Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Hater's Heyday

I spent quite a bit of time reading through comments online about the interview Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) gave GQ magazine today. It was such a mess of hatred. Sadly, a lot of the hate was being spat out by people referring to themselves as Christians. It honestly breaks my heart because it is so very clear to see why many people have such a poor view of Christians. Many of the comments were judgmental and just plain mean. Some people would start out nice, but then after being attacked would spout out lines of hatred.

I love God. I love his word, the Bible. I hate sin. Sin is clearly spelled out in the Bible. I could probably fill pages and pages with possible sins a person could commit. That isn't what being a Christian is about. Being a Christian is about understanding that no matter how hard I try, I am never going to be able to live a life without sin in it. The only way for me to be without sin is by accepting the forgiveness Christ offered by dying on the cross, by completely accepting that I can't do this without him. It comes by daily, sometimes hourly or by the minute, putting down my desires and seeking God to instead give me his.

I think by writing this I want to remind myself, as well as whoever may read it, we are the face of grace here in this world. What do our faces look like? What reason are we giving people to pick up a Bible and want to know that gift of grace? Why would anyone want to be part of Christianity that they see as judging and hating them? Satan is the accuser, but he has turned the hands and feet of Christ in this world into the fingers pointing and mocking.

What we need to be mad at is that we have somehow had our salvation twisted to be the very thing that keeps others from knowing God. And for what? So we can be right? So we can prove exactly what sins someone is or isn't committing by clearly pointing it out in whatever translation of the Bible we think would be the most effective?

It is not our job to convict someone's heart. When we try it turns to judgment and hatred. God is the only one who can convict, and he does it gently. He meets each person where they are and lovingly corrects them in a way we are not capable of.

I am guilty. I say mean, cruel and judgmental things and try to use the excuse that it's not wrong because clearly, it's sin. It's not my place to do that. My job is to worry about the sin God is gently guiding me through in my life. My job is to steer clear of the things God has corrected in me or shown me in his word.

My biggest job, however, is to love. It is to show grace and kindness to others, whether Christians or not.  My job is to pray that I can somehow show Jesus love physically to people who have not seen it, so then they can have a desire to know him.

The really awesome thing is the grace God gave me is so exciting, so awesome and appealing that it is impossible to ignore when I shut up and really seek him to do the speaking, whether actual talking, or through my actions.

What does that all mean? For me it means stopping myself when I get irritated in line at the store. Instead of getting angry, show compassion to that cashier. It means giving that waitress who gave me poor service a great tip. It means telling her I appreciate the job she did serving me. It means holding doors, smiling, speaking kind things even when I want to criticize. Showing kindness and love to someone isn't hard. Maybe that means stopping and having a conversation with the worker that I just realized is a guy instead of a girl. Other times I may have walked by and then stopped and laughed and pointed it out to whoever was with me. Showing love is sometimes just as simple as shutting my mouth and listening, really listening to someone. It's acknowledging people, that they have worth and it can be done in many small gestures.

Every person I meet every day is a sinner. The one I need to be the most worried about is the one I see in the mirror, first thing in the morning every day. When I forget the mess I am without Christ and I start thinking I have it all together, I waste the gift he gave me. I am a big fat sinner and always will be while I'm here on this earth. I pray God corrects me every time I start to forget that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

That Dicey December of 1994

Lately I've been feeling a rush of thankfulness for people who have changed my life. The emotions just start to rise up in my heart, leaving me feeling like I'm going to pop. I need to share this, to let it gush out, sort of like one of those volcano's I made in school with baking soda and vinegar.

This is in honor of my sister, Jana. Many know our story, but some of you don't, so I'll start at the very beginning.

As a very young child, I remember laying in bed, praying to Jesus that he would give me a little sister. I knew a younger sister would make my life complete. I remember being so disappointed the longer I went without seeing that prayer answered. As I grew older, my prayer seemed silly to me. I mean, come on, like God was really going to give a little girl a baby sister just because she asked?? I knew it was a silly dream, a silly thing to ask of God.

Well, nineteen years ago this month God delivered my baby sister to me.

I had recently returned from Teen Challenge. Sometimes I would be called on to go talk to a teenager who was out of control. The goal was to try to get them into some type of rehab program. On a cold and snowy December morning in 1994, one such call came. It was cold, I had just finished working an overnight shift at my job. The last thing I wanted to do was to go try to persuade a belligerent teen to get some help. I begrudgingly packed up my arsenal of photo's I carried to help sell the cause and drug myself down to the juvenile detention house. There I met a 15 year old that was about as warm as a polar ice cap. She sat stiffly listening to what I was saying. There was absolutely no indication that I was doing anything to persuade her, I could just feel this stubborn kid cussing me out in her head. I gave her my regular speech with only half of my heart, this was pointless.

