Category Archives: Growth in Victories

Sharing Love, Affirming Faith

One of the things I love most about being around my brothers and sisters in Christ is the example they set for me.  Without being aware, they tend to amaze me with their love for Christ and for others.  I got to see this faith in action in a seemingly small act that still has me smiling.  Last weekend, I went over to a friend’s house so we could deliver some things to Tushka.  Before heading out, I called a friend there to see if we could gather anything else up before we headed out.  She had said that her mother had lost her house in the tornado, and had nothing but the clothes on her back.  I told her we could go find her a few changes of clothes and some toiletries, and bring them with us.  After hanging up the phone, I told my friends about the woman and told them her sizes.  It just so happened that the wonderful woman I was with was that exact same size!  She and her husband immediately went into action, and began to pack a bag full of things for the stranger they never met.  My friend came out of her bedroom with a brand new navy blue wind suit set complete with a jacket, pants, and a navy and white striped shirt.  She said she had just bought it, and it would be a good outfit for the lady in need.  Without hesitation, she threw it in the bag, along with a few other outfits, and we headed out the door.  Most of us would grab something that we had worn time and time again, and toss it in the bag and forget it.  This woman gave something that she bought just for herself to wear, and without even getting a chance to sport the cute outfit, she gave it to someone in need.  Because of her deep love for her Father, she gave what most would not be willing to give up, she died to self, and lived for that moment to serve.

In Mathew chapter twenty-two starting with verse 37, Jesus states, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I have been so blessed to see this commandment in action, and hope that I have shown others this in action as well.  Without knowing it, my friend re-affirmed my faith in Christ, and this happens each and every time I see others serve Him.  I believe this is why these two commandments are so important, they show love and respect to our Creator, love and respect to our neighbors, and it fills our hearts with a new and fresh perspective on what it means to love God and our neighbors, and encourages us to do more.  It shines a light to those who are lost in darkness, and this simple act begs them to come to the light and share in its warmth.

I thank God for the examples of love and service that He has placed around me, and I am thankful for the lessons in kindness that these acts bring.  We should all strive to give, serve, and love whenever we have the chance.  Opportunities like this are all around us.  Proverbs 3:27 states, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.”  Verse 28 goes on to say, “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back later, and tomorrow I will give it.’ When you have it with you.”  Give when it is needed, and do not withhold what you have.  God has freely given us His son, eternal life with Him, and earthly blessings to accommodate us while we wait on the Lord.  Let us all strive to sacrifice in this same manner, today and everyday.

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Rise Up and Build

AP Photo/ Sue Ogrocki

As my life disappears with each setting of the sun, I come to realize, that I really am not as in control as I think I am.   This realization hit me pretty hard today as I stood in the middle of a dirt road with the cold wind tearing through my jacket as I gazed upon the eerie scene of a tornado zone.  The smell of fresh “cut” pine was in the air, and as far as I could see, debris and crumbling structures encompassed my vision.  I found myself sifting through rubble in a pasture thinking of the little girl that may have been missing her Ballerina Barbie that was lying at my feet.  I saw pictures of strangers scattered about the tall grass, shoes, books, blankets, and pieces of intricately hand-carved wooden legs splintered and misshapen, drowning in the mud.  Frightened horses were neighing and scuffing their hoofs against the floors of the trailer they were being placed into for safety.  Several families were scattered about trying to dig up familiar pieces of their “homes” really not knowing where to begin.   I too, did not know where to begin.  I became lost in thought, trying to imagine loosing it all, and wondering where I would try to begin.

I spoke with my husband that night about how I could encourage people to rebuild their homes and lives in a Godly way.  He pointed me to the book of Nehemiah, and explained to me how the people of Judah had lost everything during their time of captivity by the Babylonian empire.  This empire completely wiped out the city of Jerusalem, and left nothing but rubble and ashes.  The book of Nehemiah speaks of how they began to rebuild their faith, their homes, and the wall that would protect their city from another invasion.  Everyone pulled together during the time of rebuilding, and everyone was dedicated to a specific task concerning the construction of the walls.  But more importantly, during this process, they took time to pray to God, ask for forgiveness and guidance, reflected on who they were as a people, where they had been, and where they should be going.  The chain of events that took place, made these people turn back to their Creator, and set them once again, on the right track with their worship to Him, as well as fortified the city of Jerusalem.  This book shows how a people rescued each other from ruin and despair, and started a new walk with God.

