Friday, September 9, 2016

That Time You Got Dumped and Found Yourself in Jail...

Sometimes you get dumped, and nine days later, find yourself in jail.

(Not in the way you think, though that probably happens too)

The ties of a long-term relationship were suddenly severed, and I found myself hanging by a thread. I desperately needed to get my mind, emotions and focus off myself. So, at the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for a jail outreach with a local ministry I’d participated in off and on the past year. This was my first time to attend this particular outreach, and I had no idea what to expect visiting women in jail who had been arrested for prostitution.

The only thing to do was don my “Sometimes Warriors Wear Heels” T-shirt, and dive into the unknown.

I just had no idea at the time how deep Jesus wanted me to swim.

The air was stifling and heavy in the lobby—downright oppressive. The spiritual veil thin, the silent battle around us nearly audible. People waiting to see family members and friends, wrangling their kids, listening for their number to be called, paying at the chipped blue booth for their loved one to have spending money from behind bars. It was like stepping into an entirely different world.

And I thought my normal had been rocked of late.

I hadn’t sensed defeat and discouragement in one place so tangibly in a long time. I was anxious and jittery myself, and hadn’t eaten. Yet despite my growling stomach and my uncertainty, I was so blown away by the ministry opportunity that lingered right there in the lobby. So many people waiting to visit inmates—I thought if this was a hospital, it’d be easy to ask if someone wanted prayer. Religion is pretty popular in the waiting room of the ER, where vulnerability and brokenness is expected. But there, at the jail, everyone had on their game face. Hard, brittle, guarded masks that refused to shatter or let anyone in. There would be no getting past those walls tonight.

So I silently prayed for the young woman behind me with the blue streaks in her hair. And for the woman who hugged her significant other tightly as he was released from his sentence. And for the family of the little girl in the Princess T-shirt, who was handing out those free apartment brochures from the magazine rack and charming my entire row, like this was a normal Thursday night for her. 
Normal.

When the inmate’s names were called for my group, the three of us navigated our way through the metal detector (which I set off because of the button on my jeans) and waited to be given our visitor passes. We assumed we’d all be going to the same area because of the similar charges of our assigned inmates, and I was more than grateful to stick with my ministry leader and friend.

Except my pass was green. And theirs was not.

Mental Ward.

Any sense of adjustment to this foreign world I’d found myself in fled right quick, along with the blood from my head.

Sometimes you get dumped, and you find yourself alone in a never-ending corridor, light-headed and unsure. And your heels echo loud on the shiny floor, and your heart shouts a protest with every step, but you move anyway, almost as afraid to go back as you are to go forward.

I had no idea what I was doing. My normal had been all sorts of shaken upside down and inside out. What would I do? What would I say?

What did I even have to offer in my own brokenness?

I walked on, shaky with nerves and the fear of the unknown, which is sort of how I’d felt for nine days now. And I prayed that somehow, despite my fragile state, the Holy Spirit would use me. That hallway was long. So long. And so was the next one.

But I kept going.  

Because sometimes the only way out is through.

I finally found the green door that matched my visitor pass, and had to talk myself into opening it. When I did, I was facing yet another stairwell. By now I’d abandoned all hope of ever finding my way back to the lobby, and followed a typed sign and hastily drawn arrow toward the female mental health ward. (this door was open, thankfully, because otherwise I might have still been standing there)
I stepped through the frame into a tiny cubicle area, with chairs and phones and heavy plated glass. The lights were dim, the shadows long, the area deserted. Even the guard’s desk around the corner sat empty.

I stood and waited, and prayed. Paced. Wondered if I was in the right place. Looked up and glimpsed a shock of dark hair through one of the windows of the cells. Cells that were rooms, with doors. Solitary, confining. I didn’t see the face under the hair, but glimpsing those brunette waves told me a real live soul was stuck in that room, fighting who knew how many demons, and how ill-equipped was she to do so?

Something broke off in my spirit.

A guard finally saw me, mere minutes later that felt like forever, and we proceeded to have an awkwardly shouted conversation through the glass about who I was there to see. She went to find her, and I marveled anew at how lifeless the entire area was.

And I thought I’d been battling discouragement the past week. 

Something else broke off deep inside, and what was left hissed and sparked to life.

