Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remembrance - A Stack of Stones

Rocks at Dungeness Wildlife Refuge in Sequim, WA 6/17/09
It's been awhile in the making.  I can not say that I've mastered anything yet, but I can say our whole family has learned a ton.

God has allowed us to own two homes for well over a year now.  I do believe that He has wanted to teach us, grow us, and mold us.  A few weekends ago in church our pastor mentioned that myrrh does not get it's pleasing fragrance until it is crushed.  We have to be pushed and squeezed a bit in order to grow and then produce the fruit.  It sure does hurt sometimes.  But, God probably smiles that we are finally learning some of what He has wanted to open our eyes to.

As we go through the steps to prepare to close on the sale of our Indiana house in mid March, we are still learning.  But two things are glaringly obvious to us now.
  1. God wants us to trust Him completely. 
  2. God wants us to give generously.  
Yet these are the areas that He will continue to mold in us.  A couple weeks ago, as Jeff and I were heading to our Life Group we drove in silence.  We were both in turmoil on the inside which led to us being pretty icky to each other, too.  I was worried about the house inspection and whether it was going to cost us too much to do repairs.  And Jeff was worried about a reorganization that had happened at work and what kind of changes that would bring to him and his work environment.  We walked into group and everyone could see that we were struggling.  We didn't want to be there - we were just plain grumpy.  Everyone loved on us though and as we dove into our study on generosity and giving, Jeff began relaying the story of our journey over the past 20 months.  Each step along the way of something 'happening' to us, God in turn provided.  The way that we were convicted last February to tithe faithfully even though we had two house payments and we never turned back.  How we did not go without anything that we needed the past year.  Yes, there were some times of want and being rather tight, but we never went without.  God even taught us in the midst of things to have a heart of generosity...we still are in awe of how someone here obeyed God's nudge and gave us money in November to get our van brakes changed.  That money - a gift from someone who did not reveal themselves - changed my heart more than it provided us just extra money - although that was a blessing too!  It helped me even more in my journey of trusting God, too - it felt like it was straight from Him - "just trust Me, guys," He said.  We hogged the conversation at our group for quite a time remembering and revisiting God's faithfulness along the way.  By the end of group, we were cracking up and joking around, the weight had been lifted.  And we were wondering why we were not trusting God with these little things when we can share about how He has taken care of us so intimately for years and years.

The power of remembrance is amazing.  God made us and He gave us the ability to recall certain times - our memories.  Some hurt, some are so precious.  Memories are so powerful - so much emotion wrapped up in them when they are recalled - you can be whisked away back to that time and place in a blink of an eye.  When we take the time to tell our stories or really think through and visit memories of times when God was faithful - our faith in Him and our relationship with Him is strengthened.  We are renewed, re-energized  and strength is given to us.  We look at the history of the relationship and find that He is to be trusted, He won't leave us or forsake us. He will provide for those who love Him.  I'm sure it is the last thing that the devil wants of us - to remember how faithful and true God is.  He wants us to go with how we 'feel' in the moment - and turn around and go home and not go to Life Group (which is the only thing that we did discuss on that quiet ride to group.)  The devil wants us to wallow in our worries.  Just like the Israelites who witnessed many miracles and acts of faithfulness by God and continued to grumble and complain and worry that God was not going to provide - Jeff and I were reverting back to our human-ness. 

I never want to forget this experience we've had, witnessing His loving care and provision - His faithfulness, over these past months.  I never want it to be far from my mind.  It comforts me.  I want to revisit this in order to build my faith in Him.  I want to share it in order to help other's faith in Him.  In Joshua 4:20-24 Joshua stacked stones in order to serve as a reminder of God's faithfulness.  Hanging on our fridge, is the card that the anonymous gift of money came in - to serve as one of the reminders of His faithfulness to us - our little stack of stones.

Joshua 4:20-24  And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their parents, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'  For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over.  The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Story - A New Creation!

My Senior Picture
Practice makes perfect!  Well, maybe not...but it does help.  God wants me to practice telling my story evidently.  In the past two weeks I've shared my story three times.  Each time I'm becoming more passionate about telling it...and better.  It has taken me years to be able to articulate it sensibly -- and also for me to even make sense of the why's and how's.