Surveying the damage and mourning the loss

In Nehemiah chapter one verse three, we see men who had escaped the captivity report to Nehemiah that upon returning to Jerusalem, they found the city to be destroyed, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the gates were destroyed with fire.  The walls of Jerusalem were the people’s protection from the world surrounding them.  It was their comfort, and their place of refuge.  Today, this wall, so to speak, could be defined as our Christian home.  We work to keep our home a refuge from the worldly things around us spiritually, and it serves as a protection from the ailments physically.  We put a lot of love and care into our homes.  We furnish it with mementos and keepsakes from times past, and fill it with love and laughter, opening our homes to those we love.  The tornado that rumbled through Tushka, Oklahoma took many peoples homes away.  With every board and every piece of furniture stripped away and destroyed, so did these peoples memories, and sense of security.  For the people of Jerusalem, the walls that were destroyed left them open and vulnerable, and today, the victims of the tornado feel the same way as well.

Upon the news of the destruction, Nehemiah took the time to weep, mourn, pray, and fast for several days (Nehemiah 1:4).  The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that everything has its season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  We are told there are going to be times to break down (vs 3), and a time to mourn (vs4).  During a time of complete and total loss, we must all take the time to place ourselves in solitude, and allow ourselves to mourn over those things we have lost.  When we mourn, all too often, we find our knees on the floor, with earnest prayers for healing being sent up into the heavens.  Survivors of the storm must take the time to experience this all too important time of healing, because it clears our minds, heals the hurt, and points us to what we should do next.   In chapter one verses five through eleven of Nehemiah, we see the prayer of a man dedicated to pick up the pieces and implored God to put His grace into the situation, and redeem them with His great power and strong hand.

 Rise up and build

Nehemiah was given permission to go to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall.  He took the time to inspect the damage that was done and in doing so, devised a plan and solicited help to get the job done.  In chapter two verse eighteen, Nehemiah tells the people who had come to help that the hand of God would be with their efforts and that they, as a people should “rise up and build”.  In hearing this, the people set their hands to the good work.  Nehemiah was not afraid to reach out and ask others for help, there were many I am sure, ready and willing to rebuild their homes, and were just waiting for instruction as to where to get started.  Nehemiah kept God in the rebuilding plan and had faith that God would see this plan through.  For those of you who are rebuilding your lives, remember to ask God often to keep His hand in your work.  God has stated in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold I am the Lord thy God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?”  There is nothing that can be done to any of His children that He cannot heal; all we have to do is ask for this healing.  We must “rise up and build” as Nehemiah put it, beginning first with the healing of our hearts while we confess our sins, cry out our hurt, and lay our burdens down at His feet. Then, we can move on to the construction of our earthly homes with a clear head, asking God to place His peace and mercy on each task that we are able to perform.

Remember what brought you to this point

In chapter twelve of Nehemiah, we see him dedicate the walls of Jerusalem after the construction had been complete.  During the time of the rebuilding, the people continued to rebuild their relationship with God, and with each other.  They all worked diligently until the task had been complete, and celebrated the wall’s completeness.  They sang songs of thanksgiving and held a feast and worshipped the Lord.  They shared what they had with others, and reformed the stale state of worship they had been in.  Chapter 13 goes on to tell of the way they reflected on what brought them to this point, and the thankfulness they had for surviving.  They rededicated their lives to God and committed themselves to reach forward in their faith all the while remembering what brought them to this new awareness.  For you who are picking up the pieces now, it is going to be a tough journey to wholeness.  Reflect on that journey as you go through it, remember the humility you are feeling, and the hope you have for your future.  Allow others to help you, pray with you, and weep with you as you re-establish your homes.  When the work is done, celebrate with those whom worked alongside you and remember to give thanks to the Lord for “the Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalms 145:9)  Reach forward in your faith and share your experience with others.  Remember how you lost your earthly things, but how you gained patience, humility, friendships, stronger faith, and commitment from everyone who loves you.  Hold fast the promise of eternity, and rejoice in the eternal home you will one day possess in Heaven if you are found faithful.  When your home is complete, dedicate it to the Lord again, and keep His name and His word alive in it.  Make it a strong fortress, impenetrable by the enemy lying in wait, just as the walls of Jerusalem were purposed to be.

