19 October 2009

Surrender, Surrender, Surrender

Surrender is a popular subject in both sermons and worship songs. God wants us to surrender everything to His will.... our lives, our decisions, our family members- everything. However, surrendering our will is usually a difficult thing for most of us to do. Yet, have you ever met someone who lives out a surrendered life? Have you seen the peace and joy that radiates from these truly blessed people? They have somehow learned first hand that a surrendered life accomplishes so much more than trying to make it on our own.

Yesterday, I listened to a lovely young woman from Kenya talk about her childhood, living with a mother who was surrendered to the Lord. She spoke of how common it is for Christians to talk one way but act another, but that her mother always lived out exactly what she spoke. She (the mother) believed in the Lord, and walked with Him every single day. This young woman grew up learning to live with and for the Lord every day. He was included in every aspect of life. It was not until she came to America that things began to change. She said after being in this country for awhile, she realized that she began to live her own life, make her own decisions.... only considering later that maybe she should ask the Lord what He thinks of her plans- hoping that He would either agree, or if not- given enough time He may change His mind. God was no longer the main source, He was an after thought. Can you relate to that? I can.

I, of course, have lived my whole life in this country.... in the self centered, me-oriented culture. My mother raised me to be "independent"! I was a master of "I can do it by myself!" Surrender and reliance on others is a weakness. This is the legacy my mother passed on to me. And my father just stepped back to let my mother "handle me", choosing to remain a passive influence in my life. The world I grew up in was one where men stayed out of the way, and the woman ran the show- she was the one in charge. Very feministic, and very backwards to the life I have now chosen for myself.

It took me YEARS to realize that I could not do everything myself.... I was not (and am not) superwoman. It took years and very hard circumstances for me to learn that I could not control everything. I needed my husband's help. I was not strong enough on my own. It took a couple more years to learn where that strength and help I so needed should come from---God. It was quite a process to shift control of my family from myself to my husband (where he is called to be the head of the household). I had to learn the truth behind biblical submission. And I have to say that our family runs so much better- I am so much better- living under the authority structure that God developed for families. I have learned how to surrender to my husband, and since I know that he has his best intentions at heart for me and our family, I can trust in his authority and decision making.

So shouldn't I be able to do the same just as easily when it comes to God? He has my best at heart as well, doesn't He? But somehow, those self sufficient ways that were so ingrained in me growing up- the "Me, me, me, I can do it myself so stay out of my way" thinking that prevails our society- this still clings on. Often I don't even recognize it. I'm just too consumed with running my own life to stop and think about where God is in everything I am doing. And this is because I am not currently surrendered to His will.

I had a period of surrender. It was difficult and challenging. At times even painful-- because God was doing healing work in me. But at the same time I have never felt better in my life, because I knew I was in God's will for me. I opened it all to Him and said, "Have your way, Lord!" Unfortunately, I don't live there. But shouldn't I? I have stumbled off that surrender path, and sometimes feel like maybe I've lost my way a little. But I can see the Lord in the distance, calling out to me, "over here... I'm over here. Let me help you find your way back!"

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (New Living Translation)

O Israel,” says the Lord, “if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more. Then when you swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ you could do so with truth, justice, and righteousness. Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people would come and praise my name.”

Coming Judgment against Judah

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. O people of Judah and Jerusalem, surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins.

Lord God, thank you that you are a patient God full of love and mercy. Thank you that You have a perfect will for my life, and You are eager to share it with me. Please help me be still before you. I want to step back from my busy, crazy world of self sufficiency. I want to learn to wait more on You, to listen for your soft, still voice to guide me. I want to live a surrendered life where my preoccupations rest only on You- on a relationship with you- and not on my problems. Please forgive me for my pride- I want to surrender this power I have tried to hold onto. Soften my hard heart so that your seeds can be properly sewn into my life and then on into the life of others. I love you. Amen.

16 October 2009

Tomorrow Never Comes

Tomorrow is a fantasy world that we addicts cling to when we are aware of our problems and our need for change.... BUT... we are not really willing to give up that which holds us hostage.

Each night I think of all the changes I will make.... tomorrow.

I will start exercising..... tomorrow.

I will eat proper portions..... tomorrow.

I will give up that yummy soda I love so much but I know is a real problem.... tomorrow.

I will start my serious bible study.... tomorrow.

I will concentrate on developing a consistent and productive prayer life.... tomorrow.


But the very sad truth is, TOMORROW NEVER COMES!!! Each night I go to bed with the very best intentions, but upon waking, I simply decide that I am just not quite ready.... I need ONE MORE DAY...... so TOMORROW is the lie I listen to once again.

Here is the truth in my life. I love to eat. And although the amount of food I now consume is much, much less than say, three or four years ago.... I am still eating more than I need, and often for the wrong reasons. I love sugary sweet drinks. I simply have about zero self control. I know I shouldn't drink them, especially not several times a day. But I like them, so I do what I want to, ignoring the check in my spirit that tells me that having no self control is the real problem. Pop and iced coffee drinks are not and should not be idols in my life. I am afraid to feel.... really feel- so whenever things get hard and I subconsciously think I will have to deal with some unpleasant feelings.... I slip into numbing mode, which usually involves food, drink (though nothing alcoholic) and some sort of mindless, time passing entertainment.

And the sad thing is, because I know exactly what I am doing, instead of feeling any true relief (like I did when living completely in a world of denial).... instead I feel guilty. I feel shame. I watch the weight creep on a pound or two at a time, and I hate myself for being so weak and uncontrolled. I have to wear my husband's clothes cause mine are mostly too tight, and I condemn myself some more.

At first I seeped into denial for a little bit.... not recognizing what I was doing, but I couldn't stay there for long, not really. But living in reality doesn't really help either, unless I am willing to stand up and courageously face my issues. I have to get real with myself, and with God. I need to totally realign my thinking with God's word.... because without Him, I can do nothing.

Our family agreed to host an Alpha group, to step out into a ministry program.... but ever since this began, I have been under an immense amount of internal attack. And I have to say that I am loosing this battle horribly. I have let negativity creep into my daily thinking because I have not been taking my thoughts captive. I have been running from God, because deep down I have let fear over run me- and I am afraid of the things that He will ask me to do. I have allowed myself to creep back into a rut, to forget all the things the Lord has done for me, to forget just how far I have come these last couple of years.

The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for today has enough troubles of it's own. But I think there is more to it than simply not worrying about the future. I think it is a reminder to live completely in today, to make decisions today instead of putting them off till tomorrow. We have to take responsibility TODAY.

My flesh does not like this. It wants to remain disobedient. It wants to cling to tomorrow. But my spirit knows the truth-- tomorrow never comes.

Dear Lord, without you I am lost, though still I run away. Lord, help me stop running. Help me be still and know that YOU are God. I want to surrender it all to you, but it is SO difficult. I need Your love and Your strength. I am nothing on my own. Thank You that You died for me, You have paid the price for my sins, and You have set me free. Help me walk in this freedom! Help me take my thoughts captive and focus on what Your word says of me- not what Satan says. My focus has been on the wrong thing for two long now, and I need You to help me back onto the right path-TODAY! I love you. Amen.

23 July 2009

"A Good Servant of Christ Jesus"... part 2

Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your task so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16)

This passage in 1 Timothy really stood out to me as my husband and I venture into the world of ministry. He grew up in a Christian home, but did not really come into a relationship with the Lord until shortly after I did 5 1/2 years ago. In this time, we have taken on roles in the church (he on the worship team singing, and I was the events coordinator for mid 2007-2008)... but ministry work is still very new to us, and I think we are both a bit apprehensive.

Our current pastor asked us to host an Alpha lifegroup in our home on WSMR (30 miles outside of Las Cruces), and we immediately accepted the challenge. We did not really need to discuss or think about it.... I think we both knew immediately that this was something that the Lord wanted us to do- to reach out to the lost military stationed at our post. We will be presenting the foundations of our Christina beliefs, in an atmosphere without pressure, to those who are seeking spiritual answers. And we know that there is potential for a continued group meeting in our homes after the course is over for those who join the faith. Although we are hosting, and not leading, the Alpha course... we would most likely be in the leadership role for whatever the group decides to continue into.

I wish that I could remember all the things that were spoken over me (as the passage advises), but I do have a pretty good idea of some of the spiritual giftings that God has placed in me. And I know he wants to use these giftings in me and through me to reach and help others around me. And I have to admit that this is a bit scary. But I know from experience that when the Lord calls us, and we step out in obedience, He will build both our faith and our confidence.

I like what Paul says here...

Throw yourself into your task so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

It is a good reminder that we need to be doing what God is calling us to.... and to focus on living the way He wants us to.... because the consequences of not doing it is not just that we mess up our own lives. No, Paul makes it quite clear that what we do affects those around us as well.