Later I found out she was being released and was moving into my parents house. She had decided that she was going to go to Teen Challenge. I was more than a little surprised because of the way she had reacted during my sales pitch. She left for Teen Challenge a few months later. She did really well there, and God completely changed her. I remember not knowing how to feel when she would introduce me as her sister. It felt fake, like something needy or insecure people do to try to make themselves feel part of something. I wanted to claim her, but I held back because I didn't want to accept her as my sister and then have her reject that relationship later. That didn't change for quite a while.
Twelve years ago God really started cementing our relationship. Sometime during that time I suddenly saw exactly what happened. All those years ago when I said those silly little girl prayers, pleading for a baby sister, God said yes. God said yes, but we had to keep walking until the right time for him to bring our paths together.

When God made my little sister and I he cut us out of the same fabric. We don't share any DNA physically, but spiritually we are blood.  We are different in a lot of ways, like any sisters, but when people meet us they never think we aren't actual sisters. We look alike, we talk alike, we are passionate about all of the same things. We finish each others sentences. Sometimes our kids are mistaken for siblings. In every way possible, God has woven us together as family.

Now to the sappy stuff.

Jana builds me up. She loves me when I'm not loveable. She tells me the truth, even when I hang up on her after she does. Jana knows how I'm feeling without me having to say the words. When I rejoice, she joins me in the party. When my world falls apart she climbs in the pit with me and hugs me. She forces me to be a better person. She always turns me back to Christ. I wouldn't be half of the person that I am if I didn't have her in my life. She is the wisest person I know.

That cold December morning in 1994 changed my life. I thank God I went to meet that stubborn kid. God answers our prayers sometimes in the most unlikely place, with the most unlikely people and in the most unlikely ways.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Unchained Melanie

I've been planning on writing this for quite some time. I want to share the story of an unruly wild woman who changed my life. Her name is Melanie, or for those who love her, "Mel Mel".
Melanie has always marched to her own beat. When I say that, I mean it quite literally. When she sings, plays drums or guitar it was literally at a different beat than anyone else. She was completely off tempo and out of tune but was mesmerizing. At first I thought I couldn't tear myself away because it was like watching a train wreck, but as time went on it became clear that it was something else completely that had me transfixed. When Mel was "making her joyful noises" something awesome happened to her face. She just glowed. This was a woman who was overflowing with joy, praising God in a way I had never seen. She didn't seem to have any clue that music wasn't a natural gift, she didn't care. She was going to praise God.
Melanie also had an unconventional look. She always had her hair in a mullet, business in the front, party in the back. Many of Mel's clothes were things she delightfully found on the beach. I remember walking the beaches with her as a 16 year old girl. I wanted to walk back a ways because of embarrassment. Mel didn't just walk the beach, she marched it, singing out of tune and praying out loud sometimes stopping and laughing at something God was revealing to her. At the time I was afraid people would see I was with this woman who looked like a crazy homeless person. Mel did not care in the least what anyone else thought, she was praising God.
Mel had frequent migraines, and still does. I remember her calling me to her room. It was totally black and she was laying in the bed, whispering and tensing from the pain. She grabbed my hand and placed it on her head and said, "Pray for me Chessa. I need you to pray for me." I felt so incapable of praying anything that could possibly help her. She even fed me the words to pray. Over time she taught me how to pray, to pray with faith and urgency.
Melanie is the one I went to when I completely messed up. There was a time that I had done the worst possible thing I could imagine. I was so scared to tell her, I just knew she was going to be so angry and I was going to be in so much trouble. When I finally managed the courage to get the story out, what happened baffled me. She started sobbing. She didn't yell or accuse me, she just cried. She was crying because she hurt for me. She was crying because of the pain I was in and that I came to her with it. I had never experienced something like this.
The lessons I have taken from this God given mother are more than I can write.
Melanie taught me to pray. She taught me to love God with abandon. She gave me a glimpse of the pain God feels for me when I make mistakes, not the fire and brimstone God I grew up believing in.
Mel showed me what love looks like.
The most important thing she taught me took a long time for me to recognize, however.
2 Cor 12:9 "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
In Melanie I learned that God really can take our brokenness to show his power. If Melanie had been a terrific musician, I wouldn't have seen that joy and abandon she found praising God. I wouldn't have experienced just how lost a person could get just experiencing God.
If Mel had been perfectly dressed with her hair always styled just right, I wouldn't have found her approachable. She would have intimidated me. Because she was a mess I felt safe sharing my messes with her. I knew she would receive me, she wouldn't judge me.
Many of the parts of Melanie that really influenced my life were the parts that were weak or broken. They were the things that we so often look at as our failures. In her flaws and inabilities God showed me his face.
My lesson from Melanie is that while God blesses us all with gifts and skills, sometimes it's our lack of skill that is the most effective if we are willing to just serve him with it anyway. When we stop holding back self consciously and allow people to see all of us, even the ugly spots, God is able to use us for his glory, more gloriously than anything we can do with natural skill and grace. It is in our weakness, our clumsiness, our messiness and our downright dirty spots that he can show his strength.
I love you Mel Mel.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Great Grandma's story