Want to help?  Email me at ashdhud@gmail.com and I will get you in touch with people who can point you in the right direction
Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it.
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Procrastinating Salvation

I hate to admit this, but most of you who know me can attest to the fact that I am a bit of a procrastinator.  I can almost say that most of us are in some aspects.  I pick and choose things to procrastinate on.  If I am working on a client’s photo-shoot,  I  get the pics whipped out in a few days, eager for them to behold my creation.  On the other hand, on days like today, all dark and dreary, I wait until the very moment I know that my kids may be late for school to get up from my cozy bed all snuggled next to my warm husband.

Contained in the book of Acts, we are introduced to a man named Felix in the 24th chapter beginning in verse 3.  In this account, a man named Tertullus is found accusing Paul of creating dissension among the Jews because he was speaking of Christ and his resurrection (5).  He and others brought Paul before the governor, Felix, to be examined, and they hoped for him to be imprisoned, or worse.  After Tertullus made his case, Paul made his, and Felix decided take a few days to make a decision regarding Paul, and in the meantime, allowed Paul to go back among his friends until Felix sent for him.

After a few days, Felix, with his Jewish wife, Drusilla, sent for Paul, and Paul began to speak of his faith in Christ, and in the resurrection.  Paul was sharing with this couple the gospel message that we are all to proclaim to all people as instructed in Matthew 28:19-20.  Felix was a man who had accurate knowledge of the Way (22) and as Paul told the exciting news, Felix reasoned about the Christian characteristics we as Christians are to have which were righteousness, self-control, and he even pondered upon the judgment to come for all when Christ returns.  Amidst all of the emotion, and the Truth being revealed to this man who was needing the Gospel message, we see in verse 25 that he tells Paul to “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

This is where our story with Felix ends, he left Paul bound for 2 years, until someone else succeeded him.  He was given the most important, life-changing story of his life; he was given the Truth and the Way, and was instructed on how to obtain this hope of heaven for eternity, and he procrastinated.  He left his salvation in limbo, and as we are able to look into his brief account, we are left wondering if he ever made the decision to become a part of Christ and his Church by putting him on in baptism (1 Peter 3:21).

This story applies to our lives in two ways; one, are we procrastinating our salvation because we are too stubborn as Felix to accept this new teaching and live a righteous life?  And two, are we procrastinating teaching others to take hold of their salvation and encourage them to live a righteous life?  Both of these statements are stumbling blocks to all who encounter them, but we can overcome them.  For those who have never accepted the message, the book of Acts is full of examples of people who did, and then took  steps to obtain their prize and live a life faithful to the Lord (Acts 2:37-38, 8:36-38, 9:18, 16 : 14-15, 30-33).  Change is hard, admitting we were wrong is even harder, especially when we think what we have been doing was right. Without  humility for our Savior, and for the way we are to become a part of him, we are in danger of never obtaining salvation.  For those of us who have humbled ourselves to His way and the Truth, are we procrastinating sharing this hope with others?  Do we tend to shy away from the message because of our own insecurities, or our lack of faith in the power of the Gospel message?   The Truth saves lives and softens hearts (Acts 2:37) all we have to do is share it and live it as a testimony to others (Romans 12:1-2).

Procrastination is always going to be a battle for us, and we must try each time we are tempted with it to overcome the urge and be fruitful.  Our salvation and the salvation of others should never be spun within the web of procrastinating, for if we do this, salvation may never get a chance to make it into our hearts, or into the hearts of those in whom we love.

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Love in a Juice Box

She walked through the doors of the  children’s cancer ward in a Nicaraguan hospital feeling helplessness with an overwhelming sense of sympathy and compassion.  Paint was peeling from the walls that were barely holding up as a shelter for the patients, and a musky, “sick” smelling odor was hovering in the air.   She roamed the halls looking for a certain young man that she hoped to bring joy to, but as she turned every corner, she found even more young souls desperately seeking comfort and peace during their fight with cancer.  Her emotions were running wild within her being.  There was so much she wanted to say, so much she wanted to do, but standing there with her arms full of juice boxes, she felt small, and somewhat useless in the situation.   With every child she passed, the urge to do more to help grew within her soul.  All she had to give was a smile and a tiny juice box, and that is just what she did.

With each child that she passed, she offered the juice boxes, and they were received with the best smile that the sick and hurting child could give her.  She yearned to do more, but at that time, in that moment, the juice was all she had to give.  And so, as they made their way through the hospital, she gave what she could, she gave all that she had, and she poured all of her love and compassion into the little juice boxes that she gave away, hoping that somehow, the gesture would make a difference, even if it was just for today.

