Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Story My History

My dad is a pastor which makes me an infamous PK or pastor's kid made famous by movies like Footloose and A Walk to Remember.  Now I might not have been as wild as Ariel Moore or as docile as Jamie Sullivan, but I did have a wild streak and a high school sweetheart.  I grew up in church; literally in the church building spending my summers as a little kid raiding the kitchen for Little Debbie snacks, pretending to teach school in the Sunday school rooms and eating the elbow macaroni meant for crafts.  My brother and I spent a lot of time with my dad at the church and in the homes of several older ladies of the different congregations.  I went on home communions, nursing home visits and everything in between.  Weddings and funerals were a part of life and I got to be a part of the ministry.  When it snowed we walked to the church and shoveled the parking lot.  At Thanksgiving time I helped my dad prepare 10 or more turkeys for a church dinner.  And so it went as a PK, but it wasn't that simple, because you see I had a mom who wasn't around much and when she was life was hard.  She suffered from mental health issues ranging from depression to what we would later learn to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Normal would never be a word I would use to describe my growing up years, but I have always had Christ.  Through the teaching and witness of my dad and others in the church my faith grew and grew and truly was what sustained me.  Even when nothing seemed to be consistent, God stood firm never changing and always faithful to His promises.

But He said to me,
 "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." 
 Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may reside in me.  
2Corinthians 12:9

Over the years we moved a lot, each time I remember secretly hoping for a chance to start over, but scared at the same time.  Maybe this time I wouldn't be the fat kid.  Maybe at this school making friends wouldn't be so hard.  And the last move leading into my junior year of high school I thought my life was over leaving behind a boyfriend, friends, track and cheerleading teams, but also the baggage of a life that didn't totally honor God.  Being a big fish in a little pond has always been my preference, but that isn't what I got.  Home was still a mess, however I did get to start my first real job and it was right alongside my dad!  He served as Director of the Lutheran Mission in Cambridge, MD and I was well.........the janitor.  As it turns out he was able to expand my duties and I got to help with sorting clothes, stocking the food pantry and waiting on customers.  Thrift shops are an indulgence of mine that I am not ashamed. To have the chance to work at one that also shared the love of Jesus and helped those in need was super cool!

Now before my short story gets too long let me introduce the new leading man in our story, my husband Chris whom I met at the new school and was lucky enough to date.  He must have hit his head or something because he was crazy enough to want to marry me, warts, scars and battle wounds.  He accepted it all, all of me, every broken part, even the Jesus girl in me.  He didn't get it yet, but he loved me!

With marriage and a new career as a Marine we were now faced with a whole new set of circumstances to trust God and to see his working in our lives.  This time was different though.  Never before had I needed to find my own church, but we had a lot of things to be new at like being married, looking for work, how to spend money and how to be grown-ups.  God used that time in Hawaii.....Oh did I forget to mention that was where Chris was sent for his first duty station?  It wasn't exactly paradise at first.  I felt very lost there and very much alone.  I had gone from being a daughter to the wife of a Marine all in the same year I graduated high school in, and then moved to an island in the middle of the Pacific. 

In those 4 years, at the church God eventually led us to our eyes were opened to a totally different way of doing church.  Small group ministry was the method by which almost all of the work of the church was done.  Most members were involved in a weekly small group.  They got together in peoples homes to eat, fellowship and share in the Word.  Prayer supported this whole endeavor and accountability to each other made growing my faith a team effort.  I was no longer alone.  I began to grow in my confidence of who God made me and my husband began to attend church with me and he was even coming to small group.  It was here that we witnessed the life changing power of God's word.  With the support of leaders in our church and our small group Chris accepted Christ and was baptized.   

We are back in the Mainland now, with 4 kids and ever changing circumstances.  VA has been our home for almost 10 years, certainly a record for this PK!  I have no idea what the next few years will hold.  I don't even know what the next month will bring, but small group is on the horizon again for our new church and I can't wait to see how God uses that in the next chapter of my story.

The years after we left Hawaii were filled with many trials.  I suffered miscarriages,  Chris was traveling more than he was home and I lost my mom.  In all of this one thing has remained, God's steadfast love for me.  From the time I was a little kid, to the lost young women in Hawaii, to the scared new mom in VA, God has been faithful to me.

Because of the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, 
for His mercies never end. 
 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  
I say:  The Lord is my portion, 
therefore I will put my hope in Him. 
 Lamentations 3:22-24

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

True Love

Now I hope that by my title you are not hoping for a wonderfully romantic post about my amazing husband and our perfectly delightful marriage and tips on how to make yours as such.  One of these days maybe I'll take some time to write about just how much God has blessed us in this gift of sharing life together in marriage, but not today.  Today I know deep in my heart God is attempting to stretch my ability to care more deeply and more His way for my children.

