Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pictures

Family & Friends

I just created a new photo album on Facebook and thought I would share a link on my blog for those of you who are not Facebook users. We had a little baby shower for Cheryl yesterday. Jennifer's gift was the best! She surprised Cheryl (and Crystal) by flying Lynette (her cousin from CA) here for the shower. Lynette got in a wrapped box and hid. Since she wanted to surprise Crystal as well, she had to get in the box just before Crystal walked in and then stay in the box until Cheryl arrived. I will just say that poor Lynette was hot and sweaty by the time the box was opened. (Cheryl was waiting on Karlie and Lexi.) At one point, I whispered to Jennifer, "I hate it that Lynette is having to stay in the box this long!" And Jennifer said, "The box was her idea. I never would have made her go into a box." :D Too funny. Great memory.

I didn't know Lynette was coming. It was a well-guarded secret. And I arrived before anyone else. So when Lynette walked in with Jennifer, I looked at Dee Dee and said, "She looks just like Lynette." And Dee Dee said, "That IS Lynette." I started crying. I still can't get over what a generous and sweet thing that was for Jennifer to do.

Great job, Jennifer!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Your Plans; God's Plans

I apologize in advance for so much talk about my current writing project. I am consumed!

Yesterday was an amazing day of writing for me. I am nearing the point where God begins to lead me to my future deliverance. As I am writing about my first few days at Lispcomb and all the pain I was in at that time, I am feeling so excited that I will soon get to talk about the miraculous deliverance and abundant redemption He had planned all along for me! I get so emotional just reflecting on all that God has done in my life!

I'm learning a lot as I go. For one thing, I can feel like God is leading me to write something one day and then question that the next. I can even attribute something to God and then wonder later on if Satan had planted the thought. I have listened to a Tim Keller sermon from the book of Proverbs repeatedly (every time I get in my car) this week and the more I listen to it, the more I consider that, as far as this struggle goes, it may just be a decision I will have to make and give to God. Perhaps it's neither God or Satan; just my indecision. Trying to figure it all out can be exhausting.

I am a person who is racked with self-doubt all the time and in almost every situation. I scrutinize my every word and every possible motive. That's one of the reasons why I've had several emotionally grueling days over the past week. I've heard writers talk about how difficult the writing process can be; especially when writing about one's own life. Some of it is cathartic, but some of it is painful. It's seldom easy. And I am constantly thinking about how my words are going to impact the lives of others. That is the hardest part for me.

However, yesterday was a really productive day and as I finished another chapter, I was enveloped in God's love and mercy. I am so encouraged and I know that whatever is not clear to me today will eventually become clearer. Even when something is simply a decision I alone have to make, I believe I will be able to make a choice and then rely on God to bless or redeem it.

Keller talked in this sermon about how our lives are both determined and free (at the same time). He illustrated how every choice we make matters and will have consequences. Our choices belong to us. However, God's purposes are determined and His will WILL be done in spite of our choices. He talked about how passive we would be if we believed none of our choices mattered, but how PARALYZED we would be if our futures rested 100% in our own choices. He said, "If we believed our whole lives depended on our always making the right choices, we wouldn't even want to get out of bed in the morning!" Or we should feel that way because we should never be overly-confident that we are so wise we will always make the right decisions.

He talked about his percentages of right choices at prior times in his life. I think he's in his fifties now. And he talked about how he can look back on his thirties and see that at least 50% of the time, what he wanted would not have been good for him. He was grateful that everything was not resting on his choices. And then he said that although he thinks his percentages of wanting the right things has improved, none of us really know what our "percentages" are until we are looking back on them and see the way life unfolded.

God sees our entire lives and futures. But, while we are in the moment, we simply cannot know our percentage of right choices. Not everything is black and white, right or wrong. We have choices that are "legal" or "permissible" either way. But there are wise choices and unwise choices nevertheless. Therefore, the only way we can relax and have peace in our lives is by trusting in God's sovereignty over all our decisions. His purposes for us are determined and He will redeem our lives -- even our mistakes. Believing that really does give peace. I'm so glad I found that sermon and started listening to it.

The title of the sermon is Your Plans; God's Plans. It's from the Proverbs series. I highly recommend it.

The Proverbs Series - Tim Keller

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Daily Thought

'As if Jesus Christ . . .'