The main focus the the sermon yesterday at church was... "It's not about me!" We all tend to get so self focused sometimes.... and when we are only thinking about ourselves, we are leaving God out of it... thus we are unable to hear Him or really work for Him in His Kingdom. And I think that ultimately, even when we are not focusing on ourselves, but on God and serving Him... and things are going well in our lives because our focus is inward... it is still amazing to recognize that it is not about us. Even though we are getting blessed, our blessings are a testimony to reach others for God.

It is amazing how He works!

Lord God, I want to be a good servant of Christ Jesus. Thank you that you have saved me, pulled me up from the muck I lived in for so long, and cleansed me for your glory. Work through me and my husband as we seek to reach out to the lost. Help us keep our focus on you Lord, and not on our own troubles and anxieties. Help us to always remember that our lives are a living testimony that can determine not only our walk with you, but influence the walk of others as well. Please soften the hearts of those you will call to our Alpha group, and give us strength and courage to continue to take each new step as you call us into ministry work for the Kingdom of God. I love you. Amen.

"A Good Servant of Christ Jesus"...part 1

1 Timothy 4 opens with Paul's warning to his spiritual son, Timothy, that in the last days, many will turn from the faith (and sound teachings) and will instead turn to deceiving spirits, and their consciences will have been seared.

Now the Holy Spirit tells us that in the last times some will turn away from true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teaching that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

He goes on to talk to Timothy about staying true to God and Christ by how he teaches.

If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is Savior of all people and particularly all believers. (1 Timothy 4:6-10)

Wow...how many times do we waste our time with people arguing over those things that have no eternal value? We allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in stuff that really has no true significance, all the while ignoring the quest we should have... to train ourselves to be godly. When we put the world in its right place, and instead focus on growing in our spiritual life, we grow in ways that far exceed only this world.... we gain benefits in this life and the one to come.

But how do we grow spiritually? I would love to be able to say that we can all just be good little Christians and set our minds only on the things of God. We can put the world in its place, pick up our Bibles, and be warriors for God. We can pray and seek Him, and everything will go our way... nothing bad will ever happen to us because of this wonderful relationship we have with our Lord.

Unfortunately, this is what I think many believers believe.... and this would be some of the false teaching from deceiving spirits that was aforementioned in the text above. If you believe this, then I am telling you right now that Satan is lying to you, and you are lying to yourself. Paul says right in this text that we have to work hard and struggle (or suffer) in our pursuit of godliness.

Because the truth is that it is in our struggles and our suffering that we grow in faith and character, thus "training for godliness". Without struggles and suffering in our lives, we tend to think we have it all together. We become prideful and self sufficient, and we do the exact opposite of turning to God and trusting that He will provide for us.

Oh, we may do it for a little while, but sooner or later (just like the Isrealites), we all forget the wonderful things the Lord has done for us in our times of great need... and we stop turning to Him constantly (if we even did to begin with), until the next time our lives begin to fall apart and we get overwhelmed. Then once we get to the absolute end of ourselves, we suddenly remember how God came through for us the last time, and we take our trust in ourselves and move it back to a trust in God.

So this is what suddenly occurs to me as I write this....

We should know when we do not make pursuing godliness our ultimate goal, exactly where that leads..... sin, temptation, pride, self sufficiency. We allow the world, and Satan, to get a hook in us for awhile, thus causing pain and suffering. At this point, we have two choices. Either turn away from God and give into the world (though this will ultimately lead to more pain and suffering)... OR... we turn to God, repent, learn to depend on Him again, and ultimately grow in our character and godliness.

BUT... what of the thinking that life would just be wonderful and rosy if we did learn to always turn to God first? If we stayed in His word each and every day? If we prayed and communicated with our Lord and Savior at times other than when we are in trouble? What happens when we set ourselves on pursuing godliness instead of the world? (as Paul suggests in this text?)

I can tell you.... persecution and spiritual warfare. Last month, my family experienced much of this during a time where we were pursuing God and his godliness in our lives and in our God given quest to help my longest and dearest friend.

And let me tell you (as I am sure many of you already know), spiritual attack can be just as tiring and painful as the times we get ourselves in a mess with the world. But it is through the struggles and suffering of this spiritual warfare that will grow our faith and character, just as with the struggles we face in the world. However, when I take a hard look at these experiences, I can see how much greater my faith grows when my struggles are combined with my pursuit of godliness, rather than my struggles with the world. When I am seeking after God and godliness, I am "a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed". My hope is in God!

So I must come to the dramatic conclusion that we simply cannot avoid struggles and suffering. Bottom line is this... you are either suffering for Christ, or suffering for the world. We can serve Christ, or serve the world. We can try to run away, or we can face it head on and let the Lord grow our character. I choose to be strong in Him!

Lord God, thank you for your true and living word that speaks to us each time we seek it with an open heart. Lord, struggles and suffering are not fun, but I choose to let you use these things in my life to strengthen and grow me to be the child of God you want me to become. Forgive me for the times I forget your faithfulness and try to tackle this world on my own. You are my hope and my strength. Use my life and my voice to reach your children. I love you. Amen.

06 July 2009

Freedom Is Not a One-time Event

This Sunday, I think in honor of our country's birthday and "Independence Day", my pastor gave a sermon on freedom, titled "How to be Totally Free".

We live in a "free country". We do not live under government oppression or dictatorship. We are free to choose how to live our lives, how to worship, who to marry, what career to follow, and so on. But the truth is, most of us are not really living "free" lives.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galations 5:1

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?" Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin and a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:31-36

I have been trying to walk on this road of freedom for quite awhile now. I have gone through this healing journey where God has been setting me free. But somehow I think my thinking has gotten a bit off track... because lately I have been struggling to walk through this freedom. Maybe I had it set in my mind that once you have been freed, then everything will just automatically fall into place and there will never be another problem in that area again.

I know, I know.... wishful thinking. But how often to we really believe something deep down even though on the surface we may think we are believing something else? And we must look at our behavior to determine which beliefs we are really following. On the surface, it is logical to think that of course we need to keep turning to God daily, to pick up our cross daily, to say "no" to our flesh daily.... but if deep down we think, "once free, always free and I never have to deal with it again", then we are setting ourselves up for trouble.

Here is my personal example of this folly-thinking.... In 2007, God freed me of my eating addictions. For a year, I consistently walked out this freedom. Each day I picked up my cross and said "NO" to my flesh. However, since moving to NM, I have struggled. I got lazy. I got selfish. I began to indulge my flesh in tiny ways and used stress and uncertainty as my excuses. I chose to believe that I am free, therefore I need not do any of the work. Over time I somewhere gave up my complete surrender in this area.... I was not surrendering daily to my Lord.

Sure, when things are going well and easy in my life, it is much easier to coast through and think that I am still free. But when things get hard and/or challenging, the food becomes a subtle comfort I have come to rely on all the while still thinking in my head I that I have been set free, so I have NO problems. And the flesh has no trouble finding excuses.

My oldest and dearest friend came to stay with me (with her three daughters) for just under a month. During this time, there was much Spiritual attack going on, and much warfare on our behalf. It was a tiring time, though God was so working through these circumstances in such awesome ways.

My friend and her daughters eat... a lot. They have high metabolisms and blood sugar issues that require eating several times a day. So while they ate, I ate. Unfortunately, my body does not require the amount of food (nor as frequently) as what they eat... yet I was on some levels trying to "keep up with them".... or at least this is the excuse my flesh clung to. But the truth is, if I was still walking out my freedom from food issues, I would have said no each time my body did not need that food... regardless of the fact that it was almost always healthy food I was eating. My body didn't need it, but I ate anyway.

Then I told myself that once they went home, I would return to my "normal" eating habits and lose the 5 pounds I gained while they were here. But of course now that they are home.... my flesh still wants the food, because the reality is that I have not been free for awhile. If you feed the flesh, the flesh gets stronger. And the only way to defeat the flesh is to feed the spirit while starving the flesh. Well, I am sure that all you fellow food addicts will agree with me that STARVING is not a word that us food lovers like... AT ALL. But that is the reality. If I do not say no to my flesh, my spirit will not grow. And I want my spirit to grow... not my weight.

So here I am, finally admitting that I have basically walked away from my freedom, all the while somewhat beating myself up because of it, while still wanting to feed my flesh. And there have been emotional/spiritual things I have been putting off facing.... thus continuing my cycle of turning to my flesh rather than feeding my spirit. So let's just say that hearing a sermon on freedom was exactly what I needed to hear this past Sunday morning. And my pastor made a statement that reached deep to the core of me.

"True freedom must be fought for and maintained. Total freedom is not just getting free; it is staying free. Do you have a passion for freedom in your spirit?"

Wow! Did I need to hear that, or what?!!! He went on to talk about how God can free us, but we have the ability to fall back into bondage. Then he went on to quote a great patriot of our country, Patrick Henry:

(The cry of a freedom fighter)..."Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid I, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

This is what each of our hearts should cry out in the face of spiritual chains and bondage...."give me liberty, or give me death!" We should all have this passion so deep in our souls that we will do anything to find freedom, to break free from our chains. I had this passion once.... and I must find it again!

