Alive and Free

Dear friends, I’ve moved my blog over to my own domain here: www.huldabennett.com. I hope to see you there!

lavender

On any given day, I’d rather have flowers over chocolate … their beauty nourishes my soul.

Last summer, we planted lavender plants along the walkway going to our front door. I’m not much of a gardener and while the flowers lasted through the summer, I wondered if I would see them come next spring.

And they did – except for one. One day, as I came home, I saw a green leaf poking out from where the lavender should have been.

I pushed the pebbles away and pulled back the black tarp that covered the dirt, and found an entangled plant having nowhere to go but sideways. I dug it out and out popped this plant several inches tall.

The following morning as I sat with a cup of coffee in my hands, the image of the plant trapped beneath the tarp and pebbles flashed in my mind and I heard a quiet voice saying,

That’s you and your dream to write.

And the tears came.

To continue reading this post on my new blog site, click here.

Posted in healing for our hearts, Overcoming fear, Writing | Leave a comment

When your heart aches for home

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I’m back home again at my parent’s for another visit – back in the old neighborhood I grew up in and the memories come flooding back as I walk the familiar streets.

I see the small, skinny girl dragging her light blue suitcase home on the sidewalk … my parents either forgot or didn’t know I was coming home from camp. I hear the jeering laughter coming from the group of teenagers who thought I was running away from home.

My heart ached and I wished that my parents didn’t have to work two jobs each and that they could understand the camp letters sent to them. All the campers had come home to eager parents waiting with open arms, but I was left alone in the parking lot and I’d felt afraid and lost.

And the memories of my childhood play themselves in my mind as I see my own children walking these roads with me.

I had to grow up in a way that my other classmates did not. My parents did not understand English, and I had to navigate my way in our new homeland not only as an eight-year-old but as a translator in my parents’ adult world. And I’d felt the weight of the responsibility that I did not want. … the carefree days of being a child had been left behind in Peru.

When we told our kids that we were going home to America this summer, they were thrilled. Coming home to see Abuelo and Abuela and all their cousins has always meant coming to a place where they know they are loved and wanted.

But for me it’s always a time of mixed emotions. There is the joy of reunion with loved ones we haven’t seen in a while but there is also the unexpected expectations that often leave both sides feeling disappointed and sometimes even hurt.

When you are thousands of miles away on the other side of the ocean and things get tough, it’s easy to think of moving back home to America to escape the pain and trials.

But we are here, and I’ve brought my baggage with me. Over the years, the load has only increased and some days the weight of it seems too burdensome — too hard to carry.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I’ve been carrying pain and burdens, I was never meant to carry this far into my life. It’s high time to leave them at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.

I see the little girl pulling the wheel-less suitcase for the mile and half walk and she makes it home safely. And the realization comes … I was never forgotten, never alone. I was always loved.  He was there at every step of the way, and He is with me now.

And I rest in that.

Posted in family, forgiveness, healing for our hearts, The Father heart of God | 8 Comments

A Father who will always love us

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As we look to celebrate Father’s Day this coming weekend, I’m reminded of the greatest father there is – the one who will never forsake us or fail us. He is a kind, loving Father full of grace and truth. No matter how far we’ve strayed, He awaits us with open arms just like the father did in the prodigal son story.

He is the father who never changes. His love is from everlasting to everlasting. Nothing we’ve done, are doing or will do, will ever change that. People’s affection may change but the Father’s love never changes.

I wish I knew and understood this in my heart as a young teenager when I helplessly looked to the world to find my identity. Like the prodigal son, I left my spiritual home in hopes of finding meaning and purpose elsewhere.

God answered my parent’s prayers and brought me back to Himself in my early 20s. And coming home to the heart of the Father — this journey of knowing my Heavenly Father – has become my life anthem and hence the name of this blog.

The one thing that has and keeps changing my life to the core has been knowing my Heavenly Father and his great love for me. And yet I know that even what I think I know is but a drop in the bucket.

When our first child was born, it gave me great joy to watch my husband hold our baby and delight himself over her. We both did. With each child, we were astonished at how much love could swell up in our hearts for someone so tiny and helpless. And as the children grew they looked to us … but they looked to their father for an affirmation of their identity.

It was the same way with me … my father’s approval carried a weight that I cannot explain, and I see how my three children look to their father in a similar way.

