Category Archives: testimony

for Charissa…

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“Pray for me please, I’m sick” were the words that I read
From my friend whom the doctors declared nearly dead.
Painful tests, piling bills,
Shrinking clothes, countless pills,
How she longed for the day when this nightmare would end

She prayed to her Master for healing from pain;
She prayed for new health like the spring flow’rs that came.
New blossoms, new buds,
New petals, new love,
But for her, just new trials… that seemed always the same.

Her faith sometimes faltered but she found it grew deep
As she trusted that God her pathways would keep,
Pressing forward in faith,
Though in pain every day,
Firm and rooted she was, though at night she would weep.

“My God, you’ve forsaken me? Or at least so it feels
As I struggle to swallow and eat daily meals.
You provide the birds bread;
Can you feed me instead?”
Her heart cried to her Master; overflowed with appeals.

In the silence between sobs, she heard a reply:
“My grace is sufficient, sweet daughter, don’t cry,
Lean hard, press fast,
The night soon is past.
I’ve promised you blessings, and I will not deny.”

“The blessings might take a strange form to you though,
Through trials, through pain and through testings you’ll know
That I’m good.  Do not fear
For my presence is near.
You can rest in my arms though the raging winds blow.”

Though no sudden improvements, she found a sweet rest
As her Jesus, her Savior, held her firm through this test.
She wiped away tears,
And resigned all her fears,
As she learned that the will of her Father was best.

Her friends watched in amazement at the joy that she found,
For no longer was her gaze just down at the ground.
Through the dark stormy night,
God became her delight,
And through her life, God’s glory did greatly abound.

please pray for my friend Charissa.  For updates on her health, follow her blog “Darkness into Light”.  Thanks.

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a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.

thoughts on “the room”

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I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below).  It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me.  What a cause for rejoicing.  What peace this story brought to my soul.

How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago.  This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely.  I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar.  you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying.  things like that don’t change.”

How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true.  It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair.  But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.

How do I know this?  I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin.  I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me.  So  how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?

Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died.  The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent.  Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.

I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.

I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them.  But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.

what a glorious truth!

trusting God

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Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make  straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

This past Sunday, I attended Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg Md.  I was there for the Worship God 09 conference, and my friends and I decided to stay through the weekend and drive back after church.  Its funny how God’s sovereignty works… 

The conference was very challenging physically for me.  Due to the noise and busyness of the week, I had many migraines and other health issues.  I was grateful to be able to attend at all, though there were many sessions I was either resting on a couch in the lobby, or sitting on the floor in the back.  I really enjoyed the songwriting seminars and learned many helpful tips to incorporate into my writing…

Well, on Sunday, Josh Harris got up to preach.  Their church is currently working through a series on Proverbs and the topic this week was about trusting God.  His passage was Proverbs 3:5-6.  He talked about what it means to trust God, what it means to lean on Him and what it means to acknowledge Him. 

i think it is the only time in my life that I cried through an entire sermon.  God revealed so many areas in my life where I fail to trust Him.  I fail to trust that He is good, that He loves me, and that He has my best in mind.  Instead I often trust my own understanding… “this doesn’t make sense… God must not love me… or He must have forgotten about me…” 

He mentioned that leaning on God does not mean simply resting like you would against a podium but when the podium is taken away you’re still able to stand just fine.  Instead its a full dependence of “God, if you are not there to catch me, I will fall flat on my face.  Help.”  I spend much of my life trying to avoid this feeling, but this is where I was created to live… in utter dependence on God’s grace and strength and provision. 

There are so many unknowns in my life right now…  What’s going on with my health?  Will I be “stuck” in Greenville forever?  Where am I supposed to live?  Will I ever get married?  have kids?  be financially sound?  oh, so many unknowns…

How grateful I am for Josh Harris and this past Sunday.  I am grateful for the comfort that comes from being reminded that my God has not forgotten me… He is not angry at me or withholding goodness.  His steadfast love and faithfulness have followed me all the days of my life.  He has led me through valleys.  He has led me through paths of rejoicing.  And He has promised not to leave… even now, in confusion…

grace… and your deepest darkest secret…

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so last night at care group i was freshly reminded of grace… God’s grace to me, an undeserving sinner.

During worship, it seemed each song was a reminder of how faithful God is in the midst of our failures.  I had talked with my care group leader, Matt, a while ago about sharing a specific area of my life where God had been at work.  But its an area that has been well hidden.  its an area that is combined with much shame and fear on my part.  Yet, somehow, its an area of my life that God is working to redeem.  And though my own sinful desires would rather not share it, I knew last night that God was calling me to.  He was calling me to open up and share things I didn’t know how it would be received.  And He was calling me to do this and trust in Him to deliver me of fear and shame.