As I was reading in my Bible this morning, I read the following passage in the psalms:

"Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord's blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob." Psalm 24:3-6 NLT

It occurred to me that when you look the chains of bondage that enslaves most of us, they are really an idol in disguise. We are worshiping food or television or material possessions or chemical substances or celebrities or relationships... the list can really go on and on. Our hands and hearts are not pure, and we are just lying to ourselves about who or what we are really worshiping in these chains of slavery. Everytime I choose to put food in my mouth that I do not need because it brings me comfort, I am denying the power of my Lord who died for me, and instead I am choosing to worship the God of this world, the father of lies, the enemy of my soul. I am saying that God is not enough for me, Jesus is not enough for me because I have to use something else (food, entertainment, possessions) to fill that hole that only Jesus can fill. And Satan has me right where he wants me.

Climbing the "mountain of the Lord" is hard work..... very hard work. But it is what we all must do to be right with the Lord and receive His blessings. I want to seek the Lord. I want to worship in His presence. Because the truth is, He is so much better than all other idols combined!!!

The thesis to Sunday's sermon was this: "To walk in total freedom we must face facts, reject lies and myths, and receive revelation of God's truth presently applied to our life."

Are you ready?

Lord God, thank you that you offer us freedom from all the slavery this world engulfs us in. There is no condemnation in you, Christ Jesus. You love us and died for our sins, to pay the price that we may be free. Forgive me Lord for falling away from the freedom You have given me. I choose to walk in Your ways, to climb Your mountain, to turn away from sin and take every thought captive as your word commands. Thank you for Your Word and guidance. Please continue to speak Your Truth into my heart and spirit, to dispell the lies of the enemy of my soul. I love you. Amen.

04 May 2009


(italics added by me)

Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT

But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.


As I was riding home last night from a long day of church activities, I began to think back to the first women's retreat I went to hosted by the PVCF ladies (or maybe it was the second one.....).

I just remember singing this song where the words were something like this.... "I will give you a new name..... your name will no longer be.... (then there was a long list of stuff that we think about ourselves negatively)". The song went on to announce the new names that God calls us. At the end of singing this song, we got into small groups and prayed with each other. The name spoken over me was "confident". I made this big posterboard with the confident plastered across it diagonally. But the really neat part of it was that I used purple construction paper for the parts that outline the letters, so you had to read the white part of the board to see the word confident.

Anyway, one of the words God gave me about my trip to Virginia was confidence. It was going to be a time of letting go (finding closure for the pain of the past) and a time for stepping out in confidence. I had forgotten all about that past women's retreat and my "new name" from so long ago. But it all came back to me on my trip home last night.

I know many people who have a "life verse".... something they cling to that defines or represents their life. There are several versed I have always liked, and some I have clung to in difficult times (like James 1:2-4 really speaks to me during deployments...... "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.")

But after thinking about this "new name" God gave to me years ago.... and how He has brought it back up again recently, I decided to look up some verses with the word confidence in them. I think my favorite is Jeremiah 17:7-8.

I don't know if I would consider it a "life verse", but I know I want to be like that strong tree planted by the riverbank. I want to be so confident in and through the Lord that I can still produce fruit in my life in the midst of times of heat and drought, without worry because my hope is in the Lord.

Lord God, thank you for working in my life in such tangible ways. Thank you that you provide those opportunities to step out in faith, to build confidence and hope in You. Thank you that you want to build and equip me to further your kingdom. I love you. Amen.

30 April 2009

Steps Taken, Faith Abounds

God is so GOOD!

Can I say that again?

God is SO GOOD!

When I first got the call inviting me back to Virginia, I have to admit that along with being excited to get to see my friends, I was also very nervous and even a bit scared because I knew going would mean facing some things that I wasn't sure I wanted to face. But I also knew that the bottom line was, if I was really growing and maturing in the Lord like I thought I was, then this was my step of faith... my opportunity to show myself that actions speak louder than words.

I can say that I have grown and conquered my fear of rejection, but if I do not face those situations where I know rejection is possible, then what good are my words? I can say with confidence that God is calling me into ministry, but if I ignore His calling and let fear keep me back, then how will I ever build my confidence to do what God is calling me to do?

God has been telling me for a little while now that I have been playing the "healing card" for too long... that He wants me to step into more of a ministry role. And I have been afraid of that. I have been afraid to fail, afraid to be rejected (by both people and God), and I have allowed these fears to hold me back.

But over these last couple of months, God has been working on pulling up this root of rejection that was so deep inside of me that is was affecting how I related to people, challenges, obstacles, and even to God Himself. It was fueling my people pleasing and former codependent behaviors and depression, as well as my pride, judgment, anger and bitterness. It was challenging my confidence and questioning my abilities. But with God's help, I can say, "No more!"

Mo more am I going to let fear of a situation stop me, for I know my God is with me. Mo more am I going to let a human's approval (or lack of approval) stop me, for I know my God approves of me-and His approval is all I need. No more will I stand in my own way, letting doubts and insecurities and "worst case scenarios" stop me from moving forward, for my God fills me with his peace and love.

Two weekends ago, my daughter went off to an Encounter (retreat) and came home a new girl. God has become real in her life in a way He wasn't before, and He changed her. And now I feel like I, too, have come home a new girl.

I have learned to let go of the past. I have learned to face my fears head on. I have learned to work through uncomfortable situations and find reconciliation where in the past I would have just run away forever. I have learned that I can move forward and do what God is asking me to do, even when I am not at my own desired 100%. I have learned that I can not only hear what God is speaking to me, but that He does fully equip me to do what He is calling me to do.

In prayer before I made the decision to take this trip, the word I heard was "confidence". This was going to be an opportunity to fully step into the confidence God wants for my life. And on this journey I did amazing things.

I remained calm instead of allowing my own anxieties overwhelm me. I reconciled with the two women I was most afraid to speak to (and most afraid to be rejected by). I lead two sessions of worship (just me and my guitar) for a room full of woman I hadn't seen in months using some songs I knew they may not know, and singing with a voice that still crackled from my cold. (This in itself still amazes me because I used to be such a perfectionist that if I thought I could not do it 100%, I often gave up and wouldn't do it at all!) I prayed with my dear friend, letting the Holy Spirit come in and guide me, helping her find peace and direction for her situation. (That, by the way, was so awesome! Knowing that God is working through you to help your sister in Christ! It was ALL God, but I feel privileged to be His vessel!) And when I had no voice left to sing at church Sunday morning, I prayed instead, hearing God's Word that He wanted me to share... then I stood up and croaked it into the microphone for all to hear. What a weekend!

Again I say.... GOD IS SO GOOD!

Lord God, Your kindness is so great and Your love and mercy so overwhelming. Thank you so much for this opportunity to go back to Virginia. This trip brought closure where I needed closure, and confidence where I needed confidence, just as you had promised before I left. I thank you for this opportunity to grow in You! Please bless all my brothers and sisters in Virginia, who I miss..... but I know they are always near in Spirit. I love you. Amen.

17 April 2009

A Step of Faith

Have you ever noticed that when God calls us forward to do something new and scary, and we seek His will for the situation.... that often we have no problem saying yes, but only after we are committed do we wonder what in the heck have we gotten ourselves into?

I was asked about a week and a half ago to come out to Virginia to help with worship for a women's retreat. And by help, I mean lead. Two sets. Just me and a guitar. (Someone else will do the other two sets.)

Of course I am really excited about going to Virginia to see my friends that I have not seen in 8 months. But there are challenges and worries associated with this trip as well. Of course, for starters there is the actual worship part. Though I have felt somewhat recently that leading worship may be a future calling, it is still scary to step out in faith and do it. I have lead our Lifegroup here in NM twice, but singing for about 6-8 other people is a little less intimidating than 15-20.

I have gathered six songs that I am quite comfortable with, and I have been practicing. And I am excited that some of them might be new for the ladies. At least one will, cause I wrote that one myself. But I guess my point is that the actual worship seems to be the least of my worries right now, though I am sure my nervousness will increase as the next week goes by.

Instead I am worrying about my kids. My oldest (who will be 15 next week) will be the one in charge of her 10 and 7 year old siblings while their dad is at work. And now he might have to work over the weekend, too. So possibly all six days I will be gone she will have a lot of responsibility. And since we homeschool, they will be home the entire time.

So here is what goes through my mind.... maybe I'm being selfish in going! Maybe it's too much for Nikki! (Maybe so, but in reality I know she can handle it.) What if they fight the whole time and chaos completely breaks out with no parents at home? What if a neighbor calls base police because of children home alone? (I know this is leftover insecurity from my child services incident years ago in my pre-believer life.) What if one of them gets hurt? These are all the things that the enemy is throwing at me to try to steal away any peace I have about leaving my children for this 6 day trip.

