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Archive for July, 2013

[Editor’s Note: Our contributing writer Monday through Thursday of this week is an active participant in Community Bible Study and a support group leader/facilitator in-training with Celebrate Recovery. A mother of two, she volunteers her time to both the children’s ministry at her church and the school where her children attend. She enjoys piano lessons, photography, and the outdoors. Her heart and her life portray a deep passion for God’s truth. As she shares her story, may the power of His Word and His truth be realized. God’s love is a redeeming love, and we pray He reveals this to you as you read.]

“When anxiety was great with me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

~ Psalm 94:19

As time passed, a toxic blend of emotions: fear, confusion, disappointment, anger, insecurity, helplessness…flooded me into a depression that threatened to drown me. I was married to my husband and mother to our first child when my best friend desperately wanted to begin a family with her husband. She, as did I, delighted in my son, and I knew that she would be a wonderful mom. I so wanted to share motherhood with her. A couple years later, my daughter was born, but this is when my deepest struggle with the rising floodwaters of guilt began. How could I conceive so easily while my friend, who I deemed better than myself–because surely, she had never aborted a child!–could try month after month with no resulting pregnancy? In my mind, I deemed it unfair and wrong. I fell into Satan’s trap because his blaming besieged me. Caught in his pit of misery, depression set in and I doubted everything:  my abilities as a mother, as a wife, as a friend. Who was I but a covert murderer?

My depression grew to the point where I despaired for my own life. My heart suffocated under the burdens from which it seemed there was no escape. I considered that I was of no worth to anyone, and I was desperate to be done living like this. I thought it would be better if I wasn’t alive. As my despondency grew, so did my husband’s concerns. He told me I needed to get help. Trouble was, I wasn’t sure where to go, and further, I was too ashamed to admit my own sins.

Soon after that dawning point with my husband, I met a woman named Kim at a women’s church activity. During our conversation, I shared with her about my depression struggles. I mentioned that past choices were haunting me. She responded almost immediately that she also had once struggled with depression, that hers had spawned from her choice to have an abortion as a young woman and it wasn’t until she went through a support group that she found healing and forgiveness. I could hardly believe it! This was the first time EVER that anyone had admitted a past abortion to me. Kim told me more about the group in which she had been a participant and that I should look into it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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[Editor’s Note: Our contributing writer Monday through Thursday of this week is an active participant in Community Bible Study and a support group leader/facilitator in-training with Celebrate Recovery. A mother of two, she volunteers her time to both the children’s ministry at her church and the school where her children attend. She enjoys piano lessons, photography, and the outdoors. Her heart and her life portray a deep passion for God’s truth. As she shares her story, may the power of His Word and His truth be realized. God’s love is a redeeming love, and we pray He reveals this to you as you read.]

My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie…I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.

~ Psalm 38:10-12, 14

When I told my parents, our conversation led to the suggestion that I get an abortion. Although I considered the notion of becoming a mother at 17, and I said as much to my parents, I fell short of holding firm to that decision because my family did not support it. During my childhood I had become accustomed to doing exactly what was expected of me in order to receive their affirmations. I didn’t know what it is to receive grace, to be forgiven and then led out from the error of one’s ways. I didn’t have a right relationship with Christ, and I don’t believe my parents did then either. A few weeks later, my mom drove me and my boyfriend to a clinic about two hours from our town where I underwent an abortion.

During the abortion procedure I didn’t know exactly what was happening to me, nor was it accurately explained what was happening to the baby. The idea they told me to focus on is that at the end of it I would go back to my life and everything would be behind me. I fell asleep at some point for a brief time. I woke up in a recovery room with other women and girls who had just been emptied of their child. Empty. That’s what I felt like. It was as if what had been done was as simple as taking a wastebasket and emptying its contents. But it wasn’t simple. The result not only took my baby’s life away, it also stripped me of emotion. In those first few days afterward I couldn’t settle on what to feel. I no longer had a decision to make about being a young mom, and it appeared from the outside that my life could go on as I had known it. But honestly, life became a stranger to me. It was never the same. I was alone, yet surrounded by silence. No one spoke about this experience. Void consumed me and into this space, a sorrow like no other began to spill.