And as I stared through the glass, at that wave of dark hair across the room in a solitary cell, at the two story rows of shut and locked doors, clutching my green tag with the words MENTAL stamped across the front in large print—because aren’t we all? The only thing I could think was: but for the grace of God.

Like the inmates arrested for prostitution, I too had once sought healing for my brokenness post-divorce in all the wrong vices. Like the inmates, I tried to fix my broken all on my own, and ended up with more shards than I knew what to do with. I could relate to what it felt like to be repeatedly betrayed, rejected and abandoned, to feel as if you had to desperately strive to prove yourself and gain validation in the only ways you knew how. Even if those ways gleefully imprisoned you.
It wouldn’t take much at all to be on the other side of that glass.
But for the grace of God.

My hurt? Suddenly, it didn’t ache as much. My problems? Diminished. My definition of lonely? A total joke.

I wasn’t nervous and unsure anymore. No, I wanted to burst through the glass. I wanted to run to each room, shouting truth against the lies echoing all over that dark space. I wanted to unlock each door and proclaim how I knew the Chain-breaker Himself, and that they could too. That I was a writer, so I knew this didn’t have to be the end of their story—that their Author was good and trustworthy and loved them no matter what had landed them there. That it wasn’t too late—was never too late.
I almost choked on all the words caught in my throat, mixed with unshed tears. I felt like I had the keys, but I just couldn’t make it to their cells.  Jesus, please go to their cells.

The guard returned, alone. The inmate didn’t want to see anyone. It was time for me to leave.
Disappointment, along with a fiery determination, carried me back to the lobby. I never got to talk to my assigned inmate—she has no idea how much she taught me in such a short time. But the Holy Spirit was there, and no door, lock or alarm can keep Him out. His ways and timing are never wasted.
I’m praying for the young woman I didn’t get to see. I’ll mail her a card and let her know that she has purpose that she can’t even fathom right now. That she’s never too broken to be healed. That it’s possible through Christ to experience freedom even in the midst of our darkest prisons. I’ll go visit her again.


Because sometimes, you get dumped and find yourself in jail—and find liberty and hope you forgot even existed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Warrior Princess Training

My daughter was afraid to brush her teeth.

Afraid to make the short trek down the hall and to the left to the bathroom, where in her seven-year-old mind, something lurked dark and deep. A fear unnamed and yet not unknown, a familiar fear that caught her in a cold-fisted grip too many times to count. You never knew when it was going to grab and clutch, you just knew at some point, it would again.

She wanted me. My company. My presence down the hall.

But I knew she needed More. Needed His company, His presence.

The only way to fight the dark is with light.

I told her I’d be right there, in the kitchen, and she could do it. But she couldn’t, and the tears came, hysterical and sure. I wiped her cheeks and whispered reminders of who she was. Daughter of the most High King. Child of God. Beloved.

She tried again. Failed. Feet frozen in fear right at the start of the hall.

This went on for a solid half hour. False starts and foiled attempts.

I finally pulled her back in close. She begged me to come with her. Bargained. Pleaded. Bribed. I said I couldn’t, that this was important. She needed to remember who she was. I promised I’d come as soon as she made it in there and turned on the water.

Then I leaned in tight and whispered a secret. “Remember—you have a superpower.”

She blinked, eyes hoping, wanting to believe but not quite able.

“A real superpower. Not like Elsa’s. Because of Jesus in you, fear doesn’t control you.” I whispered softer. “You control the fear.”  I told her to rebuke it in Jesus name. That when she did, because of her authority as a follower of Christ, it had to leave. It had to.

She lined back up, shoulders back, staring down the hall. She whispered something soft. Then whispered again. Teary eyed, panicked, spun back to me. “It didn’t work, Mama!”

“Did you say in Jesus' name?”

Her head dropped. “No.”

“That’s the most important part.”

Red faced, puffy nosed, swollen eyed, she tried again. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name.” She took a step.

She. Took. A. Step.

Crying, speaking louder. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name!” Another step. Tiny and slow. “I rebuke fear in Jesus name.” Stronger. Clearer. “I rebuke fear in Jesus name.” Tears came fresh as she trod out of my sight and around the corner, interrupted only by sporadic, tear-soaked and broken declarations of “I want Mama!”

