Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I know Him!!!!!!"

If you've seen the movie, 'Elf', you'll know about Buddy's love and obsession with Santa and Christmas. Everywhere he goes, he makes it look like Christmas, decorating the place way more than any of us would or could be able to. And with that, this post just took on more than I intended.

In the scene where the manager of the toy shop makes the announcement that Santa will be coming the next morning, Buddy loses it completely. He is so excited that Santa is coming that he bursts out in exclamations that he knows him. If you're not familiar with it, here's a quick clip from the scene I'm referring to:

Buddy has spent time with Santa. He knows what he likes and dislikes. He knows how he operates. He knows how he runs his workshop. Buddy knows Santa. He knows him intimately. And it shows in his excitement that he knows him. He passionately says, "I know him!" Buddy has a personal relationship with Santa.

Do I know Christ like Buddy knows Santa? Do I know what He likes and dislikes? Do I know how He operates? Do I know how he prefers His world to run? Do I know Him intimately?

And if I do know Jesus, does it show in my emotions? Do I get excited when I hear someone talking about the Jesus that I know? Do I passionately let others know that I know Him? Do I have that personal relationship with Jesus in which I can honestly say, "I know Him! I know Him so intimately and deeply and personally"?

The next thing I mentioned in the beginning of this post is how Buddy makes it look like Christmas everywhere he goes. This is nothing I intended to put in this post. But, here is it. And it is applicable for me as a Christian. 

Related imageBuddy is an elf. I'm a Christian. Buddy loves Christmas. I love Christ's Kingdom. Buddy brings Christmas wherever he goes. Do I bring Christ's Kingdom wherever I go? Buddy spreads Christmas cheer ("The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear"). Do I spread Christ's light? Do I bring all that represents Christ to those around me? Buddy left rooms changed, because of all his decorating. 

Do I leave places changed because of spreading the light of Christ? Do I spread the aroma of Christ wherever I go?


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Who knew that watching 'Elf' would bring about so many deep, spiritual questions to reflect upon. 
I'm glad it has, though. I want to be like Christ as much as is possible. I want to know Him as much as is possible. And I want others to know Him. 

Do you know Him? He wants to know you. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Following the Light

Never have I been so thankful for those reflectors separating the two lanes of traffic on the road as I was tonight.

As I began my 30 minute drive home from Bible study tonight, I felt a bit nervous. It was exceptionally dark and rainy, and my headlights aren't the brightest in the shop. But, as I began driving, I focused on those yellow reflectors, allowing them to guide me as to where the road was taking me. My nervousness gave way to confidence. The headlights from oncoming vehicles didn't bother me much, either, because I could still see the light. And the light shines brightest in the dark.

That is, until I turned down a road that lacked those reflectors. Then I grew quite cautious as I slowly made my way down the dark road. Any headlights from oncoming vehicles momentarily blinded me, causing me another moment of blindness after they passed, as my eyes adjusted back to the darkness from the flash of bright light. It was scary. I was afraid of losing control in the moments I couldn't see where the road was going. How I longed for those reflectors!

As I drove, God revealed to me that when I'm following Him, the Light, my way is illuminated, and I can go confidently down the path He has lit for me. When I'm following Him, any blinding lights that come from the opposite direction don't bother me, because I can still see the Light.

But, when I'm not following Christ, I walk in darkness. In the dark, it's easy to lose my way; to lose control. And the blinding lights that come at me, they cause confusion and insecurity, because I can't see where I'm going. They, too, can cause me to lose control and to lose my way.

I know that those little reflectors aren't lights. They just reflect the light. I'm so thankful that Jesus reflects the Father, the true Light. Jesus is the Light of the world. And I'm going to follow the Light all the way home.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sun-Dried, Sin-Dried

I recently started eating plant-based foods, refraining from animal and dairy products. It's been quite an adventure! I have found a lot of foods that I love, including sun-dried tomatoes. They're my absolute favorite-so delicious!

