29 August 2008

My Children Are Driving Me Crazy!

We are now about 2200 miles into our 2800 mile trip, and now that I have finished this three day leg of the trip, I am finding the energy produced (in my 6-almost-7 year old boy) by spending three long days in the car is quite overwhelming. We have been here in Killeen, Tx. for only about an hour, but I'm not sure Justin has stopped yelling, jumping, or running since we got here. As my husband would say.... "nucking futs!".

I am very greatful for a long weekend visit before our final (and longest) day of our trip.... the final 9 1/2 hour drive to New Mexico. And I have been forewarned that those 9 hours will seem like 15 through the vast emptiness of West Texas. I just pray that the Lord will renew my strength and give me the encouragement I need to get through these last few days, and then on to the extreme business of unpacking a new home.

For now, I think I'll settle for a long bubble bath.... and a razor to shave my horribly hairy legs.

Miss you all!

26 August 2008

God's Amazing Creation

Yesterday, my family of five (along with Grandma and Grandpa) loaded up the minivan at 7am to head off on a three and a half hour car ride to The Creation Musuem (just outside of Cincinnati, Oh in Northern Ky.). It was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone passing through that part of the country on any long trip. (They even have fabulous rates for active duty military and their dependents!)

This is a musuem created by (if I remember correctly) a former high school science teacher who was discouraged that all the science museums out there are based on the theory of evolution. He is a Christian, and he wanted to present a scientific and historical view of our world based on God's Word..... and I would like to add that he did a wonderful job. Everything was beautiful.... the films, the art, the walk through sets.... and at every step, he compared God's word and truth with how scientists have portrayed how our world began. How old is our Earth really? Did dinosaurs live at the same time as man? How was the ark built? How was the geology of the earth created, formed, and changed throughout the years?

Of course, much of the information presented was not new to me, but there were several things I did learn that I did not know before. And if you have ever tried to compare what you believe about Creation with other scientific principles (you know, trying to figure out how it all works together... is it really 6 24-hour days of creation, or could God's day have been millions of years? for example).... they did a great job comparing each point and lining everything up so it made sense.

It did get me thinking last night about a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago (and even one of my recent posts). God created Adam, and then He created Eve to be Adam's partner. He created us each differently, but each with His characteristics. He created us to be partners, each having their own jobs that together create one whole (this was what I was talking about some in my former post).

In my conversation recently with a friend, we were talking about how our husbands should be our best friends and the source of filling our emotional needs. We agreed that it is good to have other friendships, but ultimately, our spouse should be the fulfillment we need in life, and if we are spending too much time and energy on someone other than our spouse (whether the friend is male or female), then our needs are possibly being met in ways they shouldn't.

So I started thinking about the scenes in the museum with Adam and Eve together, and a funny thought hit me. God didn't create Adam and then bring in a best friend for him.... his best buddy, best pal.... no, he gave him a wife. And He didn't create Eve and then bring in a gaggle of girlfriends for her, instead He gave her a husband.

I remember reading in my secular days about how men are not designed to provide emotional fulfillment to their wives, that is what other women are for. The example given was to look at our past, in tribal days, when men went off hunting all day and the women stayed together cooking, cleaning, sewing, childrearing.... talking all day and getting "their emotional needs met". Basically, the point was that the reason why marriages were so strained was because men were expected to jump in and do something (take care of wife's emotional needs) that they weren't supposed to do.

But the problem with this scenario is this.... God created Adam and Eve. Period. He gave Adam a wife to respect and care for him, to raise his children with him. God knew that Adam needed a wife and companion, a helper. But God also knew what emotional needs Eve would have as well, and I do not think he intended on "girfriends" to meet them, or else He would have created them right there in the garden, right?

God has blessed me with a wonderful "Adam".... my husband is loving and caring, and he is very concerned with my emotional needs. He is my best friend, and I am his. I try to take care of him to the best of my ability, and if you ask him he'll say I do a pretty good job. I think that we embody in our marriage the ideal God had in mind for the marriage relationship..... love, companionship, friendship, partnership. Paul is my top priority (after God, of course), and I am his. Sometimes, though, as we look at all the unhappy and unhealthy relationships around us (in the world and even in the Christian circles), we wonder how we got so lucky as to figure it all out? How did we stumble across the key that so many others have searched for but haven't found? But we know the real answer....we didn't "get lucky" or stumble across anything, God gave us the key, and we have learned how to use it.

Lord God, thank you for giving me the most wonderful husband (for me) in the whole world! Help me be the wife and friend he needs me to be for him, and bless our time together. Father, I ask that you would reach out to married couples everywhere who are struggling, and remind them of your love for them. Show them that they can turn to each other instead of others outside of their relationship. Remind them of your design for marriage, and that you can give them everything they need to grow in you. I love you, Jesus! Amen.