What an enormous responsibility for fathers. I was talking to an older friend/mentor about how I wished my husband could do things a bit differently at times with our kids and she says,

“Given his experience, I think he’s doing a great job, don’t you?”

She was right and I told her so. Fathering is a hard job and my husband needs all the encouragement he can get from me.

There’s a drawing that our middle child did of her father throwing her into our pool and she’s mid-air. I’m in a lounge chair nearby with a cup of coffee in my hand, and I smile. Our kids have been blessed with a dad who not only tosses them into the pool but takes them to the field to play in the hay stacks and one who is building them a zip-line in the backyard.

I know that he wants them to have fun and to give them good things … how much more so does our Heavenly Father.

There are no perfect dads or moms, and that’s why in this journey to the heart of the Father, we are learning that we can only parent to the extent we know our identity in our Heavenly Father. He loves us unconditionally and yet how hard it is to show that same unconditional love to our young ones.

The truth is He would not have given us our three children who are so uniquely different if He also had not also equipped us to be the earthly vessels to show His love for them. A huge part of that has got to be in pointing our children to Him … because while we may fail them (and we do), He never will.

For over 10 years, our family worked with kids who live in government-run children homes (something like an orphanage) here in Czechia, and we’ve seen the effects of rejection, abandonment and abuse on young precious lives. Our hearts have ached over their pain and wounds. But we have also seen healing and hope come into their lives as they’ve come to know our Heavenly Father’s great love for them.

We’ve had the privilege of introducing them to the Father who is the father to the fatherless, the one you can always come home to, the one who will never fail you or let you down. Yes, He is a father who delights in you, who loves you just as you are and who sees you as the apple of His eye.

And like them, because we’re all children in God’s eye, we travel this road that leads to Papa’s heart because ultimately that is where our home lies.

Happy Father’s Day dear ones!

Posted in family, forgiveness, healing for our hearts, The Father heart of God | 1 Comment

The church my father built

Conima church

So there it is – a brand new church glistening in the sun there on the shores of Lake Titicaca high in the Peruvian Andes. A dream come true for my father, whose passion to do something for God led him back to the small village we left three and half decades ago.

While it took more than 15 years, he persevered and built a place of worship fit for any city. It was a labor of love which required sacrifice, hard work and faith to trust God for the impossible.

The building is done and now he continues to labor among the people. Aside from the Spaniards who came to conquer the land hundreds of years ago, few outsiders have dared to tread through our village, much less to settle there.

But it was in that village, where I was born, that my father saw a dream-like vision of nail-pierced hands on the horizon above Lake Titicaca, and he knew that God was calling him and he put his faith in Jesus.

It was a decision that anchored our family as we trekked over the mountains to the big city and eventually to Washington D.C., where he raised a family of four kids working two jobs.

Now in his retirement approaching his 80th birthday, I can see that the road has narrowed for him in many ways but the vision has become clearer. Life is about walking with Jesus and his faith has never been stronger.

A few years ago, he sat all four of us children down and told us about our inheritance … not much there financially he said apologizing. What I didn’t see then and what he may not have realized is that he’s leaving something far greater – his legacy of faith. None of us will doubt what mattered most to our father – his faith in Jesus.

I see the beautiful church which my cousin, the artist, snapped a picture of and put on Facebook, and I’m reminded of the lessons my father taught me and continues to teach me.

It hasn’t always been easy between us. As a little girl, I looked up to him with admiration and he was my hero. As I became a young woman and later a wife with a family of my own, I realized that even heroes have broken places.

The one thing I sought from him – his approval of my life has yet to come. (Something I explored here.) The longing for it used to hurt deeply, but now rather than holding onto that expectation, I’m free to love him where he’s at and as he is … and even to say I’m thankful, deeply thankful and proud to call him my father.

In my heart, I will always be father’s daughter and rejoice in it because first and foremost like my father, I’ve come to realize and know what matters most – my Heavenly Father’s great love for me.

 

Posted in Approval, family, forgiveness, Finding Faith, The Father heart of God | 5 Comments

A Father who restores our dignity

A Father who restores our dignity

Unlike the others who had come to the meeting, she hung her head low and even though she hobbled forward for prayer, using a small homemade cane, she would not look him in the eye. She was a young woman who was born with a bent bone between her ankles and knees and you could see the shame that enveloped her.