No one outside of my immediate family knew the secret buried within me. To cover up the hurt, grief, guilt, and shame, I put myself full strength into all that I took on. As an above-average student, an athletic and outgoing teen, I tried to fill up my emptiness with achievements. I vied for excellence in all that I did, and in most things I did garner success. But I kept one hand dabbling in sin, secretly feeding the addictions that consumed me. I denied the truth for myself that I spoke about with others. Being held captive to my sins, even when I put those behaviors behind me, was exactly where Satan wanted me. Deep in my heart I hid in darkness the sins I didn’t want exposed. I didn’t truly accept God’s gift of forgiveness that is given to those who call upon Christ as Savior.

I tried to go on with my life, but because I never yielded to God the guilt that overwhelmed me, I couldn’t shake myself free of the lies. Satan’s accusations, claiming my past choices made me a fraud, kept my hands tied and my heart embittered.

[Editor’s Note: In the remaining days of our writer’s story, she reveals the transformation that begins when she yields her heart, her fears, her guilt, her ALL to God. His truth transforms her and carries her into His arms of refuge and grace. Like the psalmist, she is able to say, “I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 57:1).]

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[Editor’s Note: Our contributing writer Monday through Thursday of this week is an active participant in Community Bible Study and a support group leader/facilitator in-training with Celebrate Recovery. A mother of two, she volunteers her time to both the children’s ministry at her church and the school where her children attend. She enjoys piano lessons, photography, and the outdoors. Her heart and her life portray a deep passion for God’s truth. As she shares her story, may the power of His Word and His truth be realized. God’s love is a redeeming love, and we pray He reveals this to you as you read.]

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

~ Romans 5:8

I’ll begin my story in the midst of the time when Satan held me prisoner to his lies, deceit and temptations. I was 16 years old and dating a boy who was like many of the other boys who got my attention, but was the first one to take from me the gift that rightly belonged to my husband. In those days I knew little of the value of virginity, and I gave mine over in trade for what at the time appeared to be the most desirable choice. Giving in to this temptation, it became the thing which I believed gave me fulfillment in the desire to love and be loved.

I found out I was pregnant the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. I had scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood under the advice of my mom and sister who urged me to begin using birth control. They said that the pill would be prescribed for me there. Planned Parenthood’s standard procedure is for every woman who wants to start the pill to be given a pregnancy test. The result indicated something I had gone there with the thought to prevent. Shock, fear and disbelief raced through my mind. How will I tell my parents? What will they say? Can I keep the baby? What will happen to my life? Can I be a mother so young?

[Editor’s Note: As her story continues in the days that follow, may you be reminded that in our deepest, most troubling moments, God’s mercy begins. Cling to His truth, for as His Word reveals, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).]

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[Editor’s Note: Our contributing writer today has been married 38 years and is a mother to two married daughters. She enjoys reading, traveling, crocheting, and photography. In addition to her volunteer work at the Pregnancy Help Clinic, she mentors young women. Her passion for God’s Word shines, visibly apparent in the numerous Bible studies she has facilitated through the years. As she shares her story, may you be moved toward the joy that Jesus offers us (John 15:11).]

“The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” ~ James 1:20

“A joyful heart is good medicine.” ~ Proverbs 17:22

Joy and anger are polar opposites; I praise God He has moved me from living anger to living joy.

I was 11 years old when my alcoholic father and emotionally distant, controlling mother divorced. I learned at an early age to be invisible as much as possible. I have been known to say, “I learned to fly under the radar.” Memories of laughter are rare in my childhood.

In my teens, my doctor was concerned I would suffer a nervous breakdown from the pressure at home so he prescribed Valium. I also suffered from colitis from the stress. I was a straight A student, a starting athlete and awarded a 4 year scholarship to any university in the state. It still was not enough to feel my mother’s acceptance. If I were to be described in one word, it would have been angry.

At 19, I married my high school sweetheart, a wonderful man with an amazing sense of humor. Many times we would be watching something that he would find hysterical and I would sit thinking that’s not really funny, therefore no laughter from me. Many times I would get irritated because he would laugh so loud and long at something or other. By the time we had been married 7 years, I had gained a bit of a sense of humor, could laugh more easily and I had accepted Christ as my Savior. Now, the Lord works on keeping my humor pleasing and honoring to Him. I guess you could say I am a woman of extremes.

God says in the Bible we are created in His image; I believe God has a great sense of humor. Heaven is a real place and it is resounding with laughter. You may be in a season of life where you have a heavy heart. I am not trying to minimize your pain, but may I encourage you to read something humorous once a month and watch a good comedy each week.  I have read that laughing is jogging for your internal organs. Now that is a workout plan I can get behind!