And then on a very personal note, going to Virginia will mean facing a situation I walked away from eight months ago.... one that is uncomfortable and somewhat terrifying. In the past, I have shut down in uncomfortable and confrontational situations. Often I will just walk away and avoid it, preferring to live in denial or just withdrawing from it all together. And I have to admit this is a part of myself I do not much like.

Now there will be no running away, withdrawal, or denial. I have to face my fear head-on. I know this is a step God is calling me to do, along with putting myself out there with the worship. And because I know this is something God is calling me to do (Step up instead of run away), I agreed quite quickly. And now the reality is slowly seeping in, and again I am left to wonder what have I gotten myself into?

But here is the truth... God is only going to ask me to do what is good for me. He has my best interest in mind. He will be with me every step of the way, and all I have to do is rest in Him. Scary, huh?

Father God, You have asked me to step outside of my comfort zone in so many ways on this trip.... and I know I really have no other choice but to trust You. I thank you for being here with me as I face my fears, and I humbly ask you to give me your courage and boldness on this trip. Let everything I say and do be for Your glory! I love you. Amen.

04 April 2009

Wedding: Take Two...... Marriage is a Covenant

When we got married the first time fourteen years ago, things were much different in our lives. First of all, we were SOOO young. I could not even legally drink champagne at my wedding (not that I wanted to). And I did not know the Lord.

We got married in Paul's church, Epworth United Methodist, with his pastor giving a hilarious sermon on how advice about marriage doesn't always apply when the groom is already "married to Uncle Sam". Although I loved our little church wedding, there was definitely an element missing. I did not understand or believe in the covenant of marriage.

Paul knew he was marrying me forever. He grew up believing in the Christian values of marriage, and he had great role models in his parents, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next year.

However, I was a child of divorce. And although I had no intentions of ever wanting to leave this man, I once told him that I could not say with 100% certainty that we would never divorce. Of course he did not like that conversation much, but at that time I figured I was a realist, and it just goes to show how different backgrounds can color each person's views.

We have gone through our share of hard times, and we made the conscious decision very early in our marriage that we were going to use the adversity to make us stronger rather than tearing us apart like we had seen in so many other Navy marriages. Because he was not always around (I figure we have spent at least a third of our fourteen years geographically separated from one another), we learned that time together is precious and we should not take each other for granted. And we grew stronger as a couple.

About 9 years into our marriage, I went through an Alpha course at the Peninsula Vineyard in Virginia... and that experience changed me forever. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and ultimately that drew my wonderful husband into a real relationship with the Lord. Over these past five years we have continued to grow closer, and we have been able to see how the Lord protected us during all those years we were living without Him.

When our current church began the "Love Dare", I knew that we were already on the right track with so many things in our marriage. And many of the dares we literally could not do because we have already been doing them for years. But I wanted to participate in this experience because at the end there was going to be the opportunity to renew our vows and our covenant.

I have wanted to do this for sometime now. I wanted to say my vows again to the man I love, the one I have commited my life to.... and this time I wanted to say them from my heart before God. I wanted to pledge my commitment, not as a marriage contract.... that can be nullified at any time the "arrangement" no longer suits it's purposes. But as a marriage covenant, a verbal commitment based on trust, assuring my love that my promise to him is unconditional and meant for life, spoken before God out of my love for him.

I made a cake for the event, which turned out beautifully. And the church put on this georgeous Italian dinner, transforming the Youth Chapel into a beautiful "Italian Bistro". We all dressed up, and my Prince looked so handsome in his Navy uniform (just like he did that December day long ago). I curled up my hair and wore my sparkley black dress. It was so much fun!

After dinner, they brought each couple up individually to ask them questions about what defines them as a couple, or how did the "Love Dare" change them. And then they gave each couple the opportunity to publically affirm their mate, sharing their heart. My husband said such sweet words to me as tears ran down his face, and I returned the favor. I figure that was fitting as well (He cried at our wedding, too). Then the pastor prayed over us and our marriage. We got to sign a Marriage Covenant document (which I plan to frame along with pictures from the evening) expressing our commitment to each other. And we got to enjoy hearing the stories of the other 20 or so couples in attendance. It was a wonderful night.

And half way through the evening I had a wonderful idea. I knew that my husband had only one regret about our first wedding.... I did not let him smear frosting on my face when we fed each other cake. He wanted to be a gentleman about it.... not wanting to smash huge amounts of cake in my face, only to smear a little. But when we cut the cake, the small piece broke into two. One side had frosting, and the other did not. So I had quickly grabbed up the piece with frosting (I do not like to eat frosting, but he does). And I left him only with a small piece with no frosting. So no icing could be smeared on my face.

But last night, I sliced two pieces for us... one with losts of frosting, the other with very little frosting. I handed my camera to a friend to capture the moment, and then told Paul I had a gift for him. I handed him the cake with all the frosting. We each broke off a piece to feed the other, and I ate some frosting. He was so sweet and didn't smear it at all.... so I told him to smear it. So he did. Then we traded the plates of cake and he finished the one with all the frosting and I got to eat mine without.

I figured this was a win-win situation! He got to relive what I didn't let him do fourteen years ago, and now I don't have to hear about it everytime we go to a wedding (or someone talks about their wedding and cake smearing). And I have to admit, it was funny.

And then after cake, the pastor had each couple face each other, and we said our vows to each other again, renewing our commitment to each other. It was such a wonderful moment.

Lord God, I thank you for this wonderful man you have given to me as my wedded husband for life. May you always help me be the best wife I can be for him. Bless our love and life together as we live to serve you. I love you. Amen.

02 April 2009

An April Fool's Story

Our church is having a sweetheart banquet tomorrow night as part of our "Fireproof Your Marriage" thing. The evening will be a semi-formal event with catered Italian food and the opportunity for any couple who wants to to renew their wedding vows.

So I have been working all week on a wedding cake for this event. It is also a trial run for a possible wedding cake order for this summer. So in my freezer yesterday was three and a half iced tiers of cake, plus my small completed birthday cake. On my counter cooling was the final layer to complete the half tier from the freezer.

I ran to the store to get a few things, and when I returned my 7 year old son comes running out of the house.

"I'm so sorry Mommy, but I accidentally smashed your cake!", he says to me.

"WHAT???!!!!", I exclaim. (At this point thinking he must mean the layer I just baked, and I was NOT happy about the idea of having to rebake it.)

"I accidentally smashed your cake. Maybe you should go look in the freezer and see if you can fix it!"

I hurried into the house, dropped everything I was carrying while yelling out, "What does he mean he smashed my cake????!!!!" At this point I am trying to imagine exactly what he was doing in the freezer in the first place, and whether or not this warranted a little talking to between my hand and his behind.

As I walk into the laundry room and open the freezer, frantically scanning each cake to see what the damage is, Justin screams at the top of his lungs..... "APRIL FOOL"S DAY!!!!"

He got me. He got me good! Of course it was not his brainchild, but that of his older sisters who were wise enough to know if they had told me the same thing, I probably would not have believed them. I most likely would have remembered the date and known exactly what they were trying to pull. So it really was pure genius to concoct such a scheme and get their little brother to do the dirty work.

And I have to say he is one good little actor. Not a smile or a giggle the whole time until the ruse was up. I'm really going to have to keep my eye on that little guy next year!!!

Venturing Forward

I'm in a bit of a rut these days. I'm comfortable while being not-so-comfortable... if that makes any sense. I have been hiding out a bit. I have been listening to some of the things God is calling out to me, but I haven't been ready to go there yet.

It also seems like there is a lot of chaos going on around me, and I am trying to figure out how to balance being helpful and supportive of others around me without absorbing their emotional chaos. I am one who has been blessed to sense and feel what is going on in others. . The enemy has done a great job over the years taking something God gave me as a gifting, and turning it around to be used against me. And if I am not careful, that will totally affect me and change and darken my own moods.

So I have just been hanging out... and baking a lot of cake. Getting my portfolio up to date, and making more cake. I have absorbed myself in physical matters around me while hiding a bit from the spiritual ones.

I have spent the last (almost) two years going through a "healing process".... my journey. Over a year ago, I saw a glimpse of how God wants to use this journey- and me to help others. But I have comfortably clung to my "healing status". I know that God's plan is to eventually use me to help others, but of course that is down the road. I'm not ready yet. I'm not capable. I'll just mess it up. Right?

But God is telling me that I have been playing the healing card for too long, and now it is time to move forward into more of a ministry role. Can I say........ SCARY!

And I realized this past month that part of the reason I have been hiding out is because I am afraid that God will not accept me or approve of the job I do. I have always leaned on the side of "discouraged perfectionist"-if you think you can't do it perfectly, then don't do it at all.