In the little town of Moddergat, near the North Sea, in the province of Friesland, Wiltje Hoekstra worked for a farmer plowing fields.  It was a crowded country, wet and cold most of the year.  William (Wiltje) and Johanna had borne 12 children, including 3 sets of twins.  Four of the children had died, Katie's twin, John's twin and a small baby six months old, also 14 year old Eelkje (Ida).  It was a hard life, hard to find enough food to go around the big table.  The women sold fish when the fishermen came home from the sea to help out, but it was never enough..

So, Wiltje and Beppe (Johanna) decided it was time to go to America where the land was cheap and there was lots of it..

They would go where some friends had already settled, the Fishers and Woltjers in Clara City, Minnesota.  (The Fishers could be related to Johanna's maternal grand parent, Jeltje Visser).  It was decided that Pakka would take the three older children and find a place to live, and mother would follow later with the rest of the family.  So he left with Hendrik (Henry), Fobbe and Hielkje.  Henry's twin brother Klaas would stay behind and look after mother and the younger children.  Also, of course, Klaas's sweetheart was there and he wanted to get married..

Wiltje and his children went to Clara City near their friends and worked until they could buy some land.  The children also found work wherever they could, farming and keeping house..

One year later, Beppe came with Jeltje, Trijntje (Katie), Detje (Deddie) and Jan (John).  Klaas couldn't persuade his bride to leave, so they stayed there..(At that time) in a big sailboat, it took two weeks to get across the water.  They were all sick except Jeltje, who managed to get tea from the boat captain for the family..

They landed on Halifax Island and were taken to a high building where they could  look down at all the little people and houses.  It was like Fairyland to little Deddie, age 4 and little John.  Soon they were placed on a train headed for Minnesota.  They didn't have any food and hardly any money, and couldn't speak English - What an experience!  At one place, Beppe spotted an outdoor fruitstand near the train tracks and sent Jeltje to buy some oranges to eat.  Beppe stood with one foot in the train and one foot on the ground to be sure the train wouldn't go until Jeltje was safely back onboard..

Deddie had taken her little doll all the way from Holland to America, the one rememberance of her home across the big sea.  It rode all the way across America on the train too - but when they got off the train at Clara City, in all the confusion, it was left behind.  That sad little girl still remembers it, although she is now 95 years old.  She had ten children to take it's place but there is still an empty spot in her heart..

So they came to this wild country with the big men dressed in bear skins, who frightened little Dutch girls.  But it is remembered as a good time too, when everyone helped each other, building a church together, spending whole days in church on Sunday, including picnic food, and having coffee served by the Eufrou.  They learned to play instruments, and sing and have fun together.  Although, Wiltje and Beppe's family must have not had a lot of togetherness, with each trying to make a living as best they could..

When Pakka was 68 years old, he died suddenly in February.  They had lived here for 18 years and had aquired several farms.  They had moved to Bill and Eleanor's farm - a farm with a big slough, as it is remembered.  Beppe felt bad that her oldest twin son, Klaas, was still in Holland and hadn't seen his father since they had left Holland and before he died.  She asked Jeltje to go back to the old country to try to persuade him to come to America.  Jeltje had married by then and three children, George, Bill and Frieda.  Aunt Deddie stayed with them until Jeltje returned.  She finally had their consent to travel with her to America if the relatives would send the money.  It was sent and they all came to be united that fall.  (Sept 1911).

Uncle Klaas settled on the Clarence Brower farm, Nick and Julia Douma on the (now) Bill Douma farm, Henry on Harvey's farm and John on the home farm where Beppe continued to live with them for 5 years.  Fobbie was on the Wn. F. farm.  Deddie went to Crookston and Katie to Pease with their husbands.  Later, Hielkje and Wietze De Vries, and Nick and Jeltje Douma built the store in Roseland and Deddie and Harry Plowman lived on their farm..


