Wednesday, March 30, 2011

guest blogger - Rachel's story

I am so excited to share with you Rachel's story.  If you remember I wrote a post, 35 years in the making, a story about my friendship with Rachel that has spanned 35 years,  you can read that here.  (she was born 51 days after me, so technically... that makes me the oldest). After I wrote that I asked Rachel if she would like guest post and share her story, she graciously agreed. Rachel is one of the few people that knows absolutely everything about me,  we saw the worst parts of each others lives, we lived it together.

The House Behind Me

If it takes me any longer to write this, it will be thirty six years in the making!  Yes, it's been 35 years in the making.  I don't think you could make up our life stories if you tried.  I met Kandi when we lived behind each other as young girls, an alley separating our backyards.  We would walk to school together, ride our bikes to the pool in summer, play hours upon hours of "Barbie" (which, as you women know, "playing Barbie" really just entailed changing their outfits 215 times and braiding their hair), building snow forts (ah, winter in Wisconsin) and hundreds of sleepovers.  While that all sounds like a "normal" childhood, there were forces at work against us, our families our livelihoods.  Little did we know our future and the turmoil, confusion and sadness we would both go through, nor the deep seeded pain that seems to have formed us into the adults we became.  I believe that He does not give us more than we can handle, but like many, eventually start to question "what is His plan for me?"

Kandi has shared bits of her life story with you, but for many years, I was across the alley and things across the alley weren't much better, let me tell you...

I am the youngest of 4 kids.  My parents divorced when I was young and not long after we moved into the house behind Kandi.  My mother was an alcoholic who worked two jobs and was rarely home.  With my mom rarely home my sister, the oldest, took care of us kids.  There were days when there was no food in the house and my sister would seek assistance from her friends to feed all 4 of us, and the times when my mom was home and we didn't have any milk in the house, nor the money to buy any my mom would send me over to Kandi's house to get money from her mom.  Those were some humbling days for me.  Then one day, when I was 10, my mom left for work and never came home.  I still remember seeking comfort at Kandi's house and I'll never forget standing in their kitchen, telling her mom as a matter of fact, that my mom left and isn't coming back.  I'll never forget the look on her face, the tears she tried to hold back, and the tightness of her embrace of me, when she assured me "she'll come back".  She didn't. 

For a while my oldest sister tried to take care of us on her own, but really she was just a teenage girl, a baby herself that had taken on the role of mom long before our own mother left.  Anyway she tried to take care of us the best she could, th
e first few days my mother was gone we didn't tell anyone, it was only when we ran out of food and the utilities were about to be shut off that we told our dad. I was sad, angry, confused and hopeless, I had been rejected and abandoned by my mother.  It was a terrible time.  Eventually the four of us kids were split up and put in foster homes.  A few years had gone by, my two oldest siblings had graduated high school and had moved away from home to attend college and start their lives while my one brother and I went to live with our dad and step-mom, not that life with them was much better, but at least we were out of “the system”.  My brother and I eventually graduated high school, attended some college, and got on with the business of life.  The 4 of us kids were scattered across the US, living our own lives how we each saw fit for ourselves. 

I have forgiven my mother for what she did, I actually thank her because I was given a better life by her leaving, but I have no desire to have a relationship with her, and I don’t discuss her with my brother.  She has been out of my life longer than she was ever in it.  In my mind, I've worked through her leaving and it's behind me, and I really have no feelings about her one way or another.  I understand WHY she did what she did, but in my mind she did it the wrong way.  I have forgiven her for WHY she did it, I just don't agree with HOW she did it.   

It was the afternoon of December 9, 1995 and feeling the greatest loss within myself, feeling part of me die at 4:25 pm on that Saturday afternoon.  I was at Target doing some Christmas shopping with a friend when suddenly I felt sick like the blood was being sucked out of me, I just wanted to go home I needed to go home.  I was a little calmer once I was inside my apartment. Checking my phone messages it seemed like there were hundreds of calls from my brother just moments apart, confused, I wondered what could be so urgent.  I called him back completely unprepared for what I was about to hear, I fell to the floor in a heap of tears.  That moment in Target, when I felt the blood drain from my body was the moment my sister, who was married, the mother of 3 beautiful girls and pregnant with her 4th child, a boy, my sister who so loving took care of me as a child, who took on the role of mother long before our own mother left was killed by a drunk driver over 2000 miles away.  Alcohol took my mother from me, and now it had taken my sister from me.  Talk about asking God "WHY???"  I'm still waiting for that answer.  I have three precious nieces, my sister’s girls, I see their mother so uniquely in each one of them, especially the oldest, a spittin image of her mom, my beautiful sister.