I've been sharing my meals and recipes on Facebook and in texts to friends. When I try to type 'sun-dried', my fingers must hit the wrong button, because it reads 'sin-dried'. My typo struck me as significant the first time I saw it, and it has hit me every time since.

Am I sin-dried? Has sin so dried me up that I'm delicious to my enemy? Scripture says in 1 Peter 5:8 that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Do I look enticing to him?

Am I so sin-dried that I can't absorb anything from Jesus? Another question I ask is, "What has sin dried up in me?" What is it God has put in me that sin has dried up, so that I'm not useful to the Kingdom of Light?

I'm not sure about sun-dried tomatoes, but I'm thankful that this sin-dried person can be re-hydrated by God's mercy, forgiveness, and love. First John 1:9 says that, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." In Psalm 32:1-5, David says in vs. 4 that his 'strength was sapped as in the heat of summer' when he kept silent about his sin. He was sin-dried. But, in vs 5, he says, 'Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord." And you forgave the guilt of my sin.' He was all dried up by sin, but when he confessed, he was re-hydrated by Christ's forgiveness.

The good news is that this can be our same reality today. So, are you sin-dried? Ready to be re-hydrated? If so, turn to Jesus today. He's waiting with arms open wide.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"I will be with you."

If you've been following, you know that I'm leaving with my team in about 2 weeks for Ecuador for a 12 day mission trip. You might also know I'm a bit freaked out. 

I've been talking to God about it. A lot. There are multiple things I'm nervous and anxious about. I think the main thing is me. Why did God pick me? Out of all the people, why broken, not put together, PTSD me? Why? What could He possibly want me for?

As I was asking these questions last night, He sent me to the story of Moses. You might remember Moses as the one who led the people out of Egypt. But he also was the one who talked back to God about not being an eloquent speaker (Exodus 4:10) That was the part God brought to my mind.

However, I decided to read from the beginning, when Moses hears God speaking to him through the burning bush. In Exodus 3:10, God says, "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But, in verse 11, Moses echoes my feelings when he says to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

Who am I that I should go?

Who am I? That's what I've been wrestling with. Who am I, Lord, that you would call me? What do you see in me, or what do you want to do through me, that you would call me to go? Who am I that I should go?
God answers him and me in the first part of verse 12: ‘And God said, "I will be with you."’

Really? 'I will be with you'? That's it? Nothing about how great Moses is or about what God saw in him or about who he was? Just, 'I will be with you'? 

Yeah. Really. 

Because Him being with Moses was enough. And Him being with me is enough. 

He is enough. 

I love that His answer to the question of, "Who am I that I should go?" is "I will be with you." Because in all reality, it's not about me. It's about Him. It's not about who I am. It's about who He is. And He will be with me. And that is enough. 

A lot of stuff has come up right before this trip and I'm disappointed. I wanted so badly to be okay. And I've been trying to be...and trying to be enough. But, I don't have to be enough, because He already is. And He's okay with me not being okay. 

So, I go with the confidence that He will be with me, no matter who I am or who I’m not, nor how ill-equipped I feel. He told Moses He would give him the words to speak and He would teach him (Exodus 4:12). Why would He do any less for me today? He has called me and He will equip me. He will be with me. And I’m pretty sure that’s a promise. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Alive

On April 28, 2015, I went for a walk. But, it wasn't just any walk. 

I don't remember what the issue was that day. But, I was angry about something. If I remember right, I decided to do a workout. That wasn't enough, so I went for a walk. But, like I said, it wasn't just any walk. 

I set out, having no idea where I was going, nor how far I would go. I walked along the 108 highway. Cars zoomed by. I felt the breeze from their passing. And I wanted to throw myself in front of one. Each one was so tempting. It would be so easy....

