Saturday, September 20, 2014

Repurposed: Hagar

I met Colleen six years ago. The season was Spring of 2009 and it was the weekend of my church's annual women's retreat. I was in a place of stress, confusion, transition and depression. Toward the end of the last session Colleen shared her story and it touched my heart so deeply that I was inwardly and outwardly affected. Tears that had not fallen for a very long time fell freely. God used her story to break through to me that I was never alone and wasn't currently alone. I made a commitment to my friends Robin and Sue to contact Colleen for counseling on the Monday following retreat. It was the first time that I followed through with a challenge of accountability. It was one of the best decisions that I have made in life.

The day that I made the phone call I felt fearful, timid, and unsure about contacting this woman who had shared her heart. I was afraid of opening my heart to her, exposing my hidden thoughts and guarded experiences. But I knew that I had to step out for my pain was so deep and I was hurting so bad. I knew from the first moment we met that Colleen was a safe and trustworthy person. Her background in counseling was the reason I choose to seek her counsel. But it was her vulnerability and tenderness with us and with Jesus that drew me like a moth to the flame. Over the course of time I received counsel but the sweeter gift was that I gained a treasured mentor and friend. During these six years of knowing each other I've been encouraged to trust Jesus because He is always with me. I've been challenged to surrender my heart to Him. I've been reminded of the value and importance of prayer. I've been lovingly confronted about the sinfulness of my tendency to self-pity.

God has changed my life through the friendship that I share with my sweet mentor. I have grown to know Him better and more intimately. I hope that Colleen and I will be in contact for the rest of our natural lives. But if that is not to be, I know that I will enjoy eternity with her praising Jesus forever and ever.

This fall we are going through Colleen's second bible study. She has titled it Repurposed: Do-overs, change-ups, turn-arounds, and other miracles of grace. I know Colleen's story. It is a story of tragedy, traumatization, brokenness, and deep depression. It is a story of a broken woman transformed by the love of Jesus. It is a story that points to the unwavering GRACE and FREEDOM found in JESUS alone.

As I thought about the title, Repurposed, I wondered what the study would be about. I took a guess based on our many hours of discussion that it would be about how God turns our darkness into light. On Monday night we gathered together to be introduced to this newest study in a night of fellowship. Colleen gathered the women who will teach each week and had a dinnertime discussion. They shared their hearts and introduced the women of the study.

This week we have entrenched ourselves in the life of Hagar. As I have worked through the daily lessons I have found that I am like Hagar. Her default is the victim mentatlity while her potential is her obedience, servitude, and passion for justice. Hagar was mistreated and taken advantage of. She did what she was ordered to do. I cannot imagine the confusion, fear, and utter disgust that she must have felt when told that she would be given to her mistress's husband. The resulting pregnancy would provide Sarah and Abraham with an heir. I can't even comprehend it. But I know the feeling of being used and mistreated. There have been many times over the course of my life that I have suffered. I too have struggled with the victim mentality. Remember when I said that Colleen has lovingly confronted me with my self-pity! It is my default when I don't understand life and feel pain. Hagars obedience resulted in conception. She would soon become a mother. With this realization and reality both Sarah and Hagar respond. Sarah with harhness toward her servant and Hagar with running from her problem.

I have run away as a means of escape over the course of my life. The first time I was a newly turned 16 year old. I wanted escape from the chaos that was my home. With my newfound freedom as a liscensed driver I thought that I was mature enough to make such a decision. Reflecting back now, I realize that I was not. I was a teenager in pain overwhelmed by confusion. I was searching for escape, stability and safety. Jesus had me protected in the palm of His hand that night that I left. He has protected me every day since. He was protecting me every day before. As I grew older my running away was not so literal. The sorrow of an unrealized dream has resulted in seasons of running away. I've run from my friends, I've run from my family, but I've never run from Jesus. He has been and continues to be my steadfast rock. My lighthouse.

Hagar takes matters into her own hands and decides to run. In her running, Jesus follows. As she runs she encounters the Angel of the Lord in the wilderness. Her encounter with the angel leads her to the realization that she is not alone, she is not unseen. She cannot leave the place without marking her experience. I like to think that had Hagar lived in our generation she would have been a blogger or a writer. She commemorated her experience with words. The title that would remind her that she was never alone. Beer-lahai-roi: The well of the Living One who sees me.

As I've read through this weeks work I too have been reminded that God sees me. He has seen me from before my conception. He saw me as I entered this world. He saw me as a little girl in her room afraid of the sounds of angry voices coming from the front room. He saw me as I ran out the house on the cold night in November 1991 and watched over me as I drove around heart pounding and tears streaming down my face. He saw me and protected me as I slept fitfully in my car that night. He saw me when no one else seemed to. He saw me and loved me when I desperately needed it. He saw me as I moved from my teenage years into my young adult years. He saw every day of my four years of college and knew the stress that I was under. He saw me as I entered the workforce as a college graduate with my heart naive to the coldness of the world and those within it. He saw me on the day that I lost my career and protected me from the dark thoughts that battered my mind. He saw me as I sat broken on a row in a church 50 miles from my home. He saw every tear that fell from my eyes and collected them. These past six years, Jesus has seen every day of my life. He has drawn me to himself and has assured me that I AM NOT ALONE. He sees me today and knows where I am, what I do, what I think, and how I feel.