That was fifteen years ago.  I've moved all over the country, had numerous jobs, a failed childless marriage, and here I am, 40, single and living alone in a 1 bedroom apartment in St. Louis. God, now what?  I knew Kandi had started writing blog and for a few months I kept meaning to read it, but always seem to get distracted.  One day, I was sitting at my computer and remember the link to her blog she had put on the bottom of her email.  I read.  I couldn't stop reading.  I cried.  I laughed.  I read and re-read, day after day.  One Friday night, I knew what I had to do. 

I had been feeling a stir inside of me for a while.  I was unable to put my finger on it.  It was a poking, nagging, anxious feeling.  I sat and read Kandi's blog again...every post.  It hit me.  I needed help.  I got home from work, sat down and wrote to Kandi.  My questions to Kandi were "how do I become "inspired"?  How can I START to feel closer to God?  How do I begin putting my life in His hands and letting go?  How do I begin to pray for guidance?  I need His help, I WANT to let Him in...I  just don't know where to start".  That was the beginning.  That was the moment that changed my life.  I knew I had to reach out to my sister in Christ, the one woman who has been an active part of my life longer than any other woman I know.  Even over the miles apart we lived, or the years that went by where we didn't speak to each other, there was a reason we reconnected again a few years ago.  There was a reason behind her writing.  There was a reason for living in the house behind her so long ago.  And He knew it.  Of course He did!

So, while I'm just starting on my journey to give my life fully over to Him, I pray for guidance and forgiveness.  I pray that letting go starts to come more natural, where I don't have to remind myself 117 times a day, and let Him guide me.  To learn to listen when He speaks to me.  To fight against Satan who surely will miss my company (I will NOT miss his) and live my life with Him first for a change. 

Kandi said it pretty good the other day in her blog:  Keep putting one foot in front of the other doing the next best thing you know to do and don't try to control or manipulate the situation, have some faith that He will work it out the way it is supposed to be worked out.

It's early, but I've never felt better about letting Him to show me the most amazing life I could possibly know.  My life with God.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My hormones went on vacation last week, and apparently they did not think it was necessary to inform me of this, so while they were whoopin it up on different sides of the international dateline I was riding the roller coaster of sadness, anger, loneliness, speckled with a few moments of joy.  I went to a different church hoping the change of scenery would recharge my batteries but all it did was make me homesick for my church. I tried prayer, exercise, reading my bible more, nothing was pulling me from my funk, until that phone call. He can use anybody, even those who are far from Him, He can use what is meant for evil for good.

He knew my faith was hanging on by its fingernails, but it was still hanging on, He knew I was desperately clawing my way back to Him but that slippery slope of backsliding I was on was taking me down fast. It was the bitterness in the voice on the other end of the line that brought me back, for which I am sure satan intended for it to make me let go all together.   I don’t want to carry the burden of anger, bitterness and uncertainty, I did it long enough to know that is does nothing but rot your soul.  I want to live fully surrendered to Jesus, I want to live by faith that He already has it figured out and I don’t have to live by what I see, because that is a heavy load to carry, one that will crush us under its weight.  I want to live by faith that He has it under control and trust that He will work it out for good. He is not done with me yet, I know this because He has blessed me with another day on this earth. It doesn’t matter how far you have fallen, He can always bring you back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

extreme makeover - spiritual edition

Someone once told me that there are times when God hides us from the world and the world from us.  It is not necessarily a season of winter, or even a season of cave dwelling it is just a season of well…being alone, being hidden, you are living in the world but it seems distant and removed.  Shortly after I came to Christ He tried to put me in a season of being hidden, and I was having none of it, While I couldn’t control everything that was happening around me, what I was able to control, I did, and with a fervent passion. 

Our time of being hidden is a time to embrace, you see there is a work He wants to do and He needs you to Himself to complete that work.

Walls are torn down
Shaky foundations are ripped up
And in extreme cases the bulldozer is sent in to just rip it all down and start from scratch.

Sometimes we are called to move and sometimes we are called to be still.  When we are moving we feel good, we feel like we are accomplishing something, but to be still, yikes that is a whole different ball game, it can be torturous, we feel unproductive because we want to be moving forward. We put ourselves out there and hear the crickets chirping in return. Perhaps there is work He wants to do in you, a work you will need to have done to enable you to step out and walk into the next season He has waiting for you.

 Have you ever noticed that for each new mountaintop we are reaching for the mountain seems to get steeper and the top higher? But every good climber knows that to reach that higher place a certain amount of conditioning and training is required.

