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!

April 2005

April 2005
Justin, Kim, Nikki, & Tricia

October 2011

October 2011