Saturday, June 24, 2017

Starting Side. Chaotic Middle. The Other Side.

Take a good look at this picture.  What do you see?  (Seriously, play my game and leave it in the comments).

I have no clue what it is about this view, regardless of where you are around the city, you get the mountains, valley, and millions of homes sprinkling up the sides of the mountains.  It is so mesmerizing and peaceful.    

However, if you are in the middle of this city, full of 3.5+ million people, it probably isn't quite as peaceful.  The cars honking, the people passing you by, the vendors yelling out, the buses spewing black smoke, the heat, whew, talk about sensory overload!   If you think about it, isn't that kind of how life is??  I mean minus the black smoke, and maybe the heat.  We have so many THINGS pulling for our attention, it can create quite a sensory overload.  

Today I was listening to a podcast from our home church...First of all, praise the LAWD for wifi/internet, and second thanks CHBC for posting podcasts to allow us to stay a little connected. :)  Ok, so in this podcast I was reminded of what happens when we lose our focus.  Pastor Mark was actually talking about our attitude when we come to church (and in life).  You don't have to fake a smile when you show up, but if you let every. little. detail. that bothers show on your face/attitude and share it with others, you are not a ray of sunshine, and honestly-- who wants that???  We ALL go through rough days (ask me about mine), we ALL go through tough seasons, we ALL have inner battles that are continuous; but you know what?  Where we focus our eyes, our heart, our purpose, will determine our "view point".  If you have a high view point (on Jesus), you will see that you can make it thought the center to the other side. 

 Follow me here, I am talking about our days, storms, seasons- just like the picture above, there is a clear "starting side"; "in the chaotic middle"; and "the other side".  A low view point all you can see is "in the chaotic middle", with no clue what is next, continuous sensory overload.  Whew, super stressful.

I recently went through this.  I lost my focus.  I lost my "view point".  I started focusing on ME and MY problems.  When your eyes go from looking up, to looking straight, to looking down (focusing on you), your attitude changes, you start getting frustrated more, which brings anger and self pity, which can lead to destruction. Have you been there?  It is ugly.  It is hard to stop.  I was so confused, I mean I love Jesus, I know to look to him, I tried to, I prayed, I sought godly counsel, I spent time reading God's word and being quiet...and then I realized, no, actually that last part, not true.  My crazy life with 3 kids, working outside the home (1 day a week), working from home, relationship building, keeping up with friends, being a wife, and cleaning (ugh), I had slowly pushed out my quiet time.  I was praying, but I was not gleaning wisdom, truth, hope, joy from God's word being poured in my heart.  

At first I didn't want to share this, I just wanted to keep it hidden; how embarrassing, I mean part of my job description is "sharing Jesus"...but, then again I AM HUMAN, and not a super one at that!!  I am a living breathing example that God will use obedience.  God shines through our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9), through our forgetfulness, through our overcrowding, through our kids and house that never stays clean.  He shines through whatever you have going on too!  He is incredible, and his grace will NEVER run out.  Your eyes are not a permanent fixture, just like they can start to downward focus, YOU can refocus your eyes back up, back on Jesus, back where you can see the start, the chaotic middle and other side.  

 I am growing, I am learning (praise the Lord for grace, the Holy Spirit and online courses), haha!  Don't be afraid of your mistakes, don't let shame keep you from obedience.  Check out 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.  GOD'S LOVE COMPELS US, and IN HIM we are a new creation, your past cannot be your future.  You never know who you can encourage or help out by sharing past struggles that you have overcome. Not just your struggles, burdens, fears, but how you overcame it, that is by far the best part!  :)


Monday, February 6, 2017

That time I stopped praying...

There was a time in my life where I completely stopped praying. (Gasp, I know).  I wasn't mad at God, I knew he was still there, but I no longer trusted him with things that mattered a lot to me.

You see, I started at Liberty University in 2003.  My eyes were radically opened to this amazing world of Jesus, and fun christian music, and learning and friends that didn't always want to get drunk.  It was new for me, I mean I learned a lot in a Christian home, growing up- but my previous years of college were filled with partying and bad choices.  All of this new life was really cool, and a little bit legalistic.  I didn't know that then.  So I started hard core praying for my brothers.  For them to know Jesus, mostly because I didn't want them to go to hell while I lived it up in eternity (insert "raise the roof" hands...).  Well, after a few years of no good change, actually the opposite of good change, I decided it was a lost cause and praying didn't matter.  So I stopped. I mean, I still thanked God for things, and of course said little prayers for others (because you can't say "I will pray for you" and not do it...).  I listened to others pray, honestly most people probably didn't even know this was going on.  My personality didn't change, I still served in the church, etc. I just didn't ask God for anything.

It wasn't until December 2009 that God started kindling that fire again.  We had 2 events that rocked my core, 1: this sweet girl, Carissa, from my hometown church got H1N1 (swine flu) and was so sick at one point she was strapped to a machine that would move her body to keep the blood circulating, so close to death.  She has down syndrome, and I have known her since she was 5.  I love her so much. #2 Some close friends at our current church were able to conceive, but something with hemorrhaging they had lost one precious baby, and were close to losing another.  Here I was (unexpectedly) pregnant with Brynnen, and could feel so deep the hurt that would come from either of these 2 losses.

