Monday, September 28, 2009

The Faith Poster

I thought I would quickly share my Faith Poster and tell a little bit about it.

After my first surgery in October of 2008 (the one that didn't work), I was hugely depressed and stuck in bed (I am still stuck in bed and it's now Sept 2009, but the depressed part is getting better, I think! But you never know from day to day....). I digress.

During this time, well intentioned friends brought me magazines to sift thru and hopefully lift my spirits. The silly magazines did the exact opposite! Are you kidding me? Seeing titles like "Creating A Happy Family Outing," "Get off the Couch and Blast Off That Belly Fat!" or worse yet, "Steam Up Your Sex Life!" all of which I was DYING to do, but physically couldn't drove me nuts! I'd huff and puff thru article after article, and end up I'd throwing the magazine to the floor with a vengence and start crying. SO......

I decided I needed something to positive to focus my mind. I decided to make a poster with pictures from these piles of magazines of all the things I was longing, hoping, praying for. And I did. It took me about 5 months to complete, because I was very specific about the pictures I chose. For most of what they represent, only I know the deeper meaning. If you want to know I'll be happy to tell you, just ask. I have the poster taped right by my bed and look at it all the time. It's now Sept of '09 and (wow, I just realized I've had that baby up for more than a year!) now it's just part of the decor! Seriously, visitors stop by and I don't even think to explain it anymore. Hmmmm, I wonder if they've been curious about it?! Surely they were and just didn't feel comfortable asking me to explain. Anyway,

Several times I have prayed about and for every single thing on there. The plan is to take it down when I am finally well and a lot of the pictures fulfilled. But as I've learned, my plans....well, I don't really make plans too much anymore. If it ever happens, it will be a bittersweet day. I'll have a song in my heart that my prayers have been answered but I'll be a little sad too. I've grown to love this little purple poster.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taking me up on it

Are there moments in life that made your relationship with God what it is now? Here's what I think of in my own journey:

1. Summer camp in Jr. High--On a dark night by a roaring campfire my heart was stirred to rededicate my life to Christ. After being saved at 5, for the first time I knew I wanted to live as a real Christian, "110%" as the speaker enthused! --"Take me out of my comfort zone, Lord!," I prayed as I went forward, and thru my stick in the fire. And when I told Him that, I really meant it!

2. Working at Disney--I read thru "Experiencing God" while I worked at Disney and lived in crazy college dorm-like circumstances. It was a powerful combination, the truths in that devotional along with being surrounded by party-time, all the time. I loved it, what God showed me while I was there. As I read thru the study, I came across a phrase that stood out like it was written in bold: "Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any tie, but the tie that binds me to Yourself." That phrase became my prayer and I cried it I out to God many times. Even now when I read it I think. WOW! that's an intense thing to ask for. But no matter what I wanted that to be a reality in my life. And I really meant it!

3. The Acting Bug: Doing theater for a living was my passion for years and years, and after college, I had doors opening wide to pursue it. I had thought if God ever asked me to give up this desire it would be too hard. But the only way I can describe how He spoke to me over the course of a few weeks in 2001, is that He painted a portrait and thru it showed me what to do. I had a powerful, life-long desire. Then God changed things. He didn't take away my love for theater, but in a peaceful way that left nothing to question, I knew clearly what He was saying:
He had more for me than the pursuit of this. He wanted me to lay down my talents and drive and let Him rebuild the next phase of my life.
And remarkably, it wasn't hard. I don't know when I've been more sure of what to do, and been more at peace (even happy) to do it. So, before a big performance (where recruits from New York were there), I knelt down with a grateful heart, and lifted my hands in prayer. I told God I trusted Him, and I sacrificed one of the hugest parts of myself (at the time) to Him. I promised that I trusted His ways are higher than mine. I told Him that if this was part of the journey of making me into His image, I was all in, even if it meant the sacrifice of my greatest desire.

4. Living Beyond Yourself: After Andrew and I moved to Florida our life became very real. Meaning real hard! The lonliness of leaving behind a life we loved, and rebuilding in a world so unlike Lynchburg was overwhelming. I literally had only one friend down here in those early days and she thought doing the Beth Moore "Living Beyond Yourself" Bible Study would be good for me. Being very hesitant of the whole "Beth Moore" part of the equation, I reluctantly said yes. Before starting each days reading, she asked me to pray that the Lord would speak. And, boy, did He! I swear, from the time I opened the first page, to the final question on the last, God was there! Overwhelmingly present! I cried and prayed as God opened up my eyes to myself. I was about 27 at this point, and God had already done a lot of life "pruning." But thru this time a magnifying glass was held up to the inner selfishness, fear, immaturity, inflexibilty, control and so much more. I knew I couldn't be the wife, mother, friend, and strong woman I wanted to be with so much insecurity holding me down. So, I promised with renewed vigor that I wanted Him to do what it takes to break me and mold me into the person He had in mind when He created me. I wanted to be a confident, vibrant woman of God and I was willing to do what cross any waters it would take for me to get there.

I'm going somewhere with all this, I promise! I am now, 31 and trudging through some extremely difficult circumstances. And I have to wonder, is God answering those prayers now? I don't know. To be honest, I have way more questions than any thing else. But I do know that I am pushed to the brink. Is He taking me out of my comfort zone? FOR SURE. Is He laying a heavy burden on me, but sustaining me? YUP. Am I becoming me a more patient, mature woman with a story to tell? I think so. Now don't get me wrong, I know I have a lot more living to do and a ton more learning, and I have no idea when or if this pain is going to go away. But it provides hope to know that through hard times God changes us the most. And since I've promised Him over and over to do what it takes to make me like His Son, I wonder if now, more than ever....He taking me up on it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Faith and Family

Perhaps the hardest thing for me about dealing with pain is how much it affects my family. They are walking this road with me (something none of us chose) and everything is topsy-turvy for them too.