I grew up knowing that God existed and created the earth and there was a heaven.  That's where my knowledge ended and the lies began.  Lies of who I was.  As I made my way through junior high and high school, I was rejected repeatedly by friends and enemies.  I was bullied and picked on by boys and girls a like.  I was told that I was going to get my butt kicked more than once - never knowing what the reasons were.  I was a good girl, a pretty girl, and a talented girl - which most likely added fuel to the fire.  I was also painfully shy.  I was scared to talk to the popular kids for fear of more rejection.  Every time I was called a name or something was said about me, I put it on like a piece of clothing.  Soon I had layers and layers and layers on me.  I allowed those comments to define me.  I did have some sweet friends and a loving family - so life wasn't awful by any means, but those comments are what I allowed myself to focus on.

As a 15 year old girl who more than anything wanted to be accepted, I was thrilled to begin dating a boy a year older than I.  The following four years I believed him as he told me I was not thin enough, not in shape enough, not smart enough, and not pretty enough.  He never actually hit me, but it hurt like it sometimes.  He said no one else would ever have me.  I believed him.  I wanted to marry him...I begged him to marry me.

I was always searching for something to make the pain less/to fill that gaping hole inside of me.  Whether it be 'love' from others, succeeding in whatever I was doing, or doing whatever everyone else was doing in order to just fit in and be accepted.  I was miserable a lot and wanted to die more than a few times.  I had developed a fear of rejection and a pretty ugly addiction to approval.

My boyfriend of four years left me with no self-confidence, damaged, and used, God sent me a friend to help me through the pain.  Jeff loved me and accepted me in a way I had not experienced yet.  Before long we were in love and starting our premarital counseling at his church.  During that time a question was asked:
If you died today, would you go to heaven?      Yes    No   Maybe
Well, I believed in God, but was that enough?  I was a pretty nice person.  I really didn't know the answer, so I circled maybe.  Over the next few days I was introduced to Jesus - who was a substitute for the sins I had committed - past and future.  I gave my life to Him, asked Him for forgiveness, knowing I needed a Savior - someone to direct my path.

A New Creation
The past 16 years or so of having Jesus in my life, He has shown me who I really am.  He has opened my eyes to the lies I believed as truth.  I was blessed to have a mentor counsel me through a lot of the hard parts of it!  It has been a process, but one that I am so thankful for!  Every single area of my life was affected by the lies I believed.  I am not worthless.  I am not damaged and used.  I am not what those kids said I was.  He says I am precious to Him and loved.(Isaiah 43:4)  I am significant.  He created me for a purpose. (Ephesians 2:10)  He wanted me.  I have a new life in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17) and He has forgiven me of my sins.  I no longer have to search for something to fill that hole inside of me to make me feel better.  He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of me and fill that space. (Acts 2:38)  When I feel down - He is always there - He will never leave me.  (Deut. 31:8)  I am completely accepted by Him through Jesus - so I never have to worry when I am rejected by others.  I have confidence through Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

This is just a bit of what God says about me.  You know what?  He says it about you, too!  Check out this list of truth - it's one that I love reading over and instilling in myself and my kids whenever I get a chance.  Who I Am In Christ.  <---Click on it.

As I was tucking Emily into bed last week, she asked me if I had ever been bullied when I was her age.  I shared my entire story with her.  I also was able to tell her that what those kids at school say about her is not who she is.  She is defined by her Maker and He says wonderful things about who she is.  I was so in awe of God's timing.  I had to prepare and share 'my story' to a group of ladies at church for a leadership group.  Just a few days later I had the opportunity to share with Emily and pray for those who are treating her meanly.  Then I shared again during a women's Bible study last week how I had developed a fear of rejection and how God helped me overcome it.  He is giving me some opportunities to practice.  "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."  (1 Peter 3:15)  He asked me to prepare and He will guide me in the rest.

No matter what junk is in your past, God can use it to grow you and shape you and to help others.  He can turn the pain into joy and the tears into laughter.  "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5).  I've seen it first hand and I want you to experience it too!  You can be created anew, too!

I encourage you to check out this video on youtube that a sweet sister in Christ sent after I shared in my Bible study last week:  Video about God's Love