Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hope admist grief

Today I would have been married nine years.
We never even celebrated a single anniversary, our lives being thrown into an unusual chaos before we could. (
When I had to suddenly move ten months into our marriage my packing and cleaning led to hours of being huddled over the garbage sobbing as the top layer of my wedding cake was thrown in the trash, considered waste instead of being enjoyed.
My wedding pictures are also filled with the greatest loss I have endured, one I haven’t begun to share with you: my brother passed away years ago. So both my husband and David are gone.

Still, it is hard for me to mourn today because without that tragedy I may never have made my way to Jesus.
In my Bible study time today God led me to dig deeper into the human concept of time and to words written by three of the greatest men of faith: King David, Moses and Paul. Men after God’s heart, equipped and empowered to be far greater than they ever imagined and completely made new by Christ’s redeeming power.
King David wrote, Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
  Remind me that my days are numbered—
  how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
  at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalm 39:4-5 NLT
Why would David ask God to be reminded of his human frailty? I love what my Quest NIV Study Bible says, “Such a reminder encourages people to make the most of their time. We are able to live with greater clarity and purpose when we face the reality of death.” I am so grateful that God allowed me this insight when my faith journey was just beginning, that my failed marriage and my now terminal lung condition are a reminder of how precious and limited our time on earth is. I fail God many days, I once wrote and called myself a slayer (  of time but each morning no matter if I have an active day out in the world or I am home resting I know the only way to start the day the Lord has given me is in His word so I am full of His truth, power and strength. If I wouldn't have had my intimate time with Jesus this morning the memory of my wedding would have sent me into a tailspin of grief but instead my sorrow was momentary and led me to share with you my victory and not my failure.
While in the wilderness Moses commits himself and the people God put in his charge back to God and calls out in prayer for mercy and grace as they lived out their short lives: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NLT.
It is about to get PG up in here: life can suck. The circumstances of my marriage were completely out of my control, I could very easily be bitter and angry that such heartache happened to me but instead I embrace that the trials we face grant us the privilege of honoring and glorifying God by living out the love, mercy, grace, redemption and forgiveness that He provides for us. This choice is not easy but Paul’s words inspire me, “Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count.”
My Pastor, Roger from Heartland Community Church used the verses we read today and a couple more in his message this past weekend, “Making the most of your time.” Roger gave us three tips:
  1. Number your days
  2. Embrace Today
  3. Engage God and others
    He also posed this challenge, “Pretend you can time travel. Make a simple list of what you wish you had done differently last week. Then, do it this week” Last week I spent my entire weekend in false recovery mode, instead of cuddling up on the couch or in bed with a great book or watching a sermon I made a terrible trade and spent my precious time on a binge HULU session. This weekend I will once again have activity that drains my body but I will NOT make that terrible trade when I am in recovery mode again. How about you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

HOPE in weakness

7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10The Message (MSG)
From my August 29, 2015 Blog:
“The night I was saved by Grace also happened to be my first of many trips to the emergency room for my now terminal lung condition. God had been restoring my HOPE as I fell in love with Him but that night as the chest pains increased, my breathe decreased and panic was on the verge of setting in; I was left wondering if my new faith was useless. After the year I had with my abusive, mentally ill husband I could have easily believed that my medical troubles were divine retribution.”

I had a choice: I could both cower in fear and be miserable or I could dig into God’s word to be equipped and empowered to face each day with a thankful heart and a confident faith. So, I started digging in and wouldn’t you know it God provides guidance, direction, knowledge,
compassion and understanding on each page of the Bible. As I read Apostle Paul’s letter I saw my own desperation for relief and understanding and I saw the answer to my troubles: gladness and cheer. Gladness through a HOPEful, positive outlook had been what I had strived for my whole life and that gladness was fueled by my own strength. Now my gladness is rooted in God’s strength through the power of Christ and in the gift of Grace.
These verses also provided freedom to question, doubt and struggle with the “thorn” in my side as long as I was handing it all over to God so I could continually be healed and be made whole. I felt free to worship and praise God even as my right lung collapsed and eventually stopped working. I had freedom to rejoice in the day I was given and not worry if I would wake up the next day because I would arise: either here on earth or in Heaven. I had freedom to shout my joy and peace in the Lord because these verses had provided me concrete evidence that God is love, God provides and He is always near.
As my body continues to fail me these verses help me answer the toughest question we can ask ourselves, “what is the worst case scenario?” The worst thing that can happen is not that I die in my 30s but that I stop living the life God has provided before it is truly over.
I must live out the HOPE I have from God’s gift of grace.
I have shared with you my struggles and failings. I have this knowledge, I have a strong faith and am madly in love with Jesus but I am still human. I do have all the answers I will ever need this side of Heaven because I have the book of LIFE at my fingertips and so do YOU.