21 August 2008

At Peace

The Virginia chapter of my life has officially closed.... for now.

I sit at my husband's laptop in Reading, Pennsylvania..... my fingers have been itching for time and opportunity to sit down and write. This has not been a luxury for me in the past few days as I have been preparing for packers, loaders, and then staying with friends without high-speed internet. My life has been crazy this past week, but in the midst of it I have noticed an incredible peace upon me.

I have been slowly saying goodbye over the past week. Long embraces after last dinners with friends..... waves after church and the picnic that followed. Some have refused to say goodbye... settling for a "see ya later", hoping for our return in three years. And through it all, nearly a single tear from my eyes (except for one dear friend I'll miss the most... you know who you are!)

It has been yet another reminder that we are following God's will for our life. We are walking on this journey with Him, trusting His leading in our lives. There is absolutely no other explanation for how I can say goodbye to so many I love, and be at peace. And not only at peace, but I truly enjoyed my last few hours with each of my dear friends. I didn't wallow or feel sad. I didn't feel dread saying goodbye. I laughed and had fun with these wonderful people.

Our journey has just begun. We are through three states already with many more... and many miles to go. But as I drove along with my beautifully prophetic daughter (Tricia is riding with me as Nikki and Justin are traveling with Dad).... she told me that God told her that there was someone waiting for us in New Mexico.... someone has been praying for us to come and help them with something. She doesn't know any details, but knows that our family is God's answer to someone's prayers in New Mexico. Wow! Isn't that amazing?! I love how God speaks to my 10 year old, and she not only hears Him, but listens for/to Him!

To all my wonderful friends who are reading my blog, thank you for your encouragement (and letting me know you're reading). I am writing for myself, but I love the thought that God is using this forum to speak to others as well. The Lord is amazing and wonderful! I continue to be in awe of how He works in all sorts of circumstances.

My posts may be a little short-- far and few between for awhile, but stay tuned for upcoming updates. I miss you already, but I know we will all be reunited again.... either in this life or the next.

God bless you all!

14 August 2008

When Right Seems Wrong and Wrong Seems Right

Have you ever noticed that as you develop a habit of regularly reading God's word, his word seems to follow what's going on in your life? As I stated in an earlier blog, I have been trying to develop a routine of reading my Bible on a regular basis. Now that I am in the epistles, they are going rather quickly. Many of them I have never read before, but I am finding parallels into my life as I open my Bible and start reading several times a week.

Earlier today, after dropping my dear friend off at the airport, I started thinking about a situation that I'm going through in my life, and I was thinking about how a choice I made has affected another. I began to wonder if maybe I hadn't handled it in the right way. Maybe I could have done things better... or maybe I should have done something differently. I believe in my heart that I am trying to do what is best for me and my healing while following what God has asked me to do. I recognize that sometimes by choosing to do something for ourselves, it will hurt another (even though we really don't want that other person to be hurt). But does that make it wrong?

I started thinking about how many times we choose to do something that seems so wrong, but in reality it is such the right thing to do. Maybe it's the world telling us it's wrong..... or society, or our flesh. And then I started to think about all the things we know are wrong to do.... worldly, flesh driven choices we make because it feels soooo good. I couldn't help but think to myself, "boy this world is screwed up!"

I came home, and opened up my Bible to where I left off.... and I read this passage.

Colossians 2:20-23
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep following the rules of the world, such as, "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!"? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires.
This is at the end of Colossians 2, and at the beginning of 3 Paul begins to talk about how we live a new life in Christ.... that we need to "put to death the sinful, earthly things of this world". Then he goes on to list all the sinful things we should avoid and get rid of.
But I'm looking at this verse above and thinking about how even though we are freed from this stuff, it still follows us around. We are still listening to it... we are letting it affect us even when we should know better. These rules of the world are part of what seems right when really it isn't.
If I back up a little to an earlier passage in Colossians 2, it says this:
Colossians 2:6-10
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
I like how it says to let your roots grow down into him. It is a good reminder that we need to be planted (firm) in Christ. I know that is where I need to be. And when our lives are built on him, our faith will grow strong. I need to remember that when I am doubting myself, I need to return to Jesus, letting my roots grow down into him. When my choices seem wrong to me, I need to turn to Him for that reassurance that I am doing the right thing when He has asked me to do it. And I also know that when my life is built on Him, He will give me the strength to turn away from the fleshly, worldly wrongs that feel so right.
Lord Jesus, thank you that my life is built on you. Help me stay focused on you, letting my roots grow down into you. Lord, increase my faith so I will overflow with thankfulness for everything you are doing in my life. I love you. Amen.