*This history was created from notes taken during a conversation with Deddie, age 95 - the last living Hoekstra child of Wiltje and Johanna Hoekstra - in the year 1984.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let's Talk Sex

I have a passionate interest, and haven't really been sure how to start sharing it. I've struggled my whole life with my self image. As God has healed all these broken pieces and revealed who I am in him I feel a huge desire to start talking about it. From that journey and sharing pieces with others I have seen just how many women are struggling with the same junk. The problem for many of them is the same as what mine was, shame. Well, I'm not going to let the devil have me hiding anymore.
If women started talking we would find we all struggle with the same issues and the fear and shame would be gone, healing would come.
We've become numb to the images we see on magazines and TV these days. I recently found myself watching a Katy Perry video online with my daughters. Deep down I felt a little dirty for doing it, but I told Jason what a good message the song had. The words were really good...the images were really bad though. 20 years ago that video wouldn't have been allowed to air, now it is the norm. I had been so desensitized that I justified allowing my little girls to watch it. What the heck am I putting in their heads? I do not want my daughter swinging naked from a wrecking ball in 10 years, or worse I'm sure.
I'm starting a project, not sure if I'll try to write it as a book or just turn it into a series of blogs. I'm going to be digging into women's sexuality. How did we get here? Where did we go off track? What are the roots of our beliefs about ourselves sexually? How do we fix that?
I don't think we can understand any part of that without actually talking about sex and our perceptions of it. We need to start going back and reading the fine print of this junk Satan is selling us. There is a return policy, let's haul this crap back to the slimy salesman that conned us into buying it in the first place.
If you have any suggestion or any experience you'd like to share, PLEASE do! Prayer for this journey for me would be awesome too!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Take It Off

I recently had a battle going with my daughter. She had learned to ride bike, she was still shaky, but she was getting better every day. She wanted me to put her training wheels back on.
I didn't understand why she didn't want to just take off and pedal now that she could. She wanted the security of those training wheels back, life was easy with them. She didn't have to pay that much attention, less was required of her. Now that she knew she could ride without them she seemed to regress. She was able to go so much faster, turn quicker and go places those old wheels wouldn't have allowed. It was everything she had been wanting, yet somehow the comfort of those old training wheels pulled her back, she wanted that security back.
Well, I find myself frequently putting my training wheels back on too. Growth and change can be so hard. I find myself running back to the comfort of all those things I wanted so badly to be free of.
I convince myself it's OK to hang onto them, after all, I can ride that bike without the training wheels. It seems so simple when I think of my growth like my kid riding bike. It's just silly to keep trying to cart around with those old training wheels. There is so much more I can do without them. I can go so much faster and further.
Training wheels are a lot easier to take off though. It's also easy to recognize when you've put them back on. My life is not so simple. It's difficult to see when I slip back into my old ways of thinking and acting.

Lord Jesus, Help me to stop reaching for and thinking about those old training wheels in my life! Open my eyes so I recognize when I'm holding onto those old chains, when I am tying myself back up.

Hebrews 12:1-2a
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,  the pioneer and perfecter of faith."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stripping Down

It's amazing how miracles happen, how God's love rolls over me again and again. In the little moments it washes over me, I find new pieces all over.
It's been almost 7 months since I went off all of my medications. Most of the time my life is moving along and I don't even notice the changes, but then something happens. Last month my moment came when I went to the Mops group I had attended prior to getting sick. I wasn't nervous at all getting prepared to go or driving there. Hhmmmm...that's different. Then I walked in. I wasn't sure what to do with myself because none of the normal feelings came. There wasn't any belittling chatter going on in my head. It was just me. Freedom. I just kept tearing up from the joy of it all. Just being able to walk into a group and be there. Being able to speak to friends without fear or anxiety attacking me was awesome.
For the first time in many years I'm enjoying autumn. For many years I would start to get depressed in late June, anticipating winter. I know that's silly, depressed in June because winter is coming?? Once we'd have that longest day of the year I knew every day forward would be shorter, eventually leading to cold and dark days. By the time the leaves started to turn there was nothing left to be happy about. This year I assumed I'd feel the same way, but it didn't happen. The days are shorter already, the sun sets more than 2 hours earlier already, and there is no depression. I'm actually anticipating the season changing. What? Me? Who am I?
I know this sounds silly to some people. Unless you've walked under that kind of darkness I suppose it may be hard to understand. I just know how thankful I am for the freedom I've been given. I suppose in some ways it's like the blind man in the Bible being given his sight, like the crippled guy being able to walk. I can do things I didn't even know were possible, things I didn't even know I was missing out on. I didn't even know how handicapped I was until Jesus stepped in and healed me.
I want to share something I posted on my blog when I was still sick.

