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My Story

If you’ve been in a church, you’ve probably heard about peaks and valleys. Life is full of them. About a year ago, I was checking out a pretty great view on my own mountain peak… and then was shoved from behind into a canyon. Every time I think I’ve found some hand and foot holds to start to climb back up, I slip.

The thing is, as miserable as this experience has been, I know I won’t be down here forever, and what I do while I’m down here matters.

Because one day, I am going to have an amazing story to tell.

I am a writer; however, God is the author of my life. All truly good stories have several intertwined subplots, and as the reader, we don’t always see how all those subplots fit together, but the Author and Creator always sees how it will all connect in the end.

I am learning that I am not the author of my life. God is. I cannot get out of this valley on my own. I have to trust He is working behind the scenes to pull me up. He is giving me an amazing story to tell. He didn’t knock me down here, but He knew I would fall. He already had a plan to raise me up.

My story is not finished yet. One day I can share the story and the happy ending of eternal life.

(I had this post fermenting in my mind as the first of 2016 over a week ago, and then my pastor gave a message last Sunday that confirmed this was the right thing, right down to the video I had already decided to include. God is funny that way.)

Bad Religion

You don’t need religion to have God. There is no specific prayer you need to pray, no certain clothing you must wear, nor special buildings you must utilize. God wants us in whatever fashion we choose to come to Him, because He just wants us.

Through Jesus, God gave us an example of a prayer in what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but we can come before Him in prayer in many ways, with our own sincere words. Our clothing matters little, as long as it does not send wrong messages to others. After all, John the Baptist wore animal hides and was said to be a wild looking man. A church building, no matter how beautiful, is still only a building. The church is the people, and we must not forget that.

Religion is like food these days. Additives. Preservatives. Genetically modified. And all sorts of words and fillers that nobody can pronounce and have no nourishing qualities. I just want some non-GMO, all-natural, organic God. It’s as simple as reading, studying, and following the Bible.

It’s not about following a strict set of rules. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus made it really simple, and no matter how many hoops religions make for their followers to jump through, no one can earn the grace that God has already offered to us. It is about having a personal relationship with Him and loving people…all people… not just the ones in our church building.

This is why I love the church I attend and helped launch so much (Epic Church). We call it “a church for people who don’t do church.” This last Sunday, we gathered in our usual building (which is actually a cafeterium at a local middle school), and then headed out into various places throughout our county in order to serve our community by cleaning, painting, building, feeding, loving, and just generally serving through projects to fill needs through an event called 3G Sunday (Go, Gather, Give). At least 341 people signed up to be part of this, and I am so blessed to be part of a church that does something as cool as this. I’m not telling you to come to my church; after all, you could be reading this from the other side of the globe. I’m just saying that you should think about what your church really stands for and what it really means to accomplish. Is it in line with real biblical truths? We are meant to love one another, serve others, and have a strong community.

Seasons of Friendship

The most telling test of a true friend is what they do when your life hits its lowest point, like mine did this year. I was hit with one thing after another, each compounded by complications of those circumstances. That’s vague, but that’s all you need. If you’ve been through a time when all you waned to do was stay in bed and hide from life, but you knew you couldn’t, so you robotically went through the motions, then you know what I mean. Basically, the only way I could have felt worse would have been by the death of a loved one, which thankfully never happened.

In this time, I desperately needed friends. The thing is, people are busy with their lives, and the formalities of one text to check in on me one time may have come, but only a few continued to check on me, knowing my introvert self was unlikely to reach out on my own, but that I still needed to know people cared. I am so grateful to those people, even if all they did was repeatedly send me texts to check on me, and for the ones who got me out of the house and just let me talk it out. I was surprised when certain people I had always thought would be the first at my side seemed to shrug their shoulders at my pain, seeming never to give it a second thought, while others who I really didn’t know all that well yet reached out and helped me through.

I didn’t even realize that I’ve been dealing with anger and rejection until recently. What happened to the friendships I had valued so much before? They disappeared in my darkest time and sometimes even seeing these people in passing actually made me feel sick and angry, smiling and hugging, and going about their business, or should I say busyness.

I hope when my friends need me that I am not too blind and busy to see. I would hate to ever make anyone feel that pain.

Then I heard the song “Seasons of Love” from the play Rent, and I started thinking about how our lives go through seasons, and our friendships fall into that as well. Admittedly, I do not easily open up and truly connect with people, so when I do, I obviously hope such a friendship will last forever, but life doesn’t work that way most of the time. Some of our friendships are just for a season, and when that season passes, new people enter our lives. Even in my hurting, God knew what I needed, and He brought me comfort and love, even if it wasn’t where I would have thought to look. But that’s why He’s God and I’m not.