13 August 2008

"For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you."

These are the words of Paul I read this morning in Colossians 2. They pulled and tugged at my heart because these are words I have to live by in this military life. These are words that I need to keep near and dear to my heart as a reminder when I feel lonely or miss my friends.

I am no stranger to separations. I have long distance relationships with friends of 12-21 years. We keep in touch on the phone. We visit as often as possible (sometimes a couple times a year, but sometimes a couple years between visits). The first 21 months of my marriage (and the 9 months before that) were spent mostly separated from my husband.... with three more deployments following in the next 10 years. Plus, when I moved to Illinois and back, I spent 4-8 months each time mostly separated from Paul by moving early for school reasons.

I have learned through experience that it is possible to be far away yet still with loved ones at heart. Everytime we are reunited (for visits or long term), the connection picks right back up again as if we were never separated in the first place. These are relationships to treasure.

So knowing this, there is a large part of me that is not worried about this move. I know it isn't the end.... the goodbyes are not forever. I may only see these blessed friends once in the next three years, but that time will be wonderful and joyous.

But I am still sad. I guess it was somewhat easier in the past because the number of people I was leaving behind was considerably less. I had not opened myself up to very many people, so most of the people I left behind were aquaintences..... they are easier to leave.

But it is so very different here. Here there are so many people who I know love me. I have opened my heart and have bared my soul, and they have loved me for me. They have given me a safe place to grow and figure out who I am. They have supported me when I needed them, offered shoulders to cry on, and shared many hours of laughter and encouragement. I'd like to think that I have given as much as I have received. I have been a part of this huge family.... this support system I have never known before, and I have loved it.

And now it feels like I have to give it all up. Phone calls and email just won't be the same. I can't just go hang out when I need cheering up... or spend too much time after church catching up from the week (and aggravating the waiting husbands). I can't give and receive all those hugs (and Leanne kisses) when I'm 2000 miles away. And leaving really hurts.

I know that for the last four years God has been trying to bring me to a place of relying wholely on Him.... putting Him first, and turning to Him for my needs and comfort. This has been a challenging transition as I had always relied on myself for years... then I learned how to rely on people, my friends. But I do know there have been times I have turned to people when God wanted me to turn to him. Maybe that is a little bit why I am struggling so much. I keep thinking about how my friends won't be able to be there when I need them like they were before. But I guess there is at least something good about that. God wants to use that to continue moving me closer to HIM.

Jesus, my heart cries out to you right now because I am hurting. Please fill me with your peace and joy even as I have to say goodbye to so many people I love so much. Help me remember that You, too, know the intense pain of leaving as You left those you loved when you returned to the right hand of our Father in Heaven. Comfort my heart, and the hearts of my family, as we leave Virginia to follow your calling on our lives. I love you. Amen.

12 August 2008


To separate into distinct parts, categories, or compartments

Ladies, have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to have this mental skill that seems to come so naturally to our husbands? (or boyfriends, brothers, fathers.... whatever men you currently have in your life.) God created men and women so incredibly differently, yet each sex represents a distinct side of God.

My husband and I found ourselves out for an impromptu dinner tonight after discovering the little neighborhood Chinese restaurant had reopened its Mongolian BBQ bar after more than a year of the bbq being out of commission. As we waited for our food, Paul asked me if I was excited about the move. He wanted to know if I was looking forward to getting to New Mexico and all the things ahead of us there. I shook my head no.

Then he asked me if I was dreading it, and again I shook my head no. I replied that I was having a hard time getting past the "right now". Basically, I am stressed. There is so much to do in this final week. There's packing to do. There are painful goodbyes to be said. There are daughters to be cheered up. Not to mention everything involved in the two week process of getting there. I am a little overwhelmed by details and emotions that are taking over my time and attention.

So Paul just looks at me, about to go claim his food from the Mongolian grill, and says something like, "so this is where the ability to compartmentalize would come in handy about now?" I just smiled and shook my head yes. My sweet husband..... he's excited about what lies ahead, and he's thinking about what we have to look forward to. He knows there's all this junk here (he's not looking forward to leaving his friends any more than the rest of us), but he can just shove all that aside... put it into a compartment in his brain that will allow him to forget about it long enough to focus his attention on something else.

This is not something most women can do. I know I can't. I feel everything at once, and I have trouble separating things out to focus on only one thing. I think that is why I get so overwhelmed sometimes.

But then I have to remind myself that sometimes it comes in handy to be able to do many things at once. This is a skill my husband does not have. He usually has to focus on each thing separately.... if he is distracted he cannot concentrate on the task at hand. I have to remember that if he is reading something, or in the middle of a task... then I need to wait for him to finish before he can focus on what I am saying to him. Can we say "one track mind"? I, however, can do about four things at once when needed.