This was the scene that played through my mind as my friend, and sister in Christ, shared one of her stories from the last trip she had made to Nicaragua.  As she read through the thoughts that she had written down from the experience, I could hear the helplessness in her voice as she explained her visit.  I could almost hear a bit of well intended sarcasm as she explained how the children were so sick and in need and all she had  to give were juice boxes.  I saw more than that.  I saw a greater plan in motion, I saw a Heavenly Being working on her heart and in the hearts of those children and the people that tended to them.  To her, it was just a juice box, to them it was hope, it was nourishment to their bodies and to their souls.  To me, it was a man and a woman who continually give beyond their means.  I saw everything behind this act of kindness.  The year of planning the trip, the money spent, the hours of prayer, the time given, the safety compromised, and the energy expelled, all to hand out juice boxes to the sick.  I saw love knowing no boundaries, and compassion.  In this act, the Lord peered down into her soul and felt her burning need to show her love to the children.  I had pictured the moment the juice box left her hand, so did every emotion she had stirring with in her and somehow, with the Lord there in their midst, that raw and blameless act of kindness was felt deeply within the heart of every child she met.  There was a language barrier hovering over them, but each and every one of the children understood that her act was one of love and service.  They may not  have realized it yet; why she was doing what she was doing, or who she was serving, but she knew, and her Father knew, and in that very act of kindness, she was able to worship her Father in heaven in a new way, and be a blessing to all that she had come into contact that day.

Gail’s story had a deep effect on me.  It is funny how a simple thing can do that.  To her, she was just re-telling an incident that had impacted her, but unknowingly in the process, just as the juice boxes, she had an impact on me.  It made me re-focus on the small act of service I do every day, not knowing how to exactly show the love behind each act.  My small acts entail watching over my family and making sure my children and husband find a peaceful within me and our home.  I have to say, I am not that “peaceful rest” half of the time, but I want to be.  With every piece of clothing folded, and with every toy and shoe I find misplaced, I try to  think of my family, and pray over them as I fold their tiny little PJ’s.  I pray over our meals as I prepare them in hopes that it will bring nourishment (even the meals that come from fast food bags).  Our greatest command is to love one another.  Sometimes, we make this command so difficult.  We turn it into something so hard and unattainable.  As Gail spoke of her trip to Nicaragua, I yearned to go there and help out as they do, and felt guilty because I couldn’t.  We mustn’t do that to ourselves.  Opportunities are all around us, and if we focus on what we can do, and not on what we cannot do, we will be more effective in our everyday ministries.

I used to have a T-shirt when I was in Jr High from my FFA program that said “Do the best with what you have, when you can, where you are.”  Today, dig deeper into the mundane tasks that you perform.  If you are writing a note of encouragement, or a get well wish, take the time to say a prayer for the person whom you are addressing.  If you are ironing your hubby’s clothes for work, pray for him.  With every meal cooked, and every dish washed, get into the habit of saying a prayer for those whom you are washing or cooking for.  In the workplace, take the time to offer up a prayer on your lunch break and be an example to your co-workers that you are different, that you were “called for a higher purpose.”  It may not seem like much, but the prayers will be heard by our good and gracious Father in heaven, and He will bless you, and those that you pray over.  Find your juice box moment, and just pour your love into it, and be the example that God has called you to be.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV)

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View from the Fish Bowl

It is amazing how quickly your life and everything in it can change in seconds.  For me, my life was sent into a tailspin as I exited off of the interstate and onto Country Club road headed for home.  It was a Monday, and I was thankful to be coming home from a busy day at work.  I was looking forward to lying down in a cold, dark bedroom before we headed off to the church building for our annual VBS.  My head had been pounding, and Tylenol was calling my name.  As I approached the stoplight, I felt as if I was lunged forward as something that felt like a baseball bat came crashing down on the back of my head, my vision blurred, and things became to spin and grow dark.  I looked back, just sure that I had just been rear ended by the vehicle behind me, but much to my surprise, there was nothing there.  My ears began to ring and the pain in my head throbbed uncontrollably to the hurried beat of my pulse.  I thought about exiting my car in the middle of traffic to beg for help from the pain, but I composed myself as much as I could, and drove myself the half mile to my front door step.  My legs hurt and the pain in my head was sending me off-balance, I fell out of the car, got down on my hands and knees, and drug my numb body up the steps and onto the cool bedroom floor.  Jake immediately came to my rescue, and helped me up onto the bed as he tried to figure out what was wrong.  I tried to push through the pain to talk, but it was so unbearable, all I could get out were faint whispers.  He rushed to the medicine cabinet to get my migraine medication, and as he did, I began to go crazy.  I knocked things off the dresser and tried to lay beside the toilet and the wall because of the coolness of the tile and the toilet bowl.  I began to frantically rip off my work scrubs and pull at my hair desperately reaching for relief.  Jake handed me my medicine, and as soon as it hit my mouth, I began to vomit uncontrollably.  By this time, our friends had arrived to take the girls on to VBS so Jake could care for me.  He scooped me up and we made our way back to my car and he drove me to the local ER room in El Reno.