Love One Another

I was poking back through a few drafts of posts I had saved when I discovered a post I had actually trashed two years ago because I was afraid of the backlash I might receive if I actually posted it, afraid people may only read the parts they wanted to in order to be offended. Lately, being offended is the hip thing to do. And that made me realize that maybe my message is even more important than it was when I originally wrote this. I just ask if you read it to know that I did write this in love and am sharing it in love. I pray anyone reading this sees my heart:

God never asked for our assistance in judging one another; He called us to love Him and to LOVE one another, and this was put above all the other commandments.  If we could all stop looking for each other’s faults and begin to see and repent of our own, wouldn’t it be easier to love others?  After all, not one of us is perfect.

I want to address an issue that has been heavy on my heart for sometime now.  Unfortunately, though I do this in love and with good intentions in hoping to make others see love, I am sure some will find a way to be offended.  This is why I’ve not addressed the issue earlier.  So, please read with an open mind, no matter which side you take on the matter.

As a straight person, I admit I do not understand anything really about being gay.  I do know that I have now and have in the past had several gay people come in and out of my life whom I have thought were amazing people, regardless of their sexual orientation. People are people, whether black or white, gay or straight, and we are called to look at each other’s hearts and to love one another.

Sometimes the discussion of whether being gay is morally right or wrong comes up because I am a Christian.  This is always an awkward matter that I try to avoid.  Why?  Because I have to admit that I do not think this is what God intended; however, I also feel that it is not my place, nor any other Christian’s place to pass judgment on those who are gay. I want to love people, no matter their orientation.

Again, no person is perfect.

Whatever our imperfections, impurities, vices, etc., we all have them in some form.  Let’s try not to focus on these things in one another, but to see the good instead, and to see that deep down we are the same and everyone just wants to be and equally deserves to be loved, because God loves us equally.

As far as I can tell, there are people like me who try to generally stay out of the crossfire when it comes to this matter.  But I also see people thrusting themselves in and hating one another.  I see Christians condemning gays and I see gays condemning Christians.  What will this ever solve?

On the side of gay people, I see them often feeling they are being backed into a corner.  We cannot deny that hate crimes do exist, and hurtful comments are uttered under breath. A basic reaction to this is always to attack back or to stay as small as possible in that corner, hoping not to be noticed.

Then on the side of Christians, I often see and hear comments about how all Christians are hypocritical and hateful, yet most of the people I know who claim to be Christians really do not hold any animosity towards gay people.  This is an unfair stereotype based on a small percentage of loudmouths making us all look bad.  Coming down on all Christians as being hypocritical and judgmental then becomes just as hypocritical and judgmental on the other side. Christians have been persecuted around the world for over 2,000 years now, something that doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon.

This post isn’t about taking sides.  There should not be sides.  This post is to encourage love.  We will all be judged eventually…by God.  Let’s let Him take care of it and just do as we have been commanded by Him to do, and love one other.

Keep Making Me Better

My husband and I have wanted to be missionaries or some sort of heroes in the battle against human trafficking. Wanting to stand in the gap for others makes us good people, right? I guess I was feeling like I was a pretty good person. I left my teaching job in order to begin reflection and finding our place in this (also because I felt God urging me to leave it since the job consumed me). I spent a year recovering from my career, writing, and wanting to get in touch with what God’s plan was for me. However, I found myself lacking in the spiritual revelation area.

Parenting in any form had never crossed my mind. That would get in the way of what we really felt we should be doing in helping others. We were so much the unparents that people joked about how unparent we were.

Then, through a series of events still unbelievable to me, we ended up agreeing to take in a four-year old girl, related to me. We knew it was the right thing and were beginning to see how God had made a way for us to be in place for this child when she needed us, but it was hard, and we were only beginning to see it, after all. At first, I felt like this might get in the way of us doing the big plan we knew God had for us. I also was selfish because I didn’t know how I was going to have time to be me anymore. This was a legit worry for a couple who never planned to have kids in over 14 years of marriage. And it was a legit shock to my world since I had just experienced a year of total freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted. But, still, I was being selfish. I had to grow up and look beyond myself.

We were doing the best we knew how to raise a displaced little girl, but my inexperience had me wondering why God would have her with me, of all people. There had to be someone better equipped. People seemed to think my husband was made for the role, but all the jokes from the past of me being such an unparent were messing with my confidence and making me feel overwhelmed and sorry for her having been placed in my care. Surely God had made a mistake. Oops!