It never ceases to amaze me how God created each of us in an almost opposite fashion. We each are truly a half that brought together becomes a whole. [.... a man leaves his mother and father and becomes one with his wife]. I guess it would make sense that if two parts come together to make one whole, then those two parts should function differently to be able to accomplish the higher goal.

My job is to be the nurturer. I support my husband and his needs, reassuring him and listening as he needs me. I take care of my children, kissing away the hurts and smothering them with hugs (not as easy of a task as they become teens.... as I am finding out). I am not sure I could get anything done on a daily basis without that ability to do several things at once.

My husband is the providor.... the source of strength in our family. He goes off to his stressful job, and he needs to forget about what's going on in the family when he is at work. But then he also can come home and focus on us while putting work on the back burner. God calls the man to live for, protect, and die for his wife (if necessary). That is a pretty tall order.

When you look back at history, beginning in Genesis... men went off to war. They protected their families as warriors and hunters. They needed to have the ability to push their thoughts, emotions, and fears away to accomplish the difficult task at hand.

In present day, my husband is in the military. Although he has a safer job in the Navy (than Army or Marines), he still serves our country in an institution that calls for its members to serve and protect with a willingness to give their lives. Just like the warriors of old, he needs that ability to compartmentalize when he is away for six months at a time, focusing on his job at hand during those deployments.

There is one thing that my husband and I definately agree on..... neither of us wants to do the other's job! And this is just how it should be. It may be frustrating sometimes when we don't understand how the other thinks or approaches things. We may not always choose to do things the same way (especially driving routes.... sorry, inside joke). But we recognize that our differences are what enhances our marraige and our family.

Father God, you are such an awesome creator! You knew exactly what was needed in each of us and how our differences would complete each other. I thank you for the wonderful husband you gave me, and I ask you to help me be exactly what my husband needs. Give each of us understanding for the other as we work together in our marraige and family. Keep us both grounded in you as we journey together in life. I love you, Lord. Amen.

11 August 2008

Written Expression

Sometimes it just amazes me the ability I have to express my feelings on paper that somehow fails me quite often when using my mouth. They are all my words, but somehow they flow and articulate in writing whereas I just fumble them while trying to vocally express myself.

Yesterday, our pastor asked my husband a question about something going on in my life that my husband realized he didn't know the answer to.... he hadn't thought to ask me reasonings behind a decision I had made. So later in that evening when he asked me about it, I tried my best to explain it to him. I asked him if he understood where I was coming from, and he just looked at me with a thoughtfully uncertain expression on his face and said, "yes and no". At the end of the conversation, we agreed the best thing for me to do was to write to our pastor and explain what was going on (to catch him up, really).

Paul called me today from work and let me know he read my letter. "That's quite some letter, dear!" he said to me. This is the kind of response I often get from him after one of my letters, so I asked him if I was impressing him or something. He told me it was amazing how well I could express myself when I wrote it down. So I asked him if he understood now where I was coming from, and he said that he thought he did. I had basically tried to write in my letter the same thing I was trying to explain to him the night before, but he didn't quite get what I was trying to say until he read my written words.

I suppose having this writing ability has really come in handy over the years as a Navy wife. My husband leaves for half a year at a time, and over 95% of our communication is written. I noticed in particular that this past deployment was much easier for me despite all the really difficult issues I was facing. I was able to let him know what was going on in my life, what I was feeling and dealing with..... and we stayed connected in a more intimate way than previous deployments. The beauty of email! (Previous deployments had no email or very limited email, it it was harder to stay connected.)

I am also realizing how God can use this gifting in me to reach other people. As a very young Christian, the thought of "going out and making diciples" and "spreading the gospel" were terrifying thoughts. I have trouble finding the right words with people. I don't know what to say. I feel awkward and uncertain. But put me in a quiet room with a computer, and those thoughts can just pour out. And the neat thing is, that once they are on paper in front of me.... once I have worked out all my thoughts in private, I often can have great conversations with people and the words flow from my mouth much easier.

Father God, thank you that you bless each of your children with special giftings and talents to do your kingdom work. Thank you for encouraging me to find an outlet through the gifting of writing that you have given to me. I praise you that you have shown me a way to express myself in healthy and productive ways. I ask that you use my words to bless others as you have blessed me in writing them. I love you, Lord. Amen.

10 August 2008

Deeply Ingrained

I recently found myself in a conversation where I was talking about my problems with codependency. The women I was talking to told me that I needed to stop referring to it as "my codependency", that I needed to stop claiming it because the Lord has set me free from it. But the problem here is that I do not feel free from it. I am still struggling with these thoughts and behaviors that are so deeply ingrained in my being that I continue to slip into it without even noticing.