I know you're there,
but many of my days are filled with black.
I know you're there,
Even when I can't make sense of the persistent
pain that invades my every pore.
I know you're there,
When I feel like dying, my life seems so pointless and void.
I know you're there,
When I even question your love and wonder why you
are letting me be trampled by my own mind.
I know you're there when I feel your presence wrapped
around me as I cry through the confusion.
I know you're there, you're holding me tightly and
sharing each tear.
I know you're there,
Even when I don't understand your purpose for
allowing the pain and emptiness to swallow me.

It's hard to read that, I remember that place. I'm glad I kept a journal of it all so I never forget and I can always remember what God did in me. I know even more now that he really was there, I also know his purpose, well, part of it at least. God has shown his power, love and glory in healing me. I knew then that he was there, he heard every cry out of my heart. He healed me.

What is he waiting to do for you? Ask him.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I'm A Successful Loser Mom!

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

As I was cooking lunch I hear screaming and yelling coming from the family room. While my oldest child screams and yells at his siblings I can hear all the words as if they are coming right out of my mouth. I think to myself that I've completely failed. He has turned into me, all the mean and ugly things in me.

My head starts churning, how can I fix this? I've read so many things that say a child becomes who they are by age 5. They develop all their character traits by that age and learn how to move through the world by that age. Honestly, it feels hopeless. My kids are 13, 8, almost 5 and 2. So 3 of the 4 are already beyond the point of no return. I've created angry little people who have poor self esteem and only know how to communicate by yelling when conflicts come up.

This is a bunch of junk. If I allow myself to believe this I am totally limiting the power of God. They are not done. They are not a lost cause. Come on, see it for what it is, a pack of lies.

God gave me these children knowing exactly what my weaknesses were. He knew I would mess it up. There is no parent in the world who doesn't mess it up. When I allow myself to get consumed by regret and shame with all the mistakes I've made parenting them, that is when I really lose.

The devil wants nothing more than to bog me down with parental despair! Being caught up in all the things I do wrong only perpetuates the problem. I get frustrated and hopeless and I act out at them with those emotions, just teaching them more bad habits. It's an ugly cycle I will have to break again and again.
But what does God say about that?

2 Corinthians 12:9

New International Version (NIV)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
His power is made perfect in my weakness?? But how? I'm supposed to be teaching them all those good things, like the fruit of the spirit, you know, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so on.
I needed to rethink this all. How do I train them...wait a minute. God's power is made perfect in my weakness.
They are learning all those things about God from watching his power in me.
As I am growing closer to God he is being reflected out of me. He has changed the things I am reflecting to all of those things of his, the patience and kindness, the joy and peace.
Stop worrying about those past mistakes and keep focusing on God. Wake up with him, go to sleep with him and seek him all day. The more time I spend with God the more I become like him, the more opportunities my kids have to see his power made perfect through my weakness.
Yes, they are still going to see me get angry and make mistakes, but they will also see me changing, God changing me. In my mistakes I can teach them humility, being willing to admit my mistakes and seek God's help correcting them. I will actively teach them that God is the only one who can fix us.
Parenting isn't about power. It is about putting down our pride and admitting we don't know how to do it. Parenting is about allowing our kids to see God's grace and healing power through our own failure.
I'm teaching them who can pick them up when they fall flat on their faces, that is teaching them in the way they should go.
Child development isn't done at 5, it is only beginning.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Be Offended If You Must!

I am angry, actually am frequently angry when I see myself or other Christians shackling themselves in political correctness. I get myself in trouble speaking my mind, but that isn't to be confused with the trouble I get when I speak God's.

When did  Christians stop speaking the truth because some people didn't want to hear it?

There have been many times in my life that I have felt hurt by someone speaking truth to me that I didn't want to hear. My perception was off because I was sinning and living with a stubborn heart that didn't want to hear it. I felt insulted. I felt judged, but that didn't mean it wasn't the truth. If everyone around me had just shut up, not said anything or not called me out on my actions it would have been very easy to just keep on down the path I was on.
I have found one thing to be true in my life. When there is an area that I am sinning in, where God is trying to change my heart, I get angry and defensive when that topic comes up. Thankfully I have matured to the point that I can pull back and examine it when those feeling arise. (Most of the time)
Christians need to stop worrying about hurting people's feelings and focus on what God's will is.
It is easy to confuse being politically correct with being kind, but they aren't the same thing. God calls us to be kind and to love one another. That doesn't mean we stop speaking our faith because it may offend, actually the opposite. If you really love people you will share your faith. You will speak up for things that are right and not be afraid to speak against things that are wrong.