Say for example you want to be a singer, you sing on the worship team but you want to reach people beyond Sunday morning service, say like Chris Tomlin, you have the technical skills but for some reason you can’t seem to break away from the Sunday service routine. You are discouraged, you wonder what is taking Him so long, the doors just don’t seem to be opening for you, but you know God wants to do something bigger with your singing, perhaps it is because He wants to do something bigger in you first.  I have said this before and it is worth repeating, I heard it in an Andy Stanley sermon, rather than seeking out God’s plan for your life, seek out God’s plan for the world and how your life fits into it.

You see, it not about us, but about Him and about serving Him.  So you have a gift to sing, but do you want to sing to glorify God or do you want to sing because you want to make a name for yourself, stand on a stage and have people applaud and cheer for you and buy your CD’s?  Not to say that you don’t love Jesus or don’t love singing praise and worship, but the question is, what are your motives?  Do you want to shine the light of Jesus before men, or do you want to shine the light of yourself?

Maybe He is putting you through an extreme makeover of the spiritual kind. Perhaps He has do something in you before He can do something through you, getting your heart right so you don’t run the risk of getting too big for your britches, because those britches will eventually shrink.  Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall, Proverbs 16:18.

In his book, When God Doesn't Make Sense, Dr. James Dobson writes this, if you want to know what a person is made of, grant him a high degree of social status and admiration.  His hidden character will soon be apparent for all to see. 

Give a man what he is not yet equipped to handle and he will  get too big for his britches. Give a newly minted college graduate the position of CEO before they have been humbled in the mailroom and chances are they will abuse their position of power because they were given too much too soon.

This is is a comment that someone left on my Friday thought post that I think sums it up: Some people get so hung up on money or even whether they are doing as much as you, or better than you. It can be overwhelming sometimes.
When in reality it's who we are that counts.
Take everything away and strip me of my clothes and all my possessions and that it the real me.
If we are not happy looking at ourselves that way, we just aren't going to be happy no matter what. (thank you Trez).

This was something that was brought up in my quiet time this morning. I have been asking God to use me in a big way, but I have to admit there was a certain level of narcissism to what I was asking Him for, not that I don’t want to do great works for the kingdom of God and for the glory of God because I do, but there was also an underlying element of selfish ambition that I wanted to fulfill.

1 Peter 1:15
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

1 Peter 4:10-11
Each one of us should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.  If anyone speaks he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:33
For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many so that they may be saved. 

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My prayer today is this:
Father please change my heart to put my own agenda aside and do this all for Your glory and to glorify You, in Jesus name, amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

walk towards the peace

The tears threatened to spill down my face,
Not now, please not now the words barely a whisper inside my head
My vulnerability about to be exposed

He didn’t know I needed to hear his words, but God did,
He spoke the words through this man that this girl  needed to hear.

My child I know you, I know the troubles you are facing, I know because I made you and I sent someone like you too to speak the words that you needed to hear, there is a place for you, just trust me.

If there is anything I have learned these last months it is to walk towards the peace, the peace is where Jesus is, the peace is where He is waiting.

This morning in church the Pastor asked us what was keeping us from trusting Him.

A few weeks ago I sat and listened to her story, a story that is not too far from becoming a reality for me.  I didn’t feel the peace when I listened to her speak, I felt anxious, fearful, worried, I was scared, because what was keeping me from trusting Him was that if it could happen to her it could happen to me, and I don’t want that to happen to me.

The next week she sat next to me, and I did not want her to sit next to me, it was just the week before that she sent my fickle feelings into a tailspin of worry and fear and I was not in the mood for a repeat.  I didn’t want to be there anyway, and that really made me not want to be there, wanting to get up and leave, I stayed.

I closed my eyes lowered my head slightly, still mightily aware of her presence next to me, and He spoke to me, stop comparing yourself, you don’t know everything, so stop comparing.

God sent this man to speak his words to my heart, the words that left tears brimming my eyes, threatening to expose my weak and vulnerable places, it was in his words where I felt peace. 

I have been praying, praying hard I tell you, God I think I know what You are telling me, but I am not sure, but if it is, then I need You to send me some help, because I don’t know how, I don’t know the next step to take. Please send me some help that I could not mistake to be from anywhere but You.  

She walked past me sitting in the back row, she almost missed me, I almost missed her, the lights were already dim worship was about to begin when she walked in the door, the door she admitted she never uses, the door that if she had not used we would have missed each other.

We met a few months ago at a ladies night swap at church, we got to talking and found we had a lot in common.  I would see her every once in a while, friendly hellos would be exchanged but not much more than that, until this morning, when she came in the sanctuary through the doors she never uses, sitting together we talked long after the service had ended.  As we talked my eyes grew wide like saucer plates, I giddily danced in the pew, she was the help I had been praying for, the help sent from the Lord.  