If we can be of help or encouragement to you, please contact us through the comments link. Only our administrators have access to your comments. It would be a privilege to pray for you.

Father, I thank You and praise You that we are created in Your image. Thank You for the gift of laughter. Would You please bless us today with little blessings that make us chuckle? I praise You for my salvation and that I am no longer ruled by anger. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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[Editor’s Note: This week we are hearing the story of a young mom who is actively choosing to surrender her heart, mind and daily life in following the example of Jesus Christ through surrender to the God she loves.  She and her husband have committed to providing a compassionate response and care to “the least of these” who suffer in great need, both spiritually and physically, and in the process they are learning more about God’s heart of love for themselves, for their family, and for the world.  It is an inspiring story and we hope you will be touched as you read her insights. If you have further questions for our contributor, feel free to leave a comment below and she will respond as soon as possible.]

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

~ Acts 4:13

Belief, trust and identity are three things that I have found in my life that cannot be separated in order to live boldly for God. For me it comes back to the main question that has been on my heart: “Do I really believe God is who He says He is? And if so, what is there to stop me from living boldly for Him?”

I have heard of an analogy of a tree being used for faith in God. Belief being the root system, the trunk being the trust, the branches being the choices we make, and the fruit being the outcome of the overall health of the tree. It makes a lot of sense to know if the root system is unhealthy, poorly watered or not as deep as it should be, it will affect the end result of the fruit. Just as the trunk cannot grow without trusting its root system, the choices we make are a reflection of the trust we have in our beliefs and the results will be shown in the fruit we bear.

Boldness comes from the basis of belief, trust and identity. If we have those three in line, then nothing is stopping us from being bold. I love the above verse. Peter and John had just healed someone and their actions had been witnessed as bold by the priests and other religious men. I like first how it says that they were perceived to be uneducated and common men! They were not super spiritual, educated or qualified by worldly or church standards, which leaves us all without excuse. But, the next part is the best. “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” I know that the verse probably literally means that they had recognized the men because they had been seen with Jesus, but what an amazing truth we can pull from this statement. When we have a relationship with Jesus and we are walking in trust and belief and our identity is in that relationship, boldness will be the outcome.

I know personally when we think of being bold we think of doing something drastic and scary and it may seem overwhelming. The best part of this is, although we are called to step out in faith and be bold, it doesn’t totally come from the inner strength that we can muster up on our own. It comes from being with Jesus. It flows out of our relationship with Him. We are not all called to be “live in a hut” type missionaries, but we are all called to be intentional about living for God wherever we find ourselves. We are asked to live lives of surrender and boldness, and that looks different for all of us.

The key to living boldly is to live with Jesus; to have a relationship with Him, to know Him and be known by Him. When we hang out with Jesus, people will recognize that we have been with Him because of our bold actions. This year I have been learning my limitations of faith and the places where fear paralyzes me. This year I have also won many battles against fear and stepped out in ways I would have never imagined. More than anything I want the security of knowing and being known by Jesus, for my life to be a reflection of that by the boldness and surrender that flows out of that relationship. I want more than anything for people to recognize that I have been with Jesus!

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[Editor’s Note: This week we are hearing the story of a young mom who is actively choosing to surrender her heart, mind and daily life in following the example of Jesus Christ through surrender to the God she loves.  She and her husband have committed to providing a compassionate response and care to “the least of these” who suffer in great need, both spiritually and physically, and in the process they are learning more about God’s heart of love for themselves, for their family, and for the world.  It is an inspiring story and we hope you will be touched as you read her insights. If you have further questions for our contributor, feel free to leave a comment below and she will respond as soon as possible.]

“See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him.”  

~ 1 John 3:1

How we think God views us is what fuels our walk with Him. Identity is the filter we see our world through. Who we think we are is how we will relate and react to everything around us. I heard a pastor recently ask how we viewed God seeing us. Do we think of Him as up above looking down at us, watching and approving or disapproving of our every action? Or, do we see Him as sitting across from us, looking at us lovingly, interested in what we say and think and feel?

Many times the Bible talks about God viewing us as His children as He portrays Himself as the loving Father. Depending on our relationship with our earthly father, this can be challenging for us to view God this way. Our earthly fathers are only human and I am sure even the best of them failed us many times. I look at my husband, at myself, and at our parenting together. How many times we have had to ask God and our children for forgiveness for not reacting out of love towards them. And they are still so young! So whether we had a good or bad relationship with our earthly fathers, it becomes irrelevant when considering how God views us. His view is not based upon human flaws but on the solid truth of His love for us.

