Site Moved!

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New Post up on New Site!

Hello subscribers!  Please do not forget to subscribe to my new blog, Transforming Perfection, because this one will be taken down soon.  Check out the newest post….

 

http://transformingperfection.com/2013/04/19/challenge-your-faith/

A New Direction

Hello Growing Pains subscribers!  I am writing a quick post to let you know that I am changing things up and shutting down my Growing Pains blog, and starting a new one.  I want to be sure you all subscribe to the new one as well, and I am so thankful that you all are following me!  Please go to www.transformingperfection.com and subscribe to the new site.  I will be taking this one down in a few weeks.  Thanks again for following me through my “growing pains”  I hope you will enjoy the new site!

Up in Arms…My Valentine

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I was given the chance to write an article over a less known person in the Bible who had affected me in a great way.  The purpose of the article was to encourage teens to always be searching the scriptures, because you never know when that certain one will  speak into your heart and soul causing a chance to grow as a Christian.   My moment came to my head the very minute I finished reading the assignment.  All of the feelings I felt the day I heard it came flooding back into my heart.  I opened up my Bible to the passage and re-read the account again, refreshing the feeling I felt that day.  I told my editor that I have always wanted to write about that account and now that I have written it for the teen audience, I simply had to turn around and write it again for my adult readers.  So…here it goes…

Jake and I were sitting in the Little Chapel at Camp Pettijohn amongst friends and teen campers listening to a lesson over how the Lord was always in the forefront fighting for us so that we may finish strong, and overcome fear in adversity.  The lesson was over 1 Samuel 13 & 14.  King Saul had gotten into it with the Philistines, and sent his son Jonathan to attack an outpost of theirs.  Once the Philistines heard of this, they assembled a massive army to bring Israel down.  This movement really did a number on the minds of the Israelites because many of them ran and hid in caves, thickets, and in between rocks.  The Philistine army had a severe advantage as far as the mental part of warfare is concerned.  The Israelites had virtually nothing to fight with.  The Philistines had made sure that there was not a black smith to be found so the people of Israel would not be able to have weapons made.  They had plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles to fight and defend themselves with.

Saul got pretty antsy waiting on the proper channels to go through, one being the most important of all.  A very special sacrifice to the LORD so that he would have favor over the very lopsided battle.  Saul, in haste, decided to sacrifice the offering without the High Priest Samuel, which was a HUGE no no because only the priest had the authority from God to perform these things.  Samuel found out about the sacrifice and was furious.  Because of Saul’s haste, the LORD turned his back on the kingship of Saul and began to prepare a certain young man, a man after His own heart, to lead the people of Israel.

After hearing this fact, Saul still remained, under a Pomegranate tree, taking in the shade, still raring to go with a small army of pretty much farmers with pitchforks.  His son Jonathan got restless with his dad, and decided to take matters into his own hands.  He and his armor bearer went over to spy on a garrison of Philistines so they could attack them.  Jonathan says in chapter fourteen verse six,

“Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows.  Perhaps the LORD will act on our behalf.  Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

Jonathan had a greater understanding of that of his father for the LORD and His power.  He knew that the LORD did not need strategy, more men, or more weapons to fight the battle, He just wanted willing souls to believe in His power, and be the instruments of which to carry the power out.

After Johnathan made his case, his armor bearer said back to him in verse seven,

“Do all that you have in mind, Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

The very moment upon hearing the armor bearers words, I was completely overwhelmed by the statement of sheer devotion, protection, and loyalty from the armor bearer.  Floods of memories came flying into my mind of all of the crazy adventures and mishaps Jake and I have come across and how we stayed true to each other through each of them.  I grabbed Jake’s hand and squeezed it, and with a big fat lump in my throat I leaned into his ear and said, “I will always be your armor bearer.”  He turned and looked at me funny and laughed, knowing I was having one of my overly sensitive moments…probably judging by the slight glistening in my eyes.  He, of course, had no idea the emotion or motive behind it, but it got to me that day, and has stuck with me ever since.