I know they are right..... I understand the point they are trying to make to me. When we continue to talk about problems, illnesses, dysfunctions, addictions, whatever.... we can use our words to continue to take ownership of these things instead of releasing them from our lives. These are not things we should own, but things to be released to God.

I know God has set me free. Just as I know He heals, often before we see the effects of that healing. At kinship one night several months ago, we discussed how God heals us when we ask (whether in this world or the next, either way He has already healed us).... but sometimes we are still waiting for that healing to manifest itself in our lives. Instead of continually praying that the Lord would heal us, we should trust that he has already healed us and instead ask him to manifest that healing. Interesting concept.

Could that be where I am right now? Am I still walking out this process to freedom, waiting for the healing to be manifested in my life? Just because I cannot see the end result yet, doesn't mean God hasn't already freed me from it, right?

In Codependency by Pat Springle, he talks about how deeply ingrained codependent behavior can be. He gives the example of a home project he did once where he didn't want to pay $9 for a trowel (not sure when this event took place, but it was probably well before 1990 when the book was written.... so I'm guessing $9 was a lot more back then than it is now in 2008). Anyway, he did not want to pay for the trowel, so he did his home do-it-yourself cement job without it. After just a couple of hours of working with the cement, he looked down and realized that he had cement poisening (the flesh was eaten away from his fingertips). He had found himself in a dangerous situation very quickly without ever realizing the danger he was in. This is how he describes codependent thinking and behavior. We slip into it so fast and get so deep that we do not realize the danger we are in until it is too late.

Right now I have reached a point in my healing and reality to be very well aware of the codependent patterns and thinking, and on several occassions the Lord has pointed them out to me very quickly. This has helped me continue to break away from these patterns towards my healing and freedom. I was getting to the point where I thought I had a leg up on the situation, and I was doing great. But then I recently found myself in exactly the type of situation that the book was referring to.... I had slipped deep and fast without realizing it, not realizing that I was responding to the situation from an unhealthy place because I had not let go like I had thought I had (thus still reacting from a codependent viewpoint).

I have to admit that this is extremely frustrating. It felt like a setback. It felt like the exact opposite of freedom. But it also made me think again about what my friend said to me. Am I claiming a problem I shouldn't because the Lord has already freed me from it? Or is this truly a problem that I am dealing with that hasn't yet worked it's way out of my life? Or is it possible to be a little of both?

Lord Jesus, I thank you that you are a patient and loving God who does what he says he will do. I thank you for the healing and freedom you have worked in me. Lord God, I ask you to help me walk in that freedom. Help me continue towards your healing manifested in my life. Give me wisdom to see the danger signs before I am in too deep. Give me clarity to break free from codependent thoughts and bevavior patterns deeply ingrained in me. Lord, loosen them and remove them from me by the power of the blood of Jesus. I love you, Lord. Amen.

08 August 2008

17 States in 13 Days

Philippians 3:13b-14
...but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I read the entire book of Philippians today (not a large book), and this verse kinda jumped out at me. I know that Paul is really referring to the race of our life on earth... our pursuit of Jesus, and he is talking about the day in which we finish that race here on earth and join our Lord Jesus in Heaven. But my mind has been on other things these days as we are preparing for our trip towards New Mexico, so this verse spoke a bit differently to me today.

It is hard to leave Virginia. This has been my entire Christian life..... here among wonderful people. A big part of my heart does not want to leave. There are a few people in particular that I do not want to leave. It hurts just to think about it. But the reality is that in 13 days, Virginia will be my past. It may be my future again (in three or so years), but as of 21 Aug 2008, it will be my past. I can still stay connected with people via internet and telephone, but the physical interaction will all be memories.

One chapter of my life is coming to a close, and in a way it feels like we are on a race towards the next chapter.... one where God has promised us great things. I know I will not "forget" the past, but I think the point here is not necessarily to forget it, but to stop focusing on it so much because it is the past. Our focus should be on what is ahead, particularly knowing we are following God's will for our lives and are moving along the path He has placed us on.

My daughters are having a very hard time with this. I am not sure they see that God is directing our path and He has a wonderful plan for them while in New Mexico. All they can see right now is that they are leaving their friends. Their focus is remaining on the past. But that's understandable... they are only 10 and 14. But I realize that if I want them to be able to look ahead and focus on this race before us, then I, too, must do the same. If they are not seeing this modeled in their parents, then they are only words that do not really mean anything. And I want them to realize that God does have great prizes in store for all of us as we obey his calling.

So I need to focus on what is ahead of me. This can be an overwhelming task because sometimes I have a bad habit of trying to look too far ahead. I get too caught up in all the details involved in too many things. The unfortunate side effect of that is I often miss the opportunity to experience what is in today. I might miss the joy that is right in front of me because I am too involved in my thoughts of "down the road".