 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.”

~ Matthew 7:9-11

If you have children, you know how when they’re young they will blindly follow you anywhere. For us in this past year, ours were really put to the test in this. Kids need consistency and structure. It’s what makes them feel secure. Usually this means a familiar home, their familiar culture and a common routine of everyday life. But what happens when those things are all taken away? Ever since our kids were old enough to understand the concept of home, we have always stressed to them over and over that home isn’t one physical location but rather wherever Mommy and Daddy are, that’s home. It’s the same with God. We have learned that, without a physical home, wherever God is that is our home.

Our kids were taken from the security of home and moved every 12 weeks to a new location. Not only did the place we stay change drastically, but the culture, the food, the schedule, and the people changed also. We tried our best to give them the structure and sense of home they needed. We all struggled, but in the end it really deepened our trust in God as our Father and Provider. As we tried to teach our kids how our security and identity doesn’t come from things; we ourselves learned it as well. We had to live Matthew 7:9-11. As we desired to give our kids good gifts, we had to rely on God to give us good gifts. Every place we went, we were taken care of, we remained healthy, always had a roof over our heads, and we were blessed. God desires to show us how very much He loves us. He desires to be the One we base our identity on. When our identity is in Him, then we can blindly follow Him anywhere!

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[Editor’s Note: This week we are hearing the story of a young mom who is actively choosing to surrender her heart, mind and daily life in following the example of Jesus Christ through surrender to the God she loves.  She and her husband have committed to providing a compassionate response and care to “the least of these” who suffer in great need, both spiritually and physically, and in the process they are learning more about God’s heart of love for themselves, for their family, and for the world.  It is an inspiring story and we hope you will be touched as you read her insights. If you have further questions for our contributor, feel free to leave a comment below and she will respond as soon as possible.]

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

~ Deuteronomy 31:8

The Bible is packed full of God’s promises and stories of God representing His father heart towards us. He goes before us, clearing the way and setting the path.

In the verse above, Moses had just been told by God that he would not be leading the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Moses, their fearless leader, was not allowed to continue on and the Israelites would have to look to Joshua from this point. No matter what leadership skills he may have possessed, Joshua was not Moses. As you can imagine, it must have brought out a lot of fear and insecurities amongst the people. They might as well be on their own. Moses had been the one they depended on to commune with God, to spend time with Him in order to get the instructions and relay them back to the people. Now he was not coming with them? It’s as if the little birdies had just been kicked out of the nest, so to speak, and it was their time to fly! It was scary, but I love how it comes with this promise: “Do not be afraid or discouraged” (and probably my favorite part) “for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you and he will neither fail you nor abandon you!”

I think our journey with trust felt somewhat similar to the Israelites at this moment. We knew when we left the U.S. that God was going to settle us somewhere outside of our comfort zone. Throughout our 9 years of marriage, God had been dropping hints that He was preparing us for wherever that would be. As husband and wife, we have never lived more than 2 years in one location. Like the young Israelite generation, we have bounced from place to place, waiting to enter a Promised Land where we can work the land (ministry), put down roots, and enjoy the Lord’s blessing in a place we call home.

Apart from simply believing the Lord is leading us towards Tanzania, there hasn’t been much confirmation apart from deep rooted feelings and maybe a little bit of vision. We have little knowledge of how things will really be when we get there and communication from the staff at the base where we will be staying has been minimal. In short, the situation has basically been made so we cannot control it. We can barely plan anything that will not most likely be changed. There’s really no use worrying about how, when, where, why. We are headed towards the goal; but like the Israelites, we are forced to trust that God will go before us and prepare the place He is leading us. We are taking one step at a time and trusting that God will work it all out.

When I look at what God was asking the Israelites to do as He led them into the Promised Land, I look at my own life and wonder, what are the areas in my heart where I am holding back surrendering to Him? It’s strange; because if I take an account of my life, I can’t find a time where God has abandoned me. Yet there is still that part of me that holds back and doesn’t trust Him. I think I know how to trust God a little at a time. I’m learning that sometimes trust means being “reckless” and jumping off into His arms, hoping that He will catch you but not really knowing what will happen.

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