From my journal, October 19, 2015:
“Mouth pain is the worst God, please help me if I am meant to endure it, help me to accept that and embrace the lesson it is meant to be. I am all Yours Jesus - I want to honor, worship and glorify you through the pain.”

Laura Story’s song, “Blessings” brings 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to life for me.

Monday, October 19, 2015

HOPEful even in the pain

“A relationship with Jesus is not difficult. It is one simple truth: a choice.
In desperation, we find Him. And, to remain connected to His life-giving comfort, counsel and peace, we must choose to fill our minds with the truth.
Daily, we must choose to believe the Word and embrace the truth that Christ lives in us through the miracle of His powerful Holy Spirit.”
~ Linda Kuhar in #WorthyofaMiracle

In my everyday struggle to have enough breathe and energy for the day I don’t often experience physical pain. When I say, “my lungs hurt” that hurt rarely means pain and more a feeling of pressure and heaviness from within.
When times of extreme pain set in prayer and time with God always give me strength and enough healing to not let the pain overwhelm me.
Last year at this time I had incredible pain in both hands but carpel tunnel surgery on both completely healed me - despite the doctor’s doubts it would; my God needed my hands for the calling He place on my life. Occasionally the bursitis on my right hip causes pain but recently essential oils have greatly decreased that issue and before simple things like aloe and stretching helped keep the pain from distracting me.
But then there are days like today when the pain is so great it wakes me early morning and overcomes me. I don’t handle pain in my mouth, sinuses or ears well. My aggravation level and frustration factor are off the charts. I even turned OFF Scripture because I found comfort in nothing. I can’t remember the last time I turned off Scripture. I didn’t turn to anyone for prayer; instead I isolated and stewed in the pain. Every struggle I have with my health is because of my lungs and today that devastated me. The very thing that helps my lung to function causes my teeth to degrade and I lost a tooth to an infection I had years ago and that causes those weakened teeth to shift and when those two things collide I am in this place.
In spite of my pain and amidst my pity party I had a choice to make.
After two hours of sobs, pleas with God, pacing and failed attempts to fall back to sleep I started my day off with a poor choice:I traded a momentary pleasure (watching my favorite TV show) over my morning time with Jesus which of course led to guilt but before the guilt sunk in the enemy delivered and I ended up falling asleep for a few more hours but awoke with guilt and the pain had returned.
However, GOD gave me a fresh start to my day which provided me a chance to make the right choice to start my day with God.
The momentary pleasure had given me relief but it had not filled me up and given me HOPE, strength or peace for my day. So I chose my morning time with Jesus and while I found little physical comfort which robbed me from enjoying my cuddle time with Jesus I was able to speak the Scripture God laid out for me but I did not stop to celebrate that victory, instead I pushed forward toward my original plan for the day which led to my second poor choice. Because I had invited my dear friend Linda over to hang out and break bread, something we haven't been able to do in a few weeks and I miss her, I hurried through my morning Jesus time, didn’t get my journal prayers in so I could get the roast in the slow cooker and then chose another momentary pleasure and watched yet another TV show while I ate breakfast and missed out on a live teaching from Nicki Koziarz which could have been my third wise choice of the day.
One of the most difficult parts of living with a chronic illness is that you are often unreliable. I have to cancel plans, usually last minute because I refuse to heed God’s and my body's warnings that I am pushing too hard. I did that today but when I finally sat down with my Journaling Devo and filled the pages of my prayer journal with praise, repentance, acknowledgment, intercession, supplication and asked for God to equip and empower me in everything all with a thankful heart I realized He was asking me to slow down and stop. He was telling me I had spent the day ignoring what He had for me: a fresh start, being able to speak His words while others have been too painful, that I have a friend like Linda (and so many others) who understands I only cancel when I have to and when I reached out to her and asked for prayer the pain lessened greatly.
Tomorrow I will share with you how the verses I shared today strengthened me and provided peace that even on a bad day like today I stand firm on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

HOPE in King David’s confession…

Yesterday I confessed how poor choices led to my Spiritual slump and concluded my post saying:
This January I will be saved for seven years, up until this past month I had never experienced a Spiritual slump, as I grew in my faith and fell deeper in love with Jesus I thought it would never happen. I was wrong and I think I understand humility better now than I ever could before. Why wouldn’t I have a Spiritual slump, even King David chose the pleasures in front of Him over God and he was a man after God’s own heart.