Hagar and I both have learned a life changing lesson: that no matter what we face, Jesus sees.

I love that I get to share these experiences with Colleen. She is my friend, my mentor, and my bible study teacher. She has been and continues to be one of the sweetest blessings in my life.

This song by Kari Jobe is a perfect musical rendition of what Jesus has taught me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Manna for Today

Lately I have been grappling with feeling unimportant and not valued. I have let the words exit my mouth when really they should have stayed in. If I have learned anything over the past 5 years it is that I must rehearse truth to myself and others in order to combat the lies of satan.

I have failed.

No, I rephrase: I have had a setback.

I have fallen from my stable place and slipped back into the pit that menaces that I am unable to change. It is a place where satan lives. It is a place of lowness and darkness and sadness. It is a place where I am most afraid and yet most at home. I don't want to live in that place anymore. I am a conqueror. I have a Saviour who died so that I could be free from death and guilt. He died so that I could be free from the clutches of satan and his demons.
I have dreams in my life that have gone unfulfilled. I am angry, saddened, confused about the fact that they are unrealized dreams. I've entertained the thought that Jesus died for me becasue He had to not because He chose to.

Ridiculous but honest.

I can't understand why Jesus would chose singleness for me. I have spent a lifetime feeling lonely and looking forward to the day that I would have someone who would love me and me only. Someone who would want to hear what I have to say. Someone who would be excited to hear my voice.

Unrealized dreams.

I have concluded that I am not enough for these gifts. Valuable enough, pretty enough, good enough.

Rather than point my life down that dark road I must turn around and head in the direction of the Light of Life.

Today I resolve to take a step in the direction of Jesus' light by reminding myself of these essential truths about my life.

1. Jesus died to save me
"For God so loved the world (bethany) that He gave his only Son that whoever (bethany) believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16

2. The Lord made me with purpose and plans
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

3. Jesus' death bought my freedom
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us (bethany) free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

4. I am made new
"Therefore, if anyhone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17

5. My sins are not catalogued
"As far as the east is from the west, so far does He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

6. I am a witness to others
"The righteous are like a light shining brightly..." Proverbs 13:9a

7. I am loved
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness." Jeremiah 31:3

8. My pain is a reminder of my dependency on Jesus
"He strengthens those who are weak and tired." Isaiah 40:29

9. My life has weight and value
"For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

10. I can change
"and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:23-24

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1,000 Gifts Christmas Edition

Celebrating THE GIFT of Christ this Christmas.

I am blessed beyond what my mind can fathom. 2013 has been a year of many blessings as I've learned, and continue to learn, how to walk daily with Jesus. This path that we've been on has been marked by joys little and large. The following list is my small token of putting to computer screen what has danced across the screen of my mind and heart.

Christmas Gifts

1. Twinkle lights on the tree
2. Ornanments new and old
3. Fuzzy sock Christmas party with friends
4. Peppermint hot chocolate
5. Chilly mornings sipping hot beverages
6. Jesus in the morning
7. Jesus during the day
8. Jesus at night
9. All manner of Christmas music on Pandora
10. Gifts piling under the tree and the money with which to buy them
11. Unexpected work bonus
12. Anticipation of Kitchen Aid Mixer that is my Christmas gift to myself
13. Warmth of Zoe the kitty as she sits next to me as I sit next to Jesus each morning
14. Mailbox filling with Christmas greetings from friends and family near and far
15. The rush and bustle of the season
16. The stillness and quiet of the season
17. San Francisco trip with Sue
18. The City all lit up
19. Sight of 4 little nephews and niece bundled in new jammies
20. Lighting of my simple advent candles on Sunday nights

Sunday, March 17, 2013

1,000 Gifts

I recently read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know that a lot of you bloggers out there have read it. And many of you have started chronicling your own list of 1,000 gifts. I've struggled with keeping my mind stayed on Jesus and his blessings over my life. I am a habitual worrier and negative thinker. I've had some victory in this area recently with the help and patience of a very good friend and mentor as well as my amazing counselor. In order to work on what is going in my mind and what I am thinking on each day, I've decided to begin counting my blessings. So, here is the beginning of my own 1,000 gifts.


1. Zoe, who sits right next to me on the couch no matter what I am doing. Typing on my blog, reading a book, working on my bible study, or just catching a show.