I have a husband who thru this ordeal has proven to be a greater man than I even thought he was (and I thought he was pretty amazing to begin with). He's been carrying the load of two for over a year now, and never once have I heard him complain. In fact, he goes the extra mile. Since the day we got married I've kidded him that somehow (like having my own personal superhero) he aniticipates my needs and wants. I'm amazed time and again how he's always somehow one step ahead of me! And that goes double since I've been sick. He truly is a lifeline. But it is hard to be with such a wonderful person and to not be the carefree helpmate, friend, encourager, lover, entertainer (love to make that boy laugh!), playmate, and confidante that I long to be for him again.

But as hard as that is, being a mom just might be the most difficult of it all. My darling SaraRose Joy has stolen my heart, and is growing so fast. It amazes me the little person she is becoming, so sweet and spunky, so full of life. Thruout this long process of surgeries and pain, I have had to give so much of my time with her away to others, and that is hard. I know I'm missing much of what could be the most fulfilling and wonderful times in life. I ache to scoop her up and hold her, go visit Daddy at work, rock and sing to her for hours, go driving and shopping, make new friends, play make-believe and Princess with clothes in her closet. The list could go on and on, but I have a lump in throat so I will stop.

Here's the deal. For some reason, this is my season of wondering, desperation, questions, and giving up what I most want for myself. I don't know why. But I do know I'm doing the best I can with where I'm at.

But all of this has been hard on my faith. The constant not knowing and giving up so much has caused me to face questions. I do not wonder about the major things I believe. Always, always when I'm tempted to doubt the story of the Bible, that doubt doesn't linger long. I absolutley know that it is true. The story of Jesus and redemption resonates too much truth in my heart. God has sent too many answers to prayers (over the course of my LIFE) that could never be just coincidence. I know personally that living by His principles really does lead to the best life. And I have felt and witnessed the Holy Spirit work. No, I don't question the big stuff. It's the "littler" stuff I have a hard time with, like: Does God REALLY care about me? Is He REALLY "good, kind, loving, compassionate, gracious, merciful?" Does He listen to my prayers? Does He love really love me?"

It's these questions that baffle and to be honest, shake me at bit.

When I question, I remember a profound statement in a book I read years ago (God seems to do that alot...things that resonated with me long ago, come to mind now and encourage me when I need it.) It's from a book by Gracia Burnham, a missionary taken captive by an Al Queida sect for over a year. Despite everything she endured, the hardest part for her too was being away from her children. Feeling like her kids lives were passing by as she and her husband sat in captivity. It took a toll on her faith. She decided she didn't believe that God could be a good God and do this. She and her husband, Martin, whose faith was not shaken thru the process, discussed it one night and it is his response to her that I remember:

"...Sometimes Martin would come and sit with me by the river. He'd say 'I just hate to see you giving up on your faith like this.'

'Oh, I'm not giving up on my faith,' I'd tell him, 'I still believe that God made the world, He sent His Son, Jesus, and that Jesus died for me...I'm just choosing not to believe the part about God loving me, because God is not coming thru.'

" Martin's gentle reply was this, "It seems to me either you believe it all, or you don't believe at all.'"

His answer hits me right where I am at. I can't believe just part of it. That doesn't make sense. So I will have to choose to trust that the all of the promises in the Bible are true, regardless of my feelings and circumstances. And that when God says "Lean not on your own understanding" Prov 3:5, He means it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Making of an Encourager

I received this small article the other day and it spoke to me so deeply that I wanted to share it here.

Suffering is so difficult. It can lead us to feel hopeless; like we are the forgotten.

I've been going thru a very hard time living with physical pain and the emotional turmoil that brings with it.

I've had two back surgeries in one year, not to mention a little baby and a husband I long to be strong and whole for.

It has been a difficult road and I don't know where it is leading.

But the following excerpt helps me to keep perspective. I hope it will encourage you in whatever struggle you are facing today.........

"People love encouragers, and the Lord intends that each of His children be one. An encourager is able to stand beside someone else to give hope and the motivaion to perservere through difficult times. We are not born with this ability, but we can follow several essential steps in order to become capable of supporting and empathizing with a hurting friend.

First, we must be willing to experience pain. The apostle Paul, who was a great encourager, said that we can reach out to others with the "comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." In order to experience comfort and have it flow through us, we must suffer some heartache. There is power in the touch of a person who has been in the valley. A person who experiences pain does not offer empty words, but words of hope.

Second, we need to learn the principles that are available to us in our suffering. If we can view our heartache as a class in God's univerisity that will yeild us a degree in encouragement, much of the sting will dissipate. The Lord teaches us to place our trust in Him alone, and then we can pass that wisdom on to others.

The most effective encouragers are those who say, "There was nothing I could do but cry out to God. Let me tell you what the Lord did in responce to my cry." If we try to escape pain, we will miss out on the principles that can be learned only from suffering; then we cannot be useful to others. Our loving Father builds encourgers from the material of a life willing to be broken."

2 Cor. 1:3-7

--Charles Stanley

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

God's Chisel - The Skit Guys

This script speaks volumes about who we are in Christ and the fact that we are all a unique Masterpeice God has created. One of my favorite things in the world is theater and the way it expresses ideas that go straight to the heart. This skit certainly does that. I hope you will take the time to watch it and be encouraged.