My husband went on a 10-day evangelism trip to Tanzania last month and of all the people he met, she was the one who captivated his heart and prayers most. He and the others prayed for her and try as he might, he could not get her to look him in the eye. She was a broken and hurting soul. And in his heart he cried out to God to show him what he could do to show her how loved, valued, and precious she was in God’s eye.

“Walk her home.”

So after the meeting, he offered her his arm and with the help of a translator, she took it and slowly they made their way through the meeting and through the village to her home.

I don’t know how this young woman felt, being in the arm of the foreign guest speaker as the other villagers looked on … but I pray that a seed of hope and love was planted in her heart to help her see herself a bit more as our Heavenly Father sees her – wanted, accepted and treasured.  Because before she was even in her mother’s womb, God saw her clothed in honor and dignity.

It’s what He meant for each and every one of us. But sin entered the world and we’ve lived in its rippling effects of shame and pain.

The story of this young woman and the shame she’s lived with speaks to my heart because she reminds me of myself and the place from where our Heavenly Father rescued me and continues to do so. My deformity and shame may not have been so obvious, but they were there in the deep crevices of my soul.

And like her, I’ve hung my head in shame.

Maybe you can relate … perhaps you too have lived through things that Father never meant for you to experience, done things you’ve regretted  or heard things that should have never been uttered to or about you. But you have and you’ve been left with scars so deep that your heart has been numbed to its pain, and you think that no one knows and no one cares.

But your Heavenly Father sees you – all of you — and He offers you his arm. He is a kind, loving Father and more than anything He wants you to know deep in your heart that you are loved, deeply loved.

You were created for honor and not shame; dignity and not disgrace.

Years ago, when I first took His extended arm, I wept, overcome by His great love.

Back in Tanzania, the young woman and hubby make it to her one-room house and her caregivers invite them in. Within minutes they are asking for prayers for pain in their stomach and someone says that the young woman is pregnant. So they pray for the caregivers, and they are healed.

The young woman begins to look up, and she tells him that her bent legs cause pain all over her body and this is hard to live with. So once again they pray for her.

And the pain leaves.

The next evening, the young woman comes to the meeting, wearing a new dress. This time she looks up with a slight smile.

Yes, He is the kind, loving Father – the one who offers us the balm of Gilead – the blood shed of Christ — to heal not only our physical pain but the deep wounds in our hearts.

Even today, He extends His arm to all who will take it. And I — I choose to take it again. He is my Heavenly Father, the King of kings and I am His child, clothed in His dignity.

 

Posted in freedom from shame, healing for our hearts, missions, The Father heart of God | 1 Comment

Finding grace to embrace the imperfect life

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I’ve spent most of my adult life waiting for the day to arrive – the day when my desk would remain clutter-free, when I would be finally be the kind, loving mom who doesn’t explode in anger or yells at her kids, when my weekly meals would be planned and shopped for in advance … when I would no longer live under the weight of not being enough.

The day hasn’t arrived and it doesn’t look like it ever will, no matter how early I get up or stay up or how many productivity books I read or how often I beg to God to change me in my quiet times.

It’s simply not going to happen.

And I’m finally ok with that.

It’s been a long journey but accepting my imperfect life has been one of the most freeing experiences I’ve found, and it’s a journey I continue to travel.

I grew up in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area where the driven-life is the norm and maybe this is where my own drivenness stems from. No matter, it’s always been fueled by a deep desire to cover the brokenness in my life.

I’ve tried hard to find my significance in achieving the goals and standards I’ve set for myself. And yet even if I sometimes did achieve those goals, it was never enough. I could never quite get to that place where I was happy with myself – where I could love and accept myself.

The stakes got higher when I got married and even more when the children came along.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yet how could I love my neighbor (husband and children) when I couldn’t love myself?

It’s hard when that love is based on achievements and expectations — even if it’s in noble efforts such as mothering, homemaking and foreign missionary work.

I fall on my face almost every day. I used to think that if I beat myself and agreed with all the condemning voices in my head, I would feel bad enough to change.

But it didn’t help. Instead I began to believe that I was the bad mom who struggled to play with her children, who often got them late to school and who simply could not get it together. And the painful cycle continued.

The apostle Paul, who wrote more than half of the Bible’s New Testament, had similar struggles of failing to do what he most wanted to do.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

I’m a frail, limited creature and in of myself, I can do nothing. Paul knew this too and that’s why he found his answer in someone outside of him.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! … Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

God does not condemn me and so why should I? On the cross, Jesus took my weight of not being enough and made me good enough. Why should I go back and try make myself enough again?