A servant girl, who was once asked how she knew she was a converted Christian, replied: 'Well, you see, I used to sweep the dust under the mat, but now I don't.' It is possible to visit somebody else as if Jesus Christ lived there, to type a letter as if Jesus Christ were going to read it, to serve a customer as if Jesus Christ had come shopping that day, and to nurse a patient as if Jesus Christ were in that hospital bed. It is possible to cook a meal as if we were Martha in the kitchen, and Jesus Christ were going to eat it.

--From "Life in Christ" (Eastbourne: Kingsway; Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1991), p. 79.

The above is from my Daily Thought subscription this morning. They are always good, but sometimes they are particularly timely for me and what's going on in my life.

Every day of late I have been engaging in an intense struggle to do something in the right way. I continually think about pleasing the Lord with my efforts. Sometimes I completely miss the mark on my first attempt. And the last couple of days' efforts have left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. Perhaps I should give myself a few days off, as some have suggested.

That's probably not going to happen. I have to tell you that as I walk through so many memories -- some of them quite painful -- so much of my life is becoming clearer and my deliverance is looking even more miraculous to me with every passing day. Saturday night or Sunday, I looked at John and said, "I'm a miracle." To which he replied, "Tell me something I don't know."

Monday, March 23, 2009

What a week...

The highlight of my week was having my nieces come stay with me for their spring break. They are delightful and I love them so much. They were also a wonderful distraction from some of the mental challenges I faced this week.

I'm glad last week is over. It was tough emotionally. I can't go into all of the details on my blog, but I have never been more convinced that spiritual warfare exists and Satan uses others, as well as our own personalities and vulnerabilities to attack and accuse us. In a variety of ways, I have felt under that kind of attack all week. And it has taken a toll on me. By last night, I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. But Satan has no power over me because I have victory in Jesus.

I can't begin to tell you all the emotional battles I've been engaged in this past week. One of them would sound like melodrama if I shared details. But it was scary. In other situations, the attacks were more subtle. I am most vulnerable through my emotions and I think somewhere in my body I must have an organ that manufactures and stores guilt. It feels at times like Satan taps into it for amunition. In the past, I have sometimes drawn back from doing something God put on my heart out of a fear of hurting or upsetting someone. I tend to make idols of other people when it comes to my fear of anyone being upset with me. This is an easy weapon that can be formed against me. I am susceptible to manipulation through this part of my personality.

I feel like God has given me an assignment. It's not an easy one and there are times I wish He hadn't chosen me for this task. Especially this week. But I have also realized just this week that God chose me and has been equipping me for this assignment decades prior to the calling. So many things are falling into place for me; in my mind and heart. God is walking me through my entire life right now as I write my personal testimony. And yesterday God inspired me to write one of the most painful chapters. I got up yesterday morning with clarity on what God was leading me to. And I wrote with such intensity that after five hours at my laptop, my head felt like it was going to split wide open. But I also had peace. I am thankful that I know where fear and anxiety come from. And I know where my peace comes from. That knowledge helps me to differentiate between the conflicting messages in my head.

I'm also thankful that God has given me such a strong and supportive husband. I told John last night that without his constant support and encouragement, I don't think I could do this. Sometimes I fear embarrassing him (and others). I fear hurting people and making them uncomfortable. God knows that it is not in my heart to hurt a single person; especially someone I love deeply. This is the hardest part of my calling. In order to help people, I am going to cause pain and discomfort for others. That is absolute agony for me. But I know that if I help even one person, it will be worth any amount of pain I endure in the process.

I guess it's fairly obvious how much I need your prayers right now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oh, the Wonderful Cross!



That last scripture in the video about the cross always brings back to my mind the first time I heard my pastor quote 1 Corinthians 1:18 in conjunction with 2 Timothy 3:5...

1 Corinthians 1:18
[ Christ Crucified Is God's Power and Wisdom ] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

2 Timothy 3:5
having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Others can draw their own conclusions. I had always understood 2 Timothy 3:5 (in the past) to mean people who didn't think they had to--or could--be perfect (were denying the power of the Holy Spirit to "help us" go on to perfection). When my pastor preached on these two passages together, a huge light bulb went on for me. It is THE CROSS that is the power of God. Denying the power of THE CROSS to save us is having a form of godliness but denying its power. I realized I used to be one of those people the Bible says to stay away from. I cried out to God to forgive me and I embraced the power of the cross.