I was texting my mentor along the way...she was trying to convince me to stay safe. But, I didn't want to. I remember being sore from so much exercise and walking, and I remember seeing steep embankments on my left. Thoughts poured through my mind of throwing myself down one. I remember sitting on the side of the road, exhausted, staring down a bank...thinking...craving death. 

I got up and kept on, however, on this mad walk. I came to a bridge that ran over a road. I wanted to jump. I kept walking. A little farther down the highway, I finally turned around. On my way back up the highway, I came across the bridge again. Jumping was so tempting. I'd meet a concrete death. It'd be quick. Easy. 

And yet, I was afraid. I was afraid to jump in front of a car. Afraid to throw myself down an embankment. Afraid to jump off the bridge. I wanted to die, but, did I really? 

I kept walking, after stopping to look over the bridge and see the suicide video in my head replay multiple times, as it had done for each of the ways I thought I'd like to kill myself that day. I even texted my mentor about them...saying that I could do this, or that, so that I'd die. I'm not sure I even had a plan. I just didn't want to live. I just wanted the pain I was in to end. 

I texted a friend, and she pressed me to talk to Jesus. I told her I hated Him and I absolutely did NOT want to talk to Him. Funny thing is that I ended up talking to Him anyway. 

Either before I texted my friend, or after, I came into this gravel pull-off area. I wandered around and my eye happened to catch something on the ground. It was a butterfly with wings up, but dead. I stooped to the ground and shot some pictures with my phone. The one below is my favorite from that day. 
Something about this butterfly captured me. Maybe it was something about it being dead, but still so beautiful, that grabbed me. Perhaps it was finding this beauty in my suicidal moment that made me realize how precious life is. Whatever it was, it was enough to capture my heart when nothing else would. It calmed me. Maybe it was the simple act of taking its picture, as I've found that photography is good therapy for me. But, no matter what it was, it captured me, though I'm not exactly sure why. 

I felt connected to the butterfly. Sad for it. It was so beautiful, yet dead. That's how I felt: dead. I felt I had no life in me. No joy. Maybe I felt so connected to this butterfly because it helped me access an emotion: sad. 

This morning in church, a song was played. It's called 'Clean' by Natalie Grant. The second verse caught my attention. 
What was dead now lives againMy heart's beating, beating inside my chestOh I'm coming alive with joy and destinyCause You're restoring me piece by piece
Tears came as these words were sung. I remembered how dead I used to be. I remembered how I had no joy and I didn't believe I had a future. I had no hope of restoration, either. And I felt I wanted to die.

But all that changed when I met the real Jesus, rather than the Jesus I had perceived in my head. I had claimed to be a Christian since I was 6. But I didn't really know Jesus. I didn't know Him personally. So, I got to know Him. I sought out His character in the Gospels. I asked Him to show me who He is apart from my distorted view of Him. And He did. I found Him. I got to know Him.

He has made this dead heart beat again. I now live again. And I'm coming more and more alive with joy and destiny the more I seek Him and let Him touch my heart. He really is restoring me piece by piece. It's amazing to watch Him bring me to life.

I'm no longer that beautiful, dead butterfly. I'm alive. And I'm fluttering my wings and flying where the wind of His Holy Spirit takes me. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Walking on Water

Lately I've been walking on water.

Okay, not really...only figuratively speaking. I've been keeping my eyes on Jesus and walking on the waters that threaten to take me under. It's been wonderful!

And then last night I started to sink. I momentarily took my eyes off of Jesus and put them on my fears. Even a glimpse was enough to make Peter sink. It was for me, too.

I'm going to Ecuador in June, which you would know if you've read any of my last few posts. And up until now, I've kept my eyes on Jesus. But then last night, my eyes caught sight of something else. Questions. Doubts. Fears. and it all made me want to back out of the trip. It made me want to say 'No' to the calling I feel God has set before me.

But then His hand reached out for mine, and I grabbed hold. He pulled me up from under the waves. I'm walking again, but have to be careful to keep my eyes on Him.