Paul and I have planned a wonderful trip to take us from Virginia to New Mexico. If we were to drive straight there, it should take us 2025 miles through 6 states. But instead, we have decided to take "the scenic route" and visit some family and friends we may not see again for three years. We also enjoy a hobby called geocaching (where we find hidden items in public places using a GPS), and our long term goal is to get each of the states on our map to turn red (by logging a cache in that state). So we have added about 300 extra miles to our trip just to add in a few extra states. When we finally reach New Mexico, we will have traveled through 17 states in 13 days, adding 9 new states to our map (instead of 4) and totaling about 3100 miles. I don't want to miss out on any of the joy God wants to give us on this journey because I am focusing too much on the past or the future.

One of my husband's favorite verses is in Philippians. He even has it printed on a clear lable sticker inside his windshield where he can see it as he drives.

Philippians 4:6
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

But it gets even better in verse 7....
Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will gaurd your hearts and minds as you live for Christ Jesus.

I am not sure that we can experience God's peace if we are living in the past. I know we can't if we are fretting over the future. We need God's peace to run our race and stay focused on Jesus. I want God's peace in my life.

Although the ultimate goal and ending of our race is our heavenly reward of eternal life with Jesus, I do not think this is the only prize that God has in store for us. I don't think that life is one huge marathon with a prize at the end. I think it is more like a series of races... a number of opportunities to press on towards Jesus. At the end of each race, we advance onto the next, slightly more challenging race. Only God knows which race is our final one.... so we should never give up thinking this one is the last. And living in the past is a form of giving up. We also cannot be focused on the race two or three jumps ahead of us. We have to be focused on the one directly before us.

I like how the Message Bible states (the verse at the top)

.... but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-- to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.

I have not ever read this verse in this version before today, but I am in complete amazement at its words. This verse directly states what my goal has been this whole past 15 months.... I'm off and running (towards healing), and I'm not turning back. I have made decisions based on the fact that I do not want to turn back. I want to stay focused on my goal. I want to be healed and complete in Jesus. And I want everything that God has for me!

Lord Jesus, I love you and I want more of you in my life. I am so grateful that you have set me off on this race towards you. Help me remember that I am off and running.... and I'm not turning back! Help me not be sidetracked by thoughts of future races nor hindered by the ruts of the past. Help me see you are the finish-line on every race of life. I praise your Holy name, Jesus! Amen.

06 August 2008

Submission: A Dirty Word or a Beautiful Plan?

I am an independent, bossy, strong-minded and stubborn woman (and recovering control freak). In my 13 1/2 years of marraige, I spent the first decade "wearing the pants in the family", so to speak. I made all the decisions. I made all the plans. I tried to do everything myself and rarely asked for help. When my best friend lived with us, we had a bad habit of making plans and forgetting to tell my husband what we had decided to do, even when it directly involved him. (Sorry, Hon!)

At the time, neither my husband nor I were leading a Godly life. I was an unbeliever, and although Paul grew up in a Christian, church attending home.... he really had never developed a real relationship with the Lord.

As a teen, his mother often had to remind him (constantly) what he needed to do, and as an adult the Navy told him what to do. So he was quite comfortable (at least on the surface) having a wife who told him what to do. It's not that I bossed him around, or that he wanted to be bossed around, but he was comfortable in not having to make any major decisions. He was content for me to take care of everything and just fill him in on what the plan was.

Before coming to the Lord, my world fell apart, and I had to admit that I was not superwoman. I had to begin to ask my husband to help me..... I needed to LET him take on some of the responsibilies. When I became a believer, this process became even more important as I realized that God had designed my husband (NOT ME) to be the head of our family. Paul, however, felt very uncomfortable in this new role. He didn't feel like a leader, and I think the thought of the responsibility scared him a little.

My focus began to change. Even though I had let go of a lot of the big things, I began to realize all the little ways that I was still trying to stay in control. I was not allowing my husband to be the head of our family the way I should. I attended a Ladies' Marriage Seminar that focused on marraige and submission, and it really opened my eyes.

In Ephesians 5, Paul addressed spirit-guided relationships between husband and wife. He says the following:

Ephesians 5:21-24 (New Living Translation)
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

Submission...... in my previous world this was a dirty word. Both my mother and step mother are feminists. I'm sure they cringe at this word. I was always taught (mostly indirectly) that women are just as good as men, and to submit to them is degrading and demeaning. To submit means to allow someone else to control you.... like you have no choice in your life and must always be at the will of someone else.