Picture the situation!  The Israelite army was outnumbered fiercely by man power and weaponry.  The philistines had chariots, horsemen, and soldiers as numerous of sand on the sea shore.   This was seriously like throwing Black Cat fireworks at an army tanker!  The armor bearer could have said, “Dude!  You are completely crazy and there is no way I am going to just march up to that garrison with nothing but a sword because you think that maybe the LORD may or may not be fighting on our behalf!”  The armor bearer had faith in Jonathan, faith in Jonathan’s ability to lead, and faith in the God that leads us all.

Jonathan got his sign from the LORD that He would be on their side and the two men prepared for the attack.  Imagine the armor bearer stripping off all of the armor he was carrying for Jonathan.  He took off the breastplate to arm Jonathan’s heart, the shield that would protect his body, the helmet that would protect his mind, and then fit him with his sword, the very thing that would help defend them both.  This more than likely left the armor bearer with nothing more than a sword of his own, because the whole duty of the armor bearer was to carry the very heavy armor load.

Jonathan climbed up, his armor bearer right behind him and began the attack.  With one swoop, they were able to kill off twenty men in a half acre area.  This caused panic in the camp, Saul’s army joined in with great momentum, and the Philistine army was defeated!  Whoo!

Now, back to the armor bearer.  This is what I learned that day.  I want to have the devotion of the armor bearer.   I want to be able to dive in, heart and soul with Jake, no matter how crazy of an idea he has, knowing that his heart is searching for God’s will (like packing up and moving to OKC right after his tour in Egypt because while there, he got the crazy idea to become a minister).  I wanted to be confident enough in my husband’s ability to lead our family that I never have to ask questions about his intentions.

I will protect my husband, and fit him with the armor he needs to fight the spiritual battle on behalf of himself, his family, and the congregation in which he serves.  I will support my husband, and trust that the decisions he makes will take us to a place of service and a place of refuge because he seeks the LORD’s will.  I trust in God’s provisions, therefore I will trust in my husbands.   And finally I will help bear the load.

You see, you really can find inspiration in the smallest of things.  I found a charge to be my husband’s armor bearer in a cloud of sweaty, smelly campers and a lesson over facing fears! I charge all of you with spouses to really dig deeper into the meaning of the armor bearer’s statement and find a charge of your own.  The loyalty, devotion, and protection shown by the armor bearer gave Jonathan just what he needed to fight.  Their trust in God, and trust in each other moved mountains that day.  Just think of the mountains we all as Christian couples can move if we put our faith in God, and our complete support in each other.

…Jake, I couldn’t fit all of this on a card, but happy Valentine’s Day.  I love you so much and will always…always be your armor bearer.  

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Transparent Christianity

Several months ago, as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feeds, a certain status caught my attention.  As I read it, my heart broke.  The friend who wrote it was very upset by the behavior of a woman who was coming to my friend for help.  Apparently, the woman in need was a “Christian” and her attitude and language was in direct contradiction to whom she claimed to be.  The next part of the status is what broke my heart.  The friend wrote something to the effect of how she didn’t even bother with church or trying to be a Christian because it was people like the rude lady who turned her off to trying to be something she was not.  To make things worse, several other people wrote things such as “Christians are hypocrites! I see them in the club on Saturday night, then see them post about the wonderful Church service they attended on Sunday Morning!”  “I will never bother with Christianity, as long as I am a good person, it is all that matters.”

Now, I can go a whole other direction in as to why, as Christians, we should always conduct ourselves in a holy manner.  About how we simply cannot blatantly sin and take advantage of what God has given us, but instead, I just want to share why I am a Christian and in doing so, I hope and pray that these words may cause someone who is outside of Christ to truly explore, and think about why they too, are very precious and very deserving of what Christianity has to offer.