Sitting in the ER was unbearable, it seemed to take forever and the staff was giving my husband a hard time about rushing me in for a “headache”.  Sitting in the chair, my senses were failing me and my vision had just about given out.  The nurse called my name, and as I tried to stand, my hand began jerk as I reached for a rail that wasn’t even there.  I began to hallucinate about going down a steep set of stairs and my body collapsed from underneath me.  The cruel, cold words that could have been the last words I was to ever here on this earth were ringing in my ears, “Miss, do you want to be seen today or not?”

I began to go into full body seizures on the waiting room floor and was taken into the ER to determine the cause.  The staff began to bully Jake about me being a drug addict, and seemed to care more about calling me out, than fixing the problem.  They tied me down to a gurney to control the spasms from the seizures and took blood to check for drug use.  As they were performing these tests, my blood pressure was building dangerously in my body.  A sister in Christ had come from an ambulance run and noticed Jake in the hall, she rushed to my side and began to re-examine me , knowing that I was not a sad victim of drug abuse.  She checked the things the others neglected to, and found that my blood pressure was at a near fatal 310/190.  I was on the verge of stroking out, and she quickly administered medication to get the pressure under control.  From there, they stabilized me enough to send me to the ICU at Mercy Memorial in OKC.

From there, the doctors fought to stabilized me further, and asked my husband to make the call that he had dreaded, “You need to call the family in, she may not make it.” He made the call, and friends and family began to rush in  to support Jake, and be by our side.  The 48 hours after my collapse in the ER have been erased from my memory, but during these 48 hours, doctors struggled to find the cause of my episode, and Jake was overwhelmed with love from family and from our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jake never left my side, and his mom, my amazing mother-in-law, never left his side.  I pulled through what we found out to be a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by an aneurism that had busted in the back of my brain.  In the x-rays, the spot that had leaked out was no bigger than a small cotton ball, but it had caused enough damage and pressure in my head to almost kill me.

I spent a week recovering in the ICU department which was known as the fish bowl.  It was in the shape of a semi-circle, with the nurses station right in the middle, the front of my room was solid glass and it was very open and exposed.  Friends and family from several congregations and different youth groups flooded in to support us and to offer their help and prayers.  Sitting in the fish bowl, I had the honor to witness three amazing kinds of love between myself and my husband, the love of my family in Christ, and the love of my Heavenly Father.

My husband was such a comforting presence during my darkest hour.  When my eyes opened, he was there, either holding my hand, or he was found kneeled at the foot of my bed, head bowed in reverent prayer to our Father.  He handled all of the visitors and phone calls and was patient as he discussed the foggy details of what had happened.  He protected me from over stimulation by keeping others visits brief, and comfortable.  In between the visits, we reflected on our love and expressed our gratefulness for each other and for our love for our girls and the love for our Father.  Agape love between a man and a woman was ever present in the fish bowl and our vision of loving one another was renewed and redefined.  I am forever thankful for my husband and for his dedication to the Lord and his dedication as a husband and a father.

As people came and went with the visits, I got to witness the unique connection between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jake and I had the opportunity to work with people from different congregations in different cities, and they all came together for one common purpose of supporting me and my family.  Many times I would wake to see one member from another congregation introducing themselves to another member and then they would join together to lift me up in prayer to the Father.  Fellow Christians were immersed in prayer to their Creator on behalf of another sister, recognizing the special and unique bond that all of us share as partakers in Christ.  They loved and revered the Lord, they loved each other, and they loved me.  There were no barriers because of not knowing another because they were there to pray and encourage a sister and a brother whom they loved deeply.  Every time I opened my eyes to see others surrounding me, fellowshipping and praying with one another, it brought peace and comfort to my soul and a sense of oneness within the Church of Christ.  They witnessed Christ’s love to me and to each other and taught me that we are all in this journey together, and we must all support and love one another by going beyond the church walls.

