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!!!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

for His glory

It's hard to understand why bad things happen. Why do people go through disease and suffering? Especially God followers. You'd think that God would keep you from those things once you decide to follow Him, but, from what I've seen, that's not the case.

I always struggled with passages like Jeremiah 18:3-6:
'So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, "Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.'
And Romans 9:20-24:
'But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?'
And Isaiah 45:9
'"Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or 'Your work has no handles'?' 
And then I saw the movie Born to Win. If you haven't seen it, you ought to. It's the true story about Leon, a boy who was abandoned by his parents in South Africa, then was taken away from the one person he was taken in by simply because he was white. He was given back to his mom and abusive step-father, grew up, and went to college to become a teacher. He ends up working in Carpe Diem school for the disabled. Because of his abusive childhood, he drinks too much and isn't a good father/husband. He gives his life to Christ and things seem to turn around. But, there's a struggle to understand why bad things happen-why people suffer. At the school, there's a girl without legs, rejected by her parents because of it. A paralyzed man who feels like he is useless and ought to commit suicide because what else is he good for? These among others. And they're all searching for answers.

The pinnacle of the movie is when everything seems to come crashing down in Leon's life, and his faith wavers. 'Where is God in all of this,' he wonders.

Where is God indeed when His people suffer? Why do we suffer?

We've all heard of Job's story. He had everything going for him, and then it all came crashing down. But, why? Despite his lack of understanding, he stood firm. In Job 2:10, he says his wife, who is telling him to curse God and die,"Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

Until I saw Born to Win, I didn't understand much of what I just referenced. So, bear with me as I try to express what is in my heart/mind, hoping that I've not taken anything out of context....

We are born to win. Souls. Each one of us is born to win the souls of others. And the things we go through are, I believe, for His glory. If I wouldn't have gone through abuse and all the other things I've gone through, I would not be able to relate to others just like me. And because I can relate to them, I can tell them the truths that I know-that I've learned-to bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ.

This doesn't mean I'm glad that I was abused, because of course I wish I hadn't been. But I know that God is going to use it for His glory. He made each of us the way we are, and has maybe allowed the things we've gone through, because He has a purpose for us that is far greater than what we can see in our limited understanding.

Does this mean He initiates evil? Absolutely not. He is good and all good things come from Him (James 1:17). He is not like man (Numbers 23:19) and He does not do evil (James 1:13). He does not sin. But, in the case of Job, He allows things to happen (Job 1:6-12). And it's for His glory, if we'll allow Him to use us.

I am the clay and He is the potter. And however He sees fit to use me to bring glory to His name, I say so be it. If that means I get sick, so be it. If that means I die, so be it. If that means...so be it. I say this because I know He has a plan for me that He calls good (Jer. 29:11) and I know that He will use everything for my good (Rom. 8:28). And my life is to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7).

He doesn't need my permission, however. Did He ask Job? Of course not. He's God. He can do whatever He wants. But He isn't cruel. He doesn't do things just to watch us cringe. He is purposeful. Loving. Sovereign. And I need to submit to His will, whatever it may be, because again, I'm to bring Him glory.

As Christians, people are watching. People are watching our walk. And they are watching how we, as God followers, respond to the things that happen to us. And perhaps how we respond could bring them to Christ, or further drive them away. But, what will I show to a world that is so in need of Christ? Will they see Christ in me? Will they see His glory?

Here I am, Lord. Use me for Your glory.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Washed by the Water

The other day I was doing the dishes. Mom and I had made cookies and I was rinsing the bowl we used to mix the dough. As I rinsed it, for some reason I paid attention to the process. I let the water run over the dirty places, and watched in awe as it washed away the leftover dough. It just washed away. The water made it clean; as if nothing had ever been in it to begin with.

And I realized that this is what Jesus offers. He offers water that washes away all my dirtiness. He makes me clean. He Himself washes me, just as I washed the bowl. And it's beautiful. It's because of nothing I've done. I'm dirty. The bowl was dirty. But I needed it to be clean for another use. God needs me to be clean for another use. He has a purpose for me for which I need to be clean. But it's because He wants to use me.

We are washed by the water and all our dirtiness washes away. And it's beautiful.