My heart would burst. “Keep going baby! I’m right here.” I wanted to go to her so badly. But victory was more important than comfort.

Crying harder now, but speaking louder now. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name.” Shuddering breath. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name!”

The water turned on. And I ran to her side.  We celebrated, with foamy toothpaste grins and high fives and victory dance from her beloved stuffed giraffe.

Sometimes, my heart is seven, and I’m standing paralyzed in the hall, afraid to go any further. Afraid of the door behind me shutting forever and afraid of the one around the corner that I can’t see. Afraid that maybe I’ll get there, and it’ll be locked too. Afraid that I’m truly alone and on my own and the goal ahead of me is too large, too impossible, and too risky.

And then my Wonderful Counselor, my Prince of Peace, my Comforter, leans in close and reminds me who I am. Whispers that the same power that resurrected Him resides in me, and I am never alone.

I blink, eyes hoping, wanting to believe but not quite able.

I whisper His name.

And I can take a step.

My foot weighs a thousand pounds and I realize that maybe I don’t want the destination so badly after all.

That it’s too much. Too uncertain. It hurts too bad.

But victory is more important than my comfort.

So I walk.

The next week, she came to me from her bed in the nights, tears flooding. “Mama, I’m scared something’s going to happen to you. I can’t sleep.” Struggling breath. “I can’t make the bad thoughts stop.”

I walk her back to bed, my tired eyes desperate for sleep. I knew she’d pass out hard and fast if I allowed her to sleep in my bed with me—but no. There was another battle to fight. A bigger one than either of us knew.

So I tuck her back in her own room, the fear so strong now she can barely breathe around it. I hug her close as she cries, praying for peace, and remind her that the devil is a liar.

And I remember how often I forget that. How often I let the bad thoughts fly free. Let them circle and swoop like vultures, picking at the remnants of my joy. Snatching hope with sharp beaks. 

Lies.

I tell her that the fears she has were not true. That we were safe. And that God had a big plan for her. That because of what she had been through and conquered already, she was special. Her heart was sensitive for a reason, and this was training. Warrior Princess training.

She pulled the covers up to her chin and half covered the smile trying to peek through the tears. She liked that. “Mama? Have you finished your training?”

I let out a half laugh, half cry. Finished? No. I still fall. Still get up. Brush off the dirt and smear the sweat in my eyes and get back into the ring, despite the blood stains. Stronger. But definitely not finished.

I only shake my head. “No, baby. I’ve come a really long way. But I’m not done yet.” I kiss her, tell her that I’m going to bed and she had everything she needed to fight. She had Jesus. She had memorized Bible verses. And she knew what to do with them.

Then I prayed over her, anointed her forehead with oil, and walked out of the room.

Because sometimes, the only way to teach the warrior to fight is to give her a war. 

She stayed. She fought. She won.

And I realized the power in being still. In pausing in the thick of our individual battle fields, breathing deep and knowing who God is and who we are in Him. Yet our instincts are to duck and dodge, to cower low, not brave the front line. Never that. Our defaults shout to run to safety, to Mama’s room, to pretend like it’s all a bad dream and bask in false security instead of the real kind.

We are fully equipped. We only have to utilize the weapons He already gave us. Victory is ours.


When we stay. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Words

Words.

A myriad emotions compacted into tight, manageable packages.

They're such a mystery. How some days we prattle long before an empty room or a lone mirror. So much to say and no one listening.

How some nights we stand in a solo spotlight, hundreds of eyes riveted, and open our lips--yet nothing escapes.

Sometimes, we have so much to say, the words get stuck. They clump and ball in the back of the throat like a wad of tears. Refusing to budge. Resisting release.

So we pace. Back and forth, side-eyeing the pen or the keyboard like an enemy instead of an ally. Some nights, it's both simultaneously. Friend or foe, yet to be determined with every keystroke. The line between love and hate is fine, especially when self-drawn in the sand. Rejection and failure clamor for top billing over confidence and courage.

Some nights, it wins.

Some nights, you win.

And some nights, you yank the cord from the wall.

And that's not to speak of the words we didn't say.