I felt the peace, and I know to walk towards the peace, the peace is where Jesus is waiting.

I didn’t realize until I driving home that I just volunteered a woman that I barely know to help me without even asking her if she wanted to.



Friday, March 18, 2011

what we are not

Last week in my journey class we got into a slight discussion about Jeffrey Dahmer, not about the vile and heinous crimes he committed, but about what he did. While he was in prison Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian, repented of his sins, he was a new man in Christ, doesn’t seem fair does it? That he was allowed to walk this earth feeding his flesh with lust, doing whatever he pleased, and then at the eleventh hour he repented and asked for forgiveness for his sins.  Now, no one really knows for sure if he was truly repentant in his heart and we will never know until we get to heaven.

To the world he was a disgusting and vile human being that deserves to rot in hell, but to his parents, he was a beloved son, to God he is a beloved child.  It seems as if evil is winning, missionaries are being murdered and their killers walk free. Why would God allow such things to happen, look at all the good those people were doing, and all the good they could have done had they lived, it isn’t fair, and I agree no it is not, but there is a reason for it, far beyond our human comprehension. 

I heard a story recently of some missionaries that were killed, just a few more seconds and they could have gotten away.  We can lament that God could’ve done something, anything to give them the few extra seconds they needed to escape, but He didn’t for reasons unknown to us.  The story ends like this, a few years after the men who killed those missionaries for being Christians became Christians themselves.   

We trudge through this world living by sight that evil is winning, but God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell, we know that. Maybe, just maybe what looks like God dragging His feet is His mercy in giving each of us every possible chance to come to Him and repent. Jeffrey Dahmer was killed just two months after becoming a Christian, after all the years he spent in prison why wasn’t he killed before that? Maybe it was God giving him a chance to repent for his sins.  Don’t think he deserves forgiveness?  Neither do you, neither do I, we are all sinners, and sin is sin. What Jeffrey Dahmer did is no worse than the little white lie I told my plumber last week even though I felt thoroughly justified in doing it, in our human perspective it is but to God’s ultimate standard of perfection it is not, He has no sliding scale all sin is vile to Him, regardless of what the sin is.  

So what is the point of living as a Christian if all we have to do to stay out of hell is repent in the eleventh hour?  It doesn’t work that way, you have to be truly repentant in your heart, if you think you are going to fool God and pay him lip service to avoid hell you would be wrong. If Jeffrey Dahmer is heaven he didn’t get off scott free he still had to face judgment.  Shoot, for all we know he may still be standing before the throne answering for his life, as we all are going to have to, regardless of how good we think we are.

Ask anyone who has lived both sides of that coin, who have walked hand in hand with the depths of their depravity, they will tell you, your worst day with God is still far better than your best day without him.  They will tell you, it is only through the love and mercy of Jesus Christ that they have been saved from their wretched life.

They know that is not by anything they have done but what was done for them. They know better than to so arrogantly undermine redemption and salvation that way.  Because when we start to believe that what we have is because of what we have done, through our own hard work and good choices we make ourselves our own personal savior, in a way a savior to the world, do as I do and you can be successful like me, and we undermine all that Jesus came to do. We start to judge and look down on those who can’t get their act together like us, because that only helps feed our prideful egos, and we forget.  We forget that we are not judge and jury, the only true and perfect judge sits at the throne  for which we will all stand before, not just the Jeffrey Dahmer’s of the world, but, it makes our own personal brand of justice look pitiful, because you see God is God, and we are not.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

sweet tears and even sweeter blessings

I lay in a pool of my own tears, the carpet soaking wet beneath my face.

He won’t always change our circumstances, but He will pour out His blessings to let us know He has not forgotten, He’s still got it under control.

Going for walks and gettin my praise on in the beautiful spring like weather.

Letting the fresh air tumble through my open windows, that just doesn’t happen often enough.

An awesome Third Day concert and even more awesome acoustic after show.

Dinner and great conversation with a friend.

Sunday morning service

A good hair day

Peace amidst turmoil

Getting a parking spot right in front, time and time again.

Perusing the local Christian bookstore with no intent to buy anything and walking away with 4 books on CD for the low low price of $5, yes you read right, 4 books for five whole dollars.

The grocery bill that was mysteriously much lower than normal.

Washing clothes at home again.  The washtub my washing machine drains into had one nasty clog, after several attempts at trying to pray it away (yep I really did that) I finally called a plumber, and I can now use my washing machine again.

He may not always deliver us from our circumstances, but He will remind us that He is with us in the middle of them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

closed for business

I noticed him.