To those who are perishing, it is foolishness... (thinking Jesus paid it all -- how many times had I heard that belief ridiculed as "taking the easy way").

No wonder I am blessed the most deeply and profoundly when I sing songs, like this one, about the cross. In the past, those songs had little depth for me because I wasn't taught that the cross accomplished anything more than the forgiveness of my "past" sins. Considering I received the Holy Spirit at 7 and considered myself to be a believer all my life, that didn't make the cross very powerful.

I don't say this to be critical. How I love my old friends. If only they knew how badly they are missing it. How I want them to be set free. I could just weep over the deception of those teachings. I have been so torn up inside lately thinking about many of them more than usual. I must pray more than I've ever prayed in the past for their deliverance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ministry Opportunities

I was invited by a friend this morning to attend a worship service at a women's shelter in Nashville. A friend of hers who works regularly in this ministry was going to be speaking. I was glad to be asked and very interested in going.

Years ago, when I was attending Lipscomb, I got involved in trying to help some of the women in the Madison shelter. I participated in group counseling sessions and in a mentoring program as well while I was studying for my degree in Family Relations. But ultimately I had to resign from the mentoring program because, after moving to Murfreesboro, it was too far to drive at night for the regular meetings. I have failed to explore similar opportunities in my own community. But it's always remained in the back of my mind that I would like to be involved in this type of ministry again at some point.

So, when I received the invitation, I didn't view it as a random event. I felt like perhaps there could be a calling from God in this invitation.

As the service began, I was emotionally overwhelmed and so humbled just sitting there. I don't think any of us ever completely loses sight of the reality that there are those less fortunate than ourselves. And I am continually thankful for God's blessings in my life. It doesn't take being at a women's shelter for me to feel thankful. Not a day goes by that I don't stop and think, at some point, about how merciful God has been to me and how unworthy I am of his blessings. But being in that setting just touched my heart so deeply. I have probably never faced anything as challenging as some of those women's smallest problems.

I have been asked if I would consider speaking at one of these services and I said that I definitely would. But I will need to go a few times and get comfortable enough that I can speak without bawling. Chances are, I will never be able to speak in a setting like that without tears. But hopefully after a few ice-breaking visits I will be able to maintain some semblance of composure.

I can't imagine what it would feel like to be homeless or alone. I have never experienced either. I have felt alone at times in my life. But I have always had someone to turn to. I've always had a comfortable place to sleep and food to eat and friends who loved me. My thoughts during that service were just all over the place, from gratitude for my blessings to an overwhelming sense of compassion for those less fortunate.

My prayer today is that God will equip me to be used for His glory in the lives of others and also that I will be sensitive and responsive to the opportunities He gives me. I also pray that I will be willing to get outside my comfort zone in order for Him to answer that prayer. I feel so inadequate and out of my league at the thought of taking that podium and speaking. But even that is such a small challenge compared to the challenges of the audience. It would be so selfish of me to draw back from the opportunity to speak the Gospel into the lives of others; especially those who are so in need.

The women who lead this ministry are constantly looking for people to speak in this service. They share the commitment with another group. And the women I will be working with lead the services on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. If anyone reading this - male or female - would be interested in participating in one of these services, please let me know. Your involvement certainly will not go unappreciated.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Long time no post...

Hello dear friends and lurkers!
What a pitiful blogger I have become recently. ; )

Life has been extra busy lately and in practically all of my free time, I have been writing elsewhere. As most of you know, I have begun the process of writing a book about my personal testimony. I did not begin this endeavor as a therapeutic process for myself. I want to help others. But, oh, how cathartic this process has become! I cannot wait to share my efforts with those of you who have shared this same journey. I just this morning finished my twelfth chapter.

My deliverance becomes more miraculous to me with every reflection on the past. On the other hand, there are so many mixed emotions involved in reliving certain memories.

At times, I have to make myself take a break from the writing process and let my mind and emotions rest. When I do write, my laptop becomes an appendage I cannot seem to separate myself from. It is all-consuming.

The most rewarding part for me is the assurance I feel that God is directing me as I write. I have asked Him to block me in this process or convict my heart if He is not prompting me to share my testimony. But so far, each chapter has flowed out of my heart and onto the page.

I am leaning on the prayers of others as well as I continue. So thank you for praying for me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009