Mercy.  I am a Christian because of mercy.  I am aware of it each time I pray, each time I fail, each time I walk through the doors of my congregation and praise the One who gives me mercy.  Do you know what mercy is?  Mercy is “compassion or forgiveness towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”  It is, in a sense, getting away from a very deserving punishment.  Yesterday, just a day after I realized my tag was out, I was approached by a police officer in the parking lot of my kid’s school.  (And yes, my poor kids, and I were so very embarrassed to be going through this in the school parking lot.)  I was guilty.  I was breaking the law, and was very deserving of the punishment.  I explained that I just noticed the tag the day before while putting groceries in my van, and was surprised to see it well overdue.  I was baffled as to why I didn’t receive my renewal notice.  None of it mattered though, because I stood guilty.  The officer was very understanding, and told me to go park my van until I got the tag taken care of.  I was off the hook!  I was in serious trouble because of my tag and the fact I was driving without a license, because I left my purse at home.  But he let me go.  That is mercy.  I deserved punishment, but the officer walked away.Image

This very same principal is why I am a Christian.  I believe God exists and He rules all.  I believe in his son Jesus and I believe that Jesus went to the cross because of God’s love for mankind.  I believe in God’s justice, and the wonderful choice He gives to us to follow Him or not.  But even so, the thing that still keeps me in awe is the fact that Jesus chose me to save.  He chose death so I can receive mercy from the Father.  I am a Christian because I chose to accept the gift of mercy, and I am living a life of thankfulness and obedience to God because of the sacrifice.  I am a sinner.  I have my struggles and my fallouts.  I get testy with my kids, and I argue with my husband.  I get caught up in jealousy, and I struggle with my intentions.  Being a Christian does not mean I am a saint, a better than you person, or a Bible thumper.  Being a Christian means I am accepting the mercy offered to me.  Being a Christian means I try my best every day to life for Christ because he died for me.  It means cutting the ties with the sinful life I used to lead, and removing myself from situations that may tempt me.  It means I will wake every morning to be a better person because I know I can be.

Yes, I am one of those crazy people who attends each service, and each activity.      I do not go to cover up the skeletons in my closet, or to cast judgment on those who are not church-goers like me.  I go to worship the Father and be with my family in Christ.  I go to be uplifted by the Word, and learn more about what God wants from me.  I go to participate in  taking  communion like Christ asks his followers to do in remembrance of him.  I go because I am part of a family, learning and loving together in His name.  I don’t go to flaunt how great I am to the others there, but I go because I am a sinner in need of prayer and encouragement.   As a Church family, we share our struggles, our joys, our doubts, and our questions about the faith we are to have.  We admit mistakes and ask our friends to encourage us to resist making the mistakes again.  We raise our kids together, and are in each others homes often.

So you see friends, this is the life I live.  This is the Christianity that I am a part of, and I am so sorry that for some of you, Christianity, because of the examples of others, has been a smoke and mirrors act.  It simply is not. The Church is full of admitted sinners, just wanting to love and be loved.  We receive a reward that we do not deserve and we  dedicate our lives to living Godly. Dedicated Christians know life is more about just trying to be good.  We simply cannot find our way to eternity with God if we do not follow Jesus.  He gave, and we must receive, mercy cannot be given to someone who does not want, or thinks that they don’t need it.

I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of peace I have because I am safe in God’s arms.  I want that for everyone, and if nothing, I hope this blog entry will cause those of you who are not dedicated to the Lord to take a second look, ask questions, and go to the Bible for the answers.  This is who I am, a transparent Christian, with a beautiful story of grace and forgiveness.  I am  willing  to admit how much of a sinner I am because in doing so, my story reveals just how amazing God is and how if you allow Him, He can do so much more than you can ever imagine.  I am the sinner getting pulled over in front of my children’s school while other kids shout, “Look!  Our preacher’s wife got pulled over!”.    I was shown mercy when I had no reason to deserve it.  THAT my friends is what Christianity is.  A choice to give your life to God out of a knowing that you alone are not enough.  It is a dependance on Christ, a choice to abandon selfishness and live for something bigger, a love that cannot be measured.

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You Should Have Married a Farmer!

“I want a few goats, at least 2 acres….. and chickens!”  I said to Jake a few  weeks ago while we were daydreaming about the house we may or may not build in a few years Lord willing.  He responded, “I’m not gonna mow two acres, and we can’t live that kind of lifestyle, we are too busy to keep up with those things.”  I replied, “You won’t have to mow!  That’s what the goats are for!”  Jake answered back, “Well, if you wanted all of those things you should have married a farmer!”  Without skipping a beat I replied, “Jake, when I met you, you were wanting to go to school to be an AG teacher…I thought I was marrying a farmer!”  This statement made us both laugh as we looked back on the plans we had made several years ago and how they have changed so much.