I’ve bought into that lie for far too long. I’m choosing to accept and even embrace the imperfect, messy me.

Why?

Because, I know my Heavenly Father does. He loves me just as I am. Why is it so easy to forget that? I don’t have to earn his acceptance or approval.

I’m finding that letting go of those false expectations sets you free to love – to love God, to love yourself and those precious others. Instead of living out of place of striving, I can live out of belonging as a loved daughter of my Heavenly Father.

Today is not a trial run. I only pass this way once. I know I will inevitably fail but this is why I need Jesus at every moment of my life. And His grace is more than enough to help me in my weakness.

I doubt the kids will remember whether we had our meals well planned or not or whether our house was tidy and organized. But hopefully they will remember a mom who was less angry, less strung out, and who loved more, laughed more and played more with them.

So I don’t have to wait for happiness to start tomorrow – real joy is here today. It was there all along hidden in the ordinary life moments – the making of meals in my not so tidy kitchen, the sounds of laughter of kids playing, the beautiful flowers that hubby planted on the window sills and the nights when a little body crawls into bed next to you because of a fearful dream.

Yes, there is sweet relief and joy in embracing this messy, ordinary and imperfect life.

Posted in family, forgiveness, freedom from shame, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Of rodents and teens

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I opened the school locker so I could leave my daughter’s phone, and there staring at me in a small, clear box was a black rodent! It blinked and closed its eyes. I left the phone and hurried away.

Thoughts raced through my mind. “What does this mean? Why was there a black rodent in my 11-year-old’s locker?”

She’d wanted a hamster for months and finally a few weeks earlier we’d consented and let her have one. I had thought I’d made a huge sacrifice in not only allowing one hamster to live under our roof but three so that each child could have one.

Earlier that week, she’d been telling me how rats were as smart as dogs and could be taught tricks.

“Nope. We are NOT getting a rat for a pet,” I’d said. “No matter how smart they are.”

Now the black creature in her locker.

After I had calmed myself a bit, I called my husband. And we both agreed that she would have to return it wherever she got it from.

I prayed. I knew this was going to be hard, and it was.

After school we drove to the pet shop, but she refused to let go of her animal, which turned out to be a big hamster. She told me that Licorice had become like a child to her and she simply could not part with him.

Hubby called and said that the youngest fessed up. There were two other hamsters and a mouse hiding underneath the bed at home!

The shop assistant told me that a group of girls had come and tried to buy the animals the week before but could not without an adult. Moments later they’d come back with one. When she saw the adult go one way and the girls the other, she knew she’d been had.

The shop took the critters back, and I took one weeping child home. In my heart, I was also crying. I did not want to see my daughter hurting, but I knew it would be wrong for us to let her keep them.

She had managed to keep four rodents right under our nose for an entire week and we had not suspected a thing.

We grounded all three of them for a week with the oldest getting more restrictions. But I wondered about my daughter’s heart … where had we gone wrong? Had I not spent enough time with her? Did we not teach her deceit is wrong? How do I, now, build those bridges and make that connection to her heart?

Then I remembered the day my father caught me smoking Marlboros in my bedroom. How he actually took his belt off and whup me – one of the few times he did. I had hated him for it. After all, I was then 14 years old!   It was also the day, he discovered my bright red-orange punk hairdo, which I had managed to keep hidden under a hat for a week.

He told me to go wash my hair, but of course the color did not come out. As I walked downstairs, I saw my father kneeling besides the sofa. He told me we were going to pray.

Reluctantly, I knelt down beside him and what followed startled me. Sobs, deep emotional sobs, were coming from my father as he poured out his heart to God.

My heart was hurting, and I was an angry, confused teen.  I vowed that I would never forgive him for spanking me. Still, the incident kept me from smoking in the years to come.

That evening I tucked the younger two in bed but the oldest refused, saying she would never forgive me for taking her animals away. I remembered my father and my knees found the floor.

The next morning after the kids left for school, I went to her bedroom and I did more warfare. I know the enemy is vying for her heart but greater is my God and I know He will move heaven and earth on her behalf just as he did for me.

 

Posted in family, forgiveness, Finding Faith, Uncategorized | 3 Comments