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Mending Your Heart in a Broken World
By Patsy Clairmont

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 Mending Your Heart in a Broken World

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Mending Your Heart in a Broken World
By Patsy Clairmont
ISBN: 0446679232
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help

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Chapter Excerpt from: Mending Your Heart in a Broken World , by Patsy Clairmont

CHAPTER ONE

Tattered Hearts,
Topsy-Turvy World

If I had to choose a logo, one that represented my life, it would have to be a U-Haul. The only folks I know who have moved as frequently as my family are the Israelites from the Book of Exodus.

Through almost forty years my husband, Les, and I have hauled our belongings from one dwelling to another at least every five years in search of, uh, manna, I reckon. People ask why we've relocated so often. I've learned to quip, "To keep down the dust bunnies."

The truth is the Exodus bug bit my hubby at a very young age, and he just loves to wander. Oh, we never go far-we've lived in the same town most of our thirty-nine years of marriage. But Les just goes and goes and goes. Like the famous pink rabbit whose batteries keep his furry feet padding around life's landscape, he gives new dimension to the term "bunny hop."

Early in our marriage I didn't mind the hopping around. In fact, it felt like an adventure. But after the first fifteen moves, I grew weary of cardboard boxes and broken stuff.

Honestly, I've never had a move, no matter how close by, that we didn't lose, break, or damage some of our belongings. I've become quite adept at repairing skinned furniture, gluing chipped figurines, and patching fabric tears. Inevitably tables are jammed against doorframes, glass is cracked in transport, and protruding thingamabobs snag cushions.

Once, in a family effort to move our items into a home, we formed a bucket brigade between the truck and the new house to pass along our belongings. In the handoff a world globe was being tossed from one set of youthful hands to another, when it tumbled to the ground, jolted down the driveway, and crashed into the mailbox post. The orb split in two, right along the equator.

"You've broken my world," I whimpered.

The helpers rolled their eyes at my acute case of melodrama.

"Don't worry, honey. I'll glue it back together later," my husband assured me.

Sure enough, after a few days Les, the mobile fix-it man, repaired the cracked globe. Although I must say it never sat properly on its axis again, and I noted, even though great effort had been taken, the hemispheres didn't match up. Also, some noticeable scars were left across the earth's terrain from the raucous journey.

Perhaps your world has been broken in a similar fashion. Perhaps a job loss, a divorce, a serious illness, or a death has split your heart in two.

Ah, herein lies the premise for this book: Can one exist in a fractured world with any sense of a fixed reference? If our hearts and dreams have been broken or scarred by life's journey, how might we recover? Must we be ongoing victims of rocky circumstances, careless people, and deliberate potshots hurled by our enemies? How can we experience comfort in the midst of heartbreak? I know I've asked myself these questions.

Tattered Hearts

Twenty-five years ago, as a young adult, circumstances felt as if they had spun out of control, and I was so emotionally frayed that everyday activities (such as washing dishes) overwhelmed me. Depression, insecurity, fear, guilt, and anger dominated my terrain. And the hemispheres of my brain didn't seem to match up, which left my thoughts scattered and my heart scarred.

My world was reduced to the four walls of my home—actually to the size of my mattress, for I feared to leave the safety of my bed. I waited for God to rescue me. And he did. But not at all in the way I expected. I'll tell you more about that later in the book, but here's a little glimpse at how I still have twinges of aftereffects from that time, when my heart was so damaged.

Last November I spoke at a conference held on a Caribbean cruise ship. Since this was my first cruise, I was a bit apprehensive about leaving land so far behind. I mean, what if we were in surround-sea and I wanted to get off? I don't swim, and I wasn't sure how far one could dog-paddle nor did I want to find out. I'm grateful that, once we set sail (I've always wanted to say that), I loved the sea, and I found even the vigorous waves added a pleasing rhythm to the ride.

At one of our ports, I signed up for a small submarine excursion 125 feet below the water level. When I read about it in the brochure, I thought it would be an adventuresome thing to do, but as we boarded the minuscule, bobbing vehicle, I was having second thoughts. Inside the sub were two long, wooden benches where the passengers sat shoulder-to-shoulder with those next to them and back-to-back with those behind them. Quite cozy. Reminiscent, actually, of sardines tucked ever so friendly-like in an oily can, minus the oil. We all faced windows that allowed us to view the undersea world. As the craft descended, I realized, ready or not, I was committed. Glub, glub, glub.

We witnessed schools of darting fish, strange eels sticking eerily out of the sand like crooked sticks, various sea urchins, and hills and valleys. I was enthralled. I hadn't realized how many dimensions the ocean's terrain offered or how fascinating I would find it to see underwater life skimming by. One of my greatest delights was when a large turtle wafted past us. Those creatures might be bulldozers on land, but in the water they are wondrous sea-angels.

Before I realized it, we were surfacing, and I climbed out, pleased for the experience. But on the way back to the cruise ship, I was surprised to hear comments from some of the other sub participants.

"Well, that was disappointing." "I didn't think it was worth the price." "I thought it would be more colorful."

"Dull, if you ask me."

I was amazed. Why, I would have paid the price many times over for the watery show. But then I realized that the greatest part of the experience for me was that I had done it at all. Twenty-five years ago, I had collected a myriad of fears and had become an agoraphobic. And even though since then I've traveled a long, open road of freedom, I still have fears to face (like stuffed submarines descending into the ocean). So, while our submarine ride was just a side note for others, for me the excursion was an exhilarating victory. As Louisa May Alcott said, "I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship."

Nowadays I travel around the country speaking to thousands of people about the God who sets prisoners free, mends broken hearts, and comforts the hurting, the lonely, and the lost. And I ought to know.