    Today we are going to take a deeper look at David’s poor trade of pleasure over God’s calling for his life. Pastor of Life.Church Craig Groeschel writes, “No one would’ve predicted the Goliath killer would end up so far from God that he’d shrink his royal duties, have an affair with a married woman, and have his lover’s husband killed. Sadly, it’s surprisingly easy to lose our enthusiasm. All you really have to do - is forget where it comes from. Forgetting God is easy, but it has the saddest consequences. Today, choose to focus on Him so you don’t forget how exciting it is to run toward His calling.” You can find the whole sordid tale of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.
    David didn’t immediately recognize the error of his ways and repent, he was like most all of us are stubborn and reluctant until a trusted advisor, confidant and friend went to David and spoke hard truths to him. David’s eventual confession and groans of repentance are written as Psalm 51. As I was studying Psalm 51 I realized one of my favorite worship leaders, Travis Cottrell (he just follows Beth Moore herself around the country) also sings the hymn, “Just as I am” which was written as a reflection of Psalm 51 and, of course, I  share the beautiful cover below.
    God knew I needed to hear the messages from yesterday more than once which is why He had me read these words today in the MSG version of Psalm 51, “Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.” Yesterday one of my major revelations was that God did not only breathe life into us He is also the breath of life! The MSG version also states, “I learned God worship when my pride was shattered.” These past few weeks and having to confess my sloth and spiritual slump to my dearest friends was the most humbling experience of my life but I feel refreshed, renewed and ready to worship God by living as His servant and obeying His call on my life.
    Even at my worst over the last 6.5 years of my faith journey I have never lost HOPE, I have failed and grieved God, I have been hurt and sinned gravely but my HOPE has always been left standing. I believe the only reason that is possible is because I embrace confession. I know that when my fleshly instincts have me isolating what God needs me to do is reach out for help. I know that no matter how deep my pit may be that God’s light shines brightly as my beacon of HOPE, lighting my path to confession and repentance.  The Bible is many things but one of the most powerful aspects is that it is a treasure map leading us to HOPE by giving us a guide for how to do life and gives us people\characters to relate to that both fail and succeed.
In my quest to overcome addictions God placed two Spirit driven recovery programs in my path: Celebrate Recovery (CR) and Re:Generation. Victory over addictions cannot happen unless you confess and repent. Principle four of eight in CR states, “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God and to someone I trust. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ Matthew 5:8.” Re:Gen’s step 5 states, “We confess to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of ours sins.” Re:Gen’s foundation 4 is Psalm 51:6, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

    Is there something you are keeping to yourself but you can feel the Spirit moving you to confess? Are you hiding out or behind a mask? Are you afraid no one will understand? Have you been hurt before by confessing to mere humans? Bethany Boring a #P31OBS sister shared this yesterday, “Stop and breathe in the breath of God! No matter where you are or what the circumstances are. See God in the stillness and chaos of life.” Maybe you still doubt; she is human too after all but look what was waiting for me as I studied our Psalm today, again from the MSG version, “Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” Oh, I should probably tell you she was speaking of Genesis when she asked us to stop and take God’s breath in! Will you join me in finding and strengthening your HOPE today by confessing to God and someone else exactly what is going on with you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