So stepping out and doing something that to me feels so huge, it is scary to think that I will fail and somehow only receive disapproval from God. My earthly family pretty much does not approve of my life and beliefs, and I have transferred that onto God as well. But He showed me that I do not need to worry about screwing up and not receiving His approval, because I already have His approval. Now I just have to accept it and believe in it. I need to have faith.

So I have been sitting in my little rut, slowly getting more uncomfortable while trying to gather up my nerve and take this bold step forward. I have been taking some baby steps, though. I did lead worship at my lifegroup two Sundays in a row. That was pretty big for me.

Paul and I have been reading some healing books by Neil Anderson. And I finally bit the bullet and ordered his book on Discipleship Counseling. I'm a research gal. If God is going to call me into a more active role in ministry, then I gotta know what I am getting into. I want to be prepared.

So I guess I've got some reading to do!

Lord God, thank you that you have a plan and a purpose for my life. I ask that you would fill me with your strength, wisdom, and courage. Give me a boldness to go out and follow you no matter what. Help me to focus on you and not all the obstacles around me that whisper that I can't do it. Let everything I do be for your glory, and not my own. I love you. Amen.

More Cakes and Updated Photos

Sorry that I have been M.I.A. lately.... but I wanted to let everyone know I have added more cake photos to the side photo gallery, and also a couple of photos from 2008.

Hope everyone enjoys!

12 March 2009

My Love Story

Hey Everybody..... I am trying to win a book.... so check out Jessica's Romantic Giveaway on her blog Intense Blessings , and you could be my competition! Thanks!

It's fitting that the request was to share our love story, cause my husband and I are participating in a "Love Dare/Fireproof Your Marriage" group, and we have been asked a couple of times to share our story... how we met.

Paul and I grew up in the same hometown, half our lives living only 4 or 5 minutes from each other, then only about 15 minutes apart during our older school years. We may have even played together (near each other) when we were like 4 or 5... cause my mom was friends with the mom that lived on the corner of his street. I remember visiting there and having neighborhood boys running around playing with the boys that lived at this house (I went to preschool at the same church Paul's parents now attend, with the older boy Chet, and three years later my little sister went to preschool with his brother Michael).

But we official met at Ball State University, 90 miles away from our hometown, in November of our freshman year. The gal who lived in the room directly below mine (Tammy), was in marching band with Paul. She brought him over to our dorm one day and was introducing him around. That particular day, I officially gave up on the guy I had a crush on (he wouldn't ask me out because he didn't want to mess up friendships in our circle of friends... complicated story), so when I saw Paul across the room, I thought, "He's cute, I'll go talk to him!" He immediately said something funny and twisted, and we hit it off right away.

My mother had been encouraging me to "play the field", so I was excited that week to have two dates with two guys (I was asked to dinner by a different male friend).... but after my date with Paul, I canceled the other. Shortly after, we became almost inseparable, and within weeks he moved into my dorm (it had the girls on one side and the guys on the other with a big lobby separating the two).

We spent two more semesters together at school before we both went back home. I continued with school at a local branch while having our first daughter, and he joined the Navy. We married at the end of that year.

We spent the first 21 months of our marriage separated, as Paul had gone from one Navy school to another school in Virginia to a ship that deployed for 6 months.... so I stayed in Indiana and finished my degree. Nikki was two and a half when we finally were able to live together as a family.

In the years that followed, we had two more children, along with a few more moves (to Illinois and then back to Virginia, and now to New Mexico), and we went through our share of hard times. But through it all, we have had a strong relationship. Five years ago, I became a Christian, and Paul began to have a real relationship with the Lord. Since then, our marriage has gotten even better and stronger.

I feel so blessed that we somehow figured out at an early age how to really listen and communicate effectively. We have had so many circumstances stacked up against us that would make many think a healthy and strong marriage would be near impossible, but somehow the Lord preserved our marriage through all those years we lived without Him. Thank you, Jesus!

I think the thing I love the most about our marriage is how perfectly we seem to have been made for each other. We often know what the other is thinking before it is even said. We have many similarities and common interests, usually agreeing on most things (that helps eliminate fights and disagreements). And where there are differences.... we usually compliment each other. Where I am weak, he is strong (and visa versa)... we balance each other out.

I know my husband loves me, faults and all... and I am so amazed at times how well he really does know me. And I am sure that he would say the same thing. He is my best friend, and I am his. We share everything together, and neither of us would want it any other way. He is my shoulder to cry on during my hard times, and I am the emotional support he leans on in his hard times.

Everyone should be so blessed as to find a spouse as wonderful as mine.... to have God fill your marriage with the love and skills needed to love each other unconditionally, and work together through the hard times (coming out the other end so much stronger than you were to begin with)... as well as enjoy the good times!

One thing that Navy life has taught us is this..... don't ever take the other person, or the time you have with them, for granted. Cherish every day together. Love each other and focus on the positive instead of letting negative circumstances tear you apart.

May each of you be blessed wildly in your marriages and relationships!
God Bless!

05 March 2009

A Heart Breaking Experience

Two weeks ago, Paul came home from church with a prayer request for a family from the Picnic in the Park (the ministry we are involved with that feeds the poor and homeless of Las Cruces)... to pray for a family who were about to lose their kids. He did not have details, other than the there was a court hearing that week.

Last night, this couple joined my table at our Wednesday evening Bible study at church. Fitting enough was the topic of the evening... the storms of life. This family is going through quite a storm right now. The husband is trying to stay strong for his wife, and the wife is trying not to fall apart with the absence of her small children.

At the end of the evening, during prayer time, this mother of two broke down in tears. Let me just say, that in the past, I would have run away from this situation as fast as I could. I would have felt badly inside, but yet so uncomfortable I would have no words to say to this hurting mother. I would have been so afraid of my own repressed pain and emotions, that I had no ability whatsoever to show compassion to another hurting soul I did not know.

But last night, the Lord broke my heart for this woman. I cried with her, and I tried to comfort her as best I could. I felt the Lord telling me to tell her that He was there holding her hand, that she could lean on him during this painful time. It could have been easy for me to walk away without saying a word.... actually that would have been the comfortable thing for me to do. But instead, I walked around to the other side of the table, and I whispered to her that Jesus was there holding her hand. She broke down more and began to tell me a little bit about her kids. I cried with her and told her how sorry I was that this was happening to her, and I asked her a couple of questions, like how old her children are. Then she had her husband show me their picture. Most of all, I just tried to listen with compassion.

Even though this was an uncomfortable situation to be in, I really felt the Lord stretching me and changing my heart. I know that God is walking me through my own healing knowing He wants to use me to help other hurting people.... and in this process, I have to step out of my comfort zone and let Him use me.

I do not know if I helped this woman at all during this painful time in her life, but I know that at least in some small way, the Lord has changed me through her pain.

Lord God, I do not really know most of the circumstances behind what is going on with this family, but You do. You know their pain and their needs, and I know that ultimately You are in control of this family's situation. Bless this family with Your peace and comfort during this storm in their lives. Thank you for changing my heart and growing me more in You. Give me strength and courage to step out in uncomfortable circumstances to show compassion to your hurting children. I love you. Amen.

26 February 2009

Parental Freak-out

Ok, so I had my first real "my baby is growing up" freak out last night. My baby, my firstborn is about to be 15. She's getting ready to get her driver's permit (scary in itself, but I won't be the one teaching her to drive).... and to me it seems like I can see the end of her childhood staring me in the face closer than I want to realize.

In three years she will be an adult (at least according to the law). She looks at me like I'm crazy cause to her three years is still a lifetime away. But I'm not so young anymore, and to me three years flies by before I know it. I enjoy seeing her change and grow, but I can't help but think I am much too young to be facing the reality of letting go of my baby. But she's not a little girl anymore.

Maybe it's hitting me a little hard because I am about to be 35. By no means do I see myself as old, but I am at the point in my life where I am facing the reality that I am not that young anymore either.

It is also hitting me that my husband only has 5 years left in the military. When I was still oh, so young, and time passed a bit more slowly... retirement was a lifetime away. I have always liked the security I feel knowing Paul won't lose his job, and we always have health insurance. I know twice a month, like clockwork, his pay will be there no matter what. And there was always so much time left before facing the "real world".... but now that real world is calling out to me.

I see the end of his career looming closer and I admit it scares me a bit. I know he will have good job prospects when he gets out of the service, but we will be facing the unknown. Of course I recognize that God will have something great for him (and probably even way better because there will be no more deployments... yippie!). But still it is hard not to cling to the known... the comfortable.

I have to remind myself that the Bible tells us not to worry. Don't worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of it's own. Don't worry about the future, because God has a plan for a hope and a future, a plan to prosper not harm.