The final view that I witnessed from the fish bowl was the deep, unending love of my God, Lord, and Creator.  I could have met Him that day, and in my soul, it would have been ok.  I didn’t have time to fear death, it came too suddenly, and when the threat was over, all that filled my mind was my relationship with my Father and the family I almost left behind.  I feared for my husband, and for my daughters then, 4 years old, and 6 months old.   I pictured Jake being a young widower at 23 years old with two little girls to take care of.  I thought about our girls and how they would never know their mother.  I wanted to live to see Rylee blossom into a beautiful, strong, caring woman, and I wanted to see my baby girl, Kadence take her first steps and see if her hair would stay blonde and her eyes blue.  I longed to be able to carry another child in my womb  and feel the joy of a newborn baby in my arms again.  I began to realize that our lives truly are but a vapor as described in the book of  Ecclesiastics.  I always pictured myself living till I was elderly, full of wisdom and joy from a blessed life but,  that week made me realize differently.  My mind became flooded with memories of me failing the Lord and turning from Him.  I thought about the years I spent in darkness and how I could have died in darkness, but God had given me a little more time to set things right.  I reflected upon the greatest confession in my life as I confessed Jesus as the Son of God before others and was baptized into His protection and into His grace, and love.  I set things right and repented of the stagnate worship that I have become a slave of.  As a ministers wife, you are involved in so many things within your congregation that you can get caught up in the activities and lose focus on your worship.  I had lost focus, I became ensnared with the next activity to be planned or bible class to lead and lost sight of my God and my worship to Him.  This became evident as the preacher from our congregation brought communion over for me to take the first Sunday I came home.  I was still in no condition to worship with others, so he brought me the blessed communion of remembrance to partake of.  As he and my husband prayed over the bread and the fruit of the vine with me, the emotions of being a sinner stirred within me and I began to cry uncontrollably.  The love in my heart for my Savior was flowing over and I had never felt so wanted and sought after in my life.  The sheer truth of the Gospel that I have been taught and had taught was evident in the bread and in the drink.  I am loved, I was bought at a price, and I am saved.

July 17, 2006 will always mark the day of a new awareness for me.  I was shown that life is of value, and our Creator made us to love Him and to be loved by Him.  It showed me how there are no guarantees to be had in the world, but as a dedicated Christian, we do have the guarantee of Heaven.  I was shown the amazing unique love between a husband and his wife, and how I must cherish that special bond always.  The simple phrase “The Church isn’t a building, but a body of Christians” was evident through all of the calls, cards, flowers, and visits that I received from Brothers and Sisters in different congregations and how they came together to help a sister in need.  I will never forget those who helped and supported and prayed for Jake and I.  We never had to worry about the safety of our children, they were always cared for and looked after, and our home was watched over and cleaned; when I got home from the hospital, I had a hot meal three times a day made by the ladies of the congregation and people would come over and sit with me and the kids while Jake went to classes at OC.  Love was working through all of these things and my prayer has always been that these brothers and sisters may receive a star on their crown for the good works performed on behalf of my family.  Finally,  Christ’s sacrifice became even more  real to me and my devotion for Him grew in a big way.  I have a new love for my Father that is stronger now than ever and the love I feel from Him has been a peace and a constant in my life.  I try now through all of the chaos in my life to keep the focus on Him as I work with others in the Lord.  I cannot say that the focus has remained, I still get caught up in the stuff and not the cause, but I am always willing to shift the focus back when I remember the importance He has placed on me, and that I should do the same.  Again, I want to thank my  Heavenly Father, my husband, my family, and my brothers and sisters in Christ who were there for me that day and those following weeks.  You all have shown me the love of our Father, and I still pray for each of you, and especially on the anniversary of the day of my uncertainty.  May the Grace of our Lord and Father be with you always.

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He Chose Me

The evening was drawing to a close and it was time to take his date back to her apartment. This was the second time they had gone out, and he was feeling pretty confident about this new relationship. As they exited the truck, and made their way up the steps, he found himself wondering if he should kiss her. As they drew near to the door, it burst open revealing a small child, barely two, wearing a soggy diaper that reached her knees. She grabbed onto the leg of his new lady friend and shouted “Mommy!” The sound of that word gave him chills. She didn’t say anything about having a kid he thought as the fear of the baggage began to consume him. He thought about turning around and getting in his truck and never looking back. But he didn’t, and two years later, this same child threw flowers down an aisle in a small chapel located in the cove of a lake preparing the entrance for he mother, the bride, to walk down the aisle.