HOPE in confession

Dearest Reader,
I have been stuck in a guilt and shame spiral that has left me feeling isolated and frustrated and so paralyzed by it I haven’t written here in weeks.
 I have a list of excuses that I am sure most of you would sympathize with, understand,  encourage me through and comfort me as well but the truth is I let those excuses define me for weeks and that label limited my perspective to one of defeat. I was not living my HOPE message out; I was not relying on God’s strength and power to respond to the calling He has laid on my heart.
Recently Lysa TerKeurst wrote, “Don’t give up what you want long term for what feels good short term. Avoid the terrible trade.” I chose to make that terrible trade EVERY day for the past FOUR weeks. I would do the bare minimum to feel connected to the God who made the universe, who created every creature on this planet and fashioned the stars. I chose lying around on the couch, watching MINDLESS TV and shutting my mind off. I actually entertained this thought, “I spend more time with You every morning than most people do in a week. We are connected, I am serving with #P31OBS, I don’t have any truly terrible vices anymore so why can’t I just chillax.” BUT GOD – He is always present, always near, always patient and loving and full of Grace and Mercy.
          When I got home from my amazing Joyce Meyer #JesusGals weekend I was on fire for God in a way I had not experienced before, I had a treasure chest of truth and love opened for me that weekend but I came home and reverted back to an old bad habit and made a terrible trade! While I have made major changes to my life because of my most recent #P31OBS #TameYourList study I traded the most important change for emptiness. I knew it was happening, my last couple Blog posts were written from a place of hopeful desperation. I wanted to believe I would do the right thing, I wanted to turn to God to break me of the old bad habit starting to form again, I thought I had enough Holy fear of disappointing God and my writing accountability partner that I would push though the temptation. But it didn’t happen. Instead I stood (rather lounged around) in my own way. I was not sick enough to completely check out for more than a few days, however, I don’t anyone to think that those of us who are chronically ill can just will themselves to feel better but I know what I should have accomplished even if I was too sick to write. I could have at least filled most of my time with worship music, had a book in hand as I laid back. I could have listened or watched sermons and messages to FILL Me up and not empty me. The sort of TV I was watch drains me and keeps me from glorifying God even when I am ill.  
Last night as I went through my end of the day rituals: brushing my teeth, taking meds, washing my face, filling ice trays and water glasses, shutting off the lights, filling my sleep machine with fresh distilled water, applying essential oils to help manage my breathing and mucus issues and finally crawled into bed to have my nightly Jesus time I was feeling a pull in my heart. I was FINALLY ready to turn to God and let Him stretch me, mold me, use me and cleanse me. I clicked on my YouVersion APP and read cleansing words that convicted me in the most freeing way and a message became clear over the next ten hours as I woke up for a morning Jesus, wrote a lengthy entry in my prayer journal for the first time in four weeks. As I dialed in for #P31OBS ministry all call I was ready to sit down and write but I knew God was calling me to confess what I had been hiding for a month: I was breathing stale air, and I certainly understand how vital a breath of fresh, clean air can be. I had not stopped to breathe in God but had just stopped spiritually breathing. God has given me a great faith, a faith that is excited and most of the time on fire for Him but I had stopped being enthusiastic for my God and just wanted it to happen for me. Even though I have had so many rewards and blessings showered upon me the past few months I had stopped dreaming and being in AWE of my God. I was riddled with guilt and shame because of it which sets me on a merry-go-round sort of life: going somewhere but getting nowhere! I relied on the passion I HAD for God’s word to get me through the last week of my #P31OBS study and #BibleStudyLive but once that was used up I had not replaced it with a continued passion.
This January I will be saved for seven years, up until this past month I had never experienced a Spiritual slump, as I grew in my faith and fell deeper in love with Jesus I thought it would never happen. I was wrong and I think I understand humility better now than I ever could before. Why wouldn’t I have a Spiritual slump, even King David chose the pleasures in front of Him over God and he was a man after God’s own heart.  
I still have my 24 blog goal to meet by November 8th ; my slothfulness has made that goal difficult but not impossible. I will be back to share more of King David’s story tomorrow and how my HOPE is renewed in my confession today and by humility.

    I have my local worship station playing and two songs have jumped out to me as I was writing. The first is my favorite song of all time, I get God-bumps every time I hear it and have a catch in my throat each time I sing it. I love the second song because it is spot on - from the title on, it is what we Believe!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Journey of HOPE: Hope in Celibacy