I think about our economy and the spiritual state of this country. It can be saddening and overwhelming at times. But I know God is in charge. He is in control. A friend recently told me that she believes that our country will have to fall apart before Jesus can return. You know, that kind of made sense a bit. She said that America is like that codependent rescuer... out to save everyone else around the world, and how is the world going to be willing to follow a one world rule (the antichrist mentioned on Revelations) unless we as a country fall apart and can no longer be the ones to keep everything and everyone "together"?

I wonder about what kind of world will be here for my children to raise their children in. We live in the Land of the Free, however, conservative Christian faith is being subtly attacked and our rights are being chipped away little by little.

All these thoughts and feelings cascade my mind.... but I know the answer is simple. I need to keep my eyes on Jesus. I need to serve him with my life, and focus on working for His kingdom rather than focusing on all these "what if's" of the world.

Lord, thank you that you bring peace and comfort even during uncertain or scary times. Help me stay focused on you, Lord, knowing that I cannot really do anything about my circumstances other than to surrender to you. I love you. Amen.

18 February 2009

Because I Want To, Not Cause I Have To

So there are all of these great things going on around me that I have wanted to be a part of... joining in my church's "Year of the Bible" where I committed to reading a chapter a day and journaling once a week, the "40 Day Love Dare" based on the Fireproof movie, along with working on the Thin Within/Thin Again and other healing processes. These are all things I wanted to commit to. However, I am realizing that once I commit, I shut down. I don't do it. I am behind. I am overwhelmed.

So why is this happening? I am reminded of Romans 8 when Paul refers to doing things I don't want to do and not doing the things I do want to. This is where I am at. I want to read my Bible each day, but I don't. I want to journal each week, but I don't. I want to pray with my husband each day, but I don't. I want to do family worship and devotionals, but we don't. The list goes on and on.

But today I realized that each time I decided to take one of these things on, especially if I have officially "committed to it" (our church uses commitment cards to encourage participation)... I change my "want to" into a "have to", and this is powerful ammunition for my flesh. My flesh rebels... HARD against "have to's". If I think I have to do something, I set myself up for failure time and time again. I think I cannot do it or follow through, so I don't. Then I begin to feel guilty because I committed but then don't do what I said I would. With the guilt comes condemnation, which in turn fuels the "I can't do it" thinking which feeds the feelings of being overwhelmed.

But here is the truth. I NEED to be fed by the spirit of God each day. I WANT to be fed by the spirit of God each day. I have the FREEDOM to choose to be fed or go hungry, there is NO "have to"..... no guilt, no condemnation.

Lord God, fill my heart with you this day. I want to be consumed by your spirit to the point that I want to seek you out each morning because I know I cannot truly live without you. Turn all of my "have to's" back to "want to's" and my "all or nothing" thinking into balanced thinking. Thank you for your unconditional love and grace. I love you. Amen.

09 February 2009

Pouring Out God's Love

Did you know that God wants to pour his love out on you? Do you feel it? Can you receive it?

For five years now I have been learning and reading about God's love... that He loves me. But I (as well as many others out there) have had a lot of trouble really believing it deep inside. It is head knowledge that has been lacking deep in my heart.

I grew up in a less than nurturing home where the feelings of love were hard to give and receive. My parents were not able to fulfill my deepest needs, and as a result I thought it was my fault (as many very young children do) and spent much of my life feeling unworthy of love.

I would be continually amazed as I got older when someone would want to spend time with me (because so many more did not) or would show interest in me, because deep down I felt disqualified somehow to be liked or loved by anyone else. I could not see what others saw in me. I didn't even know, or want to know, who I really was because I was so busy trying to please everyone around me in hopes of finding the love I so needed. I thought I had to be what they wanted, and perfect, for anyone to want to be with me.

So it really is no wonder why I could not accept God's love when I could barely accept it from my peers. I also had an unhealthy need of approval coupled with an extreme fear of authority. And who could be a greater authority than God Almighty?

How could I be good enough or worthy of God's love? I had equated love with approval and did not understand that someone, especially God, could love me simply for who I am, faults and all.

Over the years I have grown to trust in the Lord more and more, and that has helped me to grow closer to God. I have come to be able to see value in who He has created me to be and to embrace the giftings He has placed in my life.

But I was still being driven by this deep fear of rejection. Do I really believe that God loves ME? That he will NEVER reject me? I know it in my head, but can I really believe it in my heart? In the depth of my soul and spirit? Can I rest in the Father's love? Can I walk through any trial or times of trouble knowing I will come through it with the Lord's strength because of his incredible love for me?

I have been afraid to let go of my whole heart and surrender every ounce of it to God. I have been afraid because of feelings of rejection and criticism from my earthly parents. I had thought I had to make them happy and earn their love, that I had to be perfect.

Well, knowing I am not and cannot be perfect, nor could I make them happy (as if their happiness or unhappiness was based on me).... you can see the damage that can do to a small child. And my mother was not happy in her life with three small children. She was living a life she had "settled for", rather than the one she really wanted. And there was so much hurt in her that came out on us kids through critical words, judgments, and bitterness. That translated over into my psyche as rejection.

And I know that my father loved me, but he himself has told me that he "didn't know what to do with me (because I was such a sensitive child), so he just left me to my mother to deal with". Again, this left a scar of rejection imprinted on my soul.

So if deep down inside you feel rejected by the two people who are supposed to love you no matter what, then how can you possible trust or believe in God's unconditional love? We tend to transfer our feelings and experiences of our parents and their parenting onto God. And if you do that.... then maybe you see God as critical and judgmental or passive and uninterested. You either fear that He will hurt and lash out at you, or maybe you cannot believe He will really be there to meet your needs. If you did not know how to feel or receive your parents' love, then how can you believe that God loves us?

But He does! He loves us in ways that even the most loving parents in the world could never do. Isn't that amazing?

So this weekend, I have begun to open my heart.... my whole heart to God, to receive the love that He wants to pour over me. He has told me how worthy I am and how much He loves me. But more than that, he has given me a wonderful gift!

He told me that my parents did not reject ME, they just did not know HOW to love me!

That was such a powerful statement that I cannot even begin to fully express it in words. But somehow, it has lifted a weight.... this veil covering my heart and shielding it from rejection. A veil meant to shelter me from hurt but ultimately preventing me from receiving the good as well.

It gives me hope that I can completely free my heart from the anger and bitterness that has taken root over the years because of that deep feeling of rejection. I can release it to God and bask in his love for me!

Father God, thank you so much for this wonderful gift.... this gift of your love being poured out on me! I want to bask in it forever, soaking up its healing power and strength. I ask that you reach out to everyone reading this and touch them with your love. Open their hearts to receive you so that they, too, can learn to rest in the Father's love. Give me the wisdom and strength to be an encouragement to my family as they, too, learn to rest in your love for them. I love you. Amen.

Letting Go of Labels

For years I have been living under various labels... some given to me and some self imposed. But this weekend, I realized the labels that I have allowed to control my life and determine my self image/value have always been negative ones.

I'm a perfectionist, a control freak.
I'm an addict, out of control and/or fat.
I'm unhealthy and codependent.
I'm depressed and wounded.
I am a slob and unable to keep my house clean.
I am lazy and selfish.
I'm this... or that.... It doesn't really matter what I fill in the blank with.

I have some dear friends (and you know who you are....) who have called me on this on several occasions. They gently, but lovingly remind me that I am not whatever label I have given myself. They remind me that I need to let go of that label instead of claiming it.

"Kim," they would say, "You are not codependent! That isn't WHO you are. It is a problem God has brought you out of, and you really need to stop claiming that!"

Of course I often listen and apply it to that particular occasion. But I had never connected it to the bigger picture... the pattern I have been living in. I somehow hadn't realized with complete comprehension that it isn't something I do here or there.... it is reoccurring over and over in different aspects of my life. It was said this weekend by our guest speaker at the retreat that "there is a greater reality than our limited perceptions." And this is exactly the reason a recent acquaintance said to me that "I am healthier than I give myself credit for".

So this weekend, GOD has called me on it! He has shown me how I have continually clung to the negative labels. Through the words of our guest speaker, God has given me the only lable I have ever needed or will ever need again...

I AM THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE! (that makes me a princess, by the way.... just as every single one of His children is a prince or a princess!)

Wow! Imagine the strength and power of that statement if we really believe it and apply it to our lives!

We are children of God. Our purpose in this life is to serve and love our Lord, and this is what we need to cling to. This is what should define us. Not our successes or failures. Not our jobs or titles or accomplishments. We are treasured by God because He loves us. And we are free by God's grace to be anything and everything He has called and created us to be!

How amazing!

Lord God, thank you for this amazing word in my life this weekend. Please forgive me for clinging to titles and accomplishments (or lack thereof) to define who I am. Lord, I lay all the labels down before you at the cross. I give them up to you, Lord God, and instead choose to define myself with your label.... Daughter of the King! I love you! Amen.

06 February 2009

Something So Obvious!

Have you ever known something about yourself for a long time, at least on the surface... yet find yourself so suddenly amazed at the truth behind it?