What grabbed my attention? Sleep. fears about sleep. I struggle with sleep at times. It's a vulnerable time for me because of the things that happened in my past. My fear is wondering if I'll be able to sleep okay in Ecuador. Will I be able to sleep without my pillow? my weighted blanket? my safety blanket? music?

And when I looked at those things, I sank. Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus means trusting Him. completely. without question. abandoning reality, in a sense. Colossians 2:17 says that 'the reality, however, is found in Christ.' Maybe I'm taking the verse out of the context of what it's really talking about, but I love it no matter. Because really, the reality is found in Christ. My reality is found in Him. He sees the big picture. He goes before and behind, and surrounds me on all sides. He knows about my sleep issues. My sleep issues are my reality. But He is bigger than all of that. And He has called me. And the reality is that He gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2). I can lie down and sleep in peace, for He alone makes me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8). And the sleep of a laborer is sweet (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

I believe that God can do anything. Nothing is too hard for Him (Jer. 32:27, Gen. 18:14, Luke 18:27). My sleep issue is not too big for Him. He can take care of it so that sleep is no longer an issue.

So I'm going to trust Him. I'm going to keep walking on the waters with Him, keeping my eyes fixed on Him. And if I get distracted by something else, I'll reach out for His hand, because He'll be reaching for mine. And I'll remind myself of the reality that is found in Him. And I'll keep walking.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Happiest of Father's Days

I hate Father's Day.

Well, I used to hate it.

I'm sure I was among the many ranks of people who hated that dreaded day: the day fathers are to be celebrated. My father was abusive sexually, physically, emotionally, mentally...He was demeaning, hurtful, and, because of his abusive actions, absent. What was there to celebrate? That day was a reminder of what I'd lost and missed out on because of what he did....it was a day I dreaded.

When I was young enough to be in kid's church, we would make gifts for our fathers on that day. I had no one to give mine to. It only fueled my hate for that day even more. One year in college, I spent the day with a family who had a father. I cried the entire day. It was another painful reminder of what I'd never had.

People would tell me that I had God as my father, but I struggled there, too. I had a distorted view of Him as father because of my experience with my earthly one. It was hard for me, and uncomfortable, to call Him dad or father. I hated it. And He wasn't tangible like an earthly father was. I wanted that most of all.

College was the hardest time to not have a dad. It was the time I felt the loss and recognized it most. Perhaps it was because I was among other people away from their dads and I heard their discussions about them. I heard conversations about things their dads had sent them or said to them, and various other things regarding their dads. One bathroom conversation I overheard hurt a lot. I felt like God was asking me to talk to Him about it, but I didn't want to. It was too painful. I spent time in the prayer room that night anyway, crying and trying to talk to Him, but I was still so far away from Him. I thought I was close, but my heart was far away, guarded.

I tried looking for dads in Christian men from my churches. I was just so desperate for one and for what I had lost. I was in a lot of pain. In 2010, I met my dad. I had hope that maybe we could have what never was. I soon discovered it wasn't possible, and again felt hurt and anger. Two years later, I moved to California and found yet another 'dad'. In actuality, he saw and preyed upon my vulnerabilities of desiring a dad. He appeared to be good, but ended up causing a lot of hurt and pain, as well as confusion. It was another betrayal by someone who should have been safe. My desire for a dad had to be stopped, I thought. I was angry that I wanted a dad. It seemed to only cause pain.

Sometime after this hurtful incident, I was encouraged by a friend to read the Gospels to find out who Jesus is. I needed to know who He was...the truth...apart from my distorted view of Him. So, I embarked on a journey to find Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." That is a true promise.

I spent months reading through the Gospels. My friend suggested I start in John, so I did. I read John, then worked backwards to Matthew. With each book, each chapter, and really each verse, I sought to find who Jesus really was. I kept a notebook with me, and when I read something that suggested who He was, or gave words to His character, I wrote it down. By the end of each book, I had a list of chapters and verses of who Jesus is. And because I know who Jesus is, I can know who God is (John 14:7, 9) because Jesus reflects His Father (Heb.1:3).