Our plans.  Ha!  God had something else in mind for these two crazy kids fresh out of High School.  Now, ten years later, I am so thankful Jake is not an AG teacher.  I am thankful for the phone call I received six months into his nine month deployment in Egypt…our first year of marriage.   He said, “I have been doing a lot of thinking, studying and praying….I want to go to school to be a preacher.  Over here, people are begging for a Bible and wanting to know about God so bad.  I have been taking that for granted, and I want to do this.”  I was shocked… really.  We were not what you would call solid Christians at that time.  I began going back to Church when he left for his duty, and was feeling my relationship with God deepen while I was separated from my husband, and it seemed, Jake was doing the same while away from me. Looking back, I feel as if God was teaching us “You shall have no other gods before me.” during the separation.   We were putting our lives together in front of His will, and we needed him back in our lives separately, so we could serve him together.  He asked me to pray for him over the phone so he could hear my prayer on his behalf. I don’t remember the words I said that night, but I remember the feeling of total and complete surrender.  

I whole-heartedly believe that our marriage was sealed when we chose to dedicate our lives to God’s work together.  The new relationship we created with Christ while we were separated strengthened our marriage and our commitment.  Sitting here tonight, I am reflecting on all of the crazy things we have been through since being married.  Our love story has been incredible.  We have experienced amazing highs together and sorrowful lows.  We fought hard with each other, and for each other the second year of our marriage when he returned from his deployment.  We experienced Ramen Noodle suppers regularly because of how broke we were because of school and day care.  We experienced the births of three beautiful children, and suffered the loss of one of our children due to a miscarriage.  We leaned on each other through deaths of loved ones and through jobs that were not meant to be.  I woke up to Jake in fervent prayer by my side in the ICU when I had suffered an aneurism that had almost taken my life.  I remember the pride we both felt as Jake walked across the stage to receive his degree in Bible that took so long to recieve.  We have amazing kids, and enjoy each and every milestone in their lives.  We have met amazing people of the Lord’s Church, and were even able to add a few to the number. We worked along side some of the most inspirational people we have ever known, and experienced growth in the process. I remember an overwhelming sense of peace in God’s presence when I waited six hours for Jake’s heart surgery to be completed.  None of these things would have impacted my life in the way it has if I were a farmers wife.

Of all the things I cherish about my marriage to a preacher, I think my favorite thing about him is accountability.  He loves me enough to tell me when I am wrong and helps me fix the problem.  He rebukes me when I get too caught up in other things and forget my responsibility to him and to our children.  He calls me out when I am in a bad mood, and reminds me of my purpose. If not for his accountability, I would not be the person I am today.  I am not perfect, and at times (more than I want to admit), I am terrible, but Jake keeps me in line with my purpose.  He helps me hear my calling.  He keeps me on the right path. He is my personal cheering section.  He wants from me what God wants from me, and that is dedication to God’s will, and I ask the same thing of him.

It would be so much easier to let each other slip through the cracks, but we try to sharpen one another, and build one another up in the faith.  That is the sweet spot.  Building one another up.  Not in financial terms, looks, or worldly success.  But in faith.  I hope that we will have many more years to go together serving in love, following God’s plan.  God’s plan got us to this spot right now.  God’s plan lead us to the throne.  God’s plan lead us to service and a deeper commitment to each other.  I am glad we listened, and that I am not a farmers wife.  I could not imagine not doing what we have done together for the past ten years.  Jake is not the man I married ten years ago.  He is far more than that skinny cowboy I said “I do” to.  He is a zealous servant of Christ, an amazing and supportive husband, and a wonderful father.  He commits himself to Christ daily and urges me and the kids to do the same. I am thankful for my husband and for the man he set out to be when he made that phone call so many years ago. I still think we should get a few goats though….if not goats, at least some sheep…..preachers need sheep….

Dreams Uprooted: Nicaragua 2012

The sunshine the other day brought me to my flowerbed to do some much needed tending.  After the vibrant blooms of spring and summer started to wither, I dug up the bed to allow the earth to rest for the next spring planting.  Little did I know, the mild winter brought about blooms from the seed that had fallen creating a mess of plants that had rooted and bloomed before their time.  I created for myself a bouquet of bright yellow and orange daisies to enjoy inside, and went to work ripping up the remaining plants to allow seed to be sown for new blooms.