I have always known that I fear rejection. To be honest, I think almost everyone does on some level.

But I am talking about a fear so ingrained that it literally controls you and changes who you are and how you respond to God and the world. I did not realize how deep it is, how much of a root it is to the strongholds of my life. I didn't realize that it is this fear of rejection, stemming from my very early childhood-even before I was born, that has completely shaped my self esteem, my relationships, my attitudes, my anger and bitterness, my judgmentalness, and my social anxieties and people pleasing problems. In a nut-shell.... all of the codependent behaviors, anxieties, addictions, and depression in my life is based a great deal on my fear of rejection.

It makes sense to me now, all those years of hiding.... wanting to blend in or be invisible. I didn't talk to people unless they talked to me. I was filled with so much anxiety in social situations that I kept people at a distance, rarely letting anyone in to see the real me. I didn't even want to know for most of my life who I even was, maybe afraid that I'd even reject myself. My whole life I would say, do, or be what other people wanted so they would not reject me outright, all the while almost never receiving the love and acceptance I so disparately wanted.

It also makes sense why I spent so many years numbing myself with television and food. They were my friends. They would NEVER reject me. They brought me comfort and companionship when I thought I was unworthy to deserve that from legitimate sources. They dulled my pain so I wouldn't have to live in reality for face the fact that I had difficult things to deal with.

And then here is the truly ironic part of it all, and I know all of you fellow food abusers will understand me here..... the exact thing I was using for comfort was also driving me further into my world of rejection, a sort of self-sabotage. Heavy people are not popular or looked at by the world with respect and love. They are condemned for being fat and out of control. "We don't have will power or we must be ignorant for living in our unhealthy lifestyles." I think very few people stop to realize that someone who is obese (and I was there at 243 pounds) is a person who is really hurting deep down inside. And I think way too often they are in many ways only surviving and not really living.... at least that was where I was.

Even after I became a believer in Jesus, it still took me a very long time to start living and stop "surviving". Looking back, I can see that it took me a very long time to believe that God would not reject me. God loved me no matter what, even at 243 pounds. Of course He wants to heal me and help me move towards a healthy weight and a healthy life... but along that journey (and even if we never end up setting foot on that journey), He will ALWAYS love us. No Matter What!!!

Lord God, thank you for saving me. Thank you for opening my eyes to the roots so that I can be free from them. Thank you for all the work you have already done in me, freeing me from addictions, codependent relationships, social anxieties and depression. Lord, you have broken my heart for the heavy.... the heavy in weight and in spirit. My heart cries out for those who are stuffing their pain with food, like I once did.... and I cry out for them that you would bring them release and healing, strength to face their pain and release it to you, Lord God. I love you. Amen.

04 February 2009

The Food Addict in Reverse?

20 months ago I embarked on a journey called Thin Within. A support group was started in my church, and we met for about 8 months. I was the "success story" of that group, losing 40 pounds in that period of time. But more importantly, I was well on my way to the real journey of healing.... a journey leading to Jesus himself.

Unfortunately, the group withered and eventually ended, but I continued on my journey. I have battled losing and gaining the same 8 pounds ever since the group ended... but I continued working through, as best I could, my issues that were causing me to turn to food.

Once arriving here in New Mexico, I had no support system, and definitely no Thin Within support group. I began to fall away a bit as I struggled adjusting to a new place. But now I am back on track, and so grateful that my former group leader is now my "desert buddy". We are out in this wilderness together, supporting each other and talking weekly as we work through our issues (many are the same for both of us).

This past week has been very challenging for me as God is really bringing up some deep roots. I am discovering strongholds in my life and the roots to those strongholds. I am trying to walk through releasing this deep, deep inner junk to my Lord and break free.

As a result, I am experiencing much opposition and warfare. I have sliced up my thumb, experienced a good depression spell sending my hubby into a bit of a tizzy, had problems with our van starting that come and go at seemly random and inconvenient times, the toilet flooded the bathroom one instant but then was just fine the next, oh and we can't forget the mice! I also have been fighting migraines... and this is just been the last week and a half!

I am also getting ready to go on a women's retreat at our church.... a retreat that I expect will really bring about something awesome in my life. So unfortunately, I am expecting the warfare to continue. I just remind myself whenever it seems that I am under attack, that means I am on the right track and making incredible progress for God.

Usually, as a recovering food addict, anything emotional or stressful sends me running for food. I admit that when Paul was on his retreat last month, I had a lot of trouble with food and television. I am used to him being gone, he is in the Navy afterall. But he has been here every day for over 5 months, and I have become quite used to it. But having him leave sent me back in that old pattern of numbing myself through the time to try to make it go faster. (Doesn't work, by the way!)

But a funny thing has happened to me this week. Amist all the stress and mental and emotional turmoil, I have not wanted to turn to food. In fact, the exact opposite has plagued me. I have not wanted to eat. By the time Paul arrived home around lunchtime on Saturday, I was not only depressed but also becoming physically ill because I had not eaten anything. Between the emotions and the bottoming sugar levels, I was not really even able to talk to him (thus sending him into a tizzy... he doesn't like it when I can't/won't talk to him and am not acting like myself cause he doesn't know how to help me).

With my migraines and revelations these past couple of days, I have had to focus on making myself eat so that I do not make myself ill. I normally don't have too much trouble with my blood sugar, but not eating or drinking anything for longer periods of time will mess anyone up.

But who would of guessed? A food addict who doesn't want to eat? Hmmmm...

Lord Jesus, thank you for being right here beside me for every step of this journey. Thank you for your comfort and understanding, as you know exactly what it means to suffer. Thank you that food has not had a huge pull on me this week, but I ask that you protect me from the pendulum swinging the opposite way.... for not eating is just as unhealthy and dysfunctional as eating too much. Help keep me balanced as I continue to move forward in you. I love you. Amen.

02 February 2009

My Confession of Bitterness...

This week I have had a major breakthrough in my journey of healing. I am getting to the root, and the Lord is showing me things I need to face to find the healing I am striving for. Once again I have looked at "symptoms", not quite seeing how they all work together.

I have been a professional number (numb-er... as in to numb myself. Just had to throw that in cause it looked like number, as in a numeral) ...for the first 34 years of my life, but I have completely abandoned that profession (so to speak) this year. Ok, I haven't completely abandoned the behavior (still walking that one out each and every day), but I have given up the title.

I am not numbing myself with drugs (antidepressants) or addictions (food, tv, etc.), so that leaves me with a choice every time I begin to feel the pain I have been running from.... because stuff comes to the surface when you are feeling everything. I can choose to move forward and ask God to show me what I'm dealing with so He can walk me through it and heal me, or I can return to my numbing ways and avoid it.

Of course I do not want to move backwards, so in that sense it is not a choice at all.... I have to choose to move forward. So I have been learning to grieve things in my past that I had no control over... things that hurt and damaged me. I have had to start facing anger that sits under the surface mocking me.... this anger I have been so afraid of for so long. I have been trying to figure out how to let go and forgive. All these things I have looked at, one at a time as they have come up.... not seeing the bigger picture.

I grew up with a controlling and critical mother. She was not a nurturing person by nature, and her dysfunctional upbringing did not prepare her to be the loving mother of three babies in three years time. I know in my heart that she did the best she knew how. And she loved us as much as she knew how. But we three kids grew up without a lot of what we needed to live emotionally stable and healthy lives.

As different events happened in my life, as hurtful situations happened and hurtful words were said... they were filed deep inside because I could not handle dealing with them. I did not recognize or process anything through the years, and now I am left with 34 years of hurts and memories.

I have tried to forgive, but as each new memory comes, I feel the pain again and again. But worse than that, I have allowed years of repressed anger to fester. This festering anger has turned into a huge amount of bitterness in my heart. And this bitterness is keeping me in a place where I cannot move forward.

I knew I was angry. I have been angry with my mother on and off for 10 years. But I had not realized how avoiding that anger has allowed it to turn into something even uglier. Years of judgment and resentment have cascaded into a bitterness so strong that it has completely hardened my heart. It is a horrible thing to admit, but right now this bitterness is so strong that it has almost completely blocked off all feelings of love and good will. I want to love my mother. I want to show her the love of Jesus through me. But right now I am so shut down that I cannot even imagine a day when that can happen.

I recently posted about my confession of judgment and how I have clung to my judgments rather than to move forward. I did not realize then how it is being completely fueled by my bitterness.

At an alter call yesterday, my pastor encouraged anyone needing to let go of "bad grief" (the kind we cling to to look back and scorn and criticize- to allow us to harbor resentments) to come lay it at the alter and ask Jesus to help let it go. Because as long as we hold onto it, we will not move forward... it will continue to hold us back.

