The God Hole

August 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Barring basic physical needs, what one thing can people not live without? The answer is love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. And the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13 NIV). We come into the world craving love, spend our lives chasing after love, and die wanting more love.

Love pushes me through prickly patches in my marriage. Love prompts me to put my arms around my kids when my frustration peaks and all I want to do is walk away. Love paves the way to forgiveness when my anger rides high.

I find love at the center of every close relationship I have. Why?

My humanity. God’s humanity. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NIV). God fashioned us in His image to love and to be loved. He gave Eve to Adam for this very reason. Out of His deep love for us, He sent His only Son to pay the price for our insufficiency.

God fashioned us with a giant-sized “God Hole” in our hearts—an abyss He put there for Himself. Everyone has a God Hole. Not everyone knows how to define that space—especially if they lack an intimate relationship with Him. This empty cavern goes by many different names. I call that place restlessness, emptiness, longing, rawness, sadness, frustration, depression, neediness. What do you call it?

When that space remains vacant, it hurts. So why am I surprised then when I ignore the cavern, the emptiness screams to be filled? The vacuum turns into a great restless pit of need. Why haven’t I learned that I can’t just shove any old thing in that hole to ease the ache?

God owns that space and He’s not renting it out to anyone else. It’s set apart. For Him and Him alone. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).

When will I learn that once He fills my heart, my restlessness will melt away and the ache will fade?

Do you have a hollow space? Like me are you trying to fill it with family, friends, food, jobs, multiple non-stop activities? Do you think if you do more, be more, want more, the restless ache will disappear? I’ve learned the hard way over the years that it won’t. God made that hole for Himself. And He’s a jealous God. “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14 NIV).

See if I’m right. Let Him fill the space. What have you got to lose?

Marriage: Down and Dirty

June 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

It’s January. Our anniversary month. I have learned a lot about marriage over the last twenty-one years that I’d like to share. Here are the things no one will tell you before you walk down the aisle, along with some reasons to hack it out on the days when being single sounds more appealing.

You can have a soul mate. You just have to work at it. Nothing substantial in a relationship comes naturally—most things need time to grow. Time doesn’t happen overnight. You earn your soul mate by baring the most intimate parts of your being and letting him do the same. After so many years, you just know each other better than anyone else. You know the way he likes his socks folded and where he hides his “special” quarters. You memorize his order at various fast food places and automatically pick up cotton boxer briefs and white crew cut socks. You know him. And he knows you. You have a unique connection with each other—an intimate, private bond that only marriage can produce.

He can read your mind. And you can read his too—to a certain extent. You’ve watched him respond for twenty years. You probably know what he’s going to say about your mother coming to visit for two weeks before you even drop the news. You know he doesn’t cry during the sad part of a movie but you also know if you glance up, he’ll be biting his lip. He knows you’ve had it with driving the kids around and offers to pick your daughter up from choir. He sees you’ve had a bad day and stays out of your way afraid your bite will be worse than your bark—after all he’s had experience with both.

Real love walks a fine line between like and hate. Love sticks deep down in your gut, lodged tight in a place not easily shaken. But there are moments, hours, days where he’s at the bottom of your happy list. And that’s okay. You’re in it for the long term. He feels the same way about you when you spend all his “special” quarters on a new rug for the living room and the dog he told you not to bring home pees all over it.

History is a story that you live together. You make memories together—over years, children, financial struggles, and heart-wrenching crises. I’ve known my husband since I was sixteen years old. I could never give the knowledge of sixteen-year-old me to someone new. My husband lived through the bad years after my parents divorced. He watched me grow and mature, become a mother, and walked the journey next to me when our son fought a four year battle with leukemia. You can’t dump that information on someone new and expect them to comprehend your soul. So stick it out.

It really does get easier. As you walk the road of life and your children grow older, you’re building a bond of trust and a layer of comfort with each other. Twenty years into your marriage, you can look at him and say, “Not tonight” and he’ll know it’s not him but your teen’s emotions you’re struggling with. You can sit down next to him on the couch and hold his hand—just because. You can look into his eyes and say, “I really just need you to say something nice to me today—even if you don’t mean it.” And he will. And he may even mean it.