I’m honestly not sure what all I said.  What I remember is that after I shared, one of my friends asked if they could pray for me.  So, everyone gathered around and prayed that God would work as a result.  I was so encouraged, I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I am so grateful for the gift that God has given me through my friends at my church.  I pray that God would be at work in our group, in allowing us to grow together on a deep level, so that we know no matter what, that God is our hope.

After care group, I can’t tell you the number of people that came and thanked me.  So, God is already at work.  Somehow through my sin and lack of trust and failure over and over again, HE is receiving much glory.  And comforting my heart too.

I was reminded of an amazing passage yesterday… Psalm 78.  It talks about the Children of Israel, and just how many times they turned away.  But the focus isn’t just there…According to verses 1-7, the story is meant to be told so that people would set their hope in God, not forget His works and so that they would keep His commandments.  Its not a story of the Israelite’s failure as much as its a story of God’s faithfulness.

“They forgot His works and the wonders that he has shown them… He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.  He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.  Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their hearts by demanding food they craved.  They spoke against God saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?  He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed.  Can He also give bread or provide meat for His people?”  Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath… because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.  Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven… he sent them food in abundance…and they ate and were well filled… but while the food was still in their mouths…despite the wonders, they did not believe…

their heart was not steadfast toward him, they were not faithful to his covenant.  YET HE, being compassionate atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.  He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert.  They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.  They did not remember his power or the day when He redeemed them from the foe…but He led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.  He led them in safety so that they were not afraid…Yet they tested and rebelled against the most High God and did not keep his testimonies…but He chose the tribe of Judah… which He loves.  He chose David his servant and took Him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people… With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with His skillful hand.”

I’m so glad my God is faithful.  I’m so glad my growth to become more like Him is not dependent on my effort alone. I fail every day. But I’m so glad that my God leads and guides me gently, provides for me in my need and comforts me in my weakness and despair.

amazing grace

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yesterday at church we sang the hymn amazing grace.  i love the words “was blind but now i see.”  over the past few years that song and the story behind it has become more and more meaningful to me.

in 1748, John Newton, a captain of a slave ship,  faced a terrible storm at sea.  Though the ship made it through the storm they lost most of their supplies and thought they would starve to death or be forced to cannibalism.  the following is a prayer written by John Newton some 20 years later upon his reflection of that time:

My Gracious Lord, Thou hast preserved me to see another anniversary of that great, awful and merciful day, when I was upon the point of sinking with all my sins and blasphemies upon my head into the pit which has no bottom, and must have sunk, has not Thine eye pitied me, and preserved me in a manner which appears to me little less miraculous, than all the wonders Thou didst perform for Israel in Egypt and at the Red Sea.

O I have now cause to praise thee for that terrible storm, which first shook my infidelity, and made me apprehensive that death was not, as my corrupt heart had persuaded me, an eternal sleep.

I thank Thee, likewise, for the subsequent month, when we expected to be starved, or reduced to feed upon one another and it not been for this protected season of distress, my first impressions might have worn off, but Thou fixed and increased them, so that by the time we arrived in Ireland, I was no longer an infidel. Not one of my fellow sufferers was affected as I was. Well I might say with wonder and gratitude, Why me O Lord, Why me?

 

How I long for the grace to have that perspective.  To say, like John Newton “Your grace taught me to fear, but then that precious grace relieved my fears.  You led me here, through so many dangers and snares, You kept me safe through every one and I know you will lead me home.”

and yet somehow I know my God has led me here.  I know He has ordained each trial and each tear and each unanswered question and pain.  I also know like John Newton did that the Lord has indeed promised good to me.  I know that because its secure in His word.  And because of that I can cling to Him as my shield and portion.  I just need grace to believe it and grace to live it.

I also would have sunk were it not for pity from my God’s towards me.  I pray that He uses this time in my life like he used the months after that storm for John Newton…to fix and increase my impressions of Him as a powerful, intimate, and caring God.  

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!

 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

happy birthday jessica! :)

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happy birthday my sweet friend. I hope today is filled with all the joy and funness that you bring to so many others. :) You are a gift. You are a delight and a joy to be around. And gosh darn it, you wear Carhartt and cammo and are proud to be a redneck-y pocket-knife carrying gal. :) I love you so dearly and am overwhelmingly grateful for the gift of God that you are to me.

Jessica, you have faithfully been my friend… you have loved as Christ commands… earnestly… not seeking gain or anything in return but simply because you are modeling our great Savior. Over the past 5 years, you have consistently and faithfully served and cared for me in more ways than i could count or ever even probably know.