An example comes to mind: You're walking in a crowded area and see a woman with her skirt tucked into her undies. There are three things that happen typically, some point and snicker, most notice but don't feel comfortable saying anything, and a few would quietly come and help her. That isn't a perfect example, but sort of works.

The point and laugh crowd: These are those people like the church that pickets at funerals screaming and insulting, Westboro Baptist, I believe. That isn't God's love.

The notice and walk away people: Honestly, this is a lot of Christians. We stand by and do nothing because we don't want to embarrass ourselves or deal with the other person. We know what we should do but don't have the courage to do it.

The people who help: Really, in this example we know that's what we should do. Even though she will be humiliated we know it will save her further pain to tell her so she can fix it, she can assess the situation and correct it.

I know that isn't a perfect analogy.

We shouldn't be afraid of the reaction of people when we speak the truth. The only one that matters is God. The apostles really faced some condemnation for speaking the truth of the gospel. They were persecuted, jailed and killed.
Right now in the USA we still have the right to speak. If we don't start using it, we will lose it. There are many countries that have real persecution for Christians, similar to what happened to the early Christians.
We need to be careful that we are speaking God's word. We need to be prepared, armed properly with the truth so we can face the attacks that will come. We need to pray and listen to God for when it's time to talk and when we are over doing it with our own will. Most importantly we need to be acting with our hearts in the right place. Speak with compassion, not judgment. See people the way God sees them. The only way to do that is to seek God first.
There is nothing about me that is better than or less sinful than anyone else. I am a dirty, rotten and smelly sinner. The only good and righteous parts of me are the parts God has fixed, all the sinful things I have done that he has redeemed. He has and is fixing me and my responsibility is to share that he can do that for anyone.

I'm not going to be quiet about that.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

I See You!

Lately I have been feeling convicted about my preconceived ideas of people. I am judgmental. It's ironic, for so many years I've been handicapped by feeling judged and now I see that I'm the guilty one.
There have been several times in the last month where I missed out on opportunities because of my first impression of someone.
For many years I worked in retail management. During that time I relied on first impressions. I based many decisions on the first 2 minutes of conversation with someone. Sometimes I made decisions based strictly on appearance. Well, first impressions are nothing.
I am so thankful God doesn't judge me based on his first impression. On the outside I am a mess. Even on the inside I am a mess. I can be rude, mean, snotty and selfish. Somehow he sees past that and sees my heart. He sees the brokenness inside, he has compassion for me. He's taken all that ugliness and is slowly working, transforming me. He never feels like I am a lost cause or beyond repair. God will never call me a total loss. Like car insurance companies, we toss each other aside. We decide that someone may be too much work to be worth the effort. God looks at us and says we are irreplaceable. The amount of work means nothing to him. The cost is nothing, he literally gave everything to buy us back. He is working to lovingly rebuild us, to restore us.
I wish I had his eyes. I wish I could just automatically see others with his eyes. I quickly form opinions about others based on what my eyes see and my ears hear. In myself, I am not equipped to see beyond that, but God is expanding my view. God is replacing my clouded vision and restoring it to be able to see the way he does.
I am starting a project with my kids. We are calling it "I See You!" We are making small packages with water, protein bars, sunscreen and a few other small things. In each bag we are going to have a note, not sure what we're writing yet, but I want whoever receives it to know they are visible. I see them and so does God. These packs are going to be stored in our car, that way when we see someone on the street corner holding a sign we can meet their need. First, we're offering a drink and food, but most important, we see them. I know how hopeless it feels when you think no one cares, no one sees you.
As a Christian, God wants me to be his hands and feet. I want to physically model his love, I want to teach my kids to model this. If I can teach them to love those who we so often see as the dirtiest or scariest people, then loving those kids they meet at school will be easy. I want to see the hearts and souls of people, not their broken exteriors. 
I will update this with some pictures as we progress with our plans!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Securely Unhinged

On my way out of the door of church I couldn't believe how free I felt. It was if a 50 pound weight had been lifted off of me. God had just healed some very deep scars in my heart. I felt them go, I was joyous! I felt the unworthiness I had been carrying evaporate. It was unbelievable, but yet it had happened!
As I walked away I felt a coldness come in me, I heard a voice in my head say, "I told you so! You went there to make everyone look at you! See, you are self absorbed! You just make it all about you!"