It was amazing to see the real Jesus apart from my distorted beliefs about Him. He wasn't who I thought He was. He was kinder, safe and safe in His loving (not wanting sex from me, unlike my earthly dad), gentle, slow to anger...I saw that He was safe in his righteous anger. When He overturned the money tables in the temple, He didn't hurt anyone. He controlled His anger. That was something my father never did. I learned as a young child that when people are angry, I get hurt. But, that's not the case with my Heavenly Father. God should have been very angry with me and punished me severely, but Jesus took the wrath that was mine when He died on the cross. He took it so that God wouldn't be angry with me. He also took my punishment. If He wouldn't have, I'd have to be severely punished (banishment to Hell).

I mentioned that after I moved to California, I found another father figure in a church I was attending. When the events that lead to my no longer being in relationship with him and his family happened, I was perhaps more broken than before. It threatened my already shaky relationship with God. But, in the midst of the hurt, pain, and confusion, I found a truth that I clung to for dear life. It is that God's thoughts about, for, and towards me are pure, holy, and full of love and grace. To know that He doesn't think about me in a sexual way was and is huge. It helped me see Him, perhaps for the first time, apart from man. It helped me to see Him as good and safe, rather than as another wolf in sheep's clothing as I had just experienced.

Since reading through the Gospels, I've continued to grow and learn about God. And He has pursued me throughout it all, even the times I've hated Him and told Him so. I find hearts everywhere, in all forms. It's a bit ridiculous the hearts I find. But, to me it's God's way of saying He loves me...that He's here...that He sees me. He has also done so many amazing things that reveal His love for me. He has provided in crazy ways that have only grown my faith and trust in Him.

A huge part of this process has also been finding the truth about myself. Learning who I am in Christ, and the things He says about me, has been so imperative for my spiritual growth, as well as growth in all other areas. Fighting the lies has been so hard, but so worth it.

Recently, I've started calling Him 'Dad'. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Him. It's been a fight to get here, but one worth the battle. I never thought I'd be in this place with God. Because of all my struggles, it seemed impossible. And I had too much fear. My heart was walled up, and this relationship would mean that I'd have to let those walls down...unguard my heart...and my heart had been wounded so many times that I was afraid to trust. My heart said, "Won't He let me down, too? Won't He hurt and abuse me?"

But, oh, what I have found since my walls have begun to crumble! He is good. He protects me. He will never let me down. He will never ever hurt or abuse me. He is not like man. He is a good, good Father. He is my Daddy. God is redefining that word for me. 'Dad' and 'Daddy' have been so tainted by pain, but He is changing that.

I'm following Jesus on a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador this summer. in June. And guess what? I'll be there on Father's Day. My Dad is taking me to work with Him on the day that is meant to celebrate Dads. I get to tell other kids about Him on that day...I get to tell them about my Dad. I'll be loving on kids who have been abused and abandoned, just like me. I don't want them to spend their lives like me, having distorted views of God their Father because of what their earthly fathers may have done. It's one reason I felt I needed to go on this trip. I have to tell them the truth. I have to tell them that we have a good, good Father who loves them so much more than their earthly fathers ever could have. And that He is good, and will never hurt them or abandon them.

When I realized I'd be in Ecuador around Father's Day, I so hoped I'd be there on that day. And I am. My team and I will be at church at Atucucho and will be doing a kids Sunday School. It's one day before leaving for home.

I can't even express what it means to me to be in Ecuador on Father's Day. I just know it's going to be the happiest of Father's Days ever. Me and my Dad...in Ecuador...on Father's Day....My heart rejoices and tears fill my eyes at the thought. This will be our first Father's Day together as true Father/Daughter. It's the first Father's Day I'm not dreading.

And I can't wait!!!!!