One day, I picked her up from school and had to take her for a school physical. Maybe she hadn’t slept well the night before, because she was moody…or maybe she was just picking up on my insecurity. She threw a fit I didn’t understand and I didn’t know what to do. When we arrived at our destination, I could no longer hold back my tears. I apologized to her for having to live with me because I wasn’t sure what I was doing and she deserved better than me. She looked at me with big, loving eyes and began to cry too. She hugged me so tightly. In that second, I realized this little girl had been traumatized by rejection, and I had to pull it together for her and give her the sense of security all children need, because she was acting up only because she was scared and living with hurt from the situation that had brought her to me in the first place. We couldn’t both be scared. I was the adult. I had to reassure her and be strong and loving. I let her know then that I was going to do my best to be better. It’s still not always easy, and many sacrifices have been made by my husband and I, but she has been every bit as much a blessing to us as I hope we have been for her. We’ve learned routine and shared in love and learning…and I feel God has been using her to help me grow up just as He is using us to be her protection and love. When you love someone, selfishness has a way of going away, and without resent. It has to, or someone will suffer. I refuse to see her suffer any more.

I never would have planned this for my life, but it wasn’t my plan. It was God’s. He has allowed us to be the security, love, and safety she was afraid she no longer had, and He has helped us to be more like Him, which is what the Bible tells us to do.

Are we there yet? Of course not. We are constantly learning, but this blessing wrapped in a child has truly opened our eyes. We’ll never be perfect, but we are constantly learning more about how to love like God loves and to put others before ourselves. He has equipped us in love, finances, and support from so many people around us. It’s a continual adventure, but we’ve learned to trust God in all of it.

When I heard the following song one day and truly listened to the words, I knew God was using it in that moment to speak to me. Maybe it can speak to someone else right now too.

 

Where My Feet May Fail…

My husband and I took a dive into a world we had no experience in, and we did it by the faith that God would be in this with us no matter what, because we feel we are doing what He called us to do. It’s been the most emotional experience of my life. It would be easiest to just give up and stop, but even though we lose sleep and our lives have changed completely, we press on, because the reward is so great.

LOVE. It’s what we are here to do… be like Jesus and LOVE. I know I’m far from being Jesus, but with His help, I can do all things, and if I keep in the right mindset, and in prayer, I trust Him to pull us through this.

Lately, the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United has really spoken to me, so much so that I try to sing along every time I hear it, but my voice cracks and tears fall. I know my husband and I cannot do this alone.  What an exercise in faith this has become.

My Comeback: Day Three

housewife_a

Yes, I missed day two.  I’m okay with that though; after all, I have accomplished much in a short time.  The house is clean (including laundry…and most of it is even folded and put away), the pantry is stocked, the budget from July is caught up and I’m working on August, I’ve made many necessary phone calls (I always put this off anyway because I hate the phone), and I am spreading out my errands and appointments this week.  I think I’m going to make it and I feel like Wonder Woman (as long as I don’t look at how much is still left on my stupid to do list).  I’m getting there.  I’m getting my life back, and the time I have to spend with the girl has been better quality because of it.

And how was her first day of school? She threw a fit when it was time to go because she wanted to stay. Then she was mad because she had forgotten to give her teacher a hug and kiss and demanded I turn the car around once we were across town (no, I did not). When we got home she did not want her lunch.  I felt absolutely defeated by the time she went down for her nap.  But after she got up she was happy and we talked about making the next day better. When I picked her up yesterday, she hugged and kissed her teacher and ran to me with open arms and a smile. Yep, that’s what it’s all about. I may feel like I’m trudging through blindly and feeling overwhelmed, but I’m doing something right.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

It’s nobody’s business, but here goes…

After my two most recent posts, I noticed this, my very first post, popping up in my stats again and I had to reread it because I’d forgotten it. God has a sense of humor.

caverns of my mind

There is an imaginary rule book, no, wait- an engraved stone out there that “they” wrote.  Nobody knows who “they” are and nobody questions the rules on the imaginary stone tablet.  Why not?  And don’t you dare go and break one of these sacred rules, or you’ll be viewed as weird or different.  After all, if we were meant to be different, we would have each popped out of our mothers’ bellies with our own individualized rule book in hand.  I, for one, am declaring the need to throw out this archaic book and write a new one!

As young children, we are raised on great old stories of princesses, castles, Prince Charming, and happily-ever-after.  There’s nothing wrong with this idea… I could be a princess, and even pretend as though I couldn’t survive without Prince Charming, if he was charming enough.  I always had a problem with the…

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Created to Serve

We all have our ideas of what we want to do, and God has His ideas of what He has called us to do.  These are not always the same ideas.

