of depression.  Maybe you long for a child, and find your arms empty.  Maybe you’re stepping into a recovery program for an addiction.

Life on this imperfect planet is filled with trials and heartbreaking seasons.

God knows the way through every single difficult and painful circumstance we face.  He sees the path to the other side.  We cannot fast forward through it.  It’s step by step, moment by moment.  Oftentimes, it’s just doing the next right thing.

The wonderful thing about God is that He knows all about everything.  He knows every detail of your life.  He loves you BIG!  He delights in you, just because you are you.  He will speak to you through His Word.  He will lead you.  He will comfort you.  He will hold you up.  He will strengthen you.  He will see you through.

Psalm 46:1 says it wonderfully—

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

~Cory-Lynn

Copyright (c) Cory-Lynn Hatton.  All Rights Reserved.

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The Journey

So here I am.  No fanfare.  No drum roll.  Just me filled with humble anticipation!

Welcome to Autumn Grace.

Wholly dedicated to Jesus, as this was His idea in the first place.  Really.

Special thanks to my husband Dan, my biggest cheerleader.  Without him, my courage would waiver and the contents of this blog would remain hidden in the pages of journals or in quiet conversations with just a few.  He makes me brave enough to share with you, my heart.  I’m forever grateful for the gift that he is.

And thank you to my dear friends who walk beside me in the everyday journey that is my life.  You, sweet ones, are my inspiration!

One of my favorite songs is Desert Song by Brooke Fraser.  The last verse in that powerful song says, “And this is my prayer in the harvest, when favor and Providence flow, I know I’m filled to be emptied again, the seed I received I will sow.”  That’s the season I find myself in. It’s a new place, a happy place, a reflecting place and a new beginnings kind of place, it’s autumn.  Autumn Grace.

I hope here you will discover truth,  love, hope, comfort, encouragement, and most of all, a glimpse of God’s great BIG heart.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!   Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21NIV

~Cory-Lynn

Copyright (c) Cory-Lynn Hatton.  All Rights Reserved.

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