2. The sound of the breeze blowing through the trees and the tinkling of my wooden windchimes.

3. Sunday mornings at Big Valley Grace.

4. Neighbors who have taken me under their wing and into their hearts.

5. Watching a friend who I love and respect so much worship her Lord, worship my Lord, worship our Lord.

Wow! It's Been a While

I've been MIA from the blog world for quite some time and that is simply because I've been without the internet. It was just too much to drive the 1/2 mile down to the nearest coffee shop that starts with an S. Really, it wasn't but I was too lazy! So, since I last posted nothing much is new. I still have the same job. I still go to the same church. I still have the same cats that bring me much delight. I still am involved in bible study at church. (Did I memorize James? I still live in the same city. I still battle fear and loneliness. A few things that are different in my life. My niece and nephews are growing and I've not seen them since Christmas but that is a part of life lived apart from much of my family. (Its not even that far away. We just don't get together). I chose to stop counseling after a year and a half. (that was a hard decision) My health has been a bit compromised. My employer has offered me a position that could lead to my job becoming my new career. (I am nervous and unsure whether to accept or not). A man that I was getting to know told me that he was interested in someone else (ouch!) I am beginning to take God at his word and live in truth. That last one has been the most difficult thing ever! I don't know why it requires such effort to read what God says about me and my life and the lives of those that I interact with each and every day and BELIEVE him. I've been told from my early days that I am gullible and impressionable. It has been a trait that I don't particularly like. It has led me into numerous situations that resulted in my embarrassment. But with God, it is okay that I am impressionable. He will never hurt me, poke fun at me, or ridicule me for my lack of knowledge. I am learning that if I want to grow in my relationship with him that I MUST believe what he says. And trust him with my unknowns. It is hard.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Journeying Through James

A month ago I decided, with a small group of women at church, to memorize the book of James. We had just started our new winter/spring session of bible study and were beginning to study the book of James with Beth Moore. Part of the study is a opportunity to memorize the entire book of James. I considered it and then just knew that I needed to commit to it.

I decided that it would be a good way for me to build my relationship with God.

And it has. Life has continued to move on at a rapid pace but I think that by focusing my thoughts on the Word of God daily I am better able to stay focused on Him. I am learning to relate to Him in a whole new way.

By immersing myself into the book on this level, I find myself thinking of the text and what it means and how it applies to my life. I know that this is something that we are to do with our regular bible reading. But I just don't all of the time. I usually read a passage and then move on to the next thing. I don't steep myself into a passage. Really take it in, ingest it, meditate on it.

With this intense focus on James that is changing. I am learning to really put myself into the Word. Asking God daily to speak to me. To make His Word alive in my life. Some days I don't do a very good job of surrendering and being open to whatever He would have me learn but on some days I get it and am blown away with truths and lessons.

Today has been one of those days. I spent time this morning working on my bible study and then time on my memory work. It was uninterrupted time, sweet time, Jesus and me time. Still I found myself a little distracted. I think that my struggle with distraction is part of my personality at this moment in my life. I need to begin my prayer time with asking God to help me with my distractability. I know that He will. it is just a nuissance!

So, today I rehearsed my previously memorized portion

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings!
Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting. For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For this person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuit. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast for when he has stood the test, He will recieve the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God" for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he has brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Know this my beloved brothers: let ever person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:1-21

And I started to think. I have endured trials. I have been tempted. I am rich in comparison to the rest of the world. If I focused only on the things that I have experienced or have characterized my life I will miss the point.

James reminds me that if I endure the trials my faith will be strengthened. He reminds me that I am not to blame God for when I am tempted. And he warns me of the futility of my riches. Pursuing them will result in nothing of substance. They fade away just as petals on a flower falls.

I am learning much by journeying through James. My God is so good to me. I am so grateful to have this time and opportunity to travel this road with Him!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Journey Through the Book of James

Last year I had such a difficult time with scripture memory. This year as I thought about what to do I was bombarded by overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and the inablility to memorize.
I know this to be an untrue set of feelings because I've proven to myself that I have the ability to memorize anything. Song lyrics, lecture notes, numbers, and yes, even scripture.
And I don't lack for accountability. I have a wonderful group of ladies who encourage each other to memorize scripture. I just realized that I did not have the motivation. Who knows why! Just me and my personality.

So, to move myself out of my procrastination and lack of motivation, I decided to take Beth Moore's challenge to memorize the entire book of James.

Yes, I did just say that I am going to attempt to memorize the entire book of James.

I did go from no motivation to an incredibly off the wall attempt at memorization.

But I believe that I can do it. And I desire a more intimate walk with Jesus.

So, here goes.

My first installment in the hopefully soon to become beloved book of James:

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; his is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:1-8

So, there it is. My first passage.

Lord, help me to grow closer to you as I venture down this road in our relationship. I invite you to be with me on this journey. Please walk with me and teach me. I so desire to hear your voice speak to me.