Our son Toby has been home over a year and a half now and yet I struggle regularly to feel affection for him.  It has not come easy and probably will not happen anytime soon especially if I keep doing love my way.  In 1Corinthians chapter 13 Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about how to love each other.  They were apparently struggling to do that and given the tension we find in families and churches alike in our own day, it is not hard to imagine what they were going through.  We share different gifts, different strengths and certainly different weaknesses as a church and as a family.  Sometimes those can work in syn or as a compliment to each other or they can rub you raw.  The secret ingredient to all the parts working together is the one thing Paul describes as the only lasting thing, love.

"Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love." 1Cor. 13:13

My Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it this way "Of faith, hope, and love, love is greatest because it continues into the next age.  Both faith and hope will be fulfilled in eternity, and so will not remain."  and thus we can understand why it is of greatest importance to us to live out now.  What we practice now with love will be lived out for all time in Heaven, but thankfully on the other side of a sinful world.

The love I am living out is reflecting a poor image of true love.  I started thinking about how I am the if's in the beginning of Chapter 13.

I love to talk and offer an encouraging word.
I love to sing and lift my voice in worship.
I have a great big faith that believes big things.
I love to be generous in sharing.

But if I do all these things without love I am NOTHING.

Many of these things, if not all I have done in love and with love, BUT my love has found many limits.  I pick and choose where and whom I love.  Can you relate to doing things on your terms?

As I read through this chapter today I use it as a guide for confession time, a way to acknowledge my shortcomings and to seek the perfect image of true love, My Savior and My Redeemer.
Love is patient

Love is kind
Love is not selfish

Love does not keep a record of wrong

Love hopes all things

Set aside some time today to work through the passage.  Make your own list.  Confess.  Seek Him who is perfect in love.  Pray for strength to love more deeply and to go where He leads you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Got a Testimony? A Story From a Mission Trip To Haiti

Every summer our church sends out several mission teams; some are within the United States and the other is either to Kenya or Haiti.  With the return of these trips many stories are shared with the congregation to tell about praises, experiences, struggles and the working of God's hand in these many places.  When we share what God is doing in our life and in the life of His Church around the world we grow closer to one another and to the love of Christ for His people.  Your testimony is  a powerful thing.  It is unique to you.  No one else will have your same story.  You have a distinct message to share with others.  Here is one man's story of his trip to Haiti.

Worship was amazing.  Worshiping with a group of people from a totally different culture on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean really made me feel small.  It made me realize just how large the Church is.  There are people all over the world worshiping God and it was very humbling.  The thing that really hit me was the sincerity of the worship.  According to our standards, most of these people did not have much.  We too often praise God for all the things we have or the things we get, but the Haitians I met praised God just because He is God.  I didn’t understand a word of the 2 plus hours of worship Tuesday evening, but it was the most powerful worship experiences I have ever had.

I am not sure if I really made a difference in anyone’s life.  I’m not sure exactly why God wanted me to go, but I do know that He really wanted to teach me about dealing with fear.  I have a very, very real fear of flying.  The kind of fear that will grip you and take over all thoughts.  When my daughter and I decided to go to Haiti, I knew the flying would be the most difficult part for me.  I kept putting off thinking about it, but as we got closer to the date, my fear became almost crippling.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to go through with it.  Everyone tried to help, but I couldn’t put this fear to rest.   I looked to scripture and started to focus on Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

 I thought of our Pastor's recent sermon when Jesus asked a man if he was willing to be healed (John 5:1-14).  Pastor then looked at the congregation and asked if we were willing to be healed, are we willing to surrender all, no matter what the cost?  I determined I was!  

 As we got to the airport, I opened my passport and noticed my wife had written me a note and it ended with Philippians 4:13

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   

Later, waiting for the plane, I saw an armband on another team member's wrist which said,

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

 This may sound odd to some of you, but as I sat, waiting to take off on the airplane, praying for strength and courage, something happened that I am convinced was God letting me know all was going to be okay.  I have a passion for working with people with Intellectual Disabilities.  I looked up from praying and in front of me, a young boy looked back from his seat.  He had Down Syndrome and I knew God was providing the comfort I so desperately needed.  He knew exactly what would bring joy to my heart in that moment.  The boy didn’t say a word, but he truly encouraged me. 

 I made it through the flights.  My poor daughter probably had bruises on her hands from my grip as we were taking off .  How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear?  How many times do we read it in scripture?  I really think God wanted me to surrender all of me…to rely on His strength and to not let fear rule me.  If fear had kept me from going, I would have missed out on a truly remarkable experience.  I would have missed a wonderful and powerful week.   

Too often I have let fear run my life.  Whether it be fear of dying or fear of failing, or fear of what others may think, I now know that I can rely on God to get me through it.  When I got home I went running with a good friend.  We had discussed my fear of flying and he was praying for me.  He had a gift for me.  He had gotten me a running shirt, and you’ll never guess what it said on the back?

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  Each of us has a story to tell and I think it is safe to say that God worked in each of our hearts during that week.

I am thankful for friends like this at church and in my community who are bold enough to show the world their imperfect selves so that our Perfect Savior Jesus Christ is made know through them.

"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 
 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. 
 Instead they put in on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 
 In the same way, let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  
Matthew 5:14-16
View from our front steps of God's handiwork

With love,