I remember so much the pure desperation when I cried out to God, I was in the shower- of all places.  I remember my hot tears that seemed to never end.  I couldn't tell you one word that was released, but I remember feeling so much peace, just a warmth that ran through my whole body.  I remember the feeling when I heard the update few week or so later that Carissa was on the mend, and then also Eliana was going to be fine and the words the doctor told our friends!  (I need to say, I am well aware HUNDREDS of people were praying for these sweeties, I know I am not super prayer woman that without me prayers won't be answered...don't get it twisted.  This is what God used to soften MY heart as part of MY story).

It wasn't until we lived in Alabama, 5 months later, {May 8, 2010} that God really got a hold of my heart and completely changed my life.  I didn't doubt my salvation- but I had never given my life completely to God, to be used as he pleased, instead of my selfish desires.  My whole life changed, my outlook, my purpose, everything.  I knew then I had to call/talk to both of my brothers and share this change.  I was so nervous.  They knew me, I mean the bad, the ugly, and the worse.  I would argue with them about "Christian stuff"- frustrating us all. YIKES.  There was an urgency that was greater than my pride.  Their lives were too important to me.  Both of them listened, but were like "um, yeah, I'm fine, thanks."  This time was so different, I didn't get upset because they didn't immediately have their eyes opened.  I didn't try to argue with them, to change them...I just reiterated my love for them, and left it to God.

{SN: I didn't get mad at God for prompting those conversations with no "fruit"- and I didn't give up praying. I'm telling}

A few years later I got a call from my oldest brother, he had found a really good church and had rededicated/given his life to Christ. WOW!  It was so awesome to hear that!  {He actually still goes to that awesome church with his family, AND At His Feet Christian Center (the church) is one of our monthly sponsors right now! WOOHOO!}

That is not the end.  Fast forward a few years to today.  I have really been struggling with my attitude and quiet time and just why does everything seem to be 10 times more difficult in the last few months. UUUUGGGGHHHHH.  Ya feel me??  Have you been there??  It looks a lot different when you feel like you are under a hot spot light as a known Jesus lover, feeling as though everyone watching everything you do, everything you say, everything you feel.  It is hard to be transparent.  It is easy to pull away, spread your big mama wings over your nest and pretend it is fine while you TRY to figure it out.  Should we go back??  Should we stay?  Of course we should stay, it isn't really even an option- and I know deep down this is where we need to be, and most of the time, where I want to be.  BUT it would be SO much easier to move back, where I have a car, where Brynnen has friends and we have a healthy church family, lots relationships I can pour a language I do not struggle to deeply comprehend.  God made us to have community, not to struggle with being alone...right??  I am suppose to be ridiculously joyful and spewing more love and Jesus than Mother Theresa, right??? I mean, that's why I moved to paradise, right???  {Ok, Kari, that sarcasm has no place here. Thanks}

You know what I mean though, when you are going through the waves of life /\/\/\/\/\, and you are almost at the bottom, everything is going down, and you know it will start going back up, but you haven't hit that bottom-to-up point...(I am like gasping for breath thinking about how hard it can be sometimes- so dramatic, lol).  Well that was me today, I was crashing down, total pity party,  when I saw some pictures my middle brother took this weekend...from a men's retreat he went to.  He had been going to church, and I had asked him a few times over the past 6 years about God in his life, and it was always a "you have your religion, I'm good, thanks" {that was fine, I knew I couldn't change him}.  I had been at his house this past month and noticed a difference.  We talked about it a little- he was at least acknowledging God in his life, but not as God OF his life, but he was really excited to be going to this men's retreat with his church.

So, as I am looking at these retreat pictures a hashtag or quote or something caught my eye "Godskingdom"...wait, what??  Ok, um #notmybrother, so I had to message him and hear what God taught him through the conference.  He told me some cool stuff and then said "blah blah blah, I gave God direction over my life on Friday..."  Y'all.  I just had to be clear.  So I wrote back "Blah, blah, blah, so when you die, you are going to heaven?"  {Listen, I am direct and to the point}.

He.Said.YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I could not breathe.  I reached for the table and I gasped so loud then started ugly-crying so hard, Stephen thought someone died (no joke, he said "oh no, what happened?").  All I could get out was "No, it's good,"  and then I ran upstairs to cry and praise and weep tears of joy alone with the God who hears, and who answers. Who renews and refreshes.  I was happy-dance, thanking God for his mercy, and grace for a man who was (spiritually) dead, who is now filled and ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AHH!!!

So easy to shake of that self doubt, and pity, and blah blah after hearing that news right?????  WOOOOO!!!!!!  Y'all.  God is so faithful when we are not.  He is so loving when we don't deserve it.  He is more than I could ever expect, and so much greater than I can dream up.  He is here, he is ALIVE and he is for YOU.  {Man, I feel light as air writing this last part}.