I can't tell you how many times I had heard that voice in my head. I have been tortured by that voice for almost 20 years! Oh, but God had armed me that day! Before I left I was warned that Satan would try to come at me and take all the freedom I had just been given! I just had no idea how right that warning was. My eyes had been opened to the war that was being fought in my head. Now I could see the flaming arrows that were being shot my way, I could fight them off. They bounced off that mighty shield that had been placed in my hands! I couldn't help but to laugh! "Oh, you're not stealing this from me, Satan! You're not convincing me to wrap those chains back around myself!"

John 8:36
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

So much has been stolen from me! So much has been destroyed! No more!
"You need to hide, if they see your sin they will hate you, you will be alone!"
"You need to hide that, it is so bad, so dirty that no one will accept you if they know that about you!"
"You are nothing special, no one cares about you. You are selfish and don't have any qualities that someone would want as a friend. They only talk to you to be nice, it's the Christian thing to do. They really pity you."
These are some chains I have been bound with. The names of these chains are shame, fear and unworthiness.
There is a very good reason Satan ties so many of us with those particular chains. When Christians share their struggles, when we put down the fear and talk about that thing we thought was just too dirty, we find we are not alone. When we open it up it allows God to pour out healing on it, and in turn becomes the key that helps unshackle other prisoners.

The devil has slowly convinced us of his lies. We've been so desensitized that we don't see them. We blindly accept our bondage as the norm, it's what is expected.
Stand up! Ask God to reveal the chains restricting you! Do not allow yourself to be convinced that you need them! Get in your Bible and ask God to show you the armor he has placed there for us! To combat the lies the devil ties us with we need the word of God.
It is scary to let go!  For me, I know I found a chain I need to cut when I feel fear or when I feel myself justifying it angrily.
Where is our freedom in Christ? We've already been freed! Why would we walk right back into our prisons? 
 Don't allow yourself to be convinced that your staying in the presidential suite at the Hilton when you are living in a crack house on the wrong side of town.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I'm Bringing The Big Guns!

I haven't written in awhile because I wasn't sure what to write. I suppose some of my hesitation was based on what people would think or if the things that have happened in my life are real or I really am delusional. Neither of those are good reasons for not writing. Really they are just plain old disobedience and sin. First, I am going to stand up and refuse to allow Satan to bind me up in fear of others judging me. I was tied down by that for too long. Second, God has made some real changes in my heart and in my life. He has healed me and set me free. I also know he's called me to talk about it. I am not going to be shut up. I am not going to tie myself back up in the chains I was just released from.

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Isaiah 58:8
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
I do not know where to start. God has healed me. 2 months ago I experienced nothing short of divine healing. For 13 months prior I had been being treated for bipolar disorder. I guess you could name the bondage I was in a lot of different things but the symptoms were crippling anxiety, depression, confusion, despair and sometimes crazy looking periods of impulsiveness. Really all of this stuff was born of fear and shame. God actually has been in the process of healing this for quite some time, I think I just had to trudge along a little longer before I could receive it.
God built me with an extroverted personality. I love people, I love being around people and talking to people. I just bubble with joy around people. For a long time I allowed sin to keep my gifts bound up inside of me. This is the message I was fed and believed:
People don't like you. You are dirty and people are judging you, you're not good enough to be with them. You are annoying. You talk too much. You're rude and inconsiderate. All you think about is yourself, you're not worthy of having friends or expecting others to care about you.
I could go on and on. I don't think it's possible to explain how badly I was tormented in my head. Because of that torment, sometimes in nervousness I even behaved just like all those messages I wrote above. It just confirmed to me that all those messages were correct and kept me locked up.
Well, I'm free. I know it's a process, I'm still attacked regularly, but God is revealing those attacks to me, I'm on to those lies!
Now I see the truth and I'm just really ticked off at all those lies I've been fed, all those chains I've been dragging. Now I will not be tied back down by that!
When I was 16 years old God revealed his plan to me for my life. For the last 20 years I've known what he made me for, I've just been held captive by sin and lies. I refuse to walk any further in my life out of God's plan.
Isaiah 49:1b-3, 6b
"Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver."  "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth."
God made me with a love for people and a love for talking with others. For the past 20 years he's been sharpening me, keeping me safe while he prepares me. Now is the time I've been prepared for.
We need to understand the real spiritual battleground we are all standing in, the real attacks Satan is hitting us with. That devil knew exactly what potential weapon God was fashioning me to be. He tied me up and convinced me it was bad to what God made me. Duh! Of course he wants to disable the parts of me that would cause him the most damage.
I'm still growing and being polished. I am always going to struggle controlling my tongue and making sure that what comes out of my mouth is from God. I am not, however, going to believe that God can't use me the way he intended because I still am a work in progress. If that were the case none of us would be able to do anything.
I know that I am nothing, the only good that comes out of me is God, the gifts he created and the glory he can pour through me.
Today I just want to share the healing he gave me and put the notice out. I am not crippled anymore. I am not going to sit down and shut up about the lies that have held me down or the sin I recognize in my life. I am going to drag it all out and share God's grace in my life and use the mouth he gave me.
Be warned, I am sharp and I have a lot of targets in mind.
Thank you Jesus, please use the words I speak and type to glorify you and show your grace through every part of me.
Oh, I will be removing the bipolar from the name of my blog, feel free to offer suggestions!