And there are some definitions of this word that include words like "control", "give in to", "subjected to".... basically the idea of allowing someone to dominate us. Control and domination, even when agreed to, is not seen as a positive thing. But I do not believe that is what God had in mind when he developed his plan for marriage or in His choice of the word submit.
There are other definitions that I like much better..... they seem more fitting:

* To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another
* to defer to another's judgment, opinion, decision
* refer to another person for decision or judgment
* yield to another's wish or opinion

In reality, we submit to people ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY..... we submit to our bosses and leadership, we submit to the police and other members of government authority, we submit to laws and regulations. We choose to follow these examples of leadership because we know these systems are set up for our own good and well being. They are sometimes necessary to live in an orderly world. We usually do not stop to consider if allowing ourselves to follow others in these circumstances would be seen as degrading or demeaning.

And if we are believers, we also submit to our Lord and Savior because we know He will take care of us and protect us. We know He will guide us in the right decisions we should make and keep us on the right path. I do not see anything demeaning about allowing someone who knows better than I do what is right for me, to lead the way to keep me safe. Sometimes it is better for us to stop, and turn to another for their input and wisdom.

God created men and women so differently it is amazing! He had a purpose in assigning certain attributes to each of the sexes. A friend of mine likes to say that he "doesn 't have a feminine side..... God removed it in the Garden" (his feminine side is his wife). God designed each of us for a seperate purpose, and although I do not always understand why He created me so differently from my husband, I recognize that His plan works. I also have learned in the last couple years that there are so many benefits to me in following God's plan of submission.

As women, it is so easy to allow our emotions to overrule our commen sense sometimes. It can be difficult to keep our emotions in check and make rational decisions. Men have an ability to compartmentalize things in a way that will often allow them to make decisions in circumstances where women cannot. Does that make men better? No, just different.

I also believe that if God wants the husband to be the head of the household, then God will give wisdom and understanding to that man that his wife may not be directly privy to. When we are willing to submit, or yield to our husbands, they are able to make God ordained decisions that may not otherwise be possible if we are trying to run the show.

I have learned that whenever we are walking down a path God has not directed us to, or we try to accomplish something in our own strength.... it often just does not work out right. Have you had this problem? It creates stress and anxiety. It creates self doubt and discouragement. When I was trying to "run the show", I was not happy. I was buried in responsibilities and burdens that were not fully mine to take on. But when I released it to God and turned to my husband's leadership in submission to him, the weight lifted off of me. I felt a level of freedom that was surprising. But isn't that the same with God? When we surrender to Him, we feel real freedom.

The other important thing I realized was the more I turned to my husband and his leadership, the happier he seemed.... not because he had a wife he could control and dominate, not because he was power hungry and wanted to be in control. No, I think he became happier because he was able to begin to find a sense of purpose in his life that was missing before. He was able to function in the role God created him for. Our relationship was so much better because I was begining to respect him in ways I hadn't realized I was lacking in before. His confidence grew, and he really began to grow in the Lord. Makes sense if you think about it. Leading a family is a huge responsibility...... and when you take on this task wholeheartedly you need the Lord to help you. When I was taking over, he did not have that same need to turn to the Lord because I was allowing him to be "comfortable and complacent".

The Message Bible has an interesting take on this passage in Ephesians 5. It says:

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by dominating but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

I like the sound of that.... a husband who provides leadership by cherishing me! I have been blessed with a husband who does in fact cherish me. I think he always has, but I can definately recognize the difference in him since I made the choice to actively submit and follow his leadership for our family. As I have strived to understand and support him, we have reached a new level of trust and intimacy in our marriage. We complete each other more deeply than we ever did before.

So to answer my question? Submission can be a dirty word.... when it is defined by the world and used to control, dominate and oppress. Unfortunately, I have seen/heard of situations where husbands have used this verse as reasoning to control or abuse their wives. They use submission as a way of gaining power through domination in selfish (not selfless) treatment of their wives.. And I think that is part of what gives it such a bad name to the world.

But in my life and my marriage, submission is a beautiful plan created by God himself. My husband cherishes me. He wants my input and counsel in making decisions for our family. He doesn't see me as a subordinate or as inferior, but as a partner in this life we have created together. How could I NOT want to turn to him to lead our beautiful family?

Lord Jesus, I thank you that you have shown us in your word your plan for a spirit-guided relationship. I thank you every day for the wonderful man of God that you gave to me long before either of us knew you. Please help us continue to follow you in our lives and our decisions, and I praise you for the work you have done in my marriage. I love you! Amen.

04 August 2008

The Unseen World

Do you ever wish that you could just put on a pair of special glasses that would allow you to see what is going on in the spiritual realm around you? I do. Although this thought is so tempting, maybe I would be afraid of what I'd see if I really had that chance. I don't know.