He noticed me, but did he notice me in the way I noticed him? Maybe he was smiling at the person standing behind me. 

I wondered, what was he doing there?

And then there he was was standing before me offering a smile and a quiet hello, wondering was he just being friendly and again wondering, why was he there?

I have heard that how we come into this world is an indicator of how we are going to live our lives. I was late coming from the womb, about 4 weeks late and I probably would have stayed in there a lot longer had the doctors not gone in to get me.  I feel like I have always been four steps behind, like I was running the race of playing catch up in just about everything.  I feel behind the curve, while all my friends have married and many now have college age children I remain single, never married no children and I feel behind the curve. Like I am running, running like one of those garden gnomes, if that is what they are called, you know the ones cut out to look like cute little animals, rabbits, squirrels, cats, dogs, their legs spin frantically in the wind but they never go anywhere, my legs feel like that, they are spinning fast trying to get somewhere but never quite getting anywhere.

I always felt like I wore my singleness like a glaring neon sign around my neck people met and married everyday I didn’t understand what my problem was.  When I look back I now see my singleness was a gift, I wasn’t in any position to get married He had a work to do in me first, a spiritual growth and foundation had to be laid. So I made peace with my singleness and made peace that I may be one of those women that God has called to remain single.

I saw him and kept seeing him, smiles but no words would be exchanged.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us we must guard our heart but I wasn't just guarding my heart, I closed it for business.  I wondered, why was this sleeping giant being rustled from its slumber now, after so many years, why now of all times? There couldn’t be a worse time. Certain it was the enemy cloaking his evil destruction to look like an open door from God, he’s been known to do that.

I waited, 

I told God no, I asked Him why now, have You seen my life?  My circumstances are not really in a position to support this, now is not a good time, I have bigger fish to fry at the moment, if You hadn’t noticed.

Isaiah 55:8
For my thoughts are not your thoughts
Neither are your ways my ways

I waited,
no turned into maybe,
I waited,
maybe turned into yes, if this is Your Will.  

I surrendered it to God and that is when no more smiles came my way, just glimpses, always a few seconds too late, and once again I feel like I am running behind, always four steps behind, I ask, why do You put matters like this before me if this how they are going to turn out, like the countless times before, wondering, was I again too late?

Matters of the heart are delicate, I have gathered up the shattered pieces of a broken one on a few occasions. I don’t rush into them, especially now during this season of my life, my heart isn’t just guarded, it is closed for business, encased in steel, locked up tight with no trap door for escape, it is the last thing on my mind, because now is not a good time.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your path straight 

Leaning on our own understanding simply isn't strong enough to hold, our understanding is limited in perspective, His ways are not our ways. Maybe now is a good time, but only time will tell.

Friday, March 4, 2011

a pimple on prom night

Mooom!!! Mooom!!

Jackie raced towards the crying and shaking voice that seemed to get louder and more anxiety filled with each cry for her mother, expecting to find her daughter less a major extremity or lying in a pool of blood.

Finding her daughter in the bathroom the sobs almost uncontrollable as she turns towards her mother angrily pointing to her chin, “look, it is a week before prom and I have a piiimmpplle” barely able to cry out the words. Jackie touches her daughters arm tells her it is going to be ok and quietly slips out of the bathroom.

“HOW IS THIS GOING TO BE OK”! She shouts as her mother makes her down the hallway barely able to able to control the laughter, Jackie dials my number.  Knowing I have dealt with acne since my mid twenties Jackie asked if I have some sort of cream that would clear up a barely there zit that her daughter was convinced made her look like she had a Nanny McPhee size growth sticking out the side of her face.

“I will gather up my creams and be over after dinner” I told her.

Handing over a weeks worth of face wash, cream and zit zapper, I gave her strict instructions for the best possible results, wash and apply the creams twice daily and don’t touch it, that’s it, nothing more. “Trust me, it works” I said as Jackie’s daughter went stomping off to her room having zero faith in my no fail method.  I am happy to report that there was no pimple on prom night.  Jackie’s daughter is now in college and vehemently denies the pimple fiasco, convinced she would never behave in such a way over a simple pimple.

Have you ever thought that what seems disaterous to us, like a teenager having a pimple on prom night, is just a simple pimple to God? Nothing that some washing  in the Word of God, applying the cream of prayer and keeping our fingers off it can't fix?

Keep putting one foot in front of the other doing the next best thing you know to do and don't try to control or manipulate the situation, have some faith that He will work it out the way it is supposed to be worked out. 

We will have many prom night like pimples to practice on in this life. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it impossible to please God.

John 14:27 tells us, peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”