That’s the beauty of sticking it out. Walking through the bad and embracing the good. The rollercoaster analogy is fair and some years you will see more deep valleys than lofty peaks. But remember, the ride is always worth it in the end.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—” (Proverbs 5:15-19 NIV).

Conceding Christmas Part Two: The Response

May 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

I curl up in a ball. Think about that verse from Matthew 11. “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.”

Do I believe it? Can I live it?

Release him. Trust me.

Every moment I don’t let go, fear eats away at me. I live in bondage to the terror that Kyle will die and leave me. I can’t hold out any longer on the tugging of my heart.

“Okay, Lord. Okay. Your ways are not my ways.” Deep inside, where I cling to Kyle, I force myself to relax. I imagine picking him up, kissing him softly on his cheek, and walking over to Jesus. It takes me a moment to offer him up and hand him over. His weight leaves my arms and my heart stutters. Kicks into overdrive.

I almost grab him back.

Outside my mind, in the reality of Kyle’s dark room, I tighten my grip on the pillow that still smells like him. “He’s Yours.” I tense. And wait. For the phone to ring. With news that Kyle’s lost the fight and he won’t be coming home.

No sound comes other than the hum of the ceiling fan above me. I breathe a half sigh of relief, knowing the call could come tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or any time during this long battle.

Another quiet whisper tugs at my heart. Something remains. Something I need to do. Will you love Me? No matter what? Even if I take him home with me?

My gut burns. My heart speeds up. I want to yell, “Yes, Lord, Yes.”

But I can’t.

I roll to my back. The fan blades spin around the neon light and throw dancing shadows on the wall.

Let it go. The whisper comes again.

“Isn’t it enough that I gave You Kyle?”

Give Me everything.

Kyle’s Awana verse from last week, Proverbs 3:5-6, flashes across my mind. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I’ve already come this far—the burden almost gone—but these words are harder to say. Acid rises in my throat. These words may change everything. I close my eyes. Breathe in and out. Find the strength He gives me. “If You take him, tonight, tomorrow, next year, I will still love You.”

It’s done.

Peace fills me. Everywhere. Not the kind of peace that comes from knowing nothing bad will happen, but the kind of peace that comes from knowing you are shielded even if the very worst does happen. The peace that passes understanding.

Exhausted, I let my eyelids close and drift mercifully off to sleep.

The next morning, Alek and Maddy sit on the barstools at the island in the kitchen eating pancakes and drinking orange juice. I unload the dishwasher and turn to clean the sticky syrup off the counter.

The phone rings. I hold my breath. It’s my husband—with news I didn’t expect. Kyle will be home for Christmas.

God has handed him back to me. At least for now. The fever gone, the blood counts rising. I slump against the island in relief. “Thank you, Jesus.” Happy tears slide down my face. I grin at the kids and pull them close. “Let’s get ready for Christmas. Who wants to bake cookies?”

Conceding Christmas Part One: The Call

May 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

December 2004

3 AM

I burrow deeper under the covers, the bed large and lonely. Thirteen days until Christmas, but I’m not planning a celebration.

Arranging a funeral seems more likely.

My husband stayed at the hospital tonight with our ten-year-old son. This time, Kyle struggles with fever, low blood counts, and multiple infections—staph in his central line and fungus in his left lung.

The neighbor’s Christmas lights shine through my curtains, pulsing red and green. An ache sets in around my temples. I’ve been lying here for hours, watching the numbers on the clock glow and change, trying to ignore God tugging at my heart.

Give Kyle to me.

My chest squeezes in response to the words. “Lord, let me sleep.”

Your burden is too heavy. Take mine instead.

“Why are You doing this to me? I’m not ready.” I fight against the call, bury my face under the pillow. But He won’t let me rest.

With a heavy groan, I kick off the comforter and leave the warmth of my flannel sheets. The cat sleeping on my legs follows me down the short hallway. I peek inside Maddy’s room. A tiny glow shines from a Tinker Bell nightlight on her wall—it quenches her fear of the “black.” Sprawled sideways across the bed, her feet hang off the edge. Blond hair falls over her pillow, covering one side of her face. I settle her back and kiss her cheek. She smells like grape jelly and apple juice.

Soft snores drift down the hall from Alek’s room. He sleeps on the top bunk and I can’t reach his cheek, so ruffling his hair will have to do.