Friday, March 8, 2013

False Starts

The longer I have been a mom the more I realize how much I have messed it all up. With guilt weighing me down, I start trying to slug myself back to the starting line to give it another go. As the days go by I see more and more things that I didn't prepare them for. I see the worst of me shooting out of their little mouths. All of my bad habits are so much more magnified in them.
I'm back at the starting line again. I'm going to try to make some changes in my behavior. I'm going to hold myself and them accountable to our goals.
Now to be honest, the things I'm struggling with are innumerable. If this was a paying gig I would've been fired within 3 days of Liam coming home from the hospital. I am such a flawed parent.
I have anger issues. I seriously need to work on my patience and the volume at which I "communicate" with my children. I need to be consistant with the rules and not allow them to be disrespectful. I need to deal with correcting thier behavior when it happens, not in an hour when I have time. I need to turn off the tv and video games and interact more with them. I need to get dirty and play with them. I need to feed them healthier foods, not chicken nuggets and hot dogs every day. I need to make sure they brush thier teeth. Wow, this list could go on and on.
I know when I look at the big problem it overwhelms me. I can't fix this all in a day, a week or even a year most likely.
I am afraid I'm raising 4 kids that will be angry, disrespectful, fat, lazy and with some serious entitlement issues.
Today I cut the tv time in half. They haven't played any video games either. They did chores and right now are playing outside in the snow after 30 minutes of arguing that they hate outside.
I deserve an award for the patience I had with Mia, another one for not giving up after 30 minutes of screaming, spitting and kicking. (Mia, not me)
I understand fighting change, we are in this together. I am hating it just as much as they are. I think we will all sleep good tonight. Time to make dinner, we're sticking with chicken nuggets but we'll add a side of brocolli.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Caged Ambitions

First, My Babies

I have so many aspirations. I want to do so many things. I miss being impulsive and fearless. I want to be wild and run amuck with nothing slowing me down. I want to feel powerful, like I can accomplish anything again. I don't understand why my life went from wild and fun to depressed and fearful. I know that these "moods" are both parts of bipolar, but until 3 years ago I had mostly the wild, fun and impulsive part.
When I feel like I can conquer the world, I typically can, to a certain degree. "I can't" isn't really part of my reality. It sucks now that I am out of that mode. I'm stuck in the slow/depressive stage. I am actually not depressed, I'm just not superwoman anymore. I have been on medication for almost a year now and I think this slower me is just probably who I am. It takes alot more effort to move forward now because I have to think about it first. I have always had anxiety, but now that I'm not spinning like a top, it is more pronounced. Oh, Lord help me!
I want to run! I want to spin! I want to dance, leap and twirl! I'm not sure how to be free and fearless anymore. What exercises do I do to make my brain accommodate my new self? It's easy to identify those exercises if I had lost my legs, I would strengthen my arms. I am at a loss here.
I want to leave my little cave, I just have no drive to do it. That sounds stupid. I want to, but I don't. I remember what it used to feel like, and I used to enjoy it. I will probably enjoy social interaction now, it just feels like more work than I want to do. I feel "blah"! I don't want to feel that way but changing it sounds "blah", so I sit here feeling "blah". I need to develope some close relationships so I want to get out, just getting there is work. How does one develope friendships without social interaction? Hhhhhmmmm....maybe that's why I blog and spend alot of time on facebook, oh, and the phone. LOL! I guess we'll see.
Jason bought me the camera I have always wanted for Christmas, I can't help but to post a few pictures.

 This is the sunrise I chased down in Iowa during Christmas.
I climbed down a deep snowy ditch for this one, it reminded me of my grandparents farm. I wish the picture could really show the pink glows I saw that morning.
This is one of the last that I took, it turned out to be my favorite. I'm glad I stopped to get one more. I can't wait for spring storms!!!