I do not remember these pivotal moments in my life, but my dad does, and he jokes with me often about how he should have ran at the site of me. I spend every Father’s Day thankful that he didn’t. I am thankful for his choice to stay and get to know the little rug rat that clouded up his mind and his future plans. Throughout the years of my childhood, we had some amazing memories. He taught me how to ride a bike, throw a ball, drive a tractor, feed cattle, ride a horse, cook a mean burger, and fish. We worked at our family restaurant together and would ride home after a hard days work just he and I and talk about how our day went. He taught me about tools as he would ask me to pass them to him as he layed working under a tractor. He held me when I got my heart broken, and ran off the guys that he knew were no good. He taught me how to be responsible and on time. He worked hard, sometimes a little too hard, to provide for me, my mom, and my two younger sisters.

There were times in my teen years however, I wish I could forget. They were full of pain and hurt as our family of five fell apart and crashed into a divorce. I resented him because I felt as if he didn’t want me, and he resented me because I was my mother made over. We hurt each other with painful words and actions and drove a wedge between the special relationship that we had. I do not remember what it was that made this period in our lives heal; I am sure it was many things, but our relationship was mended and became stronger. I finally began to respect the man who chose to be my father. I began to see the time and energy it took for him to develop a relationship with me, and how he learned how to love me as his own.

I see this love in my life as a Christian too. I see love that goes beyond blood lines and genealogy. I see agape love. I see a family bound together by the grace given to us all through Christ Jesus. My dad made a choice many years ago to take me under his wing and love me as his very own. This love has opened my eyes many times to the love shown to us through our Heavenly Father. He chose to create us so He could love us, and so that we could love Him. A father’s love is a very special gift and something we should all be thankful for and strive to imitate in our own lives with our own children. Remember your Heavenly Father this Father’s Day, and the man who He blessed you with to be your earthly father. For some, like me, our fathers chose us, for others, we were chosen for our fathers. Whatever the case may be, may we all continue to be thankful for the first man in our lives and show them the love and respect they very much deserve.

Happy Father’s Day Dad, I love you very much.

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“Lessons from the Sock Drawer”

Almost every home has got one: a drawer or a laundry basket that is full of mismatched socks.  This basket or drawer is always there in the back of our minds just waiting for us to break down and dig through it to try to find its long lost inhabitants a mate.  It is a pest, a black cloud of deficiency that really never escapes your thoughts.  As you sit down from a hard day’s work, it is peering out at you from its perch and reminds you that you still have something left to do.  Today, this burdensome nuisance has left my home.  I picked up my basket full of incompatible socks, did one last searching for mates, and I threw the rest away.  It was liberating. The beast has been conquered and I could go about my daily routine without worrying about the basket lurking in my laundry room.  I have been set free.

Our Christian lives can sometimes be stuffed full of things that really need to be tossed away and forgotten, too.  We harbor up pains and regrets in our souls and our minds and never really let go.  When we think we have these thoughts under control and begin to find peace, the quietness of our minds wake these hurts up from a long, deep sleep.  How do we get rid of these feelings?  How do we allow these feelings to escape our thoughts so we can live a Christian life with no regrets?  How do we put one foot in front of the other living to serve the Lord the best way we can with no burdensome regrets?  We give them away.  David writes in Psalms 55:22, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you.”  Giving over stress is a hard thing to do.  We sit with it, chew on it, and allow it to fester into something too big to handle on our own.  We need to get into the practice of discarding this unwanted emotion from our souls, giving it to God, and walking away.  We must set ourselves free.  God tells us in His word that if we shed our affliction onto Him, He will give us strength in this life.

In order for us to give these burdens away, we must practice each and every day the art of never looking back.  When we go to our Father in prayer, we must picture ourselves placing the burden at the foot of His throne, and walking away and leaving there.  We are not allowed to turn around and make sure He got it. Our worry should end when the burden hits His feet.  Our worry should end when we fall to our knees.  The stress will soon vanish, and it will no longer sneak up on you when you think everything else in your life is in order.  Pick up your basket of cares, open your drawer full of woes, cast them at the feet of your Father, and allow yourself to be set free.

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