Today I believe in miracles. Out of brokenness can come good: Character can be deepened, relationships can be restored, emotions can be steadied, and a mind can be healed. Now, isn't that miraculous?

Please note: I'm not a counselor or a pastor; I'm merely a cracked pot seeking superglue for my own heart in this topsy-turvy world. As a matter of fact, last year, when upheaval revisited my life, I turned to Scripture in search of healing for my tattered self-image and for counsel regarding some damaged relationships. In the Book of Nehemiah I discovered insight, instruction, and encouragement. In fact, I found it so mentally stabilizing, emotionally comforting, and spiritually enriching that I wanted to share it with others—I wanted to share it with you. I pray that together we can draw from the trying experiences of Nehemiah's people to help us all—even when our world is askew.

Topsy-Turvy World

This broken world is full of hazards and dangers; our daily lives are filled with examples.

"Hold Mommy's hand, and don't let go," a young woman sternly cautioned her wide-eyed child at the grocery store.

"Did you lock the car doors?" a wife quizzed her husband as they entered the neighborhood post office.

"Whatever you do, don't set down your briefcase even for a minute," a coworker reminded her traveling companion at a bustling airport.

"Cover the keypad while you dial," whispered a father to his teenage daughter in a restaurant.

"We'd better stick our packages in the trunk," prompted one shopper to another when they stopped for coffee.

We live in a day when vigilance is necessary even in Small Town, U.S.A., lest we become the next victim in this fractured world. And it only takes one time of being threatened, cheated, or worse, accosted in some harmful way, to cause one's heart to fill with fear and dread. One brick through a windshield, one psycho driver on the freeway, or one desperate gunman, and we are reminded how vulnerable we are.

Recently a woman in her late fifties approached my book table at a conference where I was speaking. She was using a cane, and obviously she had trouble getting around. I noted her struggle, and I figured she had gone through hip surgery. But as we chatted, she told me that she and her husband were dragged from their car, beaten, and left for dead by young men trying to qualify for a gang. She said her husband was still facing several surgeries to fuse his spine. I was stunned at how torn their hearts must be as their world was brutally ripped apart.

Yet it doesn't take strangers, gang members, or thieves to teach us our defenselessness, does it? A reckless parent, a thoughtless teacher, a well-meaning friend, or a beloved child can leave a trail of pain across our tender hearts. Not to mention our own foolish choices, inappropriate responses, and sinful tendencies. Then add life's calamities such as fierce storms, financial reversals, and loved ones' deaths. No, we don't even have to stray out our front doors to find life can be brutal, people can be dangerous, and often we add to the problem.

"Golly, what's the good news?" you ask. "Hurry, please."

Yes, we live in a hazardous world, where jolts and crashes leave us whiplashed and broken. But I believe we will learn from Nehemiah some liberating truths that will enable us to shore up our interior strength, renovate our minds, repair some breaches, and guard our vulnerable hearts. Also, we will enter into victory celebrations, which in contrast to this jagged-edged world, is good news-yes, good news indeed!

Before we begin our journey, let's set the stage for the time period we'll be looking at. Nehemiah lived during the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes, which was from 464 to 424 B.C. Even though Nehemiah was in the upper echelon of servants because he had access to the Persian king and queen, he was a servant nonetheless. Born into captivity, he had known no other life yet had a deep passion for his Jewish homeland and his people. Jerusalem had lain in ruin for about 150 years, its walls destroyed by enemies, its gates burned, its homes and temple plundered. Its people were too demoralized, fearful, and scattered to attempt to rebuild the city. The broken world of Jerusalem lay heavy on the heart of this servant man, who longed to see the city restored and his people gathered together again. Nehemiah's destiny was established in his name, which means "Jehovah comforts." Jehovah's hand obviously was on Nehemiah as the servant became not only the leader of his people but also a comforter to them.

The story of how Nehemiah brought God's people together and brought comfort to their war-tattered hearts is found in the Old Testament. Nehemiah's book is situated between the Book of Ezra, who was a priest, and the Book of Esther, who was a queen. A priest, a queen, and a servant... yes, God uses individuals from different walks of life to bring solace to his people. And Nehemiah's book, believed to be taken from his personal journals, is written with great warmth. From his emotional response to his people's needs, to his determination to rebuild Jerusalem, we find that Nehemiah, like a well-built wall, was a man of strong convictions and fortitude.

As we enter into Jerusalem's broken world, we'll see how God kindled a passion and a vision in Nehemiah's heart and raised him up not only to rebuild a city and a people but also to touch our troubled hearts.

To help accomplish that purpose, at the close of each chapter, I've written a section called "Heart Menders" that will offer questions designed, first, to help us personally to consider the scriptural truths, drawing them into our minds. Second, the questions are written to stir our hearts toward healing, that we might know God's comfort.

Perhaps you, like me, often are tempted to skitter through material instead of taking the time to pause and reflect on what was said and how it fits inside you. The "Heart Menders" will slow us down for some contemplative moments. If, while you're reading, you feel a twinge of interest in a particular story, quote, question, or Scripture, rest there for a time and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind. He may want to guide you to a new pinnacle of truth, lift your face to the Father, or enfold you in his tender mercies. And who would want to miss that? Not me! When we are quiet before the Spirit of God, we are far more likely to be aware of his holy nudges, his gentle stirrings, and his tender counsel. I pray that, instead of only gathering information, we would integrate truths into our lives, receiving godly insight, divine healing, and blessed comfort.

NEXT

Nehemiah's world temporarily is turned upside down to reestablish the direction of his life. Hmm, you mean the disastrous can work out to be the miraculous?


Excerpted from Mending Your Heart in a Broken World , by Patsy Clairmont . Copyright (c) 2001 by Patsy Clairmont . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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