Kyle’s room is next, right at the top of the stairs. I always worry that he’ll fall down them on his way to find me in the middle of the night. For years, a gate stretched between the banisters, keeping him safe. If only a gate would keep him safe now.

I flip on his light and the fan begins to spin. A blue neon light underneath the blades throws off an eerie glow. I maneuver around a Lego battle scene, a stack of books, and a pile of video games. I reach his bed and sink onto his Spiderman comforter. Many nights, over the last four excruciating months, we’ve snuggled here together. Clinging to each other.

Fighting the leukemia.

I want to call the hospital. Hear his voice. But it’s the middle of the night. Instead, I roll over and trail my fingers along the rough bumps on the wall, until they hit a collage of pictures hanging over his bed—pictures of our family and his friends in the days before cancer.

Most of his buddies have stopped coming around. I know little boys can’t comprehend the gravity of cancer, but my heart aches anyway. Kyle doesn’t understand why they aren’t the same friends they used to be.

I breathe deep into his pillow. Comforted by Kyle’s smell, I curl into a ball.

Give him to me.

“Lord, where’s Kyle’s healing? His miracle? Haven’t I begged enough? It’s the only Christmas present I want.”

Let him go.Take my yoke and you will find rest. My yoke is easy and my burden light.

I recognize the words from Matthew 11 as He writes them on my heart. But I can’t give Kyle away. Tears drip down my face, onto my neck, into the pillow. A shallow puddle forms where I rest my cheek. “What if You heal him in Heaven instead of here?”

Trust Me with Kyle.

“But if he—” Tears soak my face. I can’t even think the word, “—how will I go on with a gaping hole in my heart?”

My breath catches. Knots form in my stomach and I agonize over the verse God has laid on my heart.

Can I really let him go?

Word of Mouth

March 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Why does God teach me the most valuable lessons at the center of my rawest moment? Whether I’m humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed or aching—those are the times He reveals the deepest truths.

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the annual North Texas Christian Writer’s conference held in mid-September. As usual, the workshops offered impressive teachers and valuable information, but what I took away from the weekend had nothing to do with writing tips. God had a bigger revelation for me—that words, often spoken without thought, can construct and create or damage and destroy.

I wish I could tell you I gleaned this pearl of wisdom from dancing out of the conference on a high. However, God rarely teaches me during a happy moment—maybe because I don’t always listen when I’m confident, secure, and delighted with myself.

Instead, He used a disappointing critique with one of the faculty to illustrate how flippant words do more harm than no words at all. Despite how desperate I am to hit the “rewind” button on the little breakdown I had Saturday morning at the conference—a meltdown large enough to prompt a dash out to my car where I could hide until my mascara stopped running down my face—God moved my heart in a major way. Using humility. I hate that word, almost as much as I hate the word patience. I try not to ask Him for either of those lessons. But He always knows what I need.

Being an artist, any kind of artist, makes for an emotional rollercoaster ride. What we write and paint illustrates the essence of who we are, and when other people don’t love our art, it feels as though they don’t love us.

I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this rollercoaster. We all hold something close to our heart—our job, hobby, skill, talent, our children, marriage, or friendships. I know that as a mom who strives to build my kids’ character nothing pops my balloon faster than a well-placed dart targeted toward my deficiencies as a parent.

Yes, I want to stretch and grow as a person and a writer. In order to do that, my heart must be teachable. Yet, no matter how willing I am to learn, I still ache when someone criticizes my work or dismisses my effort—constructively or otherwise.

Hard work and perseverance will move me toward my goals. Poorly placed criticism can still be useful. There’s always a small truth that I can take away, but I work so much better with encouragement. None of us was made to walk alone. I Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (NIV). We need each other. Having someone push you up the mountain, in the midst of crippling criticism or personal crisis, makes the difference between falling down and re-energizing for the climb.

I choose to take what I learned at the bottom of the rollercoaster and use it as momentum to scale the rise and take another ride. And when I get to the top? I will remember that meltdown in the parking lot and remind myself that anyone can criticize, but it takes a special person to encourage, and that’s the person I want to be.

I challenge you to carefully consider the words of your mouth. Be an encourager, not a destroyer. Open your mouth and spread the love!

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