Perhaps the most dangerous kind of all, the words fully formed yet restrained. The words that tango in the gaping silence between two people, the words that twist and float and flutter right out of reach. The words seeking discernment in eye contact, the words begging for clarity in hugs. The words that ache to promise but burrow deep. Words that crave safety yet are too scared to come out of the dark.

They say words are weapons, for words can never be taken back.

I say words unspoken are far more lethal.

Words.

A myriad of emotions combusting out of tight, manageable packages.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

When the Monsters Come...

Have you seen the movie The Village, starring Bryce Dallas Howard?

It's an intense, somewhat creepy film about the power of suggestion, human nature, and the search for innocence. In the movie, a group of people start a colony to avoid crime. And yet, crime comes just the same. These families live in a secluded clearing surrounded by woods, in which they believe are inhabited by fearsome monsters who are attracted to the color red and repelled by yellow. The villagers and the monsters have an unofficial truce - the people don't go into the woods, the monsters don't come into the village.

Meanwhile, the character played by Bryce is named Ivy, a big-hearted young woman who is blind, and is madly in love with Lucias, a simple man of few words but one who is fiercely loyal to Ivy. He's loved her for years, but would never let her know. Yet she draws it out of him as only she can do.

There's a scene where the monster has violated the truce and is attacking the village. The people are frantic, scrambling into basements, dead-bolting doors, screaming. Ivy is waiting in her sister's cottage for Lucias, her entire family in the basement behind her. Her sister raises the trap door from the floor and demands Ivy get inside. But Ivy stubbornly stands in the open doorway of the house, determined to wait for Lucias. "He'll come for me," she proclaims in a shaky voice. "He always comes."

She's blind, and can't see that the monster is drawing nearer and nearer to the open front door where she stands. Yet we know she senses the danger, because she's sweating and trembling and teary-eyed with fear. Yet she stands, regardless - arm outstretched, fingers waiting. Trusting. Believing he will come for her.

The monster draws closer, Ivy trembles harder, and then, in a split second - Lucias. He appears in slow motion, grabs Ivy's outstretched hand, whirls her around into the safety of the house, and slams the door literally just in time.

It might be the most romantic thing I've ever seen.

It's what every female heart longs for - security. True love. Loyalty. Protection. It's every deep well inside a woman's heart bursting to life in one ten-second film clip. It's almost unbearable to watch. And yet you want to cheer, even while you're fighting back tears, because it's just so beautiful and perfect.

Not that long ago, I opened the door to a bad situation that had me in over my head. I wanted out. I wanted safety. I wanted to slam the door, but was too afraid of the repercussions. I was frozen in fear. Fear of "what if". Fear of "it's too late". Fear of "this is inevitable."

I was so burdened, I almost couldn't breathe. I went into the restroom at work, locked the door, and with my forehead pressed against the wall, I asked Jesus one desperate, honest, gut-wrenchingly heartfelt question.

"What do you want me to do?"

The answer, so swift and personal and intense that I got chills from head to toe, came immediately.

"Hold out your hand."

The scene from that movie I had viewed months before played through my mind, except it wasn't Lucias or a romantic interest twirling me to safety. It was Jesus. The danger was about to plow me over, and He was right there, watching. Ready. Waiting for my cue.

Jesus doesn't force Himself. He longs to rescue us, but He doesn't impose. I had to make the decision to hold out my hand for rescue, or be devoured.

Standing in that bathroom stall, sobbing, I literally shot  my hand out. Arm fully outstretched, fingers reaching..

And that was the end of it. That was all it took. It was over from there forward.

Oh, I had to walk through the tangible steps of removing myself from the situation, yes. But that was the easy part. The hard, nearly impossible part, was that crucial moment of decision. That mental, emotional and spiritual shift that had to take place first. That moment where I realized I couldn't save myself, that I lacked the know-how and desire to carry it out. That only Jesus' strength could be made perfect in my weakness.

Holding out my hand that afternoon changed everything.

What will it change for you?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Door Keeper

There's a girl.

A girl in a storm.

Wind whipping her hair into tangles against her face. Swirling dark clouds gathering fierce. Rain and tears racing in rivulets down her cheeks.

But this isn't a typical storm. This storm is indoors.