I have shared with you that I am a recovering addict and I didn’t have just one vice, no I was a multiple vice kinda gal: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and men.
Because of God's redemptive work in me and through His strength I have been clean and sober from all of these vices for years.
Each of these issues was a separate battle to sobriety and I often say that cigarettes was the hardest to break and even though I only have one functioning lung and spend most days so exhausted and out of breathe I can’t leave the house I would have another drag if I really knew I only had a few moments left on earth. The truth is men were the hardest to quit. I never cared for relationships, I have seen my share of love gone wrong; instead I loved the chase, being able to enthral a man through my sharp wit, beautiful face and interesting life experiences. However, I never cared much for the physicality of men, for sex. I was technically a virgin until I was 24 and it was mostly because I liked the control it gave me over men. I would only let things go so far and then would watch them suffer. I never planned or wanted to be married, I never experienced that part of growing up where I obsessed about Mr. Right and nor dreamt about my wedding day. To me love meant failure, abuse, conditions, confusion and pain. I never imagined a man would come along and save me either; it was me against the world.
However, when my marriage fell apart in such a colossal, albeit unique way and even though I had opened myself up to Jesus and started a relationship with Him the first 22 months of my relationship with Jesus I was my most salacious. I went from finding love in a way I never thought possible after spending most of my life punishing my conquests for the failings of the men in my life to losing that love and then letting men use me. I knew exactly what I was doing and why, I knew that I wanted to be chastised for the life I had lived, for failing my husband and baby brother who also finally had a man in his life he loved and trusted. My brother died never knowing what had really happened between Mark and I because I was that desperate to keep my brother from being devastated by yet another man. Because I love to learn I knew what I was doing with my body was devastating to my Lord, I would spend hours, sometimes even overnight in a heap of guilt, shame and tears on my kitchen floor afterwards. My behavior was so over the top my first home church and my small group\Bible Study asked me to leave until I changed my behavior and them first and then God.
I walked into Heartland Community Church October 2010 with this scarlet letter A on me but I was also desperate to get out of that sin cycle. I wanted a real relationship with Jesus, I wanted what I had read about in His word to be true for me, I wanted to honor and glorify Him with my body and life. I knew that I was being deceived and wanted that liar out of my life. That first Sunday Pastor Roger Pryor’s message was on Luke 15:1-2 and how Jesus hung out with, ate with and ministered to sinners; even tax collectors and prostitutes and I certainly felt like a prostitute at that point in my life. Less than a month later I was in two new small groups\life groups\Bible studies and even though it was not in her character to call someone out in front of others my leader looked at me and said, “I know you are hiding something, God wants you to confess and promises we won’t abandon you because He hasn’t.” I confessed that night and in my other life group found my first ever forever friend and accountability partner and as Heaven and God rejoiced over my confession and with the help of those new friends, a Christian Counselor and a magnificent God who redeems, forgives, love and offers grace and mercy I ended my last sexual relationship. I still struggled with flirting, was confused at the promise of unrequited love - it took another year of dying to myself every second of every day, digging deep into Scripture and accepting God’s forgiveness before I hear God’s calling on my life: celibacy.
The time I have left on earth is more precious to me than to most, while God is capable of healing me completely now I truly feel He has given me this time limit for a reason. I am due home sooner than the world deems acceptable. I don’t always do a great job of utilizing this time I have, I have wasted days “resting” while I let the TV play mindless garbage. I have harbored unforgiveness for my past and toward my family or origin and to others who have hurt me more recently. I still even struggle with doubt even though I know I am chosen, anointed, appointed, equipped, loved and God’s child. Because of the shortened time I have celibacy means more to me than just abstaining from sex or marriage for the rest of my life. Celibacy frees me to truly be married to Jesus, to be free of the worldly desire to find love because I am already more loved than I ever dreamed about as a child. It allows me to be Christ’s bride every day, to wake up each morning and know that my husband protected and renewed me as I slept, is waiting anxiously for me to wake up so we can have glorious time together before I face the world and it has freed me from the social pressures of being a single, 30 something gal.
I do not think celibacy is the answer for every single\divorced\widower out there but my journey to celibacy began as a calling to purity. I set a boundary for myself and commitment to God that I would not actively engage with men for a set period of time and knew my interactions with men would be limited to group settings and that I had to be completely transparent with my accountability partner, and God gave me tough but loving accountability partner! I wore a purity ring during that first year everyday as physical reminder of my commitment that says, “Today, I promise I will wait agreeing to stay pure, because I know God loves me and His blessings is in store.” I had never been with a Godly man, had never experienced a romantic relationship that the Lord had set up and I knew I first had to be pure, in preparation for the possibility of that experience before I ever would be ready for any man the Lord may have for me. Instead of being made right for just any man I was being made right for Jesus.
As I spend time with Jesus and pray over what to write about, knowing that God wants me to share my journey of HOPE with you I realized that my HOPE was most strengthened by my choice and God’s calling of celibacy on my life. That I have never loved myself more (even though i still have my moments of doubt), wake up each morning feeling God’s presence right there in bed with me and love life, which until three years ago had never felt before. I woke up most every morning disgusted with myself, not feeling I should waste the space on this planet and wishing I had never woken up.
Is there something God is calling you to give up that will strengthen your relationship with Jesus but  you just can’t imagine living without? Something that even seems crazy? I know when I use the word celibacy in conversation with those who don’t my testimony their eyes go wider and their mouths drop+ a bit. Hear me, it isn’t crazy as the world defines it - it is radical obedience to the one who gave His life to be in relationship with you!

“I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” Romans 7:15-24 The Message