I’ve felt for some time now that God wanted me to serve Him in some sort of mission/ministry project (preferably in the area of fighting human trafficking or rehab for the survivors).  And I was right…except for what that mission/ministry was going to be.  My heart has been prepared for loving “the least of these” and I’ve learned about sacrifice over the last four years. I let go of what I felt was holing me back and have been waiting for a year now for God to “reveal my path” as ministry-type people like to say.  I’m co-leading a short-term mission trip to Guatemala in three weeks, and I’ve been on a few of these trips before, so I figured when it became a full-time gig, I’d be ready.

Now I know God’s calling in my life, “my path,” so to speak, at least for now, and it isn’t what I was expecting.

I have suddenly found myself in the position as a caretaker of a four-year-old girl who is not incorrect in believing she is a princess, because she’s a child of the King of kings. She’s not an orphan in the traditional sense as she does still have a mother who loves her, but for now, and we do not know how much longer, my husband and I are filling in.  We knew it was the right thing to do, and I knew God had put us in the place we needed to be in so that we could take her in, but I still didn’t realize this was the ministry He had called us to do, the path He chose for us until I read chapter 29 in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  The first line written by Warren in the chapter simply reads, “You were put on earth to make a contribution.” Our purpose is not just to suck up everything around us and what others give us, but to make a contribution, a difference…to DO SOMETHING. Ephesians 2:10 says, “[God] has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” Wow. This means God prepared me to be a part of raising my sweet little grand niece. He knew she would need me and chose me for this very special ministry. He also chose my husband to be part of all this. According to Romans 8:28, “…God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them,” and so it is now evident that all the pieces have come together as they have for this purpose.

I feel blessed that God chose us for this important mission/ministry of being Linnea’s caretakers, for however long it turns out to be.  But I’m human, and I have my low moments where I feel God should have picked people who are more experienced than we are, and I worry I’ll never have time to get all my previous responsibilities taken care of now because a little girl takes up a lot of time and attention. I think about all the things I want to be able to provide for her, and look at our budget with tears in my eyes. I selfishly long to have time to read and write again, and I feel a bit like I’ve already lost who I am, my identity.

And then I remember that God has it all under control because He planned this and chose us.  The only experience we need is knowing how to love and how to pray. I’ll find my balance of time management; it’s only week two, and I didn’t have time to prepare, so it just might take a little while. Yes, she takes up time, but it’s time well spent and I love it. God always has and always will provide for our needs. Just as I will learn to manage the time I need for accomplishing the mundane parts of life’s responsibilities, I will begin to learn how I can carve out time for reading and writing, because writing is a gift God gave me, and He wants me to be able to use it.

These are a few of my favorite things

These are a few of my favorite things

If any of my readers are believing, praying people, please keep us in mind when you do pray. I know the highs and lows will continue, as that’s part of life, but we’ll need encouragement and wisdom for sure.

 

How Flexible Are You?

Compi a lo re darkman  www.friki.net

Compi a lo re darkman http://www.friki.net

I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees ever so slightly, so in the physical sense my flexibility is embarrassing. Fortunately, that’s not what I’m discussing today and I probably didn’t even need to bring it up. Oh well.

This isn’t about bending your body, but bending your will and your mind. Sure, you don’t want to be known for not having a backbone, but a structure with no give to it will collapse or break under too much pressure.  That’s why architects purposely design tall buildings (especially in earthquake or high wind prone areas) to actually be able to sway some, safely.

Are you a safe swayer?  I admit that swaying has not always been easy for me.  I like plans and hate surprises (unless they are chocolate). But not swaying just made me miserable.  As a teacher, I had to learn to adapt and adjust because even with great lesson plans (the part I could control), there were far too many unstable factors in that world to not be willing to think and change quickly.  *A note here- I left teaching, but many other factors contributed.  Since I left teaching , about ten months ago now (wow!), I’ve had to keep on swaying because now I don’t even have a steady job to count on.

Last night, I attended a mission trip meeting, as I will be going on my third short-term mission trip this summer and am actually one of the co-leaders of our small group going to Guatemala in August.   We went over two scriptures covering this idea of being flexible.

Proverbs 16:9

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Acts 20:22-24

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.

We shouldn’t go through life with no plans, but think of what you may miss if you’re not willing to be at least somewhat malleable in life.  Sure, this illustration is a spiritual one, but whether or not you believe in God or any sort of higher power, you have to admit that life becomes easier and more enjoyable if you learn to sway more.