And she's running. Down an endless hallway, futile attempt to outrun the tempest overhead. Feet slipping on the wooden floor, rain puddling at her feet. Soaked through, shivering. She can't escape.

The hallway is lined with doors. Tall doors, short doors. Ornate doors framed in gold. Doors painted blue and doors painted red. Doors lined with ivy and doors with frosted glass.

She tries one, desperate for escape. It's locked.

She tries another, eager hands wrestling slippery knobs. It's locked too.

All the doors are locked.

The realization sinks in reluctantly, a scratchy wool blanket on wet skin. The storm is pressing in, and she has no where to go. Frantic, she beats her fist against one door, then throws her full weight against another. She yells, screams. Her voice echoes in the stillness as she bounces like a pin ball from door to door. No entry. No admittance.

The doors are locked.

Weary, she sinks to the floor, pulling her knees against her chest. Her breath comes in heaves, her body wracked with cold and fear. Panic grips, cutting colder than the rain clinging to her clothes. She has no where to go. She can't open the doors.

She can't fix this.

She can't control this.

She's stuck in the hallway.

Half numb, she vaguely remembers the last time she was there. The last time she knew the firmness of those doors, the hardness of that floor. It'd been so long. How had she gotten out that time?

Muscle memory moves her fingers into her tangled hair. Finds a bobby pin wedged into a curl. She frees it, studies it between limp fingers. Then she remembered.

Last time, she'd picked the lock.

She'd forced her way in.

She tightened her fist around her only hope. She could do it again. She held the key to her freedom.

But had it been freedom? Somehow, she'd still ended up back in the same hallway. Back on the floor.

Thunder cracks above. The clouds release a fresh torrent of rain. She huddles deeper into herself, the pin biting into her clenched palm. She had to get up. Pick a lock. Force it open.

Force her path.

If she didn't, who would?

He told you to wait...

The whisper came, a breath on the wind, so faint a reminder she'd almost missed it. Who had told her to wait? Oh, right. Him. The Door Keeper. He'd told her to wait in the hallway.

But surely He hadn't known about the storm coming. Why would He tell her to wait in the storm?

She slowly sat upright. Ready to stand. The bobby pin burned in her hand. It would do the trick. Then she wouldn't have to wait anymore.

Wait...

His voice came again, from inside her this time. Familiar and painful and too wonderful to contain. She swallowed against it. She was cold--so cold. She needed to get warm. Pick a door, and get warm. If The Door Keeper wasn't taking care of her, she'd have to take care of herself.

Please wait.

Thunder shook the hallway. She couldn't breathe, she was so cold. She had to fix this.

Trust me. And wait. 

She couldn't ignore Him. The pin dropped from her fist.

She shifted her weight, rolling onto her knees. Lifting her face to the rain. The doors were still locked. She was still trapped. And it was still storming.

Yet... I trust you.

Instant warmth flooded her body, coursing through her veins. Surrender wrapped a down-soft blanket over her shoulders, casting off the damp. The intruding rain couldn't seep in now. No, it flowed straight off, taking layers of self-sufficiency with it. Removing the outer grime of pride. Washing anxiety and doubt right clean until all that was left shone blood-red and white as snow.

And at the end of the hallway, the simplest of doors flung wide open.

The Door Keeper had come.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Winner of LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES is...

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway! I sincerely loved reading your comments :)

I randomly drew a winner for the autographed copy of LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES and that winner is....


CARRIE SCHMIDT!!


CONGRATS! Please email me at betsystamant@yahoo.com and let me know your mailing address. I'll get this free autographed copy to you ASAP!

Thanks again, guys, and check back for more posts and giveaways! :) Also, follow me at my author FB page for even more opportunities at https://www.facebook.com/BetsySt.Amant


Sunday, June 7, 2015

LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES GIVEAWAY!

Enter to win an autographed copy of my brand new release 

LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES 

It's simple :)  

Just leave a comment on this blog answering any (or all!) of the  prompt questions below,
and ta-da! You'll be all signed up. I'll draw a winner Monday, June 22nd!

Prompt questions:

Do you believe there is truth in fiction? (why or why not?)
Was there ever a time when your life was significantly impacted by a novel? (if so, tell me how!)
Why do you love to read?