It was your genuine faith that first made the gospel appealing to me. It was your lack of conformity to the world that made me notice you. (not in the fact that you dressed like a clown, which you did, but in the fact that you were not swayed by the world’s pleasures and devices like i was). I remember when I first met you and would give you rides home from various things…you would talk about things like pride and the gospel, I’d talk about boys and alcohol. Man that was weird… i had NEVER met anyone like you.

And as I got to know you, and you patiently kept putting up with me, I began to know without question that your faith was real. I tested it many times, and it proved deeper and more beautiful than my cynicism, questions and doubts. I often talk about my chats with your dad at Jack in the Box and Cracker Barrel as being pivotal in my coming to Christ, but don’t underestimate the power and work that God did in our many car rides and through your many prayers. Jessica, you are an amazing beautiful gift of the gospel and God used that in my life to draw me to Him. For that, my sweet friend, I’m forever and eternally grateful.

But you didn’t stop there, so neither will I. That day at Carowinds… wow, I could write a book. But I’ll simply say thanks. Thanks for lovingly and sacrificially modeling God’s character and humility. :)

And since then… over the past 3 years especially, you have ALWAYS been there as my friend. Jessica, you are truly a gift of God to me. Whether I’m doing well or falling apart, you always seem to be there. Thanks for your notes and random happy gifts that you’ve placed on my seat at church (or on my porch at home). The level of detail that you include in your care is like something I’ve never experienced before in my life.

Whether i’m cracking up or falling apart, you are ALWAYS there… to listen, to encourage, to hug, to care for, to remind me of my hope in Jesus. And at the many times in my life where my problems appear bigger to me than my God, you are there to both give me a hug and remind me that it’ll be okay and simultaneously smack me upside the head and point out that life is about so much more than the difficult problems we face here. :) thanks for both… thanks for the balance. You don’t just tell me things will be okay… you give me a reason why.

Jessica, you are truly the most clear model of Jesus I have ever known. Your life is a multi-faceted jewel that reflects so many aspects of His character. You love sacrificially, your hope is in heaven, not in comfort here. Your faith is in a faithful God that hears your prayers and knows your needs. Yet, like Jesus and the Psalmist (who were often speaking of Jesus), you cry to Him to hear and listen to your cry. You go to Him to meet your needs. You expect Him to bless. You confidently hope despite all hope.

You continue to persevere with hope while entrusting your soul to a faithful God who judges justly. You love Him even when you feel that He has forgotten you.

You don’t give up on following Him because you KNOW that He will NEVER EVER give up on loving and cherishing and caring for you. Like Jesus, when reviled, you do not revile in return. Like Jesus, when tempted to follow Satan’s devices, you look to your eternal hope and satisfaction in God. And like so many saints of old, you quickly and thoroughly reconcile any differences that come up with your fellow Christians. You truly count your church as the dearest place on earth and you sacrifice without limit to care for these folks. Our entire church is a different place today because of you. We have benefited at different levels to your care, but make no mistake, we have ALL benefited.

It has been so greatly encouraging to me to see your faith grow… particularly in the past two years. From a “I’m getting old and God has forgotten me” to “God is abundantly faithful and has shown me such steadfast love.” That is a transformation that only He can do, and it has been a delight to watch that radical caterpillar-to-butterfly-like change over the past years. You are living in Habbakuk 3… as opposed to where you once were in chapter one.

The fig tree has not yet blossomed for you. There is no fruit on your vine or cattle in your stalls (or ring on your finger or home to call your own or car that is dependable or man to call you his blessed wife or even health in your body). Yet in the midst of all that, when most would chose to give up on God because of His apparent absence, you continue believing in His steadfast love. You continue reading and learning more of it. you continue hoping in it. You continue expecting Him to reveal Himself to you.

And He is. And He loves you. And He is blessing you, even now, in the middle of some of the hardest battles on faith and trust you have ever had to face. Yet the words that come out of your mouth are awe inspiring and oh, so much like our dear friend Habakkuk. “God has not provided all my wants. He knows my desires and He knows my needs. And though I don’t know why the answer seems to always be “no” I know my God cares for me and will provide for me when He knows the timing is best. I know He has not forgotten me and I know He knows and cares for me. So, I will choose to actively and with the weak faith I have, place my trust and confidence in this God who has never ever ever let me down. I know He never will.”

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your love. Thanks for “being yourself” – i like you better this way. May you be encouraged today at God’s great work in you, my sweet dear and precious friend. :) I love you… I thank God for you… happy birthday!! :)

p.s. sorry i made you cry!!! (not really… it’s payback!!) :)