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As I worked, sweat and tears streamed down my face as I related to the plants.  I too felt as if my roots had been ripped up and tossed aside to be withered by the sun.  Therapeutic swashes of the gardening hoe were in full force as I worked out my frustration and desperation.  With arms and legs shaking, I continued on with the task and listened to the lesson that God was planting in my heart.

My husband came to the excruciatingly hard decision to stay behind from the Nicaragua Spring mission trip, and I chose to stay with him.  This decision came with a lot of meditation, prayer, and pleading after several weeks of battling with the idea.  Because of the heart procedure he had in January, recovery has been slow and grueling on him and going out of the country at this time is not in the best interest of his health.  I am aching for him, because he has deep-outstretched roots for the work in Nicaragua, but I also marvel at the courage it took for him to put the mission before himself.  Because I am his wife, created to be his helpmate, I feel as if my calling to be a Godly wife far outweighed the Nicaragua trip, and I chose to stay by his side.

Working out the emotions of feeling left behind had left me almost broken.  The months and months of planning, preparing, visiting congregations, raising money, writing support letters, shopping, sewing, gathering, packing, prayers, research, meetings, and all the love that has been rooted in this trip is hard to let go of.  The mission trip started as a seed in my heart when Jake came back from his last one in September, and it took root as we planned out being those spoken of in Matthew 25: 34-40.

I do not know why things sometimes work out the way they do, or why this trip was uprooted from my life, but I do know that God is in control, He is good, and He is alive and working.  My flowers had to be uprooted because they were blooming before their time, leaving no room for new growth.  After I work the land and prepare it for planting, I will plant and nurture new seeds, and their brilliance will shine through bringing life to our family as we get to enjoy their fragrance and beauty.  In the same way, this trip may have come too early for Jake and I; too early for his body as he is still recovering, and too early for me, as a mother having to leave my small children behind.  But as this plan has been uprooted, I know God is now cultivating our souls and planting new seed to bloom at just the right time.

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The mission trip will still go on.  All the money needed has been raised, and our tickets will be held to use in the future.  The bags are packed and so many people of Nicaragua will see God’s love through the mission.  The hungry will eat, the naked will be clothed, the thirsty will drink, the sick will be visited, the stranger will still be welcomed in, and the prisoners will receive provision.  God will see to it.  Not going has shown me that I am but a means to His glory, and if I cannot be used at this time, His glory will still be revealed through other willing souls.  He is so good.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 states: “To everything there is a season, and a time for ever matter under heaven…..A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”  My time to serve in Nicaragua has been plucked up, but that does not mean I cannot still serve ( I have a lot of prayer time planned on behalf of the mission crew). There will be times in all of our lives when things just do not go the way we had planned.   When this happens, we must remember the simple fact that life is not about us (thanks Billy) and our purpose is to serve in love because He first loved us.

When we find ourselves uprooted, remember the Master Gardener will tend to what needs done, and His Truth will always prevail.  We must allow God to break the roots we have tried so hard to establish in order to allow new growth to prevail; growth God’s way, not of our own.  Then, when it comes time for our seeds to take root, we must willingly and wholeheartedly obey the call and bloom where we are planted. 

Please join me in prayer this week as we pray over the Matthew 25:34-40 Spring Break Mission Trip and those involved, as well as the Medical Mission crew, set to serve in Nicaragua as well.  God is good.

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Katharos NOW Article

Hello readers!  As you can see, my posts have been few and far between, but I am working on that.  Until then, please go to the link below for an article I wrote for Katharos NOW; a super-duper amazing webzine for teen girls published monthly.  I know most of you are not teen girls, but the article will still apply to our more “mature” adult lives, even to my male readers :)  So please, give it a read and leave your thoughts in the comments section, it will make me happy, and your insight on the article may help a teen see things a bit differently.  So go check out “Courageous Moments” and all of the other articles in the Feminine Grace edition of Katharos NOW, and please, share the site with others.  Click here to read now.

I appreciate you checking in on my blog, and hope it is inspiring some thinking and growing!  To God be the glory.

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