So I knelt at the alter, and I cried out to the Lord.... "Why can I not let her go? Why can I not forgive her?". And the Lord showed me the bitterness in my heart. He showed me that until I release the bitterness to Him, my heart will remain cold and hard. I have to let it go to Him. I have to surrender my mother and my judgments to Him. I have to forgive to release my heart from this stone prison.

Today I printed out and read some notes from a conference a friend of mine had attended at her church. (She had emailed them to me Saturday evening but I had not had the opportunity to read them until today.) One of the topics was on strongholds. A stronghold is like a prison in our lives that Satan uses to keep us from God. They come about when we hand over ground to the enemy of our souls... allowing him the access he needs that binds us..... through lies, doubt, temptation, and sin. And the longer we allow access, the stronger that stronghold gets in our life. Then it listed three main areas that gives Satan ground; bitterness, greed (idolatry), and immorality.

DING, DING, DING! The bells are ringing now!

Before I became a Christian, there was definitely immorality prevailing in my life. But after coming to the Lord, He changed my heart in many areas. I repented of my past and now live my life for the Lord.

Since beginning on this journey of healing, I have come face to face with my addictions (idolatries), and again the Lord has been changing my heart. I have been learning to turn to Him, not to things of this world to satisfy my needs.

But bitterness..... here is ground that I have not turned over to God. I have wanted to, but I have not been able to let go. They call it a stronghold for a reason! And in the notes, it refers to how God gives bitter people over to tormentors to afflict our souls. These tormentors can include: fears, doubt, anxiety, uncontrolled anger, eating disorders, depression....

Hmmm? Sound familiar? These are all "symptoms" I have been battling. But they aren't really individual problems to conquer.... the root cause of all these things is a stronghold. And right now, that stronghold is bitterness.

Here are two passages I found in the Bible referring to bitterness (I added the italics and bold print for emphasis)...

Hebrews 12:14-16 (New Living Translation)

A Call to Listen to God
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.

Ephesians 4:30-32 (New Living Translation)

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Here the Bible refers to bitterness as "poisonous". I just read an article that called bitterness "cancer of the soul". The Lord wants us to #1... PREVENT bitterness from taking root in our lives.... we do this by not harboring anger, by resolving conflicts and processing our crap as it comes up. I experienced a situation last year that was very difficult for me to go through, and a friend warned me to not allow bitterness to take root in the situation. I took that to heart, and although it took me many months to resolve my feeling in that situation, I did not allow my anger to turn to bitterness.

But what happens when the anger has been denied so long that it is already bitterness by the time you deal with it? That's were the #2 comes in... the Lord wants us to get rid of the bitterness! And of course the rage, anger, harsh words and slander... because that's what leads to the bitterness. As long as we continue to dwell on the anger and speak in harsh words, it will continue to fester that anger until bitterness is the result.

In my reading today on bitterness, it was stated that "the irony of bitterness is that it ties us emotionally to the person we are bitter toward". How true that is. I have been trying to separate myself from the dysfunction of my relationship with my mother... to process the pain and grief and move forward and heal, to figure out who I am outside of who she wants me to be (after years of trying to be who she wanted).... but instead I am completely drawn back to the pain and dysfunction... I cannot break free. I couldn't see before now that my inability and unwillingness to forgive her is what is binding me to her. The bitterness has been eating me alive, and I could not see that I have to let it go, or else I am letting it grow.

And the absolute worse thing about bitterness is that it can build a wall between you and God... it can prevent you from feeling God's love. It can drive God's grace from your heart. It is the "soul cancer" that can kill our souls just as cancer kills our physical bodies. The article talked about how God's grace and our bitterness cannot live in the same heart. Either God's grace will push out the bitterness, or our bitterness will push out God's grace.

I think I prefer God's grace!

Lord God, thank you for the painful truths you have brought into my life this week. I will rest in your courage and strength as I ask you to search my heart and show me what you want me to change... what you want me to let go of. Lord, take this bitterness from me, I give it to you. Help me walk through this process... to let go of it all and release it to you... to give forgiveness so that I may find my freedom in you! Soften my heart and fill me with your peace and comfort, Lord God. I love you. Amen.

29 January 2009

My Finger Woes....

... or should I say, my thumb!
CAUTION.....graphic content... if you get whoozy hearing about bloody medical problems, you may not wish to continue reading.

So....Last night I was using a very sharp serrated knife to level a still somewhat frozen cake. Usually I level a cake before freezing, but as you may remember from my last post, the afore mentioned mouse in my kitchen caused the sudden need for cakes to be placed in safe and secure places... like the freezer.

Well, before I knew what had happened, the sharp knife slipped somewhat and went flying up through the cake and right through my left thumb. I calmly called out to my husband that I had cut myself, and badly. We wrapped the thumb and headed off to the post clinic. Did I mention it was already pushing 9 p.m. and after the time he wanted to head to bed cause he had to be at work at 5 a.m. this morning?

So we head into the clinic, and a young soldier greets me with a, "Hi, what can we help you with this evening?" I announce my folly of trying to hack off the end of my thumb while trying to decorating a cake. The second guy says, "Cool, can I see it?" while the first asked me if the cake won, to which I said, "No, the knife did!" It was all quite the humorous start to an unpleasant evening.

I could tell that this clinic is not used to much evening emergency action. Although everyone was very nice and friendly, there seemed to be a bit of bumbling around. It actually took them quite awhile to figure out what even to do with my thumb.... stitches, Dermabond, or even just wrapping it tightly without doing anything at all.

It was decided to try the Dermabond, and they numbed the thumb so they could really move it around to see what was going on. Then it was determined that I had sliced through a chunk of nail, so that was removed. After that, they could not get the bleeding to stop and didn't think the glue method was going to work. But with the nail gone, there was a place (and room) to stitch.... so two stitches I got.

And a tetanus shot. YUCK! I thought they were good for 10 years.... but apparently the military clinic will give one to you if it has been more than five years since the last. And since it has been six years and one month, my file was red flagged to receive one. Of course I got that on the opposite arm as my hurt hand, so I was hurting on both sides. Made sleeping last night a little challenging.

Now my thumb is all wrapped up with bandages and a "gingerbread man", which is a five pronged, cushioned metal thingy that surrounds and protects my thumb, and it kind of looks like a blue gingerbread man hugging my thumb. I have to wear it for three days, and keep it completely dry for a week until I go in to have the stitches removed. When the wrapping comes off I will have some exposed nail bed, which I have been told will be the most unpleasant part of the experience/recovery. It has been throbbing a bit, but mostly it isn't too bad.

I got praises all around for being "such a trooper".... I guess some big guy had been in a week or so before me with basically the same procedure, and he did not remain so calm and put together. I just told them I try to keep things in perspective. If I can give birth to three children, the first an emergency c-section and the second a 9 pounder with an unmedicated VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section).... then I think I can handle some needles in my thumb... and arm. Yes it was unpleasant. Yes, it hurt. But it compared to childbirth and surgery? Not so much.

I am thankful that no greater damage was done... although I currently have a wrinkle on the end of my thumb.... the gal said to me, "you know how sometimes when you sew fabric together you get a little bit of a wrinkle at the bottom?" So you can guess the rest on that one. But the thumb will be fine, and may not even have much of a scar. And the nail will grow back eventually. I will have to be really careful in the bath for a few days. Paul will have to help me wash my hair in the kitchen sink. The girls will have to take over all the dish duties, and some of the cooking this week. And I get to take it a little easy.

But most of all, I am thankful this was a cake for Paul's work, and NOT for Picnic in the Park (where I make cake for 250 people). That would not have been good.

A friend of mine does a weekly post she calls "Not Me Monday" where she writes of all the things she "doesn't" do..... a confession of sorts. Personally, I have never felt the urging to post these myself. I often just fess up to said stupidities (such as in this post) with a, "Yup, I did it!" but I have decided this experience would be hilarious in a short UNofficial version of "Not ME".... so here goes.

It was NOT ME who was not paying atention while using a sharp knife. And of course I NEVER try to level frozen cakes because I am too smart for that. (And It was NOT ME who was so terrified of that little mousey that caused all this trouble to begin with!!!) And it was definitely NOT ME who then hacked the end of her thumb and part of her nail.

And it was certainly NOT ME who walked in my door and then picked up the same said sharp knife to finish leveling the cake that sat unattended on my counter while working around a hugely bandaged thumb. Of course I would NEVER chance cutting another finger off.

I know... pretty dumb, but quite funny! I hope the guys at the Desert Ship enjoyed the cake. Chocolate cake, plain white frosting. In fact, it was the worst looking cake I have made since I started decorating.... but I'm sure it tasted good.

Dear Lord, thank you for protecting me from further hurts and giving me strength through this experience. Thank you for a wonderful and supportive husband who loves me more than sleep. Help my thumb heal quickly, and help me be able to release control of my kitchen and get some extra rest. I love you. Amen.

April 2005

April 2005
Justin, Kim, Nikki, & Tricia

October 2011

October 2011