But I do know that the Bible tells us about this world..... where there is spiritual warfare battling all around us; angels vs demons, good vs evil. This is a world that so many of us are completely oblivious to. This is a world I do not think my mother believes in. The New Age Movement has convinced way too many people that evil does not exist. Read a "Course in Miracles" (New Age posing as Christian teaching endorsed by Oprah), and it will tell you flat out that evil only exists in the minds of those who believe it exists. Bottom line, it isn't really there, it is only a figment of your imagination, created by perceptions in your illusional world (not reality).

But the word of God says differently.... The Lord reminded me of this in my reading this morning:

Ephesians 2:2 (NLT)
You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil--commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.

I believe in this world.... I have seen evil at work around me. I have felt the attacks of the enemy when I am obeying God's direction and moving forward towards the Lord. When I feel those attacks coming at me, I always remind myself that I must be doing something right! But this is an unseen world.

I remember when I became a Christian four and a half years ago, I thought it sounded so kooky to talk about such things.... especially to unbelievers. It does sound crazy when you don't understand it. I thought people would think I was nuts for talking about such things. But in the last four years, I have discovered one undeniable truth. The closer you come to God on your walk with Him, the crazier you sound to the world. People living in the world think we are nuts. But I have also realized that the closer I get to God, the less I care what people think of me. They can think I'm completely wacko, but that doesn't negate the fact that these are real truths.

I bought a book on spiritual warfare several weeks ago, and the author talked about three costly errors (I'm only going to talk about one) that people make when it comes to their awareness or thoughts on the subject of spiritual warfare. The first is a denial of the existence of evil spirits and the spiritual world in general. She states that although 70% of people (in a recent survey) claimed to believe in Satan, many "see him and his demons like Santa Claus and his elves-- mere figments of a childish imagination", not realizing that much of the evil around us is the work of Satan and his minions. She states in her book that, "The wickedness of the visable world is influenced, fueled, and powered by the spiritual underworld, which is populated by Satan and other fallen spirit beings." (A Divine Revelation of Spiritual Warfare by Mary K. Baxter)

Spiritual underworld..... this sounds like the verse in Ephesians I quoted above.... "commander of the powers in the unseen world". I know she is writing this book to believers. She wants to wake people up to realize the battle they are in. But I can't help but think about all of the nonbelievers in the world who don't believe in evil. Satan often doesn't even have to do much work in their lives.... they are easy targets!

Ephesians 2:3a says:
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.

Am I saying that all nonbelievers are walking around trying to do evil, mean and horrible things? No. I was an unbeliever for almost 30 years, and I was a "good" person. I had a good heart and always tried to do the right thing. I had honorable morals and ethics that ruled my life. I tried not to be mean spirited, and I wanted to avoid anything that seemed wrong or evil. But here is where it gets tricky.....

I did not believe that premarital sex was wrong. I did not believe living together before marraige was wrong. I did not believe homosexuality was wrong. Drinking and partying was fun, and who cares as long as you are responsible (at home, not driving, etc.). I couldn't get enough of the sleezy evening soap dramas, crime shows, and Lifetime movies. Worldly entertainment (music, movies, sitcome, dramas) was a huge part of my life.

These are all our worldly cultural things that we can be involved in with no feelings of guilt because our society teaches us there is nothing wrong with it. But this is exactly what Paul is writing about in Ephesians. These are not of God. To be involved deeply in these activities is obeying the devil's spirit at work in our hearts because we are refusing to obey God.

The devil's deceptions are so deep and controlling that it is dangerous. Then I think about the New Age Movement.... here Satan has really done a number on people because he has them convinced they are following God. They are too blinded by his deception to see they are really following the devil, not God. He wants them convinced there is no evil or evil forces because then he can receive all of their worship (that they think is going to God, but isn't). Satan knows if they knew the truth, then he could not masquerade as the "one true God".

Maybe I don't really want those special glasses for myself. I already believe.... that is what faith is; believing in something you can't see. But maybe it would be nice to be able to put those glasses on the eyes of someone who is living a life in the complete deception of the enemy.... to remove the blindness and open their eyes to see the truth. But these glasses don't exist.... there is no such thing. Only God Himself can do that!

Father God, you are a mighty, powerful God! I thank you and praise you that you have removed my blinders and opened my eyes to see You. I praise You and give You the glory that Satan is no longer the controlling spirit in my heart. Lord, I ask that you would open the eyes of those trapped in the devil's lies. Help them to see that they are worshipping the wrong things when their focus is not really on You. Help them see who You really are and build their faith in You just as You have done in me. I love you Lord Jesus! Amen.

April 2005

April 2005
Justin, Kim, Nikki, & Tricia

October 2011

October 2011